Remembering Sen. ‘Fritz’ Hollings and His Support of American Workers

Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (Jan. 1, 1922 – April 6, 2019) served South Carolina as a U.S. Senator from 1966 through 2005. A WWII combat veteran and Gov. of South Carolina, his voting record and his writing on trade issues and in opposition to cheap, foreign labor dumping stand out.

Sen. Hollings was the only senator to vote against increasing the allotment of H-1B visas in a bill voted on October 3, 2000. The 96-1 vote on S. 2045raised the cap on the H-1B visa. Hollings, a Democrat, stood up to the entire Senate and tech lobby to oppose cheap foreign labor. After the Senate voted to triple the quota of H-1Bs, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) described the magnitude of corruption and betrayal for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Once it’s clear (the visa bill) is going to get through, everybody signs up so nobody can be in the position of being accused of being against high tech. There were, in fact, a whole lot of folks against it, but because they are tapping the high-tech community for campaign contributions, they don’t want to admit that in public.”

Comments in the Congressional Record from supporters of the House bill are telling of how the House approved the H-1B increase, even while detractors such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) voiced strong opposition: “This legislation is nothing more than a betrayal of American working people. Why should we bring in 240,000 foreigners in order to depress the wages in the United States of America?”

But the real shenanigans of the vote, also preserved in the Congressional Record, came when members were told to go home and watch the Presidential debate. Meanwhile, a last-minute email confirmed a vote was scheduled. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) noted that he didn’t see the email until about 6. “The House was nearly empty,” he said.

House managers for that session and others knew a voice vote with only about 10 percent of the House members present would be sufficient to pass a cheap foreign labor bill tripling the number of H-1B visas for at least two years, at a time when a tech bust/bear market had already started that summer and that would end up lasting until early 2003.

What resulted from the push by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and his mostly GOP cheap foreign labor tech sycophants as a result of this vote was structural wage suppression in the tech labor markets.

Tech job layoffs began in tandem with the just-approved flood of cheap foreign workers. A few years later, former Federal Reserve Chair (1987 to 2006) Alan Greenspan spelled out the doctrine behind these events:

“We pay the highest skilled labor wages in the world. If we would open up our borders to skilled labor far more than we do, we would attract a very substantial quantity of skilled labor which would suppress the wage levels of the skilled because we skilled are being essentially subsidized by the government, meaning our competition is being kept outside the country.”

In 2010, South Carolina’s advocate for American workers, wrote in HuffPo, “Globalization is nothing more than a trade war with production looking for a country cheaper to produce.” In “The American Prospect,” Hollings wrote further:

“Globalization costs jobs, but the consumer is rewarded with lower prices. The United States must compete with education. We need engineers. But there are no jobs for the educated, or for engineers. China graduates 350,000 engineers a year, and American industry is outsourcing engineering jobs as fast as it can to India. George W. Bush has just returned from India pledging U.S. nuclear power that will accelerate outsourcing to India. Moreover, the Thailand doctor performs the same operation at one-eighth the cost of the American doctor. And high-tech jobs in this country are being filled with H-1B visas.”

What was Hollings’ remedy? “To make it profitable to produce in the United States – not only make it profitable, but develop a policy to protect investments from subsidized offshore production.”

Legendary coach, speaker and author Lou Holtz put it succinctly in a recent interview: the role of government is to protect citizens and to help them flourish. Listen up members of Congress, and President Trump! It’s well past time to put an end to foreign labor dumping.

Thank you, Sen. Hollings, for supporting American workers. You are remembered as a great patriot and protector of our nation. Rest in peace.