The Indignity Of Outsourcing: One Former Boeing Worker's Tale

Stephen Gentry, Outsourcing, Boeing

It's a topic that reemerges in the national conversation every four years -- outsourcing. And this year, the corporate policy of sending jobs overseas, also known as "offshoring," has been front-and-center during the 2012 campaign, in large part because one candidate, Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, previously worked at a consulting firm that advised companies that made use of outsourcing.

But while Romney and President Barack Obama trade charges and counter-charges over their past affiliations and proposed policies, often lost in the debate are the workers themselves. What is it like to lose your job to an overseas worker? And how do you pick up the pieces after a company outsources your job?

Meet Stephen Gentry. His story begins 10 years ago, when then a Boeing engineer for 15 years, Gentry was called into the office during Christmas vacation and told that he was being laid off. His job was going to be outsourced.

More: Outsourcing: Good For The Economy - And Workers?

And it got worse: He was informed that he had to train his Indian replacement.

His bosses told him, he recalls, to "hide and cover up my feelings, and be grateful."

He says that he will never forget when the team's replacements from Infosys in Bangalore, India, showed up at Boeing's Seattle office for three months of training. Boeing managers told Gentry and his team of 10 co-workers that their pensions and severance packages hung in the balance of proper completion of the three-month training. (Neither Boeing nor Infosys responded to requests for an interview from AOL Jobs.)

Gentry knew that he had to be a good corporate soldier, but on the day before the Indians arrived at Boeing's offices, Gentry recalls that he and his team received emails from Boeing higher-ups instructing the American workers to make the Indians feel "at home and welcome." He dashed off a half-joking email to his boss, writing, "So we're teaming with the enemy?"

His manager wasn't amused, according to Gentry. "He wrote back, 'Don't go there if you want to keep your pension,'" he recalled. Because of his years of service and age, Gentry was entitled to a retirement package.

The three months went by largely without incident, he says.

"It was humiliating, but what can you do?" he said in an interview with AOL Jobs. "I was trying to leave a bridge with the company."

He went on a vacation to the Grand Canyon, optimistic. He was expecting there would be "more opportunities very soon."

But the nine years that followed were tough. He bounced from one contract job to another, holding only one staff position -- with a contractor of the the Securities and Exchange Commission -- for a year.

Gentry's story is not uncommon. Outsourcing jobs overseas, or offshoring, has become routine in the last decade, as companies cut costs by maintaining divisions in foreign countries where labor is cheaper. An analysis completed by the Wall Street Journal found that U.S. multinationals outsourced 2.4 million jobs overseas from 2000-2010.

The practice of workers training their replacements in outsourced jobs also is not unheard of. Workers have had similar experiences at Bank of America, and BP, to name a few. Indeed, having a worker train his replacement in such a scenario is "perfectly legal," according to Scott Moss, a law professor at the University of Colorado.

More: 5 Jobs You Thought Were Safe From Outsourcing - But Aren't

TechsUnite, a non-profit group for IT workers, launched by the Communication Workers of America and the AFL-CIO, estimates that over the past 10 years, 500,000 IT jobs have been sent abroad.

Since Gentry had completed his 15th year at Boeing and was age 50 when he was laid off, he was entitled to retirement benefits, which helped during all those years of bouncing from one contract to another. Still, "it's been a real struggle" since losing the Boeing job, he says.

Gentry, who recently landed a staff job at Intel, isn't bitter, however. He still considers Boeing a good employer overall, noting that the company had paid for him to get his Bachelor of Science degree at Seattle Pacific University.

His former colleagues, worried about hurting their employment prospects, declined to speak on the record to AOL Jobs. Their experience after Boeing has run the gamut; some say their professional life was largely unaffected while others left the IT industry and have cobbled together a living.

More:Advice For The President: How To Get Americans Back To Work

And in spite of his own personal frustrations on the job market, Gentry says that he understands why employers outsource and the fact that many economists believe outsourcing actually adds jobs to the U.S. economy, overall.

"I debate this with myself," he says. "If companies are always looking for the cheapest deal, we're going to have a world where if you're not the top 1 or 2 or 3 percent, you will only have crumbs."

Would he have approached his dismissal differently had he known the dry spell that would follow?

He emphasizes how important it was to keep onto his retirement package for his kids.

"But," he says, "I am talking."

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June 04 2013 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Heck, the Repulicans have even outsourced (by insourcing) to 2 U.S. state governerships to India. Piyush Jindal, governer of Louisiana, and Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, governer of S. Carolina, both had parents who came to America from India with H1B visas. Both Piyush and Nimrata have been on the goevrnment payroll pushing the spread of H1B visas to get more "skilled" workers from India into the US to the detriment of our own American graduates.

October 21 2012 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to gw98rocketmail's comment


October 21 2012 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob Harris

gw98rocketmail : US science and tech would have been dead by 2000, had there been no immigration of skilled workers. An average American "so called tech worker" can only is generally more of a drunkard, no math skills (20% of the Americans cannot even calculate the compound interest :, horrible coding skills (had a tough time teaching these brats), absolutely zero English skills (cannot write a grammatically coherent sentence even with the help of the computer).

Do you expect these employees (who benefited from the no child left behind policy) to take on an Indian kid who can solve advanced calculus by 17 or a Chinese kid who can solve 3D trigonometric problems by 19 or an Indian software engineer who can code efficiently in any language?

October 25 2012 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

when companies outsource to offshore firms, or bring loads of people in on H1B visas, they are frequently putting short term gains over long term losses. Quality isn't there. Communications is terrible, standards aren't met. Smart companies with a long term vision, don't play that way. Shame there aren't more smart companies.

October 21 2012 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There is no doubt that outsourcing saves corporations money. They exist to make a profit so why wouldn't they take advantage of it? It isn't the corporation's job to look out for the interest of the American economy or it's people. That's the job of our government.
Losing over 500,000 skilled jobs (probably much more) in the past 10 years hurts the economy in many ways. When that income is sent overseas we lose the ripple effect that money would have in our economy. We also lose the expertise of that job. In the near future, who will be our experts?
We need to look out for our corporations AND the American worker. Corporations should have tax incentives to employ the American worker. We should limit the number of H-1B visas issued (over 1 million over the last 10 years) and eliminate tax advantages to corporations that offshore.
How we accomplish this, I don't know. I'm not a Romney or Obama supporter and I don't see our government working together to help our state or nation. Self interest and special interests get in the way of that.

October 21 2012 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I realized just the other day how wide spread this is becoming. I was contacting the customer services of one of the largest communications companies in America Verizon Wireless. I got a representative that had such a strong accent it was very frustrating trying to explain a simple request. I asked where are you located he answered India I was instantly pissed off for the Americans who lost their jobs for the sake of saving money. This trend must be stopped we can't gutt American jobs just for these corporations bottom line. So is this the TOP DOWN APPROACH the GOP wants to sell the American people. Is this a company that should receive a tax break so they can outsource more???

October 21 2012 at 8:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Last June my Democratic Senator Debbie Stabanow intraduced a bill in the Senate that would end tax breaks for companies that offshore American jobs and give tax breaks to companies that would bring jobs back. The conservative Republicans filabustered this bill and then voted against it. Nuff said!

October 21 2012 at 8:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All companies should be taxed heavily for outsourcing. Outsourcing takes away jobs. It costs the country money. Lack of jobs lead to more government payouts and crime.

October 21 2012 at 7:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When corporations put profits above the good of America it should be viewed as Un-American activity and they should be penalized to the point where there is no profit in doing it. Such policies by corporation that put profits above all else is what got America in the bind it's in right now. Intentionally causing economic instability for profit is treason and should be treated as such.

October 21 2012 at 7:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Way to go rb3232! people like yourself are the one's who will make a postive change for the better in the long run.

October 21 2012 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That's why I've always been a engineer for small business all of my 35 year career. I don't have to worry about pensions (I have a 401k), or "blacklisting" or any of the other "big company garbage". I do my job and get it done. If a company goes "belly up" or the projects I'm involved in end - I just move on the next small company that needs an engineer. In the world of small business - age does not matter, actually it's an asset - small companies are always in need of experienced, self motivated people that can "hit the ground running". In all honesty, I could not imagine myself working for any of the "mighty captains of industry" - I value my independence and almost "carte blanche" freedom to innovate and learn, and that is what small business offers!!

October 21 2012 at 7:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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