Hillary Clinton acknowledged in a recent interview that U.S. tech companies are using H-1B and L-1B visas to replace qualified American workers. She said this was “heartbreaking” and “callous.”
Yet Clinton has long supported increasing the number of H-1Bs. When she was in the Senate, she voted in favor of a bill that would have more than doubled the number of these visas. She even co-sponsored a bill in 2006 that would have weakened the already laughably feeble “protections” currently in place to prevent Americans from being displaced by guest workers.
The preference for foreign guest workers over qualified Americans even extends to the Clinton Foundation, which since 2004 has sought to outsource 130 jobs to H-1B visa holders.
Who’s more callous? Employers who cast aside Americans in favor of cheaper guest workers from abroad? Or a politician who pretends to be concerned about worker protections to get elected, but once in office does the bidding of the corporations that line her pockets?
For me, the issue is personal. I am a tech worker who was replaced by a foreign guest worker.
In 2002, I was working in Florida for Siemens when the company made the decision to replace the IT department with H-1B and L-1B guest workers supplied by the Indian “body shop” Tata Consultancy Services. Tata, and the other main supplier of guest workers to U.S. tech companies, Infosys Limited, also headquartered in India, supply guest workers to replace more experienced, usually more qualified, and almost always more expensive American workers. It is a common requirement for those who are being laid off to train their replacements and to sign a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting them from talking publicly about their termination in order to receive a severance package.
Because I was a contractor, I was not offered severance, and I stayed on until I found another job in order to be able to afford medical care for my handicapped daughter. Fortunately, I did land another job, albeit at much less pay, but I could not remain silent, especially since many of my former colleagues were struggling more than I was.
I reached out to elected office-holders across the country, including Hillary Clinton, who had been elected Senator from New York in 2000. Shortly after I reached out to Senator Clinton’s office, I saw that she attended the grand opening of a Tata regional office in Buffalo, New York.
When asked by Lou Dobbs about Tata’s outsourcing of U.S. jobs, Clinton responded: “Well of course I know that they outsource jobs but they’ve created 10 jobs in Buffalo.”
This pales in comparison to the number of jobs outsourced. According to the Los Angeles Times, by 2007 the Tata office in Buffalo had sought to bring 1,600 guest workers to the state. Clinton, by her own admission, knew what Tata was up to and explicitly endorsed their operation.
Skilled guest worker programs were not created in order to outsource jobs. They were created to bring in a small number of foreign nationals with extraordinarily skills on a temporary basis.
These programs quickly became a pipeline for the tech industry to bring in cheaper workers from overseas. An employer whose workforce doesn’t already consist of 15 percent or more H-1Bs — and that percentage includes non-tech employees — is under no obligation to attempt to hire a qualified American. The so-called wage protections set a minimum salary but allow employers to pay H-1Bs considerably less than their American counterparts. And as long as a company waits 90 days after hiring an H-1B, they can fire an American worker who was in the job the guest worker was brought in to take over.
L-1B visas are even worse. They allow a company to bring in an existing employee who has worked for the company at least one year overseas, and there is no wage requirements or nominal protection for American workers.
The misuse of the skilled guest worker programs is not confined to Indian body shops, but is rampant among “American” companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Toys R Us, and Disney.
Skilled guest worker programs should no longer be used to displace Americans who are already performing those jobs. Nor should they be used to prevent STEM graduates from gaining employment in those fields after they finish college.
The law must be changed to ensure that qualified Americans are not being passed over.
If Hillary Clinton truly was heartbroken about Americans being forced to train their foreign replacements, she had ample opportunity to do something about it when she was in office. I for one have good reason not to trust that she will do the right thing if elected.
Michael Emmons lives in Longwood, Florida.