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AN OLD VOCATIONAL LAMENT REVISITED

June 28, 2015

AN OLD VOCATIONAL LAMENT REVISITED

A year or so ago I blogged negatively on attempts by business to bring in Chinese and other alien plumbers, sheet  metal workers, and other skilled tradesmen via visas to America to do the work for which business said they had demand they could not meet due to a shortage of American skilled tradesmen. I cited welders, for instance, some of whom were being paid $50 an hour for their services in specific locations due to chronic and ongoing shortages of skilled welders, i.e., according to business in their petition for visas.

I lamented that we were far behind such prosperous economies as those of Germany and Sweden, where government had invested heavily and very successfully in vocational education and exported far more than they imported while we imported far more than we exported with the world’s biggest trade deficits year to year. While our failure to invest in vocational education wasn’t the only factor leading to such a difference in this comparison, I thought it to be a substantial factor not only in terms of  goods for trade but also in terms of the hundreds of thousands of electricians, plumbers and other such skilled tradesmen we could have had working for good wages who would have been robust consumers adding to aggregate demand in our domestic economy, which in turn would have stimulated employment in our general economy, enhanced revenues to government, reduction of wage inequality etc.

However, I was suspicious of the motives of business in its petition for visas, and was unsure whether there was a real shortage or whether business was pretending there was and wanted to import cheap foreign labor to fatten its bottom line while putting skilled American tradesmen on the unemployment rolls and as visitors to the soup kitchens and Goodwill stores. I thought it was bad enough that our multinational corporations were sending our jobs to China and an utter outrage that they would import labor to our country so their profits could go up while our skilled tradesmen and our economy went south. Even given the veracity of the claims of business (which I do not), I think it is a further outrage that a relatively poor country like China can provide vocational education leading to skilled status of workers and we in the richest country in the world leave this crying need to weakened unions and “the market,” especially since, unlike Germany where workers by law serve on the boards of employing corporations in the same number as those from corporate management, business owns our “market.”

I knew that traditionally unions ran skilled apprentice programs leading to journeyman status, and of course that unions’ demands for decent pay for their skilled journeymen reduced the profits of their business employers, and so I wondered if business was running a phony petition for visa status for alien skilled tradesmen past our immigration authorities in a naked attempt to greatly cut its labor costs without regard for anything but profit, profit, profit.  I think the following, though not involving skilled traditional training provided by right to work-weakened unions, answers my question.

Pat Morrison of the Los Angeles Times spilled the beans in his piece called “Gaming the corporate visa system” as excerpted from the July 3, 2015 edition of The Week Magazine (confirming my suspicions). He notes that American workers keep hearing that if they learn new tech skills they will have no problem finding jobs. He then reports that 250 Disney data system employees and 400 Southern California Edison tech workers were recently handed pink slips (but it was not a “reduction in force.”) Before being marched out the doors these workers were told to train their replacements. Their replacements were lower-paid Indian workers brought in on temporary H-1B visas.

H-1B visas are reserved for highly specialized jobs “that companies supposedly can’t find American workers to fill,” (the same general types of skilled jobs I have discussed above). But wait! Obviously the fact that Americans are training foreigners who are replacing them “shows that rule for the fiction it is.” There is plainly no shortage of American workers; they are simply being replaced en masse by aliens who work for far less wages – and in broad daylight!

Apparently the new business motto is that if you can’t send the jobs to India or China, then bring Indian and Chinese tech and other specialized labor to America for coolie wages (and bigger profits). There is  good reason to believe that if business can pull this one off in tech employment that other businesses can pull off the same trick in their respective business and, eventually and taken to its dry logical end, few if any Americans will be employed by anybody. We will have effectively become a Chinese/Indian province. This is policy? What are we thinking – or are we? Where is Congress?

In all events, so much for employer fidelity to its workforce! Who would want to work for such a profit-crazed employer when any day a pink slip could be attached to your time card? I will go one step further with my suspicions and here suggest that perhaps that is part and parcel of the tech employers’ plan, i.e., if the word is out that particular tech employers offer unreliable tenure on jobs, and if as a result few if any prospective and qualified American tech employees apply for employment with them, then such would be employers will in fact be enabled to submit a petition for H-1B visas citing a shortage of American workers, thus accomplishing their ultimate aim of having an all-Indian/Chinese tech and skilled trades workforce working for starvation wages (and a fattening of their bottom lines) while prospective American tech and other skilled schools close down for want of applicants. Far out? Don’t bet on it. Why should anyone train for job skills when (due to employer visa chicanery) the jobs pay starvation wages?

U.S. companies, many of which are lobbying Congress to authorize more than the 85,000 H-1Bs now issued each year so that more Americans can become unemployed and such companies can make more profit, like this situation for more than just greatly increased reduction in wages. They don’t have to worry about funding retirement plans or contending with unions, and when the visas expire, the workers are simply sent home. Morrison notes that some lawmakers have “vowed to scrutinize the H-1B program and close the loopholes that allow these dirty tricks,” and he hopes they act fast. He adds that “Outsourcing is bad enough, but this is insourcing, and the way it is being done is unconscionable.”

He is right to a fault with such an observation, but such a corporate shenanigan as the visa game is only one of the “dirty tricks” the rich and corporate class is visiting on America in the holy name of greed and avarice. Don’t be shocked if the H-1B program is expanded by a Congress dependent upon such class for campaign contributions and the think tank propaganda such a class provides for such toadies.

Perhaps Indian and Chinese and even American tech and other skilled tradesmen should not rest easy with their employment futures. The robots are coming.   GERALD    E

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