Saturday, October 09, 2010

AFL-CIO Tracks Down Lost Jobs and Employer Violations of Laws

The AFL-CIO has created a really powerful Internet software tool that breaks down by zip code the jobs lost from going overseas, jobs lost in the Great Recession, and corporate employer violations of laws. Instead of ranting about illegal immigrants or gay marriage, maybe some of the poison-talk radio show hosts might find this topic something worthy to speak about. Highly doubtful.

The AFL-CIO report cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that 8 million lost American manufacturing jobs since 1979 (page 10 of companion report inside JobTracker.com). And "back office" job outsourcing overseas will reach 800,000 by the end of this year (page 11), per a pro-business consulting group. What was really illuminating was the incredible amount of employer violations, meaning the number of times government agencies actually issued citations or fines, whether for safety (both in the workplace and products produced or distributed), wage and hour, or other laws.

The report also reveals how off-shoring of American jobs has accelerated since 2004, with more companies planning to move more jobs overseas. In other words, the trend has not stabilized, but shows an upward trajectory that contrasts with a resulting downward mobility for more and more Americans. The report, however, admits tracking down the jobs actually lost is difficult because one must rely upon various sources to compile the data including pro-business or consultant sources, as well as university-led studies, some government statistics (including from governments where the jobs end up, such as China and India) and even more diverse sources such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com. The report then states:

Though these consultant reports provide a glimpse of the extent of offshoring in service industries, the full impact of offshoring on domestic employment remains an elusive topic. This is due, in part, to severe deficiencies in how the federal government collects statistics that could be used to adequately identify the scale of the job loss involved. A special report by the Bureau of National Affairs reviewed studies of the data collection problem by the U.S. General Accounting Office, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Academy of Public Administration; it found that all three groups “concluded that data collection structures maintained by BEA, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics prevent any meaningful understanding of the scope of offshoring, the scale of U.S. job losses, the business and occupations being affected, and the economy’s potential responses to unabated offshoring.” (Footnote citation omitted) Although a series of congressional hearings were held during the Bush administration to examine the data collection problem, no improvements were forthcoming. What was the reason for this inaction? The senior researcher who wrote the MIT report attributed the lack of concern to “the Bush administration’s general opinion that additional data on globalization would only lead to protectionist political responses.” (Footnote citation omitted)

The report also provides an example from the conduct of IBM since 2005:

IBM: Outsourcing Out of Sight

International Business Machines (IBM) has been a global leader in technology for decades. More recently, it has become a leader in the twin practices of outsourcing jobs and of hiding that activity. In 2005, IBM and its wholly owned subsidiaries reported 329,000 employees worldwide. Almost 134,000 of those workers—more than 40 percent—were located in the United States. At the end of 2009, though IBM’s workforce had expanded to include almost 400,000 employees worldwide, only 105,000—just over a quarter of its entire workforce—were located in the United States. IBM is reported to now be the second largest employer in India, with 120,000 to 130,000 workers. The movement of IBM jobs overseas is difficult to track due to the corporation’s focus on secrecy in this area. Though IBM’s domestic operations have shed a net total of nearly 30,000 employees since 2005, the company simply reports its nationwide total cuts, trimming smaller numbers from scattered sites to avoid triggering mass-layoff notification laws. The company no longer reports its employment numbers in geographical terms, making it difficult to discover where the company is hiring or where U.S. jobs go when taken offshore. IBM workers whose jobs have stayed in the country have seen reduced benefits and lower pay—new facilities opening in the U.S. are paying up to $20,000 a year less than older centers paid. Meanwhile, CEO Sam Palmisano made over $21 million in 2009 while cutting 10,000 U.S. jobs during the deepest recession since the Great Depression.


My lawyerly eye says the AFL-CIO report remains somewhat undermined by the fact that the world is not necessarily a zero-sum game. Some of the increase in jobs in India may have resulted from increased consumer and market demand within India. Some of the jobs lost in America may return if (a) the economy in the US begins to recover in a significant way and (b) the dollar becomes more favorable for foreign trade over the next couple of years. These are not structural solutions, however, nor should they make us feel the problem is solvable without legislation that would undoubtedly be called "protectionist," as if that is a bad word, or if that is un-American. For we know that the nation was built on tariffs against foreign goods in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and those tariffs are what built up our nation. That the tariffs are now needed to help workers is why corporate media is not interested in those solutions, and may account for the reaction from the largely displaced white workers who are part of or have sympathy with the Tea Party Movement.

Too bad some of these folks only noticed the wreckage of our industrial base when the skin color of the president changed...

I decided to check the zip code where I live and was quite stunned to find 44 companies which have outsourced jobs or shed jobs due to "trade" issues, 103 companies laying off enough workers to trigger a WARN Act notice, 1,875 companies with OSHA violations, 27 companies with labor law violations and 5 companies violating foreign corruption act laws.

Outsourcing has definitely hit our area of San Diego, and I should have known better. I know an engineer who is an adult leader in my son's Boy Scout Troop who was essentially forced to "retire" from the local Sony plant. He told me the department he worked in went from 120 people to 20 people between 2005 and 2008, before the Great Recession really hit.

The solutions included in the report include (a) overcoming Chinese currency manipulation; (b) ending tax credits or advantages to moving jobs overseas; and (c) state and federal laws to require companies doing business with the state or federal government to hold jobs inside the US. It is striking, however, that domestic content legislation is not a priority nor are significant tariffs. This is the result of decades of corporate propaganda against such measures, even though these measures continue to be successfully applied in South Korea, Taiwan, India and China.

1 Comments:

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