So I was going to post something brilliant about oil, but today’s NYTimes has a page A12 story that bears watching. Lawsuits Claim Disney Colluded to Replace U.S. Workers With Immigrants.
Cheap tech labor has long enjoyed a governmental blind eye (or wink). Bringing in @85,000
indentured servants “H-1B immigrant Visa holders” annually to toil in the bowels of IT outsourcing operations. The fiction has been that they do not replace more expensive American workers. The reality – as we all know – is that a lot of them did.
The risk is that the law stops turning a blind eye? To which the Davos crowd chortles with laughter. After all, they feel they own the government. That’s what they pay all those
bribes “speaking fees” for…
The problem is that sometimes the government feel compelled to enforce the rules, speaking fees or no speaking fees. The government does have to keep up appearances after all. Sometimes its awkward e-mails from awkward lawsuits. Sometimes its Nazis. Cue the Casablanca clip… “I am shocked to discover gambling here!”
A key quote sets the stage.
The lawsuits by Mr. Perrero and Ms. Moore are based on the rules for H-1B visas, which Congress designed to bring foreign workers with special skills into the country. Employers are required to declare to the Department of Labor that hiring foreigners on the visas “will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.” “Was I negatively affected?” Ms. Moore asked. “Yeah, I was. I lost my job.” Sara Blackwell, a lawyer in Sarasota, Fla., representing the former Disney employees, said the suits charged that the companies had lied under oath when they said no Americans would lose their jobs.”
A lot of people knew that H-1B visas were largely used to bring in cheap IT labor. I don’t think a lot of people knew that it was THAT explicitly illegal to thusly replace American workers. I certainly had no idea. And I am willing to bet that a lot of people hiring those outsourcing firms didn’t know it either. And I am also willing to bet they wrote a whole lot of e-mails…
So we have a few tiny, pre-cancerous cells sitting there. We need three things to happen to yield an unholy, cancerous mess.
- We need some smoking gun e-mails to bubble up from this or another case.
- We need a big, fat multi-million dollar payday for the lawyers involved.
- We need regulators emboldened by a political climate increasingly concerned about income inequality, worker rights, and “furriners” (especially in turbans! I mean, don’t they just look like terrorists!).
Its the regulatory shift that will be most interesting/informative/profound (if it happens). Those sort of things have tremendous inertia. They might go on to start enforcing other pesky laws like anti-trust (already happening actually).
A regulatory shift is also what Davos crowd is most likely to miss. In Casablanca, the Nazi Strasser just assumes that Police Captain Louis Renault will keep “doing his job” propping up the Nazi regime. Renault, of course, is smart enough to sense a shift in the wind and blow accordingly. The result, of course, is the classic end scene. Hint – you don’t want to be Major Strasser.