Two of the tech workers Disney laid off inJanuaryÂ after being forcedÂ to train theirforeign replacements on H-1B visasÂ spoke out publiclyfor the first time in an interview aired Tuesday night.
“When a guillotine falls on you like that, you’redead for that moment,” ex-Disney worker David PowersÂ told RebeccaVergas with Sarasota’s ABC7, referring to the moment helearned he was being laid off. “And I was dead.”
Powers and Leo Perrero are the first laid off workers to speakpublicly about the layoffs — it’s rare for thoseaffected by H-1B layoffs to speak out because offearedÂ consequences from their current or formeremployer.
Powers, Perrero and hundreds of his fellowâ€œCast Membersâ€ were laid off inJanuary andÂ allegedly blacklistedÂ fromemployment at other Disney-solicited contractors afterDisneyÂ forced them toÂ train their foreignreplacements.Â Both Perrero and Powers had receivedhigh commendations from their managers and were expecting a pat onthe back in the unexpected layoff-announcement meeting, which tookplace just ahead of the holiday season.
“I felt extremely un-American,”PerreroÂ told ABC7. “I felt like I was part ofdestroying our economy, because I had to train a replacement thatwas going to come here, take my job but then potentially take otherpeople’s jobs.”
Disney told ABC7 Powers and Perrero were laid off, but said theycreated new jobs for IT workers, which has been disputed by thoselaid off.
The stated intent of the visa program isÂ to helpcompanies bring in high-skilled foreign workers for science,technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs Americanscanâ€™t fill. But some companies includingDisney,Â Southern CaliforniaEdison,Â Fossil Group and Catalina Marketing, are allegedly using it tocut labor costs.Â (RELATED: Feds Expand Investigation Of H-1B AbusesAs Calls For Action Intensify)
Several of the workers filed official complaints with theDepartment of Labor, spurring an ongoing investigation into Disneyand other companiesâ€™ alleged abuse of theH-1BÂ visa program.
Perrero and Powers told ABC7 the idea there is a shortage oftech workers is ridiculous, but because of the way businesses aretaking advantage of the H-1B program they wouldn’t recommendSTEM to students.
“I would never recommend this field to anybody that is astudent because of the lack of opportunity,” Perrero toldABC7. Added Powers: “The STEM program’s ajoke.”
Nearly 75 percent of Americans with STEM degrees are not workingin STEM Fields, according to Census data, and only 3.8 millionAmericans with STEM degrees actually hold STEM jobs.
After Republican Sen. Marco Rubio essentially ignored the story about his constituents forabout two months, a spokeswoman from his Senate office told The Daily Caller News Foundation in Junehe’s “concerned” about the reports. But Rubio,who is running for president and wants to dramatically expand theH-1B program, did notÂ join FloridaDemocraticÂ Sen.Â Bill Nelson ‘s directcall for an investigation.
“If the program was misused, then people should be heldaccountable,” his spokeswoman said at the time, but added hesupports the program he says is designed to “protect”American workers.Â Rubio’s office did notimmediately respond to a request for comment.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is also running for president,has also largely ignored the reports. Bush’s campaign did notimmediately respond to a request for comment.