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Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers 441

Posted by Soulskill
from the right-in-the-pride dept.
theodp writes Following up on news that the White House met with big biz on immigration earlier this month, Bloomberg sat down with Joe Green, the head of Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.US PAC, to discuss possible executive actions President Obama might take on high tech immigration (video) in September. "Hey, Joe," asked interviewer Alix Steel. "All we keep hearing about this earnings season though from big tech is how they're actually cutting jobs. If you look at Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, why do the tech companies then need more tech visas?" Green explained why tech may not want to settle for laid-off U.S. talent when the world is its oyster. "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge," Green said. "Culture in tech is a very meritocratic culture," he added. "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."
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Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:17AM (#47728921)

    They aren't interested in building up or maintaining US employees; they want to have foreign countries foot the bill for the training of their workers so they can sit around and reap the benefits of advanced training without laying out money to make it happen--and further, they want these employees dependent upon their employment with the company to remain in the country, rather than being able to move about at will.

    Indentured workforce, in other words.

  • by pecosdave (536896) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:17AM (#47728925) Homepage Journal

    This isn't a tech report, it's political propaganda. There's plenty of awesome U.S. techs to do the jobs that are out of them, just as good as the imports, they just want U.S. wages.

  • by The Last Gunslinger (827632) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:18AM (#47728939)
    "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."

    I've worked in tech (SE) for 15+ years now, and I don't know of a single colleague that would agree with the sentiment expressed in that quote.
  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:18AM (#47728941)
    Business lobbying for what what will be best for them. News at 11.... Hopefully, voters make this an issue.
  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Major Blud (789630) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:19AM (#47728949) Homepage

    "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge"

    Especially when you want to keep that person tied to the company for the duration of their visa and pay them less than someone with a non-visa.

  • by jtseng (4054) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:21AM (#47728963)

    We're too cheap to hire a less experienced person and train them to do their job properly.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:21AM (#47728965) Homepage Journal
    Of course they want to hire the "very best", where "bestness" is measured by how little money they are willing to work for.

    I don't disagree that there are some really smart people around the world who want to work for Google, but really valuable people don't need special programs to come over to work. The existing system is already set up to admit them. This is a smoke screen to hide the true purpose of the program: finding more people who don't know the value of their skills, preferably ones without many existing relationships that are easier to overwork.
  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:22AM (#47728975) Homepage Journal

    Let's be honest here: no it isn't.

    Tech skills are hard to objectively verify. Technical results are hard to objectively verify. We collectively proxy that by having lots of tests, competitions, selection, and other heuristics. But that's not a symptom of us respecting skill more than other jobs(maybe more than other specific office jobs, but not more than lawyers, doctors, manufacturing technicians, similar things), it's a symptom of it being really hard to tell.

    These companies are looking to take shortcuts. And some are looking for excuses to cut salaries. That's it.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:24AM (#47729007) Journal
    Is this article a troll? If it is then I give it 10/10, gr8 b8 m8, and all that shit, because it makes me want to punch someone. In the face. Repeatedly. I've never heard such total bullshit in my entire life. So, what, I'm supposed to sit back and accept an attitude of 'fuck U.S. workers, they all suck, we'll hire from overseas because they're better'? Bull-fucking-shit. Know what I think? I think they like getting anyone they can that will work cheaper, that's what. I work with engineers, I live in the same house as an engineer, and they all tell me how it really is: They'd rather hire younger workers from overseas, regardless of their lack of experience and education, because they can get them dirt cheap, and to hell with quality.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:25AM (#47729015) Homepage

    > Proof that US slashdotters techies are just sort of OK at best since they don't want high skills immigration. Low skills immigration is fine since it doesn't compete directly with their jobs though.

    What immigration?

    H1Bs are an indentured servitude program.

    It was a stark realization the first time found out that the imported PhDs in my shop were making less than I was. I was in a much better position to negotiate for better salary despite having less education and a more generic specialty.

    I had the legal standing to tell my employer to "take this job and shove it".

    I happily took advantage of the situation but never forgot the injustice of it.

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pslytely psycho (1699190) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:26AM (#47729029) Journal
    "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."

    Show me ONE.

    Just fucking ONE.

    He or she must have a pulse,
    be conscience,
    have an IQ over 30,
    full citizenship,
    NOT A POLITICIAN,
    NOT A CEO,
    NOW SHOW ME ONE.
  • by sycodon (149926) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:27AM (#47729039)

    So this tool just shit on U.S. workers and claims that people who are essentially nothing but ITT Tech graduates from a third world country are superior.

    They are cheaper, more subservient, less likely to push for raises, and are perfectly happy work 60-80 our weeks.

    I'm sure he has illegals mowing his lawn too. I wonder if Google Car can be programed to run someone down.

  • by loonycyborg (1262242) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:29AM (#47729061)
    Beside, best techs from other countries are already in demand at home, no need for them to move. "The best" is not someone US would get from H1B visa program.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:32AM (#47729107)

    I've worked in SE for a bit over ten years. The best IT people I have worked with have been from America or Western Europe (England, France, etc.), but I can't say that any country has produced better IT folks than the other.

    Now let's talk about India. India seems to be a popular source for software engineers, testing services, documentation, etc., and I cannot for the life of me understand why. Building anything takes forever; standards are ripped apart and tossed to the wind; things crash, don't log, don't even compile, run slowly as hell... This isn't from a single experience either.

    Does that mean that every guy I've worked with out of India has been a dope? Nope. Not every one, but most of them. I'm not talking about differences in culture, language, or anything else - I'm looking strictly at an end result here.

    The people who are spouting this nonsense that "only foreign-born IT folk are good" are penny pinchers who only look at the short term ledgers. They're not, at all, thinking about the long term consequences of their hiring because they're not in the trenches. They don't understand how software is built or how to determine if something is good or not. They just don't get it.

  • by pla (258480) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:35AM (#47729143) Journal
    I've worked in tech (SE) for 15+ years now, and I don't know of a single colleague that would agree with the sentiment expressed in that quote.

    Ditto, this!

    He clearly means "I have talked with CTOs" and doesn't grasp that that title just means yet-another-stuffed-shirt, not any sort of actual engineer.

    Because, while I have no doubt that good engineers exist outside the US - They don't need to come here to work as indentured servants. Thus we have exactly the wrong sort of selection bias in who applies for H1Bs in the first place.


    "Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers"? No. Real tech (as opposed to "pointy-haired cat herders") wants Obama to clamp down on importing "Just Sort of OK" foreign workers to displace equally qualified American workers. Simple as that.
  • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:40AM (#47729199)

    And the best thing about hiring a vIsa worker isn't even the low pay or the way it artificially drives down wages even for your American workers. It's the fact that you can threaten to have them deported if they complain or ask for a raise. They're the perfect indentured serv...oops...I mean "workers."

  • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:46AM (#47729257)

    Companies are required to pay above the prevailing wage for the position and region.

    First of all, the "prevailing wage" is already artificially lowered because of the presence of H1B's. But, even so, it doesn't matter because there are a million ways around this law anyway. Want to get around having to pay your Indian software engineer the prevailing wage for a software engineer? No problem! Just hire him as a "Junior Programmer."

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:00AM (#47729423) Journal
    Not superior, just cheaper. The guy is right when he states that, in tech, "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge". It stands to reason that you'd pay a hell of a lot more to the truly great compared to the good, and that the good still earn quite a bit more than the sort of ok. Funny how that never seemed to happen, though, except in a few companies I've seen (where you also had management reeling in horror at the fact that some techies made more than them). I bet there's plenty of talent to go around in the US, but top performers command top pay or they'll up and leave. Foreign workers are a cheaper and less mobile work force.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:02AM (#47729439)

    And the program is only supposed to be for filling jobs that CANNOT OTHERWISE BE FILLED. It's supposed to bring in geniuses and highly skilled technical workers, not fill the cubicle mazes with bodies.

    What the H1B program really needs are some quantifiable metrics, i.e.
    = You can only bring in H1B people for jobs where the qualified US applicant pool is smaller than X. (Only allow for highly specialized jobs)
    = A person on an H1B visa must be paid at least the average regional salary for their job position (remove the lower wage incentive)
    = The job which the H1B person is being hired for must require a 4 year college degree and the candidate must have received said degree from a recognized
          institution.

    I also support a tax on these workers, to be paid by the employer in addition to normal wages and taxes, that would directly fund educating/retraining American workers to fill tech jobs that are open. Note, this is a fair tax because only companies that want to use H1B visas would be burdened--it's totally their choice.

  • by Arker (91948) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:04AM (#47729463) Homepage
    "As a tech worker myself, I don't see why foreign workers would be inherently worse."

    They are not, *inherently* worse. Not by a long shot. Some of them are very, very good.

    The problem is that they are being selected, not on the basis of technical skills, but on the basis of lower costs and more subservience. Companies prefer, not just foreign workers, but H1B workers specifically - because they are powerless and easier to abuse.

    Just a look at the 'products' these so-called tech companies are churning out should be enough to give lie to the idea that they have any interest at all in technical excellence. They do not. They want cheap code-monkeys that will crank out utter crap as directed with no back talk, no wage pressures, and no looking for a better job to worry about.

    "I mean I've seen some people, very much home grown, who seem to have such a poor grasp of how things work that I wonder how on earth they even have a job."

    Sure. But we dont have any kind of monopoly on those people. Outsource to save money and you are likely to get the south asian equivalent - all the same problems, plus communication and cultural difficulties on top of it.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:09AM (#47729527) Homepage

    " I don't see why foreign workers would be inherently worse."

    AS one that has had to work with some great guys I can tell you that communicating took 3-5X longer. Sorry but some accents are so thick that we had to waste so much time it was not funny, we finally gave up on meetings and went to text based communication.

    Hamir is a fantastic guy, but I can not understand him, and he had trouble understanding me.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:23AM (#47729659)

    This isn't a tech report, it's political propaganda. There's plenty of awesome U.S. techs to do the jobs that are out of them, just as good as the imports, they just want U.S. wages.

    That last bit is the flaw in your argument. You mistakenly think there is such a thing as "US wages". The talent pool is global and what matters is your productivity versus your price. If you demand more in wages you had better be significantly more productive and able to prove it. Your economic value to any company is based solely on productivity per dollar spent. If an overseas worker can do the work needed and is willing to do it for less money then you had better find a way to increase your value either by improving productivity or decreasing your price.

    Pretending that your citizenship is any kind of meaningful protection against economic reality is just foolish. I understand that the reality of H1B visas and the rest is a harsh reality but its a reality that isn't going to change. Even if you did away with H1B visas altogether they are merely the symptom of the bigger problem which is wage disparity for a given talent level. US workers are highly paid relative to their talent compared with IT workers elsewhere and the economic consequence of that is that companies will seek lower labor costs wherever possible. This is true for ALL labor intensive industries. Get rid of H1B visas and I guarantee you will see some other equally odious tactic to reduce labor costs take its place. The only thing that will preserve high US IT wages is to develop structural economic advantages to hiring US IT workers. On a price/performance basis you need to make US IT workers the best in the world. Any solution that does not address that fact is doomed to fail.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:24AM (#47729679)

    The difference between a company which is truly great and just sort of okay is really huge. Most of our large tech companies are just sort of okay and think they have to hire cheaper workers from other countries, and get special US government favors in order to turn a profit or to stay in business. I wish we could get truly great US companies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:26AM (#47729711)

    Why would they? Most voters have bought hook, line and sinker the demonization of employee rights. Anything that is seen to not benefit the corporations and their profits is "socialism" and must be stopped at all costs.

    Which is amazing because people like Henry Ford realized a century ago that raising pay and benefits made for better employees and ones that were willing and able to buy his company's products. But this attitude is now considered "socialism" and will obviously bankrupt the economy. *rolls eyes*

  • Scum of the earth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:27AM (#47729723) Homepage Journal

    The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."

    He's right, I have said that. Of course, I always follow it with "but only if they have unrestricted visas that give them the same freedom I have to shop the market and work for whomever they want", and I suspect everyone he's talked to (presuming he isn't making it up) have said something similar.

    Because when the best of the best make $200k a year, it kicks the wind of out the whiners who complain about the the average programmer salary. But when they work for $80k and they can't switch jobs, that depresses my salary, and that is precisely why lying fuckwits like Joe Green and Mark Zuckerberg want to bring them here.

  • by disposable60 (735022) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:47AM (#47729981) Journal

    Exactly - truly great for this quarter's share price. Maybe the next couple of quarters. Beyond that I don't care as I'll be vested and can cash out.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday August 22, 2014 @10:56AM (#47730105) Journal
    Even if the accent isn't a problem, sometimes cultural biases can make communication rough. I once spent a two hour long meeting going in circles with someone who'd lived in the US for a decade now and spoke nearly flawless English, but who entirely failed to grasp the concept of what we were supposed to be discussing. We needed X, he assumed we needed Y, and it was only at the end that we finally convinced him to give us the X we'd asked for in the beginning.
  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Friday August 22, 2014 @11:48AM (#47730573)

    'The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries...'

    Name them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @11:57AM (#47730645)

    We have a visa for 'top' 'extraordinary' workers. It is the O visa. Funny there are no caps for it...

    H1B is being abused and they know it. It was meant for 1-2 month gigs and they leave. Instead its turned into 6 year stints. Nearly 500k people are h1b at this time. A 6 year job is a job not a short term contract work. You can produce front to end a decent software product in 2 years. If it takes longer you are probably doing something very wrong.

    There are give or take about 140 million jobs in the US. Of those 1.5-3 million depending on how you count it are IT jobs. Or about 1 out of 5 IT jobs are filled by an H1B worker.

    Wages in a sellers market should go up. However, they are flat to no growth. Because companies are using the h1b to depress wages by reducing mobility.

    I make it a point to show h1b workers that they are truly getting fucked over. I am currently on 15 who have up and quit and moved on to get better pay.

    Many do not realize they are getting fucked over. As the standard they are coming from is so much lower. I show them how they could have *even* more and their greed kicks in every time. I also make sure they push hard on HR to get that green card. They then realize HR does not work for them either. I make it expensive to keep an H1B. Funny thing is I accidentally lucked into this at my first job as I saw a friend being screwed over being passed up for 3 raises.

  • by ogdenk (712300) on Friday August 22, 2014 @12:42PM (#47731207)

    The only economic reason they'd hire an American over an H1B is if the American is willing to let his kids starve and be downright abused for $10 an hour after spending his whole life studying his craft.

    You outsourcing shills are downright retarded. It should be criminal. US IT workers shouldn't have to live like utter slaves, work 80 hour weeks and need food stamps just because some barely qualified H1B will do it for $10/hr. We are not disposable blue collar idiots. We are white collar professionals and we just want the same damn respect accountants, other dept managers, other educated employees and even secretaries get within the same organization. We are often abused just about everywhere companies get away with it. We're also treated with copious amounts of paranoia and mistrust.

    How would you feel if hospitals outsourced all their surgical labor to Mexican H1B's getting paid $19,000/yr and still gave you the same $2,000 bill for giving your kid antibiotic eardrops after a 5 minute visit?

    Americans can't compete on price. Point blank. It costs too much to BE an American and LIVE in America. We can't tolerate spending our entire lives (and a lot of personal money) dedicated to being the skilled folks we are only to be forced to compete at a hair above minimum wage. Get a grip.

    And you think unionization killed US manufacturing? No. Outsourcing did. And as good as we are at pissing off the rest of the world, being a society of unemployed skilled workers, management, minimum wage employees and lawyers will kill us if the world cuts us off.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday August 22, 2014 @01:36PM (#47731661)

    The only economic reason they'd hire an American over an H1B is if the American is willing to let his kids starve and be downright abused for $10 an hour after spending his whole life studying his craft.

    If you spend your life studying something that allows you to be replaced for $10/hour then you are frankly retarded. Nobody owes you a comfortable living. You need to earn it and part of that is having the foresight to see what might be valuable to employers.

    US IT workers shouldn't have to live like utter slaves, work 80 hour weeks and need food stamps just because some barely qualified H1B will do it for $10/hr. We are not disposable blue collar idiots.

    Who is suggesting that you do? If you provide enough value for the wages you command then you should be able to live very nicely. But if your job can be done by someone willing to work for $10 per hour then you better reconsider just how valuable what you do actually is. Furthermore, just because someone does a "blue collar" job doesn't mean they are an idiot. Stop looking down your nose at people who don't work in an air conditioned office typing on a computer. You think you are too good to get your hands dirty? Are you really that arrogant?

    Americans can't compete on price. Point blank.

    Americans ARE competing on price at all times and the movement of certain types of jobs proves that fact. You could not be more wrong. Anyone who thinks price doesn't factor in is delusional. That includes competing for wages. You can ask for whatever you want but that doesn't guarantee the market will bear your asking price.

    Furthermore the per-capita US income is in the top 5 in the world. How sustainable do you think that is? I suggest you learn about regression toward the mean [wikipedia.org]. There are 5 people in China for every 1 in the US. Do you think Americans are smarter or harder working or more deserving? Do you think Americans are somehow special so they don't have to compete with the other 95% of the world? Grow up. The US has had a good run since WWII but that doesn't guarantee it will stay on top without a lot of hard work and sometimes some belt tightening too. Some jobs are going to move to where they make more economic sense. If you want to keep high paying jobs in the US then there is a lot of hard work to do. Better get busy because the rest of the world isn't going to wait for your lazy ass.

    And you think unionization killed US manufacturing?

    Nothing has killed US manufacturing. I work in manufacturing in the US and have for most of the last 20 years. I run a manufacturing company. The US manufactures over $3 Trillion in goods each year. The US manufacturing sector alone would be among the 10 largest economies in the world by GDP. Manufacturing in the US is alive and well and anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they are talking about. The number of jobs in US manufacturing has fallen just like it did in agriculture a hundred years ago but that is not by itself a bad thing. Would you prefer that 50%+ of the nation's workers be employed on farms like they were 150 years ago? What has changed is that the US predominately manufactures capital intensive [wikipedia.org] rather than labor intensive [wikipedia.org] goods.

  • by Cederic (9623) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:56PM (#47732887) Journal

    The big problem is that the pipeline's been cut off.

    You used to be able to interview 20 local people and get a choice of great candidates because the local people had come through the ranks and had to learn their shit.

    These days you don't take on junior people and train them up. For the same money you can get the already experienced person over from India, or Malaysia, or China, or Bulgaria. Or if you're a multinational, don't even get them over: Open the office there, it's even cheaper.

    So there aren't the junior learning roles, the apprenticeships, the low paid jobs in which people can learn the skills and become the great IT people we need.

    It's a fucking tragedy and it's taken a failure of the outsourcing model to reveal the sudden disconnect and gap that's been created, and it's going to be another decade before that gap starts to be filled.

    So right now it's actually true: there is a shortage of great people. Not because the locals aren't capable, or couldn't become great, but because there just haven't been the openings to let them develop those skills.

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