“Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer [...] I can’t imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business. I’m an American; I believe in the American way, I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don’t think we’ve done enough education of policymakers to understand the threat.”
–Jim Allchin, President of Platforms & Services Division at Microsoft
LAST month we outlined the Microsoft-Abramoff connection and how it related to Microsoft’s cheap(er) labour — a right which was earned using political corruption. Right now, in the face of workforce reductions [1, 2], Microsoft comes under fire for further betraying the United States. “Steve Ballmer is being questioned by a politician,” says the reader who sent us this pointer. It wasn’t long ago that Steve Ballmer was deposed by the court.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has sent a letter to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer expressing concern over how the company may go about its layoffs.
“I am concerned that Microsoft will be retaining foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American employees when it implements its layoff plan,” Grassley said in the letter, posted to his Web site on Friday.
The company announced plans Thursday to cut a net 2,000 to 3,000 jobs over the next 18 months, its first companywide layoff. An initial wave of 1,400 job cuts were effective Friday.
The senator asked Ballmer for details on the jobs to be eliminated; how many are held by H-1B or other work-visa-program employees; how many are held by Americans and, of those positions, how many similar positions held by foreign guest workers are being retained; and how many H-1B or other work-visa-program workers Microsoft will retain when the layoff is complete.
What’s good for Microsoft is good for the United States? Not necessarily. █
Update (26/01/2009): Here is the text of Grassley’s letter:
January 22, 2009
Mr. Steve Ballmer
One Microsoft Way
Redmond , WA 98052-6399
Dear Mr. Ballmer:
I am writing to inquire about press reports that Microsoft will be
cutting approximately 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months. I
understand that the layoffs will affect workers in research and
development, marketing, sales, finance, legal and corporate affairs,
human resources, and information technology.
I am concerned that Microsoft will be retaining foreign guest workers
rather than similarly qualified American employees when it implements
its layoff plan. As you know, I want to make sure employers recruit
qualified American workers first before hiring foreign guest workers.
For example, I cosponsored legislation to overhaul the H-1B and L-1
visa programs to give priority to American workers and to crack down
on unscrupulous employers who deprive qualified Americans of
high-skilled jobs. Fraud and abuse is rampant in these programs, and
we need more transparency to protect the integrity of our immigration
system. I also support legislation that would strengthen educational
opportunities for American students and workers so that Americans can
compete successfully in this global economy.
Last year, Microsoft was here on Capitol Hill advocating for more H-1B
visas. The purpose of the H-1B visa program is to assist companies in
their employment needs where there is not a sufficient American
workforce to meet their technology expertise requirements. However,
H-1B and other work visa programs were never intended to replace
qualified American workers. Certainly, these work visa programs were
never intended to allow a company to retain foreign guest workers
rather than similarly qualified American workers, when that company
cuts jobs during an economic downturn.
It is imperative that in implementing its layoff plan, Microsoft
ensures that American workers have priority in keeping their jobs over
foreign workers on visa programs. To that effect, I would like you to
respond to the following questions:
* What is the breakdown in the jobs that are being
eliminated? What kind of jobs are they? How many employees in each
area will be cut?
* Are any of these jobs being cut held by H-1B or other work
visa program employees? If so, how many?
* How many of the jobs being eliminated are filled by
Americans? Of those positions, is Microsoft retaining similar ones
filled by foreign guest workers? If so, how many?
* How many H-1B or other work visa program workers will
Microsoft be retaining when the planned layoff is completed?
My point is that during a layoff, companies should not be retaining
H-1B or other work visa program employees over qualified American
workers. Our immigration policy is not intended to harm the American
workforce. I encourage Microsoft to ensure that Americans are given
priority in job retention. Microsoft has a moral obligation to
protect these American workers by putting them first during these
difficult economic times.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator