A Global Economy…or, How My Nephew Got A Week to Pack Up and Leave America

Global Sweatshop
Global Sweatshop

I could deliver a long lecture on the global economy and the way ordinary people are being treated like dirt by multinational corporations. Some are better-paid dirt than the others: that’s the only difference.

In fact, recently in India, I gave two lectures on the various perspectives of globalization, IMF and their disastrous effects on the poor workers, families and how both in America and India, middle class is going downhill.

If you want, I can send you the gist of this little interactive lecture I gave in Calcutta about a month ago (see YouTube video here). I’m sorry this is only in Bengali and I did not have the means to subtitle it.

Here, I’ll tell you a simple, ordinary story that I just heard from a nephew who called me today to let me know that he and his family — wife and a small child — are going back to India in two days. He said he got about a week from his corporation — with branches both in India and USA — to prepare, pack up and wrap up their little lives that they had put together here in mighty America for the past six or seven years.

No, he didn’t complain. In fact, he’s never been a complaining type. To me, on the other hand, it seemed so unbelievable that I thought I should share the simple story with you — and leave the judgment for you to pass on.

Here’s his story, in brief. This simple, meek, unassuming nephew of mine came to America a few years ago to work for a multinational  company in their IT department. Now, if you know how it all works these days for these transnational companies with transnational workers, the company hires good people who they think they could entice for some good money and a lure of living in the U.S. — however smaller the salary and benefits are and how non-luxurious the U.S. living may be. They choose people whom they know would never protest against the inhumanely long and cruel work hours. This nephew of mine worked from 9 A.M. to 6 or 7 P.M. in his U.S. office — including the one hour each-way daily commute time — only to return home to have a few hours of sleep before he’d start working again online, telecommuting, because as you know, 10.30 P.M. here in the U.S. is 9 A.M. India time when their offices over there just opened their shops. So, he’d work online, from home, for another few hours before perhaps at 3 or 4 A.M., he’d finally have some sleep, only to wake up at 7.30 A.M. to get ready to go to his American office.

This is not an extraordinary schedule for any such global worker in this global economy. In fact, this is commonplace.

There are many like him...way too many...
There are many like him…way too many…

These young people, most of them bright students, basically sacrifice their entire youth and family lives to work this way for these companies that are now exploiting these people and their family lives — for pittance. U.S. companies would hire Indian workers for one-third or one-fourth of the wages they’d otherwise have to give to U.S. workers; plus, the companies either give them no benefits or get by with the bare minimum. American workers would not accept those terms.

The irony is that anybody from India — like my nephew — hardly ever complains. Because the money they make is definitely more than what they would otherwise make in India alone (and in India, private companies almost never give health or such benefits the American way, and nobody questions). Further, these young workers always have at least three windows open on their office laptop: (1) work window; (2) dollar-rupee exchange rate window; and (3) online remittance window. They’re always calculating money and being happy about the 55 (now 60, as of May, 2014) rupee to one dollar exchange rate. They’re making some money, and sending it off to India asap.

So, the exploitation works beautifully.

However, in these six or seven years this nephew of mine, got married, had a child and settled down in the U.S. Or, at least, he thought he did. He never settled down. There was never any talk between him and his multinational company to make him permanent, or sponsor him for a permanent resident Green Card status. His wife, a bright student with a Ph.D. in psychology from India, after delivering the child, worked hard to get some training from a local university, and then worked even harder with a small child, to find a research fellow position at the university. But just like her husband, she also never got any assurance from her work place to have a sponsorship for a Green Card or path to citizenship.

All these years, they’ve both worked extremely hard to satisfy the work demands of their companies, with little no sense of a real permanency or a feeling of truly settling down. The little child started going to preschool and making friends from the American community. The child even started speaking in an American accent.

Suddenly, just a few days ago, the Indian branch of my nephew’s company called him and informed that they’d made a decision to downsize their U.S. branch. They said no worries: they’d hire him immediately at one of their India branches. They said he’d have about a week to pack up and leave. He’s supposed to join his India branch office in two weeks of time. (I could be wrong on the specifics: but this is the nutshell, believe me.)

They are packing up right now as I write this simple blog. My nephew’s wife resigned from her psychology research job at the local university. They’ve withdrawn their kid from the preschool.

For them, next destination: India. Bombay, Bangalore or Gurgaon, Delhi.

The world has become much smaller — thanks to globalization. I’m sure they’ll re-adjust quickly. At least, the man of the family has a job back there. About the woman: well, she’ll find something somewhere.

I’m only here to report one of the many such ordinary stories. You can comment with your likes or dislikes.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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8 thoughts on “A Global Economy…or, How My Nephew Got A Week to Pack Up and Leave America

  1. 1. I would like to read the gist of your Kolkata lecture a month ago in Bengali: you can post on Facebook or email attachment.
    2. In US there is no security of jobs and jobs can be terminated at short notice, but the employers generally pay compensation dues as per US standards. Downsizing in the US is of course very routine.
    3. Packing up in short time is generally in the case of transfers: here however the case seems to be one of new employment in a new country.
    4. A week to pack up and go is very painful. Normally, six moths are allowed by US authorities for H!B visa holdebasudebrs. But there could be new forms of visas with restriction on stay in US after loss of jobs by foreigneners there.

    1. 5. If one has mortgage house, it takes time to sell off, especially under depressed home prices. If the foreigner lived in rented accomodation, depending on the contract there could be some loss still though much time is not required to release back rented accomodation.
      6. That some Indians can find jobs on their own abilities and dedicated hard work in multinational companies in their American branches is a good thing.
      7. If non-resident Indians are looking at forex rate and planning their remittance on that basis and planning their savings and investments, it is good.

  2. Through you we are getting informed that what is happening in USA. Keep on writing in your blog and up-date us.

  3. Touching story and unfortunately the reality of so many immigrants or international men and women living in the U.S. on work visas which leaves them with zero security in the long term.

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