Trump Fires Board Members of Gov-Owned Tennessee Valley Authority Over Outsourcing of US Jobs

August 4, 2020 Updated: August 4, 2020

President Donald Trump announced on Aug. 3 that he had fired two members of the the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), saying that its chief executive Jeff Lyash is “ridiculously overpaid” and that the corporation is seeking to outsource American jobs to foreign workers.

Trump said Monday that he was formally removing TVA’s chair of the board and another board member, and warned that if the corporation continues to hire foreign labor, he would fire other members of the board too.

The president, who has the authority to appoint the TVA board, said during a meeting of technology workers at the White House that the actions of the ousted TVA members had prompted him to sign the “Hiring American” order, which requires federal agencies to prioritize U.S. labor in federal contracts, ensure only American citizens are appointed to the competitive service, and stop employers from moving H-1B workers into jobs in a way that displaces U.S. workers.

The White House said in a release that the “Hiring American” order follows a recent announcement by TVA that it plans to outsource 20 percent of its tech jobs to foreign countries. The statement said TVA’s action could lead over 200 highly-skilled American technology workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to low-cost foreign workers hired on temporary work visas.

Created in 1933, the TVA provides flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development to the Tennessee Valley—a region that was hard hit during the Great Depression. The region covers most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, as well as small sections of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

“TVA’s decision is also expected to cost the local economy tens of millions of dollars over the next 5 years,” the statement said, adding that Trump’s action would “combat employers’ misuse of H-1B visas, which were never intended to replace qualified American workers with low-cost foreign labor.”

TVA’s CEO, Trump claimed, had betrayed American workers. He said the TVA board must hire a new chief executive officer that “puts the interests of Americans first.”

“He gets $8 million a year so that was just a succession of deep swamp things happening and it’s a disgrace… the new CEO must be paid no more than $500,000 a year,” Trump said. “We want the TVA to take action on this immediately.”

Responding to the president’s claims Monday that TVA’s chief executive officer earns $8 million a year, a TVA spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email that Lyash’s annual salary is $1,058,000. Lyash’s total compensation, however, which includes calculations of his future pension benefits, does come to some $8.1 million, per Securities and Exchange Commission guidelines, the spokesman said.

“Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board. If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words: ‘You’re fired,’” Trump said, before signing the executive order.

The announcement followed calls from nonprofit U.S. Tech Workers to stop TVA from outsourcing much of its data and programming work. The group, which opposes expansion of H1-B visas to skilled foreign workers and is led by Kevin Lynn, criticized the corporation in June after it laid off 62 IT workers.

TVA told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it understands and supports the Trump administration’s “Hiring American” order.

“We want to ensure that U.S. employees have good opportunities through our employment and supply chain practices,” a spokesman said. “We look forward to working with the White House, continuing a dialogue and supporting future policies in this direction.”

“All TVA employees are U.S. based citizens. All jobs related to TVA’s information technology department must be performed in the U.S. by individuals who may legally work in this country.”

Tom Ozimek and The Associated Press contributed to this report.