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US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers 529

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from the good-for-nothing-lazy-programmers dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson ... But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."
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US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

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  • by scsirob (246572) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:37AM (#47488205)

    Well, as tough as it is, and as right as this senator may sound, this is the result of global free market economy. Companies get their resources where they are cheapest, regardless if this is parts or people.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:44AM (#47488215)
      If you believe in a global free market economy, I've got a bridge for sale on prime Florida real estate guaranteed to give a 3000% return. Act now! The prince of Nigeria is also interested now that he has transferred all his money to the US.
      • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:26AM (#47488913)

        What the senator is really saying is that Ballmer shouldn't have been laid off and replaced by a foreign worker.

    • by Skarjak (3492305) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:54AM (#47488241)
      Except you don't have to raise your hands and claim there's nothing you can do about it. The government can easily regulate this.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        He can't. Jeff Sessions is a Republican in the Senate. Harry Reid is single handedly deciding on what gets to the Senate floor for a vote and what does not. Until Reid chooses to do somehting about it, nothing can be done in the Senate. Sessions is attempting to shame everyone who is preventing something from being done.

        With Reid as Senate Majority leader there will be no free market. A free market might allow people to not be dependent on government hand outs and he can't allow that to happen.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NatasRevol (731260)

          So, the Senate controls the markets?

          Really?

          Or is it just Reid?

          Not decades and decades of bad & manipulated & paid-for laws/regulations/state monopolies?

        • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @12:29PM (#47489527)

          He can't. Jeff Sessions is a Republican in the Senate. Harry Reid is single handedly deciding on what gets to the Senate floor for a vote and what does not. Until Reid chooses to do something about it, nothing can be done in the Senate. Sessions is attempting to shame everyone who is preventing something from being done.

          With Reid as Senate Majority leader there will be no free market. A free market might allow people to not be dependent on government hand outs and he can't allow that to happen.

          Similar arguments (about this and other things) can be made about Speaker of the House John Boehner and the House Republicans. Obstinate, obstructive, short-sighted, selfish, petty people can be found many places in Congress.

      • regulation would work in reducing immigrant workers, but microsoft would simply move whole divisions overseas. in totality, us jobs will decrease, not increase. i would think that inviting the smartest people from other countries and letting them create wealth inside the us would be better than less jobs in the us.

    • by itsenrique (846636) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:06AM (#47488275)
      "Global free market economy" is just a bunch of BS. How has this being a global economy made it easier for Americans to go to Western Europe for example to work? Not a damn bit. It isn't a "global free market" thats just some politispeak BS. These trade agreements are really just designed to inflate company profits. They don't open up borders in any meaningful ways that help us.
      • by CRCulver (715279)

        How has this being a global economy made it easier for Americans to go to Western Europe for example to work?

        EU legislation for hiring foreign workers is easily comparable to the US H1-B system. So, Indian workers can come to the US when an American company asserts a skill shortage, and Americans can go to Europe when a EU company asserts a skills shortage.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Which is part of why no developed country has a pure free-market economy. Economies where companies depend on OTHER companies paying their people well while finding ways to pay poorly themselves tend to spiral down and crash. If h1bs were completely unrestricted companies would quickly find their profits crash as the market for their products dries up.

      That is the economic problem with globalization, wages and prices are locally coupled, and it is every company`s individual best interest to max/min in a p
    • by erroneus (253617)

      This is very true as people shop at Walmart, not because of the amazing people that visit there, but because they can get a lot of stuff cheaper. I won't complain about that.

      What I will complain about is the outrage expressed by Microsoft sucking at the teat of government because they want to bring said cheap labor into this country while telling lies to the people and that same government. This is NOT a free market while these kinds of things are going on.

      But if this senator is really upset, I wonder how

    • Companies get their resources where they are cheapest, regardless if this is parts or people.

      But, but, but... Every company I've ever worked for has touted how their employees are their most valuable asset. Were they fibbing to me? Sigh. Now I'm sad.

  • Silly argument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neilo_1701D (2765337) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:47AM (#47488221)

    There's a false comparison being made here... who says the Nokia engineer or the Xbox content maker being laid off has the same skills as the programmer they are wanting to hire?

    • by andy1307 (656570) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:48AM (#47488225)

      There's a false comparison being made here... who says the Nokia engineer or the Xbox content maker being laid off has the same skills as the programmer they are wanting to hire?

      Facts don't matter when THEY'RE TAKING OUR JOBS!!!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:58AM (#47488257)

      Why should we pass laws to enable a company to do what it wants?

      Laws should be passed because they are morally right and protect the American people, not to make business more profitable. Train the workers you have.

    • Re:Silly argument (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tandava Nadesan (3623123) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:59AM (#47488261)
      true but a few decades ago they would have retrained the competent engineers in areas where they needed skills instead of firing them and getting an h1b visa worker.
    • by BonThomme (239873)

      yes, they might only have 3 years of Javascript experience when you really need 4...

    • Re:Silly argument (Score:5, Informative)

      by MeNeXT (200840) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:46AM (#47488415)

      I say that in the 18,000 is more than one.

      It's amazing how people are born with skill sets and training has absolutely nothing to do with it. /sarcasm If you are a programer by trade you should easily adapt.

      The programer that they want to hire costs less. That's it. That's all.

    • Re:Silly argument (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jsepeta (412566) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:59AM (#47488479) Homepage

      The only skill Microsoft is seeking is a low daily wage.

    • Re:Silly argument (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geoskd (321194) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:04AM (#47488511)

      There's a false comparison being made here... who says the Nokia engineer or the Xbox content maker being laid off has the same skills as the programmer they are wanting to hire?

      That right there is the problem. The two groups of people have the same basic skills that are necessary to do the jobs, and the only thing either party was lacking is some limited training related to the specifics of the job. Until the late '70s, it was well understood that a company had to plan for and pay for training to bring every new employee up to speed. colleges and trade schools gave them the basic skill set, but the company had to pay for the rest. Since then, companies are trying to cut costs, and one of the easiest cost buckets is the training budget. Simply wipe it and only hire people who already have the exact skill set you need. The problem is that when every company does this, no one gets trained, and there slowly develops a perception of a labor shortage... The reality is that companies expectations from new employees and employment candidates has become unreasonable and untenable The labor pool hasn't really changed, but the corporate attitude towards hiring has changed. This is truly compounded by the trend towards globalization, where you get tens of thousands of applicants for every position, so instead of having an engineering manager go through the few tens of applications and picking the closest fit, you now have an unqualified HR hack going through 150k applications and reporting back that there is nobody who exactly fits the requirements given by the engineering manager. Never mind that at least 10% of those applicants could learn the skills they need in a very short time, and be productive to meet the needs of the position. Congress needs to shut off the supply of H1B, and tell these companies to fix their hiring practices if they want to fix the "labor shortage".

      When it comes to engineering, the difference between an XBox application programmer and Nokia OS programmer is many orders of magnitude smaller than the difference between an HR manager and an engineering manager... The guy being laid off could pick up and do any number of jobs currently being occupied by H1B holders without much fuss at all. Its about time, that these companies had their feet held to the fire.

    • There's a false comparison being made here... who says the Nokia engineer or the Xbox content maker being laid off has the same skills as the programmer they are wanting to hire?

      Right... The majority of the layoffs appear to be on the factory floor of Nokia. A shame... but those jobs have nothing to do with H1B workers. On slashdot, we like facts... we like them so much that if they agree with our opinion we don't even care if they're true. :-)

    • by stikves (127823)

      Exactly. They are different skills, and in fact most of the people laid off are foreigners (i.e.: Nokia).

      Even though I am not a huge Microsoft fan, I do have a friend there, who was actually laid off with this wave. He was a US citizen, but he will not be replaced with an H1B worker, since the entire project was cancelled.In fact this seems to be his only regret, because not only they gave him a good severance package, he is skillful, and I believe he'll have no difficulty finding another job (even at Micro

  • by jamesl (106902) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:55AM (#47488247)

    Tech workers (and workers in general) are not fungible.

    • Much has been done so that conveyor belt workers are fungible. More qualified workers are, of course, not.

    • Re:Not fungible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:24AM (#47488329)

      If tech companies weren't shit at training they would be somewhat more fungible, though not perfectly so. Engineering companies are somewhat better at this: if a company is looking for chemical engineers and can't find someone with experience in exactly the process they're hiring for, they'll hire a chemical engineer with experience in a different process and get them up to speed. Tech companies seem incapable of doing that, and instead they have a big list of really specific background they want, "must have 7 years of experience in J2EE and 3 years experience using Joe Bob's Serialization Framework", then complain they can't find anyone so it must be a "programmer shortage".

      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        Tech skills often just translate very well across companies, so major efforts in training will make it easier for the employee to leave. Compare that with, say, domain knowledge: Knowing what your company does better will not help you get a job that pays better elsewhere. The end result is that training is the most attractive fora company that pays extremely well and rarely loses employees: The kind of company that does NOT need to train anyone, because it becomes a top destination of their market.

        Who has t

      • If tech companies weren't shit at training they would be somewhat more fungible, though not perfectly so. Engineering companies are somewhat better at this: if a company is looking for chemical engineers and can't find someone with experience in exactly the process they're hiring for, they'll hire a chemical engineer with experience in a different process and get them up to speed. Tech companies seem incapable of doing that, and instead they have a big list of really specific background they want, "must have 7 years of experience in J2EE and 3 years experience using Joe Bob's Serialization Framework", then complain they can't find anyone so it must be a "programmer shortage".

        That's true, I wish I could count the advertisements I have seen specifying not just three or four certifications but also down to a dozen or more APIs that you must have top notch experience with in order to qualify. It's as if they are looking for a mental clone of some guy who left for a better paid job somewhere else and actually expect to find him/her. In some cases it's near impossible even to convince people that if you can handle web development in PHP you can handle web development in Perl. I'm not

      • Re:Not fungible (Score:5, Informative)

        by Trailer Trash (60756) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:18AM (#47488589) Homepage

        If tech companies weren't shit at training they would be somewhat more fungible, though not perfectly so. Engineering companies are somewhat better at this: if a company is looking for chemical engineers and can't find someone with experience in exactly the process they're hiring for, they'll hire a chemical engineer with experience in a different process and get them up to speed. Tech companies seem incapable of doing that, and instead they have a big list of really specific background they want, "must have 7 years of experience in J2EE and 3 years experience using Joe Bob's Serialization Framework", then complain they can't find anyone so it must be a "programmer shortage".

        At which point they bring a foreign worker over and train them in J2EE and Joe Bob's Serialization Framework.

        I've written about this at length in the past. My own wife came over on an H1A as a nurse. The reason that they got her had nothing to do with a "shortage of nurses". Instead, it had to do with a "shortage of nurses that would work for the shit wages that the nursing homes wanted to pay". Big difference - and frankly that's the same thing I see in the tech industry.

        If the Department of Labor simply forced these companies to follow the law and compensate the foreign workers on par with American workers it would somewhat alleviate the problem. But they don't, and the law's a joke.

        The other issue is that these workers are essentially indentured servants until they get a green card and the power disparity also plays heavily into this. Looking at my wife's situation again I know of nurses who pissed off the wrong people in their job and ended up on a plane back home. If you hate your job you don't have the ability to simply get another. I'd like to say that everybody acts like an adult and that doesn't matter but the reality is that it matters a lot. When you don't really have the option to quit there's little pressure on management to make sure you like your job.

        In the nursing industry it's even worse because of regulation. I don't mean the regulation makes it worse - hiring foreigners is a great way to get around regulation and not worry about your employees turning you in. After all, if your understaffed shit hole gets shut down by the state you get a plane ride back home.

        In my wife's generation this was even worse because they had to come up with US$5000 to pay the staffing agency to bring them over. That's about a year and a half of wages for your typical middle class Filipino - it would be analogous to an American coming up with $75,000. Not easy. And if you lose your job in America you'll spend 10 years working in the Philippines to pay that off.

        Ugh.

        • by Trepidity (597)

          I wonder if just putting a wage floor would help out with some of those abuses. Say, you can use H1B, but only for salary offers above $100k. That way H1B can be used to fill high-skill jobs with shortages, but not lower- and middle-end jobs.

        • I agree with you about the tech companies and the lack of flexibility with training. Even if you're not a programmer, but simply want a job related to the I.T. infrastructure (network engineer, systems administrator, etc.) -- you run across the same mentality. There's typically a belief, internally, that nobody has time to train a person to get them up to speed on what they're doing. Better to be REALLY specific about what you need, and let the H.R. drones find you a good match.

          Then whenever that comes up s

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Pretty much every manager I've ever had thought they are. All the big companies just see you as a "resource". They don't know a thing about your actual skills. They're just buzzwords to those people.
    • From experience, you might be quite surprised at how many are transferable or retrainable to new roles. During the last few economic crashes in the US, quite a few younger or mid-level engineers had to withdraw from the higher tech markets because they needed to _eat_, or to support a family. They're now chronically under employed, and find it very difficult to get their next job to get back on the technology or professional hierarchical employment ladder.

      Working with these people, and making sure they get

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:55AM (#47488249)

    Basic economics says if you are having a skills shortage in a certain sector then you should see wages increasing as employers attempt to attract the required labor. If wages are not going up then you do not have a skills shortage. This is something economist Dean Baker points out all the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With 12000 being from the Nokia side of the business, and the majority of that outside the US, the Senator is just knee jerk reacting. The biggest hit is a factory in Finland (a few thousand at 1 location). The reason they are probably needing H1-B is to bring some of the staff from closed locations into the US. They aren't "taking jobs", their jobs are just moving local, to people who will pay taxes locally in America, rather than in another country.

    • by Entrope (68843)

      I'll cut you a deal, AC: Microsoft gets a new allotment of H-1B visa sponsorships if they promise to only use them to bring workers who have jobs with Microsoft subsidiaries (as of some fixed day in the past) to the US, and consent to meaningful oversight to ensure they keep that promise. If they don't want to make that promise, I will infer they mostly want to fire people with decent-paying jobs (which I hear is the usual case in Finland, especially for tech workers) in favor of low-paid, almost captive l

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That visa already exists. It's called an L-1.

        From Wikipedia: "The visa allows such foreign workers to relocate to the corporation's US office after having worked abroad for the company for at least one continuous year within the previous three prior to admission in the US. The US and non-US employers must be related in one of four ways: parent and subsidiary; branch and headquarters; sister companies owned by a mutual parent; or 'affiliates' owned by the same or people in approximately the same percentages.

  • consider the source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:35AM (#47488377)
    Jeff Sessions, Tea Party Guy. Of course he's going to take the nativist view. He probably thinks Microsoft could just take the 18,000 people it's laying off and repurpose them to fill whatever positions it's trying to use H1B visas for. Because tech skills are interchangeable, right? And all those 18,000 are totally okay relocating across the country (or globe) right?
    • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NospAM.gmail.com> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:36AM (#47488673)

      He probably thinks Microsoft could just take the 18,000 people it's laying off and repurpose them to fill whatever positions it's trying to use H1B visas fo

      Yes, this should be the presumption. Microsoft or any company already supposed to have to show a genuine need before going to an H1B worker. That means that you have exhausted other possibilities. These companies all use the same stupid trick to show a need: create an unbelievably narrow job description that almost literally cannot be filled, and advertise that job domestically, and then create a reasonable job description, and advertise that internationally. Same job. Then use the lack of qualified resumes from the domestic advert, and the wealth of resumes from the foreign advert, as the basis for importing an H1B worker.

      I would also just add:

      1. Many of the 18,000 workers would probably relocate to keep a high-paying high-tech job. It should be obvious that they should be given first whack at any new jobs across the country. But, Sessions is right to say that Microsoft is reducing it's total global headcount. There maybe individual positions that are open, but it's not like they are shifting 18,000 jobs from one division to another area. This is a global head count reduction.

      2. There is almost no evidence of a general lack of workers to fill these positions. All the silicon valley companies are simply trying to avoid the costs of training and re-training workers, by externalizing them. Most other industries have already dealt with these problems, and done so with very simply tools. Employment contracts and non-compete clauses are the tried and true way to both attract and train capable workers, while protecting yourself against job-shopping once trained.

      3. The H1B program facilitates labor arbitrage, where lightly experienced foreign IT workers are repackaged as high-priced experts and sold for high-rates to American companies. The companies in the middle sprinkle some domestic management and technical resources, and reap large economic benefits that are economically unjustified.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:01AM (#47488487)

    This is so easy to fix.

    Establish what the standard rate is for whatever position and say "you can have all the H1-B visa applicants you want so long as you pay 20 percent more then what you're paying for domestic labor.

    If its not a matter of pay and is a matter of limited labor supply, they'll import the labor and pay them more.

    If it is about wanting cheap labor then they'll go with the domestic labor which will by law be cheaper.

    End of discussion.

    • also forced OT pay for h1-B's.

      no more of this you make them work 60-80 hours a week with no OT pay.

  • by xigxag (167441) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:02AM (#47488495)

    Seriously this is what it's come to, editors? "As it lays 18,000 off workers"? You can't even proofread the title?

    Anyway, it's mostly non-American Nokia employees who are being laid off, and it has nothing to do with the H1-B situation. So bottom line Sessions is an idiot.

    • It's still close to 6000 domestic US workers. Even in Redmond cuts.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:10AM (#47488829) Homepage Journal

    Any company which lays off 10% of their workforce should be banned from the H1B program for at least 5 years.

  • by skidisk (994551) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:39PM (#47490423)

    I can't speak for Microsoft, but I can speak for my company -- we're about 100 people, 40 engineers, of which 5 are H1-Bs. I make sure our H1-B employees are paid exactly what they would be paid if they were US citizens, I can promise you that if a printout of our salaries was accidentally left on the printer and all engineers could see everyone's salary, they would find that we are paying everyone relative to their value contributed to the company and not their visa status.

    I'll also point out that there are laws that specifically state that we must adhere to that practice of fair pay, though I'd do it anyway because it's the right thing to do. We hire H1-B employees because we can't find US citizen programmers that are good enough and wiling to come here -- there is intense competition here in the Valley.

    Oh, and another thing: H1-Bs are not indentured servants. We hire H1-B engineers from other companies, and unfortunately, H1-B engineers sometimes leave us for other opportunities. It takes me just 2-3 weeks and about $4000 to switch an H1-B sponsorship from the current employer to us.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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