Vol. VIII, Bulletin No. 2.                                                          February 3, 2003

Your Job May Be the Next To Go
White-Collar Work Forming New Wave of Migration   
To China and Other Foreign Countries: Business Week
"A new round of globalization is sending upscale [U.S.] jobs abroad," the cover page of the Feb. 3 Business Week says, and asks, in all-capital letters: "Is your job next?"

Simplifying a long answer given in a nine-page feature article: If you're in a U.S. service industry, you personally might be safe for now, but perhaps not for very long.  "Now all kinds of knowledge work can be done almost anywhere," and is already being done on a small scale that is bound to grow, Business Week reports. Here are the kinds of white-collar jobs moving abroad, at salaries usually at least one-tenth of those earned in the United States:
One of the specific examples that Business Week cites: Microsoft, a latecomer to dipping into the "tremendous pool of trained people in China," will spend $750 million in R&D and outsourcing there during the next three years. At its research lab in Beijing, Microsoft already employs 180 programmers, including 60 with PhD degrees from U.S. universities.

Middle Class Opposition to Free Trade Feared

During the past several decades, jobs in U.S. manufacturing industries have been migrating massively to the Third World. "This decade," Business Week points out in an editorial, "is witness to a second huge shift, this time in services, with white-collar professional jobs following the same blue-collar migration routes to Asia and elsewhere....We would all do well to ponder the consequences of this historic relocation."

One consequence pondered by Business Week: "Until now, the adverse impact of free trade has been confined largely to blue-collar workers. But if more politically powerful middle-class Americans take a hit as white-collar jobs move off shore, opposition to free trade could broaden."  The quoted reaction of a strong free trader, Harvard Economist Robert Z. Lawrence, is not very reassuring: "I still have faith that globalization will make us better off, but it's no more than faith."

In the business magazine's own belief system, this latest global trend "will generate more growth for everyone over time as countries focus their abilities on doing what they do best."  How's that for faith in the "comparative advantage" model extolled by economists?  Of course, as the Business Week editorial acknowledges, there are some "downsides." 

The necessary "adjustment may well be painful for those middle-class Americans and Europeans" whose jobs vanish.  And in the absence of institutional reforms, developing countries "
may find themselves with the white-collar equivalent of maquiladoras, islands of cheap service work that do not transform their economies."

U.S. Investments in Job Migration
"Our first goal is clear: We must have an economy that grows fast enough to employ every man and woman who seeks a job....With unemployment rising, our nation needs...more companies to invest and expand." -- President Bush in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address to Congress.
Motorola Inc., the giant American multinational, is one of the biggest foreign investors in the People's Republic of China. Since first setting foot in China about 15 years ago, Motorola has invested $3.4 billion there in manufacturing plants and in research and development facilities, more than any other Western company.  And it is planning to invest $10 billion more in the next several years to expand its manufacturing and R&D there.  

So reports the Jan. 27 Business Week in a lengthy article on Motorola titled "Winning in China."  The article does not say how many workers in China made the $2 billion worth of cell phones and other products that Motorola last year exported to the United States and elsewhere.

Like that article,
the earlier feature on "Is Your Job Next?" does not analyze how U.S. foreign investment expands job migration away from the United States. The twin policy goals -- promoting jobs in the U.S. and expanding corporate investment -- do win widespread applause, but unfortunately they are in conflict with each other.

You wouldn't know that from Business Week. Nor from the President's State of the Union address.

Globalization's Toll on Textile Workers

"The forces demanding action against unregulated globalization are on the ascendant," Neil Kearney, head of a global federation of unions with 10 million members in 110 countries, told participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month.  Kearney, general secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation, gave this example of why workers are beginning to shout "something is wrong":
Workers are not opposed to global integration or open trade, Kearney said in his speech on Jan. 23, "but they hate the cut-throat process that is stripping away their security and impoverishing them." 

Having Corporations Let the Sunshine In

Here's a new approach to enhancing global social responsibility: requiring U.S. corporations to report on key environmental, labor, and other human rights practices of their overseas operations.

A coalition that includes the AFL-CIO, Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, and the Sierra Club last month announced a campaign to establish an "international right to know" in U.S. law.  The legislative proposal, using domestic right-to-know laws as a model, would oblige corporations to disclose their own and their contractors' overseas records on, for example, workplace injuries and fatalities, labor complaints against employers, air and water pollution, and contracts (formal or informal) made with any public or private police, military, or security forces.

The proposed legislation would not impose any sanctions, nor would it require corporations to change any irresponsible behavior, but it may well be a step toward inducing changes for the better.  The basic argument is that U.S. law already enables people to learn about many of such corporate practices committed within U.S. borders, and that public disclosure now urgently needs to be extended to cover corporate operations abroad.

A lengthy report that the coalition released last month, "International Right to Know: Empowering Communities Through Corporate Transparency,"
contains case studies of how ExxonMobile, Nike, McDonald's, Unocal, and other large corporations have violated environmental, labor, and other human rights standards abroad. The coalition Website, at <http://www.irtk.org>, explains why you should support this campaign, as well as how you can do so. 

"The idea of an international right to know," said a New York Times editorial on Jan. 25, "is a creative and, for the companies, a not particularly burdensome new approach....No American company that offends American values should be allowed to do so in secret."

Web Sightings: Q&As for Workers

Want to know what to do if you are discriminated against? Injured at work? Denied paid overtime? Refused family leave?  The AFL-CIO answers these and other questions on its newly upgraded Website at <http://www.aflcio.org>.  The information is useful not only to the AFL-CIO's 13 million members and their families but also to workers outside its ranks, as well as to people abroad curious about AFL-CIO policies. Added dimensions:
Diary: Reality TV on a Holiday

On Martin Luther King's birthday last month, I was looking forward to watching "The Murder of Emmett Till," a PBS documentary on the 1955 lynching of a 14-year-old black in Mississippi.  But, instead, I watched the latest chapter of "Joe Millionaire." Why the last-minute switch?

Before the PBS program was to begin, I chanced on the last 15 minutes or so of an engrossing interview with the producer of the Till documentary, Stanley Nelson. He described in graphic detail what I had already read about the tragedy, most recently just the day before in the Washington Post.  Nelson's illustrated story of how Emmett was tortured before his corpse was thrown into the Tallahatchie River, how an all-male (white) jury freed his killers, how at his Chicago funeral his grief-stricken mother opened his casket to let 50,000 mourners see his mangled face -- all that was too much for me that night. I was limp. I was depressed. I had seen too much reality.

So I turned to another channel. There Joe, allegedly a construction worker, was escorting five female suitors on a series of dates in glittering Paris. It was all very contrived, so unreal that it offered a relief from reality. Still, I couldn't help wondering about these five young women and their so public competition for a hunk supposedly worth $50 million. Joe and Fox TV were lying to them. But apart from that, didn't the women feel used?  Even degraded? True, they had agreed to participate in the whole deal, but in reality did that make it any less degrading?

The more I thought about it, the escapism of Joe Millionaire, too, depressed me. So did the latest news on the war clouds over the world. To brighten my mood, I turned to our son Thuy's Website, where he has the latest pictures of our little granddaughter, Mai. She will be two years old on February 22. We'll be happily celebrating with her then, and praying that her tomorrows will be better than our todays.

Human Rights for Workers: Bulletin No. VIII-2, February 3, 2003

Robert A. Senser, editor
Copyright 2003
robert@senser.com. (Send e-mail)

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