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Control Report: Get Out and Vote--Your Job May Depend on It

Sept. 9, 2004
Regardless of Your Political Affiliation Pick the Candidate That Supports U.S. Job Preservation
We've been covering the outsourcing of manufacturing to Third World countries, L1 and H-1B immigrants taking your jobs, and other issues affecting your livelihood for about two years now. We even published a special issue devoted to the subject In December 2003. (Editor’s note: "You Can Prevail" was honored in June by the American Society of Business Publishing Excellence with its Gold award for our balanced treatment of these sensitive and timely issues.)
Even so, we receive little industry support for our positions on the issue except good ol’ reliable IEEE. Whenever Congress hears testimony on a jobs issue, IEEE is always there to update them on the number of jobs lost, the number of electrical engineers out of work, and so on. ISA remains silent on all the issues involving your job. So does the AICHE, ASME, and all the other technical societies that are either directly or indirectly related to process control.
"You have to listen carefully during the presidential debates, and hope somebody asks tough questions about job issues."

You’d think these industry associations would run to Capitol Hill to testify about how few oil refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants, and pulp & paper mills that have been built in the U.S. in the past 25 years. We are losing our processing infrastructure to the Third World, and nobody seems to care.

To the general news media, it’s as if your job problems don’t exist. It seems as if all the editors got together and agreed: "We won’t print bad news." They don’t seem to be covering our industry’s problems at all. Some of the media appear to base their view of the economy on interviews with CEOs and other high-ranking officials of control equipment vendors. Sometimes, these are the very companies that are outsourcing your jobs, bringing in L1s to support their DCSs, farming out their R&D efforts, and building more facilities in India and China.

I prefer to get my insights from the readers of this magazine. You know much more about what is happening in our industry than they do. I find it difficult to reconcile the reported rosy forecast of a control industry exec who claims that business is good, with the contrary news reports I see every day. Here are some recent examples:

  • DuPont is reducing its workforce by 3,500 jobs and some 350 contractor positions.
  • Demand for manufacturing executive resumes is down 45% since last year.
  • IEEE says the jobless rate for computer scientists and systems analysts reached and all-time high last year.

So, what it all boils down to is this: Nobody is helping you. You get no support from Congress, your technical societies, the general media, or your company. All you can do is express your outrage in the ballot box.

National elections are next month. Your job might be at stake, so I urge you to find out which candidates are on our side, and vote a straight jobs ticket. Forget voting Republican or Democrat; instead, find presidential and Congressional candidates that promise to do something positive about preventing job losses and creating new ones and vote for them, regardless of party affiliation.

In the next four years, the Iraq war will go away, terrorism will settle down, and the stock market will recover, no matter who gets elected president or to Congress. But your very job may depend on whom you elect.

I wish I could tell you who to vote for. Problem is, most politicians have trouble with telling the truth. They tell you what you want to hear, or they talk around the problem, or they talk in riddles and platitudes. Therefore, you have to do your homework in the next month.

You have to listen carefully during the presidential debates, and hope somebody asks tough questions about jobs issues. You have to find where your local candidates stand on jobs issues as well, and let them know jobs and outsourcing are major issues.

Fortunately, many of the "swing states" (the dozen or so states that will determine the election) are heavily industrialized, and jobs and outsourcing are important issues in those states. Candidates may be forced into taking a stand.

As Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAW, Washington, D.C.) explains, "The blue collar vote in these states is still up for grabs. The candidate who ultimately connects with these workers could ride that support all the way to the White House. The candidate who ignores them will do so at his own expense."

So get out and vote in November. Your job may be on the line.

Rich Merritt, Senior Technical Editor
[email protected]

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