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Outsourced: No Laughing Matter

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Sarita GuptaLast week, NBC launched a new show that tries to find comedy in the all-too-real conditions of outsourcing. While the first episode was witty—making light of age-old cultural clashes and stereotypes, there is nothing funny about the reality of outsourcing and the impact it has both on the American worker and their counterparts around the world.

For decades, big companies like the one portrayed in “Outsourced” have been engaged in a global race to the bottom, constantly seeking to maximize their profits by cutting wages, benefits and working conditions.  Corporations have learned to avoid local worker bargaining power by organizing themselves globally and exerting a downward pressure on wages along the supply chain that brings goods from manufacturing to consumers.

Meanwhile, there are currently 15 million unemployed workers in the United States. And the situation is not much better overseas, where many scrape by on substandard conditions and wages that have been outlawed for centuries in the United States.

Going back to the first episode, the angry, American workers who have just been laid off are portrayed only by a stack of bricks thrown through the boss’s window. This is then juxtaposed against the hapless, comedic and cheaper Indian workers who have taken over the call center.

But the bosses are all smiles because by pitting laid-off U.S. workers against workers overseas (and immigrant workers forced to look for work in the United States), companies like the novelty business portrayed in the show get rich while workers around the world, our nation included, struggle to feed their families, access health care and stay in their homes.

Still laughing?

It is hard to find humor in the need for good jobs, fair wages and humane living and working conditions.

So, as not to leave NBC hanging (we at Jobs with Justice are solution oriented, after all), how about another idea for a new NBC sitcom called “Good Jobs, Fair Pay.”  In this innovative new show, U.S. workers would have full and fair employment—all paid for courtesy of a small sales tax on Wall Street, otherwise known as a financial speculation tax.

Workers in other parts of the globe would join U.S. workers in having a standard minimum wage with equal purchasing power.  Multinational corporations would have no incentive of moving from country to country, forcing workers into increasingly lower wages and conditions. And for comedic relief, CEOs would actually pay taxes like the rest of us and share their annual bonus with the workers in the plant.

And the Emmy goes to?

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About The Author: Sarita Gupta is executive director of Jobs With Justice, a national network of more than 40 local coalitions of labor, community, student, and faith organizations, working together to built a broader global movement for economic and social justice.

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