513,698 Tax Dollars Per Job For Foreign Workers?

Albany, NY - Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) is asking SolarCity and Empire State Development to reveal how many jobs at SolarCity's new Buffalo facility, built with $750 million from New York State taxpayers, will be filled by H-1B visa holders instead of American citizens or permanent residents after the recent revelation that SolarCity has drastically altered its job creation promises for the site.

"This seems like a bait and switch from SolarCity, promising manufacturing jobs to get the taxpayer subsidy, only to change that around to the type of tech jobs often farmed out to H-1B holders when the subsidy has been locked in," said Lalor. "There is a long record of companies receiving subsidies from New York taxpayers to create jobs only to turn around and hire H-1B visa holders instead of Americans. It’s troubling that SolarCity has made such a drastic change to its job creation commitment and, because of that change, New York taxpayers now deserve complete transparency as to what jobs are being created and who will be filling them."

Lalor added, "I oppose these kinds of corporate welfare boondoggles and support across-the-board-tax relief instead, but at a minimum these subsidized jobs should go to Americans."

The Investigative Post is reporting that SolarCity has scaled back from its initial promise of creating 1,460 manufacturing jobs at its Buffalo facility to now saying there will only be about 500 manufacturing jobs at the facility. SolarCity claims the rest of the positions will be filled by high-tech hires, the type of positions often filled by H-1B visa holders rather than American citizens or permanent residents. The Investigative Post article notes, "You’re dropping $750 million to build and equip a plant for a company that now says it needs one-third as many workers to staff it." The plant was built for SolarCity with $750 million from New York State taxpayers and is the centerpiece of the scandal-plagued Buffalo Billion.

H-1B workers do not have permanent visas and their visa is tied to their employment. While they are able to apply for permanent residence, the wait can take as long as ten years. If they switch employers, the waiting period starts again. To change jobs, an H-1B worker needs to find a new employer willing and able to sponsor the visa. These factors combine to make H-1B visas operate like indentured servitude. Companies are supposed to only use H-1Bs when they can't find qualified Americans, but that they are often abused to replace American workers with lower paid H-1B visa holders. H-1B visa holders are limited in salary negotiations or the ability to seek a better-paying job. That’s what makes them valuable to companies. It also drives down wages for U.S. citizens and permanent resident immigrants.

Lalor added, "SolarCity's job creation flipflop is a bad sign for this deal. It reflects a lack of transparency and the respect to honor its commitments. SolarCity needs to be honest with taxpayers about what they're getting with this $513,698 per job subsidy."

Assemblyman Lalor has introduced legislation, A.6514, to increase transparency in job creation projects subsidized by tax dollars by requiring companies to reveal the number of H-1B visa holders filling these positions. Lalor has also introduced A.6533 which would require corporations receiving taxpayer subsidies to reveal the number of employees they have in New York and A.4379 which would repeal Start-Up NY, which includes the Buffalo Billion.

Lalor's letter to SolarCity and Empire State Development is available here.