Sunday, January 20, 2008

Programmers Guild presents at Sloan West Coast Program on Science and Engineering Workers

On Friday January 18, 2008 Kim Berry represented the "perspective of the U.S. worker" at the Sloan West Coast Program on Science and Engineering Workers, held at UC Davis. PowerPoints of the presenters are in the above link, and an html-friendly version of my PowerPoint is here. The conference was the first of several being sponsored by a Sloan Foundation grant.

Norm Matloff's newsletter gave this account:

Kim Berry of the Programmer's Guild gave a really outstanding talk. I had seen his slides earlier, and they were fine, but his delivery greatly enhanced the content. Here was a real victim, speaking calmly yet with contained anger at the fact that all our respected institutions--both major political parties, the business community and academia--are complicit in maintaining that sham known as H-1B. His account of hiring decision meetings in which he participated, in which qualified American applicants were repeatedly rejected in favor of H-1Bs, ought to have been videotaped; his speech would have been just as effective the Cohen & Grigsby "TubeGate" videos.

I wish the entire event had been videotaped. But since no one else was taking video, and since some people might not want to ask or respond to hard questions on record, I chose not to tape my presentation. But here are a few of my talking points:

SLIDE 2: H-1b Influx is independent from labor market – 2000-2004 record H-1b influx

There is talk about revising the current 85,000 visa cap to a "market-based" cap. We have already tried a market-based cap: In 2001-2004 we had a virtual market-based cap. As documented by the San Jose Mercury News, during this period 25% to 50% of U.S. tech workers in Silicon Valley were pushed out of the job market. And during this same period H-1b influx was higher than at any time during the growth years of 1990-2000. How bad would the economy have to get before a "market-based" cap kicked in?

SLIDES 11-15 Americans are being displaced by H-1b’s lack of U.S. worker recruitment was launched on January 13, 2008. Already we have gathered dozens of testimonials of substantial harm by the H-1b program. These 5 slides summarized those testimonials.

SLIDE 25 Programmers Guild H-1b Reforms

The closing slide summarized the reforms that the Guild believes are necessary to add some level of protection for U.S. workers:

  • True prevailing wage of at least what average Americans earn within the same job classifications.
  • H-1b and L-1 LCAs only approved after the employer has conducted good faith, transparent recruitment, and was unable to find any qualified U.S. candidates, at any price.
  • H-1b only granted to U.S. business entities with as direct hires - not to consulting firms (Indian or otherwise) to be re-shopped against American job seekers.
  • H-1b to include a $1,200 annual fee that would be used to fund $15,000 scholarships for American college students in STEM programs - consistent with legislation that Senator Sanders has introduced twice.

I liked Stan Sorscher's graphs showing how until about 1980 the economic gains of industrial advancements were shared at all wage levels "what's good for GM is good for America." But since then the gains have disproportionately gone to the top income levels (the elite? The CEOs?). He continued by speculating that globalization is a force that separates the good of business from the good of citizens (one of his last PPT slides).

Lisa Spiegel, immigration attorney Duane Morris had argued that America benefits from H-1b since the $1500 fee is used for training programs. During my presentation I asked how many people would sell their careers for $1500? No hands went up.


As Norm reported in his newsletter, Jack Trumpbour of Harvard SEWP reported that Industry had told him that one thing they liked about workers in China is that 100% would take advantage of training programs, while in the USA only about 10% of workers were interested in training programs. I disputed this - in my experience at serveral companies, nearly 100% of workers were interested in and attended training programs when available. Jack Trumpbour stated that he would investigate this claim further. From PAGE 5 of Trumpbour's study:

    However, many other managers in China implicitly faulted U.S. engineers by noting that 100 percent of Chinese engineers will take training programs offered by the company, while U.S. workers pursue these activities in puny single-digit percentages. IBM China specifically expressed disappointment about the low U.S. participation in company training, but other global companies in China soon confirmed this disparity.

    Based on my experience I do not believe these claims by IBM managers that only 10% of workers in the USA would take advantage of company training programs. But we need some specific examples.