Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Sorry about that
A University of California IT employee whose job is being outsourced to India recently wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for help.
Feinstein's office sent back a letter addressing manufacturing job losses, not IT, and offered the worker no assistance.
The employee is part of a group of 50 IT workers and another 30 contractors facing layoffs after the university hired an offshore outsourcing firm. The firm, India-based HCL, won a contract to manage infrastructure services.
That contract is worth about $50 million over five years and can be leveraged by other university campuses -- meaning they could also bring in HCL if they so choose.
The affected IT employees, who work at the school's San Francisco (UCSF) campus, are slated to lose their jobs in February and say they will be training foreign replacements.
Since the layoffs became public, the school has posted Labor Condition Applications (LCA) notices -- as required by federal law when H-1B workers are being placed. UCSF employees have seen these notices and made some available to Computerworld. They show that the jobs posted are for programmer analyst II and network administrator IV.
For the existing UCSF employees, the notices were disheartening.
"Many of us can easily fill the job. We are training them to replace us," said one employee who requested anonymity because he is still employed by the university.
The letter to Feinstein said, in part:
"The decision to move the University of California San Francisco datacenters from California to Washington was difficult to grasp. I saw several of my long time co-workers terminated, and my California tax dollars that go into the UC system being diverted to the state of Washington.
"The recent decision to outsource 17% of Information Technology to India based Company HCL has literally hit home. I am being asked to do knowledge transfer to a foreigner so they can take over my job in February of 2017.
"I am asking for your support in requesting an oversight with the Department of Labor in regards to the contract between HCL of India and University of California San Francisco. This contract will more than likely not save the University money, but it will definitely wipe out what is now a somewhat diverse workplace."
In response, Feinstein's office replied with what sounds like a form letter that cites tax code issues as an incentive to moving jobs overseas. But tax code changes do not help IT jobs that don't involve physical relocations of equipment and plants. It's the type of letter that might be more appropriate for someone in manufacturing and makes no mention of the use of the H-1B visa in IT job offshoring.
Specifically, Feinstein's office wrote back:
"Thank you for your letter expressing your concern with the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond as this issue is of particular importance to me.
"I have received many heartfelt letters from Californians who have either lost their jobs when their company moved jobs overseas, or know people who have. It is very troubling to me that the downsizing of companies and the outsourcing of jobs appears to be becoming a trend not only in California, but nationwide. The striking loss of good jobs in California certainly indicates that both the downsizing of companies and the outsourcing of jobs are playing an increasingly prevalent role in our economy.
"As such, I believe that instead of excusing the loss of high paying jobs as inevitable, we should be taking reasonable and sensible measures to stop encouraging U.S. companies to move their employees overseas. For example, our tax code frequently rewards companies for moving jobs offshore by allowing the companies to bring foreign earned profits back into the U.S. at a rate well below what you or I pay on our income taxes.
"We also need to invest in our future. We must continue to fund and strengthen our domestic education system, which has made Americans the most productive and skilled workforce in the world. Furthermore, we must invest in appropriate safety nets for those who are temporarily displaced by shifts in domestic industry. Such safety nets would include the extension of temporary unemployment benefits, more affordable healthcare for those between jobs, and more robust job training and placement services for people displaced by outsourcing.
"I am very troubled by the loss of American jobs and will continue to investigate the roots of this problem to arrive at an appropriate and effective solution. Please know that I will continue to work hard to keep good jobs in the U.S. and to keep Americans employed.
"Again, thank you for writing. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841."
On Tuesday, Feinstein’s office was contacted by Computerworld about the communication. An aide to the senator who didn’t want to be identified said via email that the Feinstein reply “was not the appropriate response. The Senator’s office receives more than 100,000 pieces of correspondence each month and on occasion they aren’t directed correctly.”
The aide also said Feinstein's office “reached out” to the IT worker “to express our apologies and see if the Senator can be of assistance.”
As a U.S. senator, Feinstein could have asked the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to review the situation. She could have also asked California's governor to take a look at the IT outsourcing or contact the University of California directly -- a public institution that also receives federal dollars -- to ask why a partially taxpayer-supported university is moving jobs to India.
Feinstein also has another close connection to UCSF. Her husband, Richard Blum, is on the Board of Regents overseeing the University of California system.