Fortune Op-Ed

An editor with Fortune asked me to write an op-ed commenting on Infosys’ recent announcement that it will hire up to 10,000 American workers, to counter calls in Congress and the White House to tighten policy on the H-1B work visa. I declined, saying that I strongly believe that too much attention is being paid to the Infosyses and that in my view they are being scapegoated. So the editor asked me to write about that instead, and my piece ran today, here.

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74 thoughts on “Fortune Op-Ed

  1. Matloff, you conclude with demanding a market driven approach. I am not a fan of market based approaches in mixed value markets. They will price out existing non tech H1Bs we both know that.

    If there is more pressure on the infosyses they will develop near shoring capabilities. I know of TATA CS being Guadalajara, perhaps more will follow in Canada and Uruguay.

    This needs a feather touch of diplomacy, with Infosys playing it’s diplomatic tributes.. we can hope this happens.

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    • The non-Infosyses have set up a lot of offices in Vancouver BC for the purpose of near-shoring.

      I am not a huge fan of the market, but many are, and my point was that this should appeal to them.

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    • International Student, Many are of the belief that an H-1B visa should be granted only when there are no willing and qualified US citizens or permanent residents available after an honest nationwide search spanning several months unlike that of a former employer of mine who posted the job internally for fewer than 6 hours in the cafeteria of the manufacturing shop building on a Friday. All of the engineers who would be interested normally worked elsewhere – and we worked a short day on Fridays. The person hired for the job showed up on Monday; I had the frustrating task of bringing him up to speed on some of the key technical aspects of the product yet he was likely paid far more than I.

      The company got its just reward when they had to sue him for violating the non-compete agreement when he left the company for a competitor.

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  2. Great article.

    “multi-year wait for a green card” could have been “multi-decade wait for a green card” – Sleight of hand, perhaps ? 🙂

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  3. Wonderful peace, I wouldn’t suggest a single change.

    Here is a suggestion for a future topic however. Trump solely could wipe out OPT with a stroke of his pen. I find it even more abusive than H1B, so why has Trump decided to allow Obama’s expansionary EO to stand?

    The OPT program affects our STEM future. And though it doesn’t affect older IT workers nearly as much as H1B, it certainly is a disincentive for growing our STEM capacity in education for citizens.

    I’ll continue to hammer the Trump Administration to actually do something that he can’t whine about Congress not following his lead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Trump administration said that they would study the problems and come up with solutions. The fact that they have not done the latter yet doesn’t bother me; they have a lot on their plates.

      OPT absolutely affects older American workers. The ones on OPT are almost all young.

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      • I agree that there is time to solve the problems of guest workers on all of the different programs. It needs to be done correctly so that it cannot be undone easily by a future POTUS and Congress.

        The problem is how for US workers to be heard by those drafting the legislation or executive order. There are organizations of green card aspirants, corporate leaders, academics but little organization among the workers. It cannot be limited to STEM workers; H-1B affects those in business, education, academia, and medicine.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Norm, Congratulations on getting the issue in front of readers who are likely poorly informed on the “real” H-1B issues.

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  5. Excellent post and well articulated.

    In an interview this week a non-technical manager stated that I had worked at too many different companies and that if I was offered the job I would leave when a better opportunity arose. This eludes the the H1-Bs as immobile because of the green card issue. Another question I was asked was why I had not been able to find a job for almost 2 years. My answer was it was because of my age and I told them my age. They started screaming that age could not be stated in an interview. The actual rule is they can not ask my age. I realized is they most likely knew from my resume approximately what age I was and by stating my age I was combating age discrimination.

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    • Interesting that you actually got an interview; many are rejected without one.

      The point about not having work for 2 years (even 6 months is considered suspect) is quite a common problem in employers’ eyes.

      Remember, these are the same employers who say they are desperate to hire.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am getting interviews since I have the most recent skills and have used my two years to build a product. I know Scala, Scala Play, slick quite well and have automated development in Scala Play. I am now also learning Angular IO for the front end.

        Here is a description of the product I have built.

        The EzBuild series automates web services using JSON and web sites using HTML. The EzBuild series is built with Scala.

        EzBuildPlay produces fully functional Scala Play! JSON/HTML based REST web services with functions for each table in the DDL. This includes controllers,
        models and routes. It also creates routes that join tables per foreign
        keys. Currently working with MySQL, PostgresSQL and Oracle datatypes. HTML authentication option.

        EzBuildAndroid produces JSON based REST screens for each table in the DDL as well as navigation screens. It creates the Java code as well as the XML layout producing a working Android app.

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        • Impressive stuff! Your Scala background should get you a job, even with the age factor. What you need to do is find a way to directly contact people in industry who are writing Scala code. Don’t go through those nontechnical interviewers.

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  6. I would suggest that older workers with physical problems look into contacting their state department that facilitates employment/re-employment. Look at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for descriptions of accommodations of various disabilities that might qualify for services. In my state assistance with job placement – even for professional positions – is offered. A referral from that agency is harder to ignore than a simple resume.

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  7. Very Good article.

    The link above is to a video I put together on Infosys and USCF and the American Dream that raises some questions that I believe need to be asked.

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    • There is no such thing as “overqualified”. Any statement as such is age discrimination. For instance, my college diploma has never interfered with my ability to tie my shoes. Feel free to ask them how your qualifications hamper you from doing the job.

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  8. “An “H-1B dependent employer” is one with 15% or more of the workforce consisting of H-1B workers.”
    The scam is, only their most expensive employment is H1B and for many easily under 15%, AND that only applies to “companies” with over 50 employees. Formerly H1B/now citizens skirt this by opening multiple body shops.

    “dole out the visas in order of an employee’s rank based on salary.”
    I’m amazed you endorse this, it isn’t market based. The only thing this would accomplish is shunt visa allocation to Silicon Valley (InfoSys bad, Silicon Valley good?), and replaces citizens with H1Bs paid higher than last years but entirely likely still cut rate. If they colluded to not hire each others staff, no reason to think they won’t collude on rate for this. Even same rate as citizen, it still contains the all important visa tether, and congressman Issa said it’s perfectly legal for them to change pay to lower rate once they start. Even same rate, for years, would defeat market rate.

    A real scrub would eliminate fake “temporary”, eliminate “dual status” while supporting _genuine_ need.
    – Limit L1, OPT, B1, etc. to max 2 years, no change of status, no transition to employment based green card. Else, it’s not actually “temporary” is it.
    – There is no good reason federal isn’t batch green carding genuine shortage on their way in the door, instead of employer visa tethered. There is no good reason an employer should be granted monopoly over the person’s micro-business: wage labor.

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    • Doling out visas in the order of salary would be market-based in the sense it would take market signals as the value of the worker.

      When you see, as I showed, Google and Facebook having over 90% of the foreign workers at Levels I and II, you can see that they wouldn’t be able to hire many H-1Bs under this policy.

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    • Hi Amy,
      Bang on the point. Collusion can and will happen. All they have to do is get a group of the big tech (both Intel’s and Infosyses) and get a pact like this: number x is the max amount we are going to offer to most of our new H1-b hires and these companies already dominate the amount of applications.

      What would be good IMHO is that a hard floor to counter collusion and artificial wage suppression (a $150k hard floor would be decent to account for all high cost locations) + a non-refundable application fee like $10,000 per application (so the Infosyses won’t flood it when they know the application fee is non refundable) and then they can allocate it based on highest wages offered first.

      Regarding the tethering, eliminating dual intent will work if the “genius visa / green card right on their way in through the door” visa requirements are watertight and numerically capped at a low number and without complex legal lobbyist loopholes all over the place.

      And thank you Amy for your posts, it gives me a lot of perspective to think about.

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  9. There is a flaw in your salary analysis of Intels. The DOL makes up the wage levels by using the total annual wages earned by employees. Whereas, when companies file for Labor application, they have to specify the employee’s base salary and cannot include bonuses/RSU’s or other variable pay in that.

    The amount of bonuses and RSU’s paid at top silicon valley firms is very substantial, and in some cases be more than the base pay. In companies like amazon for instance, the base pay of even senior VPs who report to the CEO is less than 200k. So, per your analysis they will fall under level 1 or 2, which obviously does not make sense. You can check out glassdoor to get an idea of the total pay vs base pay.

    Infosyes on the other hand do not pay any kind of bonus or RSU. I am not completely defending the Intel’s though and partly buy your other argument about green card trap and age issue, but salary is not an issue.

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    • First of all, note that I restricted the analysis to software developers, not executives, the latter being in a totally different world and being a tiny fraction of H-1Bs.

      Second, let’s for the moment remove the Infosyses from the discussion. The nonwage compensation you posit applies to the nonforeign workers just like the foreign ones, with the result being that the foreign ones are still being compensated less than average (lower wage + bonuses etc. < average wage + bonuses etc.).

      By the way, you are unwittingly pointing out yet another employer-friendly loophole in the laws and regs. In filing a green card application, the salary stated by the employer is allowed to be what the employer intends to pay at the time the worker gets her green card, years later. The foreign workers do get raises over time (albeit often smaller than they should be), so the figure the employer puts in the application can be substantially larger than what the worker is currently making, yet another way to cheat the system.

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      • You seem to be twisting my argument. I did not say bonus/rsu applies to execs alone. Almost all engineers at top companies get a ton of money in that manner.

        Secondly, there is no evidence you have produced to show that foreign workers at Intel’s are being compensated less than non-foreign ones

        Thirdly, although green card can take time, they have to pay the updated prevailing wage every time their visa gets renewed. So, that gets updated regardless

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        • Let’s concentrate on your second point, the most important one in my view.

          The H-1B and green card prevailing wage system has four levels, I through IV. They are defined to be the 17th, 33rd, 50th and 67th percentiles of wages in the given occupation and region. What I showed was that, for instance at Google, 96% of their foreign workers are paid at Levels I and II, which by definition are below-median values.

          What you seem to have in mind is the question, Are foreign workers paid as much as Americans of the same qualifications? This is actually a different question from the one above, but if you want to see my answer, please read my Migration Letters paper.

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          • That was my original point that your analysis is flawed since you are comparing annual pay(from dol) with base pay(specified on LC). I bet if you take the annual pay at companies like google/facebook/amazon which includes the bonus/rsu, most of them would fall in Level 3 or 4.

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          • It’s amazing how often, in conversations with ostensibly math-savvy tech people, they have problems with primary school math. Let me try one more time to explain this, with concrete numbers.

            Let’s that the median salary, i.e. Level III, for some occupation in some region is $50,000. Let’s also suppose that (a) Level II is $35,000, (b) every worker, foreign or American, gets a bonus of $10,000 and (c) DOL suddenly decides to count bonuses in its figures. Level II now becomes $45,000 and Level III will be $60,000. Then Level II is still $15,000 less than Level III, just like before; counting bonuses hasn’t changed anything at all.

            In other words, your problem is that you are adding bonuses and stock options to one quantity but not doing so to the other quantities.

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          • I am not sure you understood me correctly.

            When DOL says Level 2 wage is $45000, that wage is the average annual wage earned by people in an occupation, including bonuses/RSUs etc.

            When a company, files an LCA, they are only allowed to put the invariable compensation which means only the base pay. So, they put $45000 which is the base pay, and that corresponds to Level 2. But on top of it, vast majority of tech employees get bonuses and RSUs which are not counted in that.If you count all that, the total wage will be $60000, as 33% variable pay is pretty common.

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          • You are incorrect on the DOL’s computation of, say, Level II wage. It is based on the OES data, which definitely does not include stock and excludes most other types of bonuses as well. You can check the DOL Web page for this and any other information you are curious about.

            By the way, my wife was a software developer in Silicon Valley for 20 years, and I keep on top of the situation regarding salary, employment and other aspects in a number of ways, including my service as an expert witness, where I have seen the entire employee data for various firms. I cannot disclose the latter information, of course, but I am much better informed than you seem to think.

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        • sandman, you make an interesting point, but I think your extension of bonus culture to the entire labor market is not warranted. Most companies pretend everyone shares equally, but in fact bonuses are heavily skewed to senior executives and key engineers. Others get token amounts. Stock grants are not always that valuable.

          There is a reason official requirements work on salary. Salary is the guaranteed payment the employer is prepared to commit to. Employers are free to commit to higher guaranteed salaries if they really need a worker.

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  10. Norm,

    I have only spent two years in the US, first as an L-1 visa holder and then as an H1-b, so I only know what I have personally seen and experienced but it definitely differs from the picture you are constantly presenting.

    First, here in the Mountain region there definitely is a shortage of skilled Americans able and *willing* to do my job (a $110,000/year technical support one). I train them when they join the company but half of them in my team have already left. Even if they had the necessary technical skills (which has not really been the case so far), the job is hard and it is understandable that they seek more pleasant alternatives. As you surely know, more and more companies of all sorts, especially the big ones, depend for their critical operations of more and more software products. With 24×7 operations depending on a smooth functioning of this software, the need arises for a huge amount of technical support and development personnel who will try, under huge pressure, that those operations never fail. In my 20 years in this field I have never met anyone who dreamed doing this for a living as a child.

    Second, this may be only anecdotal but my company actually decided to bring its support operations back to the US. The reason why it needs foreign staff is the aforementioned shortage of locally available candidates. However, this is all software and telecommunication. If support centers like mine in “fly-over America” become non-viable due to ill-advised immigration reforms, a lot of Americans, young and old (about half of my company’s current staff, thousands at a local level) will see their jobs gone when the offices are relocated back abroad. I would suggest that you think carefully about this, Norm.

    Third, I’m not sure that your green-card indenture argument is very well thought through. Try to put yourself for a second in the shoes of a prospective STEM immigrant. You are not doing bad economically. Why would you take your family and go to a new country (gorgeous as the US is) if you are not offered at least a modicum of stability, such as sponsorship for a permanent residency that will not make the offer a simple contract-job? My company (and I presume many of their kind: the “Intels”, I guess) don’t really use the green-card as a means of keeping a docile work force. Up to now, they’ve been doing it most of all in order to make the relocation to the US attractive enough. At least, I can say that that was my personal case. The fact that it’s complicated to re-initiate the green-card process if you change jobs is completely out of the control of the STEM field, as you constantly imply. It’ just a product of the US legislative and normative machinery.

    Finally, a couple of thoughts. I have lived and worked in several countries. The first time I experienced the disadvantage of being “too old” was in my early 30s, back in Europe. At 53 years of age, the one place where I have *not* felt such a disadvantage is here in the US, working for an IT corporation. And the fact that there is a global shortage of people with the skills and willingness to do my job is a certainty for me. I am not Indian but ever since I started working in IT, I have been surrounded by Indian colleagues and customers, in Western Europe, in the US and even in Latin America. This is thus not an artificial issue created by some misguided US immigration policy. Which by no means means that the US immigration policy should not be changed. I actually happen to be of the opinion that it should. But promoting false ideas about a narrow part of that policy, such as the STEM immigration to the US, is hardly going to help in finding an optimal alternative.

    Best regards,

    Mikel

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    • Thanks, Mikel, for taking the time to write a very thoughtful analysis. However, I’ve been researching and writing about this topic for almost 25 years, and sad to say, I have heard all those arguments before.

      First, you are violating a fundamental principle of economics. In the open market, if the location of a job is a “hardship post,” employers are forced to pay higher salaries. So, by hiring H-1Bs for such jobs, this is yet another way that H-1B is used to import cheap labor.

      Second, my point that the Intels use green card sponsorship to obtain IMMOBILE labor is not just speculation; it is established fact. It is stated in the NRC report commissioned by Congress; it is advertised by prominent immigration lawyers; it is stated in congressional testimony by Immigrant Voice, an H-1B organization; and it has been explicitly been stated by firms such as Google.

      I certainly agree that the green card is highly important to the foreign workers, and that is why the employers can underpay them, since the green card is a form of nonmonetary compensation of enormous value.

      Finally, may I politely suggest that since you have only been in the U.S. for two years, you are not yet ready to call U.S. STEM immigration policy (and me, for that matter) “misguided”?

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      • Norm,

        I’m used to hearing from Americans and other foreigners that our EU policy of allowing huge amounts of immigrants and asylum seekers is, at best, misguided. I have never taken any issue with such legitimate opinions. I don’t know why I should. It’s actually interesting to see how these outsiders regard us. If I’m ever given the privilege to stay permanently in this great country with my wife and little son, something that I hope to deserve under the rules set out by the American people, I have a subjective interest in public matters in this country being managed sensibly.

        I am in no position to “violate” any principle of economics. Nobody is. Under the current set of rules and incentives for STEM immigrants, the market has found its temporary accommodation. What you get is what you see. Under a different set of rules, such as the ones being suggested by some of you, the market would find another solution where probably less Americans, not more, would be employed in IT in the US. Americans are unlikely to emigrate to where the jobs would be created. Like in any other industry, competition is big and IT companies need to struggle constantly to make profits. But, unlike in other industries, relocation of most of its operations is very easy to achieve.

        However, I have no problem in believing that, precisely because of this competitive environment, companies are taking advantage of the green-card rules (like any other rules) to manage their workforce in their best interests. My point is that this is not something that the companies have devised themselves. The rules are made by Congress and the Administration and IT companies have to adapt to them.

        There is no doubt that your 25 years of research on the H1-b topic give you a huge advantage over someone like me. Perhaps, just perhaps, they also make you be too attached sometimes to views that you have been defending at a personal level in public venues. This is not something unheard of in any field of research, professional or vocational alike. Overall, I am not sure how I should change the views that I expressed in my first post. I tried to stick to the facts that I observe around me as much as I could and I don’t see them challenged.

        Best regards,

        Mikel

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        • Mikel, I am not saying you have no right to express your views. I am merely saying that you should concede that, with only two years in the U.S., there is an awful lot that you simply do not know about the situation. In your place, I would not make flat statements like “U.S. policy is misguided.” You don’t know enough to say this.

          What you DO know, though, is that Virgil has expressed willingness to work in your “unattractive” location for $110K, your stated figure. Are you going to take him up on his offer or not?

          In my 25 years of writing about this topic, this too is something I’ve seen a lot: An employer will talk big about being desperate to hire, but when I connect the employer with willing, qualified workers, the employer suddenly backpedals.

          As to possible “confirmation bias” on my part, yes, that is always something to watch out for. Unlike the pro-H-1B researchers, who are paid by the industry, I have ZERO personal stake in this issue. I am always keen to hear opposing views, such as yours, and I try to adapt accordingly. As of yet, you have not yet provided anything new, but I hope you continue to post here, and maybe I can learn from you sometime.

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          • Mikel, my friend, hopefully you realized by now that its close to impossible to convince professor matloff of anything other than his long held views. Its just a waste of time

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          • Really, sandman, I’m quite open to other views. But you can’t just excuse your own lack of convincing arguments by blaming others. I gave you a detailed numerical example this morning to show you why your argument about the bonuses is invalid. If you still believe your argument works, please explain the problem with my numerical example. Isn’t that a reasonable request?

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          • I agree with Mikel’s argument that you cannot blame an employer for the stupid laws passed by congress which have created the GC backlog and the nightmare process associated with filing one. Your argument that every employer is committing a mortal sin by hiring foreign workers, just because the worker will be stuck in GC backlog, does not make much sense.

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          • Hey, I’m not sure I mentioned anything about “mortal sins.” 🙂

            But I do know that many employers exploit that long GC wait. Here is what I said here to Mikel the other day:

            Second, my point that the Intels use green card sponsorship to obtain IMMOBILE labor is not just speculation; it is established fact. It is stated in the NRC report commissioned by Congress; it is advertised by prominent immigration lawyers; it is stated in congressional testimony by Immigrant Voice, an H-1B organization; and it has been explicitly been stated by firms such as Google.

            You don’t consider those sources convincing?

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          • >> stupid laws passed by congress which have created the GC backlog

            those “stupid” laws are in fact written by lobbyists, (tech) employers and immigration lawyers – Congress is just paid to pass them. No law or statute is an “oops” or “someone accidentally forgot to write something”. Everything is there for a specific reason.

            And “bad” employers knowingly *do* exploit the “loopholes” (which they are not), the entire marketplace is forced to follow suit to stay in the marketplace.

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    • I will take your challenge for $110,000 per year.

      You can contact me at vbiersch@gmail.com.

      I am available immediately.

      I will need initial funds to relocate if relocation is available.

      I can bring a whole team of Americans willing to work 40 hours per week for $110,000.00

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    • In many cases the decision to leave a position is not the work itself but the management. When leadership has and shows contempt for the workers and has a poor work environment – not the facilities but the interpersonal relationships, people look elsewhere. Perhaps you are improperly assessing reasons for the inability of your company to retain workers; it may not be the workers but management.

      US immigration policy is to benefit the US and not to potential immigrants. US policies are extremely generous and flexible compared to other countries especially those pertaining to guest workers and individuals in the green card queue. I say this comparing what my son, a US citizen working as first an expat of his US employer and now an employee of the European subsidiary, has gone through first to gain entry and now to maintain his legal status. Unlike individuals awaiting a green card in the US, he cannot leave the country for extended periods of time without losing his ability to return as many H-1B workers do.

      I have spent many years working in the US under many economic conditions and have watched our family members suffer the adverse effects of US immigration policies with regard to guest workers and illegal immigration and do not appreciate complaints about US workers by individuals who choose to come to the US to work.

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    • Mikel,

      Is your company actively looking to hire? If so, please post a link to the job description. From what you have described, your job is similar to jobs US citizens I know are seeking who are either un- or underemployed. However, I need more information to be sure.

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      • Mikel, you now have two such requests, from Virgil and gregbo.

        Since your two years in the U.S. may not be enough to capture all the slang, here are two: “Put your money where your mouth is” and “Put up or shut up.” No offense intended.

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        • Ah, the irony of all this.

          First, let me explain that I don’t wish to say which company I work for. The reason is that I know this company quite well and I have already had my hand strongly slapped once… for defending the company publicly (!) This actually didn’t happen in the US but we’re talking about a corporation that does plenty of business with the public sector of many countries. Complying with all regulations is a key company policy that we are regularly reminded about and trained in. They may not like seeing an employee engaged in an online discussion about immigration issues, even if it is to defend the company’s behavior.

          My company is so scared of the authorities and so willing to comply with the law that my salary in the US was by no means decided by them. After consultation with the DOL guidelines, I was informed of what my salary in the US would be. I would have accepted a less generous offer but then we risked having our petition rejected and they would rather pay a higher salary to be on the safe side. So much for “Intels” depressing the wages and abusing their foreign employees.

          Second, I sent a private email to Virgil and did my best to offer helpful advice. I noticed that he has a youtube channel and a website dedicated to trashing the H1-b program (that is, dedicated against having people like me in this country). But I honestly wish him well. If there is any chance that any foreigner, including myself, is occupying a job that he as an American should have been considered for, I agree that something should be done to prevent that. Now it’s up to him to make good use of the information I gave him. If I get gregbo’s email I will be happy to do the same for him.

          However, let me make two remarks.

          1) Like most companies in the sector, mine offers an employee referal bonus. If I find an employee with reasonable skills (preferably American, I’ve been explicitly told, to avoid the costly waits and paperwork) who will last at least 6 months on the job, I get $2,000. How does that square with the notion that Americans are discriminated against in the IT industry? Btw, for the reasons stated in the first paragraph, I prefer to not make use of this bonus with candidates found through this website.

          2) As I told Virgil, my information is that since the recent executive orders there has been a hiring freeze of foreign nationals. At the moment, I have no idea if this means that hiring of Americans is also frozen. Perhaps the decision has already been taken to relocate this technical support center abroad. Only time will tell. We humble technical staff are the very last ones to learn about these things.

          Norm, please allow me to make an appeal to any American reading this. My company is currently employing 100-200 Americans (not sure about the exact number) in the MST region. And it is only one of the many Silicon Valley corporations in the area. Some of my colleagues came from the opposite side of the country. Some others are close to retiring age. If you can really prove IT skills, some experience and you are willing to take on a hard but well paid job, do not us let foreigners take advantage of the opportunity. Fight for it while it lasts and don’t make excuses about our workplace culture or our managers’ questionable attitudes. Life is hard.

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          • Thanks again for a thoughtful, sincere message, Mikel. But I am sorry to say, I have heard ALL of this before. You are very naive about the way the hiring process works; as you say, you are just “humble technical staff.” If you were to spend a day watching how HR works, you would be horrified.

            Most companies receive very large numbers of job applications. HR needs to have some way to narrow down the mountain of CVs it receives, so it will reject many applicants as “underqualified” who in fact could do a great job. HR will also assume its role is to reject anyone who is “overqualified” for the job, since presumably the company would not want to pay a more senior salary. So, most applicants will be deemed either underqualified or overqualified; that doesn’t leave much, does it? So HR says “We have no suitable applicants,” and turns to hiring H-1Bs. Yes, they will hire SOME older American applicants, for certain types of positions, but by and large, the bottom line is that employers are hiring younger, cheaper H-1Bs instead of older, more expensive Americans.

            I know one person who moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest because he was told that tech jobs were so plentiful. He has fine educational credentials, good job experience, good personality etc. but basically has had very little luck finding work. I’ve seen such things many times.

            Some years ago, I served on a panel on H-1B at a national conference held in the Bay Area. After the session, a man came up to me and said, “You’re wrong. I head a tech firm and we are desperate to hire Americans.” I replied, “My wife is a software engineer. Her surname is different from mine. I’ll have her apply to your company, and we’ll see whether you are so desperate.” He immediately backpedalled, saying “Well, that’s different! She’s probably making too much money!” Indeed. H-1B really is about cheap labor.

            I agree with your point that Virgil’s outspokenness might make him blacklisted by employers. I’ve seen it happen. But that might be a problem if Virgil ever got to the stage in which a company actually gave his CV serious attention, which is not happening.

            Bottom line: Do you REALLY believe there are no qualified Americans who would be willing to come to an MST firm to work for $110,000? None?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mikel says he doesn’t want to get into trouble by speaking out as he has done here. Yet, if his employer is hiring (he mentioned there may be a hiring freeze) and can’t find people, it would seem to me that the employer would be thrilled to find interested and qualified workers.

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          • >> dedicated against having people like me in this country

            It may sound xenophobic when you hear, like say, @Sanych’s comment on this post, but as @matloff puts it, “it is reality”.

            There are numerous studies posted on EPI and other places as to how H-1s are the not “best and brightest”. There are studies that have gone into depths to prove how Indians etc are not best and brightest by way of ACM dissertations etc

            Too, most of the anger is against Indians (and to some extent Chinese). Understandable if you belong to that demographic. The actual H-1s are having to face the brunt where as the cartel is “eating”/”sacrificing” it’s own – The American worker

            Too most of the Americans (I specifically exclude LPRs and there is a reason why I do that), that continue to lose their jobs, see the immediate cause, which is that the Indians are taking away their jobs. While it’s very true, it will be a while before *all* of the otherwise-seen-as-xenophobia is diverted to the actual root cause — the folks responsible writing laws/statutes – lobbyists, chamber of commerce, employers and most importantly immigration lawyers.

            As they say life is short and hopefully we get to see a true reform.

            As a footnote, it’s reassuring 😉 to see the following news today – http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/332196-kushner-family-pitches-wealthy-chinese-on-investor-visas

            Okay, gotta get back to blaming the Chinese on the world wide web, while the Chairman and Ranking Member on Senate Judiciary Committee have “promised” to terminate the EB-5 program in the recent past (after the elections, that is) 🙂

            Like

          • I have only rarely encountered Americans who blame the H-1Bs personally for harming the Americans’ ability to make a living. They definitely blame the employers. These days many of them blame Congress, but some years ago they did not do so, because they were sure Congress would never enact such terrible legislation. 😦

            What I hear about a LOT these days is not about Indian programmers and engineers, but about Indian RECRUITERS. As the previous poster noted, they seem to have cornered the recruiting market, and I hear repeatedly that they are engaging in sleazy tactics. I’ve never verified that, but I hear it from people I trust.

            The question is, though, to those who are making such complaints, are they doing so because the actors are Indian? What if they were (white) Canadians engaged in sleazy tactics? Would the techies be more tolerant of such practices? I really don’t think so. If someone is threatening your livelihood, you don’t care about color.

            Ironically, I believe it is the politicians, industry lobbyists and AILA who are playing the Race Card. In my recent Fortune op-ed, I allude to that with my parenthetical remark, “conveniently non-Western.”

            Liked by 1 person

          • >> but about Indian RECRUITERS

            In manufacturing, we use an Ishikawa or fishbone diagram. This, to me, is still an ‘effect’, not the cause. So “why” are {Indian} “Recruiters” resorting to sleazy tactics? Not surprisingly, the root cause for this could perhaps be answered in less that 5 “why”s, especially given that ‘India borns” are “proven” to be not the best and brightest.

            >> politicians, industry lobbyists and AILA who are playing the Race Card

            Absolutely .. And that’s the world we live in..

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          • I’m not sure where you are going with this, DC. Are you disagreeing with my contention that American techies would be equally displeased if the recruiters were mainly U.S.-born whites?

            And by the way, are you referring to my EPI study? It is about the general F-1 CS/EE population, not just the Indians.

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          • >> I’m not sure where you are going with this

            Since we cannot ban alphabet (work) visas, we should give free job mobility for all (work) visas. That alone will bring down all the abuses, age problem, sleazy tactics and on and on. But that would amount to blasphemy for many and it would bring several (pro american worker) lobbyist groups to a grinding halt overnight.. oh well…

            >> It is about the general F-1 CS/EE population, not just the Indians

            Sure. It’s just that lately, H-1/F-1 become synonymous with China/India borns as numbers wise, they eat up lions share.

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          • As far as I know, all the pro-U.S. worker groups have called for job mobility of the visas. However, that would NOT address the age issue.

            As to the nationality breakdown, actually my data are from the 2003 NCSG, when there was more of a mix than today. The reason for using that data set, by the way, is that it includes data on entry visa type.

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          • >> would NOT address the age issue

            Young american (non-LPR) workers being recruited instead of older workers issue will still remain;

            On the other hand, why would any employer want to employ an young non-immigrant who is a free agent in the marketplace and could ask for higher wages due to the “mobility” factor. This, by no means will “stop” the (young, foreign worker being hired instead of American) age issue completely, but takes away a huge incentive from the cartel.

            Especially the “Indian Recruiters” factor you point out – These recruiters will become extinct soon as they cannot tether “India born” nationals (young or old) – No?

            Despite the defense trade between the two countries going north every day that goes by –
            $15 billion and counting (https://in.usembassy.gov/u-s-india-defense-relations-fact-sheet-december-8-2016/), I do hope our Congress has our back and ban all alphabet (work) visas or be “politically correct” and just ‘reduce’ Indian and Chinese influx (something like a country cap on all non-immigrant visas – and today we have such a per-country cap on greencards, anyway) .. Any ‘reform’ would just be synonymous to creating new and more legal “loophole(s)” by the cartel…

            >> 2003 NCSG, when there was more of a mix than today

            Agreed. It’s just that in recent times, articles are getting granular to a point where states/cities from India are being identified (good thing) and that’s why I qualified my earlier comment as ‘recently’ –

            1) https://qz.com/977850/hyderabad-a-city-that-sends-the-most-software-engineers-to-the-us-has-the-worst-engineers-in-india/

            2) Your most recent blog post referencing QZ articles

            3) http://cis.org/north/h-1b-hiring-bias-within-bias-discrimination-within-discrimination

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          • If untethered, young foreign workers would still be young, and still be offered young salaries wherever they went. They could do slightly better on an individual basis, but the adverse impact on older Americans would definitely continue to be very large.

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          • >>They could do slightly better on an individual basis, but the adverse impact on older Americans would definitely continue to be very large.

            Absolutely – The question is would the cartel work overtime to bring in a tsunami of young (or old) Indian/Chinese students/workers, if they were untethered.

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          • I’m pretty sure the answer is yes. On the other hand, it is a big “if”; it seems doubtful the “cartel” would go for full untethering, though they may well support something that looks like untethering but whose details were largely the opposite.

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          • Matloff, about your EPI study where you determine the brilliance of F-1s by weighing the proportion of outstanding research awards, I think you do a disservice to the many PhDs – native and foreign – by not acknowledging that many of these outstanding papers would have been based upon their non-extraordinary contributions – by way of references. You completely disregard this network effect – check up on how many papers you have referred in your own publications – and how many of those were awarded. I am sure there will be at least a handful of those.

            Your study takes a very sales-like view on research, which I do not agree with.

            Research is not competitive, in fact you may waste your doctorate researching to no great end because of your problem choice. A PhD by definition has made extra-ordinary (novel?) contributions; if they haven’t and yet received a PhD – then that is an academic integrity problem.

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          • In my career, in both research and consulting, I have always emphasized taking a multi-pronged approach to analyzing policy, in this case H-1B/green card policy. In my EPI paper, I looked at many different measures, with the dissertation awards being only one of them. On ALL of the measures I considered, the level of the foreign students turned out to be below that of Americans.

            I also cited similar research by well-known academics, including John Bound at the University of Michigan and Jennifer Hunt of Rutgers. Jennifer, by the way, is the editor of the Journal of Labor Economics, very prestigious. So their work adds a couple more prongs to the multi-pronged approach I described above.

            EPI is a very prominent think tank in DC, basically allied with the Democratic Party. Its founders include Lester Thurow, former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management; Robert Reich, a UCB professor who served as Sec. of Labor under Pres. Bill Clinton; and other economic stars. Please note that (a) EPI asked me to do this study — I did not approach them — and (b) the reviewing of my paper by EPI and outside people it asked to look at it was far more rigorous than I have experienced in any other paper I’ve ever written.

            Just as an aside: I would put somewhat more stock on the ACM awards than you do. In most cases, the research is merely incremental in its contribution to the field, and the basic ideas for a PhD dissertation come largely from the student’s thesis adviser. But at the level of the ACM awards, these tend to be extraordinarily high-impact, with the student being the primary innovator. But again, this is just one prong.

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    • Mikel, you could consider getting an outsider to evaluate your workplace culture and how you hire. Sometimes companies develop self-sustaining cultures that reject people outside an unconscious norm. Not only do the hirers develop unconscious biases, candidates learn to detect and avoid workplaces they think might be narrow or hostile.

      Like

    • Mikel wrote:

      “With 24×7 operations depending on a smooth functioning of this software, the need arises for a huge amount of technical support and development personnel who will try, UNDER HUGE PRESURE, that those operations never fail. In my 20 years in this field I have NEVER MET ANYONE WHO DREAMED DOING THIS FOR A LIVING as a child.”

      I work now in the place like that as a software developer, making double of Mikel mentioned and can’t wait to get out. It is a slave ship – with 24×7 calls, crazy schedules and high pressure bosses. It is the first time in my 40 years carrier that I have such working environment.

      The other interesting thing that Mikel pointed out is that Indians now “own” IT and software development all over the world. And, yes, at this point it has nothing to do with H-1B visa programs. Just like Chinese were dumping cheap steal, India was dumping its labor force and squeezed natives out of these fields. Many of the Indians I work with are green card holder or even citizens by now. And they prefer to hire Indians. I am the only non-Indian in my team, and they are not shy talking to each other in Hindi during meetings. Headhunters now are mostly Indian as well.

      We will have to see if tribalism kills globalism.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hesitated to allow this post, as I know that people outside the industry might treat it as xenophobic. I know that it is not; it is reality. Maybe the wording is a tad strong here and there, but many, many readers of this blog will find that it jibes well with their own experience.

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        • @matloff, @mikel

          Here is my problem with my “speaking up” denying me work.

          I have heard this numerous times since 2007 and it most likely is true.

          BUT, Our silence enables this crap, so I speak up because what is happening to Americans in America is wrong on any moral or ethical basis.

          And I wish I could prove that an employer was discriminating against me because of my speaking out.

          So you tell me, if we speak out, we are blackballed and will never work again.
          If we don’t speak out, we watch as non-immigrant guest workers and students are hired INSTEAD of us, and we watch as firms like Disney and USCF replace our fellow workers after forcing them at “severance” point to train their replacements.

          Either way we lose, which leaves us with no choice but to fight as I do, which is why I run Keep America At Work and H-1B Hunting Licenses and the many more things I would do if the resources were available to me.

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        • Norm,

          The moment I saw that you were misquoting my words above (“misguided STEM immigration policy”) I suspected that we were talking past each other and that the prospects of some approach of opinions were small. I don’t really have any firm opinion on that policy but it should be clear that, if anything, I kind of support it with regards to “Intels” and H1bs. However, I am totally open to change my mind.

          Now you ask me if I think that NO skilled American IT engineers are willing to work in the beautiful Rocky Mountain region for a good salary. Have I not just said that I know of a couple of hundred of them only in my company?

          I may well be a very naive person but your idea that the HR sausage factory practices only affect Americans is very strange. I can assure you that I have been playing the over/under-qualification game since graduation day in Europe. It looks like some of us learned to play the game and others didn’t. But please, right now where I work we don’t have any more room for *under*-qualifieds, foreign or native. I do not have any idea if the situation in the Bay Area is totally different. If good candidates are being rejected it surely is.

          Bottom line: We live in an economy driven by competition. IT companies need to keep selling their products, making profits and increasing the value of their shares. We all know what happens when that fails. A key aspect of this process is producing reliable software and being there when, software being what it is, hell breaks loose. The HR departments of IT companies need to streamline all these operations under very tough regulations. Nobody has the time to find all possible candidates or to consider if some subtle loophole in regulations is unfair.

          I’m not sure why more Americans (or natives of other regions) are not being employed in this sector. My interactions in this thread make me think that part of the problem may be a clash of cultures. Some are thinking about microagressions, workforce culture, etc and others (many foreigners and some natives) have very different concerns.

          Like

          • I don’t think I misquoted you, Mikel, but again, thanks for an excellent post.

            I’ve never — not in this discussion, not in 25 years of writing on the topic — said that HR’s practices only harm Americans. You are quite right that the foreign workers are victims too. Actually, I’ve gone much further in my writings, and said that the companies themselves are harmed.

            In my experience, including interviews of HR people. HR departments act pretty similarly, whether in the Bay Area, the Bay State or the bayou. That uniformity is no accident; HR people have yearly conferences (SHRM) in which they trade information on “best practices.” Sadly, an example of those “best practices” is treating most applicants as “under/overqualified,” as I mentioned yesterday.

            As you said, the world is becoming ever more competitive. And I strongly support — including with various personal actions — hiring “the best and the brightest” from around the world. What I don’t support is hiring the cheapest and the least mobile, which sadly is so often the case.

            Like

  11. Hi Norman,
    Regarding the loophole that is discussed:
    “In filing a green card application, the salary stated by the employer is allowed to be what the employer intends to pay at the time the worker gets her green card, years later”

    This would essentially mean for nationalities with long GC wait time (India, China to an extent), can be underpaid even below the already below average Level I and II prevailing wage.

    I was of the impression that the employer has to pay at least that level I or II prevailing wage. Considering that the employers can use other wage surveys to quote the lowest prevailing wage, if there is a loophole allowing them to pay even lower than that in the “wait time” for GC, then it becomes $20k savings to even more than that for the employer. On this matter, could you point me to some material so I could read up on it. And since this underpayment loophole is there, it seems to me we can’t determine the salary from PERM data and the only way to determine is to ask the employees themselves. Do you have heard from any of your friends that have experienced this loophole in prevailing wage?

    And from the Sold Out book: (In my own words I wrote for analysis, but content is the same):
    “LCA’s labor condition applications are required by law to be approved within 7 days, hence they are rubberstamped.
    Employers can state their own wage surveys which can be artificially low prevailing wage.
    And the law prohibits investigation into the stated prevailing wage of the LCA.”

    This is for LCA’s for H1-b’s, but if the industry put in that loophole for LCA’s, there is a decent chance they put in similar loophole for PERM approval process where the scrutiny for the accuracy of the wage surveys might not be that impressive.

    Overall, the law is written and paid for by the industry. John Miano from CIS has said about the H1-b law: “They’re hundreds of pages long. It takes an army of lawyers”. (John Miano quote source: http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2017/04/24/outsourcing-firms-called-white-house-trump-h-1b-order/)
    This seems to be the familiar tactic of the lobbyists. Write hundreds of pages complex legal language behind closed doors in secrecy and incorporate a lot of loopholes and get it passed before any Senator can actually read 1% of the bill and let alone find the loopholes. Speaker Paul Ryan just used this cloak and dagger sneaking stuff for putting in a sneaky increase in the Omnibus spending bill for increasing the H-2b visa quota (https://www.numbersusa.com/news/sens-grassley-feinstein-speak-out-against-h-2b-increases)

    Like

    • The employer has the option of using a private wage survey instead of the OES data and Levels I-IV. However, the latter is called “safe harbor,” i.e. the Dept. of Labor won’t question it. The PERM data state what source the employer used to determine prevailing wage. They also indicate whether the petition was approved; many are not, though most are probably approved on second round. Since Levels I and II already give the employer a major price bargain, I really don’t think the private survey is that important.

      The rules for H-1B and green cards are a jumble of statute, regulations and case law. You can begin by going to the DOL Web site. You can also learn a lot of the “tricks of the trade” by watching “Tubegate,” the videos that the law firm Cohen & Grigsby put on YouTube for potential clients, only to have it backfire when the Programmers Guild stumbled upon it.

      Like

  12. I am super shocked that no one is outraged by the government providing economic assistance to Infosys. According to the NYT link.

    “Infosys said it would seek out three other sites for American expansion ……. where state and local governments are willing to offer significant economic incentives.”

    and

    “The state is offering Infosys incentives worth up to $31 million for the project.”

    This is Indiana’s largest state incentive package in history.

    Like

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