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IT workers resist overseas outsourcing

A study sponsored by a union group finds that U.S. information technology workers are becoming a political force motivated by the flight of jobs overseas.

U.S. information technology workers are becoming a political force motivated by the flight of jobs overseas, according to a study released Wednesday by a union group.

The survey, commissioned by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), found that 93 percent of IT workers are concerned about the impact of offshore outsourcing on their industry. Eighty-six percent of respondents support legislation that requires government IT contracts to be filled with U.S. workers.

In addition, 81 percent of respondents support legislation to restrict the H-1B visa guest worker program, according to the survey. Critics have said H-1B visas and other temporary work visas have fueled the flow of work abroad.

"America's high-tech work force is demanding that our political leaders curb the abuses of the global economy," Marcus Courtney, president of WashTech, said in a statement. "American corporations are exporting livable-wage jobs instead of products. Every day that Congress and state legislatures fail to act to stop this attack on our middle class amounts to tacit support of corporate greed over America's working families."

Evans/McDonough of Seattle conducted the study through a national Web survey that involved 410 respondents.

U.S. companies have been shifting programming and other IT tasks to countries such as India that offer a technically skilled work force and lower wages. Supporters of the trend argue that it helps relatively poor countries develop and keeps U.S. companies competitive. Technology leaders have warned that protectionist measures lead to lower economic growth and higher unemployment.

In addition, the Information Technology Association of America trade group has defended the H-1B and L-1 visa programs as fundamentally sound. The H-1B program allows skilled foreign workers to be brought to the country for up to six years. The L-1 visa program allows companies to temporarily bring in their employees from other countries for managerial or executive work, or jobs that entail specialized knowledge.

Some federal lawmakers have called for visa program reform amid reports that U.S. employees have been replaced by visa workers and had to train their replacements.

The survey found that nearly 25 percent of IT workers said they were aware that their companies had "offshored" jobs. According to the study, more than half of the respondents said globalization has resulted in job cuts, with a drop in wages and benefits in white-collar jobs, such as programming and data processing, software and systems development, database design and development, and technical communication.

More than two-thirds, or 69 percent, of the respondents said they supported legislation that would require customer support representatives to identify the city and country where they are located. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has introduced legislation that would require employees of offshore call centers to identify their location.

According to the survey, 26 percent of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, 32 percent identified as independent and 41 percent identified as Republican.

The survey found that 91 percent of IT workers are registered to vote, and 87 percent said they vote in most or every election.