Friday, July 06, 2007


Are U.S. Programmers An Endangered Species?

The Programmers Guild, "a nonprofit group with 1,500 members, most of them older than 40... many of whom can't find jobs in their areas of expertise," has put on YouTube a video it has pirated from the website of Cohen & Grigsby, a Pittsburgh law firm specializing in high tech immigration. The video shows a lawyer stating that the firm's goal is not to find qualified US workers for its corporate clients. The Programmers Guild is using the clip in its fight against legislators who allow U.S. corporations to openly discriminate against American workers to hire foreign workers on H-1B visas. The foreign workers themselves arguably don't benefit from these hiring policies, as their U.S. employers routinely pay them $12,000 less on average than American programmers. This outrageous YouTube spot shows that you can't screw over American techies with impunity. As The Christian Science Monitor says, "the Internet has changed the balance of power in a dispute between employees and employers and thus, perhaps, changed the balance of power in Washington's political arena. That's particularly true when a group of sophisticated computer experts use their expertise in a public policy fight."

H-1B supporters contend that the low 2.4 employment rate for computer programmers reflects the "shortage" of such workers in the United States, and justifies a "no holds barred" approach to granting H-1B visas. In fact, wages for computer programmers are currently "stagnant", and many highly qualified programmers have left the field after searching fruitlessly for new jobs and are now attempting to pursue other occupations. Even more blatantly, "several computer companies have laid off thousands of workers, while at the same time complaining of shortages."

Even though, as some believe, the United States has been the traditional world leader in software development, the number of "computer-science students has fallen by 50 percent since its peak in the 1990s", paving the way all the more for the H-1B juggernaut. The progressive and deliberate replacement of American workers with H-1B hires may not only be bad for our domestic workforce, it may completely destroy the maverick and innovative culture of American software development, replacing it with one of slavish subservience, in which the expedience of the short term wins out over the visionary future.

"The vanishing American computer programmer" from The Christian Science Monitor

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