President Trump signed an executive order on Monday preventing federal agencies from laying off U.S. citizens and green card holders and replacing them with temporary foreign workers.
The order will increase oversight of federal agencies’ use of employees on H1-B visas, which allow foreign citizens to work at American companies without providing a path to citizenship.
Trump’s move was sparked by a dispute with the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency created in 1933 to oversee infrastructure development in the Tennessee Valley region, which was hit hard by the Great Depression. The TVA announced last year that it planned to lay off 120 information technology employees and outsource those positions to foreign workers.
While some of TVA’s employees were laid off before the coronavirus pandemic, the agency announced in June that it would continue with the remaining 62 layoffs. Representative Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), whose district encompasses the city of Memphis, lamented the decision.
“In the middle of a global health pandemic and national emergency, it is incomprehensible that TVA would outsource jobs held by hard-working Americans,” Cohen told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
On Monday Trump threatened to fire TVA CEO Jeff Lyash and other senior employees of the agency over the outsourcing.
“Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired,’” Trump told reporters at the White House.
The dispute between Trump and the TVA has also touched on Lyash’s salary, which Trump alleges is $8 million but which Senator Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) has said is no more than $500,000.