It’s a Lose-Lose

We all know about “win-win” situations. My husband recently pointed me to an article that epitomizes its opposite: a true “lose-lose.”

Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other silicon valley companies are heavily lobbying Congress to expand visas for foreign tech workers.

Over the objections of labour groups, these companies and their allies, including banks, IBM, Pfizer, and General Electric, have persuaded the US Senate to increase the yearly H-1B visas from 65,000 to 110,000, and as high as 300,000 under certain conditions. Foreign workers trained in science, technology and engineering are preferred to their US counterparts because, in the words of economist Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, they are indentured “people who could not switch employers to improve their wages or working conditions…. Too many are paid at wages below the average for their occupation and location: over half of all H-1B guest workers [there are already 500,000 such workers] are certified for wages in the bottom quarter of the wage scale”.

Of course, bringing more workers from abroad reduces the opportunities available to America’s young scientists and engineers, many of whom, according to the article, are ” trying to find jobs commensurate with their skills.” Right now, out of the nine million Americans who have degrees in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field, only three million have a job in their speciality.

Narrowing the job market for young Americans is one “lose.” The other is the brain drain on the countries from which we are importing talent.

 While the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is stressing the need for developing countries to build up their “human capital”, back in the US, the corporate powers-that-be and their political allies are undermining this tenet of US foreign economic policy.

If “human capital” means anything in the poorer areas of Africa, South America and Asia, it means civil engineers, scientists, physicians, nurses, computer and communications specialists, logistical experts, architects and entrepreneurs. They all are in short supply in these regions that have already lost so many skilled people to the West.

So let me see if I have this right: Congress has acted to reduce the options available to American young people at the same time government agencies have been encouraging them to major in STEM disciplines, in order to steal needed human capital from poor countries that desperately need to keep that talent.

In a perfect world–at least my perfect world–a more equal global economy would be characterized by open borders like those in the EU, and young people would be free to take their talents wherever they wanted. We don’t have that world, however, and this cynical policy sure won’t usher it in.

Do any of the people we elect to Congress think about what they’re doing?


  1. The H-1B program was a very good program when it was first created. Unfortunately, like many good government programs, it has lost its purpose, which was to bring foreign workers to the U.S. in a few professions where there was a shortage of available American workers to fill the jobs. The idea was to allow companies to bring qualified foreign workers here to work rather than see those jobs go overseas.

    In recent years, staffing companies, rather than direct-hire employers, have been filing applications for an increasing number of the limited H-1B non-immigrant visas issued annually. An employer isn’t supposed to file a petition unless they have an immediate job opening for each visa application it files. Well, guess what? Staffing companies file petitions which make false representations about full-time jobs they claim to need filled. Foreign workers arrive on those visas only to learn that the job that was promised them never really existed. The staffing company then begins shopping around to place these foreign workers in jobs, often refusing to pay them will they are idled without work in clear violation of the H-1B regulations. Making matters worse, the staffing companies often require these foreign workers to sign promissory notes and contracts under which they are required to pay a substantial fee, which I’ve seen as high as $20,000, if the foreign worker leaves the employment of the staffing company before the contracted period, which is usually between two to three years. The foreign workers, effectively, become indentured servants to these staffing companies.

    I’ve seen complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Labor against these staffing companies languish for years without action. There is one staffing company in Indianapolis which employs health care professionals that has filed close to a hundred lawsuits against former foreign workers in the courts in Marion County who are living throughout the U.S., claiming they breached their employment contract by leaving their employment before the end of their contractual period. The company has obtained default judgments against many of these workers. I’ve defended several of them and been successful in at least preventing the staffing company from collecting a dime from them. Needless to say, working in America has turned into a complete nightmare for these workers. In one case, the staffing company expected a foreign worker and his wife to share a house with more than a dozen other males while the company spent months trying to find a paying job for him. When they finally found a job, it was only for a short-term. He spent the next 18 months moving from one location to another every few months just to be able to hold a job with the staffing company. What is happening is criminal, but our government refuses to do a damn thing about it. I’ve been in shouting matches with people in this local U.S. Department of Labor office who simply don’t give a damn. It’s almost like it is a deliberate effort to sabotage the U.S. job market for younger, American workers.

  2. Are these companies and many others only bringing in people from abroad or is their work done in other, sometimes third world, countries by foreigners who do not understand English? Profit is number one for business, quantity is number two and quality/customer service/satisfaction is somewhere below these priorities. I have contacted major computer service companies on line and received responses from people with unreadable names who respond all in English words in a message that makes little sense and rarely addresses the problem with a solution. It is not only Americans being cheated out of jobs that is a problem, it is the quality of service to American consumers who need assistance. Does this equate to a lose/lose/lose situation?

    I find it questionable that I must pay Indiana sales tax to Amazon who is not located in Indiana; even for my Kindle downloads. Big business has become Big Brother in cahoots with the government and we are at their mercy.

  3. Aside from the problems with the H-1B visas that Gary mentioned above, it’s important to see this in the context of a larger effort to reduce wages for US employees.

    Just last week, the 9th Circuit denied an appeal, clearing the way for a class-action antitrust & wage-theft lawsuit against most of the big Silicon Valley tech firms — Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, etc. Emails show that the leaders of those companies colluded to lower compensation by sharing pay scales and sharply restricting recruiting each others’ employees.

  4. A recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education featured an exploration of the STEM jobs issue and questioned whether shortage actually exists. The answer, in short, was NO. One university teacher commented that the purpose of big effort to produce STEM graduates was to dilute the market so businesses would not have to pay them as much. This is just part of the scheme. Ship in people who are willing to work for less when you already have a glut, and it’s a buyers’ market. I’m sure Wendy’s has competitive openings.

  5. It’s a scam, I tell you. HB-1 visas are simply a way for companies to hire tech workers that will work for slave wages and no benefits. They are simply contractors that are replacing American IT workers that will not and don’t deserve to work for slave wages. As a former IT administrator, I know what you are posting is true and I’ve seen it first hand.
    Gary I’m so sorry to hear about these people having to live like that. It is criminal.

  6. The whole idea behind NAFTA and other so called Free Trade Deals was to export American Jobs to the Third World. At best you might hope that the Third World Counties would be brought up to Western Standards. This at best scenario did not happen. Atlas Shrugs and a factory collapses in some Third World Country or catches on fire. Not only have manufacturing jobs been sent to the Third World, but even traditional or support service jobs have been sent there – Call Centers.

    If you cannot send American jobs to the Third World then bring the Third World here. The imported workers jobs can be high tech, flipping burgers or lawn care.

    When our politicians both at the City, State and Federal Level talk about creating “good paying” jobs I do not know whether to laugh or cry at their very obvious duplicity.

    The Monitor has great article on the Trans Pacific Partnership. –
    “Finally, an idea that both the right and the left should wholeheartedly oppose — the newest international trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Congress can put on “fast track” status with a vote expected in the next weeks. Often described as “NAFTA on steroids,” this slick package deal has elements that would send millions more American jobs overseas, usurp U.S. sovereignty and obliterate environmental laws, labor protections and food safety laws. It has something for everyone to fear.”

    Congress will vote on it, but our representatives had no part in its making. It was largely written behind the closed doors of trans-national corporations, its details hidden away, not just from the public and the press, but from our representatives. Only a few lawmakers in Congress have seen it and under a threat of legal action have been forbidden to share what they saw with the American people. Meanwhile, 600 U.S. corporate advisers were given free access to the text as it was being negotiated.

  7. Wow!! Thank you so much for all of your posts. This has been illuminating. For years the media has been stating that these companies have to move elsewhere or needed these Visa’s because there is a shortage of US workers in these areas or who are smart enough to work in these areas. I have not heard these statements and so I am grateful for this education.

  8. I am a STEM graduate who works in a non-STEM job in Indiana. I enjoy what I do for a living, but I am not in a STEM job. I know a number of STEM graduates who have non-STEM jobs too.

    I believe the STEM shortage is a manufactured myth. The way the make it seem like there is a shortage is by having STEM job postings that have such a long list of very specialized specific requirements that it is almost impossible to fill. The other way is the myth is blown out of proportion is that there are regional shortages, because there are less STEM graduates in a particular local area by percentage compared to some other majors, so a large company in a less populated area may need more than the local area can naturally provide without recruiting, but this does not mean that there is a STEM shortage overall.

    Many areas have also been losing STEM jobs, it is with STEM being more specialized, hard to substitute a chemist and a forest ranger whereas business graduates can switch business fields much more easily, it is the lack of flexibility seen with STEM graduates that causes regional shortages and surplus. I do think STEM graduates are more flexible and adaptable than given credit, but those that recruit for STEM posting want very specific specialized skills.

  9. This is personally disheartening to me because my grandson is a freshman at BSU; in high school he excelled in math and science and won a number of honors. When he graduation last June, along with his honors he was given a certificate stating he is “The Student Most Likely To Appear On The History Channel”. His junior year he received a Presidential Award in the amount of $18,000. He was accepted at every college he applied to; after deciding on Ball State University he was asked to become a member of their Honors Program. After accepting this offer he was awarded another scholarship of $12,000. He had worked and saved money during high school to help pay for his college education but his hard-working parents needed to go into debt to help pay for this education. How many more students with his abilities, drive and goals will find a blank wall at the end of their years of work and indebtedness? How much more talent will be wasted due to Indiana politics?

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