Monday, November 15, 2004

It's Payback Time and American IT Workers are Going to Pay

With the Election Over, Congress Aims to Reward Employers With Increases in Guest Worker Program

(Washington, D.C. – November 15, 2004) Even as American high tech companies have been shedding jobs in record numbers, and workers in other sectors of the economy have seen their real wages declining, some in Congress are preparing to use the lame duck session to push through a massive increase in the number of foreign guest workers who may be admitted to the country. With the elections behind them, there is an effort underway to use the remaining appropriations measures still pending before Congress as a vehicle to vastly expand the H-1B high tech guest worker program and the H-2B unskilled worker program.

During the third quarter of 2004, high tech companies in the United States laid-off workers in record numbers. That did not stop them, however, from using every single one of the 65,000 H-1B visas that became available on October 1 - the start of the new fiscal year - to employ foreign guest workers. Meanwhile, as workers in other sectors of the economy struggle through a jobless recovery and adapt to jobs that pay significantly less than the jobs that have been lost over the past four years, employers are demanding access to still more unskilled workers.

"From President Bush on down, every politician in America who ran for office in 2004 ran on the promise of more jobs, better wages and health care benefits for an increasingly agitated American middle class," said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. "No sooner than the votes were counted, they are poised to betray the voters who elected them in order to pay off the special interests who financed their campaigns."

Since 2000, the actual number of IT jobs in America has declined, while unemployment among American IT workers in that sector of the economy has more than tripled. Likewise, unemployment is up across the economy, while millions of Americans who have been lucky enough to find new jobs are working for lower wages and fewer benefits.

"What possible justification could there possibly be for giving companies that are laying off American workers and cutting wages access to still more foreign guest workers?" asked Stein. "We have just gone through an interminable campaign in which politicians of both parties looked voters in the eye and told them that they feel their pain. Yet their first order of business - before the new Congress is even sworn in - is to rub salt in the wounds and reward powerful special interests with more guest workers.

"Worse still, those pushing a hike in the guest worker quota do not even have the courage to do so openly," continued Stein. "Instead of a straightforward bill to increase guest worker visas, they are attempting to hijack the appropriations process needed to keep the government operating to sneak through an increase in the dead of night. That way every member of Congress can later deny responsibility for shoving this dagger into the heart of the American middle class."

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