Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sun to lay off 5000 employees

Layoffs seem to be common place in our new global economy. Sun Microsystems posted a $217 million loss in the most recent quarter. Ouch. Because of this, the company is restructuring and sending more tech workers to the unemployment line.

Hopefully not for too long - Bill Gates claims that he is unable to find American workers and that we need to raise the H-1b visa cap. Bill Gates - meet Sun. They have extra employees - call HR and make things happen.

I would imagine that many have transferable skills that they can apply at Microsoft - many IT skills are not vendor specific and even when they are the concepts are very similar. What are the odds that Microsoft will try to fill it's "shortage" with workers already in the country? I guess we'll see, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Part of the article follows...

Sun Microsystems's will lay off between 4,000 and 5,000 staff in the next six month under a board-approved plan to return to profitability that, the company said Wednesday.

Sun, which has never fully recovered from the dot-com bust, has posted a string of losses or near break-even results over the past five years. For its most recent quarter, the company reported a loss of $217 million.

Sun said it will cut about 11 percent to 13 percent of its workforce, or about 4,000 to 5,000 employees, over the next six months. It will also sell off its campuses in Newark, New Jersey, and Sunnyvale, California, while retaining its operations in Menlo Park, California, and Santa Clara, California.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

India's Upper Castes Strike Against Affirmative Action

Some claim the caste system is alive and well in India. This was a system that created "untouchables" as we were taught in our American schools.

I don't know enough about India to really judge this. I am not sure if this is racism against lower castes or simply opposition to affirmative action. We have had this same debate in American politics and what I would consider a parallell in regards to our own minority students. Just like in America, there is a class of people who have been oppressed for generations. In response to that injustice, a system of affirmative action was created.

One could argue that affirmative action is reverse discrimination and that it prevents more qualified people from attending universities. On the reverse side of that argument is the point that there is a group of people who need a path out of poverty and because of past misdeeds society owes them.

For now I won't form an oppinion on this. I do find it ironic that these Indian students and professionals have a protectionist attitude regarding their own class, yet many Indian students and professionals want the United States to remove barriers to immigration here. I am not sure if those oppinions are mutually exclusive or if Indian professionals want protections at home while at the same time they want to remove barriers abroad. Perhaps one of my Indian readers will give me his or her perspective on this subject.

NEW DELHI, India - India's government threatened Tuesday to fire hundreds of government doctors striking to protest an affirmative action plan for low-caste Hindus and said replacements would prop up crippled medical services. ...

Along with the doctors, tens of thousands of medical students and young software programmers, engineers and bankers have protested the plan to increase places reserved for low-caste Hindus and ethnic minorities in colleges and certain professions.

On Tuesday, doctors and medical students blocked traffic in a handful of cities across India. Protesters in the western city of Ahmadabad briefly scuffled with police, while in northern Chandigarh, doctors squatted on railroad tracks before being forcibly removed. In eastern Gauhati, more than 500 medical students and interns staged a protest at the city's largest hospital but did not disrupt it.

Dozens of doctors and students also have gone on hunger strikes.

The government's plan would increase the quota for low-caste students in state-funded medical, engineering and other professional colleges from 22.5 percent to 49.5 percent.

Backers say the policy would help undo centuries of oppression and continuing discrimination. Hinduism divides people into various castes and, while the system has been officially outlawed, discrimination remains common.

Critics say the lower castes should be strengthened through education rather than an increase in the number of study and work opportunities, because many jobs and school spots already reserved for low castes remain empty.

Friday, May 26, 2006

IEEE-USA blasts Senate high-tech visa provisons

The IEEE-USA once again lashed out against the Senate's inclusion of an amendment in their immigration bill which raises the H-1b cap with automatic increases of 20% every time the cap is reached.

The President of the IEEE-USA (Ralph Wyndrum) asked the most important question regarding this issue, which I don't recall a single US Senator asking: "how many high-tech workers can the United States absorb annually without driving up unemployment and driving down wages?"

I answer his question in my latest paper: Creating a Market Driven Foreign Guest Worker Cap in Software Occupations.

EE Times (05/26/2006 4:52 PM EDT)

WASHINGTON — The nation's leading engineering group expressed disappointment with immigration legislation approved this week by the Senate.

The controversial Senate immigration bill includes a provision raising the cap on H-1B visas for highly educated temporary workers by 50,000 to 115,000 per fiscal year. It also provides exemptions from both H-1B and employment-based, or "green card," visa caps for foreign workers with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

High-tech and business groups lauded the bill as a boost for U.S. competitiveness.
But the IEEE-USA criticized the measure.

"We don’t understand why the Senate wants to expand a program that numerous government reports have found leaves U.S and foreign workers open to exploitation," IEEE-USA President Ralph Wyndrum, Jr. said in a statement released on Friday (May 26). "Fraud, abuse and misuse of the visas is rampant. The program should be fixed before it is expanded."

Moreover, Wyndrum said "the bill opens the spigot on numerous skilled visa categories. The question is how many high-tech workers can the United States absorb annually without driving up unemployment and driving down wages?"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

IEEE-USA: H-1B Program hurts small US businesses

The H-1B program hurts small U.S. high-tech business' ability to compete, engineer and entrepreneur Oscar McKee said in recent visits to Capitol Hill.

McKee is owner and president of O-MC Signal Research in Bloomfield, N.J., a company that specializes in wireless communication and the research, design and development of high-speed Internet and local area networks. He met with Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and a member of Sen. Robert Menendez's (D-N.J.) staff during IEEE-USA's Career Fly-In on 3 May.

McKee, a 37-year IEEE member, said it is difficult for his company to compete against other U.S. companies that use large numbers of H-1B visa engineers. Because these firms often pay H-1B holders less than the market wage for U.S. engineers, they are able to bid lower on the same projects as O-MC.

"We have found that we are at a distinct competitive disadvantage when bidding against companies that use H-1Bs," said McKee, who served for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a captain. "We have been told a number of times that our bids must be lowered if we want a certain contract, yet we find that impossible to do using American engineers."

The H-1B program is supposed to help U.S. companies fill positions when no qualified U.S. technical professionals are available. However, very few companies have to comply with this requirement, and the government leaves it to them to determine the "prevailing wage." The latter makes it possible for companies to pay H-1B holders less than what they would have to pay a similarly skilled U.S. citizen. Rep. Pascrell has proposed a bill, which IEEE-USA supports, that would correct many of the flaws in the H-1B program and strengthen essential safeguards for foreign and domestic workers.

"The misuse of the H-1B program's intent dilutes the salaries of American engineers and injures their ability to support their families," said McKee, whose story was featured on a May 22 episode of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight (

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Senate Amendment 4075 - Prevents Automatic Increase of 20% in H-1b visa

In the Senate version of the immigration bill, a provision that would increase the H-1b visa cap to 115,000 and by 20% each time that cap is reached was included. This provision is of course devestating to American software professionals. If it is passed without change, it will result in the loss of additional software jobs. From 2000 through 2004 we averaged a loss of 8000 software jobs each year - and industry lobbyists still have the audacity to claim a shortage.

The IEEE-USA as well as myself supports SA 4075 introduced by Senator Feinstein. This amendment would strip out the 20% automatic increase in the H-1b cap. This is the provision that industry claims is "market driven". The only driver for this cap is a demand for cheap and exploitable labor.

I have proposed a system that would base the cap off of true demand, and would rise and fall given that demand. The Senate plan only goes up - and doesn't account for periods when American software professionals lose jobs. It has no consideration for the impact on the labor market and is designed to be a labor subsidy. That will drive down American wages. This will discourage American college students from pursuing Computer Sciences and the IT profession.

Unfortunately, SA 4075 may not be voted on because the Senate voted on cloture which limits debate. Please call your senator and ask them to vote on SA 4075. The IEEE-USA had this to say in an update:

UPDATE: The Senate has moved to close debate on S. 2611, and is working through a short list of amendments prior to a final vote on the bill expected on 25 May. It appears that the Feinstein-Grassley amendment will be denied a vote on procedural grounds despite efforts of IEEE-USA and others.

Full text of the amendment:
SA 4075. Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself and Mr. GRASSLEY) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the bill S. 2611, to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:
On page 343, strike lines 12 through 24 and insert the following:
(B) in subparagraph (A)--
(i) in clause (vii), by striking ``each succeeding fiscal year; or'' and inserting ``each of fiscal years 2004, 2005, and 2006; and''; and
(ii) by adding after clause (vii) the following:
``(viii) 115,000 in each succeeding fiscal year; or''; and
On page 344, line 7, strike the semicolon at the end and all that follows through line 24 and insert a period.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

ITAA Calls on Senate to Reject Immigration Amendment

In usual form, the ITAA has worked against reforms to the H-1b cap that would limit displacement of American workers. Senators Grassley and Feinstein introduced an amendment that would presumably offer protections for American software professionals. At this time, I don't have the text of the amendment however both Senators have a history of supporting technology professionals. The fact that the ITAA opposes the amendment means that it is probably a good amendment.

If you were to think of all the nice things one could do to help software professionals, reverse that. You now have the ITAA position on just about everything. The former president, Harris Miller, is now running for the US Senate in Virginia. Fortunately for us Jim Webb is going to win the primaries and ITAA alum Miller is being called for what he is: "The Anti-Christ of Offshoring".

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) today called on the Senate to reject the Feinstein-Grassley amendment to S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. The amendment would impose a hard cap on the number of visas issued in the H-1B visa program, thus eliminating a provision allowing market-based adjustments to the total. "The amendment would eliminate key provisions of the bill that are designed to strengthen U.S. competitiveness," said ITAA Senior Vice President Jeff Lande. "The market-based adjustment provision sets a mark and allows the system to adjust itself, based on market need. That is a vast improvement over the current system, which exhausts the available number before the end of the fiscal year and leaves companies in the lurch."

Lande said the talents and skills of H-1B visa holders are critical to U.S. competitiveness. "Other countries in the developed world are removing barriers to talent in order to enable a more globally competitive workforce. The Feinstein-Grassley amendment substitutes bureaucratic process for what is in the long-term best interests of the American economy and American people. We call on the Senate to reject this amendment."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sustainable numbers + Greencards

I have joined other Americans concerned about the future of the IT profession. Some of the major concerns are offshore outsourcing and the H-1b visa. Because I take a position that opposes the current H-1b visa, many people assume I am anti-immigrant. They would be wrong. I have in the past supported green cards in place of the H-1b visa.

Unfortunately, many people in this debate are xenophobic and a few are outright racists. I won't mention names but their positions set the pro-labor movement back and discredit our organization. These are the same people who oppose the IEEE-USA's position of greencards instead of H-1b visas.

I believe that the anti-immigrant movement needs to separate themselves from our movement. Our motives are different and temporary alliances should be broken.

The H-1b visa program is broken. But the solution is not xenophobia or the deportation of people. The first part of the solution is to establish a system that is sustainable in terms of numbers. I propose such a system here:

The next step is to bring H-1b workers into the labor market as equals. Employment sponsored visas create a class of indentured servants. They need the ability to participate in the free market just as other Americans - they should not be tied to an employer who controls their very existance here. We should be choosy who gets the visas since they are limited - skills and education do matter. Doing this is simple and requires few changes in laws - simply expedite the path to a greencard, and raise education and experience requirements.

Saying things like this jeapordizes my position within the movement as it has been overcome by an anti-immigrant agenda. I have had anti-immigrant activists make threats and attack me personally. The reason is that they are unable to think critically about these subjects and have let rhetoric get the best of them. When you ask some what to do about those here on H-1b visas they say that we should deport them. Frankly, I don't want to be a part of an anti-immigrant movement. I want to associate with a pro-labor movement. If you are an activist and don't like that, that's just too bad.

If these (as of now unnamed) activists persist in personal attacks I will expose them for what they are. If advocates for IT professionals are to be successful we must move forward without the extreme elements - these people are preventing our growth and endangering our ability to influence policy.

And for the record, when I say pro-labor it is not in reference to a union. Not that I oppose unions, just that they are not a part of my agenda given the general lack of support for them in IT occupations.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

What Shortage of IT Workers?

If one repeats a lie enough times, it becomes accepted as fact. The truth is that there is not a shortage of software professionals. The proof is in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

From 1995-1999 on average 149,800 jobs were created each year over the last in software occupations. That was very good - and probably qualified as a bonified shortage.

From 2000-2004, the following five year window, software occupations averaged a LOSS of 8600 jobs each year. That is a LOSS in case you missed it the first time.

I am no math genious, but "ladies and gentlemen of the jury" how can there be a shortage of software professionals when the occupation is actually averaging negative job growth? The plain truth is that lobbyists were too lazy to do the math and assumed that you wouldn't call them on it anyways. Industry lobbyists are just dying to revive the "shortage" argument so that they can flood the IT labor market with more underpaid foreign workers - by raising the H-1b visa cap.

But you are too smart to fall for that trick, aren't you?

To see the data for yourself, please refer to Table 1.0 in this document: and if you would like to do the math yourself refer to the BLS produced documents referenced at the end.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Software Job Growth Trending Down Since 1995

Having recently completed analysis of software job creation (source: BLS) since 1995, when applying a linear regression model to past job creation statistics we are trending downwards over the past ten years.

Although we have several years of job growth it is not as strong as it was previously. This could be a result of the "Y2k bug" creating a spike in jobs while globalization and a depression following suppressed job growth.

Figure 1 depicts the creation of software jobs since 1995.

Figure 1


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

End of The Road for Harris Miller Campaign?

May 10th - my birthday - looks to be a good day this year. In what I consider great news on a day that often needs good news, it appears that Harris Miller may be nearly obsolete in the Virginia Democratic party primaries for U.S. Senate where he faces Jim Webb, with the winner facing Republican Senator George Allen. Webb netted some major endorsements today which in my view guarantees an Allen vs. Webb senate race later this year.

National democrats are moving away from Harris Miller. Current or former Senators supporting Webb's run include Harry Reid, Tom Daschle, Dick Durbin, Christopher Dodd, Ken Salazar, Tim Johnson, and Max Cleland.

I believe that they have heard our message loud and clear and would not want to poison the Democratic party with such a rabidly anti-middle class candidate. Harris Miller has a long history of supporting the offshoring of American jobs and has opposed measures to protect both guest workers and American labor from abuses of the H-1b and L1 visa programs - something both Americans and foreign workers agree exists.

Harris Miller is a former president for the ITAA which is a powerful technology industry lobbyist group. Jim Webb on the other hand "is a decorated Marine, former Secretary of the Navy and Assistant Secretary of Defense, an award-winning author and widely respected journalist." In addition to that Webb "was awarded, among other decorations, the Navy Cross and Silver Star for valor as a Marine."

So in this case we have a war hero running against an industry lobbyist. I think that Virginia Democrats are smart enough to pick a real candidate and not another lobbyist in the primaries.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Balancing High-Skilled Immigration: a Recipe for Success

Balancing High-Skilled Immigration: a Recipe for Success
By Roy Lawson
May, 2006

As a long-time opponent of corporations using non-immigrant visas as a source of cheap labor, there is a need to raise the stakes in the H-1b debate. There are problems with H-1b and L1 visas that harm immigrant workers, American workers, and in some cases all workers. These problems are often a result of a few bad companies not complying with labor or immigration laws.

This article won't discuss problems relating to the H-1b in detail, but one must acknowledge that problems do exist. Instead, this article will explore the question of "how much is too much?"when it comes to non-immigrant labor in the software labor market. It is not enough to simply identify problems as those seeking reforms should offer viable solutions. ....

The remainder of this article can be viewed here:

A pdf version is available here: