Case in Point!

I often speak here of “the Intels and the Infosyses,” the former meaning mainstream tech firms (large or small) and the latter referring to the largely Indian and Indian-American rent-a-programmer firms. I always write in dismay of the unwarranted focus on the Infosyses in discussions of the H-1B visa program, because (a) the Intels are just as abusive as the Infosyses and (b) I have feared that any reform on H-1B will actually result in a net INCREASE in the number of foreign tech workers in the U.S. , by instituting a Staple a Green Card program. (And by the way, I am just as fearful in (b) today as in the past, as Donald Trump indicated several times during the election campaign that he supports Staple.)

For these reasons, I usually avoid commenting here on articles involving the Infosyses. But this one compels my, and your, attention, as it vividly illustrates some points I’ve been hammering away at for years.

The gist of the article is that Infosys, worried that the Trump administration will tighten up on H-1B policy, is preparing to increase hiring of American “freshers” — Indian English for new grads — to make up for a possible shortfall in foreign workers. There are two major implications of this.

First, it is a perfect illustration of my frequent comment that the standard threat of tech industry lobbyists — “If we can’t get H-1Bs, we will have to move the work offshore!” — is for the most part empty. The industry claim that reducing H-1B will not result in more jobs for Americans is false, as Infosys’ own comments in the article show.

Second, there is of course the age issue. One of my most frequent points in this blog and elsewhere has been that H-1B is largely about AGE: Younger workers are cheaper, so H-1B expands the young labor pool, enabling employers to hire young H-1Bs in lieu of older (age 35+) Americans. And, young H-1Bs are even cheaper than young Americans. But the major savings comes from the age aspect.

I like this article especially because I have struggled to get folks, even the critics of H-1B, to grasp the fundamental role age plays in H-1B, including with the Infosyses, in fact particularly for that segment of the H-1B employer space.

I have seen so many times, in the press and in statements by critics of H-1B, that the reason the Infosyses can hire H-1Bs on the cheap is due to loopholes relating to the Infosyses. While it is certainly true that the law on H-1B and employer-sponsored green cards is chock full of loopholes, it is NOT true that there a special cheap-labor loophole for the Infosyses.

EVERY employer of H-1Bs, both among Intels and Infosyses, is required to pay at least the legal wage floor, the prevailing wage. That wage floor is too low, generally well below market value for the given worker, but both the Intels and Infosyses are subject to the SAME prevailing wage requirement.

Don’t be confused by the fact that the Infosyses must pay H-1Bs at least $65K per year. They are still subject to the prevailing wage requirement, generally much higher than $65K and the SAME as for the Intels.

That doesn’t mean that the Infosyses don’t use the H-1B program for cheap labor. They do! But they use it in the same way the Intels do, which is to use the program to expand the pool of YOUNG workers. And the article cited here shows Infosys itself showing that.

 

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An Outstanding Opportunity for Trump Cabinet Selection

Those who were longing for some peace and quiet once the election was over need to wake up: Donald Trump is going to continue to generate controversy, and be constantly attacked by Democrats and the press, from now until he leaves office. Currently, it seems that most of his cabinet picks will be of that nature.

In a recent post, I discussed Breitbart News but declined to comment on its recent CEO and later Trump campaign chief and cabinet nominee Stephen Bannon. I simply know nothing about the man. However, there is one remark of his I wish to discuss here, as it relates to a recent post in this blog, and to two women whose names are being mentioned as possible cabinet picks, SC governor Nikki Haley, an Indian-American and prominent educational reformer Michelle Rhee, a Korean-American.

Bannon is quoted in the Huffington Post:

“When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think…” Bannon said. “A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

It’s not clear what he really meant (and by the way, the article quotes Trump as disagreeing with Bannon), but it would seem that Bannon is questioning whether Asian-origin American CEOs will be loyal to the U.S. Of course, some would counter that people at the top of most multinationals, U.S. born or not, don’t seem that loyal to the U.S. either, but Bannon is raising a fundamental question.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece here titled, “Clinton, Trump, Birtherism and the Perpetual Foreigners,” that latter term being one of the most common complaints among Asian-American social/political activists: Asian-Americans, even those born here, are viewed by many as “foreign.” I pointed out that even Hillary Clinton had engaged in exploiting thinking along similar lines.

Since about 2/3 of Asian-American adults are indeed immigrants, the “foreigner” perception may be rational. And we all know about the long list of ethnic Chinese immigrants who have been convicted of industrial espionage for China. But — excuse a term used too often during the election campaign by both sides — this kneejerk suspicion of Asian-Americans is inconsistent with American values, and just plain unfair.

If Trump appoints Haley and Rhee to his cabinet, he will go a long way to counter that Perpetual Foreigner attitude. He would also score points with many Asian-Americans, and teach a thing or two to those who pronounce “women of color” as if it were a single word rather than a phrase. I know rather little about Haley, but I am a big fan of Rhee, an enormously capable woman who could finally do something about education rather than just expand the number of Dept. of Education bureaucrats. Go for it, Mr. Trump!

UCSF Rally

As I noted the other day, a number of UC San Francisco IT workers held a rally yesterday, to protest being laid off and forced to train their foreign replacements. Several reports have been posted in the press, including one in Computerworld one in the San Jose Mercury News, and one on KPIX-TV, the SF CBS affiliate.

The print pieces have more detail, but the TV report is useful for its visual depiction of the racial diversity of the protesting workers. This diversity is in stark contrast to UC’s post-election statement, which stated that, in spite of Donald Trump’s election,

The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Diversity is central to our mission.

That UC would have an official and negative response to the election of a president is, I believe, unprecedented, especially in view of it being at odds with the manner in which UC treats its diverse labor force.

Oakland (UC talk for UC system headquarters) seems to be compounding this PR problem by stating, “UC does not plan to use the H-1B program to bring in foreign professionals…” This seems to be one of those fingers-crossed-behind-back statements that are so common in employer announcements. From the press reports, firms like HCL, not UC, are the actual employers, and of course the workers may be L-1s rather than H-1Bs. So the UC statement amounts to slick evasion, as is the fact that at least some of the training appears to be international communication via Skype.

I heard a rumor, unconfirmed, that UCSF sent an e-mail message warning workers not to attend the rally. If true, that would violate UC policy in umpteen ways, so I presume no such message was sent, but the situation as a whole is already disturbing enough.

 

In Defense of Breitbart

It may seem odd that a liberal/progressive Bernie supporter (including voting for him as a write-in on November 8) like me would defend the so-called Alt Right publication Breitbart News. But to me — alas, I am a rarity these days — fair is fair. Though I am not a regular reader of Breitbart by any means (see this and other disclaimers at the end of this posting), I must say that the mainstream media seems to be egregiously unfair in reporting on Breitbart, especially now that its former CEO Steve Bannon is now under controversy over a pending key White House position.

For instance, take one of the mainstream media (MM)’s favorite examples in its trashing of Breitbart since the election, an article titled “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.” The MM have presented this article as “obvious” evidence of sexism. Oh, really? What IS obvious is that MM never read past the article’s headline. Actually, the content of the article is quite interesting and important.

The Breitbart piece reports on a serious experiment, conducted by a firm that helps job seekers improve their interviewing skills. The experiment involved phone interviews in which the voices of the job seekers were electronically modified so as to appear of the opposite gender. It turned out that the female applicants were rated lower even when the interviewers thought they were men.

This is quite consistent with what I have observed and discussed here before. What Silicon Valley managers like (consciously or not) in applicants is over-the-top enthusiasm about tech, something along the lines of

The next version of the gcc compiler will enable OpenACC directives, and wow, that will be SWEET! I’ve got a high-end NVIDIA card on my Linux box, and now it will be easy to port the awesome games I plan to write.

Actually, very few female OR male applicants are like this, but among the ones who are, almost all are male. Hence the differential hiring rates regarding gender.

In other words, far from being misogynistic, Breitbart has brought to readers’ attention an experiment that should give the tech world pause for thought.

As I wrote in that blog post, this doesn’t mean that this selection criterion by the managers is justified in terms of job effectiveness. And Breitbart was sloppy to jump to the flat conclusion that there is no gender bias, based on the interviewing experiment. But this sloppiness is what I see in the MM every day, including in the most prestigious MM news outlets.

Indeed, on the issue of the H-1B work visa, I have found Breitbart to be far more reliable — AND LESS BIASED — than the New York Times. Note carefully that the the Times has actually admitted its deep bias. Where is the outrage on this?

Another MM favorite lately has been the Breitbart piece, “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” To me, the article is silly, and as the late journalist Herb Caen used to say, Unclear in Purpose. As a fan of Billy Crystal rather than Bill Kristol, I am no defender of the latter, but to me the article missed the mark.

But the MM again focused on the title, presenting it as evidence that Breitbart is anti-semitic. Really? Not only is the author of the piece Jewish, but Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Alexander Marlow, is also Jewish. Indeed, another Breitbart editor, Joel Pollock, pointed out to NPR last week that he is not just Jewish, but even Orthodox Jewish. Nu, MM?

None of this is to imply that Steve Bannon is suitable for a high position in the Trump White House. I know nothing about the man. For what it’s worth, Marlow mentioned that every Friday Bannon wishes Pollock Shabbat Shalom (Happy Jewish Sabbath).

Similarly, none of this is to imply that Breitbart does not run some objectionable articles. Since I read it only when someone calls my attention to a piece on H-1B, I simply cannot say what they do in general. And yes, it tends to be raunchy. But at least from the little I know about the publication, they make me glad we have a free press. If we were to only have the New York Times to inform us, we should all say Oy vei iz mir.

 

 

 

Rally Tomorrow in Support of UCSF Workers

There will be a rally tomorrow in support of the UCSF workers who are being replaced by H-1B or other foreign IT specialists. Sara Blackwell, the lawyer who represented the laid-off Disney workers, is apparently the organizer. I’m told that Michelle Malkin, author with John Miano of the H-1B program expose’ Sold Out, will attend. Just to see the conservative Malkin attend a rally in the most liberal city in America, post-Trump election no less, should be interesting.

Another Angry White Male — Tom Friedman

It was not a good year from New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. One of the major themes in the election was tightening up trade policy, with the candidates of both major parties promising action in that regard. This has to rankle on a prominent trade evangelist like Friedman. But even worse, the much more strident of the two candidates on trade issues is the one that prevailed. Ouch! He is now lashing out, warning Trump voters that The Donald will abandon them.

I can’t remember an election in which the losers — by which I mean the pundits such as Friedman, not Hillary, who has been gracious in defeat — were so bitter. Friedman’s tone in the above piece is simulataneously angry and plaintive. I’m told that ABC’s Martha Raddatz, who had unprofessionally badgered Trump in the second debate, was actually holding back tears in her election night broadcast.

At least Friedman now realizes that the polls during the campaign (with the notable exception of the LA Times/USC poll) missed the boat. I’ve been mentioning the Bradley Effect the last couple of months, and I am becoming more and more convinced that that is what was at work in this year’s polls. There was such a shunning of Trump supporters in the media, workplace and so on that many of those contacted by pollsters hid the truth, say by claiming to be undecided, or simply refusing to be polled. An excellent Wall Street Journal article indicated that some the pollsters themselves agree on this:

Mr. Wagner says people who respond to polls may be fundamentally different from those who don’t. In this case, Mr. Wagner’s early analysis indicates that low-educated white people who are willing to answer polls don’t seem to reflect the opinions of the group as a whole.

At least Friedman is now beginning to understand that a significant part of the population (and no, not just white men without a college degree) feel that The System has betrayed them. But there are still many who simply do not get this.

I have a Chinese-immigrant friend in that situation. She is thoroughly assimilated into American life, and has even held local political office. But Wednesday morning, she said that she was “grieving” over Trump’s election, and asked how people could possibly vote for such an evil man. I replied:

You should to try to understand why many of those who voted for Trump have been grieving for a long time. You have a job that you love and are very dedicated to. On top of that, you are a single mother, and need a job. Suppose one day your school informs you that you are being terminated, replaced by a cheaper foreign national on an H-1B work visa. (In fact, there are many H-1B teachers.) Moreover, you discover after losing your job that, in spite of the fact that you have much valuable experience, good recommendations from employers and so on, no one wants to hire you. In fact, very few employers even grant you interviews.

I know many people who have had exactly that experience. They are mad and frustrated, and feel that neither major political party cares about them one whit. Then someone like Trump comes along who has a written platform that promises to tighten up H-1B policy, and who even invites a displaced programmer to speak at one of his rallies, while Hillary has basically said she would make H-1B policy even more liberal, rather than tightening it. The vast majority of people I know like this voted for Trump. And by the way, they are a diverse, educated group, not the white males without college degrees that the media has portrayed them to be.

Not that I am so sanguine about the coming Trump administration. The theme of my posting last night was in essence, Will Trump “dance with the one who brung him”? Will he remember the Little People or side with the Big Banks? Obama failed the Little People who voted for him; instead of Change he brought us Larry Summers. I’m sure many people who voted for him are merely cautiously optimistic. But I’m also sure Trump’s statement to inner city blacks, “What the hell do you have to lose [by voting for me]?” resonated with many voters, from all walks of life.

Suggested “First Things First” for Trump

Working in liberal academia as I do, I’ve been dealing with an avalanche of comments from colleagues expressing profound shock at the result of the presidential election, expecting me to agree. I have to throw cold water on their comments — and place myself in suspect status — by saying, “Actually, I’ve been speculating for months that the polls have been underestimating Trump’s support, due to a ‘Bradley Effect’ [in which Trump supporters are reluctant to admit it to pollsters].” I never predicted a Trump victory, but I maintained that it was much more likely than the pollsters and the press were saying.

Even on the day of the election, 4 pm California time, one very erudite colleague dismissed the LA Times/USC poll, which had consistently shown stronger support for Trump than what other polls had indicated, as an “outlier,” and claimed that any Bradley Effect was in the other direction (women reluctant to admit they supported Hillary for fear of angering right-wing males in the household). Just four hours later, NPR was reporting that Trump had all but won.

Because I saw a Trump victory as quite possible these last few months (and to some degree because I am a Bernie supporter), I’ve had time to think about what he ought to do in office. Not that I have any influence on that, but still I’d like to make some suggestions to the president-elect:

  • Focus on solutions, not retributions. Resist the chants of “Lock her up!”, for instance.
  • Choose cabinet members and advisers who reflect the needs of those who voted for you. Please, not the likes of Grover Norquist. I was so disappointed in 2008 when Obama, who promised so much economic change, chose as advisers the same old people who arguably were major contributors to the Financial Crash, e.g. Rubin and Summers. And no matter how well-qualified your chosen advisers are, actively seek opinions from the other side on important issues.
  • Do NOT go headlong into the health care issue early in your term. It’s the new Third Rail, as seen in the huge midterm election losses experienced by Bill Clinton and Obama, largely due to controversy over health care. Yes, Obamacare is beginning to run into some serious problems, but go slowly on this one. And remember, many of those who voted for you have found Obamacare to be the solution to scary situations they had found themselves in.
  • On the immigration issue, borrow from the 1992 Clinton slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Due to your views on immigration, you have been unfairly accused of racism and xenophobia. You need to remind people that these are indeed economic issues, and by the way, that affect far more people than the press gave you credit for. The 1997 NRC study found, for example, that immigration costs the average California family $1500 extra in taxes per year. Thus, this is a practical issue, one that you should solve humanely but effectively. Moreover, there are Executive Branch steps you can take in this direction:
  • Take a balanced, practical approach to unauthorized immigration. Assure people that you don’t plan to be any more aggressive in deportation than Obama has been; the ethnic activists say even that has been far too much, but you will get much credit if you give some assurance to the actual people at risk. On the other hand, take steps to solve the jobs and fiscal problems caused by the illegal inflow. You’ve threatened to withhold federal dollars from Sanctuary Cities, who after all, are flouting federal law. I agree with that (with a “devil in the details” disclaimer), but how about going further, doing something on the same lines for E-Verify? For instance, press cities and states to require that any business seeking a license utilize E-Verify in its hiring; to not do so amounts to encouraging hiring of the unauthorized, again flouting federal law, thus providing justification for your action.
  • Take executive action to help fix the rampant abuse of the H-1B work visa and employment-based green cards. Each year, dole out the 85,000-visa H-1B allocation according to offered salary; those who wish to hire cheap labor will likely come up empty-handed. This simple step would go a long way to stemming the abuse of H-1Bs as cheap labor. Roll back Obama’s action to extend the Optional Practical Training time for foreign students. Order your National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to give grant funding priority to graduate programs with higher percentages of domestic students. And again, listen to the IT workers who supported you, and whom you had speak at some of your rallies, rather than solely taking advice from Peter Thiel.
  • “Kiss and make up” with Senator Elizabeth Warren. My phrasing here may be humorous, but my point is dead serious. She doesn’t like it, but millions of your supporters are the same people whom Sen. Warren has so tirelessly and courageously stood up for throughout her career. Don’t let yourself become a tool of the big banks.

And good luck, Mr. Trump. All those Democrats who (correctly) complained that the Republicans were stonewalling any and all of Obama’s efforts will now do the same to you.