Twitter’s Migrant Labor Crisis

As people focus on the migration and "death" of Twitter, the public has quickly forgotten about the lay-offs and resignations, representative of a deep labor crisis in the tech industry.

Twitter 3D icon concept
Image Description: Twitter 3D icon concept. Photo by Alexander Shatov.

As people focus on the migration and “death” of Twitter, the public has quickly forgotten about the lay-offs and resignations, representative of a deep labor crisis in the tech industry.

While people are suing Elon Musk for targeting female staff in the lay-offs, with 63% of the women in engineering roles laid off, in contrast to 48% of the men in engineering roles, there is less focus on those who weren’t laid off and who are unable to resign.

The ones who are unable to resign, neglected in the narrative, and unable to sue Elon Musk in court, are the Twitter employees on work visas who are sponsored by the company. The laborers trapped at Twitter in dismal work conditions cannot quit without having their visas revoked, nor can they speak up too loudly, at the risk of being laid off and forced to return to their home country against their will, without the luxury of choice. These are the workers Twitter and other tech companies can afford to exploit even more than the U.S. citizens they hire. These are the workers who have much less labor rights and protections, who often end up in the grey area of consensual labor (as consensual as labor under capitalism can be).

The silence when it comes to advocating for migrant workers who we perceive to have more privileges is devastating. The Twitter layoffs and resignations have highlighted a fatal flaw in the capitalist tech industry, where they simply bring in exploitable workers. It reminds us that being on a visa and having a college degree does not mean we are not exploitable, and shows the reinforcement of colonial labor systems that still exist between the U.S. and the Majority World. While having an education, being in the imperial core, and having documented status is a privilege, it does not negate their ties to being from the Majority World, and being a part of the proletariat.

These nuances make them hard to advocate for, especially since they appear to be "imperfect victims" with privileges. This does not mean we should fail to advocate for their unique circumstances and forget them, as we highlight U.S. citizens who suffer in the tech industry, who often resent migrant workers in tech for “stealing jobs”. The liminal space occupied by migrant tech workers is not to be ignored in this labor crisis, and is an extremely telling manifestation of labor under global capitalism.

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黃蘊子 JiJi W. Wong (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a Disabled and autistic Malaysian Chinese person with hEDS and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ME, living on stolen Quinnipiac, Paugusset, and Wappinger Lands.

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