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Clinton: It's 'heartbreaking' when IT workers must train H-1B replacements

Patrick Thibodeau | July 13, 2016
But critics say the presumptive Democratic nominee underplayed the extent of the problem, and offered no solution

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Monday criticized the replacement of U.S. IT workers with foreign labor but stopped short of offering a plan to fix it.

In a videotaped interview with Vox published Monday, Clinton appears empathetic and sympathetic to IT workers who have trained their foreign replacements as a condition of severance. She mentioned IT layoffs at Disney, specifically.

"The many stories of people training their replacements from some foreign country are heartbreaking, and it is obviously a cost-cutting measure to be able to pay people less than what you would pay an American worker," said Clinton in the interview.

A major complaint Clinton said she now hears about is "how callous and insensitive" employers have become.

But other than to express concern about the workers, it was unclear what Clinton was trying to accomplish in the interview. There was no discussion of specific reforms to attack the problems she cited, leaving critics of the H-1B visa program uncertain about her stance on the issue.

Clinton seemed to acknowledge that the public is alert to the issue and that "everybody, with six degrees of separation either knows or thinks they know" someone replaced by foreign labor. But she may have also minimized the problem, according to critics.

Said Clinton: "It's hard to argue an economic analytics abstraction that really it's not that much job displacement, and, you know, the overall economy is better," in citing the case for temporary visa holders made by supporters. "It's really hard when you are the one who has lost the job, when you are at Disney in Orlando and you are told to train your successors."

Disney cut about 250 workers early last year after bringing in offshore contracting firms. IT workers complained about having to train foreign replacements.

Missing the larger picture?

After discussing the problem faced by Disney's IT workers, Clinton immediately mentioned how construction workers, replaced by undocumented workers, face something similar.

Keith Barrett, a former IT worker Disney who was among those replaced by contractors, was not happy with Clinton's comments, which he called "depressing."

"She starts off as if she understands the problem, but then dismisses it as collateral damage not of significant volume to address, and blends in the problem of illegal immigrant labor, which is mostly working in unskilled labor," said Barrett.

Clinton is "ignoring that not only are highly skilled employed Americans being fired by the tens of thousands every year due to H-1B labor, many are older age-protected people," said Barrett. "Plus, it's preventing qualified people from getting hired."

Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University, said Clinton is "downplaying the scale and scope of the problem. The job displacement isn't just real, it is large in scale and scope. And its impacts are amplified by the offshoring of some of that work. So, on key facts here she is very misinformed."


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