Disney Blacklisted Displaced American Workers

Rachel Stoltzfoos | Managing Editor, The Daily Caller News Foundation

The American tech workers Disney laid off in January after forcing them to train their foreign replacements were put on a “black list” that disqualified them from hire by any contractor that works with Disney, emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation between one of the laid off workers and a recruiting firm show.

The worker, who asked to remain anonymous because he is waiting on legal advice, learned of the black list when he sent his resume and performance review to a local IT recruiting firm that wanted to place him with a company contracting with Disney.

He had plenty of past experience doing similar work for Disney contractors, and had received the highest possible rating on his performance review, so he thought he would be a top candidate for the job.

But in an email sent last week and obtained by TheDCNF, the recruiting firm informed him that he is out of the running because he is on a black list, since he is one of the hundreds of tech workers Disney displaced in January. (RELATED: As Floridians Are Displaced, Rubio Demands More Foreign Workers)

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“Any Disney employee who leaves Disney or has a contract end (after being on 18 Months) unless it is a unique circumstance, has to wait a certain amount of time before they can be eligible for rehire,” the recruiter said in the email. “Usually that time frame is a year to a year and a half. In this situation it was indeed a year.”

A spokeswoman for Disney denied the current existence of a black list that includes those workers “impacted by the reorganization,” and said in an email to TheDCNF that the recruiting firm simply provided the applicant with the wrong information. She said Disney is calling the firms to ensure they are providing the right information.

“When employees leave for other reasons, based on the situation, there could be a break required before the person is able to return to the same function,” the spokeswoman wrote via email. “But in those situations, the person is able to return immediately in a different capacity.”

Pressed Friday as to whether such a policy disqualifying the displaced workers from contracting work with Disney has ever been in place, she suddenly stopped responding to TheDCNF. Monday afternoon she responded, saying there was never a policy that prevented contractors from hiring the workers.

It’s unclear why the recruiting firm told the Disney worker he was in fact on a list precluding him from hire. The firm declined to comment.

When the layoffs were announced in October, the tech workers were encouraged to apply for other new jobs at Disney, and the layoffs were cast as a restructuring of Disney’s IT program. She told TheDCNF the emphasis of the program has gone from maintenance to developing new capabilities.

The IT team has actually grown by 70 people, she said, and Disney is still hiring for new positions that resulted from the layoffs.

Initially, the ex-employee who spoke to TheDCNF and the other laid off workers he knew were optimistic and began applying for the new jobs Disney posted, but grew increasingly discouraged when they got no response.

“As time went on, we just realized that we’re sending our resumes into a black hole,” he said.

Disney is by far the biggest employer of IT workers in Orlando, he said, and none of the other smaller firms, such as SeaWorld, compare in terms of size or rate of pay. From what he’s heard and understands, the market simply isn’t big enough to absorb the hundreds of tech workers Disney laid off.

“I keep hearing and seeing in the newspaper that there’s all of these great opportunities for IT workers, but I’m not seeing them in my market,” he told TheDCNF.

He knows of just three people out of the hundreds who were laid off that managed to stay with Disney, and estimated about one in four were forced into early retirement. Only one he knew of was able to get a new IT job at Disney.

Most of the workers who replaced him and his American coworkers were brought into the country by the contracting firm Disney hired on temporary work visas known as H-1bs. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are both proponents of dramatically expanding the program, which is intended to help businesses bring in high-skilled workers for jobs Americans can’t fill. (RELATED: Rubio Doubles Down On Gang Of Eight Bill)

But a number of recent reports show companies — Southern California Edison, Fossil Group and now Disney — apparently abusing the system to displace American workers.

Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the H-1b program in light of the Disney layoffs. Nelson voted for the 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, which would have more than doubled the number of workers businesses can bring in on the visas.

Rubio and Bush, who are running for president, have not commented on the news.

The Obama administration recently refused an earlier request from a bipartisan group of senators to investigate alleged H-1b visa program abuses, especially at Southern California Edison. (RELATED: Senators Ask Feds To Investigate Guest Worker Abuse)

The former Disney employee who spoke to TheDCNF has been outsourced twice in his 20 years working in the IT field. Before working directly for Disney, he worked for Disney through a contractor. Disney had indicated they would hire him, but then opted to outsource that work to IBM instead.

He was able to get a job as a contractor with IBM, and several years later Disney did hire him. But he was outsourced again last October.

Despite stellar performance reviews and a raise, he was told his last day of employment at Disney would be Jan. 30. He and the hundreds of other tech workers displaced were told to stick around and train their foreign replacements with a good attitude, or leave immediately and forego their severance packages.

“And having witnessed IBM and Disney take so many jobs offshore for remote workers, and then now where people are literally flown into our country to take over our jobs, I just can’t believe it,” he continued. “I mean, I’m just in shock.”

Nearly 75 percent of Americans with STEM degrees are not working in STEM Fields, according to Census data, and only 3.8 million Americans with STEM degrees actually hold STEM jobs.

The U.S. currently allows one million immigrants and about 700,000 guest workers into the country annually. The Census Bureau recently projected the foreign-born population (legal and illegal immigrants) will hit 51 million by 2023 — the largest share of total population ever recorded in American history.

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