Silicon Valley Turncoat Minces No Words on H-1B

Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of a hot new expose’ of Silicon Valley, was interviewed yesterday on KQED-FM, and curiously the conversation turned at one point to H-1B and related visa programs.

Though he got a bit of the technical detail slightly wrong (which became an issue, as you’ll see below; trying spotting it before I explain), he hit the nail right on the head, saying what we all know — the Valley uses foreign workers for cheap, de facto indentured servant labor — but saying this not only in a very colorful way, but also, more importantly, as a former Facebook manager and cofounder of a startup. (He also agrees that age discrimination is rampant in the Valley but unfortunately fails to connect it to the foreign worker issue.)

So, here is an excerpt, about 16 minutes into the show:

host Michael Krasny:

…Also, we want to make people think of H-1B visas, which you say is “like masters of old, buying servants off the ship” or “H-1B visas are nonimmigrant and temporary, so the immigrant hazing ritual initiation, which is done at the cheap.”

Martinez:

Yeah, I liken it to indentured servitude…That effectively is what the H-1B visa is. You have to work for a certain company for 3 to 6 years before you get…permanent status. As we learned, this came up with my [startup] cofounder, who is not a U.S. national, leaving the previous company for AdGrok, and he was threatened to be reported to the immigration authorities…And that is how the H-1B visa works, and frankly a lot of companies exploit that to get relatively underpriced labor and slave away in the “galleys” of their companies.

Very strong stuff; I couldn’t have said any better myself, and again, he’s saying it as a former Facebook manager etc.

He did make a technical error, conflating H-1B with the green card process — and that allowed an HR person to write in later in the show (about 30 minutes in), saying that the H-1B visa is transferable, and that he processes such actions all the time. The problem is that that the indentured servitude Martinez talked about was due to the green card process, technically not H-1B.

I say “technically,” because the two are intimately related: The typical Valley procedure has been to hire the foreign national and then simultaneously sponsor him/her for H-1B and a green card; the former confers temporary work rights during the years while the latter is pending. So, it was natural for Martinez to confuse the two, and HR person pounced on it. Of course, the HR guy knew full well what Martinez was talking about, but hid that from the audience in order to make it look like Martinez was all wrong.

This is no minor point; the industry lobbyists and the politicians use this ruse constantly. In fact, that HR person likely did not just “happen to be listening” to the show. On the contrary, there are likely people assigned to dog Martinez in all of his public appearances, to negate what he says about H-1B and other issues.

Note once again that Martinez is talking about the “Intels” in my favorite phrase, “the Intels vs. the Infosyses,” illustrating my point that the Intels are just as culpable as the Infosyses.

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6 thoughts on “Silicon Valley Turncoat Minces No Words on H-1B

  1. have you been recently interviewed by Chinese Journalists and/or newspapers? I ran across a popular news article about Hillary Clinton’s “staple green card” proposal shared on Chinese social media and news outlets and that article covers your opposition on that

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    • No, haven’t been interviewed by the Chinese-language press for a long time. Please give me the URL; I’ll be curious to see whether they accurately stated my position.

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  2. Another recent skeptical memoir of Silicon Valley that was well-received, “Disrupted,” heavily emphasizes the drawbacks of the young tech work force. A Q&A with author Dan Lyons:

    http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-disrupted-lyons-20160429-snap-htmlstory.html

    “‘Disrupted’ by Dan Lyons is the best book about Silicon Valley today. We talk to the author.

    By Michael Hiltzik

    Lyons:…
    Especially across the vector of age, there’s just tremendous value to an an organization to have people at all stages of their career for mentorship, to carry things along.

    Millennials are getting hoodwinked (by free candy and other perks).Working with older people might raise awareness that some of this is rubbish. I don’t know if ageism will ever get better in Silicon Valley. They don’t even pay lip service to age, they just say, we want young people. I think they would be better companies if they had young and old people. But I don’t think they believe that.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I consider the fetish or obsession with a “young work force” of “hot new talent” as leading to a collective, institutionalized symptom similar to Alzheimer’s disease. A company keeps making the same stupid mistakes every few years, and falls for the same old line of B.S. from “consultants” and the lobbyists, because the people who are experienced enough to recognize and ferret out these problems — have all been fired!!

      Liked by 1 person

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