Article 43

 

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bad Dreams, Bad Truths

depression.jpg

I’d have never believed that job loss can BREAK ONE’S SPIRIT until LOOSING my career for the SECOND TIME time a few years ago, with no wife, no kids, no support.

Although AT&T TREATED US well the first layoff - it was still a horrible experience - I nearly lost all my money, my fiance walked out, and nine months later was forced to move away from the place and friends I loved for a job nine hundred miles away. Two years later I was back on my feet, beginning to build a new future.

But back then an AWARENESS of the forces DEMOLISHING THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS WORKER and RETIREES wasn’t a big part of the EXPERIENCE

I was a lot younger, with a lot less debt.

Things never seemed HOPELESS.

Today they DO.

Maybe back then EDUCATION meant something.  Maybe back then there was real HOPE for a BETTER future.  Maybe back then being young MEANT SOMETHING.  Maybe back then COMPASSION, FRIENDSHIP, and FAITH helped heal the wounds. 

Maybe back then I was dreaming.

The job I have now was gotten by pure luck. Last night was my third dream of being LAYED OFF from it, looking for another, and coming up empty.  Not even a TEMP JOB as a DISPOSABLE DAY LABORER.  I WOKE UP tired, penniless, afraid and alone, with no hope, no ambition, and a pervasive chill that’s it’s just a matter of time before everything’s LOST.

You’ll find mention of KEVIN FLANAGAN elsewhere in this blog. He was an unmarried middle aged, middle class techie who worked for BANK OF AMERICA, loved his job, loved his life, and watched his job OUTSOURCED TO INDIA.  Then committed suicide in Bank Of America’s parking lot.

More and more I realize how and what he felt inside.

How do you think you’d react to the humiliation of TRAINING YOUR INDIAN REPLACEMENT, then getting THROWN OUT in the street?

It’s a sad awakening to realize how indifferent our society has become. COMPANY SPONSORED mental health counseling after layoff, and other SUPPORT GROUPS don’t exist FOR US anymore.

I wonder what Kevin dreamt.

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Job Losses Sap Morale of Workers - The Kevin Flanagan Case

By Ellen Lee
Contra Costa Times
May 2003

In his oldest son’s Pleasant Hill home, Tom Flanagan occasionally curses as he walks through the halls and gathers his son Kevin’s belongings: the black-and-white photos his son developed in his makeshift darkroom, the household products he had a tendency to buy in bulk, the box-loads of books on computer programming.

More than once, Flanagan shakes his head. “It’s a shame,” he says. “We lost a good friend and a good mind.”

One month ago, Kevin Flanagan took his life in the parking lot of Bank of America’s Concord Technology Center, on the afternoon after he was told he had lost his job.

It was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” his father said, even though the 41-year-old software programmer suspected it was coming. He knew that his employer, Bank of America Corp., like other giant corporations weathering the economic storm, was cutting high-tech jobs. He knew that Bank of America was SENDING JOBS OVERSEAS. He had seen his friends and coworkers leave until only he and one other person remained on the last project Flanagan worked on.

Flanagan took steps to soften the blow. He considered studying law, and even made a list of California schools he was interested in researching. He applied for other jobs at the bank, but didn’t receive responses.

In e-mails to his father, Flanagan sounded lighthearted. “I’m safe!” he would write in his Friday missives. “I’m safe for another week.”

But Flanagan apparently masked the depth of the distress he felt as he fought to save his position. “He felt like he was fighting a large corporation that pretty much didn’t care,” his father said. “This final blow was so devastating. He couldn’t deal with it.” The father said he saw no other signs of depression before his son’s suicide.

It is unclear if Flanagan lost his job because it had been sent overseas, or because the bank was slimming down because of the tight economy. Lisa Gagnon, a Bank of America spokeswoman, declined to comment, saying, “We’re deeply saddened by this tragedy. We send our prayers to his friends, colleagues and family.”

But his death underscores the anxiety that has swelled among technology workers at Bank of America and elsewhere as more businesses shift high-tech jobs and responsibilities to contractors offshore even as they cut jobs in the United States.

A report by Forrester Research projects that, led by the information-technology industry, 3.3 million service jobs and $136 billion in wages will move from the United States to such countries as India and Russia over the next decade or so.

Another survey by A.T. Kearney said that U.S. financial-services companies are planning to send overseas 8 percent of their workforces, thus saving them more than $30 billion.

Coupled with a rough economy and high unemployment, the phenomenon has left U.S. workers looking over their shoulders, wondering if their overseas counterparts could soon replace them. Blue-collar manufacturing jobs have for years crossed U.S. borders and waters. Some workers are bitter that white-collar, high-paying technology jobs are next.

“It could be me,” said a Bank of America information-technology employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It could be anybody.”

Flanagan’s parents say that he complained about the company’s move to shift jobs out of the United States and talked about taking care of problems that contractors in India couldn’t solve.

“Outsourcing has led to tragedy for us,” said Tom Flanagan. “We are devastated.”

Flanagan landed at Bank of America seven years ago after spending time at a San Francisco technology company and at ChevronTexaco Corp.

The Concord Technology Center, a cluster of four buildings that opened in 1985, employs programmers such as Flanagan to develop software programs that handle jobs like wire transfers. Throughout the Bay Area, the bank employs some 13,400 workers; the bank would not release the number of workers at the Concord center.

About two years ago, Bank of America created the Global Delivery Center to identify projects that could be sent offshore. In the fall of 2002, it signed agreements with Infosys, whose U.S. headquarters are in Fremont, and Tata Consulting Services, two of the largest players in information-technology consulting and services in India.

Overall, this deal should affect no more than 5 percent of the bank’s 21,000 employees, or about 1,100 jobs, in its technology and operations division, Gagnon said. So far, it has been less than that, she added.

But Gagnon declined to say how many U.S. and Concord workers have been affected so far.

“It’s important to note that just because we decide there is a good business reason to send a project (overseas) does not mean it will necessarily result in job displacement,” she said.

Employees at Concord, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described shrinking project teams as work is shuffled around. One veteran worker said that in the middle of a project, he and his team members were asked to hand over documentation and explain their work to a group of engineers from India. He and his co-workers were then transferred to another project. A short time later, he lost his job.

Gagnon confirmed this, saying that in some cases it made sense to have workers train their overseas successors before they are let go.

“The knowledge transfer is essential to continue to provide our customers with the best possible services and solutions,” Gagnon said.

One software engineer, who was laid off about two months ago, said that he lost his job because the bank was tightening its budget. But he argued that had other technology jobs not been moved offshore, he would have had more opportunity to shift jobs.

The harshest critics have called Flanagan’s death an example of the collateral damage brought on by businesses expanding their offshore operations. A former software programmer said that morale in the office is so low that some employees feel like they’re on “death row.”

“Every day you think, ‘Is this the day I’m gone?’” he said. “The next day you think, ‘Is this the day I’m gone?’ The stress builds up.”

But other Concord employees have taken it in stride. “It’s a fact of life in business,” said one worker. “It’s not perfect here, but it’s a pretty darn good place to work,” he said.

Proponents say that hiring technology workers overseas will make the company stronger: For one, it cuts costs. A contractor in India, the most popular locale, is typically paid $10,000, compared with $100,000 for a U.S. worker with the same skills. Proponents argue that this allows companies to stay competitive, saving and creating U.S. jobs.

Growing overseas does not necessarily translate into a loss in the United States, said Debashish Sinha, principal analyst for information technology services at Gartner, a research group.

“Very rarely is there a direct staff substitution,” he said. “Very rarely will a U.S. enterprise lay off their internal IT folk to hire an external offshore service provider.”

But as offshore workers graduate from basic jobs to more sophisticated technology work, critics here wonder if there will be high-paying, high-tech jobs left in the United States.

“There’s a huge hole opening up here and no one is seeing it,” said Pete Bennett, a former technology consultant in Danville who is now in the mortgage industry. He founded NoMoreH1B.com to protest businesses bringing in non-U.S. workers through the government’s visa programs for highly skilled workers, a program that he believes helped fuel businesses’ move to transfer jobs offshore.

A few weeks before his death, Tom Flanagan helped his son on yet another home improvement project in his Pleasant Hill fixer-upper. That night, they stayed up until 4 in the morning, “just shooting the breeze.”

They often had these long discussions, about California politics, about the Enron debacle, about other world issues. They would argue until they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

“He would never give up,” Flanagan said. “He would never give up. But he gave up.”

In a note that he left behind, Kevin Flanagan said that he felt like he had finally found his home when he moved to Pleasant Hill and landed his job at Bank of America.

“He loved working there,” his father said. “He loved his house. He loved it here. He was happy. This was his life.”

SOURCE

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U.S. Tech Workers Bear Brunt of Immigration Policy

Fox News
April 29, 2004

In April, 2003, Kevin Flanagan, a computer programmer with Bank of America (search), was fired from his job after being forced to train his replacement, an Indian worker who was taking over Flanagan’s job as part of Bank of America’s effort to replace its American workforce with foreign labor.

Flanagan walked outside into his office parking lot and shot himself to death.

A year later, it’s no surprise that the impact of foreign labor (search) on American workers has become a potent political issue this campaign season. What Americans need to understand is how complicit the U.S. government has been in helping large corporations secure cheap foreign labor, and the impact that has had not just on American workers, but on the foreign laborers doing their jobs for a fraction of their wages.

In 2000, with the economy entering a full recession, America imported 650,263 foreign workers under two employer-friendly visa programs, H-1B and L-1. In 2001, with the economy still struggling and the tech industry laying off 500,000 American workers, Congress responded to heavy lobbying by business interests by signing off on another 712, 671 employment-related visas for the year—a surge of nearly 10 percent in labor imports.

Even a 2002 report by the undersecretary for technology at the Department of Commerce, which found that several years of data did not support the IT industry lobbyists claims of a critical worker shortage, could not stop Congress from issuing another 684,189 H-1B and L-1 visas that year.

The flood continued into 2003. As top-dollar lobbyists made the rounds on Capitol Hill with the story that technology corporations couldn’t find American computer programmers (and those corporations dumped money into Washington—$201 million in 2000 alone), American IT workers across the country were being laid off.

And while some members of Congress, fresh from depositing their campaign contribution checks, were justifying their pro-industry votes with the industry line that Americans—the people who invented computers—were just too lacking in skills to program them, story after story emerged of middle-aged American IT workers fired and replaced with 25-year-old foreign nationals.

As a final indignity, these American workers—many with families, American mortgages to pay, and college tuitions to save—are often required to train their own replacements in order to receive their desperately needed severance packages.

Since Congress raised the H-1b visa cap in 2000, over two million employment-related visas have been issued. But it isn’t only Americans who are suffering.

The replacement workers are also often victims. Not only does the foreign replacement worker earn about half what the American he or she replaced did, but Congress lets the worker’s American boss control the visa—ensuring a workforce as compliant as it is cheap. If the foreign worker complains about low wages, unpaid overtime, lack of health care or deplorable living conditions, the boss can yank the visa.

Remarkably, in spite of the number of Americans devastated by the employment visa programs, and despite the fact that the injustices would seem to make scrapping them an easy moral call, some of those in Congress continue to work aggressively to import even higher numbers of both skilled and unskilled foreign workers.

Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, has in many ways taken the leadership role in increasing immigration (a role he took from former Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham, whose immigration policies played a major role in his 2000 defeat.) The Washington Post has called Cannon the “point man” in Congress for Bush administration efforts to push for an illegal aliens amnesty

In an October 2000 press release titled ғCannon Manages House Passage of High Tech Visa Bill,” Rep. Cannon took credit for passing the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (search), the very act that marked the onset of the current flood.

In the four years since the passage of the bill, stories like Kevin Flanagan’s don’t seem to have dampened enthusiasm. This year, Cannon has signed on to several bills that would increase immigration, and introduced a couple of his own. His AgJOBS bill (search), which is both a massive new amnesty for illegal aliens and a major new guest worker program, has drawn the enthusiastic endorsement of some four hundred groups and organizations—overwhelmingly business interests. His efforts have earned him awards of appreciation from immigration lawyers’ interests and ethnic-identity organizations.

As the impact on Americans grows more severe, however, a political backlash becomes increasingly likely. Even cynical veterans of the anti-H-1b wars, who for years have been resigned to the influence of corporate interests in American politics, are beginning to talk about real signs of a major shift.

Chris Cannon is at the center of much of this talk. Once considered one of the safest Republicans in Congress—a 10-year incumbent in the most Republican district of the most Republican state in the country--Cannon’s history on immigration issues has become a political hot potato in Utah. One of his challengers, Matt Throckmorton, an up-and-coming former state legislator, has been a long-time critic of Cannon’s immigration policies and his message has struck home. Cannon has been forced into either defending his amnesty bills (a policy opposed by four out of five Americans), or flat out denying he supports amnesties (which his record makes impossible).

Meanwhile, a disgruntled former IT worker has gathered compelling evidence of what appears to be questionable financial arrangements between Cannon and those who profit by his cheap labor votes in Congress. Salt Lake City’s Deseret News printed a letter from the worker detailing the evidence, which was picked up by the RescueAmericanJobs Web site. On Monday, the former IT worker filed a formal ethics complaint.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether any of this will result in change in Washington.

Yet somewhere in America, a middle-aged American will be training his replacement how to do his job at half the cost, and wondering what will happen to his family once the severance money runs out. As he cleans out his desk, another group of smart, young lobbyists in thousand-dollar suits will be telling some member of Congress how their client, an IT giant, has really, really tried to find an American who can program computers.

Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He is the author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, to be published in October.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/08/07 •
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In memory of the layed off workers of AT&T

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Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. - Carl Sagan

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