Despite its campaign rhetoric, the Obama administration appears willing to continue offshoring U.S. engineering jobs. That means engineers must organize to save their careers, guest columnist Ron Hira asserts.
We know from a recent EE Times survey that offshoring is the No. 1 career concern for EEs. The Obama Administration has been in office just a few weeks now, but we already know how it will address the offshoring of engineering jobs.
It will promote it.
EE Times, the Wall Street Journal and InformationWeek all recently published important stories on IBM's layoffs and the company's links to offshoring. IBM is now using the euphemism, "resourced actioned" to describe layoffs. The most remarkable aspect of the story was IBM's ability to take the Fifth Amendment on questions about the geographic distribution of layoffs, and even refusing to publicly state the number of U.S. workers it has.
Here's what the Journal published on Jan 27:
"IBM Chairman Samuel Palmisano told workers in an e-mail last week that worldwide employment topped 400,000 at the end of 2008, up from 386,000 at the end of 2007. He didn't break out U.S. employment, and IBM spokesmen declined to do so."
IBM's unwillingness to publicly disclose its massive offshoring operations is no surprise, especially as it lobbies Congress and the Obama Administration for billions in taxpayer handouts as part of the economic stimulus package now being debated by Congress. What is remarkable is that the company is able to get away with it in the current job market with this President and this Congress.
InformationWeek reported on a new initiative by IBM, called Project Match, which is supposed to connect displaced U.S. workers with job openings in low-cost countries like India. But the catch here is, of course, that U.S. workers would be paid Indian salaries. How many U.S. workers can take those jobs and still hope to retire back in the U.S.? The answer is none.
So, where is President Obama, the politician who campaigned against outsourcing? The EE Times story that detailed the stealth layoffs and reactions of IBM workers, appeared on the same day that the President was chumming around with IBM's CEO Palmisano. Here's what President Obama said about why he invited to the White House Palmisano and nine other CEOs who are offshoring jobs:
"They make things, they hire people," the President said of the meeting participants. "They are on the front lines in seeing the enormous problems in the economy right now. Their ideas and their concerns have helped to shape our recovery package in order to get this economy back on track."
Can President Obama really be this naive? Or is it simply that he doesn't believe offshoring matters?
There is clear evidence that the latter is the case. On the very same day he was meeting with "CEOs [who] outsource American jobs"--a phrase he repeatedly and derisively used during his campaign, he named McKinsey's & Co.'s Diana Farrell to his National Economic Council, the inner circle of economic advisors in the White House. Farrell has done more to promote outsourcing than nearly anyone else in America.