A new H-1B scandal is making the news—this time it involves H-1B teachers from the Philippines that were hired to work in the Recovery School District in New Orleans.
The story begins in 2007 with a Louisiana school superintendent that claimed he was having trouble filling about 650 teaching jobs in New Orleans. He said he was going to "cast a broad net" to recruit new teachers. He did indeed cast a broad net—it went all the say to the Philippines!
Soon after teacher shortages were announced, Louisiana school officials started taking all expense paid trips to Manila to find teachers that would work in New Orleans. The school district didn't hire the foreign teachers directly however—they used a bodyshop named Universal Placement International, who used H-1B visas to import the labor.
UPI is a California based company. This Pinoy teacher's blog has some interesting insider information on UPI.
The school district hired large numbers of Filipinos to work in New Orleans. Being slightly more specific, one superintendent stated that the schools "consummated an agreement to bring in Filipino ladies". OK, it's just a guess on my part but I'll bet most of the school officials who decided to hire these female teachers were a bunch of horny white guys, and I would also bet that the female teachers are all young. Shame! Shame! Shame!
Apparently the yearly cap of 65,000 H-1B visas wasn't an impediment to hiring boat loads of Pinoy teachers. In the legal complaint (see on Communications Workers Of America website [PDF]) UPI made this boastful statement
While other placement agencies are subjected to H-1B work visa cap, we are not. We have highly qualified attorneys who assist us and enable us to place international teachers for H- 1B visas throughout the entire year.
At some point the Louisiana teacher's union decided to file a complaint on behalf of the Filipino teachers against Universal Placement International. According to the union at least 200 teachers in Louisiana schools were extorted out of thousands of dollars apiece. They also allege that the foreign teachers were held in "virtual servitude", which is a weird charge considering that indentured servitude is the purpose of the H-1B visa system. I doubt the union will get very far if they push the servitude part of the complaint because the courts are unlikely to care.
There are many things UPI did that could get them in trouble, but some of the most egregious ones included charging the teachers large placement fees to get hired charging usury style interest rates of 3-5 percent per month if the teachers couldn't pay the fees in cash. Predatory behavior like this happens all the time in foreign countries but in the U.S. it violates H-1B regulations. UPI's most blatant violations include charging the teachers processing fees for the H-1B visas (H-1B requires that employers pay the fees).
After reading the recommended articles it may occur to you that the union filed the complaint on behalf of Filipino teachers—not Americans who were denied employment or perhaps even laid off from the same schools. Nary has a word been mentioned about American teachers that could be hired for these teaching jobs. In other words, it doesn't matter if American jobs are ripped off by foreigners as long as the foreigners don't get ripped off by their employers.
If the union wins their complaint the result will be that Filipino teachers will get a fistful of dollars as compensation for the exploitation they suffered by the bodyshops. Bet on the teachers from the Philippines keeping their jobs in Louisiana while Americans desperately try to find teaching jobs from schools that claim they can't find enough teachers. Louisiana school officials will avoid getting into trouble by claiming they didn't know that UPI was exploiting their H-1B contractors.
It could be argued that enforcing regulations will insure equity in the labor force, and therefore will reduce the desire of employers to favor exploitable foreign workers. In my opinion a much more direct way to insure that Americans get the jobs they need would be to abolish the H-1B program.
Company that brought Filipino teachers to Caddo being investigated October 2, 2009, By Icess Fernandez email@example.com
Company Violated Law and Human Rights of Filipino Teachers [PDF]