Never has Big Tech pushed harder for cheap labor for the rich and powerful than it’s done in the last few weeks. The latest available data show that, from 2005 to 2018, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft laid out an aggregate $582 million to protect their collective interests on a range of topics that include protecting the inflow of employment-based visas, specifically the H-1B.
Immediately after President Trump’s June Executive Order that would suspend certain visa categories, including the H-1B, Big Tech went apoplectic. False narratives abounded, among them that restricting the H-1B visa would set back “America’s economic success,” stifle “America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent” and prevent “the best and the brightest global talent” from contributing to the nation’s economic recovery. Big Tech threatened that “now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world’s talent or create uncertainty and anxiety….”
For decades, cheap labor champions have hawked the same tedious tripe. The truth is the exact opposite: the H-1B visa has displaced millions of skilled U.S. tech workers, and kept millions more American college graduates unemployed in the profession of their choice. Back in 2016, an unlikely source confirmed that U.S. grads are plentiful, but that – alas – they’re costlier than imported labor. Then-Infosys Chief Executive Officer Vishal Sikka admitted that the U.S. tech employment pool is abundant. He said, “There are enough universities, enough ability to hire, enough ability to teach…”
Big Tech is also solidly behind deferred action for childhood arrivals, another corporate favorite that contributes to the Silicon Valley labor pool. DACAs qualify for employment authorization documents, and many among the 700,000 eligible DACAs are in the workforce.
Meanwhile, as Big Tech scorns President Trump for his “dangerous” Executive Order, it’s simultaneously laying off or furloughing thousands of its current employees. The obvious contradiction: if, as Big Tech insists, it needs new employees so desperately, it should hold on to its existing workers who are already on the job, know their duties and don’t have immigration issues. But that’s not Big Tech’s end game. Instead, Big Tech wants what Congress has always provided – younger, cheaper, overseas workers.
In May, research from the liberal Economic Policy Institute found that 60 percent of H-1B positions that the Department of Labor certifies are assigned wage levels “well below the occupation’s local median wage.” The H-1B’s program regulations permit DOL to assign the lower wage levels but also provide authority to change the levels upward. Yet DOL has left the lower wage levels unchanged. EPI estimates, perhaps conservatively, that half a million H-1Bs are employed in the U.S. The majority of them work for the usual suspects – Amazon, Microsoft, Walmart, Google, Apple and Facebook. EPI recommends that DOL require and enforce above-median wages for H-1B workers to ensure that companies will use the immigration program as intended – to complement American workers – instead of using the visa to fill entry-level positions at a deep discount, and thereby enable U.S. tech workers’ displacement.
Nothing – not 9/11, not the 2008 Great Recession and not COVID-19 – keeps Congress from promoting more H-1B visas. This means the inevitable dismissal of U.S. tech workers. Two key congressional positions that oversee proposed immigration legislation, the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, are held by H-1B advocates, Lindsey Graham and Jerry Nadler, respectively.
At the same time, the wealth of Big Tech barons is stratospheric. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranks Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, as the world’s richest man; his estimated net worth is $189 billion. Every 11.5 seconds, Bezos earns the annual salary of his lowest paid, minimum wage worker. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is behind Bezos, with a net worth is $118 billion. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ranks fourth with $93 billion net worth, and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer rounds out the top five with a $76 billion net worth.
The British have a saying that applies to the self-serving congressional and corporate elitists whose efforts have taken away jobs from Americans, and given them to foreign nationals: “I’m alright, Jack.” Congress has its power, and Big Tech tycoons have their wealth – they’re alright. But, U.S. workers are left to fend for themselves.