Only in The Best Interests Of Workers
Senate Democrats and President Obama are determined to pass a version of comprehensive immigration reform, and any version will do. Fox News reported last weekend
More than any other group, the high-tech industry got big wins in an immigration bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, thanks to a concerted lobbying effort, an ideally positioned Senate ally and relatively weak opposition.
The result amounted to a bonanza for the industry: unlimited green cards for foreigners with certain advanced U.S. degrees and a huge increase in visas for highly skilled foreign workers.
And thanks to the intervention of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the industry succeeded in greatly curtailing controls sought by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., aimed at protecting U.S. workers.
In exchange, Hatch voted for the bill when it passed the committee, helping boost its bipartisan momentum as it heads to the Senate floor next month. For Durbin and his allies in organized labor, winning Hatch's support was a bitter victory.
"There was an agreement with the tech industry and Sen. Hatch said he wanted more, and that was what it took to get his vote," Durbin said in an interview.
It's difficult to determine whether the senior senator from Illinois was being naive or instead trying to scam American workers when he claimed industry lobbyists "really used Senator Hatch's vote to improve their position in the bill. But I think in fairness now, I hope the industry is satisfied and they will not push this any further." He added "Look, these are companies looking to contribute to the American economy in a way that benefits American workers and American-trained foreign workers."
First, we're told the Orrin Hatch sold out to the industry or, as Durbin puts it, "really used Senator Hatch's vote to improve their position in the bill." Those same industries, doncha know, are "looking to contribute to the American economy in a way that benefits American workers and American-trained foreign workers."
Uh, no. Walter Hickey reviews a recent report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce and presents the following two charts, based on the authors' analysis of two sets of statistics (both from 2013): the first from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, the second the National Center for Education Statistics.
64.5% of computer science majors are working in their major field.
18.7% of computer science majors are not working in the field because of pay, promotion or working conditions.
11.2% of computer science majors are not working in the field because jobs are not available.
The remaining 5.6% aren't working in CS because of job location or other factors.
It's the middle two of these four stats that are most concerning.
If Silicon Valley has a shortage of tech workers, why are 11% of CS majors claiming that there weren't jobs available?
Likewise, if there's such a desperate shortage, why is Silicon Valley not keeping compensation on pace with demand, in order to attract the 19% who cite pay or working conditions as a reason they're not working in tech?
Most importantly: Why is the technology industry citing a non-existent shortage of American STEM majors as the justification for raising the number of foreign born worker permits?
I think we know the answer to that, and it has to do with wages, and a conscious effort not "to contribute to the American economy in a way that benefits American workers." Hickey acknowledges that the STEM sector wants to hold down salaries, but maintains additionally there "is a shortage of ultra-elite American-born talent, and Silicon Valley wants to hire the very best in the world. The view from Silicon Valley is that a lot of the U.S. talent, while bountiful in number, just doesn't stack up."
But as AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka wrote this past week in USA Today in response to the Judiciary Committee's action
Americans aren't looking for handouts. We aren't looking to be hired for jobs for which we lack essential qualifications. We just want a fair chance to use the skills we have earned — often at the cost of huge student loans — to work our way into the middle-class jobs of the future.
High-tech companies say there are "too few" American high-tech workers, but that's not true.
Today there are 20,000 fewer African-American computer programmers and system analysts employed than in 2008.
In the fields of computer and information science and engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50% more students than there are new hires.
Basic supply and demand suggests that if there were too few qualified tech workers, their average salaries would be going up. But tech wages haven't risen since Bill Clinton was president.
Clearly, high tech is not looking to bring in H-1B visa holders for a few years at a time because there is a shortage of tech workers. They want a massive expansion of H-1B visa holders because they can pay them less.
If American workers are to be sold out so that a comprehensive immigration bill can be enacted, it is, for some Senate Democrats and the President, mere collateral damage.