I must apologize for the unusually scathing and sarcastic tone of this posting, but the tale of gross hypocrisy and disinformation I am about to tell easily warrants it. And by the way, there will be a bonus at the end, a dire prediction of what is to come.
The other day Computerworld reported that UCSF, the health sciences campus of the UC system, is replacing many of its IT workers with H-1Bs. Now Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the Queen H-1Bee of Congress, tells the magazine she is shocked that UC would do such a dastardly deed. As I said here recently about Caterpillar’s hiring of H-1Bs,
H-1B is a highly complex issue. But if you take anything away from this posting, it is this: Hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF Americans is just as harmful as hiring H-1Bs to REPLACE Americans. Beware of any news article, research report or politician’s statement that dwells on the word replace. Don’t be fooled into barking up the wrong tree, as I have shown before with the example of Virgil Birschwale.
The key word above is politician, and today’s Computerworld interview of Rep. Lofgren is a great case in point, typical political sleight-of-hand on her part. Just as I warned above, she is focusing on the word replace, diverting attention from the real issue, which is the H-1B/green card statute’s disgracefully loose minimum wage requirements. In spite of being termed the prevailing wage, these requirements are typically well below the real market wage.
Lofgren can’t plead ignorance of the law here. It’s not just that she is a former immigration lawyer and immigration law professor, and long-time member of the House Immigration Subcommittee. Much more directly, she herself has pointed out to this publication, Computerworld, that the prevailing wage is well below the market wage:
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose Congressional district includes Silicon Valley, framed the wage issue at the hearing, sharing the response to her request for some wage numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Lofgren said that the average wage for computer systems analysts in her district is $92,000, but the U.S. government prevailing wage rate for H-1B workers in the same job currently stands at $52,000, or $40,000 less.
“Small wonder there’s a problem here,” said Lofgren. “We can’t have people coming in an undercutting the American educated workforce.”
This is the central problem with H-1B. That last statement, “Small wonder there’s a problem…,” says it all. Lofgren KNOWS that the central problem is prevailing wage, NOT replace-by vs. hire-instead-of. In other words, Lofgren does NOT want to solve the problem. She’s known about it for years, and done nothing to solve it. (More on this below.) Her indignant statements today about UC amount to rank hypocrisy and political deception of the highest order.
And in turn, all parties involved — including critics of H-1B — are ignoring the elephant in the room regarding prevailing wage, the question of HOW the prevailing wage can be so far below the market wage. The answer, as I have tried — and alas, largely failed — to explain over the years is AGE. Though there are other reasons for the gap, such as prevailing wage not accounting for “hot” skill sets and games being played regarding job title, the largest portion of the wage gap is due to AGE: Younger workers are cheaper, and most H-1Bs are young.
I can guarantee you that the laid-off UCSF workers are much older, and thus much more expensive, than their H-1B replacements, just as was the case at Disney and SCE. And again, it is not just a matter of replacement by any means; the “Intels” are hiring YOUNG foreign workers instead of OLDER (age 35+) Americans.
Today’s article does say that Lofgren tried to work with Rep. Darrell Issa to fix the prevailing wage provision, by prioritizing the allocation of visas to the employers offering higher salaries. I myself have supported such a policy in principle, but as usual, the devil is in the details, evident in the bill Lofgren introduced the same year she made the “Small wonder” remark. It would have implemented a wage priority system for H-1B, BUT it also would have set up a Staple a Green Card program, effectively a parallel program to H-1B which employers could then use to bypass the H-1B prioritization. Again, this is largely an age issue, as follows.
The Staple proposals, as many of you know, would give automatic green cards to all STEM foreign students at U.S. universities pursuing MS or PhD degrees. Of course, almost all these recipients would be YOUNG, thus swelling the youth labor market. It then would be business as usual for UCSF; they could get all the young foreign workers they want, simply by going a few blocks down the hill to San Francisco State University. Of course, those hired would no longer quite be foreigners, as they would be on track to get green cards, but the effect is the same: The older UCSF workers would still be out of a job.
And once again: The fact that that $60K wage floor for H-1B dependent employers is out of date is a red herring. Employers still must pay at least prevailing wage, which, low as it is, is far higher than $60K. The real issue is prevailing wage, and its relation to age.
Unfortunately, many critics of H-1B are allowing themselves to be duped by the tech industry lobbyists, IEEE-USA, the New York Times and so on into thinking the primary issue with H-1B is replacement of Americans, rather than the age issue. I was saddened to learn today, for instance, that Sara Blackwell, the courageous attorney representing the laid–off Disney workers, has also drunk this Kool-aid.
Pat Thibodeau, author of these Computerworld articles, once praised me for making a prediction that came true about H-1B. Actually, it wasn’t a very sage forecast at all, but mark my words on this one: After Staple becomes law, Pat will STILL be writing about Americans at UCSF, Disney, SCE etc. being replaced by young foreign workers (now from a different source), and Lofgren will STILL be telling Pat, “This wasn’t what the law was intended for.”