One of the workers Disney fired and forced to train his foreign replacement is scheduled to testify before Congress Thursday, when he will share his story and plead with lawmakers to recognize it as part of a nationwide problem with the H-1b visa program.
“This situation at Disney is not an anomaly,” Leo Perrero says in prepared testimony obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This same abuse of the H1B program is happening nationwide.”
Perrero was laid off just ahead of the holidays in 2014 and then forced to train his foreign replacement on an H-1b visa, before he and hundreds of other IT workers at Disney in Florida left their job. He had been at Disney for more than 10 years and received outstanding performance reviews, and actually thought he was being called in for a pat on the back when his boss laid him off.
“This year Leo was instrumental,” reads one of the reviews Perrero cites in his testimony. “Leo saved the company over $10,000,” another read. “Leo continues to provide value to our team.”
Businesses say they need the H-1b program, which gives them access to temporary foreign guest workers, in order to fill jobs that Americans can’t or won’t do, particularly in the tech industry. But the program’s critics contend it was designed to give companies a way to displace American workers with cheaper foreign workers, and that Disney-style layoffs are happening all over the country.
“This abuse of the H1-B Visa is not about a lack of talent here in the U.S.,” Perrero says in his testimony. “If our own pool of IT professionals were so incompetent- then why would companies like Disney and many others have us train our replacements, spend months teaching them and also why would such a low ratio of STEM graduates from college land a STEM job?”
Nearly 75 percent of Americans with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees are not working in STEM fields, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, and only 3.8 million Americans with STEM degrees hold STEM jobs.
Like Disney, Southern California Edison, Fossil Group, and Catalina Marketing have hired outsourcing firms that rely heavily on H-1bs and then laid off dozens or hundreds of tech workers, some of whom were expected to train their foreign replacements. In these and undoubtedly other cases, the laid off workers are threatened with the removal of benefits if they talk to the press about training their replacements.
“I started to think what kind of American was I becoming?” Perrero says in his testimony. “Was I going to become part of ruining our country by taking severance pay in exchange for training my foreign replacement? How many other American families would be affected by the same foreign worker that I trained? Sadly, I choose the money over America.”
He and one of the other workers fired by Disney have filed lawsuits in federal court in Florida, alleging Disney used HCL and Cognizant (the contractors who brought in the foreign workers) to knowingly displace American workers in an illegal manner.
“My coworkers and I felt extremely betrayed by Disney,” Perrero says in his testimony. “They were going to simply cast us aside for their financial benefit. Later that same day [of the layoff] I remember very clearly going to the local church pumpkin sale and having to tell the kids that we could not buy any because my job was going over to a foreign worker.”
In addition to Perrero, Ron Hira, a professor at Howard University, Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University, and John Miano, an attorney with the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, will testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest. Chad Sparber, a professor at Colgate University, and Mark O’Neill, chief technology officer at JackThreads, will also testify.
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