Fired IT workers fight back against H-1B visa abuse

Hindi-only meetings and mass firings of experienced U.S. workers for cheaper foreign labor just as tech job demands grow

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The company's HR managers protested, saying that the firings could be illegal discrimination because Molina clearly had jobs available. But then-CIO Amir Desai told HR "that he had his orders from upper management, thus the American workers must be fired from their job to make room for the Indian nationals," according to the lawsuit.

In statements to Computerworld, Desai (through his lawyer), Molina, and Cognizant all strongly denied the allegations made by Otto and his clients. Molina linked the outsourcing and use of H-1B workers to efforts to control health care costs: "Like most leading health care companies, Molina has put in place a variety of measures to reduce costs, including the outsourcing of labor-intensive administrative tasks to specialized firms. Working with Cognizant, an established leader in outsourcing, Molina embarked on a successful program to reduce its overhead, so it could focus on what it does best: providing America's underserved communities with access to the best possible health care," the company said.

That argument makes me really angry. Americans are rightfully concerned about soaring health care costs, but claiming to solve that by creating yet more unemployment is a twisted rationale. The assertion of containing health care costs is a transparent, disingenuous attempt to undercut support for the fired workers.

Indian workers got screwed, too
Whenever I write about H-1B abuse, I make the point that the Indian workers are not to blame. They are doing what we all try and do: make a better life for themselves and their families. As it turns out, the workers who came to the United States weren't doing very well. According to Otto, their actual wages paid by Cognizant were so low they had to live six to a room; workers abroad were being paid even less.

But Cognizant made out very, very nicely, paid $72 an hour by Molina for the labor of the onshore contractors and $26 an hour for those in India, according to Onufrock. Indeed, Cognizant did so well that Molina's IT costs actually exceed the amount budgeted, which was the rate it used to pay its American workers: $50 per hour. Cognizant was charging half again as much as Molina had paid originally. And yes, that last point is very odd. I don't understand why Molina would go out of the way to spend more money on the H-1B visa-holding workers than on the original domestic staff.

Otto, the attorney, believes part of the answer is that Molina wants a "compliant" staff that will work overtime with no gripes or calls for benefits. It's also possible that at some point the H-1B visa workers will go off Cognizant's books and be paid their substandard wages directly by Molina, without a portion doled out to Cognizant.

In any case, it's clear that the firing of the U.S. workers was unconscionable, as was the ugly work environment. I don't know what prompted those actions, but I'll bet that the idea was to make the U.S. workers so uncomfortable that they'd quit.

As I write this, thousands of ordinary people are demonstrating on Wall Street (video) and other financial centers against corporate greed. Despite the uptick in IT jobs, the economic outlook remains extremely tough for many Americans. Maybe the Molina workers are part of an ugly trend occurring in one of the few bright spots of the economy -- so sad.

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This article, "Fired IT workers fight back against H-1B visa abuse," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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