If you want the latest updates on Twitter layoffs, as well as Elon’s whining and crying about losing advertisers, the Guardian has a pretty good live blog going. Marcy Wheeler also has a good piece with more analysis of the epically bad deal Elon made to buy Twitter.
I want to focus on those who will be hurt by the layoffs. The NYT has a new tech podcast called “Hard Fork” that interviewed two Twitter employees (anonymously, with AI voice replacement to shield their identities). These two employees were US citizens and engineers, so they’re well-paid and probably going to be fine if they’re laid off. But, as one of them pointed out, some Twitter employees, H-1B visa holders, will not.
H-1B visas are handed out to employees who have specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. They’re a pain in the ass to get and administer, so they’re generally used by large tech companies with big HR departments to recruit engineers who they can pay less than a US citizen, and who they can order around because the alternative these visa holders face is deportation. These employees/indentured servants make it hard for tech workers to unionize, though I grant that many techbro programmers read too much Ayn Rand and wouldn’t be good targets for a union. Still, as the invisible hand, aided by their hero Elon, slaps them around, at least a few of them might get a clue. Their H-1B counterparts don’t have the luxury of viewing themselves as nascent Howard Roarks or Dagny Taggarts — they just have to endure whatever torture Elon dreams up.
The stories of Twitter employees working 87 hour weeks and sleeping on the floor no doubt include a bunch of H-1B holders who are from places like India or former Soviet republics. These people have few choices but to work like dogs, and few opportunities if they’re laid off today. That’s the kind of gross cruelty that Elon will visit upon those he considers his inferiors as he runs Twitter into the ground.