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National IBEW President, Local 47 Urge DOL to Investigate H-1b Visa Abuse by Massive CA Utility

IBEW President Hill, no stranger to activism, at a Verizon Rally

IBEW President Hill, no stranger to activism, at a Verizon Rally

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 47 has asked the Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate possible H-1b visa abuse by Southern California Edison.  The IBEW is accusing the utility of laying off American information technology (IT) workers and replacing them with outsourced employees of the Indian firms Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys.  According to the union, the laid off workers were earning between $80,000 and $160,000.  The top rate paid by the Indian firms is $71,000.  

In a statement, IBEW President Edwin D. Hill said:

“The H-1B Visa program was designed with one thing in mind.  To bring in foreign workers to do jobs Americans could not, not to slash wages and kill good-paying American jobs. This is a clear and blatant abuse of the system.”

In their letter, the IBEW urges DOL to look into their allegations. President Hill demands a serious investigation from the agency.

Both outsourcing firms have been accused of mistreating their workers in the past.  As we wrote in February, news that Southern California Edison had made their workers train their replacements before laying them off resulted in bipartisan backlash. The situation was so egregious it turned notorious anti-worker flamethrower Rep. Darrell Issa into a pro-worker populist. Issa said at the time:

“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.

The bipartisan effort to reform the H-1b visa system has most recently been taken up by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions and Democrat Dick Durbin.  In a joint statement, they thanked DOL for looking into their inquiry about H-1B visa abuse:

“We appreciate the Department of Labor’s reply to our inquiry. We will continue pressing the Administration to use its legal authority to stop the displacement of American workers wherever possible and to conduct a thorough investigation of responsible parties.  

This response confirms that companies can often hire H-1B guest workers to replace American workers without fear of reprisal and that Congress must act to strengthen protections for U.S. workers and to make explicit that companies cannot engage in these practices. The law must be written to clearly prohibit replacing American workers with H-1B visa workers.”


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