FRAMINGHAM (10/29/2003) - The U.S. high-tech, aerospace and IT industries historically have been viewed as second to none worldwide. But liberal domestic trade policies, questionable economic initiatives, corporate greed and unaddressed workforce issues are threatening the U.S. dominance. While corporations operate virtually unchecked by government oversight, workers and the industries suffer.
In 2000, the U.S. Congress created a commission to examine the overall status of the U.S. aerospace industry. The Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, as it was called, took a critical look at the industry, its workforce, how it operates as a part of the U.S. economy and its relevance to U.S. national security. By analyzing the commission's data, considerable light also can be shed on the crisis that the high-tech and IT industries are facing, explaining why Congress must step in to protect their solvency.
Among its findings, the commission challenged the widely held belief that the U.S. would continue to dominate the aerospace industry. Pointing to the fact that the industry has consolidated from more than 70 domestic companies in 1980 to only five prime contractors today, the commission warned that U.S. superiority was a thing of the past.
The main culprit leading to the downfall of U.S. high-tech industries can be summed up in one word: globalization. Simply put, government-sanctioned programs such as free trade policies, blatantly unfair guest-worker programs, a lack of investment in education at home, and tax schemes that let and encourage corporations move American jobs overseas have put many U.S. high-tech and IT companies, and their workers, in jeopardy.
It's no secret that highly technical jobs in the IT, aerospace, telecommunications and other high-tech industries are simply being shipped overseas in the name of cheap labor and increased profits. And, to add insult to injury, many of the U.S. jobs that still exist are being awarded to foreign guest-workers who come to the U.S. on the business-friendly, government-sanctioned, H-1B and L-1 visa programs.
Of course, in the corporate world, the current status quo is just fine. Bottom-line profits take precedence over all else, including the U.S. economy and its workforce. Chief executive officers are even awarded enormous bonuses for exporting U.S. jobs. While corporate leaders casually refer to these practices as "sound business policy," we in the labor community more accurately describe it as "corporate malfeasance."
" The sad truth is that lawmakers are endorsing policies that are leading to the destruction of critical U.S. industries while America's ability to produce highly skilled IT, technical and aerospace workers diminishes. Unless Washington, D.C. lawmakers find a way to reverse their course and start to advocate for fair and balanced trade policies and against unfair guest-worker programs and corporate tax schemes, this nation will be facing a human capital and economic crisis of enormous proportions.
Biggs is legislative/political director of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, an AFL-CIO-affiliated labor union whose members include IT workers. He can be reached at email@example.com.