Tomorrow’s New York Times runs a letter to the editor by Bruce Morrison, a lobbyist for IEEE-USA who as a congressperson back in 1990 had a hand in creating the H-1B work visa. Here Morrison is writing on the NYT editorial on which I commented last week.
Recall that the main points in my commentary were that
- as usual, the Times falsely focused on the “Infosyses” as the main abusers of the visa, implying that the “Intels” use the program responsibly, and
- the Times incorrectly identified the loophole by which the Infosyses could underpay their H-1Bs; they stated it was due to the fact that, e.g. Disney, can “rent” H-1Bs from the Infosyses, when in fact the real loophole is that the law allows employing younger, thus cheaper H-1Bs instead of older, thus more expensive Americans.
Before I get to Morrison’s letter, a bit of background: In 1998, as part of the first expansion of the H-1B cap, Congress enacted a special category of H-1B employers, called H-1B dependent employers. These basically were the Infosyses, who were accused of being the main abusers, just as the accusation goes today. Under the new law, these employers were banned from using H-1Bs to replace American workers. However, an exemption was made for H-1Bs whose salary was above $60,000. Please note: Before this 1998 legislation, the H-1B program had NO requirement that employers must give Americans employment priority. And other than this special H-1B dependent category, there STILL is no such requirement.
What Morrison does is turn the whole thing upside-down:
This Congress should seize the opportunity to do one simple thing to fix a gaping hole in the system: Repeal the special treatment that Congress provided H-1B outsourcing companies in 1998.
Contractors whose business model is to replace American workers who must train their replacements are actually specifically exempted from the requirement not to displace Americans, provided that they pay a salary that amounts to half the market rate for these jobs.
Morrison thus makes it sound like H-1B employers in general are not allowed to displace Americans, which is not true. He is also implying that in 1998, Congress must have had some special fondness for the Infosyses, and thus gave the latter special permission to displace U.S. workers. Even worse, Morrison implies that Congress even told the Infosyses how much they could underpay their H-1Bs, specifically 50%. I’ve never seen someone, even a lobbyist, manage to say so many misleading things in a single sentence.
And what about that comment on the H-1Bs being paid half the market rate? That is precisely the age issue that I keep harping on. Congress set up a four-tiered wage level for H-1Bs, based on experience, which is tantamount to age. This four-level system is the crux of the manner in which employers (all of them, not just Infosyses) can hire H-1Bs as cheap labor.
And there’s more: Originally the wage requirement was only two-tiered, but in 2004 the employers successfully lobbied Congress for four levels, resulting in the lowest, Level I, being especially cheap. And who joined the employers in pushing for the expansion from two levels to four? IEEE-USA.