Tina Hedlund
Senior Consultant, Comtech Services, Inc.

CNET News.com


January 20, 2004

In the face of offshore outsourcing and unprecedented lay offs of American workers, the administration has hit upon a brilliant idea. For those jobs that require face-to-face consultation or product intelligence that is difficult to outsource, less expensive workers can be admitted to the U.S.?! Is the practice akin to “codified serfdom,” as one reader who responded to the online article commented? Is it good news for the American economy? Or is it just more bad news for the American high-tech worker?

According to John Miano, founder of a software programmer advocacy group, the Programmer’s Guild, “it

[the importation of low cost workers] would be disastrous for American programmers, engineers and everyone in the country who can’t make a living on the stock market alone.”

According to the new guest worker plan, temporary visas will be distributed to individuals in other countries (not just Mexico) who are willing to work for lower wages on jobs that no American wants. When the plan was first announced, it was seen as a bid for the Hispanic vote since on face value, it seemed to only affect illegal itinerant farm labor.

Recently, however, Margaret Spellings, an administration spokesperson, expanded the requirements of the new guest worker plan to include skilled labor such as nurses and teachers. Hiring high-tech workers, such as programmers and technical writers, under the new guest worker plan, wouldn’t be much different.

John Miano argues that despite the potential disastrous consequences of this program, it is unlikely to survive the political maelstrom that it has caused. And, it may have had a beneficial affect by putting the spotlight on other guest worker plans, such as the H-1B and L-1 visa programs, which already encourage US companies to hire lower-cost workers from other countries.