[saymaListserv] A More Balanced Look at Outsourcing

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Wed Jan 28 13:58:34 JEST 2004


Hi Tim Johnson, Thanks for the long and detailed response. (For the 
original message Tim and I are discussing go to 
http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17601).  

  Liberal economists who care about poverty in the world (no, 
economist is not a dirty word) are concerned that the general public 
does not recognize that the export of American jobs is bringing 
unparalleled numbers of the  world's poor out of poverty. Indeed, 
labor union-produced public education info distributed at political 
rallies and anti-globalization demonstrations indicates that the 
world's poor are becoming poorer as a result of globalization.  Not 
so. The labor movement, which I support and have supported for years, 
has directed public concern about job losses toward keeping the 
high-paid jobs of affluent Americans here at home.  Instead American 
workers need to change their focus somewhat and keep up better with 
fast-paced scientific, technical and economic changes so that they 
can ensure their own job security and so that more people in the rest 
of the world can work, become consumers and thus create even more 
jobs elsewhere.  Rather than trying to stop globalization American 
workers, especially those in industries being hard hit by job losses, 
need to recognize that the only thing that will actually work to keep 
employment high in the US is  innovation and a faster pace of job 
retraining. I'm talking here about innovations such as those which 
produced the electronic communications revolution, the computers that 
we are using right now, and millions of new jobs.  John Sweeney 
(AFL-CIO Pres.) has taken on job retraining of displaced workers as a 
high priority but most union members are not aware of the larger 
picture that he sees.

The fact is that innovation is the engine of growth in our economy, 
and growth is the means by which we and other developed countries 
have steadily increased our standard of living over the past 350 
years since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Production 
and job retraining over the years has been constantly changing and 
adapting to provide newer, better, and less expensive goods and 
services.  Now its time for the rest of the world to begin to catch 
up with us.  Our economic progress in the US was uneven with some 
industries and some groups being the first to experience a higher 
standard of living and others lagging behind but still improving over 
time.  It was/is this uneven economic development which produced/is 
producing the violent reactions and harsh military and police 
responses. (Bloody demonstrations and mass killings occurred in this 
country and were the impetus behind the formation of the first labor 
unions in the 19th century.  (Labor's Untold Story, by Boyar and 
Morais '55, printed and reprinted over the years by the United 
Electrical Radio and Machine Workers, provides a good overview from 
the worker's perspective). Now some less developed countries (LDCs) 
and groups in those countries are achieving economic development 
faster than others. Their economic progress is also uneven with rich 
people most often getting the greatest benefits of economic change to 
start with and then having to share those benefits with more and more 
people in order to preclude bloody, violent and disruptive coups, 
revolutions and civil wars.  .  There have been/will be violent 
responses to uneven development but that is not a bleak and 
pessimistic statement.  China and India have just in the past year or 
two turned the corner and their swift rate of economic development is 
beginning to bring the poorest of their people out of poverty as a 
result of globalization.  Think of the numbers involved!

There is much more to say about individual workers, population, the 
environment, and other related issues.  Many of those social concerns 
are addressed automatically in the process of economic development. 
(Yes, really).  When people have enough to eat, a means of cooking 
which doesn't require constant wood cutting and when they have access 
to clean water which doesn't require carrying it daily on foot for 
miles and miles, they have the time and space in their lives to begin 
to think about clean and beautiful surroundings, fewer children to 
feed and care for, and better conditions of employment.  Unions, NGOs 
and other international organizations such as the UN are addressing 
those concerns but in so doing they often focus on the bloody, the 
violent and the tragic and really don't convey the overiding benefits 
brought about by economic development  -- the larger picture that I 
referred to earlier.

Enough.  Thanks again for responding.  Janet Minshall




Tim wrote on 1-27-04:

>Thank you for sending this, Janet. (note to others: You should read 
>the link before reading my very long-winded, somewhat 
>stream-of-consciousness response.)
>It is certainly true that racism and xenophobia are destructive of 
>discussion about these issues. But it is also true that unless there 
>is a counter-weight to corporate decision-making, all workers (and 
>nature) lose in the 'lowest cost' (to the company) marketplace. 
>Walmart threatens Bangladesh pants suppliers with moving to China if 
>they don't cut costs further -- a real threat, as before that 
>Walmart moved its contract from Mexico to Bangladesh, and before 
>that from the American South to Mexico, and before that from the 
>American North to the American South (and it never bought from 
>Sweden). Why? Lower wages, fewer benefits and protections (health 
>insurance, holidays, vacations, 40-hour work weeks, job safety, 
>support when injured on the job), lower taxes (because there is less 
>government support for schools, for health, for people fighting 
>poverty -- for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering 
>the homeless), fewer environmental safeguards for clean air and 
>water, less protection for workers' safety. Of course, racism within 
>as well as between and among nations plays a role (our own nation 
>being an obvious example, though not the only one).
>As workers organize into unions, corporations are held more 
>accountable, at least to the workers. In some nations, the response 
>of the corporations and governments is violent -- even to the point 
>of murdering ('disappearing') union organizers. In those 
>nations where the government protects unions (right to organize 
>laws), workers (fair wages, limited hours, job safety, no 
>discrimination, etc.), and the environment, real progress has been 
>made in so many areas -- protection against discrimination based on 
>race, gender, religious belief, nationality, sexual orientation, 
>disability, etc.; child labor laws; health care; worker safety; 
>environment; the arts; et al. While the focus is so often on 
>material consumption, I believe that the far greater advances have 
>been in physical health, opportunity for intellectual, artistic, and 
>spiritual growth, and environmental protection.
>It is certainly true that the world cannot sustain the kind of 
>energy-intensive, resource-depleting, throw-away consumption that we 
>see in the U.S. On the other hand, allowing corporate interests to 
>act on a transnational level where they move from job market to job 
>market based on their own internal cost leads to an increase in the 
>worst trends that we see. Workers in those nations are abused (even 
>the Indian information workers so praised in the article must work 
>long hours for much lower pay than those whose jobs they are 
>taking, not to mention the Chinese families who move from the farm 
>to the city only to find that even their children must work for 
>pennies an hour for long hours six and seven days a week with safety 
>standards that would make you shudder, just to survive -- and the 
>grossly overpaid CEOs' jobs are not among those being outsourced); 
>environmental protections are almost nonexistent; and things like 
>building strong communities and supporting families are essentially 
>impossible. And it actually accelerates American over-consumption as 
>consume prices are lower, allowing greater consumption (at least for 
>those who have jobs).
>Of course, businesses in most other developed nations have long been 
>at a competitive disadvantage vis a vis  the United States as they 
>provided better health care, education, support for families with 
>young children, support for the elderly, etc. -- which resulted in 
>U.S. corporations having higher profits and U.S. CEOs making higher 
>salaries while the majority of Americans have lower quality of life 
>than those 'less competitive' nations (as reflected in infant 
>mortality, mental and physical health, racial disparities, education 
>levels, and many other indicators).
>The answer to these problems is most definitely not blind trade 
>barriers, "only buy American," racism, or xenophobia (all of which 
>have been used by corporations as strategies for increasing 
>profits). On the other hand, the answer to these problems is also 
>most definitely not international laissez faire, allowing -- in 
>reality encouraging, even requiring (for their survival) -- 
>corporations to seek the 'lowest cost' (excluding costs to the 
>environment, to the worker, to the community, to future generations).
>What is needed is stronger international requirements related to 
>these issues -- fair trade, to use the parlance, instead of 'free' 
>trade. We can focus on this individually, with certification of fair 
>business practices (treatment of workers, communities, 
>environment) analogous to certification of organic produce. We can 
>work to elect public officials who will support fair trade -- 
>tariffs should be based on human and environmental rights, for 
>example (thus products and services from nations with few standards 
>would be taxed at higher rates, and credits would be given for 
>exceeding those standards; this would mean that a Volvo would 
>receive a credit when imported into the U.S., since Sweden's 
>environmental protections and treatment of workers and their 
>families and communities are better).
>It would be essential that support be provided to 'developing' 
>nations to incorporate these higher standards, particularly in view 
>of the direct costs suffered through (for example) our support for 
>military thugs who have quashed peoples' challenges to unfair 
>treatment.
>It's not enough to say that a worker makes more money than s/he 
>would without that job (which is sometimes true) if that worker is 
>being treated unfairly (as is often the case), especially when it is 
>taking jobs from others. Poisoning the water and the air, heating 
>the globe (15% of the earth's ice mass is being lost each decade, 
>according to a new report), promoting more and more consumption of 
>resource-intensive throw-away products -- these and many more ill 
>consequences (Haliburton, General Electric and others have supported 
>terrorist nations for decades, for example) are already accelerating 
>due to the fact that corporate regulation is decreasing while the 
>need for it is increasing. When corporate power acts 
>internationally, it acts with the least environmental protection, 
>the worst worker protection, the least morality, because that's what 
>helps its 'bottom line.'
>Putting systems into place to support fair trade is not an easy 
>undertaking -- but then neither is using the military approach, with 
>its enormous economic and incalculable human and spiritual costs.
>Without waiting for government(s) to act, we can look to John 
>Woolman as a model and, as individuals, we can refuse consumption of 
>products produced through immoral means.
>Thanks again, Janet, for calling attention to these important issues.
>
>Janet Minshall <jhminshall at comcast.net> wrote:
>
>Friends might be interested in this article (web site below) which,
>despite the title, The Dark Side of the Outsourcing Revolution, is a
>balanced piece about jobs contracted outside of the US by
>multinational firms. It is far more accurate than info I've seen
>from Quaker organizations about both the costs and the benefits of
>outsourcing to workers in the US as well as those abroad. It is
>written by a Bangladeshi who sees the issue through Asian eyes.
>Janet Minshall
>
>http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17601
>_______________________________________________
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>
>
>Love & truth, agape & satyagraha, Tim
>
>Tim Johnson, e-mail: timinathens at yahoo.com
>
>"Love is a verb." -- Stephen Covey
>
>
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