There is little doubt that Silicon Valley’s workforce will be affected by two of President Donald Trump’s recent executive actions — the travel ban from seven mostly Muslim countries and the order about building a border wall. And when I say “workforce,” I’m not just talking about high-paid engineers and software developers, but also the people who sweep the floors, tend the grounds, serve the food, wash the dishes and staff the stores that so many in this area depend on.
It’s no surprise that executives from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Uber, Lyft and many other companies with headquarters or offices in or near Silicon Valley have spoken out. Many of these companies depend on immigrants from throughout the world – including some of these seven countries – to write the code and design the products that they create.
Some of the founders are themselves immigrants or children of immigrants. Steve Jobs’ birth father came to the U.S. from Syria – the country whose refugees are now banned until further notice. Google co-founder Sergey Brin came to the U.S. from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 6 years old. Speaking at a Google-employee rally against the travel ban, Brin referred to himself as “an immigrant and a refugee.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai immigrated to the U.S. from India, as did Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
The travel ban could definitely affect some of Silicon Valley’s high-paid engineers and executives, but I also worry about the impact of the ban and the proposed wall – along with increased immigration enforcement and potentially more restrictive laws – on thousands of lower-income immigrants that the area depends on for so many of its vital services.
HatTip.com, which links employers with job seekers in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industry and other service businesses, has more than 10,000 open service jobs in the Bay Area, many in Silicon Valley, according to Hat Tip CEO and founder Chris Kermoian.
What’s most interesting about Hat Tip’s open positions is that many of them remain unfilled for weeks at a time. Kermoian said that employers are “finding it very hard to hire. It’s very common in Silicon Valley for it to take four to six weeks to hire a new server for a restaurant.” Based on this, it’s safe to assume that immigrants are not taking a significant number of these jobs away from U.S. workers. There are also plenty of jobs at big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo that collectively employ thousands of cooks, dishwashers, janitors, groundskeepers and other “blue-collar” workers.
Also not listed in available Silicon Valley jobs are all the jobs in the San Joaquin Valley, wine country and other parts of California where our food is grown. I’d hate to think of what a head of lettuce or a bottle of wine would cost if it weren’t for the immigrants who pick our crops and package our food. In 2010, the United Farm Workers ran a “take our jobs” campaign that made it very easy for any American to apply for agricultural jobs.
“Only a few dozen have really followed through with the process,” UFW President Arturo Rodriguez told CNN.
I realize that employers are supposed to check the immigration status of applicants and only hire people who are in the country legally, but – rightly or wrongly – I also know that there are plenty of “undocumented” workers employed in Silicon Valley and other parts of the country. Still, there are legal ways to hire foreign nationals or “aliens” as they are officially called on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, including those who have been “granted asylum or refugee status.”
So, as it turns out, the president’s agenda could have a detrimental effect across the board when it comes to people who live and work in Silicon Valley. These policies could keep the next Steve Jobs or Sergey Brin from coming to the area to start one of the world’s great companies or any of thousands of software developers or engineers from contributing to the technology breakthroughs that could improve or even extend the lives of millions.
But as we celebrate the achievements of those entrepreneurs and highly-skilled tech workers, let’s not forget the contributions of people with different types of skills who are taking the jobs that all of us depend on to maintain our lifestyle, keep our homes and businesses in good repair, feed our families and maintain the social and cultural diversity that has long helped keep America great.
Published at Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:30:33 +0000