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Invasion of the Body-Shoppers

Special visa allows firms to fill jobs with foreigners for less

By John Lasker · December 22nd, 2010 · News
In the age of the Great Recession, if you tell any well-educated and out-of-work professional from Greater Cincinnati that thousands of non-citizen foreigners with advanced skills are employed locally and making bank, they just might flip their lid.

And if you take into consideration that one of the globe’s largest outsourcing firms bringing these non-citizen guest workers to the United States has a major office in Milford, any unemployed Cincinnatian probably should hold onto to the top of their skull.

The visa bringing these foreigners to Cincinnati and across America is the H-1b, which allows American corporations to hire foreigners with advanced skills — mainly IT professionals, engineers and professors — to come work in the U.S. for six years.

Quietly, the H-1b been around for over two decades but is now gaining a notorious reputation because many labor and IT unions claim the H-1b has displaced American workers, depressed wages and exploited the foreigners who use an H-1b.

The crux of the problem, critics say, is that U.S. corporations are blatantly ignoring federal law requiring them to only hire an H-1b if there is a serious shortage of Americans with the same qualifications.

Also, critics allege American corporations utilize the H-1b to keep wages low; studies have shown that most H-1bs working in the IT sector are initially offered a wage that is thousands of dollars less than the prevailing wage for entry-level IT pros who are U.S. citizens.

Proponents of the H-1b, such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has called for an “infinite” number of H-1bs to enter the U.S., alleging that for every H-1b that eventually becomes a citizen, five future jobs will be created for Americans.

At any given time, an estimated 600,000 H-1b foreigners are working in this nation. Yet nearly every U.S. corporation that uses H-1bs — such as Microsoft and IBM — refuses to say exactly how many they’ve hired.

Numbers culled by CityBeat from MyVisaJobs.com, the Department of Homeland Security and other immigration-related Web sites, suggest the the estimated number of H-1bs working in Greater Cincinnati is between 3,000 and 5,000, with a salary most likely between $50,000 and $100,000. Some of the biggest users of the H-1b locally are The University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“Yes, I have heard several people say that (they were displaced by an H-1b holder), especially the older guys in the field,” says Troy Davis, head of Cincinnati’s Programmers Guild. “The most angry are the ones who have been displaced by an H-1b and then trained the foreigner — the H-lb holder — to do their job.”

But whether the H-1b is hurting or helping Greater Cincinnati “is a very complicated question,” Davis adds.

Critics of the H-1b say one of their favorite targets has a major corporate office in Milford — Tata Consultancy Services, which is widely known as Tata.

With its parent company based in India, Tata describes itself as a worldwide leader in “infrastructure support, help desk and other outsourcing services.”

WashTech, a Seattle-based IT union that’s hardcore anti-H-1b, claims Tata is an H-1b “body shopper” because it has an established track record of not hiring U.S. citizens. Instead, Tata brings their fellow Indian citizens to American using the H-1b , where they’re sourced to companies such as Citigroup.

According to MyVisa.com, Tata in Milford ranks 20th out of the top 100 American companies that have utilized the H-1b since 2001. At any given time, Tata has 8,000 H-1bs working in the U.S., while the top H-1b user, Microsoft, has roughly 35,000, states MyVisa.com.

“They (Tata) are certainly abusers of the H-1b program because they have total disregard whether there’s a labor shortage of American citizens with advanced skills,” says Les French, president of WashTech. “They are one of the larger operations taking advantage of the H-1b.”

Seeking to appease critics of the H-1b, however, Tata promised in 2007 it would bring 1,000 jobs to their Milford office and that most of these hires would be Americans from Greater Cincinnati. Back then, The Times of India wrote, “(Tata’s) Milford office will take in mostly local hires over the next three years after Tata cranks it up with associates from India”.

A Tata press release from September 2010 states the Milford office has 400 employees, with 300 of them local hires, many fresh out of college.

When Tata first proposed establishing a major IT hub near Cincinnati, among those enticing the firm were Gov. Ted Strickland and the Cincinnati USA Partnership. The state offered Tata an eight-year Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit, valued at $15 million. The Ohio Department of Development has also tossed in a $2.5 million Rapid Outreach Grant.

“What a slap-in-the-face to the American worker,” French says about the incentives.

According to the Ohio Department of Development, Tata has until 2012 to meet their end of the deal. If not, then the incentives are “clawed back.”Thus, Tata has roughly 600 jobs to fill within 18 months. Will they hire Americans or bring in IT pros from India?

“I cannot give that info out (nevertheless) the vast majority of our employees in our Milford office have been locally hired which continues to be our hiring strategy for that office moving forward,” says Michael McCabe, director of North American communications for Tata.

The Ohio Department of Development told CityBeat the new hires had better be Americans or Tata will lose all incentives.

“Yes, it matters,” says Jeff Botti, a department spokesman. “Companies receive credit only for those employees who are legal residents of Ohio.”

According to Botti, 10 percent of Tata’s Ohio’s workforce is H-1b. But now that they’ve established a secure foothold in the Buckeye State, are more H-1bs on the way for other major corporations and banks such as Citigroup?

In 2008, nearly a year to the day after Gov. Strickland announced the Tata deal, Tata’s main office in Mumbai bagged a $2.5 billion contract with Citigroup to provide outsourcing services and infrastructure support for 10 years. By the way, the New York-based Citigroup, which suffered huge losses during the Great Recession due to subprime mortgages (needing billions in TARP bailout funds while also laying-off thousands to stay afloat), has two big hubs within Greater Cincinnati, employing 3,000.

Over 80 percent work at Citigroup’s credit card call center in Florence, and the rest at its Information Technology Center in Blue Ash. In 2006, when Citigroup opened the Blue Ash IT center, 1,000 new jobs were on the way, announced the bank, which is one of the nation's largest. Due to the downturn, though, just a few hundred positions have been filled.

Will Citigroup fill their 1,000-stated quota, and, if so, with Americans or H-1bs? Citigroup refuses to talk about their H-1bs or make clear statements about them, as do Microsoft, Tata and just about everybody else.

“To meet our customers’s expectations, Citi outsources some of its operations and technology work to vendors,” says Janis Tarter of Citigroup’s Global Public Affairs in San Francisco.

Ironically, during the past year, Gov. Strickland campaigned hard against outsourcing. In August he even banned offshore outsourcing by all state agencies, upsetting Tata and other Indian outsourcing companies.

“Outsourcing jobs does not reflect Ohio values,” wrote Strickland in the executive order. It was in stark contrast to just a few years before, when he invited Tata executives to the governor’s mansion for dinner.

But ultimately, Strickland’s anti-outsourcing bent during the campaign was was a desperate move to catch challenger John Kasich, who’s a gung-ho supporter of outsourcing and other free market, pro-Wall Street policies.

Which begs the question: What is Gov.-elect Kasich’s view on the H-1b visa?

Despite repeated attempts to get an answer, Kasich’s office never returned telephone calls.



12.22.2010 at 11:43 Reply
John, I just did a quick search here http://www.flcdatacenter.com/CaseH1B.aspx for 2010 alone. (You have to download the text file and open it in excel as a comma delimited file). Just in Cincinnati, companies applied for 811 workers on the H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is good for six years. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how many foreign workers are taking jobs away from American citizens. A cursory look reveals that one company, Itelligence, applied for 122 H-1B workers in Cincinnati. These companies want people to believe that there are no available American workers with 10% unemployment. Where are the elected officials on this issue? Cue the crickets.


12.22.2010 at 02:49
It's well-known that credential fraud is rampant in the H-1B field, and the "universities" in India that grant degrees to "engineers" are often no better than community colleges. It's a huge scam, and it needs to end.


12.22.2010 at 09:20
The H-1B is bad for the country. The Department of Labor acknowledged that: “H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker.”


12.23.2010 at 10:10
POedLib - were you aware that India founded one of the best know IT Schools in the world? And children there dont get to sit and not pay attention to class and cheat like many americans do. I am an american and i saw it all through college. Noone really knew what they were doing. Just getting by. I feel like your a little over critical and underqualified to make any of these judgments. Do you have any experiance in this field or any experiance in dealing with this H-1B problem? or do you just like to assert your opinions across the internet...


12.23.2010 at 10:59
@Fightthepower: So 10% unemployment automatically means those workers are qualified for the position at Seven Hills Park? A quick search on a job search engine reveals the requirements to be of a Bachelor in CS, EE, or CE. Now why don't you do a quick search on how many degress of those majors have been earned in the last two years and how many positions are available in the U.S.?


12.23.2010 at 11:20
@nugewqtd If you want that search done, how about you do it yourself? My guess is that Americans are already doing 90% of your job, slave.


12.23.2010 at 12:40
@Fightthepower: So petty. I ask a question more in hope that will think more not to burden you. But alas you have your view, and you know that it is right. Your last bit does not make much sense. Are you alluding to the interdependencies I have for water, electricity, logistics of food products and goods? How does anyone in any country not have the same dependencies? I must of hit you pretty close to the mark to get you all riled up.


12.23.2010 at 01:37
@woedljm: Yes, I am quite aware of H-1Bs, and have experience with them. I am not an IT professional in a strict sense, but am thru the side door (statistical data analysis). As such, I have hired many H-1bs to my great regret, mostly Chinese women. They are here for one reason only - to have more kids than allowed in China. The side-by-side comparison of Americans and chinese is always favorable for the initiative, self-direction, and intelligence of the Americans.


12.23.2010 at 07:58
@nugewqtd "I ask a question more in hope that will think more not to burden you." If I didnt know any better, I would swear that was a quote from a drunken Yoda in a missing scene from Star Wars that didn't make the final cut. What are you talking about? You are the epitome of everything wrong with the H-1B program. At first glance, you appear to have a little knowledge but somewhere in further conversation everything falls apart.


12.24.2010 at 01:11
@fightthepower: Woah, Yoda was a Jedi master, he did not drink. So what are we talking about? Well we have some shared nerdy qualities. However, we have perhaps some differing political ideals. You mention that Itelligence applied for numerous visas, but how many were approved? There is a yearly cap the government grants (60,000). I did not read into how that number is determined, my guess would be it has to deal with a total cap and the number of expiring the preceding year. So if the blog is correct and 600,000 is the total cap, that still doesn't explain why 10% of the population is unemployed. If we have 300 million population then we believe we have 3 million without jobs. Those without jobs have been consistently described in the media as a work force unprepared for the industries still in the US. Perhaps the bigger question should be why did our government allow companies to set up factories outside the US? It makes sense from a capitalistic view point. Not so much from an ethical view point. But if there were stronger ethics with some of these US companies/banks then perhaps we would not have ridiculous things such as more money was tied up in derivative trading than there was money in the world. So if even Tata is bring in a few H1B's they are hiring more locals than H1B's. Though do question the blog stating the H1B's are 50-60k paying jobs, doesn't make sense since that is what Seven Hills will hire college students with no experience (check monster.com).


12.22.2010 at 11:57 Reply
Hey john, you are totally wrong about TATA. Having this firm in Cincinnati is gift to the region. other than employment, they have done so many good things in the community. You seems to be new to the region !


12.22.2010 at 11:59
What are the odds you are here on an H-1B visa?


12.22.2010 at 02:38
What part of India are you from, desi?


12.22.2010 at 03:05
You sound like a gambler fightthepower... I feel that your broad generalization of cincinnati companies doing this does not specifically apply to TATA. In my opinion, not only do they supply great jobs for locals and other american citizens, they also give back to the community. But then again im no genius


12.22.2010 at 02:03 Reply
And even if Tata does hire "locally" they can get around hiring Americans. Ever since the H-1B visa became "portable" a few years back, H-1Bs who lose their jobs or become discontent don't have to go home. They can just jump to another job here in America so long as the employer is willing to sponsor them. So, they jump from job to job while we worry about pink slips. Tata can simply sponsor H-1Bs who are already here, and claim they hired "locall candidates."


12.22.2010 at 02:30 Reply
America needs to innovate from within..with heavy unemployment the government should cancel the following visas: H1-b, L1, OPT, EB1, EB2 and EB3 which allow foreigners to take American jobs. That's one way we can promote economic growth. All I have to say is: the politicians that dreamed up NAFTA, CAFTA, and the like including outsourcing must have had rocks for brains to have ever thought those things would be good for our country. How in the world (no pun intended) could fair trade (what a joke) with all those other countries be good for us!!! It was the beginning of unemployment when those things were voted in. Our companies took off for the cheap labor, and our people lost their jobs. Personally, I would rather pay more for things and have Americans employed than to have cheap products from China that don't hold up for long anyway!!!! Why is our government STILL bringing in 1.5 MILLION foreign workers a year?http://www.americanworker.org/ The vast majority of foreigners here on guestworker visas are ordinary white collar workers with common skill sets. Why, why, why???? http://www.youtube.com/user/crowdifornia


12.22.2010 at 02:40
You left out the J-1, which is also another tool for job theft. Look at this website: http://www.jobofer.org/taxes/ which explains how to cheat the government out of taxes and cheat americans out of jobs using the J-1 visa


12.22.2010 at 02:37 Reply
The H-1B scum are mostly a bunch of low-skilled scabs, here to steal jobs. We need to end this scam. Companies use the visa to get basically indentured servants here, and it is often the tool for age discrimination. H-1bs, who are mostly incompetent, are also saving companies the SS tax. Write your congressperson and tell them to end this program.


12.23.2010 at 10:38
Perhaps you should explain your current skill level. How do you qualify for a position with in Seven Hills Park. Difficult for a job to be stolen when you do not merrit a position to begin.


12.23.2010 at 11:15
@nugewqtd "merrit"? You are obviously highly skilled yourself. Do you need an American to help you with spell-check?


12.23.2010 at 12:20
@Fightthepower: Oh dear me. Lord forbid there be typos in my comments. Are you the "American" to help me. Thank you for pointing it out. Yet a typo does cannot lead to any idea about my qualifications. I sense something.


12.23.2010 at 12:52
For anyone who can read, the syntax and grammer of an H-1b jump off the page. I won't tell negewqtd what they are, but they are like magnesium flares to me. I spot them right away.


12.23.2010 at 01:43
@POedLib: Oh that explains your blindness.