LaborTalk, December 11, 2007
By Harry Kelber
The United States must begin planning for the “offshoring” of potentially 40 million jobs over the next 30 years through aggressive worker training programs and education system reforms, warns Alan S. Binder, the former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Speaking to labor economists and workforce development professionals at a symposium, “Strategies for Improving Economic Mobility of Workers” on Nov. 16, Binder said the potential offshoring of more than a quarter of the 140 million jobs currently in the economy will be “the most important issue in the intersection of politics and economics for the next generation.”
“If we want to make this [massive outsourcing] less painful, we need to improve the social safety net for displaced workers with a special emphasis on job training,” said Binder, a professor of economics at Princeton University. “America frankly does a disgracefully bad job with displaced workers compared to other countries,” he added.
Binder said the approaching wave of offshoring will cut across a much wider spectrum of industries, professional skills and income categories, including highly educated, highly paid, well-spoken workers. Binder said his “most conservative estimate” suggests that 22.2 percent of all U.S. jobs could be offshored at some time in the near future
Labor Gives Multinationals a “Free Pass” to Outsource Jobs
Union leaders show dwindling concern about the outsourcing problem, which is causing workers around the world to compete with each other in “a race to the bottom.” They have not come up with a plan to challenge multinational corporations that shut down U.S. plants and move to areas where labor costs are a lot cheaper.
In fact, labor leaders and their publications hardly mention outsourcing, much less offer a strategy to reduce if not eliminate it. When AFL-CIO President John Sweeney met with the House Democratic leadership on proposals to “turn around the economy,” he did not bring up the mass exodus of U.S. jobs. American labor’s criticism has focused mainly on international trade agreements, with emphasis on securing labor and environmental protections. It has been virtually silent about the outsourcing problem.
Must we allow multinationals to roam the world to pick the weakest victims, where they can profit from low wages, tax breaks and the avoidance of “labor trouble”? Must we surrender to the “inevitable” without a significant protest?
Can we show some evidence of labor solidarity with our brothers and sisters who will be losing their livelihood through no fault of their own? Or will we continue to give the multinationals a “blank check” to exploit workers wherever they can?
Our weekly column, “The World of Labor,” reports the struggles and victories of unions in countries around the globe. Check our web site: http://www.LaborEducator.org.