If you missed the New York Times’ expose about Disney, which detailed how its employees had to train their own H-1B visa replacements before being laid-off, don’t worry. You haven’t heard the last of companies’ misuse of worker visas.
Toys ‘R’ Us and New York Life are the latest companies to take advantage of loopholes in the system by cutting 70 and 300 workers respectively. While Disney workers’ non-citizen replacements stayed on in America, Toys ‘R’ Us and New York Life have current employees train their replacements, who then return–along with their jobs–overseas.
“After 30 years, it is very, very disappointing being told you are going to lose your job to a foreign country,” said one technology team member who is 49, and started with New York Life when he was 18.
As I mentioned in my Disney blog, the visa’s intended purpose is to attract exceptionally skilled workers–not to have already skilled American workers train their cheaper replacements. Not only is an employee’s worst nightmare happening to workers on a regular basis, but needed foreign workers are being blocked:
…outsourcing firms are increasingly dominating the program, federal records show. In recent years, they have obtained many thousands of the visas — which are limited to 85,000 a year — by learning to game the H-1B system without breaking the rules.
In one glaring example, a denied H-1B applicant, Atulya Panday, has to run his New York-based start-up, Pagevamp, from Nepal. Unlike the outsourcing and layoffs going on at Toys ‘R’ Us and New York Life, Pagevamp would be doing quite the opposite. According to Mr. Panday’s business partner, “…most people would feel Atulya was making a positive contribution to the U.S. economy.”
Groups such as Partnership for a New American Economy are pushing for an expansion of the H-1B. Who’s countering them? Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate addressing the need for serious reform. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is an ardent supporter of the current H-1B program. According to Sanders’ website:
Proponents of new visa policies advocate that the visa program will attract and retain the “best and brightest” immigrants…However, data has shown that the top ten users of the H-1B guest worker program are all offshore outsourcing firms. As Bernie pointed out, “these firms are responsible for shipping large numbers of American information technology jobs to India and other countries.”
I don’t mean to lead you on a witchhunt–or suggest that all H-1B sponsorships are misused–but I thought I’d call out a few companies in the Madison-area that seek out sponsored workers: American Family Insurance, Collabera, GE Healthcare, HMC Corporation, and Charter Global Inc.
Finally, let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that all H-1B holders aren’t skilled or don’t deserve jobs. What I’m alleging is that the system is flawed. Entrepreneurs like Atulya Panday are being kept out while the bulk of H1-B holders are used because they’re disposable. With foreign contract workers, U.S. businesses don’t have to pay severance packages or pensions. They can just stop sponsoring a visa.
Supporting a candidate like Sanders, demanding that our politicians revisit visa regulations, and blocking further trade agreements–like the TPP–would be a step in the right direction. Just as important is raising awareness about the practice of outsourcing on American soil among your friends, family, and coworkers–and making your lack of support known to the companies that misuse H-1Bs. You can begin advocating for displaced workers by sharing this article about two former tech workers currently suing Disney.