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Businesses IT

Displaced IT Workers Being Silenced 398

dcblogs writes A major problem with the H-1B debate is the absence of displaced IT workers in news media accounts. Much of the reporting is one-sided — and there's a reason for this. An IT worker who is fired because he or she has been replaced by a foreign, visa-holding employee of an offshore outsourcing firm will sign a severance agreement. This severance agreement will likely include a non-disparagement clause that will make the fired worker extremely cautious about what they say on Facebook, let alone to the media. On-the-record interviews with displaced workers are difficult to get. While a restrictive severance package may be one handcuff, some are simply fearful of jeopardizing future job prospects by talking to reporters. Now silenced, displaced IT workers become invisible and easy to ignore. This situation has a major impact on how the news media covers the H-1B issue and offshore outsourcing issues generally.
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Displaced IT Workers Being Silenced

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  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @10:39AM (#48546853) Homepage

    Put the heads of Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. in prison for violating 15USC [cornell.edu]:

    Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

    Send a few dozen Silicon Valley darlings to prison for a decade over the wage price fixing scandal and I bet H1B interest will collapse.

  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @10:42AM (#48546879)

    I haven't a shred out doubt that these people are being hushed up, by whatever means necessary.

    What I do doubt is the significance of the effect on mass media coverage. Other factors are in play.

    Corporate media disdains adverse coverage of the H1B scandal because it is portrayed as "racist" against third-world emigres, and also because hey, business is business, right? (wink, wink).

  • by ikhider ( 2837593 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @10:52AM (#48546995)
    If you are made to sign a document against your will? Years ago, I applied to temp agencies for work. I was made to sign a document wherein I could not negotiate employment with a client company directly. A lawyer told me that document does not hold up in court because no one can stop you from looking for work. While references are something you do need and you are at a company's mercy for, a lot of stuff they make you sign is questionable and may not hold up in court. Especially if you are made to feel you have no choice and are made to do it to ensure survival. As a temp worker, I just wanted to pay bills and would have signed pretty much anything if I had to. The lawyer told me that was another factor consider as well, which further weakens such documents under scrutiny of the courts. While the argument can be made, 'just find work elsewhere', in a bad economy our choices are increasingly limited.
    • If the temp agency is decent then it is a dick move to use them for free advice and go to the employers directly.

    • They can't make you sign it, all they can do is fire you if you don't. But since it's a "severance agreement," it probably includes severance pay and other consideration for the outgoing employee - otherwise there's no reason to sign it.

      • by JeffOwl ( 2858633 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:17AM (#48547199)
        This is typical. They will offer you a choice, something like: 2 weeks of severance pay and you don't have to sign anything, or 4 weeks + 2 weeks per year of employment and you sign the agreement. The agreements often say you will stay quiet about the company and you give up your right to sue over the termination.
        • As far as the non-competes go, I would be willing to agree to one week of previous salary per each week of non-compete, adjusted for COLA annually plus 15% annual bonus.
    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      I was made to sign a document wherein I could not negotiate employment with a client company directly. A lawyer told me that document does not hold up in court because no one can stop you from looking for work.

      That one I'd check on. They can't stop you from looking for work, but they can hold you liable for the costs to the recruiting firm of replacing a temp worker and you were in breach of contract. So you might have to pay tens of thousands in damages to the temp agency.

      • I was made to sign a document wherein I could not negotiate employment with a client company directly. A lawyer told me that document does not hold up in court because no one can stop you from looking for work.

        That one I'd check on. They can't stop you from looking for work, but they can hold you liable for the costs to the recruiting firm of replacing a temp worker and you were in breach of contract. So you might have to pay tens of thousands in damages to the temp agency.

        The real question is the agreement legally binding. Laws very state to state, and as my lawyer pointed out what is enforceable today may not be tomorrow since courts decide these types of cases a lot. They can always sue but if they have little chance of winning and / or there is very little money at stake may simply let it ride.

        If it were me and a client wanted to hire me as an employee and not a contractor, I'd let the client know I need to discuss this with the agency due to my employment contract and t

        • But the friction in getting (and paying for) a lawyer keeps these sorts of legally problematic issues alive. If you are a professional consultant (as you nic implies), you probably have an ongoing relationship with a lawyer to navigate all the little twisty passages that folks of your persuasion tend to encounter. If you are just a line coder, temporarily looking for work, you may not want to bother with the time and expense.

          Hence, contract language which would likely (not definitively) be rendered void b

        • by jbolden ( 176878 )

          They can always sue but if they have little chance of winning and / or there is very little money at stake may simply let it ride.

          Most likely they would let it slide. Most contract breaches people let it slide. As for enforceability I think it likely is so I'm disagreeing with your lawyer.

          If it were me and a client wanted to hire me as an employee and not a contractor, I'd let the client know I need to discuss this with the agency due to my employment contract and then reach out to the agency. That wa

  • Almost no one signed a non disparagement clause. To sign that sort of thing you generally get severance. There are plenty is displaced workers available to get interviews from. Tech workers don't get interviewed mostly for the same reason steel workers or book editors don't get interviewed they don't have anything particularly insightful to say.

    Moreover H1B has nothing to do with offshore outsourcing those are entirely different programs. H1B is allowing people to come to the USA to work, offshoring is

  • what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    Come one...

    Seriously, we're such ideologues on this issue that we're going to believe that there's some massive, industry wide conspiracy to cover this up?

    Anyone making more than $50k a year or so usually gets a severance package. And that's not a benefit to the business, it's a nice thing that comes with the job. Normal people get walked out the door by a security guard and told the stuff on their desk will be mailed to them postage due. The fact that we get a severance package is great... that the company

    • Re:what? (Score:4, Informative)

      by countach44 ( 790998 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:35AM (#48547339)
      Actually, depending on the terms of the dismissal (particularly how much notice is given), severance pay is not a benefit in the US, but required by law - http://www.doleta.gov/programs... [doleta.gov] In many of these cases, however, they're basically offering you that 3months+ of pay to be quiet (among other things). Even "I worked for a tech company that I'll not name, and was laid off when they hired foreign workers" may be in violation of the terms, especially when you start to ponder the strength of their legal team vs. yours.
    • What do you read that makes you so sure of this position? I'm hearing about this for the first time today, and while skepticism is due, it sounds like something business would do.

      And I'm usually on the side of defending or explaining business or capitalism to the willfully ignorant.

      Given factual errors already pointed out, you're going to need to defend your position with something more than incredulity and rhetoric.

      • What do you read that makes you so sure of this position? I'm hearing about this for the first time today, and while skepticism is due, it sounds like something business would do.

        And I'm usually on the side of defending or explaining business or capitalism to the willfully ignorant.

        Given factual errors already pointed out, you're going to need to defend your position with something more than incredulity and rhetoric.

        The entire premise that the company that just fired you cares, at all, about "The industry" is kind of a joke. These businesses are not in cahoots nationwide to keep people quite. The non-disclosure agreements are likely cut and pasted in. If you were about to continue to pay someone for the next 3 months after you fired them... and were going to have them sign some agreement to attest to that... wouldn't you expect them to behave in the same way they would while they are still employed? Would you want some

  • Too much bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by parkinglot777 ( 2563877 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:00AM (#48547071)

    The author of TFA is exaggerating and assuming that the clause in the agreement is purposely for those who are replaced by H1B people. Either he or his friends/family members were affected by this. To me, the clause to not disclose any information about being let go is very common. If you are being "fired," there are many reasons. Also, the company will NEVER want you to say anything regardless how you are being replaced. These people will find something to blame on others regardless (and in this case is the H1B people who replaced them). I am not saying that all are legitimated laid off/fired, but I doubt that the "signing" the document is REALLY for the case only.

    Then the author pulls in politic which, of couse, a more effective on those who do not like H1B already. TFA has some of the fact and reasons, but over all TFA contains bias against H1B people by using the word "being fired or replaced" to make TFA more dramatic.

  • by unimacs ( 597299 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:02AM (#48547091)
    Just curious. Are experienced IT workers with up to date skills really not able to find jobs? What about programmers specifically ("IT Worker" can mean a lot of things)?

    I'm assuming that age discrimination is impacting some of these people, but what about relatively young software developers? How many of you are young and talented software developers with at least of few years of experience and are having trouble finding work?
    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      I was out of work for two years (2009-2010), underemployed (i.e., working 20 hours per month) for six months, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2011. I applied for thousands of jobs but only had 20 interviews. Hiring managers told me that I was overqualified for minimum wage jobs and recruiters told me I was unemployable for anything else. The day after my bankruptcy was finalized I got a new tech job.

      I was laid off prior to the government shutdown last year, and was out of work for eight months. I appl

      • Hard to imagine going to 20 interviews and not getting a job. Something is wrong there. 60 seems even more crazy. I've found that I get offers from about 1/3 of the companies I interview with.

        I think the real problem is that companies are not willing to pay the wages they should to attract a well qualified employee. You're not going to get many applicants for $30K-$60K/yr when the market is looking for $60K-$120K/yr...and 45hr work weeks instead of 50+hr wks.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          From 2009 to 2011, there was seven applicants for every job opening. Last year it was three applicants for every job opening. A normal economy has two applicants for every job opening. I read this morning that the country will need another two years of strong job growth (i.e., 130K per month) to return the economy back to 2007 levels.

          I'm not a programmer. I do I.T. support work for $50K per year, work 40 hours per a week (no OT allowed), get paid federal holidays and 20 PTO days per year. My current tech jo

      • by unimacs ( 597299 )
        What kind of tech jobs do you have experience with?
        • by creimer ( 824291 )
          I.T. support work: help desk, desktop support, security remediation, etc. I did several PC refresh projects to replace 3,000+ PCs and built out a data center in Silicon Valley. I'm now back in an office doing remote support.
  • Catholic Health (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pontiac ( 135778 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:02AM (#48547093) Homepage

    I left before it happened but my former company outsourced all of IT to Wipro.
    This was on a system with 60,000 users.
    Everyone but management was replaced with H1B- workers from India.
    Outgoing staff was asked to stay and train their replacements with no severance packages.
    Very few stayed and turnover documents were not made (hmm I wonder why) so the incoming Wipro workers had to discover and document the systems themselves.
    I hear it was a real nightmare with lots of $$ spent on contractors to help figure things out.

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:04AM (#48547101)
    Which I will not elaborate here, not exactly on the nature being discussed. My lawyer told me, this kind of provisions only are enforceable while you work for them by our local laws, and since you are not an employee anymore, this clausule is void. That guy knows what he is doing...
  • I am one (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:08AM (#48547139)

    I have been displaced on more than one occasion. Atos laid me off so they could hire a cheaper H1B worker. (Not a loss as they are a sweat shop)

    Atos has several NO-Outsource government contracts and before my layoff they were discussing outsourcing them and putting one American to answer the phone so the government did not know it was outsourced.

    There was a company that was backed by the airlines where the CIO was Indian and the whole IT group was H1B's. I was the only white guy there and I was laid off from them officially for "Not meeting there expectations" and was replaced by an H1B worker.

    HP had several H1B workers working 80+ hour weeks and only reporting 40 hours. On the promise that they would "Make it up to them." They replaced me because I was saying it was illegal to do, yep they brought in another H1B to replace me.

    Between H1B's and outsourcing work to India, IT has been a crappy field but I still make money at it.

    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      I hope you are using Tor for this kind of post, or your IP is being logged.
      • So? If the govt. were to contact him about testifying against Atos I suspect he'd welcome the opportunity.
    • If you truly know of that government situation (and you aren't talking out your ass) you should file a whistleblower suit and make millions. Violating federal government contracts is a VERY big deal.

  • On-the-record interviews with displaced workers are difficult to get. While a restrictive severance package may be one handcuff, some are simply fearful of jeopardizing future job prospects by talking to reporters. Now silenced, displaced IT workers become invisible and easy to ignore.

    We aren't like those other countries where citizens are muzzled. Over here, we have the first amendment. Oh wait...Yes, I am referring to the constitution.

    • by readin ( 838620 )

      We aren't like those other countries where citizens are muzzled. Over here, we have the first amendment. Oh wait...Yes, I am referring to the constitution*.

      *Subject to certain prohibitions and restrictions. May not apply in all states and jurisdictions. All terms subject to override by the President if Congress fails to do what he tells them to.

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:15AM (#48547185)

    We all want to have a monopoly on what we do for a living. We want limited competitor and supply s and be able to charge high prices. As consumers we want unlimited choices, lots of supply, and low prices. A free market will provide the latter and a command economy is required for the former. What we have now is the worst of both. Those with political power use it to restrict start up and small competitors while trying to have unlimited supply of cheap labor.

  • What would these fired workers possibly say, that these theoretical severance packages don't allow?' "I had a job, and then I lost it," or something to that effect? Big deal, that wouldn't make it to the front page of the Times or even Slashdot. And isn't there some kind of communication tool out there, which allows people to anonymously relate something that happened to them, and then have it widely distributed by computer?

    Sure, losing a job to an H1B worker is no fun. This post is imagining something

  • by readin ( 838620 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:36AM (#48547343)
    "Much of the reporting is one-sided — and there's a reason for this."

    There is more than one reason. The article gives one reason - and this was news to me.

    However the other reason is that for some reason the reporting is very biased in favor of open borders. This is a situation where the well-known obvious liberal bias of most reporters fits perfectly with the often alleged corporate bias of the owners of most major media outlets. Diversity meets cheap labor is the perfect storm.

    How often do we here about the need for "comprehensive immigration reform"? The very word "reform" shows the bias. And we already did it anyway, we traded amnesty for increased enforcement. The amnesty occurred but we never go the enforcement. Now the very same deal is being offered again? How often do you hear this outside of right-wing radio and (possibly because I don't watch it) Fox News? Yet it is central to why so many people are dead-set against a comprehensive deal. For a deal you need trust and there is no trust. But you don't see that reported in the Washington Post.

    Build a border that can be enforced, then we'll talk amnesty (and I'll be in favor of it too). But we can't make a new agreement until good faith is shown through the fulfilling of the terms of the previous agreement. Would you go back and buy another car from a salesman who never delivered the previous one you bought and paid for?

    One we have the trust, we can talk about the H1-Bs too.
    • Build a border that can be enforced

      Not economically feasible given the size of the U.S. border. Not to mention, many undocumented folks crossed the border legally. More guards, fences and guns wouldn't have stopped them. If you want to stop undocumented immigrants from working you need to work on the "demand" side. For instance:

      1. Raise fines on employers.
      2. Devote more resources to policing employers.
      3. Makes it as easy as humanly possible for employers to verify work eligibility.
      4. Require schoo

  • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @11:53AM (#48547509)

    The article puts the lie to the idea that these H-1B workers are filling jobs that there are no good American candidates for. The article, and one linked in it, talk about existing workers training their H-1B replacements. So, there are manifestly American workers who can do these jobs. They are doing them right now! The article also says they are often older workers being replaced. You know what that means; these older workers are highly compensated. As usual it's about the bottom line, with humans as resources to be exploited.

  • For a long time there have been tariffs to protect the importation of cheap goods (lumber, steel, etc.) from foreign countries into the USA. This system allows US companies to compete fairly against goods from other countries where wages and regulations give them an unfair advantage.

    I think it is time for wage tariffs as well. If there truly is a shortage of skilled IT workers, as all the big companies are crying about now, then they should be forced to pay a tariff for importing cheap foreign labor. This s

    • by silfen ( 3720385 )

      For a long time there have been tariffs to protect the importation of cheap goods (lumber, steel, etc.) from foreign countries into the USA. This system allows US companies to compete fairly against goods from other countries where wages and regulations give them an unfair advantage.

      We have been getting rid of tariffs on goods because they are little more than corporate welfare and because they hurt Americans, in particular low income Americans.

      The only shortage is the number of US IT workers that are willi

  • If you don't want to be silenced then don't take the severance package. Title makes it sound draconian while, in fact, they're being "silenced" by being given large sums of cash.
    • Not necessarily large sums of cash, but "some cash". Lots of people don't have a lot of reserve in the bank. People staring unexpected unemployment in the face without a lot of money to fall back on take the severance package. It almost doesn't matter what it says.

  • Yes, we tend all to think that things that happen to us are related to the IT industry. However, nothing in "the H1-B debate" restricts this issue you mention to the IT sector.

    This issue is not even related to immigration — If a company prefers to hire me to do $foobar because I'm better and cheaper for the job than the guy who did it before me, the company will do its best not to get bad press. It might include paying him a bit extra so you leave happy, or adding judicial clauses to shut his mouth up

  • How does voluntarily taking a severance package amount to "being silenced"? Don't like the non-disparagement clause? Don't take the money.

  • The out sourcing decisions are often insane and it does not make any sense. Till you take into account possible corruption at the highest levels of IT management in huge companies.

    I know an Indian independent contractor who worked on contract for a large electric utility. He managed six warm bodies provided by some Indian company. His contract came from some company that had a contract with another company and the grand parent company was the vendor to the electric utility. Each was padding up his hourly

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