Pfizer Donated to Senators Who Supported H-1B Visa Expansion

Last Updated Dec 15, 2008 5:56 PM EST

2852187854_8d9115cd54.jpgPfizer donated tens of thousands of dollars to Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and those senators supported an expansion of the H-1B visa program that allows foreign workers to be brought to the US to do technical jobs, according to New London's The Day. Coincidentally, Pfizer has had a policy since 2005 of using outside contractors staffed heavily with H-1B visa holders to replace their U.S. employee staff.

In some cases, ex workers say, they had to train their replacements before being laid off. (BNET readers first learned about the issue here.) Both senators denied they helped Pfizer outsource its IT workers by hiring contracted H-1B holders. Lieberman's press secretary said:
The program was never intended to help firms outsource their operations by training foreign workers here at home.
The Day's sources say that IT workers on Pfizer's campuses in Groton and New London have been transformed over the last three years from being all-American to largely foreign.

Pfizer itself has stated in a letter to Senator Dodd (pictured) and Rep. Joe Courtney that it has only 60 H-1B holders as employees.

That's not the point, critics say, as Pfizer's use of contractors means the H-1B's are actually employees of the contractor, not Pfizer. Pfizer hired Infosys Technologies and Satyam Computer Services as its IT vendors in 2005 as part of a program to slash costs. The company even has a policy, called "Procedure 117," about how contracted workers are to be treated. UPDATE -- AstraZeneca just signed its own deal with InfoSys.

Here are the dollar breakdowns for Pfizer's gifts to Connecticut pols:
  • Dodd: $28,000 from Pfizer in the past seven years, plus $2,300 from the U.S. India PAC.
  • Lieberman: $14,000 from Pfizer.
  • Courtney: $11,500 from Pfizer.
You can read more background here and here.

Image by Flickr user David Berkowitz, CC

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