Computerworld’s Patrick Thibodeau examined a restructuring of IT operations at Disney’s Parks and Resorts division last year and found the company replaced American workers with contractor-based guest workers. The laid-off workers he interviewed said Disney’s restructuring, which the company claims was meant to refocus resources on innovation, was motivated by cost cutting and unnecessary since there was no “skills gap” among existing workers.

The restructuring, which occurred in October of 2014, was not intended to displace workers according to Disney. A spokesperson said "We have restructured our global technology organization to significantly increase our [staff] focus on future innovation and new capabilities, and are continuing to work with leading technical firms to maintain our existing systems as needed."

Thibodeau spoke to five laid-off IT workers at Disney’s Lake Buena Vista location. They said the company cut well-paid and longtime staff and hired contractors that used H-1B and L-1 guest workers. "Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing," said one laid-off worker. He was required to train his replacement before being discharged.

The laid-off workers said Disney cut several hundred employees in October, although the company placed the actual number at about 135. Disney reportedly encouraged the terminated staff to apply for the new innovation-based positions but the workers interviewed said few of those discharged acquired one of the new jobs.

One of the laid-off workers told Thibodeau that Disney did not have to fire existing workers to achieve its goals. "There is no need to have any type of foreigners, boots on the ground, augmenting any type of perceived technological gap," said one worker. "We don't have one, first off…[Staff could have been trained because] "once you are in the system and you are a learner, you are a learner for life in IT. You are going to constantly learn."

Congress has begun to focus more on the displacement of American workers since Southern California Edison made news replacing hundreds of IT workers with H-1B guest workers. But companies like Disney having been pushing Congress to allow in more H-1B workers.

Thibodeau notes Disney CEO Bob Iger is a co-chair of the Partnership for a New American Economy, which seeks an increase in the annual H-1B visa cap. The group’s web site says it is dedicated to creating a “streamlined process by which employers can get the seasonal and permanent employees they need, when Americans aren’t filling vacant jobs.” According to Disney’s laid-off workers, the company could have filled its new, restructured jobs with existing workers but Disney chose cheaper foreign labor.

Read more in Computerworld.

High-skilled Americans

Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:34pm EDT