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Deception and Devastation: The Ignored Dark-Sides of Suffering Joblessness

By dlindorff - Posted on 19 October 2010

By Linn Washington

Two of my oldest and dearest friends in life are unemployed and suffering – facing full-blown collapse monetarily and mentally.

Both have graduate degrees, multiple skills, commendable work records and zero job search success despite diligently scouring every source available during the past two years.

Oh, another important factor in the equation of my friends’ exile from employment ranks. Both friends are over fifty, a seeming Bestial Mark during this era when brazen age discrimination trumps traditional discrimination based on race, gender and disability.

Amplifying the anguish my friends harbor already from feeling their joblessness is somehow their fault are increasing reports that employers are refusing to hire unemployed people, citing their jobless status as evidence of their worthlessness as employees.

Employers, according to recent media reports, manufacture myths about the jobless, such as the jobless are unemployed due to poor work performance or that the currently employed are more current in needed proficiencies.

One friend’s downsizing had nothing to do with poor performance and that friend avoided layoff-induced "obsolescence" by returning to college and taking training for additional skills.

This friend’s layoff came just days after winning yet another company award for record sales. While laid-off and looking for a work, this friend obtained two advanced certifications each representing expanded proficiency in new technologies.

Further, this friend even learned golf, considering that game to be an effective tool enabling her to better perform the etc side of the sales profession – given that the links often trump a dinner table as a place for closing big deals.

My friends, like millions similarly situated across America, are the collateral damage of this devastating economic depression so craftily mischaracterized as a recession by politicians and media pundits. My friends see some pundits as enabling unwilling politicians intent on doing nothing to realistically confront the nation’s economic problems.

My friends talk sadly about the mental depression, embarrassment, helplessness and isolation they endure being unemployed…all major life-wrenching realities that receive little attention from ‘thought leaders.’ There is too little leadership looking for creative approaches to deal with this soul-crushing economic malaise.

One friend compiled a list of the ugly antics encountered while trying to reenter the working world.

That list includes things like: online job boards that require users to upgrade from free resume distribution to paid categories for “better results” that still don’t pay off; paid sites that post job listings that are months old; recruiters who normally get paid by the companies when they find suitable candidates who are now doing free webinars to solicit coaching fees from unemployed workers trying to get hired, and job fairs where most vendors tell eager applicants they are not hiring but will provide the company website to search for jobs that may be posted in the future...

For the rest of this article by LINN WASHINGTON in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent alternative online newspaper, please go to: ThisCantBeHappening!

I don't have a master's degree, much less a PhD, but have a B.Sc. majoring in computer science, with a minor in business administration, after which I worked for roughly ten years as a computer professional, mostly on UNIX, rather than Microsoft Windows. Bad times came to my door. Productive and far from billing top rates, wage rates, for people with my experience, I nevertheless got treated as another white American I.T. professional and was therefore rendered unemployed. Bad luck happened again and this prolonged unemployment, until the point that employers would surely disregard any job applications because of the period of unemployment, without consideration for the reasons, and many employers were a big part of the reason, replacing the hiring of American I.T. professionals with imported cheaper workers, and without consideration for the fact that I did not charge high rates; only wanting fair rates.

So unemployment lasted and lasted, ending up with the need to apply for even minimun wage jobs for which only a high school diploma was required; but that made me overqualified, which is qualified, but overly so. Unemployment therefore persisted.

I'm not the only American I.T. professional who ended up homeless. The H-1B program served as a racket for recruiting firms and many categories of employers. H-1Bs grouped together. They lobbied the government, of the U.S., for their rights. Meanwhile, we American I.T. professionals were much too individualist and wouldn't form a united front of our own. There was an effort made in California for establishing some sort of a union of computer programmers, if not all I.T. professionals, but I don't know how far they got with this. I think it was called the Programmers' Guild, or maybe it was just a Web site that provided information about this unionization effort.

The greatest speaker on our behalf I'm aware of is Professor Norman Matloff, a professor of computer science at UC Davis. He opposed the H-1B program from the very start, which was when then President GHW Bush was establishing this program and from what I read about that, Pres. Bush did this based on the request coming from one of his sons who was working for some law firm, possibly an immigration law firm, for immigration lawyers certainly stood to profit plenty; but maybe it was a different type of law firm that he worked for.

It was either the Department of Labor or Commerce that had totally opposed the creation of the H-1B program and this was for absolutely valid reasons, but Professor Matloff agreed with the reasons, only he differed in saying that roughly 15,000 visas per year was justified for bringing in professionals with master's degrees and PhDs, for these were vary lacking education levels among Americans in hi-tech jobs. He totally opposed the H-1B visa for anything else than master's degrees though.

Many of us got wiped out, economically, that is, financially, as well as rendered very unemployable only because all categories of employers that employed I.T. or hi-tech professionals wanted to replace hiring us with imported "temp" workers.

NAFTA may have been a little bit of a problem, but nothing like the H-1B program. And the H-1B visa has a "sister" visa, the L-1, that's also been used. From what I recall reading about the L-1 around 1998, this visa was not supposed to be used for hi-tech industry jobs, but it apparently did eventually come to be used for jobs in this industry, as well. There might also be a third visa, but probably a good way to find out is to read the writings of Professor Matloff.

As he said, the problem was not only for American citizens; it was also for permanent residents, immigrants who hadn't yet become U.S. citizens, as well as for students graduating in related fields of study from American universities and colleges. In 1997 or 1998, Prof. Matloff and the government department said that the total number of these graduating students was around 152,000 a year. These include computer science graduates, but not only us, for people graduating in maths, physics, and other fields, while having obtained a certificate or minor in computer programming, f.e., were certainly included in the 152,000 per year and should be included.

There was [no] shortage in the U.S., as many companies falsely claimed.

Re. age discrimination:

Professor Matloff explains well enough that a serious reason for employers wanting to replace a lot of us with imported workers is not age discrimination, but, rather, employers wanting cheaper labor, as cheap as they can get.

I didn't want high rates and opposed high rates in the I.T. industry, because treating the industry in "gold rush" fashion could not be good for long; it'd lead to getting bitten back and hard. Too many people treated I.T. jobs as if they had "gold rush fever", instead of charging [fair] rates, which I figured would keep us employable and sought over a [long] term.

Many would have experience with the "latest and greatest, hottest" programming language, like C++ or Java,f.e., after finishing their college degrees or diplomas and wanted to bill $125, $135, $150, oh no, not per day, but per hour, and often worked roughly 2,000 hours a year. Employers needed and need to employ many I.T. professionals, so employers would not put up with paying such high rates for many people over the long term. They'd work on trying to find ways to replace us.

I always opposed those greedy billing practices.

But it was far from being the only problem that affected us.

Recruiting firms, through which many employers did all of their recruiting, having outsourced this role, instead of keeping sizable HR departments or teams, wanted to [lowball], always or very nearly always looking for getting I.T. professionals for as cheap as could be obtained. So the H-1B program was greatly used by these head-hunting firms, while a majority of H-1Bs came from India and accepted professionally unacceptable, extremely low rates just to be able to get into the job market in the U.S. People working in the U.S. through NAFTA would never accept less than fair rates, but H-1Bs coming from very poor countries could profit from starting out with extremely low rates that were still sufficient for paying for an apartment, et cetera, in the U.S.

AILA, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, lobbied very, very hard to try to get the cap on H-1B visas totally eliminated; the yearly cap. This is because these lawyers stood to profit a lot, and very easily and quickly so, whenever they'd work on cases for H-1B plaintiffs. And the AILA probably got funding from employers of I.T. professionals, I guess. AILA feverishly pushed for President Clinton to totally eliminate the cap, but "only" succeeded in getting him to increase the cap to 185,000 or 195,000 per year, after he had already increased it to around 125,000 per year. President GHW Bush started the cap at 65,000 per year, which I believe to have read that the Bush Jr administration brought the cap back down to during the first Bush Jr term or early into the second one.

And the cap was not respected; not in the 1990s anyway. In the second half of the 1990s anyway, there usually were an extra 15,000 to 20,000 or so visas illegitimately granted every year. The government excuse was the lack of a centralized database, but this could have been arranged or corrected. There was certainly one or more ways to correct this lacune, if it really existed.

Plus, when American employers use H-1Bs to interview American I.T. professionals for jobs, for the few who'll be lucky enough to be offered interviews, then many will not get the jobs even when well qualified.

We're hit from every direction, in every way possible.

It's not about age discrimination, or certainly not as much as it is about getting cheaper labor. The older a professional is, the more experienced, the more the person is believed, without an employer asking, first, to demand higher compensation and employers want to pay compensation as low as possible.

Recruiters increase their profit margins tremendously by getting professionals to accept lowball compensation. The recruiters might lower the total bill rates for companies that actually employ the I.T. professionals, but the profit margins for recruiters nevertheless increases tremendously, for the only ethics these people believe in is the kind known as racketeering.

Many juniors in the I.T. world often claimed that it was an issue of racial discrimination, but American employers didn't prefer to employ cheap H-1B labor for questions of race. It was about [money]; getting cheaper labor. And the color for that in the U.S. is green for everyone.

I remember having read about an I.T. professional with 20 years experience who had been working in, I believe, San Francisco. He was in his 50s and had 20 years of experience, but found himself homeless. Having title ownership to his car, it became his home. So he had "shelter". I didn't; having had another year and a half to finish paying off the car loan and only $700 left to my name, so drove the car to the credit union where the loan was obtained, parked the car in the lot, walked in dropped off the keys, and said my good-byes, "I'm outta here and if you don't like it, then do your part to fight this H-1B program that's being used to replace Americans". The C.U. tried to charge me a couple thousand dollars for the difference between what it got in auctioning the car and how much of the loan I had left to pay, but I was penniless and simply told them, "Sorry, but I'm penniless".

The government still provides the H-1B program today and the H-1Bs still fight for their so-called right, regardless of them not being either citizens or immigrants, and Americans (citizens and permanent residents) being put into bankruptcy. Selfishness is everywhere, but H-1Bs also suffer from what's called desperation. Instead, they should study in fields that would lead to jobs and creation of jobs in their own countries, but they lack this will power.


The or another aspect to all of this is the predatory capitalist globalization path many American corporations have embarked upon starting in the 1990s and perhaps earlier.

This has lead to a lot of offshoring of jobs, in addition to outsourcing work to people in other countries where labor is cheaper, including much cheaper.

China is experiencing fast-rising economics, now being the second economy in the world. It's why while the imperialist economic elites of the West are demanding economic austerity to be imposed by western governments, the same elites are demanding that China invest in social spending, the very opposite of austerity. China's economy has been rising, so far, at around 6% a year and this rate is likely to increase. This is according to an article by Pepe Escobar.

"Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Pipelineistan's New Silk Road"

by Pepe Escobar, intro. by Tom Engelhardt, Oct. 12th, 2010

Hi-tech American companies definitely know what's happening with the Chinese economy and will want to capitalize on this as much as they can; and some are already there. These companies can disregard us, since 300 million or so of us is nothing compared to the 1.3 billion population China has.

There apparently are some people in Congress who've been trying to achieve something corrective about the H-1B program, but I haven't read or heard of much being achieved, yet.

Hiring foreign "temps", only:

I think it's in an article by Paul Craig Roberts several years ago that I read about some recruiting Web sites in the U.S. posting job openings and these said that if applicants had either H-1B or TN1 or TN-1 (whatever it is) NAFTA visas, then applications were welcome, but if applicants were U.S. citizens, or not applying with a temp. visa status, then it was pointless to apply. Iow, our applications would immediately be passed through shredders.


Employers, sometimes anyway, of I.T. professionals began outsourcing what formerly were full-time, salaried jobs in the early 1990s. D.E.C., Digital Equipment Corp., was one example from around 1992 or 1993. The company then was cutting 2,000, 3,000 or more salaried jobs of people who had done great work, and the company was replacing these salaried jobs with the hiring of contractors. Plenty of the employees cut wanted to be able to apply for contact jobs, but the company refused.

That's happened with other companies, and I believe to recall having read of the federal government doing this with some employees, who would've liked to be able to immediately apply for their former jobs, but now on contract terms. They were rejected and if recalling correctly, then they had to be out of government employment for either one or two years before they could be considered for contract positions.

Back, I believe, around 1998 or so, even the IRS began outsourcing auditing and/or income tax form reviews to accountants in foreign countries; instead of hiring accountants from among U.S. citizens and permanent/landed immigrants.

For I.T. and other hi-tech professionals, U.S. citizens, permanent or landed immigrants, however they're called, and students graduating from colleges and universities in the U.S., the times had already become difficult in the second half of the 1990s, and I assume that it hasn't gotten better since. The problem started in the early 1990s and got worse thereafter, but I haven't followed this in detail or much for many years now. However, I have a few I.T. industry e-mail subscriptions and H-1B is a topic that comes up often enough; and there's no sunshine yet for non-foreign-temp professionals in the U.S. that I'm aware of.

And once something like this happens in one industry, then companies in other industries can and surely do learn about what's happened and is happening; and they learn about the profitability. Then the virus spreads. It's like an airborne virus, being able to quickly spread country-wide, and also across national borders. And there doesn't seem to be an effective anti-virus yet for this virus.

L-1 and/or H-1B was also used in the nursing field, from what I recall having read also back in the 1990s.

Professor Norman Matloff has a section on H-1B, but if I recall correctly, then he also mentions the L-1 and possibly one or two other "temp" work visas, besides the one obtained through NAFTA, the TN-1. Perhaps plenty of what he's written only pertains to hi-tech jobs, but I'm pretty sure that people who check will find that some of his articles apply to more than these jobs.

People who do some Web searches for Paul Craig Roberts on the H-1B or H1-B (variably written) and L-1 should find some articles in which he talks about these "temp" visa, work programs as well as offshoring. I think he was Secretary or Assistant Secretary of Finance, or something like that, during the Reagan administration. Whatever it was, it was in finance, so he should have some considerably understanding or knowledge about these employment and unemployment topics or issues.

Prof. Matloff is a much more extensive writer on this topic, however.

That list includes things like: online job boards that require users to upgrade from free resume distribution to paid categories for “better results” that still don’t pay off; paid sites that post job listings that are months old; recruiters who normally get paid by the companies when they find suitable candidates who are now doing free webinars to solicit coaching fees from unemployed workers trying to get hired, and job fairs where most vendors tell eager applicants they are not hiring but will provide the company website to search for jobs that may be posted in the future...

Much like marketers, but I'd say that recruiters are surely worse; even much worse. As badly parasitic as many marketing jobs are, I think that recruiters are likely worse; in general. There are the occasional recruiters who work based on fair ethics, but I believe that most are unethical, with their only ethics being money.


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