Sunday, April 13, 2008

Outsourcing a threat to workers and national security

As I wrote earlier in the month, the aerospace industry is sending jobs to Mexico - including those in airline maintenance.
At least one U.S. airline, Delta, is already sending entire planes to Mexico for maintenance work. In 2006, it signed a deal handing heavy maintenance of 120 of its planes over to Aeromexico, an airline.
My concern was for the number of good paying jobs being lost, but that pales in comparison to the security risk our country faces. Teamsters President Jim Hoffa explains [emphasis mine]:
The outsourcing of aircraft maintenance is another major concern—just ask the United Airlines mechanics and related workers. Some 9,300 of these skilled workers resoundingly chose to join the Teamsters last month because we understand the real danger the outsourcing of aircraft maintenance poses to national security.

From 1996 through 2006, major U.S. airlines' outsourcing expenses increased from 37 percent to 64 percent, and the number of foreign repair facilities grew from 344 to 698 over a comparable period.

As outsourcing expanded, regulatory standards and oversight have failed to keep pace. Background checks, duty-time limitations, and alcohol and drug testing are much more lax at foreign stations than they are in the United States. For example, supervisors and inspectors who sign off on maintenance work at foreign repair stations are not required to hold a Federal Aviation Administration repairman certificate or an airframe and power-plant certificate, and neither are mechanics working on the aircraft at these facilities.

Increased outsourcing is a domestic security risk. In the U.S., FAA-certificated repair stations have standards for personnel background checks and restricted access to aircraft. Foreign repair stations lack these precautions. Outside of our borders, only flimsy safeguards prevent a terrorist from exploiting an opportunity to do us harm by tampering with airline systems or inserting explosives into aircraft while they are undergoing maintenance. (Despite a mandate in 2003 to create a security standard for repair stations and audit foreign stations, the Transportation Security Administration has yet to do so.)
My son-in-law recently graduated from airline mechanics school after 22 months of studies. He's in the process of taking three written tests and two oral tests in order to receive his certification so he can work on planes. I should also mention his education was very expensive. That 22 month program cost him nearly as much as four years in college.

It just doesn't make sense for our country to mandate higher education and licensing requirements for jobs that we then turn around and allow employers to outsource without equal standards. Americans can't compete with the lower wages and now it appears we're fighting against reduced educational requirements. That's crazy. Why should our young adults spend thousands of dollars to get an education if a person in Mexico or some other country is allowed to do the job without any advanced training or certification?

We definitely need to level the playing field in this country so our workers can compete and our national security isn't compromised.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)


JollyRoger said...

The "education" bullshit has turned out many a degreed person who has to figure out how to pay off massive student loans on Burger King wages.

It is a disgrace, and no one should forget the role of Clinton in creating these conditions.

Kathy said...

Jollyroger, you're right. From the first George Bush to Clinton and now to Bush, they've all had a hand in sending jobs out of the country - along with senators like Clinton and McCain.

abi said...

Jobs and security - two things that every politician promises to fight for. So how do they justify outsourcing airline maintenance jobs? Obviously fighting for the right of businesses to make ever fatter profits is more important than fighting for either jobs or security.

Congress can stop businesses from outsourcing jobs tomorrow if they wanted to. I wonder what's stopping them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I totally agree. However, I don't have much hope in things changing, especially since our government had led the way in large part with the Airbus deal.