I have often reiterated that cheap labor is only an ancillary benefit of replacing native workers with imported Visamericans. The prime compulsion is to generate revenue growth via consumers. And no amnesty will ever satisfy this drive, as new consumers are perpetually required to hurdle prior corporate metrics. This is an aspect that few of even the most congenitally-jaded among us fully grasp: Growth doesn’t mean a swarm of migrants and amnesty now. It doesn’t mean once again in the future. It means always.
As the geography’s vice president stated with characteristically inebriated candor: “The US must have a constant, unrelenting stream of immigrants. This is it–the in vino veritas. This is what growth requires. And Biden is sufficiently distanced from his faculties to actually state the matter outright. And that constant unrelenting yellow stream splashing into your children’s faces…Biden would like you to know that the changes will be immense, and they will be all to the good.
And while growth should be understood as the animating force, corporate carrion crawlers certainly won’t deny themselves a few extra dollars shed from the income statement’s cost-of-goods-sold. And if your countrymen can’t be betrayed for an extra shiny nickel, then why exactly are they working for you in the first place? There is principles and then there is money: may never the two meet.
So this piece is to discuss that almost achingly sensual moment when a patriotic businessman terminates his American staff in favor of one requiring less plumbing expense.
And would you like to know what makes this so delicious to the corporate executive? It’s all in the execution. To choose one’s employees, to prepare one’s plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed – there is nothing sweeter in the world. And in this case, the plans call for fired Americans to train their replacements.
Ahhh, their bitter tears are ambrosia upon the accountant’s tongue.
This is the story of an IT worker who was replaced by a worker on an H-1B visa, one of a number of visa holders, mostly from India, who took jobs at this U.S. company. Computerworld is not going to use the worker’s name or identify the companies involved to protect the former employee from retaliation. For purposes of this story, the worker has been given initials — A.B. (They’re not the person’s real initials.)
At A.B.’s company, about 220 IT jobs have been lost to offshore outsourcing over the last year. A.B. is telling the story because, initially, there was little knowledge among fellow employees about H-1B visa holders and how they are used. They didn’t know that offshore outsourcing firms are the largest users of H-1B visas, or exactly how this visa facilitates IT job losses in the U.S.
“I think once we learned about it, we became angrier toward the U.S. government than we were with the people that were over here from India,” A.B. said, “because the government is allowing this.”
The IT workers at this firm first learned of the offshore outsourcing threat through rumors. Later, the IT staff was called into an auditorium and heard directly from the CIO about the plan to replace them. It would take months for the transition to be completed, in part because of some new system installations.
Training the replacement workers involved holding morning-long WebEx meetings several times a week with offshore outsourcing staff based in India. The sessions were recorded as details about the environment, including diagrams and scripts, were shared.
As they moved closer to the termination date for the U.S. workers, the overseas employees would follow or shadow, via WebEx sessions, everything an IT worker did during the day. The outsourcing firm’s onshore staff helped to coordinate these efforts, but also worked to untangle the meaning of some of the questions.
The overseas workers did not appear to have much practical experience, and the same questions were asked repeatedly, A.B. said.
Before they lost their jobs, A.B.’s co-workers decided to made a subtle and symbolic protest over what was happening: As the H-1B visa workers gradually took over the offices once occupied by U.S. workers, one employee brought in a bunch of small American flags on sticks.
The flags were retrofitted so they could fit into the walls of the cubicles.
The flags were displayed, cubicle after cubicle, much like way flags are hung on homes in a residential neighborhoods on the 4th of July. They were visible to anyone walking down the hall. “That was the only thing that we could do,” A.B. said. “We felt that we were making a statement. But to be honest, I don’t think the Indian workers fully understood what was going on.”
To illustrate this point, A.B. recounted a conversation with an offshore outsourcing visa holder. A.B. worked directly with one of the offshore firm’s visa employees, whose job it was to help train the overseas workers.
“I know he was over here to do a job,” A.B. explained. “I treated him as a colleague, even though I was resentful.”
The offshore outsourcing employee was pleasant, and a couple of weeks before A.B.’s job ended, he asked: “That Monday, you are going to another job?”
“I said, ‘No, I’m not going to another job,” A.B. recalled. “‘You are taking my job. I don’t have another job to go to.'” A.B. explained that as an older worker it would be difficult to get another full-time position.
The offshore outsourcing worker later sent A.B. a Facebook friend request. “I don’t think he comprehended the situation over here — that we were losing our jobs, we didn’t have jobs to go to,” A.B. said.
The Facebook friend request was not accepted.
In the last month, the offshore outsourcing workers, again via WebEx, essentially took over A.B.’s job. It became A.B.’s role to follow along to make sure that the offshore workers executed various tasks correctly.
While this was going on, more and more H-1B workers appeared at the company, filling more of the offices.
Before the offshore outsourcing had begun, there was an internal study to compare the costs of insourcing versus outsourcing. A.B. did not see the study, but wonders what would happen if the U.S. government were to impose restrictions on the H-1B visa and raise the cost of using it, and whether that could change the economics of offshoring and encourage more insourcing.
A.B. talked about hopes for getting U.S. lawmakers to visit the company and count the number of Indian workers and the number of American workers. Efforts to arrange meetings with lawmakers were unsuccessful.
“They are going to find more Indian workers than American workers,” A.B. said. “For every India worker that’s there, that used to be an American.”
The American flags have since been removed from the cubicle walls.
The American flag–make that the lapel pin of your Ghost Shirt. It is likely that several of these displaced workers, in their many long hours of unemployed reflection, will come to realize how little that symbol now represents their interests. That the power and authority that flows therefrom is aligned overwhelmingly against them. Perhaps the refusal of their own elected representatives to offer a hearing was a second indication. If they allow themselves to see what senses reveal, many more indications will follow. And I think righteous discontent will not always take the form of toy flags.
Though these men have my sympathy. Not only because what has been done to them is so grating, but because only one whose head resides amidst the clouds wouldn’t consider the implications in his own life. As one who presumes to be in possession of an inimitable conjugal skill-set, I am surely in no fear of spousal outsourcing for marital consortium. Though in context of career, I am more mundane and less sanguine. It is at least conceivable that one of India’s billion could perform my rote task of stacking blocks at a sliver of current compensation.
And I would think there are quite few of us who are irreplaceable in our work. And of those who deem themselves as such, what of your children? Will they be as indispensable as their paternal line? Should they have to be? What did our forefathers intend to bequeath to their posterity? What inheritance is rightfully theirs? To compete on their own soil with a few hundred million Sub-cons?
One cohort of which I am certain to answer yes to the above: corporate executives. It is inconceivable that India can not produce a raft of Hindus capable of operating corporations for less than eight figures each. This is where American boards of directors should hungrily glance first when squeezing one more succulent drop of green blood from the income statement. A H-1B CEO working for half a million instead of 10 would spare the equivalent of hundreds in employment.