Dealing with the Parliament of Whores

Begin Your Job Activism With This Timely Advice

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The entire purpose of this months magazine is to alert you to issues concerning you and your job, and perhaps rile you up into doing something about it.

One of the cover articles, "Resistance Isn't Futile," suggests that you take direct action: form unions, write letters, and join organizations. Our Resources section lists books and web sites that can help you with lobbying efforts.

Lobbying? You? Yes, indeed. No doubt you have the same or similar opinion of Congress as described in P.J. ORourkes book, "Parliament of Whores." You think, and rightly so, that our politicians wont listen to you because you dont have enough money to buy them. Like me, you have probably grown cynical over the years, and truly believe that politicians are a pack of whores.

So what makes me think that we have a prayer of influencing Congress? Because our time has come.

As George C. Scott said in the movie Patton, "Now I have precisely the right instrument, at precisely the right moment of history, in exactly the right place."

Thats us. We have precisely the right instrument, or issue: in our case, it is jobs and outsourcing. Millions of people are affected, and millions more will be if we dont do something. According to a study by Right Management Consultants, Philadelphia, one out of four American workers believe they could lose their job in the coming year, and nearly 85% say it would be difficult to find new work. This is what you call a "hot issue." People are scared.

It is precisely the right time, because it is an election year. The timing is perfect to start a groundswell of public opinion that will build from now until next November. The Democrats, in particular, are scrambling to find an issue. They dont really have a good campaign issue right now " at least, anything the public cares about " but we can hand them a red hot one.

The right place is the voting booth. We can build this into an issue that politicians must embrace, or we will vote against them. If there is one thing that influences politicians more than money, its a Special Interest Group with votes. And there are millions of us. So, lets get started.

First, we need to join an easily identified, single-issue Special Interest Group. Politicians understand and cater to SIGs, because they know votes are involved. IEEE could be our SIG, and they are already lobbying on the issues.

Second, as Eric Hoffer, in his book The True Believer, explains, we need a Unifying Agent that brings us together regardless of age, occupation, race, sex, party, or income. Our UA is jobs and outsourcing. With millions of us affected, it is a difficult UA to argue against. We have virtually no organized opposition. Who would dare?

Third, we need Scapegoats. Fortunately, we have many scapegoats that have been in the news of late: greedy CEOs with outrageous compensation packages who are outsourcing everything; evil boards of directors who approve such actions; and ungrateful third world countries that take our foreign aid, hate our guts, riot in their streets, and lure our manufacturing plants away.

Fourth, we need Media Interest. We have that, in spades. Even the liberal New York Times covers outsourcing and L-1 issues. USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and all the other major media outlets have discovered that white collar job drain and outsourcing are hot topics. The media bandwagon is already rolling.

Fifth, we need Corrective Legislation. Some legislation is already pending (see the News section, this issue), and all we ask the politicians to do is pass it.

As control and instrumentation people, we should work with other groups that are on our side. For example, control engineers could accompany IEEE or other organizations as they lobby and testify before Congress. We should stick to the issues on which we are most knowledgeable and where we have credibility.

In my opinion, we should probably concentrate on the safety issue. Heres an example of our message: "Do you realize that the new chemical plant in town is being designed by engineers and programmers in a place overseas where the safety standards are different, and lower? Are you aware that many of the new plants operators and technicians are L-1 immigrants who barely speak English? Do you want a Bhopal or Chernobyl here?"

A few million IT programmers losing their jobs is a trivial matter compared to what happens when a chemical plant explodes and spews contamination over a huge area.

We can be very effective if we stick to what we know; scare the willies out of the general population with horror stories, and work with IEEE and other activist groups to hammer away at politicians in this election year

We dont care if a Democrat or Republican is elected to any particular office, as long as they are on our side. For us, it is a one-issue election from here on. "Rich Merritt

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