Near the end of last October, IT employees at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts were called, one-by-one, into conference rooms to be told of their layoffs. At each meeting an executive read from a script informing the worker that their last day would be Jan. 30, 2015.
Workers left the rooms crying or in shock. This went on all day. As each employee received a call to go to a conference room, others in the office looked up with pained expressions.
What followed is a story of competing narratives about the role of H-1B workers versus Americans in our economy.
Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. This is a powerful lobby group which last Friday was a sponsor of an H-1B briefing at the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers. The briefing was closed to the press but pushed for more immigrant workers on special visas.
One of the briefing documents handed out at the congressional forum made the startling claim: "H-1B workers complement - instead of displace - U.S. Workers." It claimed that as employers use foreign workers to fill "more technical and low-level jobs, firms are able to expand" and allow U.S. workers "to assume managerial and leadership positions."
This is patently not the case.
Disney says its restructuring wasn't about displacing American workers. Yet it proceeded to contract out the fired workers' roles to HCL and Cognizant, firms which employ an army of H1-B and H1-L visa holders.
Employers prefer visa workers than regular Americans because they pay them less and employees are easier to control. There is no pushing for raises and its difficult for employees to leave one company for another. This means they're cheaper to hire.
When Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Disney all agree on something you know its bad for American workers and everyday Americans. These companies are locked in vicious battles to the death and any time they agree on something it means main street Americans are losing something.
In this case its jobs. Lots of them. By allowing companies to hire foreign workers we reduce the incentive to train domestic ones. Nobody will invest in skill development if they can import already trained workers.
The increased use of visas also means less rights for employees, both through visa-hostage situations and the use of contractors rather than employees.
People are right to criticize Disney, as they are Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others. The push for more visas isn't about lack of skills. Its about greedy billionaires wanting to make more money, Americans be damned.