We understand that efforts are being made to add to the Omnibus Appropriations bill legislation to expand the H-1B professional guest worker visa program. The 25 national unions of our organization, representing some 4 million professional and technical workers, strongly oppose this proposal.
At a time of record levels of unemployment among tech workers and other professionals who are already being adversely affected by the current H-1B program, the last thing that the U.S. Congress ought to be doing is opening up more portals for even greater numbers of foreign workers to enter the U.S. and take away job opportunities away from unemployed Americans. Moreover, we believe that the secondary impact of the proposal before you scheme will be to facilitate the continued off-shoring of U.S. jobs.
The amendment that is now proffered would legalize still another permanent H-1B exemption—this one for foreign graduates of U.S. institutions with masters or PhD degrees. As you may be aware, under current law any foreign guest worker who now applies for a visa and is to be employed in higher education or by non-profit and government research institutions is already exempted from the H-1B cap. From 2000 through 2004 over 110,000 foreign guest workers came in under this loophole—an average of about 27,500 per year.
The new exemption now being proposed for last minute Senate adoption–without so much as an hour of public hearings as to its impact on jobless U.S. workers–may include a cap of 20,000 per year. But these numbers need to be considered in context. They would be in addition to the 27,500 already exempted, those coming in under the current 65,000 statutory H-1B visa cap and the 115,000 H-1Bs (average per year from 2000-03) who have been renewing their three year H-1B visa for a second three year term. In other words, when all is said and done, nearly a quarter million foreign guest workers annually would be allowed in. And this doesn’t include the tens of thousands of other guest workers that gain work status through L-1, TN and other trade visas, O, P and other specialized visas as well as foreign students on E visas who can work for up to a year after graduation.
Finally, we offer for your consideration our perspective on how visa programs like H-1B directly contribute to the off-shore outsourcing of U.S. jobs which, in the last year, has hit the American economy and its professional- technical workers with hurricane force.
Under H-1B and other similar programs, corporations are allowed to bring in tens of thousands of foreign workers to work in the U.S at bargain basement rates for periods of five, six, seven years or longer. Once these so-called “temporary” workers gain the technical skills and core competencies, any or all of the work that is technically feasible to off-shore is then exported. In short, the H-1B provisions of U.S. immigration policy have created a tech transfer pipeline that is exporting U.S. jobs, capital and technology abroad. Compounding this outrage is that often, qualified American workers searching for work are ignored as companies instead hire lower paid foreign professionals. In a number of cases, visa abuse has gotten so bad that U.S. workers have actually been are fired and replaced by foreign workers who they have been forced to train to take their jobs!
Congress failure to address both comprehensive immigration and guest worker reform–including implementation of a green card system that works to protect the rights of U.S. and foreign workers alike–has resulted in multiple aberrations and systemic malfunctions in this critical policy area. In addition to the displacement of American workers, H-1B and other guest workers are often–as you know–underpaid and exploited. Without sufficient worker protections and government oversight, we believe that these abuses will now extend to an even larger population of foreign students and workers under the proposed H-1B exemption that is before you.
This legislation fails to address these critical issues. It fails to enact the necessary reforms in the H-1B programs and instead makes a bad situation worse by expanding it. Worse, it adds still another exemption from the statutory annual H-1B visa thereby making such a limitation a legislative fiction.
Professional and technical workers in this nation have made enormous personal sacrifices to gain the education and training necessary to compete for the knowledge jobs in the so-called new American economy. They deserve better than to be victimized by programs like H-1B. At a time when so many American professionals are out of work, Congress should be about the business of reforming not expanding them. The legislation before you fails that test and it should be defeated.
Paul E. Almeida
Unions Affiliated with the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Actors’ Equity Association, American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Guild of Musical Artists, Communications Workers of America (including The Newspaper Guild, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, International Union of Electrical Workers), Federation of Professional Athletes, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Office and Professional Employees International Union, Plate Printers, Die Stampers and Engravers Union of N. America, Screen Actors Guild, Seafarers International Union, Service Employees International Union, United American Nurses, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (including the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union), United Steelworkers of America, Writers Guild of America, East