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One man's crusade against outsourcing American jobs

Replaced by an Indian, Florida man runs for office on antivisa agenda.

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Michael Emmons had logged almost six years as a software developer when he and more than a dozen colleagues received bad news: Their employer was replacing them with workers from India.

And instead of outsourcing the jobs to India, Siemens ICN had a plan that was every bit as controversial - importing Indians to do the work here. The Americans even had to train their Indian replacements in order to receive severance pay. "They told us this is the wave of the future, and we just have to go with the flow," Mr. Emmons says.

The experience radicalized him. Once casual about politics, he is planning to run for Congress from Florida's Seventh District to fight anti-outsourcing.

It's uncertain whether he'll go to Washington, or whether broad restraints on outsourcing will be enacted. But the issue has already captured public attention and sent both federal and state lawmakers scurrying to respond.

The economics of outsourcing are complicated, making it difficult to craft a broad policy response. But to Emmons, action can be taken on the particular challenge that cost him his job: programs that let high-skilled foreign workers into the United States when sought by certain employers. Some in Congress agree, and are sponsoring bills to change the visa programs in question.

Emmons blames his pink slip on theL-1 visa, which allows multinational corporations to transfer overseas employees to their US subsidiaries for up to seven years. Critics argue that the practice drives down salaries for American employees because foreign replacements often work for lower wages and no benefits.

Paula Davis, a Siemens spokeswoman, describes the company's decision to hire Tata Consultancy Services in India as "part of a global restructuring effort." She says it is "more economical to outsource this particular function." Referring to the company's requirement that laid-off employees train their foreign replacements, she adds, "It's industry standard when you're outsourcing work to any firm that you're going to have to train the new consulting firm."

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