There’s something rotten going on with the H-1B visa system, and it’s hurting the American worker. A new study shows that older U.S. employees are getting kicked to the curb in favor of a younger, cheaper foreign labor market. It’s a real scam and here’s how it works…
The IBM Case
In the last five years, 60% of Americans over the age of 40 were given pink slips at IBM. This number means about 20,000 U.S. workers have been given the boot by the corporate giant since 2014. Meanwhile, they’ve moved to import an estimated 37,000 foreign workers through the H-1B visa program since 2014.
IBM isn’t the only company working the H1-B visa system to its benefit and to the detriment of its U.S. workforce – but it is perhaps the best at gaming the system. A study, published in ProPublica, revealed the following about IBM’s hiring and firing practices:
- Denied older workers information the law says they need in order to decide whether they’ve been victims of age bias and required them to sign away the right to go to court or join with others to seek redress.
- Targeted people for layoffs and firings with techniques that tilted against older workers, even when the company rated them as high performers.
- Converted job cuts into retirements and took steps to boost resignations and firings.
- Encouraged employees targeted for layoff to apply for other IBM positions, while quietly advising managers not to hire them and requiring many of the workers to train their replacements.
- Told some older employees being laid off that their skills were out of date, but then brought them back as contract workers, often for the same work at lower pay and fewer benefits.
The purpose of the H-1B visa program is to permit U.S. employers to hire foreigners for specialty occupations. A “specialty occupation” is defined as highly skilled workers from a variety of disciplines – from biotechnology to theology. It is an extensive and deep group of professions from which companies can pull in workers from other countries. These new H-1B employees essentially have up to six years in the U.S. and then must go back to where they came from for a year if they want to reapply.
But as with all laws, people are finding ways to get around this. As well, there is supposed to be a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year with a caveat of another 20,000 with a high level of education. Meanwhile, the restriction of 65,000 foreign H-1B workers – or 85,000 total – has turned into a joke due to workarounds and exemptions.
Worse, the older American worker is being forced to train their younger, less expensive foreign H-1B replacements before they get the boot. While tacitly acknowledging that “gray hairs” and “old heads” are important to the company, IBM hiring practices have consistently shown that these “gray hairs” are being pushed out in favor of H-1B foreign nationals – mostly Indian males.
Thus, this visa system and the way companies like IBM have used it to their advantage means that a 40 plus age American worker gets canned to make room for a passel of young foreigners. This amounts to the sad destruction of thousands of people’s lives who should be counting their IRA earnings and putting their kids through college.
Instead, the H-1B visa – and it’s misuse by corporate giants like IBM – means that thousands of Americans are out on the street looking for work. What IBM and other companies are doing is making a mockery of the H-1B system with tragic results for the older American corporate employee.
Perhaps it’s time that lawmakers stop worrying about whether President Trump knew about a useless meeting his son had with a Russian woman two years ago and pay some attention to the American workers getting the shaft.
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