WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he had fired the chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, saying the executive was getting paid too much and was hiring foreign workers.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he was formally removing the authority’s chair of the board and another member of the board, and he threatened to remove other board members if they keep hiring foreign labor.
The TVA is a federally owned corporation created in 1933 to provide flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing and economic development to the Tennessee Valley, a region that was hard hit by 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.
He said the TVA board must immediately hire a new chief executive officer who “puts the interests of Americans first.” According to Trump, the CEO earns $8 million a year.
“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. ... Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”
U.S. Tech Workers, a nonprofit that wants to limit visas given to foreign technology workers, took out an ad to persuade Trump to stop the TVA from outsourcing much of its information technology division. The group, led by Kevin Lynn, criticized the TVA for furloughing its own workers and replacing them with contractors using foreign workers with H-1B visas.
Trump made the announcement as he signed an executive order to require all federal agencies to complete an internal audit to prove they are not replacing qualified American workers with people from other countries. The White House said the order will help prevent federal agencies from unfairly replacing American workers with lower cost foreign labor.
The order followed the TVA’s announcement that it would outsource 20% of its technology jobs to companies based in foreign countries. TVA’s action could cause more than 200 highly skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to foreign workers hired on temporary work visas, according to the White House.
But Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said the TVA doesn’t get any taxpayer money. Commenting on the issue in April, Alexander said the White House was spreading misinformation. He said that TVA chief executive officers’ pay is lower than other large utilities and that TVA energy rates are among the lowest in the nation.