When the House of Representatives killed the STEM Jobs Act recently, those against allowing more guest workers into the country were relieved. But they shouldn’t take the bill’s failure as a sign the tide’s turning in their favor. The only reason the measure sank was because it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. Under normal circumstances, it would have been approved with a straight vote of 257-158.
We all know the arguments for and against guest workers in IT: Proponents say we need more STEM professionals to stay competitive on the world market, opponents contend there are plenty of unemployed Americans who can fill the need. Even though the unemployment rate in tech stands at around 4 percent — far better than the national average — a strong job market means nothing if you can’t get yourself hired.
Unfortunately, many of those who oppose guest-working programs don’t bother to argue their case. They take the easy way out. They attack the visa holders, surveys they don’t like, and call public officials names. They insult anyone who dares to disagree with them. In short, they do everything but make their case.
And they have a strong case to make. Although many of those jobless STEM workers are well-qualified and have strong work histories, employers have become distressingly picky. They’ve shifted the burdens of training onto workers. Age discrimination makes them leery of experienced candidates. So do assumptions about high salary requirements, even though many job seekers are willing to compromise.
It’s hard to keep our emotions out of debates like this, especially when we’re worried about finding work, paying our bills or even just keeping the job we’ve got. But we have to. When the discussion degenerates into nothing but name calling, no one gets organized and nothing gets done. Whichever side you’re on, the people who get things done are those who convince people they’re worth listening to. And before you say the lobbies and corporations will always win, remember SOPA and PIPA. An awful lot of big names suddenly changed their minds about supporting those anti-piracy proposals, which succumbed quietly on the capitol’s floor.