Lawmakers Seek to Punish Companies that Send Jobs Overseas

Companies that send jobs overseas could kiss their state contracts goodbye if two Colorado lawmakers have their way.

Democratic state Sens. Deanna Hanna of Lakewood and Terry Phillips of Louisville said too many companies are moving jobs out of state or overseas, hurting the state economy. [more]

In December I read about a similar bill proposed here for Washington State; I immediately wrote to both the congressmen who were to introduce the bill with my own proposed title for the bill: “The Economic Patriot Bill.”

Later that day my manager stuck her head around the corner of my cubicle, “[Menlo], [HR guy] would like to talk to you for a minute.”

I followed her up the elevator to another floor of the company and we went together down the hall to the CEO’s office. There the HR guy sat behind the desk and next to the desk was some upper-level manager. I sat down and before she launched fully into her spiel I stopped her, “So I’m being laid off?”

She objected. “We’re initiating a workforce reduction project.”

Ah, then. That was different. I told her just to skip ahead to the next step in this process, wherein I was led to a conference room where several others nominated for the same project were already sitting. We were waiting for several more and then our last seminar in said conference room would begin: how to apply for unemployment, etc. When nobody managerial from the company was present we talked openly amongst ourselves while we waited.

“Well, this isn’t a surprise, but a week before Christmas?”

“Two of the managers were the first to go. One couldn’t even stop and give her phone number to a fellow worker. They were escorted right out of the building. When they sat down to their computer when they went back to their office to pack, they were already locked out.”

“Why do we have to wait here? Why can’t we just go?”

“I feel like a criminal.”

Some had tears. I had only been at the company for a year as an employee and a year before that as a temp, and was all of their juniors there by far. I tried to lighten the room with jokes. There was one fellow who had been brought into the company months ago to oversee all production. He gave inspirational meetings puncuated by the handing out of stuffed animals. He told us all that there was turbulence ahead but if we worked hard, there were a lot of oppurtunities for moving up. His own office had enough stuffed animals in it to supply several nursery-school nap rooms. He wandered the office hallways spreading ominous, unspeakable jolly. More than once in the restroom I would notice that after using the urinal he would dash straight to the exit without washing his hands. He was supposed to make the entire department more efficient, but in the end all he did was send all the jobs to India. He was primarily the butt of my jokes.

When I got home I called Pagan and asked her to meet me for dinner after work. I was not entirely unhappy–this had been only a day job for me. I was eligible for six months of unemployment while I looked for something else and retrained. I had a decent severance check and the rest of my 401K. But I felt sorry for the people who worked there and really cared about the place, who had put in years and years and one in particular–the lady who had actually hired me–who as an empty nester had started working there in the mailroom and after years of dedication and loyalty had worked her way up. These people didn’t need to be treated like this. They didn’t need to be herded into a conference room a week before Christmas with tears in their eyes only to then be escorted downstairs to clean out their office or cubicle and then to the door, like a common criminal.

This company, like the ones mentioned in the aforementioned article, deals only in state contracts. Transnationals like Boeing can and do routinely flex their ability to move elsewhere if they’re not given enough tax breaks, but a company which exists solely on state contracts cannot do that, which is why I predict big things for this bill in Colorado and the one just like it here in Washington. The American people have been gathering anger for at least twenty years as they’ve watched their corporate overlords send more and more of their jobs overseas–first it was the blue-collar jobs, and now the white-collar jobs are also going–and this anger has combined with a sense of impotence because there’s nothing that they can do about it. So if you give them one sector of the society where they can do something about it? The Economic Patriot Bill, indeed. Would pass easily, and not only that, the companies who deal in state contracts could probably not muster the lobbying power and campaign money needed to overcome the aforementioned twenty years of simmering anger and resultant impotence directed at corporate off-shoring like the hefty transnationals could.

More importantly, targeting these companies with state contracts with legislation to stop their overseas outsourcing could lead to a momentum–and perhaps the politicians fueled by the public would finally take on the transnationals on this subject as well.

Obviously we’re hearing a lot of heady speeches these days promising a lot, but the now-nationalized phrase “Benedict Arnold CEO” is certainly a step in the right direction.