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Feb
2015
10

Ouch-sourcing: SoCal Utility Made Workers Train Their Foreign Visa Replacements Before Firing Them

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It is not often that the American public has a good reason to praise Rep. Darrell Issa and his political philosophies, but there is at least one issue which the California Republican gets right: foreign worker visas. On this topic he understands what is best for the country, as evidenced by his speaking out against a California utility company that has dumped Information Technology (IT) staff and replaced them with H-1B visa workers to lower labor costs. Issa believes correctly that this is an abuse of the system.

Southern California Edison, the region’s largest utility, recently announced it would be parting ways with 500 workers, 100 of whom would voluntarily leave and 400 of whom would be laid off.  The affected IT employees say their jobs will be outsourced to H-1B visa holders who work for Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services, both of which are based in India.  

Rep. Darrell Issa called the situation “deeply disturbing.”  In a statement released on his website, Issa called for stronger protections against H-1B abuse:

“Based on the information currently available, this appears to be an example of precisely what the H-1B visa is not intended to be: a program to simply replace American workers en masse with cheap labor from overseas. Indeed, current law requires that an employer certify that the hiring of an H-1B applicant ‘will not adversely affect the working conditions of workers similarly employed,’ in keeping with the program’s intent of injecting new talent into the economy, rather than merely replacing current workers with lower paid counterparts. Congress is currently considering reforms to the H-1B program, and legislation I’ve authored includes stronger prevailing wage protections to ensure that companies aren’t simply using the program to replace existing workers with lower cost imported labor.

A pro-worker Darrell Issa? Get it while the gettin’ is good!

“I urge Southern California Edison to be forthcoming in releasing information about the process behind this decision,” Issa wrote, “and I look forward to a thorough and transparent account of what attempts were made to ensure this major hiring decision adheres to the very clear statutes outlining the intended structure of the H-1B visa program.”

Russ Harrison, director of government relations for IEEE-USA, said he is pleased that Issa “recognizes that Edison might have misused the visa program.”  Speaking to Katherine Harvey of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Harrison said:

This use of H-1Bs to outsource American jobs is endemic, and it’s been going on for a decade or so.

You can’t even pretend there weren’t Americans to do the job, because Americans were doing the job until they got laid off.”

The affected IT workers at Southern California Edison have spoken out about the situation. Some say they even had to train their replacements before being fired and that they were “beyond furious” about the situation:

The H-1B program “was supposed to be for projects and jobs that American workers could not fill, but we’re doing our job. It’s not like they are bringing in these guys for new positions that nobody can fill.

Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn’t already performing.”

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