In today's news we learn that Scott McNealy got his wish. The Senate approved an increase in H1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 as part of the immigration reform bill. Also in today's news we learn that Sun is laying off 5000 employees.
Sun co-founder and CEO-until-a-few-months-ago Scott McNealy has been a frequent proponent of raising the limit on H1B visas. Here's an exerpt from a report on his statements at a Sun Founders Panel Discsussion this past January:
Curtailment of H1b visas was a burning issue for McNealy. “We are torching ourselves for not letting smart people come to work in Silicon Valley. We should ask those people to stay here for at least 10 years after they get their university degrees.” McNealy noted that Khosla and Bechtolsheim were immigrants who had paid more than their fair share of taxes so they have hardly been a burden on our society. McNealy diminished the threat from outsourcing (and off shoring). He denied that jobs gained overseas translate into jobs lost in the U.S. We need to focus on innovating to create more opportunities for jobs here, he argued.
Here are some excerpts from what Sun's current CEO Jonathan Schwartz (no relation to The Schwartz) blogged about Sun's layoffs:
We are adding coverage and technical specialists, while continuing to reduce redundant or duplicative functions.
We will decrease some non-core R&D, and specifically duplicative or redundant infrastructure and management processes, but we are expecting to increase our focus on developers, and on investments in Java innovation, and the open source Solaris operating system.
Hmmm.... "redundant or duplicative functions"? "duplicative or redundant infrastructure and management processes"? I think we can infer from that that the first to be laid off was Jonathan's copy editor.
More to the point, though, Sun intends to keep "adding coverage" and "increase our focus on developers". They're not written into law quite yet, but it looks like those extra H1Bs are going to be approved just in time to help Sun avoid having to re-direct those non-core R&D folks into core R&D. That, after all, might involve an investment in training employees, and why do that when you can hire younger, lower salaried H1Bs?
Disclaimer: These comments are my own and no one else's. My employer's management may or not be on record as supporting the H1B increase. My employer may or may not be using H1Bs. I have no idea, actually.
1. Carl Tyler06/01/2006 10:43:26 AM
Having been a H1B visa holder and I beleive having helped the US economy, I have no comment
2. Carl06/01/2006 11:44:08 AM
Obviously I still can't spell to save my life.
3. Richard Schwartz06/01/2006 02:25:39 PM
@Carl: Presuming that you were brought in by a company that was not laying people off simultaneously and that you provided skills that were difficult to find in the US labor force, and at a level of experience that a reasonable level of training could not easily compensate for in a less experienced US citizen, and you were compensated commensurate with market rates for US citizens in similar positions, then I have no beef at all. That's what H1B is for. My problem is that I know it isn't always used that way. I strongly believe that if it were being used only that way, there would be no case at all for increasing the numbers. Given the rhetoric about how they filled all requests in two months last time around, it's simply not possible. There just can't be that many open positions that meet all those criteria. Furthermore, there is ample evidence about the compensation level differential between H1Bs and laid off US technology workers.
If Sun lays off 5000 and hires even 1 H1B below the Ph.D./20 years experience level, I will consider it proof of abuse, plain and simple. Aside from a few truly esoteric thought-leadership positions that only a handful of people in the industry could fill, there is just no possible way that, out of 5000 candidates, they wouldn't be able find a single one who, with approriate training, would be qualified for the job.
4. Jackie06/05/2006 11:22:26 AM
I have been bothered by the H1B situation since a previous employer went belly-up immediately after 9/11. There were 35 of us in the deparment, 10 of whom were developers - most with roughly the same skills. The average length of unemployment for our department was 6 months. The 2 H1Bs employed by this now defunct company? Less than 6 weeks and both of them were employed - locally. At the time, I tried to get my still unemployed (aka nothing better to do anyways) coworkers together as a group to protest this, but they all had the you-can't-fight-city-hall attitude. It continues to frustrate me...
5. Richard Schwartz06/05/2006 12:40:39 PM
It's worse than "You can't fight city hall". It's "You can't fight global economics". Or so a lot of people want us to believe -- and there is a lot of truth to it. But that doesn't mean we must give up in the few places where we can fight it, and H1B is one of those places where we can and should.
The argument that we must bring in all these smart and skilled people from other countries because we don't have enough of our own smart and skilled people is utter crap. It's just plain insulting. We have plenty of smart people, and except in a tiny percentage of highly specialized areas we absolutely have the means to keep the skill levels of our smart people at a par or above the smart people from other countries. We have the means to give our smart people the incentives needed to get them to specialize in the fields where our econommy and industries most need them. We also have the means to make our skilled smart people more productive and have them deliver higher ROI even when it costs more to employ them than it costs to employ the smart people from other countries. We need policies set to encourage that, rather than the short-sighted H1B policies that actively discourage it.
6. Jackie06/05/2006 02:38:33 PM
But it seems like the problem is that to get the policies changed, we need legislative might. And that comes from large numbers of people speaking out. And if most people refuse to get their heads out of the sand and at least call their congressmen to express their opinions on the subject, we'll never be able to make a good argument that the voters are upset about it. Maybe the push can start here in the blogsphere and then get some media coverage....
7. Carl06/06/2006 10:27:41 AM
@3 I'm in total agreement, if people are being laid off and replaced with H1B employees then that is not the spirit I believe the H1Bs are intended, and also makes people dislkie H1B employees, when it is not their fault but hte fault of the employers.
In the UK, if someone is laid off (made redundant) and replaced by a new employee doing the same job, then they can be sued for illegal dismisal.