Perrero testified at the Senate hearing held last month by Jeff Sessions that investigated the impact of high-skilled immigration on US workers, and his emotional discussion of his experience was memorable.
Despite calls for reform of the “loopholes” of the H-1b visas, the cheap-labor pipeline has remained remarkably stubborn against being fixed. After all, the program is a favorite of powerful tech billionaires.
A year ago, Southern California Edison cut around 500 employees, an action that got some media attention, as well as an earlier Senate hearing — also chaired by America’s Senator Jeff Sessions.
Last week, Leo Perrero discussed the H-1b situation with Lou Dobbs, who is knowledgeable about immigration. Perrero appeared with Sarah Blackwell, his attorney in a class-action suit against Disney over their use of the visa to fire Americans. He sounded upbeat about how events were moving — perhaps unduly so, given the history — but it’s good to be hopeful.
LOU DOBBS: My next guests are embroiled in a battle against the Walt Disney Company, a legal battle, joining us, Leo Perrero, one of about 250 Disney IT workers losing their jobs in Florida replaced by foreign workers with H-1b visas and at lower wages and forced to train his replacement. Also joining us as Mr. Perrero’s attorney, Sarah Blackwell. She’s filed a federal lawsuit against Disney and two global consulting companies. Sarah, great to have you with us.
Leo, I have been covering the issue of outsourcing and offshoring, but IT becomes insourcing, if you will, of firms like these consulting companies that have become shells for the outsourcing of American middle-class jobs. How did you react when you were before Congress and you’ve known this battle has been going for so long and so little has been done?
LEO PERRERO: Well, on one front I’m really excited about the progress has been made over the past year with Sarah and few others that are banding together. IT workers getting together, we are making a difference. We’ve had three bills introduced by Congress; we have a state now that is proposing its own rules.
DOBBS: What state is that?
DOBBS: Which companies have been stopped?
PERRERO: Well, Disney stopped 30 other IT workers from being displaced in New York by ABC. There are also probably countless others that hopefully have been stopped that we just haven’t heard about; and there are some ongoing companies doing this right now as we speak. We have senators that are going after those companies as well.
DOBBS: And you’ve got Donald Trump saying this today. He remains “totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney. . . I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program.”
Let me just add one thing to this — I know the both of you know, the audience may not — but H-1b visas, in point of fact, are abused across the country. They’re here to bring in talented workers who are replacing, at commensurate wages to the prevailing wage at the companies. In most cases they come in at the lowest quadrant of skills, that is, the bottom quarter, not the highest, and they are paid typically 25 percent less than the American worker that they replace. Is that a fair statement, Sarah?
SARAH BLACKWELL: Well I think that’s true, but the purpose of the H-1b is to bring in a qualified foreign worker when we do not have a qualified American. So when you’re firing hundreds of employees at one time and then forcing them to train them to do the job, clearly they’re not qualified and clearly that there are qualified Americans to do the job. So it’s a blatant abuse of the H-1b visa.
DOBBS: Well hopefully your lawsuit will reverse that. Leo, what are your prospects now? What is the way forward for you and your family?
PERRERO: My biggest motivation right now stop this from happening to other IT workers out there. If they have this going on within their company, contact Sarah, go to her website ProtectUSworkers.org. Let us know about that, because it can be stopped; it’s happening on two fronts. The companies are being stopped both legally, with lawsuits with senators going after them and with bills being introduced. As far as my career, I’ve decided to leave the IT field completely because there is a lot less opportunity out there than there was at one point, and I have the fortunate circumstance to be able to work on my family business and support my family that way.
DOBBS: Leo, thank you very much. Sarah Blackwell, thank you.