[biztech-discussion] Prioritization

  • From: Bruce Hartford <bruceh@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: biztech-discussion@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 13:56:02 -0700

I apologize for this late response to Al's thoughtful posting 
"Offshoring Issues" of April 29, but I had some trouble getting 
subscribed to this list. 

We have very limited resources and I think that we have to be 
realistic in what we plan. The entire business/corporate lobby & 
power-structure strongly favor off-shoring and are dead set against 
any government restrictions on it. The corporate mass media echoes 
their position. They have been largely successful in winning broad 
public support for "free-enterprise" and "free-market" ideologies. 
Even a "progressive" show like "Westwing" took the stance that 
(despite some hand-wringing) off-shoring is unstoppable and in the 
long-run beneficial to all. Democratic candidate Kerry mouths 
platitudes about "job creation" but it is clear to me that in the 
unlikely event he is elected he will do nothing to restrict off-

We are facing an "free-market," "global-competition" ideologic tidal 
wave with the entire weight of corporate greed behind it. Even our 
core constituency has been swept up in the fervor and drumbeat of this 
political juggernaut. For example, a freelance tech writer on the 
STC's Independent Contractors discussion list was offered a job 
writing a corporate HR procedures manual for the explicit purpose of 
moving all HR jobs to India. He had some moral qualms, so he asked the 
list if he should take the job. The overwhelming response from that 
list -- who are our core constituency -- echoed the now dominant 
"global competition" paradigm (I've appended salient quotes from that 
discussion to this message). 

We've seen such political tsunamis before, and experience has proven 
that standing in front of a mental stampede with arms out-stretched 
crying "no" is futile, and only results in being rolled over. The only 
way to subvert a powerful new paradigm is to narrowly attack it at its 
most vulnerable point. If we can get people and politicians to 
question *one* aspect of off-shoring it becomes much easier to broaden 
the doubt to other aspects. If we can win political support of 
limiting *one* aspect of off-shoring it becomes possible to broaden 
that limitation to other aspects. 

The most vulnerable point of the "global-competition," 
"off-shoring-is-good" stampede are the national and personal security 
issues that Al alluded to in his issues summary. The job loss, harm to 
community economies, fairness, and similar arguments have not been 
effective. They have been put forward in many different contexts by 
labor and others and proven futile. In my opinion, only the security 
arguments have shown any hope of getting people -- both our core 
constituency and the public at large -- to question the globalization 
off-shoring paradigm. 

Previously I tried to circulate an in-depth analysis of the security 
issues, but I guess it was too long and very few people read it. If 
this list wishes, I can redistribute it as a PDF file. 

What I suggest is that we initially focus on those issues, using them 
as a wedge to force open debate on other aspects off-shoring. For 
example, we could compile a short set of specific security-related 
off-shoring questions that we present to candidates with the 
understanding that we will publicize their answers/positions to the 
high-tech community. Questions such as:

1. Will you enact legislation requiring that all research, 
development, and administration of critical national infrastructure 
such as the power grid and banking/financial networks be done inside 
the United States?

2. Will you enact legislation prohibiting the dissemination of 
individual personal medical and financial data outside of the 
jurisdiction of American privacy and data protection laws?

3. Will you enact legislation requiring that all military, defense, 
intelligence research, development, administration, and operations be 
done within the U.S?

Once we settle on a set of questions, we mobilize our membership to 
present them to local candidates in their areas while the national 
leadership presents them to the presidential candidates. If possible, 
we get other organizations to join us in this effort We then use the 
web and methods to publicize where candidates stand. 


Below are salient quotes from the STC off-shoring discussion sparked 
by a writers qualms about taking a job that would directly lead to 
eliminating a large HR department and transferring the jobs to India. 
Let me stress that these were the dominant comments of freelance 
business and technical writers -- our core constituency.

     If you refuse the work, you will not save these HR jobs. If you 
     point out to the temp agency, and then the client, how wrong it 
     is to offshore, you will not save the jobs for others. If you 
     turn down the work on principle, the jobs will be lost and you 
     will go without work. 

     If you take this job, it is likely that you are giving people in 
     countries outside of North America the opportunity to develop and 
     use skills that will enable them to improve their own lives and, 
     inevitably, the overall standard of living in their respective 

     Small companies offshore to stay afloat, prosper, and hire more 
     American workers. 

     Business is not about jobs for jobs sake. We are not a welfare 
     state.  Business is about profitably providing value to the 
     customer.  If another business (or country) is more competitive, 
     then we must either improve our competitiveness or focus on where 
     we can compete.

     If outsourcing provides value, then a business should do it and 
     the casualties should either improve their competitiveness (i.e. 
     education, training) or switch fields (i.e. get another job) 
     where they can be competitive.

     It's inevitable as our industry matures. That's what happens. The 
     work reaches its maturity cycle, and the jobs can go to places 
     where things can be done reliably and cheaply. And what will we 
     do? Move up the value chain. We won't be "technical writers" but 
     "user experience professionals" and do less formulaic writing 
     (traditional manuals, online help) and move up to the work that 
     takes a deeper understand of the product and processes.

     American consumers, generally demand the highest "bang for the 
     buck" in goods for the lowest prices. As a result of this demand, 
     American consumers are almost initiating the trend to manufacture 
     in regions where labor costs are cheaper. 

     If we want to be an equal partner in a world economy, and we 
     really believe in competition, we have to play fair and be 
     willing to accept all aspects of it. 

     The notion of "offshoring" means other economies are simply 
     following the principles on which our western economies are 
     based. Can we blame them? Those are the rules of the game. We 
     made the rules. They are playing by them. And so should we. 

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