U.S. companies jump ship, leave unemployed in wake
Most of us know someone who is unemployed. And many of us know someone who has been looking for work for months and months and hasn’t found it. Why? Because there are no jobs available to find.
Actually, many corporations are hiring, but they aren’t hiring Americans. In the two years since the Wall Street fiasco created the Great Recession, American firms have cut about 500,000 jobs. But during that same period, they hired about 729,000 workers in other countries.
As globalization expands, many American companies are shifting the balance of their workforces overseas. Ford Motor Co. reported that 53 percent of its employees worked in the United States and Canada in 1992. By 2009, that changed to only 37 percent. As more than 50 percent of U.S. corporations are now implementing overseas strategies, the job market here has become stagnant.
According to news magazine The Week, the trend began in the 1970s at large companies like General Electric. Jack Welch, who was General Electric’s CEO at the time, declared recently that corporations owe their primary allegiance to stockholders, not employees. Welch went on to say that companies should seek to lower cost and maximize profits by moving operations wherever is cheapest. Not only did GE move much of its manufacturing overseas, so did many of its parts suppliers. Those suppliers were told by GE to ‘migrate or be out of business.’
Welch noted that the ideal situation for corporations would be to build on a barge so they could be moved where the costs were cheapest and profits were increased. That’s all fine and dandy for corporations, but those companies depend on workers to operate, no matter where they are located. And Welch points out that those workers and their families are not important. He can shed them at any time, regardless of the pain caused by that move. And as long as it’s some rich guy who is saying it, many Americans will lap it up, suck up and swear it’s ‘the American way,’ while Welch relaxes on his yacht with servants and millions of Americans are out begging for a job that he has already sent overseas.
Does Welch, and others like him, have the right to guide their respective corporations to huge profits at the expense of U.S. workers? Yes, they do. Has it paid off for them? Yes, it has. In the last quarter, American firms have made more profits than at any time in history.
Have they used that profit to create jobs here or have they reduced the costs of their products to help give the economy a boost? Certainly not. Anyone bought gas or a loaf of bread lately? Or have those corporations increased wages for workers while CEOs and other company officials are taking home record paychecks? Of course not. Actually, if they had their way, the minimum wage would be thrown out the window, unions would be run out of town on a rail and the American workers would realize that they need to shut up, work for what they offer us and be glad the barge is parked in our area for a little while.
In a New York Times article on March 25, it was disclosed that, in 2010, General Electric posted record worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and that $5.1 billion of those profits came from its operations in the United States. And how much did G.E. pay in taxes in the U.S.? None, and G.E. actually claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. That success is centered on its ability to aggressively lobby for tax breaks in Washington and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. The corporate tax rate for top American corporations is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, but powerful corporate lobbyists have created an abundance of loopholes that allow companies to pay far less, and many companies, like G.E., pay next to nothing.
There were articles in several newspapers last week that revealed there is now a growing number of corporations that are refusing to consider the unemployed for job openings. Examples of discriminatory help-wanted ads included a Texas electronics company that stated online that it would ‘not consider/review anyone not currently employed regardless of the reason.’ Another ad looking for restaurant managers in New Jersey noted that ‘applicants must be employed.’ And a phone manufacturer placed a Help Wanted ad that included ‘no unemployed candidates will be considered at all.’
Even if companies pull the language from their ads, many still discriminate against the unemployed, said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
And another article in The Week reported how a Bellevue, Wash., company, WatchMark, a developer of software for cell phone companies, told 18 of its engineers in a meeting that ‘I’d like my new team to meet my old team’ as they introduced 20 engineers, fresh off the plane from India, who had been hired to replace them. They were then told that they would spend the last two months of employment with the company training their replacements. If they refused, the company would withhold their severance payments. Salaries for engineers in the United States start at $75,000 a year; India-based engineers start at $15,000.
Now, let me get this straight. We bring workers from India here on a plane and fire American workers who they replace, then cuss the Hispanics, blame them for ‘taking all our jobs’ and send them back across the border in a paddy wagon. If this wasn’t so serious, it’d almost be funny.
We elected a bunch of new politicians in November who swore they would improve the job situation. But what did they do? They went to Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., and immediately got to work busting the teachers’ unions, privatizing schools, ending collective bargaining for workers, giving big business tax breaks and fighting each other for the corporate campaign contributions they need to be re-elected.
Wait a minute, guys. What about jobs? We gave you a job. Where’s ours? Oh, well, it must not be our turn for the barge.