It was like the discovery of the yellow brick road and arriving in Oz. Getting a chance to go to Cupertino and work for Apple or Mountain View and Google or perhaps Menlo Park and Facebook. You went to work on a "campus"; they fed you, entertained you, and draped you in the ultimate patina of coolness. They, the Zuckerbergs, Brins, Jobs were the wunderkind and you were lucky enough to work 80-hour weeks making them billionaires.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the big boys in tech were fighting to crush a bill in Sacramento which would require them to tell you what personal information they were collecting every time you went online, and whom they were selling it to. Who were we to make demands on them? If their cavalier attitude about privacy wasn't offensive enough, their new battle is downright un-American.
They are using their collective lobbying might to try and kill a provision of the new immigration legislation in Washington which would limit how many foreign workers they could recruit and require them to offer the jobs to American workers first. The crux of the problem is called an H-1B visa. These visas usually go to college-educated foreigners in science, technology, mathematics and engineering fields. Big tech says they face a labor shortage in these areas, a shortage that can only be alleviated by importing foreign workers to fill the void.
Proving the truth in the adage if you give a mouse a crumb, soon it will want the whole cracker, H-1B visas have, in the past, been limited to 85,000 per year. The new immigration bill would raise the cap to 205,000 per year. It is not enough for the gang of four or more on the Peninsula. As with all corporations, they want more. Workers who are brought into this country on H-1B visas are paid much less than their American counterparts. They do not receive a pension or medical benefits while working in this country. They can cost 2/3 less per worker than an American hire. It's easy to see their appeal.
The problem is there are tens of thousands of Americans who could fill these jobs. Many are workers who are over 50 and have been let go because their salaries were too high or they were soon to be fully vested in company pension plans. Others are workers whose training may have been on earlier tech iterations which have been replaced by newer advances or techniques. The immigration bill will require companies to advertise openings for 30 days and offer the jobs to "equally or better qualified" American workers first. If this were to pass, there would be huge incentives for companies to offer training to workers to bring them up to speed to qualify for these jobs.
The benefits to this country are obvious. Hundreds of thousands of jobs which American are shut out of would open up. Training for these jobs could be paid for out of job training monies already appropriated by Congress and offered through the Department of Labor. These are good paying jobs which would benefit local and state governments through higher tax revenues.
In a response typical of corporate America, the tech lobby argues requiring them to offer the jobs to Americans first is an unwarranted, unprecedented intrusion of government into the free market. (obviously they had no problem with government intervening by inventing H-1B visas to their benefit) If this faux libertarian argument doesn't carry the day, they will fall back on the classic corporate threat...we will take our ball and go home if you aren't nice to us. The tech lobbyists threaten, if this provision is included in the bill, they will move new jobs overseas rather than comply. Really? The cool chic Facebook, Google, Apple et.al would rather destroy jobs in this country than offer them to Americans?
They assault our privacy, undercut the wages of American workers, keep much of their profit offshore so they don't have to pay their fair share of taxes and refuse to re-train or educate hundreds of thousands of Americans who could then benefit from good paying jobs. In what way are these cool high tech companies any better than their rapacious predecessors Standard Oil, Union Pacific or all of Wall Street?
The question is straightforward. If there are jobs openings, should they be offered to Americans before these companies are allowed to import low wage, less demanding and easily disposed of workers from a foreign land? Yes! The Apples and Facebooks of the world benefit and prosper in an America governed by laws, courts, property rights and stability. They make fortunes in a nation which protects their interests and even goes to war to allegedly keep them safe. Is it too much to ask they pay this back by offering jobs to Americans before they recruit cheap, foreign competition?
It should not be lost on anyone how many high tech founders and C.E.O.s have an allegiance or connection to Stanford. Stanford was one of the worst of the robber barons who tried to crush popular opposition to his practices. Under Hiram Johnson, Californians rose up once to send him and his kind packing. Now it's time to do it again. Call, fax, email, tweet, whatever, your representative with a simple message...American jobs for Americans first.