IT Reshoring News

September 01, 2014

CNET Series on Silicon Valley’s Tech Woes Addresses H1Bs...and Then Breezes Right Past

CNET has posted an article series called "Vexed in the City" documenting some of the tech issues hitting San Francisco. High rents from tech workers, protests...they even mention the H1B problem. But how it's handled leaves something to be desired.
There’s a tech storm brewing in the Bay Area.  It’s causing dissatisfaction with corporations like Google and Facebook, uproar in cities like San Francisco and Mountain View, evictions and job losses.

This past week, CNET tackled the whole thing by publishing an article series titled “Vexed in the City.”  Here are links to 5 of the articles (more may be forthcoming):
  1. Tech's fraught transformation of San Francisco 2014
  2. Starved for tech talent, yet nobody to hire?
  3. SF strife spurs tech defectors elsewhere
  4. Silicon Valley's invasion of San Francisco
  5. Welcoming new techies with a middle finger salute
A brief summary of the discussion:
San Francisco is in a tech squeeze.  More and more tech workers are flooding into the city, driving up real estate prices.  At the same time, Silicon Valley is struggling* to hire tech talent, importing lots of foreign workers on H1B visas and lobbying for more.  Other Bay Area cities are trying to attract Silicon Valley’s businesses, but many are either not budging or leaving California entirely.

( *We’ve questioned the notion of ‘struggling’ in the past: Is the Tech Skills Gap Due to Lack of Talent—or Are Employers Too Picky?)

Our interest was piqued by the second article, "Starved for tech talent, yet nobody to hire?".  This article discusses the H1B situation – namely, Silicon Valley companies overlooking American workers in favor of cheaper foreign workers brought here on H1B visas.

The article provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the H1B situation.  It includes quotes from Joe Green, President of FWD.US, and Laszlo Bock of Google.

What we’re “vexed” about is the slight lean in favor of more H1Bs with which the article concludes.  It points to "circumstance" as the primary cause for a talent shortage plus rampant foreign worker hiring, and offers excuses to dismiss any objections.  Yet commenters are vehement in their dislike of H1B workers filling their jobs on the cheap.

The third article in the “Vexed in the City” series breezes right past the H1B issues, discussing businesses which have left the San Francisco Bay Area for other U.S. cities, such as Austin, TX and Raleigh, NC.  This article does make a powerful point – there is still plenty of tech talent in the U.S.  It’s just not all concentrated in Silicon Valley.  Each city profiled (Austin, Raleigh, Detroit) had a pool of tech workers available, a much lower cost of living, and plenty of drive to succeed.

Articles #4 and #5 discuss the San Francisco tech worker invasion.  There are protests and vandalism going on: protests against climbing eviction of low-rent tenants in favor of high-rent tech workers, vandalism of tech companies’ property such as the buses they use to ferry workers to the office.

Kudos to CNET for showcasing the H1B problem as a part of the overall tech storm brewing.  Better than ignoring it entirely.  More focus on the disparity between rampant H1B visa abuse and STEM unemployment, however, would help to illustrate a foundational element of the Bay Area’s tech problem.