The Fighting Spirit

Founder's Corner

Dear All:

Last week I was discussing with colleagues the incredible value of the many legal files Bob Heath bequeathed to U.S. Tech Workers.

For those who didn’t know Bob, he was a tech worker who took it upon himself to appear pro se before the court, meaning to act as his own attorney and bring lawsuits against companies engaging in practices like national origin discrimination. The companies he sued openly violated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) policies when posting recruitment ads and in some instances, recruited exclusively for H-1B visa holders.

Bob was successful against Ikon and Spring Shine and with the assistance of the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, EEOC and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, forced settlements on the defendants.

Sadly, he passed away a few months ago from a very aggressive form of cancer but prior to his passing, I spent time with him and during my visits he urged me to continue his work. Teach other tech workers to act as their own attorney and to file individual lawsuits when they experience employment discrimination.

Bob’s legal files are detailed, comprehensive and with a bit of polishing, are excellent tools for filing and prosecuting employment discrimination cases. But here’s the thing, while the techniques and procedures he applied can easily be copied, there’s something that’s not so easy to replicate.

You see, Bob was a fighter. From childhood he was imbued with what John Keegan, the famous military historian, lecturer, writer, and journalist describes as, the “fighting spirit.”  And that intangible is essential for the reality tech workers find themselves living in today.

I’ve known other fighters, like Bob, too. There’s Jake Strahan, the fellow I was discussing Bob’s files with, who has acted as a pro se attorney on many an occasion and Clif High, a tech guru, who when sued for slander acted as pro se attorney, and eventually prevailed.

Jake is fearless when it comes to protecting endangered species and pushing back against judicial overreach. The New York Times reports he’s been arrested 100 times, but that hasn’t stopped him. Currently he’s suing Massachusetts for fishing practices that will endanger whales. And, Clif, has practiced martial arts for decades and understands at a visceral level how to fight. Interestingly, just the other day President Trump announced he’s filing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice for the FBI raid on his Florida residence. He’ll be acting as pro se attorney in the fight, and we all know how unlikely he is to backdown from a challenge.

 

“Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate.”
― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

 

Every week I hear from U.S. tech workers about the discriminatory practices they face at H-1B visa dependent consulting companies. They tell me how they are denied training opportunities, benched after a process we have come to call “knowledge transfer,” denied promotions and forced to work jobs for less pay than they received a decade ago.

Recently, someone asked me when I thought the EEOC would intercede on their behalf? The answer is not very likely; and it makes a lot of sense. The EEOC will not initiate an action because first, they’re busy and second, why fight for people who aren’t prepared to fight for themselves? It’s up to the worker to file a complaint and enlist the EEOC’s assistance and the support of other agencies — and the more people you can persuade to join you, the better. While there are times the EEOC will respond to a complaint, take up the case and prosecute it to its end; more often, they’ll side with the plaintiff and just confer on the plaintiff the right to pursue legal action against the employer.

Bottom line, it’s up to the workers to fight back and retaliate against workplace discrimination. And, as much as we at U.S. Tech Workers are eager to bring an end to country-of-origin discrimination, outsourcing and rebadging, there is little hope of effectively pushing back unless you are prepared to fight and invite all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that accompany such bold action.

Let’s say you’ve noticed H-1B visa and L-1 workers showing up in your department, or you’ve been notified that much like the IT workers at CSX Technology, in thirty days you’ll be rebadged and doing the same job only now as an employee of an H-1B visa dependent consulting company, or you’ve been instructed to train someone to do your job. In all these instances, you need to fight back.


How do you fight back?

First, calculate and assess your strengths, weaknesses, personal goals, how your efforts can help the overall movement, and the fire that’s in your belly to engage in a fight. Courage plays a large role in this.

Second, reach out to co-workers you can trust. Enlist their aid and document everything. Document when new workers show up, how you and others are being treated, and by whom, and be very specific.

Attorney and tech worker John Miano offers this advice:

When managers make verbal statements, write down what you heard, what you were supposed to do, and what your reaction to the statements was. Include the date. You want to have as much information as possible about context to help make the statements admissible as evidence. If it is legal in your state, record the conversations.

Recording the reaction to what your employer said is just as important as recording what was said. You need to overcome the problem of hearsay. Hearsay is an out of court statement made to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. However, there are many ways to get around the hearsay problem.

Example. On August 8th, an HR manager, Mr. Green said in a meeting, "You Americans are just lazy.

Imagine you are on the witness stand."

For a myriad of reasons, you may decide you’re not ready to openly fight back — maybe the timing’s not right or you don’t have the support of co-workers, etc. But notwithstanding, still make a plan and document everything all the while going along as business as usual.

 

“The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

 

I very much doubt professional white-collar workers in America were told in college the ‘powers that be’ would one day callously throw them overboard after years of faithful service just to improve short term earnings per share. But that’s the reality of the world we live in. Tech workers may not have asked for this fight, but they’re in it, like it or not. The only question is, how will each of us manage the conflict?

Third, take legal action. I’ve heard for years if a worker sticks their neck out and fights back, they’ll be blacklisted and never work again. However, I’ve seen just the opposite. The most vociferous workers against discrimination always seem to find tech work while those who have kept their heads down, are no longer working in tech.

Last, we all possess the “fighting spirit.” You may feel fear now, but that’s okay, even the bravest people experience fear. Bob confided in me there were times he was scared silly, doubted himself and what he was doing, and felt inadequate. However, despite all those ups and downs, I’m positive he had no regrets. I recall his daughter Tonya explaining he couldn’t have his computer in hospice. To his dying breath he wanted to continue his lawsuits and prevail against those that had abused him and others in his profession.

“Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

If you are a U.S. tech worker and working in either an H-1B visa dependent company or in a company with many H-1B visa workers, it’s likely you’re feeling the sting of discrimination in one form or another. If this is the case, you have a choice to make, and that choice will have consequences.

If you choose to keep your head down and tolerate the status quo, that may lead to poor physical health, depression, feelings of frustration or hopelessness, severe stress, anxiety or a strong attraction to mindless activities like engaging in feckless posting on social media.

If you choose to fight back, you’ll enter a hurricane with an outcome that’s far from certain. But looking back, do you ever wonder what would have happened if tech works at Disney, Northeast Utilities, Abbot Labs, Vanguard, CSX Technology, Wells Fargo, and other large companies would have united in common purpose, told off management, and not come into work the next day?! 

Understanding no one is coming to save us and that Bob Heath has left us the tools to successfully retaliate, I ask, who is prepared to work with us? Who is prepared to repatriate our workplaces from the globalists who feel we are expensive, undeserving, and expendable?

I am and I will remain only an email or phone call away.

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