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How-Not-to-Hire-U.S.-Workers Law Firm Fires Back 462

Posted by Zonk
from the those-rascally-scamps dept.
theodp writes "Congress is now calling for a Dept. of Labor investigation into a Pittsburgh law firm after a video showing its attorneys advising employers how to game the immigration system was posted on YouTube. Cohen & Grigsby, the firm in question, issued a statement insisting their statements were commandeered and misused, but would not allow CBS to view the original video in its entirety. Cohen & Grigsby has also been advising employers since 2002 that they have nothing to fear if they keep employees in the dark about the existence of DOL-required H-1B Public Access Files."
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How-Not-to-Hire-U.S.-Workers Law Firm Fires Back

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  • their website (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squarefish (561836) * on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:35PM (#19621037)
    has the tag line 'progressive law' all over the place. I would suggest replacing the word 'progressive' with 'breakin' the'
  • Moot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:40PM (#19621097)
    If the dollar continues to fall as it has over the last few years.

     
  • by davidwr (791652) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:41PM (#19621103) Homepage Journal
    If you are going to evade the spirit of the law, don't be surprised when the lawmakers take note.
  • Shameful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:48PM (#19621151)
    This entire system is broken and should be scrapped. The government simply cannot enforce the restrictions in place. The H-1B is supposed to be a temp visa for positions that can't be filled domestically, but I see very few people using it that way. The sponsoring companies are using it as a means to keep labor costs down, and the visa holders seem to mostly be using it as a stepping stone to citizenship(the ones I know are). You should just accept this and roll the visa into a citizen-track visa, make it easy for visa holders to bring their families, make it easy for them to switch jobs, and then they won't have to worry about getting booted out of the country if they lose their job.
  • by larry bagina (561269) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:50PM (#19621167) Journal
    open borders and a welfare state are mutually exclusive.
  • I wish. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGeneration (228855) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:54PM (#19621217) Journal
    I wish the courts had the power to force a man to work a minimum wage job when he is found doing such unethical work. The only way this would work would be if the courts were to take all of the mans other income as a fine as well. I want these people to see the life they are damning the rest of the country to.
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @01:55PM (#19621237)
    Talk to ANYBODY who has got a green card thru their company (assuming they were reasonably cognisent of the process) and you will discover the same thing - this is standard operating procedure, and not just an abuse by this specific law firm.

    The way the system is set up, how can it be any other way... if a company has decided they want to get someone a green card, then of course they do whatever they can to achieve that. If they instead wanted to replace the person with a US worker then they'd be doing an honest job search, and NOT pursing a green card. Duh! The law says you have to advertize the job, so you put an ad for the job in the most obscure paper possible, with the job requirements so custom tailored to the person you are trying to get a green card for that no one else can qualify. I'm sure it works better than ever in recent years now that most people expect to find job openings online rather than in the local paper.

    What's lame here is Congress pretending to give a crap (presumably just because this particular story/video has hit the press) and wanting to investigate this particular law firm. One has to wonder are they being investigated for breaking the law, or rather just for making Congress look bad by openly flaunting the law? If Congress really gave a crap they'd fix the broken system rather than go after a law firm doing nothing different than every other law firm hired to assist in this process.
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:04PM (#19621313)
    If Homeland Security has it's way, get ready for just about everything we consume, from produce to fast food, to home prices, everything will go sky-high. The fact is, there are a lot of things that we require for our "standard of living" that we Americans are not willing to do for what employers can pay.

    Second issue: Do "illegals" really want to stay in this country? Here in Washington State, that's not the case. Many "illegals" make reasonably good money here for hard work, and send it home, where they will eventually retire, in a place where money is worth more than it is here. Not all "illegals" intend to stay, and very, very, very few take any jobs away from "Americans". When people talk about "immigration problems", most are not talking about High Tech jobs.

  • I want these guys around to advise my competition! In fact, I hope every company I might ever
    compete with, goes out and hires these guys to help them hire as many "low-bid" workers as they can.

    Meanwhile, I'll focus on hiring the best workers possible, regardless of where they are from, and eventually run
    these other guys out of business anyway.
  • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:06PM (#19621323) Journal
    Ask yourself why the US has so many high paying jobs compared to Mexico. It is maybe because over many years the actions of the government and the various freedoms protected by the government have made the US more powerful and wealthier than Mexico? No maybe you don't agree with the way the US got it's wealth and power but don't be so deliberately ignorant to deny that the wealth and power is here by design. That design is created and implimented by the US government.
  • Tip of the Iceberg (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Esion Modnar (632431) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:15PM (#19621409)
    Or... when you see one cockroach... This is what we all suspect goes on behind closed doors, and why many of us have a basic dislike of the corporate "suits." Let these assholes be the first against the wall.

    And for those of you bitching about how us Americans don't have any more right to a job than anybody else, suck it. Every country has a responsibility to give first priority to the employment and prosperity of its own TAX PAYING citizens. America is no exception. Any company, from any country, found acting in bad faith with the government and its citizens, should be dealt with very harshly.

  • by rueger (210566) * on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:15PM (#19621417) Homepage
    I have no reason to doubt that these lawyers keep their clients within the law, however much they might "game the system." That, after all, is why you hire a lawyer.

    The job of the lawyer is to know the law inside out so that they can assist their client. The job of the legislator is to draft laws and regulations that have as few loopholes and weaknesses as possible.

    If blame is to be assigned, it goes to the lawmakers.

    Honestly though I suspect that most companies paying for this kind of advice are probably fooling themselves. Between the falling U.S. dollar, legal costs, and the inefficiencies associated with training and replacing short term or contract employees they likely aren't saving enough money to make it worthwhile.

    Just because it looks cheap doesn't mean it really saves you money.
  • by ErikZ (55491) * on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:16PM (#19621425)
    Yeah. I'm sure the wrist-slapping will be unparalleled in human history.
  • get real (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:31PM (#19621563)
    What the lawyer is talking about is a green card application, usually for someone who has already worked many years at a company and lived and paid taxes in the US. There is a formal requirement that the company post a job ad. Of course, companies don't want any applicants for that job ad: they already have someone for that job that they have invested a lot of time and money in. Do you seriously think they are going to send that guy home based on someone who sends in a resume? And companies are likely paying that guy competitively because once they get the green card, he could leave immediately.

    I've seen these requirements for formal job postings in non-immigration contexts as well, and they never work. If finding qualified, good applicants were as simple as posting a job ad and collecting resumes, headhunters and hiring bounties would be such a booming business.
  • Security Clearance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gatkinso (15975) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:46PM (#19621685)
    Last refuge of the American tech worker. (We'll see how long that lasts.)

    The rest of the world wonders why America has suddenly taken to blowing up small nations... when many of the only moderately secure jobs in the US are in the defense sector.

    Sigh.
  • Re:Shameful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @02:51PM (#19621739) Homepage
    That law is already in place. Maybe not enforced very well, but that specific law is here already.

    What the H-1B worker gets you is someone that can't switch jobs. They need a sponsoring employer and have about two weeks to leave the country if they lose that sponsoring employer that brought them in. Switching sponsors isn't trivial. So you have a worker that can't quit and unless they want to return to the armpit of a place they came from, they will do what they are told and keep their mouth shut.

    This has little to do with wages and everything to do with worker "loyalty."
  • by Wansu (846) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @03:33PM (#19622081)

    ... this is standard operating procedure, and not just an abuse by this specific law firm.

    You're right. This has been going on since the inception of the H1-B program. In 1990, I watched a parade of US citizens interviewing where I worked for an engineering job opening later filled by an H1-B. The opening had also been posted to a bulletin board there with a salary that was about $10k less than a US citizen fresh out of engineering school would have made. Management was annoyed at having to jump through these hoops to obtain the cheap labor.

    What is new here is the YouTube factor. The lawyer isn't really sorry his comments were commandeered. He's sorry he and the others got busted on YouTube. This film is an outrage, as is the H1-B program. It takes a film like this to cause a stink. Too bad we didn't have YouTube 17 years ago.

  • Re:good faith (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CharlesEGrant (465919) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @04:14PM (#19622445)

    The problem here isn't "bad faith" by anybody, it's government regulations that are out of step with the real world.


    Did you actually watch the video in question? The lawyers gave explicit suggestions on how to rig the interview and advertising process to avoid getting responses from qualified US citizens. If that isn't bad faith, I don't know what is. This is not just an executive order, or a regulation propounded by a goverment agency, this is an honest-to-gosh law passed by congress. You may not like it, it may be inconvenient, it may even be foolish, but it is the law. You can challenge it court, you can lobby to have it changed, but to simply conspire to evade the law by fraud is corrosive of the rule of law.

    An awful lot of Slashdot readers believe that US intellectual property law is out of step with the real world. Are they justified in simply ignoring it?
  • by JP205 (263673) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @04:18PM (#19622483) Homepage
    Hmmm...
    This would explain all those job adds with ridiculous requirements, and how I could never find work when I lived in Pittsburgh. Then again perhaps it was just the economy at the time.
  • Re:get real (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hibiki_r (649814) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @04:23PM (#19622523)
    If a company is sponsoring someone for a green card, chances are that person has already been working for them for at least a couple of years, if not 4 or 5, and they have no interest in firing him to just get an American that would need a year of training to fill the same position with similar productivity. Since no two programming jobs are the same, creating a position that requires very specific knowledge is not really fraudulent: After all, what the company is asking for is someone that can take the foreigner's responsibilities.

    I for one have no problem with that behavior. Would you rather have the H1B go back to his home country because he can't renew his visa any longer, and compete with you from overseas? He'll still get the job, be paid less, and not contribute to the American economy at all.

    Make it easier for them to come here and stay here. Stopping them will just make the competition even more unfair for Americans.
  • by codepunk (167897) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @05:10PM (#19622847)
    There is a rather simple solution to the great immigration and guest worker debate. I spent 10 years
    of my life in the US military. There are 10's of thousands of other troops on the front lines
    in Iraq fighting insurgents. These brave men are putting their lives on the line every day so that we here in the states can maintain what freedoms we still have and assisting in securing our national interests.

    If you want to immigrate to the US then fine you spend 4 years active duty in my country's military and earn your green card. Everyone able bodied and of qualified military age should have to serve
    4 years in our military to earn a green card. After those 4 years if someone want's to deny you
    a green card, I will be the first to help you kick their ass.

    Our troops ain't over there right now risking their lives just so they can come home and be
    denied jobs because of crap like this!

    Now tell me I am wrong!
  • Cohen? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Saturday June 23, 2007 @05:55PM (#19623179) Journal
    Cohen? That's a jewish name. This is not surprising; jews are amongst the worst people when it comes to employee treatment. Their niggardlyness is legendary; they will go to great lenghts to avoid paying a fair price for anything.
  • by homer_s (799572) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @06:09PM (#19623321)
    McDonalds and Wendy's would have to charge more. Their people would get paid more.

    You are making a common mistake.
    Everyone understands that "If company A raises prices, people would go to company B".
    But for some reason everyone assumes that if the *entire industry* raises prices, people would just pay up.
    That is not true - if *industry A* raises prices, people will look for alternatives.

    So, if McDonalds and Wendy's would have to charge more, people would look for alternatives - packing lunch from home, etc. Then their people would... lose their jobs.

    These people could then afford to pay more for rent and maybe apartment building owners could make some improvements.
    Nope, they cannot find any other job with their skills and will be out on the streets or on social security.

    See? Everybody wins.
    Only in a world where marginal productivity does not matter. Unfortunately (for you), in this world, people's rewards are tied to what they can produce. No amount of govt. meddling can change that fact.
  • by toriver (11308) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @06:17PM (#19623383)
    Maybe he thinks "America" is something that stretches form Terra Fuego in the south to the frozen wastes of Canada in the North?We are geeks: We need precise term and the popular definition of American as someone from the United States is not that.

    Also, he has a point: Employers shopping for workforce in cheap countries is no different from a consumer choosing to buy cheap products at a mall store than a more expensive and smaller local store.

    The dumbest persons alive are the people who think that "hire American" will work any better than the car industry "buy American" did.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @06:41PM (#19623513)
    I'll give it a stab.

    If my cornfield has plentiful heads of corn because I practiced wise field practices, watered and weeded regularly, should I have more rights to the corn than random people driving down the highway who decide they want some of my corn now that it is ripe?

    If my city engages in good policy so that we have a good economy should I not have more rights to employment in my city than strangers who had no part in building but merely snuck in at night after we had done the hard work?

    If my country engages in an economic and political system which over the course of 40 years causes my country to have surplus and the country next door (say a religious quasi dictator plutocracy with rampant corruption) reduces itself to ruin over 40 years, should non-citizens be able to come in, break the law (w/regard to housing, driving, paying taxes, forged documents, etc. etc.), and have more right to a job than citizens?

    ---

    However as far as capitalism goes- with real capitalism, we would be able to buy our drugs for .10 like indians instead of for $5.35. We would be able to reimport those $2.49 movies and pay maybe $3.00 instead of $19.99. We wouldn't be competing against chinese child and prison slave labor. If you want real capitalism- I'm for it. Outsourcing bothers me- on the basis above. It is an end run around our labor laws that corporations get to make while they continue to charge full retail for their products allowing me to gloriously subsidize large parts of the rest of the world.
  • Re:their website (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @07:35PM (#19623879)
    Careful: you're twisting your words into falsehood. They're very careful in the visible parts of the presentation to tell how to comply with the law. The violation of the spirit of laws is what corporate attorneys are paid to do: it's absolutely typical and normal for them to advise clients on how to skirt the law.

    The "read between the lines" parts of the presentation are fascinating: the implication that an employer could and should find some excuse to block US employees that they can put on paper, even a weak one, is very typical of such a discussion with a corporate attorney.
  • by Seumas (6865) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @07:38PM (#19623891)
    How are Americans more entitled to an American job from an American company that gets American tax breaks and largely serves the American consumer-base? Hmm.. Gee, I don't know. And don't you dare act like every other country isn't extremely protectionist of their jobs and workforce.

    Further, capitalism is fine. However, while the average corporation can seek out labor all over the planet and simply put up an office or hire workers from the cheapest areas, the American citizen does not have such a pool to choose from - neither in terms of employment or cost of living.

    A corporation can pick from the entire planet and decide to invest in an area where they can pay experienced professionals as much in salary as the average American citizen pays in rent. While the corporation and the American citizen may be based in America, the corporation is not constrained by the dynamics, labor supply and financial situation of this country. The worker, however, is. We don't have a choice. Milk is about $3.85 per gallon. Period. I can't go somewhere and buy it for a nickel a gallon. And if you want to live close enough to these corporations to work for them, you're usually looking at more expensive living. You will pay $800 or $1,000 or $2,000 for a one bedroom apartment or half a million bucks for a small house. Period. Unless you plan on commuting 1500 miles from some hill in the midwest out to the west coast every morning.

    Then, to add insult to injury, this shoddy form of sham-capitalism isn't enough for them. They want to compound it by telling us that Americans are not plentiful enough or educated enough. Now, if there is a shortage of milk or gas, I have to pay more money for it. If there is a shortage of experienced labor in this country, corporations simply artificially adjust the value of these workers by lobbying government to let them bring in more employees from overseas or to simply move a chunk of their own operations overseas.

    People try to suggest that Americans are racist or xenophobic when all they are doing is showing concern for their well-being and their careers. They have a right to do so. Especially when - on top of the imbalanced system - we have underhanded corporations and services as in this article working to drill us even further into the ground.
  • Re:Shameful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Copid (137416) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @07:50PM (#19623967)

    Employers are only doing this so that they can get lower cost labor. The easist way to fix it is to require them to pay equal pay to all workers and not pay someone lower just because they do not have a green card. Also, allow the immigrant the right to sue for this fair wage. To allow it to pass, just grandfather clause the existing workers. That would end this abuse over night because there would be no more reason to game the system anymore.
    In theory, they're already supposed to be paying competitive wages for the positions, but anybody who has taken an introductory economics course knows that there's no reason for a marginal worker added to the pool to get the same wage that worker would have before the pool expanded. There is a much simpler solution to this that I think could work (with one major caveat): Auction off the visas. It's completely ridiculous to use a lottery system to ration workers when those workers vary in quality and value. The company that wants to sponsor a visa would have to bid on the visa. It would instantly
    From Family Guy:
    Guy: Hello I've come to join your town.
    Peter: Do you have a degree in anything?
    Guy: Well actually yeah I'm a doctor.
    Peter: Yeah well I hope you get it. Pick a job.
    [Guy picks a job out of the hat]
    Peter: Woah you got the village idiot! On Tuesdays you get to wave your penis at the traffic.

    Handing out visas by lottery and sending home a worker that a company would have paid a fortune to sponsor doesn't make any sense either.

    The only problem is that we'd have to think about how government officials may be tempted to change the number of visas to affect revenue. My guess is that the number of visas that produces the highest overall revenue is probably the correct number to issue anyway, but I'm not totally sure.
  • by SashaMan (263632) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @07:56PM (#19624009)
    The argument, though, is that since the law states the employer must make a "good faith effort" to find a qualified US worker that they ARE breaking the letter of the law. When the whole objective of the process is to go through the motions with the end goal of not finding a qualified US worker (i.e. "we're going to make it look like you're looking for qualified applicants even though you have absolutely no plan of hiring a US worker"), it seems to me any rational person would not consider this a good faith effort.
  • by BryanL (93656) <lowtherbf@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Saturday June 23, 2007 @09:02PM (#19624427)
    "If blame is to be assigned, it goes to the lawmakers."

    Who are mostly lawyers. So we are back to blaming the lawyers.
  • Re:their website (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cfulmer (3166) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:09PM (#19624767) Homepage Journal
    Most statutes do not have a single well-defined purpose behind them -- they're the result of horse-trading in the Congress to get enough votes to pass a bill. Legislation is often the result of compromise. For every congressman who wanted the H1-B visa law drafted broadly to keep out as many foreign workers as possible, there's another one who favors immigration and wants it drafted narrowly. So, the two sides compromise and get a bill that neither of them would choose by itself, but which they can both agree is better than nothing. The vagaries and loopholes are often put in on purpose.

    When that happens, what are you supposed to do? Do you follow the "spirit" that the anti-immigration side wanted, or the "spirit" that the pro-immigration side wanted?
  • Re:their website (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jens Egon (947467) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @02:06AM (#19625903)

    Ever heard of justice, guys?

    That's where you let serious people weigh the evidence before letting the axe fall.

    If you have to do something write 'Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Representative Lamar Smith (R-Tex.)' and tell them how you feel.

    They can at least use your engagement to positive ends.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @05:33AM (#19626599)
    I'm sorry to be so blunt, but that is just a dumb statement. Saying that replacing American workers with cheaper H1-B labor does the American employee a favor by freeing him up to go form the next Youtube or Google is absurd. Congratulations! You've just been laid off! Now you can go be a millionaire!

    Yes, because it was that damn loyalty to the position that was keeping me from realizing my dreams of running the next multi-billion dollar IPO. Thank god for foreign labor or I might have been employed forever!
  • Re:Moot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:35PM (#19631753)
    It sounds like you don't know much about economics. Maybe you just haven't thought much about this.

    A strong dollar means lots of stuff can be imported. Maybe that's bad for you if you're trying to export some cheap crap, or sell to tourists, but it's good for everyone else. Your model works well in 3rd-world countries with good tourism economies, like various Caribbean islands. It doesn't work for an economic superpower. Have you noticed that western Europe has an extremely high standard of living, yet their currency is very highly valued? There's a reason for this. Now notice that the Mexican peso is worth less than dirt, and the standard of living there is downright horrific. Again, there's a reason for this correlation.

    There's not enough raw materials in Europe or North America for our economies to be fully self-supporting, not yet at least. One big thing we're lacking is energy, mainly from oil. We also need lots of other raw materials for our industries, such as copper and steel. Copper in particular has risen in value dramatically, and is very important for the housing industry among others. The big problem we're having is that India and China's economies have dramatically strengthened, and they're buying a lot more oil, copper, and steel, and as a consequence our prices are going way up. If the Dollar were much stronger, we wouldn't notice this so much.

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