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Disney Workers Laid Off and Asked to Train Foreign Replacements

Imagine receiving notice that you'd just lost your job. It'd be devastating. But, then, just think about being asked to train your replacement over a series of months – as you discovered that the jobs had been transferred to labor imported from other countries on a temporary visa for highly skilled technical workers. Would that kind of a situation feel like some kind of new level of hell? That's just what happened to workers at Disney, who found themselves facing unemployment ... and training the workers who would soon take over their jobs.

Imagine receiving notice that you’d just lost your job. It’d be devastating. But, then, just think about being asked to train your replacement over a series of months – as you discovered that the jobs had been transferred to labor imported from other countries on a temporary visa for highly skilled technical workers. Would that kind of a situation feel like some kind of new level of hell? That’s just what happened to workers at Disney, who found themselves facing unemployment … and training the workers who would soon take over their jobs.

dark side of Disney

(Photo credit: Robert D. Bruce/Flickr)

According to The Orlando Sentinel, 250 employees who managed Disney World’s data systems were summarily told, in October 2014, that their jobs were ending, effective January 2015. And, if the layoff wasn’t gut-wrenching enough, some employees were then required to train their replacements (workers who were brought in on H-1B work visas, via a firm in India). 

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A similar situation happened at Southern California Edison power utility, too. That news broke in February 2015. As we can well imagine, the dismissed employees were furious, according to Computer World

Layoffs are inevitable, particularly in some industries. It’s never something we want to experience, but most of us have, at least once. While we may accept the reality that “it happens,” it just feels wrong when Disney asked its employees to train their own replacements.

And, it should feel wrong. After all, the guidelines state that those H-1B work visas should not “adversely affect the wages and work conditions” America. Being laid off, and then being asked to train one’s replacement – that really is an super-negative effect. It’s one of those experiences that may stay with workers for the rest of their lives. 

And, yes, we can all agree, this work-visa program is necessary for some situations. There’s a reason for it, and we can also see why Disney might want to deploy work-visa labor. We can also see why the employers would want their exiting employees to train the on-boarding additions.

1. It’s cheaper.

Workers from other countries are willing to work for less money. So, as Professor Ronil Hira testified before Congress, the program to substitute cheaper labor has become a lucrative business model.

Also, by asking the laid-off employees to train the new workers, the company is not losing as much of that historical on-the-job experience and knowledge.

2. It’s diverse.

Diversity is a great thing, and some companies like Disney pride themselves on being a melting pot. What better way to ensure diversity than to draw from international sources?

By asking the former employees to train the new workers, they are also ensuring that some of the former work culture is retained. It would not have been the “happiest place on Earth” to work, particularly for those employees who knew they were losing their jobs, though.

3. It’s highly skilled labor.

The argument has been, and the guidelines have supported, that the application is for those workers who are filling a role with skills that could not be located. Of course, evidence shows that companies are hiring H-1B workers to fill technical positions that are already filled (laying off workers in the process).

Yes, it’s a brutal reality. We all know that companies have to lay off workers at times – for reasons that sometimes even make sense. But, there are also reasons for those H-1B guidelines, and there are very huge examples of why critics are so adamantly opposed to the program.

The crux of it is that we want to feel that when we get a job, and we do it well, that we will be able to retain it, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Disney and other companies like it have now demonstrated that it’s just not that way. And, now, we have to figure out ways to make sure that this situation doesn’t happen for others.

The first step is to talk about it. Educate yourself on what’s happening in the workplace. The next step is to take action. Let your voice be heard, and make sure your Congressman has the information he/she needs to protect your job.

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Have you ever been laid off, and then asked to train your replacement? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter

Esther Lombardi
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