A new report out of the Economic Policy Institute claims that Apple, alongside Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others are using an existing visa system in the US as a loophole to underpay workers.
The US H-1B visa is a visa type that allows companies in the United States to hire workers from other countries such as China and India to work in specific fields, without requiring them to obtain citizenship. Currently, according to the US Department of Labor, there are 500,000 workers under this visa, with Silicon Valley companies on the top 30 list.
Per the Institute, Apple and other companies may be using the visa program as a way to exploit the workers, and therefore underpaying them compared to the work they are doing.
the fundamental flaw of the H-1B program is that it permits U.S. employers to legally underpay H-1B workers relative to U.S. workers in similar occupations in the same region.
The report explains that the DOL or Department of Labor set a minimum wage that these workers must be paid, according to the level that the worker is set at. There are a total of 4 levels that the department sets by looking at statistical data. But, the DOL has the two lowest levels way below the local minium wage.
The two lowest H-1B wage levels set by DOL correspond to the 17th and 34th wage percentiles locally for an occupation. This translates into salaries that are significantly lower than local median salaries—17% to 34% lower on average for computer occupations (which are among the most common H-1B occupations). H-1B employers can reap significant savings by selecting one of the two lowest wage levels instead of the Level 3 wage (the median, or 50th-percentile, wage) or the Level 4 wage (above the median, at the 67th percentile).
The trick is that the DOL gets to decie which level a workers fall udner by altering the data is uses to determine the level. To no surpris, 60% of the workers under the visa in 2016 were assigned to the two lowest levels, below the wage.
Google, Amazon, and Microsoft top the list of the number of workers they employ under the two lowest levels. Apple is reported to have 2% of its workers on level 1, 32% at level 2, totally 34% of its H-1B workers getting paid under the wage.
It is not entirely Apple’s fault. This is a intentional loophole done by the DOL to lower the costs for companies. However, Apple should take moral notice and pay these workers at least the minum wage, if not higher depending on their skill set.