The Communications Workers of America is asking people to contact their senators to block an effort to undermine American workers using the H-1B visa program. Here’s the story.
What Is H-1B And Why?
There is a program called “H-1B” that lets companies hire temporary workers from outside the country to come here and work. The idea is that there are temporary employees, and that they fill key jobs that a company just can’t find anyone in the country to do.
We all want American companies to be successful, and when they just can’t find people with the right skills to get things done, we want them to be help them get the people they need so they can do what they are in business to do. So the H-1B program exists to cover situations where there are not enough Americans with the right skills to take key jobs with key skills.
For example, if you are an electronics company and you are developing a key technology and all the Americans who understand this technology are already hired elsewhere, but there are available people outside the US, you ought to be able to bring in someone for a while, to help you get the technology ready to sell. Everyone benefits from this because an American company gets a chance to be successful and grow, the innovative product makes it to market so we can use it, and the H-1B employee is able to come here and make some money.
Problems With H1-B Abuse
Key engineers in hi-tech companies can make well into six figures, for example. Meanwhile many well-educated people in other countries are ready to accept compensation that is dramatically less than what key people in the US are paid. So companies started abusing the H1-B program, replacing Americans — especially older workers (in Silicon Valley “older” can mean over 35 or anyone who dares get married and have children) — with low-paid H-1B workers. And H-1B workers understood that if they complained about their low wages or long-hour conditions they would be sent home.
Enforcement of rules against abuses of the H-1B program is notoriously lax-to-nonexistent (like enforcement of age discrimination in Silicon Valley.) So there is concern that any increase in the number of available H-1B visas has the effect on lowering American wages.
For this reason part of the new immigration reform effort increase the number of available H-1B visas from 65,000 (plus 20,000 with Masters degrees or higher) up to 120,000, while requiring employers to make sure American workers have the first shot at these jobs.
But now Republicans want to increase the number of H-1B visas from 120,000 to 300,000 and eliminate the requirements in the bill to give U.S. workers a fair shot before offering jobs to H-1B visa workers!
This is one more Republican effort to lower American wages. A Senate committee is considering this change this week.
Click here to contact your Senator through CWA to let them know that you think it is important to make sure American workers have first shot at these jobs.
I would go further, and ask them to increase funding for enforcement of all of the rules involving H-1B visas.