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Help For Job Losers

Legislation would give people hurt by offshore outsourcing longer unemployment benefits, access to training, and other assistance.

Some Michigan lawmakers want to help IT professionals and other workers whose jobs have been outsourced overseas. Sen. Liz Brater and several other Democrats in the Michigan Senate are backing a bill that would give outsourced workers benefits such as emergency assistance with car and mortgage payments, longer-term unemployment insurance, fast-track admission into state community colleges, and job placement assistance.

Democrats are the minority in the Michigan Senate, a situation that Brater acknowledges will make pushing through the legislation "an uphill battle."

There also would be practical difficulties implementing it, such as determining who qualifies. Companies rarely advertise outsourcing initiatives, and in many cases it's difficult to make a direct connection between a job lost in the United States and one created offshore. "We don't have a good answer for that right now," Brater says.

Michigan lost 38,000 jobs in 2005 to outsourcing and other factors, according to the Mackinac Center For Public Policy. As many as 6 million U.S. jobs may go offshore over the next decade, Goldman Sachs says.

Workers at Michigan automakers General Motors and Ford could be among the first in line for new benefits. Ford has said it wants to trim 30,000 positions from its payroll over the next several years; GM wants to cut a similar number. Both companies are looking at increasing their use of offshore labor. Ford is evaluating a plan to move IT help-desk positions to Romania. GM recently included Indian outsourcer Wipro Technologies in a group of vendors to which it will hand $15 billion in IT work over the next five years. Bosch, Electrolux, and Johnson Controls also are among the Michigan companies that have recently outsourced work.

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