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A New Kind of Union
Alex Steffen, 10 May 04

Here's a Seattle Weekly piece on Worldchanging ally (and my old roomie) Marcus Courtney and his efforts to turn his organization, WashTech, into the "outsourcing source," a clearinghouse for information on high-tech jobs being shipped overseas:

"Such is an average day in the anti- outsourcing war room that is WashTech’s offices on Eastlake Avenue East. Pounding away at an issue so hot that it has become part of the presidential race, WashTech has attracted national and even international attention. The organization is not just regularly quoted by the likes of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and CNN. It is a behind-the-scenes force that has planted numerous stories with those news outlets and others after doing much of the investigative legwork. The union has boosted its news-making capability by hiring professional freelance journalists. It has also been aided by leaks about corporate practices from its embittered and knowledgeable constituency: high-tech workers who, in the wake of the dot-com bust, have watched thousands of high-skilled, well-paying jobs go to countries with lower labor costs, like India and China.

"As the issue has come alive in the national dialogue, WashTech has kept up a steady stream of newsworthy events. One of its most recent was the launch a few weeks ago of a Web-based “offshore tracker” (www.techsunite.org/offshore) that aspires to document, company by company, the number of jobs sent overseas. The union has also put forward people who can show the human face of outsourcing. One, Mercer Island–based Myra Bronstein, has become a media phenomenon. Last year, the 40-year-old was part of a group of high-paid software testers laid off by the Bellevue firm WatchMark Corp. To receive severance and unemployment benefits, she says she was compelled to train replacement workers flown in from India. (The company has said in a statement that Bronstein volunteered.) At a meeting, according to Bronstein, her supervisor announced, “I’d like to introduce my new staff to my old staff.”

Worth a look: WashTech may well be the future of unions.

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