Foreign Workers Being Exploited By Corporate America…….The kind of behavior Mark Zuckerberg wants to protect.
Labor brokers providing Indian high-tech workers to American companies have hijacked a professional visa program, creating an underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit.
About 840,000 people from around the world work in the United States on temporary visas, intended to help companies seek uniquely talented employees for specific jobs. In the tech realm, labor brokers often sponsor the visas, then contract out the workers to technology companies or government agencies to build databases, test software and complete other technical projects.
For decades, critics have sounded alarms about immigrant tech workers being treated as indentured servants by the worst of these staffing firms, known as “body shops.”
through humiliation, intimidation and legal threats. Judgments against Indian workers sued for quitting their US jobs can exceed $50,000.
One worker called it an “ecosystem of fear”.
It’s a shadow world that can turn a worker’s dream of self-betterment into a financial nightmare. Shackling workers to their jobs is such an entrenched business practice that it has even spread to US nationals.
This bullying persists at the bottom of a complex system that supplies workers to some of America’s richest and most successful companies, such as Cisco Systems, Verizonand Apple.
“You can pretty much see a leash on my neck with my employer,” said Saravanan Ranganathan, a Washington-area computer security expert here on an H-1B visa. “It’s kind of like a hidden chain … and you’d better shut up, or you’ll lose everything.”
Through thousands of documents filed with government agencies and in courts across the US and interviews with dozens of workers, CIR found the tools of intimidation included restrictive employment contracts – signed by workers unaware of their rights – as well as legal loopholes.
Even immigration experts have trouble sorting out how the brokers manage to game the system.
From 2000 through 2013, at least $29.7m was illegally withheld from about 4,400 tech workers here on H-1B visas, US Department of Labor documents show. And this barely hints at the problem because, in the hidden world of body shops, bad actors rarely are caught.
“You should treat people like human beings,” the 32-year-old said, “not like animals, creatures that you make money off of.”
Virginia attorney Rajiv Khanna, who represents employers and employees in immigration matters, considers the financial shackles “an immoral, unethical and very probably illegal control of the workforce.”
In India, students fresh out of college earn the equivalent of $4,500 to $5,800 a year, according to data from the consulting firm Mercer cited in The Economic Times, an Indian newspaper. In the US, they easily can bring in five times that – or more. (WOW $29,000…It is like winning the lottery)
And landing a US tech job offers more than money: it can improve an Indian graduate’s social status and marriage prospects, (The chicks will come running) according to Xiang Biao, a University of Oxford anthropologist who spent a year researching the Indian body shop industry.
Contracting with labor brokers also benefits US employers. They can staff up swiftly for temporary jobs and slim down just as fast, with workers paid below-market rates. The brokers, meanwhile, deal with immigration regulations and paperwork and generally are on the hook for claims that H-1B worker protection laws were violated.