Washington – If you thought that the types of jobs where immigrant workers were the subject of wage theft were similar to car washing, farm work, and catering, think again.
A study released Dec. 9 by the Economic Policy Institute shows that even in the tech industry, immigrants are paid less than their American counterparts, although federal law says this is not supposed to happen.
The practice has a domino effect. The law says the immigrant workforce is only meant to augment, not replace, American workers. But because multinational companies that bring in tech-skilled immigrant workers get away with paying them less, American workers who do more are misguided. Lower wages then set a new lower bar for work in the sector.
“We estimate that HCL (a company specializing in hiring immigrant tech workers) is saving at least $ 95 million per year by illegally underpaying its H-1B employees,” the study said, noting the type of visa of immigrant employed in the technology sector. . “It’s $ 95 million in wages stolen from H-1B workers each year – a large-scale white-collar wage theft – that has been facilitated by negligent enforcement of labor standards in the H-1B program.”
You may not have heard of HCL. “HCL is not a small outsourcing company. It is the third largest IT outsourcing company in India, generating 63% of its $ 11 billion turnover in the United States,” the study says. of 34 pages. “New evidence of widespread wage theft in the H-1B visa program.”
The Economic Policy Institute study estimated the wage theft figures based on a 2015 document that showed how HCL exploited the system to its advantage and whose workers “appeared to be illegally underpaid.”
“According to HCL’s own calculations, the company consistently pays H-1B workers much less than its American workers – up to 47% – in violation of HCL’s attestations in its visa applications where it promises to pay wages. real if it is higher than the current salary. salary, âaccording to the EPI study.â In each case throughout the HCL presentation, the percentage difference that US citizens are paid more is very large, ranging from 13% to 87%. “
Separate requests from the Catholic News Service for comment sent to HCL’s US headquarters in Arlington, Texas, and its global headquarters in Noida, India, have gone unanswered.
The H-1B program is “part of a family of abusive ‘guest worker’ programs in the United States,” a Dec. 13 statement from Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network, said.
“They are fatally flawed because the worker’s permission to work in this country is tied to the goodwill of the sponsoring employer,” he added. âLeaving their jobs to seek better wages or more humane treatment from another company is almost impossible. Workers fear the displeasure of their sponsoring employer, which makes it extremely difficult for them to organize and demand fair treatment through collective action. “
If a company says it needs tech workers – four of HCL’s high-profile, high-volume clients are Accenture, Google, IBM, and Microsoft – they’ll call a workforce placement agency. immigrant, like HCL. The brokerage provides the labor. The client decides if he wants to keep the American workers he has. Both the client and the brokerage escape US scrutiny for low wages because immigrant labor is not paid by the client, but by the brokerage.
The US Department of Labor said the arrangement was legal.
The Institute for Economic Policy has said it would like the Labor Ministry to change its position. In the absence of that, he asked Congress to legislate on a remedy.
Sometimes workers can take matters into their own hands.
Stephen McMurtry, member of the Catholic Labor Network, is a member of the Alphabet Workers Union; Alphabet is the parent company of Google.
The union, which has more than 800 members, carries out organizational and mobilization campaigns despite its minority status. McMurtry said Google had around 220,000 tech workers before the coronavirus pandemic – around 100,000 full-time U.S. workers and another 120,000 with their own abbreviation: âTVCsâ for temps, suppliers and contractors.
“One thing the union has been looking at is pay equity,” McMurtry told the Catholic News Service in a telephone interview on Dec. 13. He added that there was no tension in the workplace between the groups.
âIn fact, the Alphabet Workers Union is open to full-time employees and contractors, salespeople and contractors, so everyone is working together for a common goal,â he said.
McMurtry noted remarkable union success in the fall.
“The people who work in Google’s data centers are contractors. They were promised an attendance bonus. The company they were working for, suddenly and without explanation, arrested her,” said he declared. âMany of those union members who are both full-time Google employees and contractors, pressured Modis – the contractor’s name – to put pressure on them. gave everyone the attendance bonuses that were supposed to be paid. “
The weekly bonus of $ 200 proved to be useful, as some of the eligible workers made as little as $ 15 an hour. McMurtry added, “Google and contractor employees come together to make sure temp workers and suppliers are treated fairly by both parties.”