BAY LAKE, Fla. - The people behind a big lawsuit challenging Disney World threw in the towel Wednesday.
Sara Blackwell, their lawyer, unsuccessfully sued Disney at the state and federal levels on behalf of the former IT workers.
The employees claimed Disney fired them, but not before replacing them with foreign workers, who they had to train.
“[She] didn’t even know how to open the Excel spreadsheet that I did a lot of tracking in,” said Mary Poorman, who worked at Disney for nearly 39 years. “I thought this was supposed to be a person who had skills that were not able to be found easily in the United States. I find that to be a bold-faced lie.”
What Poorman is referring to is the H-1B visa program.
It was designed to help American companies fill jobs with high-skilled workers from other countries, when there aren’t enough Americans available to do the work.
But Poorman and her former co-workers all say they were able to do the jobs and that Disney just replaced them for cheaper labor.
But now, they and their lawyer are conceding that what happened was legal, even if they didn’t like it.
In a statement, a Disney spokesperson said, “There have been seven failed attempts to state a claim on behalf of these plaintiffs. As we have said all along, this lawsuit is completely baseless.”
Disney also said that they decided to restructure their IT organization in 2014 before these layoffs. They now use in-house resources for modernization instead of vendors and vendors maintain their legacy systems in place of the employees who lost their jobs.
Those vendors then hired people who a Disney spokesperson confirms sit in the same seats, doing the same work, but those people aren’t employed by Disney.
That is how Leo Perrero, another former IT worker and the face of the initial lawsuit, says Disney and other companies stay within the letter of the law, rather than the spirit.
“Could they have taken 250 people, replaced all of those people with all people from Canada?” asked Leo Perrero, also a former Disney IT worker, starting to explain the process. “No they can’t. That’s illegal. But the moment you bring in a third-party company, all labor laws are out the window.”
The workers were hoping President Donald Trump and Senator Bill Nelson would work to stop what they call “abuse” of the H-1B visa program.
On the campaign trail, Trump pledged multiple times to stop American companies from replacing qualified American workers with high-skilled foreign workers. Blackwell says she, Perrero and many others lent their voices and support to his campaign on the basis that he would help them and others like them.
So far, Blackwell says Trump has done little to make his promises a reality.
“We endorsed him,” Blackwell said. “We voted for him because of his promises. Then he dumped us for the people he said he would stop.”
Blackwell says she plans to continue advocating for workers impacted by use of H-1B visas. She also intends to press the issue during the election year.
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