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Nielsen layoffs draw Lou Dobbs' ire

OLDSMAR — When Lou Dobbs speaks, even extraterrestrials quake.

The host of the Lou Dobbs Tonight show on CNN covers national issues with an abundance of certitude.

So when Dobbs took up the Nielsen Co. layoffs in Oldsmar, with reports on Monday and Wednesday nights, many current and former Nielsen employees took heart.

They hoped Nielsen's outsourcing story would reach the national agenda.

"Exactly what needed to happen!!!" a current Nielsen employee, who asked not to be named, wrote in one of many e-mails to the Times. "The bigwigs have been meeting all day to discuss the ramifications of the news."

"I'm glad something is finally happening," said former Nielsen systems administrator Kristie Otto, who was seven months pregnant when she lost her job in October.

"What burns me up the most is that they are bringing all these people in from India at the same pay rate that we were getting paid," Otto said. "So where are the savings?"

Monday night, Dobbs and CNN correspondent Bill Tucker reported that Nielsen is laying off workers and outsourcing jobs at the company's Oldsmar facility and replacing them with workers from India on guest-worker visas. Tucker said council member Janice Miller was the only city official angry about it.

"I am incensed that our government would allow this to happen to the American people," Miller said on the show. "This is all about driving down wages in this country. It's un-American."

Oldsmar Mayor Jim Ronecker was pilloried by Dobbs, his smiling face superimposed over a photo of the Nielsen headquarters entrance.

"Well, maybe if we started outsourcing the mayor's job and those other City Council jobs and replacing them with … visa workers, maybe the people of Oldsmar would be getting more value," Dobbs said.

Ronecker said his e-mail in box was jammed with hate mail the next day — "a lot of four-letter language, short and sweet," he said.

Ronecker said the way he was portrayed Monday failed to mention that he led Nielsen to forgo government incentives that would have netted the company up to $3.1-million in future tax refunds for creating jobs.

On Wednesday night's report, Dobbs turned his focus to the federal government.

"Now, some communities are telling Washington they've had enough of seeing jobs in their communities shipped overseas or labor shipped overseas to their communities," he said.

Dobbs said Nielsen has a virtual monopoly in their market.

He suggested that people contact Florida's legislators, including U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, and U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez.

"Because if they are going to just simply turn a blind eye to this kind of behavior, the country, the state of Florida, is lost," Dobbs said.

Several Oldsmar council members were interviewed, including Eric Seidel, who said, "I wish we had the authority to do something here."

Council member Suzanne Vale suggested people should contact presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

Nielsen's response?

"Because of who we are, we can't comment on a client's program," said Gary Holmes, Nielsen spokesman. "Instead, we are moving forward, building a competitive facility that will continue making significant contributions to the local economy."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Nielsen layoffs draw Lou Dobbs' ire 06/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 8:46pm]
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