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Southern California Edison IT workers 'beyond furious' over H-1B replacements

Patrick Thibodeau | Feb. 5, 2015
About 500 IT jobs are cut at utility through layoffs and voluntary departures

"The majority of the H-1B program is now being used to replace Americans and facilitate the offshoring of high wage jobs," Hira said.

SCE said Infosys and Tata were selected through a competitive process that began "with eight potential vendors, some of them United States-based.

"The decision made to contract with Infosys and TCS was made following vendor site visits, some in India, and in-depth reviews of prospective vendors' operations," the utility said.

SCE employees said that since August, when the layoffs began, the composition of the IT workplace began to change. "I see a lot of Indian people walking the halls, and less Americans," said a third IT worker interviewed.

Employee observations of an increasing number of foreign workers in their workplace is backed up by U.S. Labor Department filings. Employers have to file wage data of foreign workers and their workplace location with federal authorities in a form called a Labor Condition Application (LCA). In Irwindale, California, where SCE runs a major part of its IT operations, the two offshore companies had as many as 180 LCAs, and in a random check of these applications, every address matched an SCE location.

Displaced IT workers have long protested and complained about the use of H-1B workers, but they are overshadowed by large tech companies that lead H-1B lobbying efforts in Washington. IT workers are also effectively silenced through severance agreements that include non-disparagement clauses and confidentiality provisions, as well as fears that public complaining may hurt re-employment prospects.

Replacing U.S. workers with H-1B workers violates the spirit if not the letter of the law. Hira pointed out that as a part of the application process to obtain H-1B approval from the Labor Department, an employer is required to attest to the following: "Working Conditions: The employer attests that H-1B, H-1B1 or E-3 foreign workers in the named occupation will not adversely affect the working conditions of workers similarly employed." This statement is in Form 9035CP of the LCA.

Further, Hira noted that the Labor Department states, "The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed.

"The SCE case is clearly one where the hiring of the H-1B is adversely affecting the wages and working conditions of American workers," Hira said. "There isn't a clearer cut case of adverse impacts - the American worker is losing his job to an H-1B." Hira believes that the U.S. Secretary of Labor has the authority to investigate these cases.

The use of H-1B workers has other implications as well. They are mostly young, under 35 years of age, according to government data, and the SCE workers interviewed said many older workers were being laid off. H-1B workers are also overwhelmingly male. The IEEE has estimated that as many as 85% are males.

 

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