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Businesses The Courts IT Politics

Disney IT Workers Allege Conspiracy In Layoffs, File Lawsuits (computerworld.com) 243

dcblogs writes with the latest in the laid off Disney IT worker saga. According to ComputerWorld: "Disney IT workers laid off a year ago this month are now accusing the company and the outsourcing firms it hired of engaging in a 'conspiracy to displace U.S. workers.' The allegations are part of two lawsuits filed in federal court in Florida on Monday. Between 200 and 300 Disney IT workers were laid off in January 2015. Some of the workers had to train their foreign replacements — workers on H-1B visas — as a condition of severance. The lawsuits represent what may be a new approach in the attack on the use of H-1B workers to replace U.S. workers. They allege violations of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), claiming that the nature of the employment of the H-1B workers was misrepresented, and that Disney and the contractors knew the ultimate intent was to replace U.S. workers with lower paid H-1B workers."
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Disney IT Workers Allege Conspiracy In Layoffs, File Lawsuits

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  • by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:20AM (#51372877) Journal

    I don't usually get too worked up over things like this. However, this story has really got me aggravated. I'm curious how many people in the IT Profession feel similarly?

    I want to think I really like the Disney company, perhaps that's why it feels so egregious when they've done something like this. My question really comes down to, is 200-300 employees a large enough pool to push something like this into a Class Action status, or is having a couple hundred single lawsuits a better way to go about making a much bigger noise about both the specific Disney situation, or this situation in the US as a whole?

    With us drawing close to a Presidential election in the US, perhaps it's time for IT Professionals to re-think who should represent us both in our home states, and in our national Congressional seats. They need to understand they're very directly impacting our paychecks, and the paychecks of the co-workers we actually -like- to work with.

    • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:29AM (#51372913) Homepage

      Oh, i'm sure this will drag out just long enough for the Trans Pacific Trade deals with pass as treaty biding. Then, this issue will be treated ex post facto, no?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:50AM (#51373073)

      "I want to think I really like the Disney company"

      Why?

      They have done absolutely nothing to endear them to anyone. They are a massive corporation that has "purchased" our cultural heritage by taking our tales of folklore and locking them away in perpetual copyright.

      Disney can go and get fucked, and I for one (despite have a young family) intend to never give them a cent of my income for the rest of my life.

    • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:55AM (#51373103) Journal
      You're correct, of course.

      The sad state of things is such that even though they are using H-1B improperly, those affected are mostly college-educated white males.

      This is not a great target market for widespread outrage and demands for reform on the 24 hour news stations.

      • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:08PM (#51374091) Journal

        The sad state of things is such that even though they are using H-1B improperly, those affected are mostly college-educated white males.

        I disagree. Given the disproportional representation of Asians in STEM fields, I would say that those affected are mostly college-educated Americans - yes, more white than black, but certainly includes Asians and women.

        Obviously, this depends on the location (e.g., more Asians in California and East Coast vs. Midwest), but I think this affects all skilled Americans in IT.

        And I think the mistake is in characterizing it as something that only affects white people. It's all about narrative -- bring in other groups, then see the magic unfold.

      • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @01:13PM (#51374535)
        The Purpose of H1B visas is to depress American workers by forcing them to compete for jobs with the third world. If they had the slightest interest in "Filling gaps" they would be fast tracking immigration for people with needed skills, instead of training foreign workers then sending them home at the end of the contract.
      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Fair enough. But isn't this the same argument people make against illegal immigration? While H1-B visas replace college-educated white-collar workers, illegal immigrants replace blue-collar workers. It's the same problem, just with different paperwork involved.

        (I won't limit this to white males, because I have worked at places where I was the only white-male on the team, surrounded by Asians.)

        • Certainly there are similarities.

          In both cases, it effectively brings down the number of available jobs as well as reducing wages for the jobs that remain available.

          Difference? The H-1B replacements are using an advantageous interpretation of the law (and lobbying) to accomplish their goal.

    • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:52AM (#51373503)
      How Many? Count the H1B visas! Here's an example, 30,000 HP employees; thanks to Carly Fiorina, and she's damn proud of it. How about Apple, Microsoft, Google, FaceBook, Ericsson International, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon. SeeBeyond. Just to name a few. My finger count is north of 3,000,000. Now, does one wonder why, in the U.S., wages have not gone up?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hoffmanjon ( 845536 )
        Wages have gone up for the CEOs. They need to make their 45 to 50 million a year otherwise they would not be able to afford a new yacht and that would be an absolute tragedy. Come on, think of the poor CEO and their need for the twenty million dollar mansion and the new yacht.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With us drawing close to a Presidential election in the US, perhaps it's time for IT Professionals to re-think who should represent us both in our home states, and in our national Congressional seats.

      Defense based companies have a tiny protection against offshoring, in that they can't get the security clearances in foreign countries. That doesn't mean they won't continue to move anything they possibly can, and it is not as if we don't already outsource many parts.

      At any rate, I think it goes something like this.

      1) H1Bs are far too easy. I'm not convinced we need them at all. Why can't we just invest in American workers? I know the companies what programs that fit specifications, since they don't lik

      • It's late term Capitalism eating itself.
      • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:27AM (#51373785)

        H1Bs being locked to the job needs to be removed and the min wage to use one needs to set high say 80K-150K varying due to local COL's. And with an OT level of say up to 50 hours a week (agv over 1-2 months) 120-200K. 80+ hour weeks 150-225K. Payments in escrow for at least 6mo's out Unless the job has MAX time frame of 6mo or less.

        Can not be deported making a wage claim and the crop must keep paying into escrow if they fire the worker they can't reuse the H1B for the rest of the year unless they can have a clear case with documentation and proven in court as for why they where fired / layered off. Severance min of 2 mo's if the worker has been there over 6mo's or up to 6mo's if under.

      • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

        1. Because Unions.
        2. Even poor help is better than no help at all, and tossing one highly paid employee makes for a bigger year end bonus. ( been on the receiving end of this )
        3. The 'First to market' fallacy at it's most entrenched manifestation.

    • I want to think I really like the Disney company, perhaps that's why it feels so egregious when they've done something like this.

      Mentioning 'Disney' and 'egregious' in the same sentence...

      They are one of the top evil companies in the world with their continuous extension of copyright and flagrant manipulation of childrens minds.

      You know what I'd like to see happen to Disney?

      I'd like to see Mickey Mouse become the new Pedobear; Mickey as a symbol of pedophiles and child abusers. They want to continually extend copyright so they can keep the mouse? Fucking let 'em but make it worthless; make Mickey something they WANT to get rid of.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:23AM (#51372883)

    . . . they call it a "business plan" .

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:31AM (#51372923) Homepage Journal

    Seriously. This sort of bean counter bullshit is going to continue until people no longer hesitate to drag it into the light.

    Yes, sure, it's up to every company to maximize its own profits.
    And sure, it's possible that wages for certain classes of skilled workers is out of whack.

    But abusing the work visa system to pay pennies on the dollar for labor is just flat-out wrong.

    • by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:37AM (#51372967)
      The plain simple fact, you cannot displace American workers with an H1B Visa hire. That's against the law and this is what these companies are doing. Couple that with how contracting companies game the H1B Visa program by flooding it with applications, and you have a broken system that's displacing American workers. H1B Visa program is meant to supplement the American workforce NOT replace it. There are companies with legitimate uses for H1B Visas which cannot get a visa because of these contracting companies. Time to reform the program.
      • by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:02AM (#51373161)

        It's beyond time to eradicate the program entirely.

        Something like this case - where disney literally laid off staff in order to directly replace them with H1B workers - should be immediately illegal and stopped before they even brought them in + fines and penalties and so on.

        The fact that we're here on the internet complaining about this and the workers are only filing lawsuits after the fact shows just how broken the program is.

        The problem is big business buys politicians and votes and then write the laws that best suit their shareholders (i.e. profit). Disney is great at getting away with this - look at the copyright extension that directly follows when Mickey Mouse would otherwise enter the public domain.

        • Yes but Disney contracted the work out so we did not due the hiring they did.

        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:58PM (#51374409) Homepage Journal

          Well... I think there's a better way to deal with the program than eradicating it: calling the bluff of the people who say it's necessary.

          The critical claim is that there aren't enough trained tech workers in the US. So make the H1B dependent on intending to establish permanent residency. Then you get and keep your trained workers.

          The reasons companies don't want this is that the purpose of the program isn't to supplement the US workforce, it's to make it easier to ship their jobs overseas when the guest worker with all his newly accumulated experience is kicked out of the country. If there were a shortage of US expertise then we wouldn't be kicking successful workers out and bringing in less experienced ones.

          There is no shortage of techies in the US per se, but there's never enough good people. The best H1Bs I've met really do add a lot by being here -- as the best of any group of workers would. So let's keep the best people, who actually end up creating more jobs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Attracting foreign workers shouldn't be blocked completely, but there should be a good reason for it. Someone who has skills you cannot get anywhere else. This should be reflected in the wage -- a H1B job should pay say, at least 200K/year or so. :)

        • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:05AM (#51373603) Homepage Journal

          Attracting foreign workers shouldn't be blocked completely, but there should be a good reason for it. Someone who has skills you cannot get anywhere else. This should be reflected in the wage -- a H1B job should pay say, at least 200K/year or so. :)

          +1 Insightful, folks.

          Exceptional work should get exceptional pay, and if it isn't exceptional, there should be no problem finding resident workers.

          • If America needs these people, then give them citizenship. Otherwise you are just training foreigners to compete with America.
            • by arth1 ( 260657 )

              If America needs these people, then give them citizenship. Otherwise you are just training foreigners to compete with America.

              Don't assume that everybody wants US citizenship.

      • H1-B here. And I agree so much with you. It's a shame that legitimate foreign qualified workers now have to play the lottery to get to the US because some companies are abusing the system. An H1-B reform is needed for the US, but also for foreign workers who would like to come to the US and cannot get an H1-B because of the flooding companies.

        Extending the H1-B quota is just a temporary workaround that won't help. The government should look for abusing companies and sue them. That's not so hard : look at

    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:07AM (#51373621)

      Seriously. This sort of bean counter bullshit is going to continue until people no longer hesitate to drag it into the light.

      Yes, sure, it's up to every company to maximize its own profits.

      And its up to every company to not eat it's seed corn as well.

      Let us imagine the supply sider's dream of every American worker (except them) to be paid less than the wages in the lowest paid countries. Then there is no reason to outsource labor. Isn't this what we are told every waking moment?

      Okay, mission accomplished.

      Now let us imagine these people who are making that - oh, I don't know what you would call it - say "minimum liveable wage" Any less, and they'd starve to death.

      Now imagine all these Americans buying homes and cable tv and a new smartphone every year and taking trips to Disney World every year. and having retirement plans and going to eat in nice places and taking vacations to the shore.

      And just imagine the folks who would not have jobs where folks sped their money I don't mean to sound like a crazy man, but wouldn't it be a good thing to have more Americans make more money so they could buy more stuff so that your company sells more?

      The times I made more money in life I tended to spend more money. Go figure.

      Austerity only works for a very short time. Then it becomes a war of attrition like race to the bottom.

    • Yes, sure, it's up to every company to maximize its own profits.

      No it's not! This meme needs to die right now because it's a complete fiction.

      Directors have been sued for egregiously fucking up but have never been sued for failing to maximise profits. If that were the case then any company donating to charity (and many, many ones do) could face lawsuits for not using the donations for profit instead.

  • The lawsuits represent what may be a new approach in the attack on the use of H-1B workers to replace U.S. workers. They allege violations of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), claiming that the nature of the employment of the H-1B workers was misrepresented, and that Disney and the contractors knew the ultimate intent was to replace U.S. workers with lower paid [[ and ultimately disposable ]] H-1B workers.
    • Re:Edit to article (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:14AM (#51373233)

      I really hope this tactic is successful, although I always thought RICO was a Federal criminal statute, not something available to civil litigation plaintiffs.

      On its face, though, it seems beyond obvious that was indeed a deliberate scheme to use H1B visas to replace U.S. workers. It seems naive in the extreme that Disney executives would believe that they just happened to find a contractor with a pool of domestic labor at rates dramatically cheaper than their local talent -- they HAD to have known their contractor would be using H1B visas to obtain low-cost overseas employees. And it's not like Disney doesn't have extensive experience hiring non-US citizens to staff theme parks like Epcot. To say they didn't know the rules would be not believable.

      I hope this works and there is some kind of racketeering prosecution that arises from it. I kind of doubt Disney will be directly prosecuted, they may be able to dredge up some emails that say "OK, we just need some kind of official statement you're not using H1Bs to junk our expensive domestic employees. Just reply to this email and say 'Yes'."

      But if the contracting industry, which seems to be where the real hands-on evil takes place, it'd be awesome to see those guys take some RICO prosecutions.

      • IANAL, but here's my understanding (and someone please correct me if I'm wrong). Average citizens can't sue to have the law enforced per se, and there would be no direct criminal proceedings as a result. (Which doesn't mean some prosecutor couldn't decide to bring such on the basis of any evidence brought forth, but the citizens couldn't make him/her do it.) What they can do is allege that they have suffered harm as a result of actions which were in violation of those statutes, and seek monetary damages/etc
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I'm wondering if maybe there isn't a timing-related element to this, namely the presidential election. I know Trump has come out openly against H1B visas and I think his popularity has forced a couple of others to at least come out softly against it. I'm assuming Bernie Sanders is opposed to it just based on principal.

          If such a lawsuit is able to generate enough publicity and obvious evidence of a conspiracy, it might create enough political pressure that a criminal investigation would have to be started.

        • Average citizens can't sue to have the law enforced per se,

          Perhaps that's the problem we should be fixing.

      • H1B minimum wage needs to go up as they can clam that we can't find some willing to DO IT work for $10/hr with no benefits and HR says that the workers we have now will not be happy with the big pay cut to keep there jobs. Or that they don't like to car pool and that we find that for most $10/hr workers $20 a day to park is to much for them.

  • Whats meat for one is poison for other. Freedom fighter for one is terrorist for the other. Whats "conspiracy against workers to shaft them in every which way possible" is "standard operating procedures" for the pointy haired bosses.
  • H1-B is a JOKE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:46AM (#51373045)

    The whole thing is a joke...are you really telling me that out of 300 million Americans, you can't find ANYONE in this country who is qualified to do this work? Bullshit. Utter bullshit.

    Unless by "qualified" you mean "willing to work at 1/2 scale wages".

    The whole thing is a joke, a complete fucking joke.

    • The theory of H-1B is fine, the big problem is that it's not applicable at the scale it's being used for, because these companies keep trying to use it as a backdoor to hire all that sweet, sweet, cheap labor from overseas. Congress needs to do its job and crack down on these loopholes, and prosecutors/govt. agencies/etc need to go after the companies that are exploiting them.
      • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:54AM (#51373513)

        The visa system for workers is completely "save cash for companies", nothing more. If you believe it's a good system in any way, you have either been duped by propaganda or not stopped to consider life without a work visa. So ask yourself, what happened _before_ we had worker Visas? Simple, people immigrated to the US. If someone had a special set of skills and knowledge, companies could pay the costs and do the work to get the immigration complete quickly. The US Government has embassies and a Military for exactly the purpose of accomplishing safety.

        Congress needs to do it's job, but so you we. Repeating bullshit does not fix things, understanding problems is the start. Many of our problems were caused by people trying to game the system under the guise of altruism.

    • Unless by "qualified" you mean "willing to work at 1/2 scale wages".

      This is indeed the case and should be simply proved as the Disney employees had to train their H-1B replacements. Personally I feel that the H-1B program serves a useful purpose but that isn't what is is being used for. It should be used for those rare cases where there just isn't a person in the US who can do the job or can't be trained in enough time to do the job. As such the individuals brought in as H-1Bs have truly in demand and rare skills as there isn't a single person in the US who has the necessar

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:00AM (#51373143)

    It's not really about racism, it's about basic economics. You flood the supply of labor with cheap imports and you reduce demand for more expensive domestic product.

    • Mexicans (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phorm ( 591458 )

      Except that while Trump is talking about building a wall against Mexicans or those from the middle-east, these aren't where the jobs are going. Instead, it's companies that make plenty of money that are hiding from taxation via foreign subsidiaries and then firing local domestic workers in favour of lower-paid imports all while claiming it's because they can't find talent. Additionally, it's in-sourcing companies providing low-budget labour at reduced quality overrunning the domestic mid-level workers while

  • IANAL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by outriding9800 ( 547724 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:03AM (#51373591)
    Reading the Department of labor website " The intent of the H-1B provisions is to help employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce" If the Disney workers had to train the H-1B it does not seem like they (the H1-B workers) had the skill set to do the job in the first place and it would seem to me Disney did not follow the rules properly.
    • by Sique ( 173459 )
      That's exactly what that lawsuit is about: Disney conspiring to use the H1-B visa system against the rules.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:11AM (#51373643)

    Next time forum a union!

  • About time someone starts at least trying to stand up to this type of treatment.

  • im not sure how to get Employ Citizens First Act into a decent acronym but the plan is

    1 Actual Citizens (born here or otherwise) are first rung (80% of payroll tax paid)
    2 Green Card holders are next rung (90% of payroll tax paid)
    3 Visa holders next (120% of payroll tax paid)

    also i would tweak things so that a business will have to fund moving a person to higher slots in this (Visa holders get a Green Card funded Green card holders get Citizenship funded) and remove the Job lock bit on a visa holder (you du

    • by eWarz ( 610883 )
      Meh, just require companies to pay market rate to to foreign workers along with a higher tax rate. Watch those workers disappear overnight. Everyone says there is a shortage of IT workers. I don't believe there is a shortage, but rather companies set their expectations too high. If there wasn't a visa offering for tech workers (let's say you couldn't outsource either), I'm betting companies would find a way to make things work.
  • Doesn't the word "conspiracy" mean that you make at least a token effort to hide what you're doing?
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:09PM (#51374099)

    It's interesting to see a new angle on this, and to see a group actually fighting back against such a large employer. But...lawsuits won't fix this long term. What is going to fix this is a professional organization with a little more teeth than something like the IEEE or ACM. IT Professionals (developers, systems guys, DevOps people, whatever) need to start standing up against stuff like this before any hope of combating it goes away.

    I walk the line between worker and manager in a lead position, so I see both sides of an employers' argument. Here's the uncomfortable truth -- there really is a shortage of qualified people, always has been. You need to find and hang on to qualified people for dear life, because you're not going to get a department full of superstars. The problem is that a lot of unqualified people can BS their way to a $150K+ job, and employers often don't know the difference between good and bad. Because of this, they're always looking to cut costs. So when Tata or Infosys comes in, and tells the CIO to write them a monster check to make their lazy good-for-nothing IT department go away, the argument holds water. Anyone working in an offshored IT environment knows that it never works out, but we do a very poor job of communicating our value to the business in some cases.

    Other professionals are much smarter than we are about this. They saw companies moving to limit their power and formed professional organizations. The AMA pays for legislation, makes political campaign donations, and ensures its members still continue to command high salaries. If they ever let up, United Healthcare or similar would buy a law saying that nurses or medical assistants could perform advanced procedures for 1/10 the cost. Same thing with engineers, accountants, etc. There is an accepted barrier to entry (medical school, accreditation, licensure, etc.) to weed out the first-level BS artists. Imagine if an IT professional with X years' experience came with a full well-rounded education in computing fundamentals and their speciality, as opposed to graduating from a certification bootcamp. Or if a developer could be guaranteed to know something other than the JQuery and Python scripting he was taught in Coder Academy. As an employer, I'd pay for that instead of having to cycle endlessly through crappy onshore and offshore employees.

    The point is that both sides have to give a little. Employers need to stop offshoring to the lowest bidder long enough to allow a talent pool to grow domestically, and IT professionals need to embrace the idea of a profession with salary progression commensurate with experience. If I were king and were able to form the IT Professionals Association tomorrow, here's what would happen:
    - A huge collection would have to be taken up from members to purchase legislation banning the most obvious abuses of the current visa system. (Not an outright ban, because the original idea is good.)
    - Some fundamental standards and practices would need to be established. This is the really hard part, because everyone is used to things going a million miles an hour and vendors promoting lock-in at every turn. But we're big boys and girls now, and computers are a part of our daily lives; their use should be more like a branch of engineering than a mad scientists' lab or skunkworks.
    - Experience levels would need to be set, and training requirements to reach the next level would need to be established. Yes, this includes the idea of licensure, and at the lower levels, the dirty word "apprenticeship." This would allow employers to pay less for lower-skilled domestic labor. Does that sound like a skilled trade? It should -- the fundamentals of computing are becoming skilled labor now, and the creative engineering work should be done higher up the stack by people who have done the grunt work before.
    - Members of the profession would need to start taking responsibility for their work, PE or medical malpractice style. It infuriates me when I've walked into projects where someone messed things up

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