Two categories of news the press has studiously avoided during the Obama era came together this week, causing it to (in my view) proactively decide to ignore emotional congressional testimony which should have been front-page news almost everywhere.
The first is their virtually complete disinterest in reporting on congressional hearings. The list is longer than can be recounted here, but certainly includes Operation Fast & Furious, the IRS targeting scandal (now on Day 1,025) and implementation of Obamacare. The second is their reluctance to report any news casting the government's handling of legal and illegal immigration in a bad light. Leo Perrero's shocking testimony, which detailed the treatment of American IT workers at Disney who were replaced by lower-skilled foreign workers they were required to train, contained both elements. It was thus ripe to be ignored — and was.
The H-1B visa program has been under considerable fire for some time. Outrage has grown in recent years as several U.S. companies — certainly far more than are widely known — have brazenly brought in foreign workers to replace U.S. citizens on their payroll and demanded that those being released train their replacements or face loss of severance pay or even immediate termination.
This is what has occurred at Disney.
Thursday afternoon, displaced Disney worker Leo Perrero testified at a hearing held by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest headed by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. The Associated Press did not cover it (as seen here and here in searches on Perrero's last name and here in a search on "Disney" which returns no relevant results). Neither did the New York Times, though the Old Gray Lady did have a story on January 26 when Perrero and another former Disney coworker filed a lawsuit against the company.
Here is what Perrero had to say:
Transcript (bold are mine):
LEO PERRERO: I made a change in the direction of my career because January 31 of 2015 was my last day in the technology field. That day, 20 years of hard work, a bachelors degree in information technology, and an IT job for Disney were all over when my team, along with hundreds of others, were displaced by a less-skilled foreign workforce imported into our country using the H-1B visa program.
The former Disney employees with far superior skills and knowledge were the trainers, and the guest workers just entering the technology field were the trainees.
This situation is far from the original intent of this program, and is shocking to everybody that hears it.
I worked at Disney in Orlando in some capacity for 10 years and received the very highest employee performance review. Quotes included, "Leo continues to provide value to our team"; "this year Leo was instrumental"; "Leo saved the company over $10,000." And finally, "I look forward to another great year of having Leo on our team."
During the holiday season of 2014, I was sent a meeting invitation by a prominent Disney executive. With an excellent review and hand along with the company announcement of record profits, my mind buzzed with thoughts of a promotion or bonus.
I walked into a small conference room with two dozen highly respected fellow IT workers. The Disney executive made a harsh announcement to us all: "All of you in this room will be losing your jobs in the next 90 days. Your jobs have been given over to a foreign workforce. In the meantime, you will be training your replacements until your jobs are 100% transferred over to them, and if you do not cooperate you will not receive any severance pay."
The only glimmer of hope during that meeting was the announcement that new, more exciting jobs would be opening soon. However, we found out that only four people would be directly rehired by Disney out of the hundreds that were lost.
I was completely silent during this meeting, thinking how this was going to affect my coworkers. How was I going to break the news to my family and pay all of our expenses? I would soon be living on unemployment ... (pauses to compose himself)
Later that same day, I clearly remember going to the local church pumpkin sale and having to tell the kids that I couldn't buy any that year because my job was being turned over to a foreign worker ... (pauses again)
I started to think, what kind of American I was becoming. Was I going to become part of ruining our country by taking severance pay in exchange for training my foreign replacement? How many other American families would be affected by this same foreign worker that I trained?
The first part of my 90 day period was focused on capturing all that we did with our jobs. We all felt extremely humiliated foreign workers sat next to us and watched everything that we did ... (pauses again)
The final period of the 90 days was the most disgraceful, and demoralizing as we had to watch the foreign workers completely take over our jobs, and we came to grips that the upcoming Disney jobs promised didn't exist.
Then finally on January 31, 2015, we were ordered to turn in our company badges, laptops, and then ushered out the door.
How can it be that everybody that hears these stories about Disney and the like, from the barbers to the bankers, are completely shocked? Yet our lawmakers continue to evade the topic and take no action.
The reason that more affected IT workers don't come out into the public is two-fold. And that is why most lawmakers mostly hear from the tech giants, and are very rarely heard from the displaced American workers who will disclose themselves publicly.
The first reason is that they're scared to find the next IT job. After being displaced, when that job pool is shrinking for Americans, if they speak out, they will certainly not improve their prospects of landing the next job. But this could permanently bar them from the field, when the large portion of large technology companies are exploiting these visa programs.
One of my former peers, who is now working for a consulting company, decided to speak out publicly. He was told he had to stop immediately, since most of his clientele were large Fortune 500 companies, and they used the H-1B program extensively.
The second reason that more of them don't speak out is for legal intimidation reasons. From gag orders signed when American workers sign severance package agreements, the American IT worker feels they are legally bound to keep that situation quiet, and at most speak anonymously.
I'm appearing today because I'm one of the few workers who can speak out in public, because I made the decision to walk away from technology.
This abuse of the H-1B visa program is not about the lack of talent here in the US. If our own pool of IT professionals were so incompetent, then why would companies like Disney and many others have us spend months training our replacements? And also, why would such a low ratio of US STEM graduates land a STEM job?
The situation at Disney is not an anomaly. The same abuse is happening nationwide.
Some quotes from IT workers that I've worked with:
- "I know that jobs like mine are scarce, because they're filled with H-1B employees." (Jeff, current Disney employee)
- "The big tech giants say they don't have enough skilled workers, which is false. This will become a self-fulfilling prophecy as we have more students opt out of technology as they continue to recruit from developing countries." (Matt, former Disney employee)
- "Unemployment hurts. I ran out of benefits and I have to pay for full COBRA insurance which is over $3,000 per month, because my young daughter suffers from anxiety. Besides that, I have a mortgage, utilities, schooling and job searching to pay for. As my young daughter outgrows her clothes, that is even more money." (former IBM worker)
That's all I have to say this afternoon. Thank you for listening.
How sad it is that the best coverage of Perrero's testimony is at the UK Daily Mail, which apparently cares more about the fate of American workers than this nation's own establishment press. A search at Google News on Perrero's full name this evening at 11:30 p.m. returned only 26 items — and most of them were from center-right blogs and outlets.
How ironic it is that whenever employers bring in replacement workers during a union strike, it is automatically considered news among (largely unionized) establishment media journalists. But when a company deliberately displaces loyal workers who have shown up and done their jobs for years, and in some cases decades, and one of them has the courage to speak out against this abuse — well, it's obviously not all that important.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.