Folks, The following is a perspective on the issues that we need to address in any NWU offshoring strategy. I culled these issues from various postings here, in articles, and other materials I have read. I think that is important to agree on the issues we need address as part of our strategy discussion. For the moment, however, what do you think of the perspective below? Are there other important issues? What is the relative importance or priority of these issues? Where is our opposition most vulnerable? If we can agree on the issues to highlight and their relative priority, we will be better able to talk about how to take up offshoring in the union. Sorry for the length. What do you think? Al (SF Bay Area) ------------------ OFFSHORING ISSUES In organizing around the offshore outsourcing issue, namely in building opposition to the unfettered offshoring of technical and writing jobs to foreign countries, there are two general groups of people we need to reach: - Our primary constituency--the folks we are trying most directly to organize and mobilize. These are members of the NWU, technical and other writers, and other high-tech workers. These are the folks with whom the NWU has the most affinity on this issue and who are most directly impacted by the loss of jobs. - Our support constituency--the folks with whom we are trying to build political opposition to offshoring, the general public, other organizations, political leaders, and institutions. The issues faced by these two groups are somewhat different and therefore these groups need to be addressed differently. OUR PRIMARY CONSTITUENCY In reaching out to our primary constituency--people who have lost their jobs or are likely to lose their jobs, or who will be negatively impacted by the loss of jobs in their professions--we need to address the following concerns: - Direct loss of jobs-loss of income and erosion of standard of living. - Inability to find work in offshored professions--the jobs are going away permanently, so those who lose their jobs will face extended unemployment, and eventually will be forced into lower-paying, less-rewarding occupations. - Dropping wage and work standards for those who remain employed-a surplus labor pool will drive down wages and benefits, accentuating a trend begun with the bursting of the dot com bubble a few years ago. - A worsening job market in the offshored professions will force many to change careers, putting pressure on related jobs. Many tech writers, for example, will attempt to do other kinds of writing. This will be a slow and painful process for those whose jobs are offshored and will create a lot of job competition for those in related fields. In addressing the above concerns, we need to undercut the standard economic arguments that justify offshoring and highlight the inequity of offshoring people who do the actual work in order to increase the pay of CEOs. We can use the soaring rise in CEO and other executive pay to expose the ingenuousness of the "competition" and "profitability" justifications for offshoring. (If cost and competition were really such crucial matters of corporate survival, why not offshore the CEO positions?) Also we need to address the hypocrisy of the "upgrade-your-skills" and "be-more-competitive" arguments of the pro-offshoring lobby. The jobs they told us to train for so our jobs wouldn't be offshored are now being offshored. OUR SUPPORT CONSITUENCY In reaching out to the general public, however, the above concerns are not paramount. In the U.S. economy, people are routinely forced to change jobs or careers due to economic conditions, and few will sympathize with technical workers in particular because of their relatively high salaries compared to blue collar workers. In addition, unionized workers and other blue collar workers are aware of white-collar workers' general disdain for unions and unionized workers. In reaching out to the general public, we need to address a different set of concerns: - Indirect loss of jobs and economic downturn. The flight of jobs can have a devastating impact on all sectors of the economy in much the same way that layoffs and recessions in the past have a big multiplier effect on many indirectly related jobs. Money is taken out of circulation and many economic sectors are impacted. This is especially true when there is no expansion of other parts of the economy to employ the unemployed. In past decades, you could argue that the expansion of the high-tech sector absorbed the impact of offshoring in the manufacturing industries. However, in the current situation there is no expanding sector (not even the Iraq invasion is creating significant numbers of new jobs). In addition, the speed of offshoring will be much quicker than the offshoring of the past (there is no need to build factories abroad and the labor pool is already trained), making its impact much harder to absorb. Hence, the impact of high-tech offshoring will be more far-reaching and more permanent than offshoring in the past. - National security. High-tech offshoring is all about information processing, and the processing of information has become a crucial aspect of our society--whether it be related to military systems, economic infrastructure systems (such as the electrical power grid, transportation, communications, and so forth), business information systems (such as bank or corporate records or technology secrets), or vital services. The regulation and security of such information systems that exists within the United States does not exist in foreign countries-especially those to which most of the offshoring is going-making the U.S. and its citizens vulnerable to theft, electronic sabotage, infiltration, disruption of emergency systems, and other risks. - Personal security. The pervasiveness of electronic records (such as medical records, life insurance, and individual financial records) makes them susceptible to invasion of privacy and the proliferation of private information. Even within the U.S., despite legal prohibitions against the invasion of privacy and prosecution of offenders, identity theft and illegal use of private data is rampant. Sending the processing of this data to countries which have minimal personal privacy laws and which do not prosecute illegal uses of personal information is inviting abuse. Abuse of medical records has already been reported in the press involving contractors who contract to contractors who contract to other contractors. No safeguards and a huge black market in the sale of personal information. - Relinquishing technological leadership. By offshoring the development of new technologies to foreign high-tech workers, the U.S. is relinquishing its technological competitiveness. With foreign markets far surpassing the U.S. in size, the development of new technologies and new technical standards in foreign countries means that in the not-to-distant future, the U.S. will relinquish its technological leadership. Since this leadership has been a driving force of the U.S. economy, taking a back seat in technological development will have a significant negative impact on U.S. economic growth. In the same way that manufacturing industry has shifted abroad over past decades, information processing is currently shifting abroad, to be closely followed by the shifting of technological innovation abroad. Especially so, since the U.S. educational system is in shambles, compared to the production of high-tech professionals in many foreign countries. - Public tax money is subsidizing and rewarding the offshoring of jobs. One aspect of this is tax credits, another is direct government subsidy (corporate welfare) of offending companies, a third is foreign-aid for infrastructure improvements to countries that are low-wage havens. (one reason that India can now take high-tech jobs is that American taxpayers are paying to upgrade the Indian telecommunications network.) - Offshoring is being hidden from consumers. Consumers have a right to know who is doing the work they are paying for and who they are dealing with. This is a fundamental principle of ethical business practice and we see it every day when we are told over the phone that "this call may be recorded." Nevertheless the complex labyrinth of offshoring contractual relationships leaves makes offshoring invisible to consumers.