• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    r u reddy on Employment Index: Week Th…
    r u reddy on The Instapaper Queue: Septembe…
    r u reddy on The Origins of Cruelty- anothe…
    Sweet Sue on Be Brave, Scotland
    Propertius on Be Brave, Scotland
    Jeff M on The Origins of Cruelty- anothe…
    Propertius on Be Brave, Scotland
    paper doll on Be Brave, Scotland
    paper doll on The Instapaper Queue: Septembe…
    Sweet Sue on Be Brave, Scotland
    Monster from the Id on The Origins of Cruelty- anothe…
    Monster from the Id on The Origins of Cruelty- anothe…
    paper doll on The Instapaper Queue: Septembe…
    paper doll on The Origins of Cruelty- anothe…
    paper doll on The Instapaper Queue: Septembe…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos debate Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean Joe Biden John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Keith Olbermann Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    June 2013
    S M T W T F S
    « May   Jul »
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    30  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Scotland, England and Hegemonic States
      When you’re on your way up, everyone wants to join or be your friend.  When you’re on your way down, well, it’s the opposite. Scotland, with free education and a belief in social welfare that England has lost, is on the edge of voting to leave in a referendum vote. It probably doesn’t hurt that [...]
  • Top Posts

The case against increasing H1B Visas: the Wyeth-Pfizer massacre

I’m on a roll this morning.  I’ll have another post later today on the “Academia discovers everything that pharma goes on to exploit” myth and explain why, counterintuitively, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  But for the moment, I want to go over the reasons why business leaders are lying through their teeth about needing more highly skilled workers from other countries because the US simply does not produce enough {{rolling eyes}}.

First, I want to say that I worked with a lot of Chinese, Indian and European scientists and back in the 90’s, the US benefitted from an influx of foreign scientists and students, particularly Chinese and Russian emigres.  Most of them have since become American citizens so whatever provision is made in the immigration bills to displace them with cheap foreign labor is going to affect them as well.  I’m also aware of some Chinese students who had a hard time getting their PhDs because their advisors saw them as indentured servants who could be kept working indefinitely because the only alternative for them was to go home.  And then there were the Chinese scientists who only had work visas who were promptly sent home as soon as their companies laid-off, closed their facilities, etc, because the company itself had sat on their green card applications while the MBAs decided how they were going to restructure their R&D facilities for the 450th time.  There are a lot of sad and tragic stories from foreign researchers that I knew personally whose lives and families were not at all important to the companies they worked for and lost their ability to live in the country they called home, where they BOUGHT homes and had children and friends.  Some of these people had no choice but to leave all of that behind when they lost their jobs.  This country can be cruel to the best and the brightest, especially those from foreign countries but this country doesn’t spare it’s own citizens either.

Secondly, I have to bust the myth about the superlative skills of the foreign scientist. Not all foreign researchers are geniuses.  They’re a lot like other researchers.  Some are brilliant, some are hard-working, some of them didn’t realize what they were getting into before they had invested a good chunk of their lives in science.

So, that out of the way.

In 2008, Pfizer bought Wyeth.  Pfizer is a behemoth of a pharma company that has spent the last 10 years gobbling up companies, extracting their pipelines and spitting out the people who, you know, actually did the discovery.

After Pfizer bought Wyeth, it laid off all of the Wyeth research staff.  Yep, all of them.  Oh sure, a handful of the 19,000 people were retained and sent to Groton where Pfizer had a few holes to fill in their own ranks.  But there were thousands and thousands of scientists, Americans, Chinese, Russians, Israeli, you name it, who were laid off en masse for no reason at all.

It didn’t matter how good they were and I knew quite a few who were excellent and extremely hard working scientists. It didn’t matter what their performance evaluations were like. The lay off was indiscriminate and didn’t separate the wheat from the chaff. It didn’t matter how cheap they were.  They didn’t choose to live on the East Coast where the cost of living is extremely high.  A lot of them had been displaced by previous mergers and acquisitions from more affordable midwest facilities.  And it’s not like Pfizer was particularly choosey when they laid off.  It didn’t look at both companies and pick the best people to save.  No, it just picked the losing company and laid off all of those researchers without any consideration at all whether they were laying off the next blockbuster discoverer or not.   You’d think the board of directors and shareholders would have preferred Pfizer to be more selective but that didn’t seem to be very important and no one seems to have asked why that was.

All that mattered was THERE. WERE. TOO. MANY. OF. THEM. FOR. PFIZER.

Researchers cost money and research costs money and that was getting in the way of the people who were trying to make money off the acquisition so the researchers had to go.  Other labs might have been able to absorb all this excess talent but other labs were also shedding American and foreign researchers like there was no tomorrow so most of my friends ended up contracting, consulting, working for much less money in academia or small start up companies or getting out of science altogether.

So, verily I say unto you congresspersons who are about to flood an already flooded market with cheap indentured servants from other countries, you really need to stick an amendment into this bill that prevents companies that laid off thousands and thousands of experienced, well educated, highly skilled researchers from getting away with ruining the lives of those researchers, some of them foreign who they swear they need, and contributing to the collapse of the economy and housing markets in places like New Jersey.  It is time that companies who work here in the US who claim to be corporate “persons” to start acting like good citizens.

One last thing: there is simply no good excuse for Congresspersons and Senators to not check out the claims of the businesses who whine that they “can’t find good help anymore”.  All you have to do is get one of your congressional staffers to contact the departments of labor in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California (San Diego area) and New York to verify that the unemployment rolls have been chock full of math and science majors who were laid off since 2008.  It shouldn’t take longer than a few hours in one afternoon to expose the truth.

Anything else is craven laziness that helps to depress the economy and further erode research in this country.  Researchers are not swappable, just-in-time, labor parts.  They’re individuals with specific knowledge bases who need continuity and support for their expertise to thrive.  Anyone who tells you differently is lying through their teeth.

About these ads

6 Responses

  1. I used to prepare H1B visas for clients and, although I could never prove it, there was always a back story as to why person X as being sponsored. The most blatant case I experienced was the daughter of a wealthy Asian banker who was the “busine$$” friend of the CEO….they produced all of the necessary documents but I always felt.suspected she was not actually working. That was the last H1B client that I represented. Oh, and I never ever believed that the companies were actually going to pay the person the required wage (which was often times almost $100,000/year) once the visa was approved.

    • At work, there was something called the Chinese Underground. They always knew what was coming before the rest of us did. So, I don’t think it will be long before word gets back to China that coming to the US means a very insecure job in place like Cambridge where you’re expected to work for peanuts and can be laid off at any time. There will be no time to put down roots, get a house or have kids like your predecessors did even a decade earlier.
      There’s always europe and in European countries, they won’t leave you to bleed to death or go without treatment for chronic diseases just because the ignorant Fox News watching hicks think they would be freeloading off the American taxpayers.
      As if foreign workers don’t pay taxes.
      So, give it time. The Chinese Underground will figure it out.

  2. Pharmaceuticals, in part because of high start-up expenses before revenues start to roll in, had long been a business with far above average profit margins. They actually taught this in business schools.

    Unfortunately, stock market greed and merger mania has inevitably ruined something that was awfully hard to mess up. Even 20 years ago, it was a well known fact that the one way to screw this up was to interrupt the pipeline by being cheap on research. Well, current management doesn’t care if it kills off the company in 20 years. they care about marginally higher profits this quarter. Fools.

    To quote Ted Turner, news cable TV mogul and baseball team owner, “Gentlemen, we have the only legal monopoly in the country and we managecd to **** it up.”

  3. Congress knows there are plenty of STEM workers available here. Just like they know SS doesn’t add to the deficit.

    They know this.

    They aren’t lazy, they’re evil.

  4. I always enjoy your posts; there are very informative on issues that actually matter.
    Thanks a bunch that you remain here, where others have moved on.
    I still visit you daily.

  5. “Hmmm”, said my Democratic Senators and Representatives,”I can do whats right by my constituents or take a wheelbarrow full of under the table cash from Bigco. What to do? What to do?”

    Well, we all know the answer to that one.

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 455 other followers

%d bloggers like this: