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Tech Workers Challenge University of California Offshoring

December 19, 2016

USC Outsourcing LettersInformation technology employees at the University of California, San Francisco, confronted members of the UC Board of Regents over a plan to offshore their jobs to lower-wage workers from India. This is just the beginning of an offshoring scheme that could affect hundreds of IT workers in a public university system that receives taxpayer funding.

“The day I received a bill for my daughter’s education at UC is the same day I received a layoff notice from UC.  My daughter asked me, ‘Dad, should I continue my engineering education?’ I didn’t know how to respond to my daughter or any other kids who are pursuing STEM degrees,” said Hank Nguyen, who spoke at the Board of Regents’ meeting today.

In February, Nguyen and 78 of his coworkers in UCSF’s IT department will lose their jobs, but only after they train their foreign replacements as a condition of their severance. Members of UPTE-CWA Local 9119 have been mobilizing against the move for several months, building public support for the IT workers.

UPTE-CWA Local 9119 President Jelger Kalmijn told the Board of Regents: “We’re not going to participate in a race-to-the-bottom, where working people are fighting each other all across the world to see who can be exploited the most. I urge you to take leadership and stop this outrageous outsourcing. It’s going to save you a couple pennies for massive political cost, for massive financial costs in the long run and for massive security costs. It makes absolutely no sense.”

Some Indian workers are being brought to campus on H-1B visas, which are temporary work permits. Congress originally created the visa program to help employers to fill talent gaps in their workforces — not displace US workers. But the law has loopholes and employers like UC are unscrupulously exploiting them.

In September, UC awarded HCL, a staffing company based in India, a $50 million contract to manage IT infrastructure and networking-related services. Soon outsourcing could spread beyond UCSF, as the HCL contract can be utilized by any of the 10 campuses in the UC system.

Troublingly, both UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and UC Berkeley Dean of Engineering S. Shankar Sastry sit on the board of HCL.

“Congress did not design the program to replace — or outsource — American jobs, or to lower domestic wages,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano. “Using the H-1B visa program for these purposes run contrary to Congress’ original intent, particularly given that the employees subject to the layoffs are highly skilled.”

California Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Mark DeSaulnier, Barbara Lee, and Eric Swalwell, along with Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley (R), also have called on Napolitano to reverse course.

“UC follows in the footsteps of many private companies that have been abusing the H-1B visa program. But as a public institution, the University of California’s action “is even more of a slap in the face to the tech workers, their families and the UC community,” Kalmijn said. “We will continue to fight back against this shameful attack on good, family-supporting jobs.”