It's interesting to see a new angle on this, and to see a group actually fighting back against such a large employer. But...lawsuits won't fix this long term. What is going to fix this is a professional organization with a little more teeth than something like the IEEE or ACM. IT Professionals (developers, systems guys, DevOps people, whatever) need to start standing up against stuff like this before any hope of combating it goes away.
I walk the line between worker and manager in a lead position, so I see both sides of an employers' argument. Here's the uncomfortable truth -- there really is a shortage of qualified people, always has been. You need to find and hang on to qualified people for dear life, because you're not going to get a department full of superstars. The problem is that a lot of unqualified people can BS their way to a $150K+ job, and employers often don't know the difference between good and bad. Because of this, they're always looking to cut costs. So when Tata or Infosys comes in, and tells the CIO to write them a monster check to make their lazy good-for-nothing IT department go away, the argument holds water. Anyone working in an offshored IT environment knows that it never works out, but we do a very poor job of communicating our value to the business in some cases.
Other professionals are much smarter than we are about this. They saw companies moving to limit their power and formed professional organizations. The AMA pays for legislation, makes political campaign donations, and ensures its members still continue to command high salaries. If they ever let up, United Healthcare or similar would buy a law saying that nurses or medical assistants could perform advanced procedures for 1/10 the cost. Same thing with engineers, accountants, etc. There is an accepted barrier to entry (medical school, accreditation, licensure, etc.) to weed out the first-level BS artists. Imagine if an IT professional with X years' experience came with a full well-rounded education in computing fundamentals and their speciality, as opposed to graduating from a certification bootcamp. Or if a developer could be guaranteed to know something other than the JQuery and Python scripting he was taught in Coder Academy. As an employer, I'd pay for that instead of having to cycle endlessly through crappy onshore and offshore employees.
The point is that both sides have to give a little. Employers need to stop offshoring to the lowest bidder long enough to allow a talent pool to grow domestically, and IT professionals need to embrace the idea of a profession with salary progression commensurate with experience. If I were king and were able to form the IT Professionals Association tomorrow, here's what would happen:
- A huge collection would have to be taken up from members to purchase legislation banning the most obvious abuses of the current visa system. (Not an outright ban, because the original idea is good.)
- Some fundamental standards and practices would need to be established. This is the really hard part, because everyone is used to things going a million miles an hour and vendors promoting lock-in at every turn. But we're big boys and girls now, and computers are a part of our daily lives; their use should be more like a branch of engineering than a mad scientists' lab or skunkworks.
- Experience levels would need to be set, and training requirements to reach the next level would need to be established. Yes, this includes the idea of licensure, and at the lower levels, the dirty word "apprenticeship." This would allow employers to pay less for lower-skilled domestic labor. Does that sound like a skilled trade? It should -- the fundamentals of computing are becoming skilled labor now, and the creative engineering work should be done higher up the stack by people who have done the grunt work before.
- Members of the profession would need to start taking responsibility for their work, PE or medical malpractice style. It infuriates me when I've walked into projects where someone messed things up so badly they were fired, and they just clean up their resume and move on like nothing happened. That would be part of the bargain with employers -- they would get quality work or compensation in the case of incompetence.
- Vendor neutral lifelong continuing education, period.
- For this to work, it can't be a union-style seniority over all arrangement. Veteran workers who have kept up with technology all through the lifecycles don't deserve to train their replacements, but I'm not sure how I feel about the mainframe programmer who has never done anything different and has no interest in cross-training.
The H-1B program is being used for an unintended purpose -- getting rid of long term domestic employees and replacing them with "equivalent" workers. I'm fine with the original purpose, allowing truly talented people who really deserve it to come work here. I've been able to work with a few people like this, but I've also worked in IT sweatshop environments as one of the last onshore guys as they rotate less-than-qualified people in and out on H-1Bs. I think this needs to be fixed, but it's only the first step. We need to grow up and start advocating for our profession the same way employers advocate for their positions. And yes, that involves slimy lobbyists and paying for what you want.