Obama Jobs Council Packed With Outsourcing Companies

Barack Obama

The following is an excerpt from The Huffington Post. Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, 26 business leaders assembled by the president for job-spurring ideas, includes representatives of several companies that have used outsourcing, fueling job creation abroad and job losses in the U.S. Shipping work to low-cost overseas labor markets has been a trend in American manufacturing for decades. The White House has a plan to curb outsourcing, but companies represented on the jobs council reveal just how pervasive the practice is.

There’s General Electric, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt has served as chair of the advisory board since January 2011. Since Immelt took over GE in 2001, the company has lost 37,000 American jobs, and added 25,000 jobs overseas, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Some of those U.S. job losses are inflated by the company’s sale of NBC to Comcast in 2009.

Chris Townsend, political director of the United Electrical Workers labor union that represents roughly 5,500 GE employees in the U.S., said the company has closed more than 30 U.S. plants since Obama took office. GE would not confirm the number.

GE “is a company that, despite the constant claims of growth, continues to shrink in the United States,” Townsend said. “These are a mixture of things from garden-variety, old-line manufacturing plants to electrical apparatus service facilities, sometimes something to do with servicing. Several of them were GE Capital.”

GE’s outsourcing-related job losses have occurred over a long period, Townsend said. Unlike some of the companies that Bain Capital invested in — which quickly fell into bankruptcy, faced layoffs or saw jobs shipped overseas as the private equity firm continued to profit — the GE plant closures have happened slowly, he said.

“If you just back up five, 10, 15 years, those were all plants that were in slow, steady decline,” Townsend said. “And that’s been the tradition of a lot of these things. All we’re detecting is the end of the era of these companies really wanting to do mass manufacturing in this country.”

GE spokesman Andrew Williams said the company has increased its U.S. workforce in recent years with 17 new plant openings since 2009. He said GE’s foreign revenue has increased significantly since Immelt became CEO in 2001. The company’s exports are ultimately good for American labor, he said.

“If you’re going to keep jobs in the U.S., it has to be through exports,” Williams said.

Scott Paul, founding executive director of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, said he’s generally pleased with Obama’s record on preventing outsourcing. Though he criticized the administration for doing little to stop Chinese currency manipulation — which drives up the price of U.S. exports and hurts American manufacturing — he praised the president’s politically difficult move to bail out the auto industry and his tax policy proposal laid out in the most recent State of the Union speech.

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