Despite record unemployment, the largest publicly-owned utility company, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), remains committed to plans to outsource 20 percent of its information technology (IT) workforce to companies with headquarters outside the United States. A federally owned corporation created by Congress in 1933 during the Great Depression to provide economic development to the Tennessee Valley region, the TVA continues to defend its actions even in the face of criticism from union leaders and members of Congress.
“Like other federal agencies, TVA is continually exploring methods of fulfilling its mission in the most effective way possible, especially in such rapidly evolving fields as information technology,” TVA spokesman Jim Hopson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in explaining its indefensible decision to hire foreign workers while firing 120 Americans.
Besides, he added, the foreign-based companies – CapGemini, CGI and Accenture – also have contracts with several other federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. At the same time as it was justifying hiring foreign workers, the TVA was defending the decision to pay CEO Jeff Lyash an $8.1 million compensation package.
But, the roots of the current scandal began last fall with the firing of dozens of IT workers and a further announcement of layoffs in January. The news prompted the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), the union representing TVA employees, to reach out Congress with their concerns about the $15 million contract with Capgemini that was signed in September 2019, They also voiced worry about the jobs moving overseas,
“It is certainly is easy to see where this work could leave the Tennessee Valley, and/or the country,” asserted the union leaders.
“We want to make it clear that our members are more than capable of doing this work and doing it well. In fact, TVA reports that their own infrastructure support outpaces the industry benchmark,” wrote the union.
The additional contracts with CGI and Accenture were only made public in April after millions of Americans had suffered massive COVID-19-related job losses. Once again, the IFPTE reached out to Congress, this time to the Senate committee with oversight of TVA.
In an April 28 letter co-authored by senior IFPTE representatives and Gay Henson, president of the local IFPTE union, they noted as many as 65 H-1B visa holders had been hired at the same time as TVA was conducting an internal review process to determine whether it was efficient to outsource the IT work. The correspondence requested the committee fulfill its oversight responsibilities, and that Congress “strongly consider adding language in the next COVID-19 relief bill preventing TVA from outsourcing these jobs.”
Three days before the House voted on the $3 trillion e Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which grants amnesty and benefits to illegal alien workers, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) sent a letter to his leadership requesting that when negotiating with the Senate that they include “language that prohibits federal government agencies, including the TVA, from privatizing federal jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and any other national emergency in the future.”
It might have been more helpful to those Americans in the firing line for Cohen to have sought a ban on outsourcing jobs before the House vote. However, it is a sad fact that only two other lawmakers – Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, and Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican, both of Alabama, were the lone members of Congress to respond to the repeated pleas for help from TVA’s union. Congress and the Trump administration need to stand up for American workers and make the necessary changes that will prevent the further exploitation of hard-working Americans.