Carly Fiorina's War on American Workers

This post represents the third in a series of articles examining the displacement of American workers by foreign workers. It is co-authored by James Otto, an attorney representing displaced American workers.

Carly Fiorina conducted a war against American workers while commander-in-chief at Hewlett-Packard (HP) just as a military commander would send American solders to die -- a casualty to business profits. It was a war of attrition for U.S. workers and a tool of recruitment for foreign workers. In another time and place her actions may have targeted her as a war profiteer, but in today's unregulated free market capitalism where anything goes so long as it is reflected positively in the profit and loss statements she uses it as a springboard for the highest office in the land. It may represent her most enduring legacy in a tenure at HP that is being seriously scrutinized in the current presidential campaign.

An optimist would assess Fiorina's business experience and conclude that she must have learned valuable lessons on how not to conduct business. Taking this logic to its rather illogical extreme she is perfectly positioned because she hopefully would have learned much from her mistakes. And if mistakes make one stronger and more cognizant of the terrible hardships ill-advised decisions can have on real people, in this case her employees, then she surely has a large body of experience to tap into.

While many will argue that business acumen does not necessarily translate into leadership qualities appropriate to conducting public policy and government, there is little worry there as well. It is readily apparent from her lack of performance at HP that she fails to possess anything approaching business acumen. But that is an optimistic assessment of her qualifications for the office she now seeks and performance evaluations are not built upon optimism but upon results. It is the credo which most businesspersons live by: namely, don't judge me by my actions, judge me by my results. My guess is this is an unspoken article of faith that governs most corporate boardrooms. And judging upon results she was rudely dispatched with a healthy severance package and blacklisted from the honorary society of Chief Executive Officers, if in fact one actually exists.

In the third installment of our series on the guest worker visa program we are highlighting Ms. Fiorina's business experience as an abject lesson in how a government-sponsored program was used and abused to encourage unskilled foreign workers to essentially deny American workers continued employment for no other reason than to cut costs and inflate profits. It is greed at its worst and Ms. Fiorina was an accomplished practitioner of the art during her tenure at HP.

Not only does she admit to using the H-1B visa program to import foreign workers but in a 2003 interview with the Omaha-World Herald she announced that she wished she had "done them all faster." And in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle a few months later she proudly proclaimed that "there is no job that is America's God-given right anymore," hardly a ringing endorsement of an appreciation for American workers or the American workforce. Adding insult to injury she proceeded to secure a wage bonus large enough to buy an extra yacht and 5 extra airplanes after ruining approximately 16,000 American workers' lives. Fiorina utilized this job replacement blueprint until she was fired in 2005.

Her legacy had one lasting impression upon executives at HP and that was to carry on the blueprint after her departure. On September 15 of this year Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced the company will dump 30,000 highly qualified U.S. workers while it moves forward with expanding its use of the H1-B program. This job slashing program comes in addition to the 54,000 layoffs already taking place at HP, with most of those expected to hit workers in North America according to Bloomberg. While HP is not alone in its abuse of the H-1B program it does rank high as a habitual abuser, importing more foreign workers than 94 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

So, one would ask, how does HP fire 84,000 workers, clearly one-quarter of its workforce and stay in business? They simply replenish them by turning to so-called "body-shops", businesses that specialize in importing young males from India by essentially "leasing" bodies to American employers. The added incentives to HP include not having to pay the prevailing wage scale and not having to pay payroll taxes. And in the cruelest twist of fate skilled American workers are paid to train unskilled foreign workers to replace them.

But Ms. Fiorina has not been in the business world for a decade and her latest adventure is politics. In the political world such job slashing activities are viewed with contempt and scorn so she has deftly reversed rhetorical course and now slams others for doing what she used to do. Taking a swipe at Disney for following her practices she indignantly proclaims "shame on them." Has she learned the error of her past ways? Not exactly.

While the guest worker and foreign student visa programs were ostensibly designed to provide American companies with skilled workers that supposedly were in short supply and high demand the program has become a breeding ground for unskilled workers in a quest to cut costs. Yet despite the reality that was critically important to her decisions as CEO of replacing skilled American workers with unskilled foreign workers she has turned her sights on the American educational system as not being able to provide skilled workers. This despite the overwhelming statistics that show 74 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates from American universities are unemployed. If anything there is an excess supply of STEM graduates each year. The only conclusion left is that it is simply a cost-cutting measure that she once referred to as "right shoring" as opposed to the more prominent phenomena known as "off shoring." Either way the American worker pays the ultimate price.

No, the American system of higher education is not to blame, rather corporate greed and an ever-expanding gap between the super-rich (1 percenters) and everyone else (99 percenters) fueled by a focus on quarterly dividends instead of long-term sustainability and growth are the culprits. Short-sightedness is not the sole province of the business community. In the case of the H-1B program businesses are aided and abetted by government policies inadequately regulated and in many instances poorly formulated that not only welcome but encourage abuse. In another time not long ago such collusion would be viewed as unpatriotic and the profits reaped at the expense of American livelihoods would have been viewed as criminal. However, the current fealty to profits rather than prophets has unleashed a devastating impact upon what still remains of the middle class. In another place and time not long ago unionism had leverage to protect workers against such worker injustice, but the rapid decline of unions has rendered the American worker vulnerable and the ranks of discouraged and underemployed workers has swelled.

Unless Ms. Fiorina fesses up to having contributed to the problem how can she be trusted with providing solutions to the wretched state of affairs facing current and future generations of American workers?