IT worker who trained H-1B-holding replacement aims for Congress

Craig Diangelo moves from silence on IT outsourcing issue to activism -- and politics

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Daniel Huizinga (CC BY 2.0)

Craig Diangelo was an IT worker at Northeast Utilities in Connecticut until he completed training his H-1B-visa-holding replacement. He was one of about 200 who lost their jobs in 2014 after two India-based IT offshore outsourcing firms took over their work at what is now called Eversource.

Diangelo, at first, was quiet, bound by severance agreements signed with the company. Then he started speaking out.

craig diangelo Craig Diangelo

Craig Diangelo

Now, Diangelo is running for Congress. offering up a first-hand perspective on IT outsourcing that resonates with many other workers in his state.

"I've seen the injustices that have been done to us," said Diangelo, who is not optimistic lawmakers will deliver on H-1B reform. "You can't let this matter die down, because when you stop talking about it nothing seems to get done."

Diangelo isn't a one-issue candidate or political novice. He previously served two terms as an alderman in his hometown of New Britain and remains involved in city planning work.

He's a Republican in this liberal leaning state, but that's not necessarily a liability. For instance, the mayor of New Britain, Erin Stewart, is a Republican in a city that has nearly 15,800 registered Democrats, 3,400 Republicans and 11,500 unaffiliated voters. And the congressional district Diangelo hopes to represent, the 5th, has been held by both Republicans and Democrats.

The 64-year-old has filed the necessary papers to run for office, has a campaign manager, a website and knows he has to raise an awful lot money to challenge Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty, now in her third term. But Diangelo has no illusions about his odds.

Even so, he may be the only person to run for Congress, at least in recent times, who has trained his replacement. He went to college hoping to be come a teacher, but when that proved difficult, he wound up at Travelers Insurance in Hartford -- in the company's data processing center.

He recalled what a manager at Travelers told him: "'Don't worry. We are looking for people from college and we are going to train you in everything that you need to know,'" said Diangelo. "That's how I got into IT."

Connecticut has a unique history when it comes to the battle over outsourcing. Around 2002, IT workers in the state organized -- perhaps the first such effort in the nation -- to fight H-1B visa use. They came from families who had worked in manufacturing and seen their jobs go overseas.

"When you talk to people, you can see the frustration in their faces," said Diangelo. "I know what it's like to get laid off, I know what it's like to live on unemployment."

He draws heavily on his family's experience. Diangelo said his mother was a single working parent with four children. "She never went to the state for help," he said. "I know what's it like to get out there and work for things," including the fight for equal rights.

Diangelo says to be effective you have to be non-partisan. "You can't go in there one sided as to different issues and policies, and you can't go in there with a chip on your shoulder, either," he said. "I consider myself a moderate Republican. Being a gay man and being a Republican is sort of like an oxymoron."

IT workers often fear speaking out because of severance agreements and professional fallout. But the spread of IT offshoring has emboldened more to act. Diangelo has appeared in national media, and recently on 60 Minutes.

Diangelo said he attended some of the town hall meetings run by Esty, the incumbent, and doesn't believe she or her staff understand the issue. "I brought up the subject of H-1Bs, and all I do is get lip service and that's about it."

Esty's office, asked about Diangelo's candidacy, said she is concentrating on her duties -- not next year's election. A spokesperson, in an email, said: "Rep. Esty is focused on doing her job and solving problems on behalf of her district and the country. She's not thinking about an election that's 18 months away."

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