Programmers Guild on Lou Dobbs / CNN

Programmers Guild on Lou Dobbs / CNN

Subsequent appearances:
Nov 3, 2005: John Miano on Lou Dobbs – [transcript]
Oct 31, 2005: Kim Berry on Lou Dobbs – [transcript]
Oct 18, 2005: Kim Berry on Lou Dobbs – [transcript]

SACRAMENTO Aug 26, 2005 – Today the Lou Dobbs show exposed to the world how the U.S. Department of Labor is reserving over 50,000 U.S. jobs for foreign workers. Kim Berry of the Programmers Guild spoke on behalf of U.S. computer programmers.

U.S. employers have applied with the DOL to bring in over 50,000 foreign tech workers on H-1B visas to fill U.S. jobs in the next fiscal year. The DOL does not require employers to first try to fill jobs with U.S. workers. Since these foreign workers cannot arrive until after October 1, 2005, groups such as the Programmers Guild pleaded with DOL to make these job openings public so that U.S. workers could be given equal consideration for these openings.

Over the past month these groups and individuals have phoned the Department of Labor, Foreign Labor Division at 202 693-3010, leaving messages for Leddy Sierra and for “Monica” who answers by default. The DOL has not returned any phone calls.

A substantial portion of the foreign workers are hired by bodyshops that have no direct need for any employees. Instead the bodyshops agressively compete for the limited jobs in the open market. This has nothing to do with a labor or skills shortage. In fact many employers complain of receiving too many applicants for their job openings.

DOL is funded by U.S. taxpayers and should be placing the interests of U.S. workers above those of foreign workers. The DOL website provides on-line application for employers to get foreign workers to fill their openings. Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild asks, “Why doesn’t DOL make those openings searchable in real-time by U.S. job seekers?”

DOL’s inaction is inconsistent with their stated policy of assisting American workers:

The Programmers Guild is seeking Congressional sponsors for a bill that would simply require employers to seek qualified Americans in good faith before DOL would approve the application to fill the U.S. job with a foreign worker. So far zero Congressmen are on board.

CNN TRANSCRIPT – Lou Dobbs August 26, 2005 

Still to come, tonight’s “Newsmakers,” plus, why tens of thousands of foreign nationals will be given jobs in this country instead of unemployed Americans.


ROMANS: An outrageous discovery tonight within the Department of Labor: There are tens of thousands of jobs that won’t go to unemployed Americans. That’s because the Department of Labor is reserving them for H-1b Visa holders.

Bill Tucker reports.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unemployment in the high-tech sector remains stubbornly in double digits. But out-of-work software engineers and computer programmers need not look to the government for help. Even though the Department of Labor currently has job postings for almost 52,000 jobs, most of which are for high tech positions. That’s how many applications have been filed by companies seeking to hire foreign workers holding H1-B visas. The programmers guild wants the Labor Department to post the jobs so Americans can see who’s hiring, but that can’t happen according to the Department of Labor, because the law doesn’t allow it.

A spokesman for Labor told us that, quote, “we do everything that the law allows us to do.” Going on to add, “the department didn’t write the law. Congress did.” Under the law, companies looking for H1-B visa holders have no obligation to hire American workers.

KIM BERRY, PROGRAMMERS GUILD: The first step in helping Americans get jobs is to not give away 65 to 85 thousand jobs per year. They know they’re doing this. They acknowledge they’re doing this. Why don’t they speak out and say we don’t like doing this. We think it’s wrong. We wish Congress would take action.

TUCKER: Those out of work programmers and software engineers do get some help from the government by way of unemployment. And if they can prove their jobs were lost because of trade, they get money for retraining.


TUCKER: So we’re left with a vicious cycle. While companies hire more foreign nationals, fewer and fewer qualified Americans remain active in their careers in high tech and are forced instead, Christine, to take jobs in carpentry and healthcare as we’ve profiled so many times on this show.

ROMANS: So many times, unfortunately. Who can fix it? I mean, this is a serious problem. So, who has the ability to fix it?

TUCKER: Department of Labor wants to back away from this very quickly. And they say, look, Congress can fix this. So, what needs to happen now, somebody in Congress needs to pick this up and say before we offer these jobs to foreign nationals, we ought to make available the data at least, to Americans to see if they want the job or are qualified to do it.

ROMANS: There should be plenty of Congressmen and women who have constituents who have lost their software jobs and engineering jobs, and you could probably get a few votes lobbying for something like that. All right. Bill Tucker. Thanks, Bill.

Are U.S. workers seconding IT hires?

Why is the Department of Labor keeping U.S. citizens from having equal access to more than 50,000 IT jobs?

Reality Check, By  Ephraim Schwartz
August 23, 2005

Why is the Department of Labor refusing to post on its Web site a database of more than 50,000 job openings — many for IT workers — for 2006? Are they precluded by law to do so, as a DOL spokesperson claims?

This issue is part of a controversy currently raging between the DOL and professional organizations such as the Programmers Guild about the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the Department of Immigration and Naturalization) H-1B visa quota for 2006.

Here’s how USCIS defines an H-1B visa: “Established by the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT), the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category allows U.S. employers to augment the existing labor force with highly skilled temporary workers. H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years. The H-1B visa program is utilized … to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors.”

The DOL requires that U.S. employers who want to hire someone on an H-1B visa first submit what is called an LCA (Labor Condition Application). The LCA describes (briefly — sometimes just a title) the opening available. Thus far, the department has received 51,939 LCAs. Programmers Guild President Kim Berry and others are calling for the DOL to post these LCAs and make them searchable, so that anyone can apply for the open positions.

The cap for H-1B visas in 2006 is set at 58,200, but apparently, according to the USCIS Web site, 22,383 visas have already been approved and 29,556 are still pending. Berry says the DOL is “refusing to disclose the opening to U.S. citizens so that they may have equal opportunity to apply for and fill these U.S. jobs.”

David James, a spokesman for the DOL, says, “… statutorily speaking, Congress doesn’t give the authority to us, the Department, to do what you are asking us to do. We comply to the fullest extent that the law allows us to comply. This is a congressional legislative matter. The statutory language is very narrow about what we can and cannot do.”

Berry says no statute specifies when and how LCA records are released. He believes that the DOL is stonewalling requests by organizations like his to publish these openings on the DOL Web site, despite the fact that a foreign worker with a valid 2006 H-1B visa could not start employment until October 1, 2005. What’s more, Berry says that a disproportionate number of these openings are for software engineers and computer programmers.

Employers are under no obligation to hire Americans, but the DOL should be obligated to make the information available to the public before the jobs are filled, not after, says Berry.

Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis, e-mailed me that “there is no question that the Department of Labor, ironically, is acting in a manner hostile to labor.” I couldn’t agree more.

Is the government exempt from treating customers — in other words, taxpayers — with respect? Does customer service not exist in its vocabulary? If there is a reason why the DOL cannot post these positions, it should cite the statute. Or better yet, help lobby for a change.

Ephraim Schwartz is an editor at large at InfoWorld.

  More of Ephraim Schwartz’s column