Harvard Affiliate, DoL Gang Up to Lower Wages for a High-Tech Worker

By David North on December 24, 2011

The general view from the right is that there is a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy aimed at converting the U.S. to some kind of workers' socialist paradise.

And among the leading conspirators are said to be institutions linked with Harvard University and with the U.S. Department of Labor, the most left-leaning of the cabinet agencies (and an alma mater of mine).

So it may come as a bit of surprise that an entity linked to that university, and another that is an obscure part of that department, have just agreed, in public, to lower the wages of a high-tech alien worker, a computer programmer.

It is just another indication how, even in these unlikely locations, the wage-lowering orientation of U.S. immigration policy plays havoc with workers, both aliens and citizens. That's the Big Picture in this story.

The detailed account of the anti-worker decision, relating to how a prevailing wage should be determined, is complex and obscure, and presumably totally unknown to the ladies that run the two institutions, Drew Gilpin Faust at Harvard and Hilda Solis at Labor.

Here it is:

The Boston-area Children's Hospital Corp. wanted to hire at an H-1B computer software engineer, and sought a prevailing wage ruling from the Labor Department that would play a role in setting the worker's salary. The job required a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field, and five years of experience in application development.

A journeyman staff member (an anonymous Certifying Officer) at the department said that this would be a "wage level 4 [position] with a prevailing annual wage of $119,038," according to Interpreter Releases of November 21, 2011 (pp. 2776-2778).

Children's Hospital objected to the wage, saying that it was an affiliate of a non-profit medical school, the one at Harvard, and thus was eligible for a more employer-friendly prevailing wage system under the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA). (That legislation also temporarily lifted the H-1B ceiling to 115,000 a year and was regarded at the time as a triumph for employers.)

The staff member said no, Children's Hospital and Harvard were not linked in the eyes of the law, and the hospital had to use a less favorable (to it) prevailing wage system.

Children's Hospital then appealed to the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals, an administrative appeals agency within DOL. BALCA determined that Children's and Harvard were, indeed, linked so the lower wage system could go into effect.

We do not know how much the wage for that job was lowered in the process, but it must have been significant enough for Children's Hospital Corp. to have gone to the expense of an appeal.

Given how the H-1B system works, and the large numbers of computer programmers from India, the chances are that the worker whose salary was lowered was from that nation. The lawyer hired by Children's to push down the H-1B worker's salary was one Prasant D. Desai, of the Boston firm of Iandoli and Desai; his name sounds like he, too, is on Indian descent, and his law firm photo would lead one to the same conclusion. Interesting.

The full text of the BALCA decision can be seen here.

That decision, unlike those of the roughly comparable administrative appeals agency in DHS, the Administrative Appeals Office, was published promptly (on November 15) and is published intact, without the redactions that mar the AAO decisions, when they finally appear. AAO does not believe the public should know the name of the parties to the cases, nor the lawyers, nor the decision-makers.

If this had been an AAO case we never would have learned about Mr. Desai's involvement, for example, nor even the name of Harvard.

DoL has that part right.