The American Dream Has Become A Nightmare for Tech Workers and Their Families

Laura and her husband were living the American Dream.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and securing a job with a reputable Fortune 500 company, Laura began a rewarding career as a business analyst with a world-renowned telecom giant.

She earned great yearly performance reviews, and she was enjoying the hard work and camaraderie that comes with a job well done. Also at work, Laura met her husband, who had earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and worked as a computer programmer. 

Laura and her husband worked with the telecom giant for 20+ years. When part of the organization was acquired by another American Fortune 500 company, they continued doing the same work, but their paychecks and letterhead were different.

They worked at the acquiring company successfully. But after three years, when Laura’s supervisor called her in for her performance review, it read: Meets most (expectations).

“I always had received stellar appraisals and Exceeds Expectations, so when I got that review, I had a bad feeling.”

She felt uneasy because she knew she’d been working hard, and her manager “couldn’t explain what (expectations) I didn’t meet, so I wouldn’t sign the appraisal.”  She said she had been taking project management training classes, and was one class short of receiving her project management certification, or PMP.

The client frequently requested to work with Laura. “The managers loved me; they knew they could always depend on me,” Laura said. “We were working through weekends to get the job done, and they appreciated it. It was a nice company to work for back then. The company appreciated their employees, and in return, we were loyal.”

When she read that one bad appraisal, however, she knew from others that Meets most meant she was going to be let go. “It was traumatizing. I was loyal; proud.”  

“I was asked to leave and given 30 days.”

Although she and others were told they could apply for other jobs within the company, Laura said there were no jobs available in the original, or the acquiring, company. This is a common practice among corporations. When companies displace American workers with foreign replacements, they tell the laid-off worker they can apply for other jobs within the organization(s). But the lure of another job is just a way to get the laid-off worker out the door without causing a scene.

The American Dream has become an American Nightmare for us and families like us who have been replaced

Then, a year after Laura was laid off, the same thing happened to her husband. “We were both replaced by H-1B workers from India. My husband knew; there was a lot of software development that was offshored first.”

“We were scared. We had a big mortgage,” she said. “Unemployment was miniscule when compared with the six-digit salaries we made.”

The couple had worked hard together, and had a house built in a nice suburban neighborhood, where they raised their daughter. “We almost lost the house. We couldn’t pay our mortgage for seven or eight months; we ate through our savings,” she said. Then the couple went through a loan modification program that added 10 years and more interest to the mortgage.

“I had to attend therapy after I was let go,” she said. “It was very depressing.” Although she knew the layoff wasn’t her fault, after working there for 23 years, “I just kept going over everything in my head, wondering if there was something I could’ve done differently.”

But, 2,500 of her fellow workers also were let go in 2003. “We were let go in small groups, so as not to raise any red flags,” she added.

They offered some money for Laura and her husband for “retraining,” but they had already gotten the sought-after STEM education and training, so what were they supposed to retrain for?

After two years, Laura landed a short-term contract job at an American tech consultancy firm. Then, when that ended, Laura got hired at an Indian consultancy, so she bought her plane ticket and flew to the company’s site in another state for training. 

Laura figures she got that job because the client company was the telecom giant where she had started her career. She worked hard. The customer frequently requested to work with Laura, and she received client commendations for her work ethic.

While working there, Laura learned Hindi in order to better communicate with her Indian co-workers. “They were constantly quizzing me and asking me questions. It bought me time and respect from coworkers, but not upper management. They would never admit to not knowing something….”

She said working there was ok at first, but then gradually, she was excluded from big decisions by her male, Indian co-workers. When she asked why, they might say, “Oh, you were already gone for the day,” with the negative implication she had left while they still were working. She said they would have sidebar conversations, excluding her, while they were supposed to work as a team.

“I mastered the front-end piece, which was important because it affects billing, and we had to put test billing in properly.” But, she said the Indian workers were creating test sites in countries they were told they couldn’t test in. “(The client) was getting bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the inexperienced, off-shore Indian testers, and (the client) was penalized by having to pay taxes on test sites that were entered as live customer sites.” She said one Indian put her (Laura’s) home address on an invoice, which resulted in Laura getting billed for two years (which the client had to sort out).

Although Laura resolved issues based on her process and applications expertise, she was increasingly being left out of the loop, and ultimately, completely excluded from conversations about projects. She said her co-workers had screen shots to work off; whereas, she sought to understand what she was doing. 

“Sometimes (workers) wouldn’t join conference calls because they couldn’t speak English well enough, and they knew the customer would get pissed.”

“I always had to clean up their work,” Laura said. “They would share user IDs, which was a direct violation of (the client’s) code of conduct.” She said her male Indian co-workers wouldn’t even read the test requirements, but would do whatever they wanted. “The Indians wouldn’t understand the requirements, so they would code wrong and upend the system.” So she would pull up the requirements and read them aloud with them. “My (client) manager would joke about it, but we had to drop calls because of their work.” 

Despite her contributions, Laura said, “Sometimes my (consultancy) manager wouldn’t even respond if I got a commendation from the client, and then when I’d ask him about it, he would just say, ‘Oh yes, sorry, sorry.’”

She describes the atmosphere as being very different if an Indian man got commended: “It was like New Years. They would all celebrate; it was crazy, everybody knew; everybody was responding.”

“I’m an American, white woman, which is…in their mind, we’re subservient to them, just treated different.” Laura also witnessed the threatening and demeaning manner in which male Indian managers treated Indian women. A female Indian coworker told Laura that “Indian women are raised to not refuse a man’s request,” so male Indian managers would push the women more than the men.

The ability of companies to displace white-collar, professional, American women with less expensive and less demanding immigrant workers has resulted in a self-defeating snowball effect: Many American IT workers who have been displaced by foreign workers have no incentive to encourage children or future generations of Americans to go into the same field that has so easily discarded them in favor of foreign workers. This, in turn, supports the narrative that outsourcing companies (along with their American clients) prefer to use to bring in more H-1B workers: That there aren’t enough Americans to fill the jobs. This argument is clearly invalid, however, when the Americans doing the jobs are being directly displaced by – and required to train their – foreign H1B replacement(s).

Eventually, Laura trained her Indian replacement, who worked for yet another contracting company.

“It’s terrible…I don’t understand how this could be happening in America,” Laura said.

But American white-collar jobs in every state are vanishing. “Pretty much every type of professional career woman, in spite of employment advances in the U.S., has been significantly affected by immigration. In many cases, to satisfy shareholders and profit margins, corporations are outsourcing … and replacing American professionals, particularly women, with cheaper foreign workers brought in on H-1B, F1, OPT, L1 and O visas,” says Hilarie Gamm, author of the book, Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Road Map to Change. American job losses started with the exodus of tech jobs in the 1990s. Those losses have now spread far beyond tech, and beyond what most would imagine.

One of Laura’s American coworkers was fired for refusing to sit on calls training other Indians, and Laura said she was shown a text in which her Indian manager said it was cheaper to get a worker in India rather than retaining an American.

Laura was the last American to be let go. Most of the jobs were off-shored to India, and there are still Indian H-1Bs here in America performing the same job that Laura did.

“I helped them understand the applications and process of how things should work, and explained the business to them so they understood what they needed to look for.”

After searching for another job for years, Laura’s desperation led her to take a $50,000 pay cut to work in a different and unfamiliar field. It has become increasingly common and necessary for highly skilled American professionals, booted out of their initial career of choice, to seek jobs in other fields that may not require a degree. This underemployment of college-educated Americans leads to a trickle-down effect, making it harder for blue-collar workers to find jobs, thereby impacting all levels of the American labor pool. 

In Laura’s case, however, that employer couldn’t afford to keep her, and she’s out of that job, too. 

Laura and her husband have had to pull their daughter out of college after just one year. She’s helping her mom and dad pay bills by working and living at home.

“My husband’s unemployment ran out; he is still unable to secure a position now going on eight months. We have no health insurance, and we’ve had our house on the market for a while. We can’t afford it anymore; it’s beyond devastating.”

They can’t get government assistance because they own a home.

“I can’t even go for a flu shot…”

“Never in my wildest dreams would I think that a highly skilled, well-versed, well-educated American man and woman would be unable to find viable employment – within the IT sector – in their own country.”

Laura says she gets frustrated reading about H4 EAD , the visa for spouses of H-1B visa holders,women complaining about not being able to work and “living in Golden Cages.”

“How dare they say that! Both my husband and I were replaced by H-1Bs, so we cannot afford a Golden Cage.” Laura said she and her husband feel like they’ve had the rug pulled out from under their feet, and may not have a roof over their heads for very long. “We are unable to pay our mortgage and bills. We will most likely lose our home that we both worked so hard for and could afford on our salaries. Now both salaries are gone.”

“The depression and stress of knowing that corruption and abuse left us without viable employment is devastating. The depression and anxiety is so severe, I’ve lost my will to do much of anything. I have lost all confidence in my abilities to be successful in the IT sector due to no fault of my own.”

“It’s heartbreaking seeing my husband lose his spirit and esteem as a man who is no longer afforded an opportunity to provide for his family.”

“The American Dream has become an American Nightmare for us and families like us who have been replaced. We were left without adequate retraining and no way out. IT is a skilled career, so where do we go when our skill set is IT? They keep saying there’s a shortage of American IT workers, well – here we are! There’s no shortage, just cheaper labor and that’s what corporate America wants for their shareholders. How am I supposed to feed my family? Keep a roof over our heads, if H1s and H4s continually take our jobs from us?”

The story of Laura and her husband is not an outlier, an exception. There are stories like this throughout America. The immigration policies and abuses that have been allowed to continue must be stopped and reversed. American workers should be prioritized over foreign workers. That’s seemingly such a basic concept, but one no longer the standard.