Even one of Congress’s most prominent supporters of H1-B visa increases finds it “deeply disturbing” that Southern California Edison may be using the program to replace American workers with cheaper foreigners who may not even be as qualified.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who co-sponsored the “Skills Act,” which would increase the number of H1-B visas that are awarded annually, said 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.” ComputerWorld reported that Southern California Edison employees are furious that the company is forcing American workers to train less qualified guest workers who will be replacing them.
“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,” Issa noted.
Issa urged Southern California Edison to “be forthcoming in releasing information about the process behind this decision.”
“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,” he added.
Issa noted that “Congress is currently considering reforms to the H1-B 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.” But murky “prevailing wage protections” language has not stopped companies like Southern California Edison from using the H-1B program to, in Issa’s words, “replace existing workers with lower cost imported labor.”
In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has opposed massive increases in H-1B visas during a time in which there is a surplus of American tech workers, said the ComputerWorld report is another example of big business abusing the H-1B visa program to get rid of American workers. On the Senate floor last week, Sessions said:
Apparently, what happens is these companies sign up workers… in this case… India, and they call up the big power company and say: ‘Look, we have all these young people who have an education, and your salaries are real generous to them, they like your salaries, and we will just send them over on H-1B visas. They can stay 3 years and then return to their country and you can get rid of all those American workers. Maybe you will not have to pay such high retirement or health care benefits.
He added that lawmakers need to consider “what is in the interest of American workers at a time when we are laying off large numbers of workers–skilled and unskilled.”
“Do we really need massive increases in foreign workers? Do we need to pass legislation that would double the number of guest workers that come into the country at this time?” Sessions asked. “I think not.”