by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
February 4, 2004
STUDY SAYS U.S. FIRMS 'DUMB DOWN' MEXICAN WORKFORCE
BOCA RATON, Fla., Feb. 4, 2004 -- How would you react to evidence that the Home of the Brave, Land of the Free, allows U.S.-based tech companies to engage in the most capricious forms of employment servitude?
This week the Financial Times of London has pulled back the curtain on the types of offshore working conditions, which have led Sen. John Kerry and others to bring into national focus the flight of U.S. jobs.
Many industries may be at fault, but using a Catholic charitable foundation (UK-based Cafod) study out of London, the paper singled out contractors of Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and other mega-giants in the tech world. To cut to the chase, the thing that jumped out at my corporate conscience - both as a capitalist and former union rep - was their findings from Guadalajara, Mexico. How are things in guacamole? Is it all mariachis and tequila? In the heart of what is known as the Mexican Silicone Valley, unscrupulous recruiters and employment agencies have elevated the art of worker abuse beyond even border-hopping "maquiladoras'" levels. It works like this: in advertising or word or mouth, XYZ Inc. uses the main employment agency in the city of Guadalajara to solicit job applicants. And so the word went out throughout Old Mejico, and the jobbers sent their applicants - upwardly mobile, freshly scrubbed, eager for income, pressured by family responsibilities, tempest-tossed to thee, Michael Dell, or IBM. The applicants are politely greeted. Many have achieved better educational levels than the norm; some might have bilingual and technical skills. They start a battery of academic and psychological tests. Sometimes the testing - all very professionally and politely done - goes into a second day. The Financial Times didn't specify this, but my guess is that the applicants get a lunch on the house, and perhaps a small stipend for transportation and a day's work. The employment contractors, with the knowledge of the U.S. firms (because the charitable folks have blown the whistle on these guys repeatedly), review the test results. As with any good head hunter or human resources department, the evaluators are particularly looking for those (mostly young) men and women who:
Read my list above again, slowly.
Okay, these are the traits and backgrounds the U.S. corporate-paid contractors in Mexico want to identify. When I have been in the role of employer, these are many of the traits I would want to identify.
Here's the difference: when you or I look for these traits, and hope that our kids will have these traits, it's to get the job and start a career.
According to the Financial Times, the premier business newspaper in the world, in Mexico these traits get you on a blacklist to make sure no one will hire you.
The Financial Times interviewed a psychologist who screened workers for IBM, and wrote:
"Psychometric tests weed out anyone who might cause trouble. Other grounds for rejection include pregnancy, a history of visiting the U.S., or having friends or family members who work as lawyers or in unions. Once in work, they face repeated short-term contracts. The Financial Times interviewed one engineer on his 21st consecutive one-month contract.
In short, the employment agencies are identifying any potential "troublemaker" who might be too smart, too eager, or too likely to know a union organizer or a relative in the U.S.A. The employment process is really a discriminatory screening process against the human spirit and the human soul, to preordain an underclass workforce.
These odious practices are highlighted in a report, Clean Up Your Computer, published Jan. 29 by Cafod, the British-based Catholic development charity. Its aim is to persuade investors to put pressure on the largest computer brands - it singles out Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM - "to improve labour rights in their supply chains."
The poorer, dumber, less-motivated, the better.
I suppose an illegal Mexican alien from El Salvador or Honduras, mind fogged on booze or drugs, living in fear of arrest or deportation, would be Dell's ideal candidate.
I'm not a politician, and I don't play one on tv, but as a former supporter of NAFTA and the WTO, it seems it's not just about Nike sneaker-makers in Indonesia anymore.
*Financial Times story reference: http://search.Financial Times.com/search/article.html?id=040126001158&query=Guadalajara&vsc_appId=totalSearch&state=Form
Former UPI newsman Mark Scheinbaum was a national representative for two labor unions. He is chief investment strategist with the Boston Stock Exchange member firm of Kaplan & Company, www.kaplansecurities.com