[OPE-L:8659] Fw: Fw: Labor tensions in Silicon Valley

From: Paul Bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.co.uk)
Date: Thu Mar 20 2003 - 16:41:58 EST


Here is a response from an interested friend.



Subject: Re: Fw: [OPE-L:8632] Labor tensions in Silicon Valley

> Hmmm ... Silicon Valley and visas is difficult territory and needs to
> be treated very carefully. Its a bit like British doctors complaining
> about immigrant doctors.
> The fact is that, in my experience, in general Indian software
> engineers are, generally, much better than American ones - they are far
> better educated, have better work habits and commitment. Very many US
> engineers do not have proper engineering education, have poor design
> skills and are generally extremely arrogant, will not do what has been
> asked of them, and are unwilling to learn new skills and adapt -
> remember, the software skill set changes about every 9 months or so:
> its like a treadmill.
> A good software engineer is about three times as productive as an
> average one. This is reflected in (a) time to market (b) cost of
> software (c) post-sales cost (support and maintenance is the major
> expense in software production).
> There has long been a racist hostility amongst white male computer
> employees whose skills are behind and who do not have the attitude
> needed. Instead of organizing to get better training, unionizing etc,
> they bitch about immigrant workers. Until recently there was an
> absolute shortage of software engineers here - you interview one and
> had to make on offer there and then if you wanted them, because someone
> else would have snapped them up in the afternoon. We are talking of
> salaries of $120,000. There have been very high expectations among
> these people, many of whom have only been out of college for 3-5 years
> and have expected high salary, 25% pa return on their investments, etc
> etc. There was a huge inflation in salaries in SV and quite mediocre
> engineers behaved like prima donnas - this is an extremely
> petit-bourgeois 'profession', which all sorts of self-delusions about
> 'individual creativity', brilliance etc etc. This is something one
> chooses to do (like being a doctor, lawyer etc), not forced to do.
> There's a lot of lazy arrogant people who are the first to suffer in
> the recession (from the middle-class) and who whine a lot.
> This is not to say that Sun is not trying to take advantage of
> immigrant workers etc, but that there is more to this than meets the
> eye. There are undoubtedly abuses of the immigration system, but
> specific cases need careful examination, since INS is pretty hot on
> qualifications and salary in this (geographical and technical) area.
> Other parts of the US, I'm sure are different.
> Canadian hospital system is different from US so I can't comment, but
> here, in California, the skill level expected of nurses is extremely
> high (very well organised and unionized, of course), highest in the
> country. When they try to ship in scabs from Alabama etc, they can't do
> the work, don't know how to follow the procedures and don't have the
> confidence of the doctors: it costs more in increases in malpractise
> insurance than it does to settle :). And, unlike Canada and UK, it is a
> private system, so striking does hit revenue. There is still an
> absolute shortage of nurses in California, despite the recession.
> Right now, the Valley is replete with disgruntled white male employees
> who believe that they should be millionaires instead of unemployed. If
> they showed an ounce of class-consciousness, I'd have some sympathy,
> but it is a petit-bourgeois mentality which has gotten completely out
> of hand - these are the sort of people who will be drawn into
> sympathising for fascist movements etc. They don't look to the union
> for help but to the lawyers.
> I'm not sure that this helps illustrate imperialism (which would be the
> purpose of such a report, wouldn't it?) so much as a somewhat exotic
> corner of it. This probably sounds a bit of a rant, but we've been
> round the block with these people over California's Proposition 187,
> which was an anti-immigrant ballot initiative to limit immigrant's
> access to state facilities (schools, hospitals etc). It passed in the
> state - but in the Bay Area, voting was more than 70% against.
> And now off to the city where we should be blocking the streets this
> morning .
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <rakeshb@stanford.edu>
> > To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
> > Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 9:12 PM
> > Subject: [OPE-L:8632] Labor tensions in Silicon Valley

 It seems that though the wage labor form of exploitation may be
free  of immediate extra-economic coercion, state regulation of labor power
(e.g., through the American H1B Visa programme) is quite important
in  capital securing wage labor on favorable conditions. A friend of
mine  Grace Chang (Evergreen College, UC Santa Barbara Women's Studies)
is  preparing a study on how Visa law is being used to supply the  Canadian
hospital system with cheap and vulnerable nurses, often  extremely
overqualified for the tasks which they are paid little to perform.  I
haven't yet read Geoffrey Kay and James Mott's book  Political order and the
law of labour (1982), which I imagine is a  work at different level of
abstraction than Grace's.  I think Michael  Williams included an article by
Kay in a book he edited.
At any rate, the role of the state in the labour market is not  something we
have discussed in much detail.
 Sun hit with discrimination suit Indian workers favored, U.S.-born engineer
alleges   Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe Tuesday, March 18, 2003 A lawsuit
filed Monday alleges Santa Clara computer giant Sun   Microsystems Inc. laid
off thousands of U.S. high-tech workers in   order to replace them with
younger, lower-paid engineers from
> > India.  The lawsuit, for which class-action status is being sought, is
certain to intensify an already fierce debate between technology  companies
and American engineers over the future of the H-1B visa
> > > program. Such visas let companies temporarily bring foreign workers
into the United States.  Companies say that H-1B visas provide well-trained
workers who have  skills that are hard to find in the domestic labor force.
But U.S.
> > > workers say that at a time of high unemploym ent among American
engineers and computer programmers, the H-1B program is mainly being  used
to bring in cheaper workers from overseas. The latest case, filed in Santa
Clara County Superior Court, was  brought by Walter Kruz, 52, who was
employed at Sun from May 2000  until late 2001, when Sun was laying off
about 2,500 of its workers  in the United States. While Kruz is currently
the only plaintiff,
> > his  attorney, James Caputo, plans to sue on behalf of hundreds of other
Sun workers whom he believes received similar treatment.  The lawsuit claims
Sun had a bias in favor of hiring people from   India, citing as evidence
statements made this year by Sun's   Indian-born co-founder, Vinod Khosla,
on the CBS television program  "60 Minutes." Khosla was quoted as saying
that at Sun, people from India "are favored over almost anybody else."

According to the lawsuit, hardly any of those laid off by Sun were
of  Indian descent. Instead, the company created a performance evaluation
program that required managers to classify a certain percentage of   workers
as underperformers, the suit alleges. At the same time,
workers who had been at the company for a short time were exempted
from this evaluation program, ensuring that few H-1B visa holders
would be subject to it. As a result, most of those found to be
underperfomers were older, American-born workers.

At the same time, the suit alleges, Sun was applying for permission
to bring in about 2,400 foreign workers, mostly from India, to fill
technical jobs. Many of these jobs were advertised in the United
States, as federal law requires. But the suit alleges that Sun
refused to consider any of the laid- off U.S. workers for the
By law, H-1B workers are supposed to receive the same pay U.S.
said this requirement can be easily evaded. "By and large, these
workers are younger and less expensive," he said, "and additionally
tend to be a little more compliant, because of their awareness of
their circumstances. . . . They don't have the kinds of protections
that most citizens have."

Kruz claims discrimination based on race, national origin and age.
seeks compensation for lost wages, attorneys' fees and unspecified
punitive damages.
A Sun spokeswoman said the company's attorneys had not had a chance
to review the complaint. But she noted the company had successfully
defended itself against similar charges.

The most recent such case involved a former systems administrator,
Guy Santiglia, who filed similar discrimination claims with the
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and with the departments of
Labor and Justice. All three agencies dismissed the claims, ruling
that Sun's use of the H-1B program was appropriate.
Sun also will be defending itself against discrimination charges in

federal court. In January, Caputo sued in U.S. District Court in
Colorado on behalf of 43-year-old Gail Matthews and other Sun
allegedly displaced by H-1B visa holders.


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