Exclusive: Union Official Says ‘Corporate Greed’ Behind Push for H-1B Visas

AP Photo/Nick Ut
AP Photo/Nick Ut

A so-called “war on the American worker” has intensified in the Golden State.

Massive layoffs are being spearheaded by the multi-billion dollar Southern California Edison utilities company, which is terminating scores of American IT workers and replacing them with immigrant IT workers, from a slew of foreign counties, who are willing to work for far less compensation. These immigrants are in the U.S. on an H-1B visa program.

“We don’t need foreign workers. We have plenty of Americans who are fully capable and equipped to carry out these jobs. It’s an absolute issue of corporate greed; nothing more nothing less,” former Edison employee and Marine Pat Lavin told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview late last week.

Lavin is a stalwart Democrat who serves as a business manager and financial secretary for the the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #47. “Edison are master liars,” Lavin cautioned, quipping that he “caught them telling the truth last week and they tried to lie their way out of it.”

Lavin spoke with Breitbart News as one of the California Edison workers laid off in the scandal that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have hammered the company for. Grassley called the layoffs “heartless” and Issa argued that this appears to be an abuse of the program.

America is facing a surplus of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers who are unemployed or have been laid off from work due to companies, like SoCal Edison, that have been outsourcing American jobs to immigrants. According to an article from Robert Charette in IEEE Spectrum, the so-called “STEM Crisis”—where tech leaders like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who claim they need to import cheap foreign labor—is a “myth.”

Increasing the number of H1B visas being imported into America to take jobs from American workers is something that right now is largely supported by the Democratic Party and also has backing from establishment Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. It’s also likely to become a major issue in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries.

“We have this H1B visa program for highly skilled workers and normally the visa is for three to five years,” Bush said in an interview in 2013 on his book “Immigration Wars.” In that same interview, Bush said it would be “foolish” not to pass an extension on the H1B program.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest and has been the most vocal politician in opposition to an extension of the H1B visas. He argues that Republicans don’t need to be handing out corporate welfare in the form of cheaper foreign labor.

“Do we need to have people come to our country to take those jobs? Or, indeed, do we not have a shortage of workers, and do we have difficulty of people finding jobs?” Sessions said on the Senate floor last summer in response to Microsoft layoffs, a situation very similar to Southern California Edison. “The great majority of these guest workers are not farm workers. They take jobs throughout the economy.”

Despite the entire Democratic Party rallying behind the H1B extension program and thus abandoning American workers, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is the only loud voice on the left—other than some local union leaders like Lavin in this Breitbart News interview —calling for an end to the madness.

We need to get rid of H1B workers,” Jackson said in a recent interview with Fortune Magazine. “There are Americans who can do that work, and H1B workers are cheaper and undercut wages.” For now, there are only a handful of populist Republicans like Sessions and Grassley who are standing up in support of the American worker, which presents a massive opportunity for Republicans.

“It’s about time the Republicans did something right,” Lavin told Breitbart News. He said the way SoCal Edison is utilizing and appointing the H1B program, as aligned with the immigration act, is a “misuse and illegal. They’re saying it creates jobs, but it’s not creating American jobs.” He said it would “ludicrous” that an American company, such as Edison, “that is vested by American dollars,” is actually taking jobs away from Americans and creating jobs for other countries, such as India, China and Malaysia.

For the average American worker, an extension of the H1B visa program is an issue that extends into their homes and onto their plates, where the struggle has become as basic as placing enough food on the table and paying a monthly mortgage. In the case of SoCal Edison, middle class families are the ones who suffer the most.

“We were told if we wanted our severance that we were required to train our replacement,” a multiple-decades long-veteran employee of SoCal Edison who spoke with Breitbart News on condition of anonymity said in an interview. She was terminated this year from her IT position and replaced with an H1B worker.

This employee invested years of her life working for SoCal Edison but this year found herself jobless, like hundreds of her peers who were ordered to train their foreign replacements in a process dubbed as “knowledge transfer.” SoCal Edison stonewalled her and used her severance package as collateral against her. “You’re going to train your replacement if you want your severance,” she was told.

“I had a lot to walk away from if I didn’t stick around. And I really hoped that I’d be one of the people they’d keep. I didn’t want to throw in the towel because I had too much to lose; I would lose my severance and my disability.”

She suffers from a physical disability, which amplifies her challenge of finding a job. She told Breitbart News that she lies awake at night entrenched in fear about how she is going to pay for her children’s education, her mortgage, and eventually basic necessities such as food.

It’s only a matter of time until those funds run out. After that, “I’ll just have to use government resources and look for a job,” she told Breitbart News. “And I recently found out disability sucks. You can’t even eat on the amount,” she added.

Several employees have come forward recently saying that SoCal Edison had used intimidation tactics such as telling them they would replace one worker with 4, 5, or 6 foreign workers on H1B visas, in an attempt to pressure them into taking a pay cut. Lavin, however, contends that these were lies and that the reality of what is happening is that SoCal Edison is replacing $95,000 annual wage earners with foreigners who will take $60,000 to $65,000 instead.

He insisted that the H1-B visas should be used to replace the Congressmen and women who are in favor of an extension on it, suggesting it might result in more logical leadership and legislation. “Maybe we should farm the Congress out to H1B. We might get a better product out of it; people who actually make sense.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz


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