17 June 2015

Light is a Disinfectant

A few weeks back, the New York Times reported on how Disney was laying off IT workers, and forcing them to train their H-1B (Gastarbeiter) replacements.

Now that this has come to light, and generated a sh%$ storm of condemnation,. Disney has decided not to lay off its workers:

In late May, about 35 technology employees at Disney/ABC Television in New York and Burbank, Calif., received jarring news. Managers told them that they would all be laid off, and that during their final weeks they would have to train immigrants brought in by an outsourcing company to do their jobs.

The training began, but after a few days it was suspended with no explanation. In New York, the immigrants suddenly stopped coming to the offices. Then on June 11, managers summoned the Disney employees with different news: Their layoffs had been canceled.

“We were read a precisely worded statement,” said one of the employees, who was relieved but reluctant to be named because he remains at the company. “We were told our jobs were continuing and we should consider it as if nothing had happened until further notice.”

Although the number of layoffs planned was small, the cancellation, which was first reported by Computerworld, a website covering the technology business, set off a hopeful buzz among tech employees in Disney’s empire. It came in the midst of a furor over layoffs in January of 250 tech workers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. People who lost jobs there said they had to sit with immigrants from India, some on temporary work visas known as H-1B, and teach them to perform their jobs as a condition for receiving severance.
 Let's be clear on this:  If you have to train your replacements, and your replacements are brought in under H-1B (or the related L-1) visa, and you have to train them, then you are violating the law.

It is required that the visa recipients have, "highly specialized knowledge," and if they need months of training, as is reported in the Disney World stories, they clearly do not have this knowledge.

It's not about, "highly specialized knowledge," it is about getting cheaper and more docile (they have to leave the country if they leave the job) workers, and about depressing wages in the field.

Many people suggest that the solution is aggressive enforcement, but I disagree.

The solution is to ensure that the cost of an H-1B visa is always more than that of hiring a citizen or Green Card holder.

You can either do this through setting the fees high, or conduct monthly auctions for the right to make applications (I favor the latter because it fits into the "free market" ethos that seems to dominate national political discourse).

If tech companies have to pay a guest worker significantly of what they would pay an American, the number of visa applications would fall,and tech workers' salaries would rise.


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