by Body Taing
(PNS) -- The other day I showed a guy from China how to do my job -- so he could take it home with him.
I'm lucky. I still have a job in Silicon Valley manufacturing, for now. In the past couple years I've competed against college graduates to keep jobs like this. But now it's not just college students who want this work. Degrees don't mean a thing if your job is moving to another country.
Welcome to the real Silicon Valley, the mother of all outsourcing.
I currently work for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) in San Jose. I'm a machine operator, a relatively skill-less job. I start my day waking up at 5AM, and clock in at about 5:30AM. I put my on bunny suit and mask to prevent contamination of the equipment. The suit protects the products from us, not the other way around. When we handle harmful chemicals we wear other protective gear. The plant is clean and cool, although it can get hot in those suits.
Hitachi GST formed following the takeover of IBM's Storage Division. Since then, Hitachi GST has been outsourcing production to China. It's not just rumors -- they have been bringing Chinese workers from Shenzhen over to my plant to lean how to use the equipment. They stay for about 10 weeks of training at a time. We see them working on the line.
The Chinese workers are quite easy to work with and they learn quickly. They stand and watch to see how an operator works, and we show them how to troubleshoot equipment. Sometimes they ask questions on why and how we do things a certain way. They follow the same procedures as we do and have the same checklists.
Some of us have gotten to know some of these workers. Naturally, they are friendly people who are doing this to feed their children. It's not like I hold a grudge against any Chinese I work with on the line.
Soon after the first Chinese workers arrived, rumors started to float around the plant that by October, Hitachi will lay off all Manpower temporary workers and possibly some regular employees as the move to China comes into effect. A recent Media Manufacturing and Engineering Newsletter I picked up from the office workers touted the success of Hitachi's new manufacturing plant in Shenzhen.
The reality of layoffs has the workers, temporary and regular, young and old, talking more about the Chinese workers. Others don't feel the same way I do about the Chinese. "They have come to take our jobs away from us," the older crowd keeps saying. In a way we all feel like we have to compete with Third World labor, but here they are taking our jobs right in front of our faces. But the younger workers don't really care that much about the Chinese being here. Younger folks are more understanding. What can we do about it anyway -- complain?
Most of the workers sent here from Shenzhen look really young. Most of the girls are in their early 20s. Some of them are kind of cute. My friend Victor who runs the forklift said a lot of the guys were trying to figure out how to flirt with them. He asked me if it would be considered sexual harassment if he asked one of the Chinese girls if they had an American boyfriend.
The Chinese workers' presence wouldn't be so bad if things were better at the plant. Lately, production has slowed to a trickle. We always come to work hoping the parking lot is at least half-full, because when there are no parts to work with, all unnecessary temporary workers are sent home with only four hours worth of pay. When you're sent home, it's infuriating. Some employees have been sent home so many times, they have applied for unemployment payments.
I don't even think the Chinese who come over for training even know that they will likely be replacing us in the near future. They probably just thought that Hitachi was expanding, and that we would help them expand. They probably don't know their gain may come at the expense of San Jose Hitachi employees. What a shame.
August 17, 2004 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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