Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) criticized Microsoft on Wednesday for shedding around a fifth of its workforce over the past year while arguing for an expansion to the H-1B visa program.
Sessions, who serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and The National Interest, highlighted Microsoft’s arguments in support of the I-Squared bill, which could triple the number of available H-1B visas. The company said that the labor shortage is “approaching the dimensions of a genuine crisis” and “the skill gap is one of the biggest problems Microsoft faces.”
“As Microsoft’s layoffs show, there is a surplus -- not a shortage -- of skilled, talented, and qualified Americans seeking STEM employment,” said Session, in a statement. “Each year, universities graduate twice as many students with STEM degrees as find STEM jobs.”
Microsoft announced plans to lay off 7,800 employees on Wednesday, a large number coming from its failing phone hardware division. 2,300 of those were from Microsoft’s Finnish operations, resulting in a 66 perecent loss to the local workforce. Finnish government officials said they were prepared to act in response to the sharp drop. Microsoft had previously laid off 18,000 people in June last year, a 14 percent drop in its workforce.
"According to the Census Bureau, more than 11 million Americans with STEM degrees are not employed in STEM jobs—or 3 in 4 STEM degree holders," the senator said. "Any increase to the H-1B visa would only quash the dreams of more talented Americans, glut the labor market and keep pay low, and push more of our own homegrown best and brightest students out of work."
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates previously testified in front of Congress that “our higher education system doesn’t produce enough top scientists and engineers to meet the needs of the U.S. economy.” Microsoft has also signed a letter stating there are thousands of unfilled tech jobs, but the senator points to analysis by Challenger, Gray and Christmas that the computer industry laid off 59,528 employees last year, more than any other industry.
“There is no shortage of talented Americans, only a shortage of politicians willing to stand up to special interests demanding low-wage guest workers to hire in their place,” said Sessions.