No one has more admiration for Senator Chuck Grassley than I, but I must say I am deeply disappointed with his new bill.
I have endorsed Grassley’s previous bills — but only because I found one particular feature useful: The bills would redefine the official prevailing wage to be the median in the given occupation and region, overall, not broken down according to experience levels. The remainder of the Grassley provisions applied to the “Infosyses,” and as I have said so often, the “Intels” are just as culpable. I’ve warned repeatedly that if there is any real clampdown on the Infosyses in the end (doubtful), the offshoring work will simply shift to American outsourcing firms like IBM — i.e. NO shift to hiring Americans.
Unfortunately, the new bill suffers from exactly the same problems, and indeed makes things worse, in my opinion. Granted, the old prevailing wage redefinition provision is still there, BUT that provision was the first one to be emasculated in negotiations in the old Grassley bills. I’m sure it would not survive in the current one either.
I was stunned by a feature in the new bill that prioritizes the doling out of visas. Actually, I have endorsed proposals made by others to prioritize in the order of offered salary, but this new bill doesn’t do that. Instead, it places foreign students as top priority — a blatant gift to the Intels. Workers who really do have a high salary offer (defined as the top of the 4 levels in the current prevailing wage system) would only get second priority. This makes no sense at all, especially in light of documented evidence that the foreign students are of lower average quality than the Americans. Presumably this was a move to make the bill palatable to the industry, but it’s just wrong.
The bill does have an Internet posting requirement, and this would be somewhat helpful, especially in combination with the bill’s provision for better opportunities for spurned American applicants to complain. However, as the Cohen and Grigsby videos show, the current green card process, which (unlike H-1B) already requires recruitment of American workers, is easily circumvented. This will get even worse if the current White House proposal to expand OPT is approved, as the foreign students will acquire experience in the job supposedly posted on the Internet as open to all, thus rendering the foreign students “more qualified” than the Americans. (Alas, the bill does nothing about OPT.)
I won’t go into the various provisions that target the Infosyses here, but instead will address the bottom-line question: Would this bill help American STEM workers?
I’ve already mentioned above that the bill would make it EASIER for the Intels to hire foreign workers. What about the Infosyses? In other words, would this bill have prevented the Disney and SCE fiascos, in which Infosys provided foreign workers to replace existing American workers? The answer is, not really. As I’ve mentioned before, for instance, there has been too much emphasis in the recent H-1B debate on the word replace, and the bill also focuses on this word. I’ve explained also that even in the Disney and SCE cases, the employers could make a good argument that the fired American workers were not actually replaced. And again, even if the Infosyses were outright banned, Disney and SCE could hire from IBM, and — mark my words — would also turn to hiring the foreign students.
One longtime activist against the H-1B program suggested recently that I am being too picky, that I am insisting on perfect legislation, dismissing legislation that would be helpful if imperfect. But I countered that the test should always be the bottom line — would a bill help Americans? I submit that the answer, sadly, is no for this new Grassley bill.
It’s so sad that the H-1B/green card issue has been badly distorted by the artificial Intels/Infosyses distinction, which by the way the New York Times has so enthusiastically signed on to that I am beginning to suspect it is deliberate, rather than stemming from ignorance.