Skillicorn blasts Caterpillar, other firms for laying off Americans, hiring foreign workers
In response to a major Illinois manufacturer’s reliance on offshore workers at the expense of regional constituents striving for jobs in a faltering state economy, Allen Skillicorn, the Republican candidate for the District 66 state House seat, recently issued a statement on his Facebook page.
“American jobs must be a priority,” Skillicorn said.
Caterpillar, the builder and distributor of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines, maintains its headquarters in Peoria with a wide complement of affiliated services worldwide.
In early September, the company fired 300 of its U.S. workers based in Mossville, a community between Peoria and Chillicothe. At the same time, it solicited “H-1B” workers to perform jobs urgently sought by state workers.
“H-1B” status refers to a non-immigrant U.S. visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows foreign workers to fill positions in specialty occupations.
The regulation essentially creates a potential loophole for U.S. companies looking to temporarily employ non-citizens.
It defines a "specialty occupation" as requiring highly specialized knowledge in a field, including (but not limited to) biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology and the arts.
Statistics demonstrate that nationwide, approximately 650,000 H-1B professionals have replaced U.S. citizens in academic and technology fields, as well as business and finance, architecture and design, public relations, media and health care.
H-1B is unpopular among stakeholders wishing to see the economy revitalized and, in Illinois’ case, stabilized. The Land of Lincoln is at risk due to its recent uncertain fiscal status. John Miano, an American lawyer and software expert who is fighting the trend, has sued the federal government to stop or at least diminish the pattern.
“What we see is that companies ask for more (H-1B visas) while they’re laying off the same kind of (American professionals),” Miano said, adding that upcoming elections will play an important part in determining whether this continues.
Caterpillar has requested 768 visas for H-1B workers over the last four years. Businesses tend to acquire approximately 20 percent of their new-hire H-1B visa requests; the math indicates that Caterpillar has outsourced at least 100 U.S.-based jobs to lower-wage foreign graduates since 2012.
“If someone gets fired or loses their job, and another citizen of this country replaces them at the job, that’s just the nature of how the country works sometimes," the “Whistleblower411” website said recently. “HOWEVER, if the deck is stacked against that person … they are replaced by someone that isn’t supposed to be here.”
Miano agrees that the practice entails a threat to the American middle class because it thwarts upward mobility. By introducing non-Americans into the job market, the traditional goals of bettering oneself professionally are challenged, even threatened, by outsourcing.
“The whole thing of the middle class is to send your kids to college, get professional jobs and move up — but now, that is being destroyed” Miano said.
“American corporation Caterpillar is firing 300 American employees,” Whistleblower411 stated. “300 Americans will be without jobs even though CAT still continues to recruit and pay foreign ‘H-1B’ guest workers to do the same white-collar jobs sought by American professions in the United States.”
Just next door to Illinois, as it happens, another U.S. company, Carrier, carried out a parallel course of action in Indiana, when it outsourced 1,400 blue-collar factory jobs to Mexico.
While Caterpillar and its next-door neighbor Carrier are not the only corporations to rely on “temporary” foreign professional help — Disney, Microsoft, Toys R Us and many health care systems have done it — they represent a challenging trend for Illinois, other Midwestern states and the U.S. in general.
Peoria itself has suffered as a result of the layoffs, reflecting the larger landscape of problems within the U.S. manufacturing sector. Whereas almost one in every four jobs in the city was a manufacturing job in the early '90s, today that figure is now one in eight.
“Illinois also needs to adopt E-Verify and prosecute employers that violate immigration laws and suppress wages for American workers,” Skillicorn said, referring to a system designed to authenticate an employee’s eligibility using data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as Social Security Administration records.
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