An Uber-Sized Finger in the Face of American Workers
In an email sent to employees after Monday’s announcement of another round of layoffs, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the terminations were necessary to “ensure the right people” were in the “right roles” and that leadership would do “everything we can to make certain” more job cutbacks would not be needed.
It would appear, according to state filings obtained by the San Jose Mercury News, that everything includes increasing the number of foreign workers while showing American workers the door, including the 350 employees let go this week.
Some cutbacks might have been warranted as a result of the company reporting a record $5.2 billion net earnings loss in August. But firing more than 1,000 employees over a ten-week period while also doubling the number of H-1B visa workers in management, marketing, and tech positions is neither warranted, nor justified.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, so far this year, Uber got federal government approval for 299 new H-1B visas, compared to the 152 in 2018 and 158 in 2017. In addition to laying off hundreds of employees, Uber management has asked an undisclosed number of employees to relocate in order to cut costs, according to Monday’s email.
Putting the bottom line above worker pay and satisfaction is not a new growth model for Uber. In fact, their drive to meet investor, not employee, expectations is what led to drivers striking earlier this year.
As noted by Recode, Uber conceded its pursuit of cost savings would lead to even more dissatisfaction among its workforce. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Uber stated that as it aims “to reduce driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect driver dissatisfaction will generally increase.”
Uber prides itself on catering to its immigrant workers by hosting “regular Visa with Chai Samosa sessions” and having “lawyers from Uber’s legal partnership and experts from Uber’s immigration team to provide updates” for its members. But some immigration experts believe its hiring practices might run afoul of U.S. labor laws.
“Every company promises on its H-1B applications that it will not harm the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers. Being laid off would harm your wages and working conditions, wouldn’t they? Where’s DOL Wage & Hour Division?” asked Ron Hira, a labor law expert at the Economic Policy Institute, in a recent tweet.
As important as it is for the Department of Labor to act, it is equally critical for action to be taken to prevent a further expansion of the foreign labor workforce by Congress. On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter to lobby for the passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would eliminate the per-country cap on immigrant work visas to the benefit of Indian and Chinese workers.
Thankfully, efforts in the Senate to pass that legislation and another bill to increase the number of employment visas issued each year were defeated. But that is little consolation to the former Uber employees and all of the other American workers who’ve been told they are not the “right” people for the job.