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Norma Sherry: A Letter To America’s Workers

An Open Letter To America’s Workers

By Norma Sherry

Dear American Worker:

I apologize for my ignorance and that of many of my fellow Americans. I apologize, too, for my short-sighted eagerness to get the best buy I could, and for my silly desire to save a few extra pennies, or a few more dollars. In my ignorance and naiveté, I thought I was buying wisely, saving money. When indeed, what I was doing was hurting my friends and my neighbors, and citizens I don't know; because what I didn't know, or what I refused to acknowledge, was that by doing so 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 our FORD vehicle that was actually built, part by part in ports unknown.

I apologize for buying a GATEWAY desktop computer that was made somewhere else and is supported by technicians in Guam and 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, dear American out-of-work worker, 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.

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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 from COKE, reading the current best-seller by SIMON & SCHUSTER, as I intermittently, fired up my DELL laptop to search EBAY for a good buy on the newest PLAY STATION wearing my RADIO SHACK headphones, dreaming of my comfy bed at the MARRIOTT and munching on something gooey from SARA LEE.

Dear American worker, it is with the deepest, most profound regret that I apologize for all these transgressions. I actually thought Nike and Addidas and Delta and Sara Lee, not to mention the others, were American companies run by American employees. I admit I was mixed-up and confused. I actually thought American products were American products. In my foolishness, I thought when I boarded an American airline or purchased an American labeled product I was helping to keep my fellow-Americans working.

But, nay. In fact, today and for well over ten years if it needed to be manufactured, built, assembled, sewn, appliquéd, wired, electrified, glued, bound, boxed, or hung, you can bet your bottom dollar that it was done so by hands other than American.

Little by little, tiny step by tiny step, quietly at first, businesses moved their labor to shores far beyond our borders. It was hardly noticed when inexpensive clothing manufacturers moved. It became a little more obvious when the designers went abroad. Not to artisans, not because the fabrics were finer, or the threads more silky, no, they went, almost tripping over one another in their glee. 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. But not just for the designer or the clothing manufacturer, but also to us, the customer. The savings, not nearly as gargantuan were stunning enough to make us jump for joy, as well.

We gave little thought to the consequences. That is until our neighbors lost their jobs, needed food stamps, and began losing their homes.

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 MaBell's 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 shores beyond our borders leaving behind the wrecked lives of 2.7 million workers.

And more and more of our working middle-class were becoming poorer and poorer with each new day. Jobs? There weren't any. Not even flipping hamburgers was a choice anymore-- their kids had those jobs. Data processing? Gone. Internet Technicians? Asta Levista, baby.

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%, they just weren't American workers. Accenture, however, is closed mouth about their other partners. Accenture's Stacey Jones told me, "We do not divulge our client list," which made me ponder, why the secrecy?

However, among the companies that are public knowledge 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 they offer "a cool savings of up to 30% or more" for "dramatically improving the efficiency and effectiveness of back offices operations." Also known as, BPO. They also promise to reduce "credit card processing with a $10 - $20 per card per annum savings." That's nothing to sneeze at.

Additionally, Accenture proclaims, "two-thirds of US retail and commercial banks with assets of at least $3 billion outsource one or more of its business functions."

As significant as Accenture is, number one in the outsourcing industry is, Cognizant Technology Solutions. Based in New Jersey, Cognizant claims that they "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, becomes a client, from 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.

Do we have a right to be upset? Damn right we do!

Don't misunderstand me, I wish every one, in every land a job worthy of supporting themselves and their families. I just don't want it to be at the expense of the American worker and the American worker's families. It's simply not fair and if it's bad for the American worker, it should be bad for American businesses.

But it's not. It's not because most of us are unaware of this travesty and, let's face it, we have a very narrow focus. If it's cheaper, it's sold. How many times do we check first to see where it's made before we buy it? Even that however, isn't reliable anymore. It doesn't tell the whole story. Companies could outsource their payroll department, or their mortgage department, or their inventory department and we would never know it. Furthermore, if you did know, would it make a difference? Would it still make a difference if you could save $10?

In my book, the corporations that were formed in America, built in America by the sweat and ingenuity of the American worker, that are now fleeing for greener pastures where there are no regulations, no workman's comp, no insurance, no promises of a future, owe the American worker a huge debt and at the very least, Corporate America owes their American workforce their promised security.

With the signing of NAFTA, American workers working for these same American corporations were dismissed as so much excess trash. Dismissed for the almighty dollar.


© Norma Sherry 2003

Bio: Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer. Norma welcomes Email: norma@togetherforeverchanging.org

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