One H-1B worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells InfoWorld that she sees employers today having "a clear preference to the local population, which I think is the right thing to do." But she worries that she'll be told to pack her bags if the economy continues to slide. "I need to rethink my position in this country and maybe consider options in other countries," she says. A banner ad on the San Francisco Chronicle Web site reads, "H-1Bs, check your expiration date. Alberta, Canada, welcomes you. Permanently."
Cheap foreign labor discourages a veteran techie
Like many U.S. tech workers, Steve isn't a fan of foreign outsourcers. He's felt the sting of offshore outsourcing during his three-decade-long tech career. A technical support technician with three college degrees (including one in marketing), a dozen technical certifications, and stints at Fortune 500 companies, Steve was a recent victim of downsizing. He's had trouble finding full-time or even contract work, and blames foreign outsourcers.
Contract work dried up when India-based outsourcer Tata Consultancy Services moved into Steve's neighborhood last year. Tata gobbled up a massive IT contract from one of the area's biggest employers and transferred the work to foreign workers. "What galls me is that Tata was awarded an $18 million tax abatement for eight years, as long as it created 550 new jobs within three-and-a-half years at its headquarters here, yet that hasn't happened," says Steve, who requested anonymity as he hunts for work and takes classes on the latest technology.
To be fair, Steve says H-1B employees are being exploited, too. He points to a nationwide class-action lawsuit that Tata has been fighting for the past three years. The suit charges that Tata unjustly enriched itself by requiring all of its non-U.S. employees -- that is, H-1B and L1 visa holders -- sign over their federal and state tax refund checks to Tata. "People will have to unite in some way to protect our worker rights," Steve says.
After a particularly harsh blow a few months ago, Steve is now thinking about getting out of the tech racket: The 50-year-old veteran was beat out of a job by a recent college grad. Steve's one of the lucky ones, though, since his wife works and he's not in dire straits economically. He also enjoyed volunteering in Obama's campaign last year and is now considering a job in politics.
As for tech, "I played by the rules, went out, and got the education, and people tell me that I'm smart and easy to get along with," Steve says, "and they ask me why I can't get a job? I apologize if I seem emotional ... but I have lived this IT decline and outsourcing issue."
The next-generation worker will be a business-tech hybrid
It's probably fair to say that Steve wouldn't get along with Andre Gold, president of consultancy Gold Risk Management and former vice president and head of technology risk management at financial services firm ING. Gold used to travel to India annually to evaluate tech outsourcers, until he was laid off from the financial services giant last fall.
"Quite candidly, I looked at commoditized tasks that I could outsource to an Indian provider that could to do it cheaper and perhaps better," Gold says, adding that he would regularly receive dirty looks from his IT staff. His experience has taught him that offshoring and outsourcing are here to stay, and thus tech workers wanting to stay in this career had better change their ways -- that is, they must make themselves non-outsourceable.