Senate Committee Proposes Paying Down U.S. Budget Deficit by Selling 30,000 U.S. Jobs For $500 Each

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In a callous disregard for unemployed U.S. tech workers, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to import 30,000 more foreign workers each year with no provision that qualified U.S. workers even be considered for the positions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Senators Specter and Kennedy, voted on October 20th to propose issuing 30,000 more high tech work visas, alleging that the $500 fee would help trim the U.S. budget deficit.

Among the proponents of the provision was the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), whose President Harris Miller deemed the increase “thinking outside of the box” to shore up U.S. competitiveness. But he ignores his organization’s own study just four months ago titled “Untapped Talent: Diversity, Competition, and America’s High Tech Future” which reported that in 2004 over 210,000 U.S. tech workers were unemployed, 92,000 being skilled female IT workers.

During August and September 2005 the U.S. Department of Labor refused to allow these unemployed Americans to be considered for the 65,000 U.S. jobs that they held exclusively for foreign tech workers. Now Senators Kennedy and Specter decline to require that qualified U.S. workers be considered before their 30,000 jobs could be sold to foreign workers. Staff for Senator Specter did not dispute that, under his proposal, the Senator would prefer that a foreign worker be hired over an American, because hiring the foreign worker would pay down the U.S. budget deficit by $500.

The other key proponent was Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), whose member company Hewlett-Packard just laid off several thousand U.S. tech workers.

No proponents cite specific skill shortages nor explain why Americans cannot fill these positions. In fact, H-1B workers typically have average skills and fill average jobs, but with below average pay – often under $45,000 per year. Industry favors them as de facto indentured servants due to their difficulty in changing jobs and their dependency upon the employer to sponsor a green card.

Many H-1Bs are employed by bodyshops – middlemen that take up to one-half the salary – which have no direct need for the workers. Instead these bodyshops aggressively shop their employees in direct competition with U.S. workers. Furthermore, "U.S. workers are often forced to train H-1B workers, and then the U.S. workers are terminated," states Dawn Teo, labor activist and former corporate manager.

One underemployed worker states that she would outbid $500 to secure a good job in her profession. Would the Senators consider U.S. workers if they upped the ante?

The U.S. Senate sinks to a new low in selling out Americans' careers for $500 each as a source of revenue. Meanwhile our trade deficit hovers at $60 billion per month as the Senate does nothing to stem offshoring. "This is a bake sale on the deck of the Titanic, and American workers are the cupcakes," states Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild. “Why not sell all 200 million American jobs, and raise $100 billion?”

A Midwest tech worker who was laid off from his Cisco WAN/LAN networking job at a major utility company in 2003 after only 3 months, then replaced with foreign labor from China and Malaysia, disputes that reaching the H-1B cap is a symptom of a labor shortage. "I was discriminated against as a U.S. citizen. There is an epidemic preference for cheap foreign labor by U.S. employers at the expense of qualified U.S. citizens, and Senators Specter and Kennedy propagate this assault." He claims that his foreign national replacements at the power company were given access to the communications grid of the utility, posing a national security threat that should concern Homeland Security.

The Programmers Guild pleads to the full House and Senate to reject this proposal, or at least amend it such that jobs are only sold to foreign workers when no qualified Americans are available.

ABOUT US

The Programmers Guild advocates for the interests of U.S. computer programmers and other tech workers. The Guild is seeking sponsors for a bill that would amend the H-1B legislation to require employers to first recruit U.S. workers before DOL would approve filling positions with H-1B workers. See http://www.programmersguild.org for more information.

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REFERENCES

ITAA Support for the visa increase

http://www.itaa.org/newsroom/release.cfm?ID=2168

ITAA June report on high unemployment of female tech workers:

http://www.itaa.org/eweb/upload/execsummdr05.pdf

ITI support for the provision

http://www.infoworld.nl/idgns/bericht.phtml?id=00256F6C005C22FC8525709900564E79

Bodyshops documented in 2000 – taking up to one-half the salary

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/09/21/MN4322.DTL

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Kim Berry
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