PHOTO: American Tech Workers Defiant as GOP Lawmakers Push to Expand Foreign Labor Programs

29 Jan 2016

In 2014, the Northeast Utilities Company in Connecticut — now known as Eversource Energy — allegedly laid off around 200 of its American tech workers and replaced them with low-wage foreigners admitted on H-1B guest worker visas.

Now a photo has emerged depicted the workers’ final, silent patriotic protest — silent because the workers reportedly were forced to sign non-disparagement agreements to shield their employer.

The image depicts the display of American flags around cubicles of the company’s IT department — circulated by trade magazine ComputerWorld — before the Americans were replaced with foreign labor.

The powerful image seems to have taken on fresh significance in light of the news that American tech workers have launched their discrimination lawsuit against Florida Disney. Like Northeast Utilities, Disney similarly laid off scores of American workers — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’s constituents — and replaced them with low-wage foreign laborers.

Interestingly, while Democrat Senator Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has offered legislation to protect American workers from foreign H-1B labor, donor-class favorite Marco Rubio has championed legislation to triple the H-1B program and thus eliminate many thousands of additional American jobs.

The New York Times’ Julia Preston reported details about the lawsuit earlier this week:

The lawsuits by [American Disney workers]… represent the first time Americans have gone to federal court to sue both outsourcing companies that imported immigrants and the American company that contracted with those businesses, claiming that they collaborated intentionally to supplant Americans with H-1B workers. A furor over the layoffs in Orlando last January brought to light many other episodes in which American workers, mainly in technology but also in accounting and administration, said they had lost jobs to foreigners on H-1B visas, and had to train replacements as a condition of their severance.

In the wake of this pending lawsuit, ComputerWorld’s Patrick Thibodeau explains the significance of this defiant photo from Northeast Utilities’ American tech workers:

Someone in the IT department started putting up American flags in the cubicles. Along the hallways. Small American flags. The type you wave at a Fourth of July parade.

The flag is our most powerful symbol. It represents sacrifice, love of nation, shared beliefs, endurance. These workers wanted it known that they are Americans.

This flag display would have disappeared with the IT workers. But one person took a photo. It was quick. You can tell by the blur.

The severance agreement, with its onerous non-disparagement clause, tried to silence them. But this photo has not been silenced.

We now know what the last stand of displaced workers in an IT department looks like. It is part of our American memory.

While GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has said that this sort of H-1B “job theft” will not be tolerated under his Presidency, Marco Rubio — as recently as last year — introduced legislation to expand the practice.

Julia Preston’s article about the lawsuit, cited above, does not make a single mention of Senator Rubio nor his new immigration plan to expand H-1B visas.

Rubio’s bill — the Immigration Innovation Act, also known as I-Squared — would triple the cap on H-1B workers and would allow for an unlimited expansion of green cards for foreign students. This comes at a time when hundreds of Rubio’s own constituents have been laid off and replaced by H-1Bs at Florida Disney.

Rubio’s I-Squared bill has been endorsed by Fox News’ Rupert Murdoch and Disney CEO Bob Iger via their immigration lobbying firm, a Partnership for a New American Economy. The bill has also been endorsed by several of Rubio’s biggest financial boosters.

Rubio was not asked about his Iger-Murdoch endorsed H-1B immigration expansion bill at last night’s presidential debate.

Donald Trump previously told Breitbart News that Rubio ought to “immediately rescind his sponsorship of the I-Squared bill and apologize to every Floridian for endorsing it… [as well as] return the money he [Rubio] has received from Silicon Valley CEOs and to donate the money to a charity helping unemployed Americans whose jobs Rubio has helped to destroy.”