Personal Voices: Apology to the American Worker
Dear American Worker:
I apologize for my ignorance and that of many of my fellow Americans. I apologize, too, for my shortsighted eagerness to get the best buy I could, and for my silly desire to save a few extra pennies or a few more dollars. I thought I was buying wisely, saving money, when indeed, what I was doing was hurting my friends, neighbors and citizens I don't know. What I didn't know, or what I refused to acknowledge, was that I was robbing someone of their job.
I apologize for buying my JVC VHS/DVD recorder that was made in China.
I apologize for buying my SONY flat-screen television that was made in Japan.
I apologize, dear American worker, for buying my PANASONIC telephone that was actually made in Japan.
I apologize for buying a GATEWAY desktop computer that was made somewhere else and is supported by technicians in Guam, India, and who knows where else.
I apologize for buying NORTON Anti-Virus to protect my GATEWAY computer, that is written and packaged and supported in lands far from American shores.
I apologize for buying my DELL laptop that was built and is supported primarily by workers in India.
I apologize for buying the MCAFEE anti-virus support that came with my DELL laptop that was written, packaged, and serviced by technicians in India.
I apologize, dear worker, for banking at CHASE MANHATTAN, CITICORP, BANK OF AMERICA, SUNTRUST or nearly any other American bank because they, too, are outsourcing at least one aspect of their banking -- and if they are not yet, they will be very soon.
I apologize for flying on DELTA AIRLINES, wearing my NIKE, or were they my ADIDAS sneakers, paying for both with my VISA card, eating my airline prepared food from SKY CHEFS, sipping on a COCA-COLA, reading the current bestseller by SIMON & SCHUSTER, as I intermittently, fired up my DELL laptop to search EBAY for a good buy on the newest PLAYSTATION wearing my RADIO SHACK headphones, dreaming of my comfy bed at the MARRIOTT and munching on something yummy from SARA LEE.
I actually thought Nike and Adidas and Delta and Sara Lee, not to mention the others, were American companies run by a workforce located in the United States. I admit I was mixed up and confused.
But, nay. In fact, today and for well over 10 years, if it needed to be manufactured, built, assembled, sewn, appliquéd, wired, electrified, glued, bound, boxed or hung, you can bet your bottom dollar it was done so by hands other than American.
Little by little, tiny step by tiny step, businesses moved their labor to foreign shores, where they could exploit cheap local labor to manufacture products, often in miserable sweatshop conditions. It was hardly noticed when inexpensive clothing manufacturers moved. It became a little more obvious when the designers went abroad. A garment that may have cost them tens of dollars to create would now only be pennies. The incentive, greed, was almost too much to contain -- not just for the designer or the clothing manufacturer, but also to us, the consumer. The savings, not nearly as gargantuan, were stunning enough to make us jump for joy, as well.
It wasn't long after that the telephone companies lost their monopolies and free trade became the free-willy to the American consumer. Phone calls became cheaper and in some cases, downright affordable. By the tens of thousands, we left the phone companies of our youth and sought the best buys we could find. To compete and pile more multi-millions in the till, AT&T, BellSouth and all the little MaBells learned a new concept: outsourcing.
New businesses opened that made the deals, taught the concepts, and low and behold, businesses dismantled their American structures, fired their employees, and moved without a modicum of regret or allegiance to distant shores leaving behind the wrecked lives of 2.7 million workers.
Outsourcing was the new magic pill for all the woes of big business, little business, all businesses. There's not a business that isn't a candidate to outsource. DOW does it, so does DUPONT and Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Bristol-Meyers, even the US Department of Defense. In fact, according to Dow's outsourcing partner, ACCENTURE, they saved $70 million since 1992 and their employee output surged over 50 percent -- they just weren't American workers. Accenture, however, is closed-mouth about its other partners. Accenture spokesperson Stacey Jones told me, "We do not divulge our client list," which made me ponder, why the secrecy?
Among the companies that are public knowledge, however, are Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Virgin Wines, Sony Computer and Entertainment, Chrysler, Visa USA, SunTrust Bank, British Airlines, Barclays Stock Brokers, Chubb Insurance, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Sharp Electronics, Bank One, World Rally Championship, Time Warner Trade Publishers, BP, Citgo, Halliburton, Boise Cascade, Sonoco, Ryder, Arizona Department of Revenue, US Air Force, US Department of Defense, and Federal Voting Assistance Program, to name just a few.
In their sales brochure, Accenture pitches that it offers "a cool savings of up to 30 percent or more" for "dramatically improving the efficiency and effectiveness of back offices operations." They also promise to reduce "credit card processing with a $10 - $20 per card per annum savings." That's nothing to sneeze at.
As significant as Accenture is, number one in the outsourcing industry is Cognizant Technology Solutions. Based in New Jersey, Cognizant claims to "deliver the best of both worlds: the transparency of an American company, backed by an offshore organization that is rated one of India's top employers."
Some of their outsourcing clients are Blue Cross of NE Pennsylvania, John Deere Health Plan, Philadelphia Stock Exchange, Pacific Stock Exchange, MetLife, Liberty Insurance, Dun and Bradstreet, AC Nielsen, Coors, Schwans, Ace Hardware, Radio Shack, Marks and Spencer, Fortunoff and The Maritime Life Assurance Company.
Every time one of us buys a product, orders a service, signs a contract or becomes a client of a company that outsources jobs that were once the American workers' stronghold, we are giving our permission to them to continue firing, dismissing and replacing the American worker for cheaper labor abroad.
Don't misunderstand me; I wish that everyone, in every land, had a job that treated them with respect and fairness and allowed them to support themselves and their families. I just don't want it to be at the expense of American workers and their families.
Writer/producer Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org.