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Offshoring is "Psychologically Disturbing"

One of the worst aspects of the global corporate culture is that it routinely pits one group of workers against another in the corporate pursuit of dirt-cheap labor.
 
 
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This has come to an ugly head in recent years with the mass offshoring of U.S. call center jobs. These workers answer questions that American consumers have about their phone bills, computers, credit cards, insurance polices, etc. Curious about a long-distance charge on your phone bill? If you call your company's toll-free service number, you're likely to reach someone like Rahail Manzoor in India.

An Indian trade group says there are 350,000 people there working in such back-office service jobs for U.S. corporations, and the number is expected to grow by 40 percent this year alone. The corporations are tapping India's vast pool of workers who are English-speaking, tech-savvy... and cheap.

But these workers are also nervous wrecks, for they know that Americans are very angry about the offshoring of middle-class jobs--and American callers often take out their anger on them, using creative combinations of four-letter words. The Indian call centers try deception to deflect this anger. Rahail Manzoor, for example, is told to call himself "Jim" on the phone, and he has undergone lessons in how to speak "American." Some call centers have giant TV screens showing the current weather in U.S. cities, the latest sports scores, and such, so workers can make small talk and pretend to be in the U.S.

But many callers know better and berate the poor operators, who are under such stress that they suffer all sorts of debilitating illnesses. It's "psychologically disturbing," says Manzoor.

It's also psychologically disturbing for Americans to see our middle-class future exported, while CEOs calmly count the billions of dollars that they rake in by pitting us against the Indians. To help unite workers here and there, call the AFL-CIO's international department: 202-637-5050.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush," from Viking Press. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.