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Ad turns up dial on debate

A national radio spot from the Communications Workers of America against layoffs at AT&T has stirred up a storm.

Not surprisingly, the political rhetoric surrounding foreign outsourcing has intensified in the final stretch of the presidential campaign. One of the more memorable anti-offshoring ads was a national radio spot that began airing this week from the Communications Workers of America, the telecom industry's largest labor union, against layoffs at AT&T.

"Hello, you've reached AT&T," the ad begins, parodying an AT&T voice recording. "To speak to someone in India, press 1. To speak to someone in Mexico, press 2. To speak to the Americans who used to have these jobs, visit your local unemployment office... If AT&T pays foreign workers tiny salaries with no benefits, we can pay top executives even more. If you don't like this, hang up and call somebody who cares."

AT&T immediately fired back, accusing the union of making false accusations in the ad. While acknowledging that layoffs were made, AT&T said they were the result of market changes and regulatory decisions that had nothing to do with offshoring. "We are baffled that the CWA leadership is feigning surprise at these job cuts. They actively lobbied in favor of regulatory changes that they knew would result in fewer jobs for their members working at AT&T."

Regardless of which side is right, the real victims of these campaigns may be those college students who are trying to steer their education toward gainful employment. Many are avoiding the technology field altogether, in no small part because they believe the bulk of its jobs are going overseas--a perception that is only reinforced by such high-profile fights.

As one reader posted in response to a related article: "It's a sad time that a college student is told in 1996 to 'go into computers' and, not even a decade later, see many of the jobs dissipate."