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Foreign Labor issues

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I have studied the issues related to the use of foreign labor for a long
time and have come to the decision that the Global Snowball is about the
size of Colorado and is rolling downhill on its own energy. The mechanism
was set into play years ago and I am afraid that we must adopt acquiesce or
sacrifice principle.

I received a flood of e-mail, faxes and even voice messages from engineers
offering to provide professional services from other countries. It was
assumed that I had taken an affirmative stand on the foreign labor issues,
but let me assure you that I have not - at least not yet. I have been a
protectionist for years and I fought vehemently against the passage of
NAFTA. I would not even invest in companies that laid off workers to improve
investors profits.

If I chose to accept the fate, I still have to wrestle with strong conflicts
within myself. I can not answer messages from those who wrote recently with
offers to provide services outside the US. I am already considering a
consulting position with a firm in California that has a factory in the US
and Mexico and wishes to use Structural Engineers licensed in Mexico to
provide services in the United States. I was contacted to train their
engineers who, although experienced in high-rise structures of steel and
concrete, have little or no experience in residential wood frame design.

The Americans who responded to my email strongly believed the use of cheap
labor was immoral and unethical. As much as I would like to find an excuse
to support my "heart filled" conviction of protectionism, it would not be an
argument based on morality. It is not immoral to hire cheap labor in other
countries. If it were our entire society based on the principles of
capitalism would be damned. Morals are not defined by socio-economic

There may be an argument for ethical conduct, but business ethics seems to
be an oxymoron today. Globalism was set into play by those we elected into
office. Even our codes are being written for International adoption. I
recently quoted sections from the California Business and Professional
Practice Code, the provisions are in place to offer reciprocity to engineers
from other countries as well as those across state boundaries. The "gray
area" is where decisions are made to accept subjective equivalency.

When and if I find that myself as chief engineer over foreign labor, I won't
have a difficult time justifying the opportunity that our own society
created. The moral conviction is to provide for the welfare of my family not
to worry if my competitor will have as fair a chance at the same project.

Before I close I would like to spout off on one more issue. We live in a
society (professional included) riddled with Apathy. We find it easier to
ignore issues than to dissent or voice our opinions publicly. In the end,
the decision does becomes moral - do we stand on principle or provide for
the welfare of our families?

Dennis S. Wish, PE
The Structuralist Administrator for:
AEC-Residential Listservice
(208) 361-5447 E-Fax