Freedom Folks

Monday, May 08, 2006

When Scumbags Rule

Source: The Mercury News
Shortage of skilled workers is a convenient mirage

Know any scientists or engineers who have been laid off in the last five years?

Most readers would be able to answer ``yes'' to that question, but you'd never know it from reading op-ed pieces by local academics and senior managers from industry. ``Technology companies are starving for skilled employees,'' wrote IBM's Jeanette Horan (Mercury News, May 2). ``The supply is low.'' Her solution, like that of San Jose State's engineering dean Belle Wei (April 27) and former Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz (March 24, 2005) is to close what Wei refers to as ``this alarming gap'' by pressuring more women to major in technical fields. Others, such as SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese (May 1), use the excuse of a shortage of high-tech workers to justify eliminating ``excessive restrictions on immigration'' and allowing businesses to import higher numbers of foreign workers. Whether the cry is for more H-1B visas or more female engineers, the goal is the same: a dramatic increase in the supply of high-tech workers. The problem with these proposed remedies is that they address an employee shortage that does not, in fact, exist.

Thousands of highly trained scientists and engineers still roam Silicon Valley looking for work after having been cut adrift by the same types of people who now claim that they can't find anyone to hire. And thousands more are now working in different fields at substantially lower salaries, having given up searching for an equivalent to their previous positions. ``No one I know who has looked at the data with an open mind has been able to find any sign of a current shortage,'' said demographer Michael Teitelbaum in the Wall Street Journal's Nov. 16 front-page story, ``Behind `Shortage' of Engineers: Employers Grow More Choosy.'' In a column titled ``A Phony Science Gap?'' (Feb. 22), the Washington Post's Robert J. Samuelson explained in detail why ``it's emphatically not true, as much of the alarmist commentary on America's `competitiveness' implies, that the United States now faces crippling shortages in its technological elites.''

Do these bogus claims of a scarcity of skilled technical workers constitute a campaign to avoid having to pay market price for white-collar labor? Yes, but there's more to it than that. Corporations legitimately can anticipate a shortage of such workers in the future, because their own actions are setting the stage for one.

Since the early 1980s, employers have systematically eliminated most of the traditional incentives for high-tech careers. They pay the inventors and developers of their products a fraction of what their sales and marketing representatives make. They have eliminated pensions, individual offices and medical benefits. They charge vacation time for company shutdowns. And, most significantly, they have done away with job security -- a critical blunder because product-development cycles are often longer than economic cycles.

It's amazing that Horan's IBM made it through the Great Depression without laying off a single employee, but somehow couldn't survive the eight prosperous years of the Clinton administration without axing tens of thousands of workers. Parents used to tell their children to major in engineering or science in order to get a secure job. Now children sit around the dinner table and hear about layoffs, current and anticipated. New York Times reporter Louis Uchitelle's new book, ``The Disposable American,'' documents the nationwide decrease in worker productivity that has occurred since ``Neutron'' Jack Welch of General Electric popularized the repeated layoff approach to economic downturns. Not only are the displaced workers unproductive, but those who have been spared for the moment are also permanently less productive because of worrying about whether they will be next. When the time comes for students whose parents grew up in the United States to choose a college major, they will remember those dinner-table conversations. When the best students, being rational, start to desert science and engineering, businesses will have nobody to blame but themselves. The solution will be the same one that existed before the Reagan administration, as Harvard economist Richard Freeman told Samuelson: ``If we want more (scientists and engineers), we have to pay them better and give them better careers.''
And it's the same all over, have you noticed how employers have begun bad mouthing American employees? I'm reminded of the mine owners, when they wanted to rescind the english only rules, suddenly started talking about how lazy American workers were, drug problems, etc., etc.

It's bullshit, and we know it's bullshit. I want to know how to make these folks pay.

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