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    Highlights—February 3, 2007

  • KOLD News (Tucson): Hitting Retirees and Baby Boomers Where it Hurts Most. Excerpts: An estimated 20 million baby boomers and retirees in the United States are bearing the brunt of recent major corporate employers' moves to eliminate or drastically reduce healthcare benefits promised to their employees during their working careers.
    Those either at or nearing retirement age, who claim these are earned benefits, have been shocked to find out that federal law finds it perfectly legal for a company to take away such benefits, even if mandated by employment contract.
    C. William Jones, a retiree from NYNEX, now a part of Verizon says, "Millions of people from my generation dedicated a lifetime to one employer with the promise that if we accepted lower pay scales in our working years, we would be provided health benefits in retirement."
    Early in 2006, Jones, a Maryland resident, got together with retiree leaders from Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, to form a nationwide legislative and lobbying organization they appropriately named ProtectSeniors.Org. [...]
    ProtectSeniors.Org is advocating in Congress for the Emergency Retiree Health Benefits Protection Act (HR 1322) which would amend the ERISA pension laws to make it illegal for an employer to either reduce or cancel earned health benefits after an employee has retired. It would also require corporations who have already slashed these earned benefits to reinstate them to their former workers. [...]
    Jones, who serves as chairman of ProtectSeniors.Org says, "The goal of the ProtectSeniors.Org campaign is to let CEOs and elected officials know that the time has come to reverse the national trend and make it illegal to steal retirees' earned benefits. Retirees are now the single largest voting block in America, we are getting stronger and we are determined to make sure that our benefits are protected."
  • USA Today: Rx for our corporate culture. By By Alan M. Webber. Excerpts: Could it be that the stars are finally coming into alignment to address two enormous and curiously intertwined items on the American domestic agenda — health care costs and the future competitiveness of big American business, starting with the auto industry? Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the headlines over the past several weeks, when clipped from the nation's daily newspapers and placed side by side, seem to suggest some cosmic intersection. [...]
    What if the real diagnosis of the competitive problems of GM, Ford and Chrysler, as well as many other deeply entrenched industrial companies, isn't really about health care costs? What if their problems aren't even about their products? What if, as is the case with so many large, old and ailing companies, the real problem is in their culture — in the structure, the habits, the deeply entrenched ways of doing business that, in many cases, date back at least 50 years? Too many of these dinosaurs have created workplaces and work styles that are simply inappropriate to today's global, knowledge-based economy.
    So how would reforming health care coverage change corporate culture? Imagine a shift in health care coverage that de-couples it from your job. It's only a historical accident of President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal that coverage ever was linked to employment. Now, what if a Kennedy-Schwarzenegger reform movement — backed by a Democratic Congress that in the past has been willing to think of "portable insurance" that travels with each individual — can offer health care security to all Americans, even those stuck in dead-end jobs? Imagine the chance to leave a lousy corporate culture without losing your precious health care coverage.
    Imagine a chance to join a more entrepreneurial company, maybe even a start-up, without having to worry about health care costs. Imagine being the CEO of one of the old, ailing companies and suddenly realizing that, while your prayer for relief from your health care-cost headache has been answered, all of a sudden, you've got a bigger malady: Your best employees no longer feel the need to put up with your stagnant organization just for the security of a lavish health care plan.
    If that were to happen, it would offer America more than a new world of better, fairer and more humane health care coverage. It could put the stars in a new alignment for our large industrial companies finally to become places where people want to work. In other words, they'd either have to heal themselves of their deeply rooted cultural disease — or die.
  • USA Today: Nurturing can be good for businesses, book says. By Michelle Archer. Excerpts: The corporate world is still frequently a macho universe that many women find, well, alien. And getting ahead in that world often means adopting new behaviors and shuffling priorities. Margaret Heffernan spent years in work atmospheres where toughness was a top-dog requirement, all-nighters were a rite of passage, firing people earned respect and work was measured in quantity, not quality.
    But who really wants to work that way? And is it really all that effective? Aren't we supposed to work smarter, not harder?
    In researching and writing How She Does It, a new book that explores why businesses owned by women are booming, Heffernan discovered something that made her uncomfortable: Traditionally female characteristics such as empathy and a tendency to nurture — traits she had previously regarded as obstacles — are common principles that contribute to the success of the firms she studied that were run by women. [...]
    In analyzing these and other women and their companies, Heffernan concludes that the demands of the new economy frequently match the strengths of women. She calls the effect that more successful female-run firms is having on the business landscape the new norm. Among some of the characteristics of this new norm are:
    • Be a good planner but a brilliant improviser. Success hinges on handling surprises, not dodging them.
    • Intuition, empathy and a sense of zeitgeist are mission-critical talents. Recognize them, reward them and hone them. People with these talents are harder to find than number crunchers.
    • Asking for help is a sign of strength. If you can't accept help, your business will never be smarter than you are.
    • Leadership is orchestration, not command. The true test of a leader may be how little they need to do.
    • External commitments enhance managerial excellence. All work and no play makes both Jack and Jill stupid and burned out.
    • To understand the market, spend time in it. Every minute you aren't at your desk, you can be picking up signals.
    • A successful company is built on values and a sense of purpose. People want to contribute to something bigger than themselves.
    • Sustainability is the true hallmark of business success. Profit matters more than revenue.
    By supplementing the hard numbers on the achievements of female entrepreneurs with fascinating descriptions on the work cultures they've created, Heffernan ably lays out a compelling case for change across the board. After all, she concludes, wouldn't anyone prefer to toil in a place where quality and output are valued, rather than hours and face time? Where executives gain as much respect for nurturing as for toughness? Where families aren't seen as threatening performance?
  • Reuters: Microsoft tops J&J in company reputation poll. Excerpt: Profits and philanthropy trump babies in the corporate image game. Microsoft Corp. toppled Johnson & Johnson and its baby-products business from its seven-year position as the company with the best corporate reputation, according to an annual poll by Harris Interactive and The Wall Street Journal. [...]
    Harris surveyed 7,886 Americans online or by telephone last summer and asked them to name two companies they think have the best reputations, and two that have the worst, the paper said. It collected the 60 companies mentioned most, and had them rated online by 22,480 Americans, giving them a score and ranking. They were rated on 20 attributes in six categories, including financial performance, social responsibility, emotional appeal and workplace environment, the paper said.
  • In a Yahoo! message board post, "grayhorse89" comments on IBM's sale of its printer division to Ricoh. Full excerpt: I wonder how much money will be passed out to Execs at IBM HQ congratulating each other for this great decision Lets see:
    • Run a business into an uncompetitive position through mismanagement over the years
    • Sell the business off
    • Pay each other for your great business acumen.
    • Promotions for the idiots that screwed up the division in the first place
  • Yahoo! message board post: Have you had to deal with LEAN yet? By "ibmgrunt". Full excerpt: LEAN is the big push this year to make the company run lean. Translation = get rid of us and have India do the job. Many new tools that IBM developed for intel and unix servers will allow India admins to manage 200 to 300 servers per person rather than 50 to one in the US. The meetings with upper management make this sound like a magical solution that will make OUR jobs easier and when asked about India they always side step the questions.
    I'm amazed when I hear the execs sound so upbeat about this and tell us to embrace it. They think we are all a bunch of idiots. Many questions were asked about what if it does not save us money? What if it doesn't work. Will we still be told to install it? Every question had the same answer. Everybody is excited about it. How can an exec sit there and give the same answer to every question? No we are not excited about losing our jobs you morons.
  • Yahoo! message board post by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: You heard it here first. LEAN will be a disaster in IBM although the execs won't ever admit that, largely because the power structure within IBM will misuse and misapply the philosophies and principles of LEAN. They don't get it and never will.
    Those in positions of power will further strangle the grunts in the trenches that work to serve the customer with more bureaucracy enabled in the form of measurements of key productivity indicators.
    Certainly those in power will never willingly give up authority to empower the grunts to do what's right, so the principle of empowering those that do the work will be given little but lip service.
    LEAN as IBM rolls it out will result in layer upon layer of micro-management of items that most likely will have little relevance and value add to customers.
    Last, the priority of IBM executives is to always serve IBM first and customers second, not the other way around. Thus, if IBM requires unnecessary BS that the customer doesn't want, IBM's requirements will always win. So much for the philosophy of work elimination.
    Give it public lip service, nod your head in agreement and pretend it's great, but also let inertia and higher priorities thwart any "progress". It's yet another quality and productivity improvement program that doesn't address the real productivity problems - an interlaced culture of power mad, unresponsive, unaccountable bureaucracies that set the numerous policies, processes, requirements and restrictions that prevent empowerment, self-determination, creativity and freedom.
  • Yahoo! message board post: LEAN Works ... It Depends on How It is Launched. By "amindtothink". Excerpts: Lean is an Americanized name for the Toyota Production System (TPS). It is a continuous improvement process that depends on the people who do the work at the ground level to identify and implement improvements. It sure beats the huge mammoth improvement projects that IBM has done in a vacuum and dumped on the troops. It is common sense and not weighed down with tons of documentation or executive sign offs. Lean is a very big deal in healthcare, manufacturing, administration, sales and marketing, etc. It started in the US during WWII as a key to the incredible production required for the war effort, the Japanese then picked it up and it was a major component to the post war "japan industrial miracle", but rejected by American business when the war was over.
    It works and it depends on the people who do the work. If done right, this will empower employees and make a real world difference.
  • In a Yahoo! message board post, "ibmgrunt" comments on "amindtothink's" post. Full excerpt: First of all, who do you think you are kidding? Second, you must be an executive at IBM because those are the only idiots that say this is great and we should embrace it. Third, I've seen the results of LEAN with other teams. It's devastating. They are gone! I have talked to first line managers who tell me what a joke it is. It's just a way to send our jobs overseas but then, IBM has come up with many names for firing us over the years. No trolls on this site please.
  • Yahoo! message board post: "retirement calculation" by "loans14u". Full excerpt: I joined IBM in 1974 as a CE in the then OP division. I was forced into TSS in 1993 and then forced out of IBM in 1994. No one ever told us at our local branch, nor do I recall ever signing anything that allowed IBM to count only 19 years of service by eliminating the last year at TSS. Therefore, my pitiful retirement check I now receive is based on 19 years instead of the 20 that I was actually there. Even though we were told we worked for the TSS division, our checks were still cut by IBM, we worked on the same products, used the same IBM resources as far as parts, medical benefits, etc. Does anyone know if they can really get away with not counting the last year of service at TSS even though we were given no choice as to the "division" we worked for?
  • Yahoo! message board post by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: In today's IBM, you quit or get fired. You don't retire and you don't get a retiree card. I've stated this over and over since 1999 and I still get blank stares. Maybe it's just starting to sink in now.
    Here is another one that is just starting to sink in for some: IBM's pension plans are frozen, no one gets in anymore. Newcomers get a 401K opportunity, but that is not a pension plan, by law.
    Why do you think IBM titles their plan the 'IBM Savings Plan'? They removed the words 'retirement' and 'pension' from their documents in 1999, 8 years ago.
    *PCF participants are excluded from the above but there are few of those left.
  • PlanAdviser Blog: 'Over' Blown? By Nevin Adams, JD. Excerpts: Looks like the pension crisis is finally over. Well, the funding part of the crisis, anyway. No fewer than three separate studies* were published this past week that essentially said that the pension plans of larger employers are either fully or nearly fully funded again. [...]
    It’s worth noting that since this last storm “broke,” many plan sponsors have chosen to freeze or terminate their traditional pension plans. The reasons are varied, of course. The confluence of factors cited above may have made the program untenable financially; workplace demographics may have cried out for a different retirement plan design; or they may simply have looked ahead to the future and made a different choice.
    Still, it’s hard not to wonder how many were set on that path for no reason more substantive than the relentless pillorying of the funding “crisis” in the media. It was certainly more than a tempest in a teapot—but IMHO, the concerns expressed were always overblown.
  • Pension Risk Matters Blog: Union Pension Power. Excerpt: In response to a request from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, American Express Co. is slicing retirement benefits for top executives by more than ten percent. According to Wall Street Journal reporter Robin Sidel, the changes "come amid shareholder criticism over supplemental executive retirement plans, or SERPS, that award big pay packages to departing executives."
  • The Motley Fool: Will You Retire by Choice -- or Force? By Selena Maranjian. Excerpt: According to a survey by the folks at Sun Life Financial, a whopping 22% of retirees in America are not being permitted to retire on their own schedule -- they're being forced into retirement! They may be laid off, or they may be offered an early retirement package.
  • Washington Post: What Bush Didn't Say About Social Security. By Allan Sloan. Excerpts: Sometimes what people don't say about a topic is more interesting than what they do say. Consider, if you will, President Bush's State of the Union address. Social Security, the focus of his speech two years ago, got only a few fleeting mentions. But if you delve into the details of Bush's health-care proposals, you discover a plan embedded in them that would effectively trim future Social Security retirement benefits for some people, while reducing their current Social Security tax payments to help pay for health insurance. [...]
    Got it? Let's proceed. Paying less Social Security tax would reduce your future Social Security retirement benefit, which is determined by a formula that's based on how much Social Security tax you pay. It's a progressive formula under which you get a benefit of 90 percent of the first Social Security tax dollars you pay, declining to 15 percent of the final tax dollars you pay if you're high-income. If you pay Social Security tax to the max -- for 2007, it's on $97,5000 of income -- you would see your benefit shrink by way less than 15 percent if you exclude $15,000 from Social Security taxation.
    But low-income people -- who get much more in benefits per dollar of Social Security tax than maxed-out folks do -- would see benefits shrink by a far higher percentage. "A family earning $30,000 a year could see its retirement benefit cut in half," says Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. This would be an especially serious blow, because $30,000 families tend to rely almost entirely on Social Security for retirement income, whereas high-income families rely far less on Social Security because they have retirement accounts, pensions and savings.
  • Computerworld Blog: Round 2: H-1B Battle: American engineers vs. President Bush! By Dino Perrotti. Excerpts: It hurts to get slapped across the face by the most powerful man in the world, but American engineers are not down and out yet. At the very opening moment of round 2, President Bush comes out swinging; knocking down any argument American engineers and other high-skilled professionals might have against H-1B immigration laws.
    The president fired the first salvo in the 2007 H-1B Battle, telling selected employees of Dupont that he feels strongly that America needs to raise the cap on H-1Bs. Here is the exact excerpt:
    ...As an aside, when I talked about the immigration bill last night, I also want you to know I understand that we need to make sure that when a smart person from overseas wants to come and work in DuPont, it's in our interests to allow him or her to do so. We've got to expand what's called H1B visas. I know the Senator and the Congressman understand that. I'm looking forward with Congress to do just that. It makes no sense, by the way -- I know, I'm getting off topic here -- (laughter) -- but I feel strongly about what I'm telling you. It makes no sense to say to a young scientist from India, you can't come to America to help this company develop technologies that help us deal with our problems. So we've got to change that, as well, change that mind set in Washington, D.C. I know we can work together on that.
    Stepping into the ring, Lou Dobbs fired back at the president’s administration by exposing a suspicious report by the USCIS. [...]
    Lou Dobbs exposed a complete lack of enforcement of H-1B caps by the federal government for the last 2 years. According to the USCIS report, over 75,000 additional H-1B visas were issued above the cap during 2004 and 2005. He openly challenged Congressmen, Senators and the President to enforce our laws. He posed the questions:
    1. Why was the report released on November 20th, 2006, immediately after the last election?
    2. Why was his report not made available to the public?
    3. Why aren’t guest worker Visa caps being enforced?
    4. Why does neither Congress nor the executive branch fulfill their constitutional duties? [...]
    Looking past the bureaucratic fog, it seems obvious that there are indeed H-1B abuses which have not been investigated by the government for one reason or another. This news report did not hurt the tech companies very much because the real power is in the President’s administration. It doesn’t look like American engineers can possibly win this fight. What hope do they have when the president feels that “we’ve got to expand what’s called H1B visas”, his administration does not enforce the current H-1B cap, and Congress is undecided on the issue? Against the odds, they are forced to fight back. [...]
    When used properly H-1B visas can be very good for America. Americans are pro-immigration as long as they do not face massive layoffs as a result. At the beginning of the H-1B program, the engineers who came here were extremely bright, pro-American, and wanted to become assimilated citizens. The H-1B program is considered a guest-worker program but every visa holder wanted to become a full citizen if possible. These were mostly engineers with Masters degrees and Ph.D.s, many of whom have spent years teaching at American universities. They were welcomed and appreciated.
    Currently, there are over 900,000 H-1B visa holders in the United States, the majority of whom are fresh B.S.E.E. graduates with average technical skills, and some with extremely below average social skills. It is in our best interest to accept those with advanced degrees such as Masters and Ph.D.s, those who've graduated at the top of their undergraduate classes and those who've demonstrated an ability to assimilate into American society. If this was the case, the current cap of 85,000 per year may even be difficult to reach.
    This fight is NOT between American engineers and H-1B engineers. Tech companies have abused American engineers by replacing them with H-1B engineers, but they have also abused the very same H-1B visa holders. H-1Bs are paid less, asked to work free overtime, cannot easily change jobs, and have the constant Damoclean Sword of deportation if they get fired. In addition, law firms and job shops such as Wipro take large portions of their salary for doing paperwork. Plus there are many other visa loops they and their families have to jump through just to stay in America. With proper H-1B reform, the quality of life for H-1B holders should dramatically improve.
  • San Jose Mercury-News: Stock Options Scandal. Average worker takes a hit. By Mark Schwanhausser. Excerpts: There's a largely overlooked class of victims from the stock option backdating scandal: rank-and-file workers. Across Silicon Valley and the nation, hundreds of thousands of workers who played no role in manipulating options nonetheless could pay a price, from lost stock options and lost investment opportunities to looming tax bills.
    Average workers could be slapped with thousands of dollars in back payroll and income taxes for exercising options they later learn were backdated. Employees who exercised tainted options before the backdating scandal erupted in 2006 unwittingly might have triggered a staggering 20 percent tax.
  • Washington Post: Boards Clueless on CEO Pay. By Rachel Beck. Excerpts: Shareholders worried about runaway executive pay are likely to be stunned by the findings of a new study that shows many board directors still have no idea how much their CEOs would collect if they retire, are fired or bought out. Board members also acknowledge they are struggling to rein in bloated executive compensation, but are counting on investors to lead the cause to knock it down. [...]
    This truly is shocking. Directors' primary duty is to represent the interests of shareholders, and it's fair and logical to expect them to take charge more directly following the rash of corporate scandals in recent years. But the dynamic in the boardroom is far from perfect. While more boards are independent of management, there are still plenty of cases of directors using flawed judgment or kowtowing to demanding executives who are pushing their own agendas.
  • USA Today: Study: U.S. trails most nations on family-oriented workplace policies. Excerpts: The United States lags far behind virtually all wealthy countries with regard to family-oriented workplace policies such as maternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast-feeding, a new study by Harvard and McGill University researchers says. The new data comes as politicians and lobbyists wrangle over whether to scale back the existing federal law providing unpaid family leaves or to push new legislation allowing paid leaves.
    The study, officially being issued Thursday, says workplace policies for families in the United States are weaker than those of all high-income countries and many middle- and low-income countries. Notably, it says the U.S. is one of only five countries out of 173 in the survey that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the others are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.

Molly Ivins—Rest in Peace

Her wit and wisdom were unmatched and the silence of her voice is hard to bear. Molly's columns have been quoted often in these highlights. The following are links to some of them:

  • March 1, 2003: Molly Ivins, Creators Syndicate: Pension de-form. Got any gray hair? You're Bush's next target. Excerpt: "You ain't no John Snow when it comes to pensions. Snow, our new treasury secretary, was CEO of the railroad company CSX Corp. and got a platinum parachute when he bailed. He gets $2.47 million a year for life in retirement benefits. This package was based on the premise that he'd worked for the company for 44 years, even though he'd been there only 25. Now that's creative accounting. Plus, CSX decided to let him factor in the stock benefits he had received as regular income, instead of just salary, as is normally done. At the same time CSX was giving Snow this lovely deal, it was cutting the health benefits in its retirement plan for lesser workers. Since Secretary Snow is now in charge of pension policy at the Treasury, can we look forward to similar deals for ourselves? Yep -- but we're in the class that gets the cuts, not the parachute." ... "The cash-balance plan is particularly harmful to older workers, so if you've got any gray hair, you might want to take a look at what they're about to do to you. Under fixed-benefit plans, retirement is based on the employee's salary and years of work at the company. This gives older workers a chance to rack up benefits. When companies started switching to cash-balance plans, the AARP, the Pension Rights Center, the AFL-CIO and other groups set up a mighty holler. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 800 age-discrimination complaints. As a result, the IRS stopped approving these conversions in 1999." ... "But the Bush administration, operating on its cardinal principle -- Whatever Bill Clinton Did Was Wrong -- has naturally decided to reverse course. If Clinton did it, it can't be good (and what splendid results they've gotten so far), so the new rules will give companies that convert to cash-balance plans a tax advantage, as well as giving them protection from age-discrimination suits. Don't you love it? The perfect Bush plan: They get to screw workers and get a tax break, and nobody is allowed to sue." ... "More than 200 members of Congress have written Bush asking him not to let the proposed rules become law. The General Accounting Office did a study showing that annual pension benefits of older workers can drop by as much as 50 percent under the new plan." Editor's note: This is a must read editorial.
  • May 14, 2005: Molly Ivins: Our New Pluto-Theocracy. Excerpts: The Economic Policy Institute reports the economic well-being of middle-class families has declined between 2000 and 2003 for three reasons: the generally lousy economy, the Bush tax policies and the cost of health care. The Tax Justice Network recently reported the world's richest individuals have placed $11.5 trillion in assets in offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes, a sum 10 times the GDP of Great Britain. The ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay reached 301 to one in 2003. The average worker takes home $517 a week, while the average CEO earns $155,796, according to BusinessWeek. In 1982, the ratio was 42 to one. [...]
    "The data show that the share of real income growth that has gone to wages and salaries has been smaller than during any other comparable post-World War II recovery period, while the share of real income growth that has gone to corporate profits has been larger than during all other comparable post-World War II recoveries." In previous recoveries, workers got an average of 49 percent of the national income gains, while corporate profits got 18 percent. This time, the workers are getting 23 percent and the corporations are getting 44 percent — about one half as much as the share that has gone to corporate profits. None of that apply to you? Good. Go listen to Tom DeLay give another lecture on moral values.
  • October 15, 2005. Molly Ivins, courtesy of the Salt Lake City Tribune: Making pensions disappear is a new corporate art form. Excerpts: The entire political world is agog: Tom DeLay indicted, Scooter Libby in danger, Karl Rove rumors abound, Miers' nomination in doo-doo. So I'm writing about . . . pensions. They're just so sexy, I couldn't resist. Of course, the word pension is a terminal turnoff for anyone under 60 - so redolent of the blue-rinse perm set. As one whose idea of financial planning consists of playing bingo at the Safeway, I'd prefer to be out listening to reggaeton, myself. Still, when you're getting screwed, you really should know about it. [...]
    Envision this, oh mod, rad, chic young people: Until 20 years ago, about the time you were born, most geezers approaching retirement had a traditional defined-benefit pension plan. The longer you worked at a company and the more money you made, the more you got at your retirement. Employers kept increasing their contributions to these plans, and whatever risk that came with them was assumed by the employers.
    Gone with the wind. For years, companies have been cutting their contributions and moving more and more of the market risk from themselves to their employees. They switched to ''defined-contributions'' plans, like the 401(k), where the employee chooses the investments and assumes the risk (think of the stock market in recent years). [...]
    The Bush administration has approved a change that makes it legal for companies to modify their pension plans in a way that usually discriminates against older workers who were covered under the earlier plans. But this is the just the beginning. Making your pension disappear is a new corporate art form. There is, for example, the ''wear away.'' The Star Tribune gives this example: Say you've been working for a company for 20 years, at the end of which you are entitled to a pension of $2,000 a month. But, your company decides to ''revise'' the plan and, lo, suddenly you have to have worked for 40 years to qualify for $2,000 a month.
    Technically, the company has not reduced your pension benefit - it is just holding the benefit in place until time ''wears away'' the difference between the new terms and the old terms. [...]
    ''The biggest byproduct of these changes is fear,'' said the Star Tribune in its series. Fear may be a more dangerous emotion than anger. It turns life into an ''every man for himself scramble'' without unity, community, caring or sharing. In fact, every one of us comes into this world naked and helpless, and most leave it in the same condition - and we are dependent on one another every single day in between. The ''stand on your own feet and take care of yourself'' attitude the right wing keeps pushing is not only cruel, but stupid, too.
  • July 15, 2006. Truthdig: The Politics of Greed, by Molly Ivins. Excerpts: I don’t get it. What’s the percentage in keeping the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour? After nine years? This is such an unnecessary and nasty Republican move. Congress has voted seven times to raise its own wages since last the minimum wage budged. Of course, Congress always raises its own salary in the dark of night, hoping no one will notice. But now it does the same with the minimum wage hike, quietly killing it.
    Anyone who doesn’t think this is a country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer needs to check the numbers—this is Bush country, where a rising tide lifts all yachts. According to the current issue of Mother Jones:
    • One in four U.S. jobs pays less than a poverty-level income.
    • Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line at any one time has risen steadily. Now, 13%—37 million Americans—are officially poor.
    • Bush’s tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while those making $1 million are saved $42,700.
    • In 2002, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) compared those who point out such statistics as the one above to Adolph Hitler (surely he meant Stalin?).
    • Bush has diverted $750 million to “healthy marriages” by shifting funds from social services, mostly child care.
    • Bush has proposed cutting housing programs for low-income people with disabilities by 50%.
    Meanwhile, for those who have been following the collapse of the pension system, please note a series in The Wall Street Journal by Ellen Schultz taking a hard look at executive pension obligations:
    • “Benefits for executives now account for a significant share of pension obligations in the United States, an average of 8 percent (of large companies). Sometimes a company’s obligation for a single executive’s pension approaches $100 million.”
    • “These liabilities are largely hidden, because corporations don’t distinguish them from overall pension obligations in their federal financial filings.”
    • “As a result, the savings that companies make by curtailing pensions of regular retirees—which have totaled billions of dollars in recent years—can mask a rising cost of benefits for executives.”
    • “Executive pensions, even when they won’t be paid until years from now, drag down the earnings today. And they do so in a way that’s disproportionate to their size, because they aren’t funded with dedicated assets.” [...]
    It is so discouraging to watch this country become less and less fair—“justice for all” seems like an embarrassingly archaic tag. Republicans have rigged the “lottery of life” in this country in ways we don’t even know about yet. The new bankruptcy law is unfair, and the new college loan rules are worse. The system has been stacked so that large corporations have an inside track over small businesses in getting government contracts. We won’t see the full consequences of this mean and careless legislation for years, but it starting to affect us already.
  • New York Times: Missing Molly Ivins. By Paul Krugman. Full excerpt: Molly Ivins, the Texas columnist, died of breast cancer on Wednesday. I first met her more than three years ago, when our book tours crossed. She was, as she wrote, “a card-carrying member of The Great Liberal Backlash of 2003, one of the half-dozen or so writers now schlepping around the country promoting books that do not speak kindly of Our Leader’s record.”
    I can’t claim to have known her well. But I spent enough time with her, and paid enough attention to her work, to know that obituaries that mostly stressed her satirical gifts missed the main point. Yes, she liked to poke fun at the powerful, and was very good at it. But her satire was only the means to an end: holding the powerful accountable.
    She explained her philosophy in a stinging 1995 article in Mother Jones magazine about Rush Limbaugh. “Satire ... has historically been the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful,” she wrote. “When you use satire against powerless people ... it is like kicking a cripple.”
    Molly never lost sight of two eternal truths: rulers lie, and the times when people are most afraid to challenge authority are also the times when it’s most important to do just that. And the fact that she remembered these truths explains something I haven’t seen pointed out in any of the tributes: her extraordinary prescience on the central political issue of our time.
    I’ve been going through Molly’s columns from 2002 and 2003, the period when most of the wise men of the press cheered as Our Leader took us to war on false pretenses, then dismissed as “Bush haters” anyone who complained about the absence of W.M.D. or warned that the victory celebrations were premature. Here are a few selections:
    Nov. 19, 2002: “The greatest risk for us in invading Iraq is probably not war itself, so much as: What happens after we win? ... There is a batty degree of triumphalism loose in this country right now.”
    Jan. 16, 2003: “I assume we can defeat Hussein without great cost to our side (God forgive me if that is hubris). The problem is what happens after we win. The country is 20 percent Kurd, 20 percent Sunni and 60 percent Shiite. Can you say, ‘Horrible three-way civil war?’ ”
    July 14, 2003: “I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it would lead to the peace from hell, but I’d rather not see my prediction come true and I don’t think we have much time left to avert it. That the occupation is not going well is apparent to everyone but Donald Rumsfeld. ... We don’t need people with credentials as right-wing ideologues and corporate privatizers — we need people who know how to fix water and power plants.”
    Oct. 7, 2003: “Good thing we won the war, because the peace sure looks like a quagmire. ...
    “I’ve got an even-money bet out that says more Americans will be killed in the peace than in the war, and more Iraqis will be killed by Americans in the peace than in the war. Not the first time I’ve had a bet out that I hoped I’d lose.”
    So Molly Ivins — who didn’t mingle with the great and famous, didn’t have sources high in the administration, and never claimed special expertise on national security or the Middle East — got almost everything right. Meanwhile, how did those who did have all those credentials do?
    With very few exceptions, they got everything wrong. They bought the obviously cooked case for war — or found their own reasons to endorse the invasion. They didn’t see the folly of the venture, which was almost as obvious in prospect as it is with the benefit of hindsight. And they took years to realize that everything we were being told about progress in Iraq was a lie.
    Was Molly smarter than all the experts? No, she was just braver. The administration’s exploitation of 9/11 created an environment in which it took a lot of courage to see and say the obvious.
    Molly had that courage; not enough others can say the same.
    And it’s not over. Many of those who failed the big test in 2002 and 2003 are now making excuses for the “surge.” Meanwhile, the same techniques of allegation and innuendo that were used to promote war with Iraq are being used to ratchet up tensions with Iran.
    Now, more than ever, we need people who will stand up against the follies and lies of the powerful. And Molly Ivins, who devoted her life to questioning authority, will be sorely missed.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times: Experts See Peril in Bush Health Proposal. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: Paul Fronstin, director of health research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization, said: “The president’s proposal would mean the end of employer-based benefits as we know them. It gives employers a way out of providing the benefits because their employees could get the same tax break on their own.” [...]
    “The president’s proposal addresses inequities in the tax code that provide an open-ended subsidy for premiums paid by employers,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “If your employer does not provide health insurance and you have to buy it on your own, you get no tax benefit at all. The president’s plan would eliminate that distinction.”
    But Mr. Reischauer said, “A glaring problem with the president’s plan is that he did not call for any stronger regulation of the individual insurance market.” In that market as it now exists in most states, insurers can deny coverage or charge higher rates to sick people. [...]
    R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, praised the general direction of the president’s proposal but said his members had serious concerns. First, Mr. Josten said, the $15,000 cap on tax-free insurance takes no account of wide geographic variation in the cost of health care and insurance. The same package of benefits typically costs more in Boston than in Minneapolis, for example.
    Moreover, Mr. Josten said, a health plan may be expensive because it covers older workers with major medical problems, not because it is “gold-plated.” A single mother, working as a low-paid secretary at a law firm, could be pushed into a higher tax bracket because she participates in an $18,000 health plan covering older men who have had heart attacks and expensive surgery, Mr. Josten said.
  • In a Yahoo! message board post, Mike Germano comments on the above New York Times article. Full excerpt: This whole "Gold Plated Insurance Plan" language is so elitist and condescending, but it's just how the rich see the rest of us.
    Maybe some small number of people do abuse the health care system, but the vast majority go to the doctor and hospital as little as possible. They go for a yearly check-up, pre-natal care, and when they're sick, but they still have to get off work to go and it's tough to find the time, regardless of how low the deductible is. People buy big policies because they're scared to death of the financial implications of a major illness totally wiping them out. They want low deductibles because they're strapped for cash and are already putting too many of the deductible charges on their credit cards as it is. They don't buy "golden plated plans" to use like an all you can eat buffet.
    This view of the wholesale abuse via "gold plated plans" is as insulting as the statement Reagan made about the poor just being poor because they didn't want to work. The wealthily consistently have a hard time understanding why the other 90+% of people who do work for a living want access to decent affordable health care, good public schools, pensions, and other things that simply aren't problems if you can afford the best in private alternatives.
    The solutions from the wealthy point of view seem to be to just eliminate all entitlement programs, so that if you want health care, education, or retirement, you'll have to fund it yourself. That may work for the rich, but it won't for everyone else.
  • National Public Radio (NPR): What Does 'Gold-Plated' Health Care Look Like? By Patricia Neighmond. Morning Edition, January 29, 2007 · President Bush says individuals whose health-care coverage costs more than $7,500 annually — or families whose tab exceeds $15,000 — should pay taxes on their health benefits. A family provides a real-life example.
  • Washington Post: Health Plan's Impact Debated. Critics Say Bush's Insurance Proposal Would Favor the Wealthy. By Christopher Lee. Excerpts: President Bush likes to say that his health-care proposal would "level the playing field" between people who get health coverage through their job and those who buy it on their own. But experts said yesterday that it would tilt that field toward a kind of health insurance that Bush has long favored -- a high-deductible plan paired with a special tax-exempt health savings account, or HSA. [...]
    In contrast with traditional health plans that typically charge $20 co-payments for visits to the doctor, high-deductible plans require consumers to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket for medications, physicians' services and hospital care before most insurance coverage kicks in. The deductibles are steep, at least $2,200 for family coverage, compared with about $220 in a traditional plan. But the special savings accounts enable people to accumulate a tax-free pool of their own money to pay the deductibles and other uncovered health bills, rolling over any unused funds to the following year. And premiums for high-deductible plans tend to be lower.
  • California HealthCare Foundation: Will Health Care Reform Lead to a Single-Payer System? By George Lauer. Excerpts: As costs continue to rise -- and there's no reason to expect they won't -- employers, as well as individuals, are being priced out of the health insurance market, mandate or no mandate. The main alternative to such a scenario is a single-payer system, a notion already adopted in almost every other nation in the industrialized world.
    "I still believe single-payer is the correct answer for the long term," says Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Senate Health Committee and author of SB 840, a single-payer proposal for California that essentially would shift responsibility for providing health care coverage off employers' shoulders and onto the government's. Her plan would leave the insurance industry out of the loop and give the government considerable clout in negotiating prices with all kinds of medical providers from pharmaceutical companies to hospitals. [...]
    Although President Bush in his State of the Union speech broached the issue of rising health costs for the first time, there is general consensus that the country is years away from entertaining - let alone embracing -- any kind of single-payer plan. Many health care experts, politicians and pundits predict it will be states such as California that lead the way.
    "I think, ultimately, we will come to an agreement as a nation that free-market health care is not a good idea," says Boyle from the National Health Law Program, "but we're still pretty far away from that day, unfortunately. "Most of the rest of the world went to single-payer plans at the beginning of the 20th century," Boyle says. "We'll be about 100 years behind, but I'm confident we'll get there."
  • In a Yahoo! message board post, Janet Krueger responds to the comments made by another message board contributor. Excerpts: (Ms. Krueger's comments are in a normal, non-italic, typeface.)
    The Bush proposal has no effect on those with pre-existing conditions. Well that's a problem. Many of those with pre-existing conditions can not get insurance.
    Exactly!
    If they are employed they are already covered or can get coverage.
    Only if their employer offers it. And only if their employer keeps them employed. In the last 10 years, IBM has not just been targeting older employees for lay offs -- they have also targeted a large number who were out on medical leave and a large number with dependents with high medical expenses. The employment discrimination laws say employers should not discriminate based on race, sex, and, somewhat unenforceably, age. They don't say anything about not discriminating based on high medical expenses... )-;
    If they're not employed their insurability isn't affected. No effect. You have to assume that employers will stop offering healthcare insurance in order to come to your conclusion ... Why would that happen?
    Obviously, because it would no longer be tax deductible to the employer. Actually, I believe there is already a direct correlation between the insurability of themselves and their families and their employability. The Bush proposal does nothing to stem this unfortunate tide, but instead would motivate employers to keep only healthy families in their employment/insurance pool, so that the average cost would stay below $15,000, so that they don't have to disclose the costs or pass on any new taxes to their young and healthy preferred employees...
  • Urban Institute: The President's Health Care Proposal Misses the Point. Excerpts: The president's proposal would also end the difference between the tax treatment that employer-based insurance gets compared with individually purchased coverage. Economists love leveling the playing field, but in the case of health insurance, removing this advantage over policies individuals purchase on the open market will prompt some employers to stop offering insurance.
    Young and healthy workers may save money by buying insurance on their own, and that market would be happy to serve them. But in most states, the insurers will pull up the welcome mat for older and less healthy workers. For these more vulnerable workers, the options aren't pretty: insurance could be impossible to come by at any price in most states, premiums could be substantially higher, or care for an individual's particular health conditions could be excluded from coverage. Nothing in the president's proposal guarantees that these currently insured individuals would have affordable, accessible, and adequate insurance post-reform.
    The president's approaches to reform have consistently emphasized moving individuals into coverage with higher deductibles and lower benefits—intending to rein in systemwide spending by making individuals feel the financial bite when using services. If premiums go down because people use less care, the thinking goes, more people can afford coverage and the number of uninsured will fall. But this ignores a key fact at the heart of why our system is so costly.
    Most health care spending is on a small percentage of individuals with very high medical costs. That means to dramatically cut costs, we'd have to reduce spending in the range well above even the higher deductibles the president would like to see. These costs are attributable to people with chronic and other serious conditions and are largely driven by the use of advanced medical technologies. The president's assumption that overly insured individuals are the problem behind premium growth and the number of uninsured is just plain wrong.
New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • From the Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comments 2/01/07: I can't speak to specific job cuts - but I can say LEAN is not a good thing for the future of the workforce overall. If you are put on a "bench" during a LEAN pilot start looking for a new position immediately. It is not going to be pretty and I'd guess heads will begin to roll before the end of February. -Anonymous-
  • From the General Visitor's Comment page:
    • Comment 1/26/07: Well I see that IBM is selling Printing Systems. My old outfit. What a shocker (Not). I called some old friends and they told me that IBM'ers were told that they cannot look for work until the deal is done in three years or they may very well be asked to leave with the classic low PBC ploy. IBM is a company on the decline. In my new career as a Financial Advisor we talk about IBM and for the short term it's still a good buy because they are selling off the candy store. Long term forget it. As an X insider I know that cronyism is killing IBM. Managers who should not be are making friends mangers who should not be and on it goes.
    • Comment 1/26/07: Did anyone else hear the recent employee webcast by Sam? Towards the end he says there's going to be a revamping of the compensation/bonus system, details TBA. Anyone know anything about that? It's somewhere around 21 or so minutes into the 27 min audio presentation. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/28/07: I encourage all employees to BOYCOTT SPIRIT events. Sold to us as “fun” events to improve poor employee morale, these cheap gestures are a sham. “Activities include Jeopardy trivia” – job jeopardy is more like it. Executive management is the root cause of poor morale – they just won’t admit it. Bread and circus won’t replace the lack of raises, constant job cuts, rising health care costs, stolen pensions, longer work hours, and unfair PBC appraisals.
      As this company rakes in billions in profits, more and more goes to the executives, less and less to us. Billions more in stock buybacks to fatten their own wallets while they wring their hands, claiming they can’t afford to give us raises and better benefits. Management whistles to Wall St. how wonderful IBM is performing, but they tell us differently in the internal bonus “Performance Report” – oops, “Improvement Necessary” (but HQ “Solid”).
      Enough is enough! We have to stand-up to their bullying. Boycotting company events will send a message to management to do something for us rather than to us. I also encourage you to not participate in Engineers Week. Why should we encourage our children to have a career in fields that IBM is outsourcing and driving down wages?! Rather than donating blood on-site, give it directly at a local hospital. Rather than donating money through the Charitable Campaign, send it directly to your favorite charity. Rather than donating non-perishable items at Spirit, drop them off at your local food bank.
      IBM only uses these events to polish its public image – corporations only care about their sacred profits, not people. We have to do less complaining and take more action. Don’t wait around for someone else to do what you should be doing for yourself. Boycotting company events is a good, safe start. -Anonymous but Active-
    • Comment 1/29/07: I've been BOYCOTTING IBM SPIRIT events for many, many years. The problem becomes when IBM announces free food. Most people are weak. It doesn't matter if it's simply a carrot stick, people will fight over it. The general IBM employee population needs to get a little guts and resist these insulting cheap tokens from management. Just say NO and you'll sleep better, I promise. -rtpSucks-
    • Comment 1/29/07: On the point of “insulting cheap tokens”. In my unit one year, we were given “prizes” such as radios, blenders, clocks, etc as rewards for good performance. Since we had to make a written presentation to apply for these prizes, I opted out of the game by declining to prepare the application. When my frustrated and angry manager demanded to know why I wasn’t playing along, I told him that we were being offered appliances instead of raises; that an appliance was like one month of a raise; and that raises were ongoing; and that raises figured into retirement income. He played hardball and insisted that I do it. I still have the radio. -Retiree-
    • Comment 1/29/07: With regard to the spirit and token discussions: I was laid off in 2005 after 23 1/2 years with IBM (an optimal point, I might add, for cost savings, but never mind that for now). I just wanted to mention that one of my most enjoyable hobbies (although temporary) afterwards was removing the IBM logo from various old but still-in-good-shape items I had acquired during those years (caps, jacket, gym bag, etc.). -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/30/07: In regards to IBM trinkets, I often receive "Thanks" awards from other employees. These $20 trinkets are adorned with the sickening IBM logo. I make an immediate effort to remove the logo. Recently, I got a fold-out directors chair that had IBM tattooed in stitching across the back of it. Black spray paint did wonders. -ibmrtpsucks- Alliance reply: Better yet wear Alliance buttons and lanyards.
    • Comment 1/31/07: You don't have to blackout or remove the "IBM" logo from the merchandise. Just add "F**k" in front of the logo or "Sucks" after it or "I worked xx year for" IBM Logo "and all I got was this stupid shirt" and wear it proudly in public. -x-ibmer-
    • Comment 1/31/07: There are very few people that I work with who feel their job is secure. Yet last year the DBA management in ITD Service Delivery implemented something they called a 'RETENTION INITIATIVE (to retain employees? say what?) which they declared successful last Summer. You really can not make this stuff up. I don't know if the ITD management is completely disingenuous or totally disconnected from their employees. In any case it is not a good situation and most employees I work with do not take ITD Management seriously anymore.
      Now we have a new process called the LEAN PROCESS. Judging from past experience with this management chain my guess is that the MEAN PROCESS would be a better name. Yes, we also have something called a SPIRIT INITIATIVE which is equivalent to giving you ice cream while you train someone in another country to do your job. Good Luck to all. -Anonymous-
  • Pension Comments page
    • Comment 01/26/07: The PBC needs to be scrapped. 2+ - What the hell is that? The whole thing started going down the tubes when they took away the 360 evals. I worked harder/longer and more productively than ever in my 10 yrs at IBM during 2006 - and got a 3 rating - (first ever - I've had 1's and 2's each period b4) complete and utter bs -Anonymous- Alliance reply: Please take this discussion to the PBC comments section.
    • Comment 01/29/07: To the person who got a "3" rating (first ever): may I ask how old you are? Watch out, they may be setting you up for being laid off. -Anonymous- Alliance reply: Please take this discussion to the PBC comments section.
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 1/31/07: Salary = 105K; Band Level = 8; Job Title = IT Specialist; Years Service = 9; Hours/Week = 44; gotta have that mandatory 10% overtime Div Name = GBS Location = Austin Message = We'll see if things improve with a new manager, but not holding my breath... -Anonymous-
  • PBC Comments
    • Comments 1-02-2006: For the fifth year in a row, I just past and copy what I'm forced to put in the PBC and I'll get my rating based on nothing that I can see or understand. For many, the difference between 2+, 2 and 3 and being cut is just luck, age and political dexterity. -Anonymous-
    • Comments 1-03-2006: comment 1-02-2006 is exactly right. The "2" and "2+" rating is ridiculous. Makes it 10x harder for a manager to explain why someone is a 2 and why someone is a 2+. With FORCED distributions it even worse. Actually, the whole process is unfair and stacked against the employee. They need to scrap the whole PBC process. OTHER MAJOR CORPORATIONS DO NOT go through this nonsense. When did IBM become so backwards in everything? Sad. -Anonymous-
    • Comments 1-05-2006: To 12-30 - Did you Open Door the "3" rating? One thing that has not changed (and maybe the only thing) is that a medical situation CANNOT be used as a reason to lower a PBC .... If it was noted on the PBC that you were rated a "3" due to the medical problem you had grounds to reverse that rating. Been there, done that! -Anonymous-
    • Comments 1-06-2006: Exactly what does a 3 on the PBC mean this year? Is that same as performance plan? I know for past few years a person with a 3 is cut on first head count reduction. At least that is what I have seen at Austin site. I did work with one person 2 years ago that was put on plan, but managed to get off plan. First person I ever knew to manage and get off plan. -Anonymous-
    • Comments 1-08-2006: Since our rating is decided 8 or 9 months in advance, what is the motivation to work hard? Just do enough to avoid getting fired, and use the spare time to look for another job. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/9/07: "If on the other hand it is built with employee input and negotiated on that is something else entirely." - Alliance...... But the existing scheme for PBC's is DIRECTLY related to employee input. We're already submitting our yearly results, goals and achievement, which is basically employee input.
      The IBM-Grand-Poobah's then take that input, and spin it however they like, regardless of what you've written. The PBC process pays lip-service to the input, but the input itself doesn't mean anything, as the decision itself of what rating you get and the compensation that's tied to it is completely up to management.
      I'm not at all happy with the compensation that's tied to our PBC - our year end bonuses are a joke, and it's our PBC that's used to justify it. But that's a completely separate way of determining compensation, outside of PBC's and how they're handled. Two years ago I was given a 2+ rating, and received more in compensation that year than I did last year when I received a 1 (despite a 3% raise over that period of time), because of the way that the compensation system changed, not how the PBC system works.
      The numbers mean nothing, unless management is trying to phase you out. Let's also face the fact that some people get a poor rating because they deserve one, not because they are being shafted. I've worked with many people at IBM who sit on their hot sauce all day and surf the net, and if I ran my own company I wouldn't want to keep them around either.-Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/10/07: While the PBC process as we know it is poor, what really makes it bad are four things - the vanishingly small numbers of 1 ratings available, compounded by the increasingly anorexic salary plans, exacerbate by unachievable targets for bonus pay and thwarted by severely limited opportunities for promotion. All of these cutthroat policies implemented to minimize rank and file compensation growth can be laid at the office door of Randy Mac. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/10/07: Well, I got my first 3 today after nine years of employment by IBM and mostly 2+ PBC's. I'm supposed to set up a monthly meeting with my manager so he can help me find ways to better meet IBM's goals. I told him that I understand that he has to give out a certain number of 3's and that since I'm new on the account and 57 years old that I would be the logical choice. This seemed to really tick him off. I have little reason to put out the extra effort I have in the past and will be actively looking for other employment. It's time for a rest from this insanity. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/10/07: By reading the Alliance blogs, IBM is obviously achieving it's goal of totally pissing off US employees. So, get one step ahead of them. Do the minimum required, do nothing to enhance IBM's revenue and spend all that free time job hunting outside of IBM. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/10/07: To the 57-y-o gentleman: no doubt about it, you have a bull's eye on your back. If you have another offer somewhere, see if IBM will give you some severance if you left right away. Being on the "measured mile" is demeaning, esp. when you know the cards are stacked against you. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/10/07: To 57-year-old gentleman, I couldn't agree more. It's time for an end to the insanity. Management provided me a poor review this year after I put my heart and soul into the job last year. I've watched team members receive promotions that did nothing but butter up the managers. I made my feelings know and was told to find a job elsewhere. It may have been the best thing to happen to me. I have had companies asking for my skills for years. This was what I needed to make the final step and start on the process of getting out. I just wish it hadn't taken 16 years to reach this point. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/11/07: Comment 1/10/07: "By reading the Alliance blogs, IBM is obviously achieving it's goal of totally pissing off US employees. So, get one step ahead of them. Do the minimum required, do nothing to enhance IBM's revenue and spend all that free time job hunting outside of IBM. -Anonymous-" Not only the US mate , but Down Under also. If you go to Vault.com and search the IBM BCS message board you'll discover there pissing of employees worldwide, but particularly in the west - higher salaries. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/16/07: Wonder why you are now a "2" PBC "appraised" employee when last year your were a "2+"? Feel unfairly reviewed?Shocked? Feel cheated now? Feel angry? If you have been following this website you could have been prepared for this. The Alliance has been warning that this was going to happen. Why not join the Alliance and join NOW and put a stop to this subjective and divisive IBM "appraisal" process. We can do it with our own contract! Of course IBM is trying to further reign in whatever bonus payout they supposedly will payout for 2006 performance sometime in 2007. Of course IBM is escalating the "PBC 2" managed out process. -PBC2-
    • Comment 1/17/07: I just received my PBC rating and I was a 2 performer. I was shown the definition of a 2 and told that it is a good rating. I am also hearing of a 2 performer managed out program through HR. Can anyone elaborate on the managed out program? -nowwhat?-
    • Comment 1/17/07: Hello nowwhat, in response to your question, reference this: http://allianceibm.org/jrm2006hrwebcast_030206.pdf -notknownuttin-
    • Comment 1/17/07: I personally feel that PBC should be stopped. IBM already rewards the employees with the different rewarding/recognition programmes. This exercise is just keeping the Managers busy. Instead, we need to increase the recognition process and should be done by a neutral body, who can validate and provide the employees an unbiased opinion. This will motivate the employee and also reduce the friction within the team. (from India) -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/19/07: What's all of this 2+ vs 2 cr*p? IBM used to have a 1,2,3,4,5 system, where 1,2,3 were great, good and OK appraisals. 4 was a warning or sometimes a first six monther. 5 was an improvement plan. They went to 1,2,3 and 3 check to "market" the PBC system to people, make people feel better as most were 1s and 2s. Now it sounds like they have the 1,2,3,4,5 system only don't have the guts to call it that. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/21/07: I received a PBC ratings of 1, 2+ and 2+ in 2004, 2005, 2006 respectively. The total raise I have seen so far is $140/month back in 2004. I am really concerned and thinking to up the ante, speakup and call for panel review. I was expecting 1 rating this year as I surpassed all my goals and also taken up extra responsibilities.
      I do not know how to take up fight with management and even if I do, can that result in correction of the rating ? or should I plan to leave IBM ? The work manager and people manager do not talk and while work manager promised (or lured me into taking a very challenging role) promotional feedback to my people manager, my manager seems to forgot about it ! It is just too painful and I can't find peace. The stress of betrayal is killing me but so far I have been keeping up, thinking, nothing gets unnoticed by almighty and I may need some more patience. I can challenge that even IBM top brass is not taking the stress that I have taken all year 2006. employess -Anonymous-
    • Comment 1/22/07: How much time do you spend on your PBC? Anyone have an idea? My guess is 3 days. How much do you earn in 3 days (or how many days). Are PBCs worth it? -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/22/07: Has anyone on this forum had success in changing a PBC 3 rating through the official appeal process? If yes, how did you approach it? I received a 3 rating this year and the justification for it should be nominated for an award in the best writing, short fiction category. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/22/07: An HR generalist told me that she sat on panel reviews and that when the '3' performance was due to 'relative contribution' the employee always lost. IMO, the odds are most certainly against the employee. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/23/07: To 1/22/07 Anonymous: Work isn't appreciated here any more either. Some of us took on some huge projects way above and beyond our normal job in 2006. We put in 60+ hour weeks and all of that seemed to be forgotten by PBC time. Instead, staff members working 25 hour weeks (instead of 40) were given promotions, awards and better PBC ratings. I was told that it isn't how much you do, that it's how much people see you as a person in authority. That was a huge moral killer for me. Just remember, the P in PBC does not stand for Performance. I was told I would need to find a job outside of our center to receive a better PBC rating or promotion because the top ratings go to managers and team leads first (since they are people in authority). -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/28/07: The PBC process is a joke..most of my colleagues are demotivated and depressed and feel helpless going forth to complain about ratings we don't deserve. We are all afraid to MAKE WAVES. When you have the top gun making a 29 percent raise, what do you think that does to the drones under him? It is absolutely sickening. Why isn't this on the news CONSTANTLY? I think the execs think we are all a bunch of morons that they can just push around and demoralize any way they want. Enough is enough. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/30/07: PBC is a waste of time and effort. They use some ridiculous methods to decide on ratings, which are not linked to the one's performance at all. This is not objective assessment and totally dependent on perception of your manager, sorry I stated wrong, it's totally dependent on your personal relationships with your manager. If you have good personal relations with manager, you can sit idle whole year, enjoy all benefits like Bravo and other incentives, get promotion and at end of year will get 1 rating. And all other people will keep on working like donkeys full year and at end of the year they'll be satisfied with 2/2+, argument given is that 'why you considering 2+ at bad rating, it is also good just keep on performing and you'll get good opportunities and monitory benefits coming your way next year’. We know what happens next year; this was my third PBC here. I am thinking of leaving this organization… -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/30/07: How much of a bearing does your PBC *really* have on your employment status? Well, at YE2004 my mgr wrote things such as "great accomplishments", "key support", "excellent job", and "key asset to the organization" in mine. 5 months later I was gone. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 01/31/07: i just got a raise! this year i will work only 8 hours instead of the 13 hours a day that i worked in 2006. thank you for the pbc because i see the light -anyone-
    • Comment 01/31/07: My last two PBC ratings were 2's but last week my manager called me in his office and told me that my performance has dropped. I asked him why but he couldn't be more specific. It was obvious something was up since he was very careful choosing his words. He said he wanted to start reviewing my work. He said he will be giving me assignments and I must show significant improvement. He said I could not leave the area and look for another job within IBM. Based on the reading here it looks like my number is up. I have 20 years with IBM and I'm on the old retirement plan. I feel that IBM wants to get rid of me to save money in the pension plan. Please advise. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 02/01/07: The pbc mind control game continues to play as evidenced by the comments here. Every year the managers tell the sheeple how tough the market is and how bad things are going and how few and far between raises will be.
      Nearly every year in the last 6 (all but one), Sammy tells the share holders how great things are going, and reports billions in profits.
      Of course the employees never seem to get the disconnect between what they are told and what our fearless leaders (fearlessly stealing pensions, robbing widows of their retirements, and cutting our pay with benefit cost increases) report to the share holders. In the last 7 years the company has netted over 50 Billion and spent tens of billions more on share buy backs!!
      So when you're talking to the brainwashed sheeple who haven't figured it out yet, mention some of these FACTS and see if any of the reality helps them see through the same lies that will be told once again this year when raise time approaches. One would think employees would be laughing in the face of managers who lie so blatantly year after year after year, maybe george orwell was right in his view of the future, it sure seems so, ibm is as orwellian as it gets! -who-will-tell-the-sheeple-
    • Comment 02/02/07: The whole pbc process is a psychological ploy and easy tool for ibm to use to manipulate people and is especially useful for moving out older employees. First they get people used to accepting 3’s and 4’s during the initial phase of 1,2,3,4,4-check ratings measure. Then they slide the scale over to the left a little at a time so someone that had a 4 and thought it was not great but okay is conditioned not to realize they are a marked target. Next once the 4=danger is established and 3’s are okay they slide the scale again and 3’s become a target but workers have been conditioned to accept them and many won’t recognize the danger right away.
      Now they slide the scale again so that 2 is okay but really it’s a danger sign that in the future you’ll be targeted. It’s a simple progressive process that conditions the unaware and makes it easy for a sleazy company to push out the old, sick or as recent evidence seems to indicate, those who have sick children with high medical costs. When it comes to sleazy morals, ibm would seem to be high on the list of treating workers like brainless clueless cogs! There is a solution to the problem though, it's called a UNION CONTRACT!!!!!! -who-will-tell-the-sheeple-

Vault Message Board Posts
Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Sample posts follow:
  • "b8 - my experience" by "thinker123". Full excerpt: obtained band 8 after year 3 of employment - got a 10% associated raise with it Needed to be off a 1-rating was what I heard and achieved. I was not in div16 but was in support so I likewise was in a suppressed income/band situation. What matters most is that you 1) have been performing as a B8 for at least a year and 2) you write a thesis for your PBC results about how great you are. Lastly 4) write more about how great you are and send to your 1st line manager in a document they can then copy and paste or quote from during or in prep for review sessions. 5) If you can obtain at least 1 letter of reference from peers/others you've worked with/client team members describing how great you are as well.
    Obtaining your Master degree will be something to also write about the next review cycle - to have achieved it while working at IBM full-time is an accomplishment and sets you apart from others.
    If you work for the wrong manager you will never see advancement so please evaluate making a move within or outside IBM if you see nothing happen this year. Year 6 of B7 is a joke and would mean to me that you are getting taken advantage of in a major way. When hired I was given little written stories of b6 to b7 and b7 to b8 advancement within 1.5 to 2 year intervals. That was the norm 6+ years ago and although it's more like 3-4 year intervals now anything more than that means there's something wrong and your career is stagnating.
    Do not expect a magical B8 increase for this year if you haven't specifically pushed your manager hard for it (and in a discreet and professional way indicated you are going to leave or explore other opportunities if you don't see an increase). Like anything else - if you want something at IBM you need to kick and scream and work your as* off for it... and you need to be talking/networking/working with the right people.
  • "I was promoted last year and..." by "blue_and_blue". Full excerpt: ...was very surprised. The promotional increase from B7 to B8 for me was 10% plus. In addition to that I received a 4% increase as part of the regular PBC cycle. 14% total made me stay. I'm curious if I get screwed this year.
    BTW: B8 is now titled "Managing Consultant"...it is on the official paperwork
    and..if you want to know your bonus, raise, or promotion before payday...do the following 2 weeks before. IBM Employment Verification. Step 1: Call 1-800-796-9876. Step 2: Choose prompt(s) for Employ and Salary Verification. Step 3: Create a PIN. Step 4: Call 1-800-488-6852. Step 5: Enter SSN and PIN to get information.
  • "Musings..." by "wonderaboutibm". Full excerpt: Over time, it's been a lot of fun posting to this board. It has certainly given me the chance to vent, perhaps, and that, along with decent assignments and coworkers I basically like is keeping me on an even keel. But my attitude toward my employer -- hey it's been damaged by the management philosophy of this corporation. I need not dwell on that here; for all you doubting Thomases reading this, just browse through some of the other posts.
    Folks, we've been in some ways too hard on the management, though. We don't have horribly flagrant situations like the top five dogs raking in 5 to 10 percent of the entire corporation's profits. Compared to some other corporate governance schemes, hell -- we might even be something of a bellwether, just as Wall Street says. But ... the truth is, we're nothing special, either. Come here if you like the work, but remember there's no good reason to pick IBM over another technology or consulting company.
    The benefits are standard, the pay is industry-standard (maybe less) and the recent pay history is a prime example of overzealous clamping down. "Trust in everything we do?" The management is kidding. IBM employees really no longer have any feel for what the future holds. But worse yet, I don't think IBM employees buy into the management "vision" anymore -- this in large measure because the management has managed to disconnect itself somehow and fancy itself the savior of the corporate destiny.
    Everybody below the top is a disposable cog; the senior management and the senior management alone will be responsible for any value this company builds -- so why not take all the rewards for themselves? Again, this is nothing at all unique to IBM; in fact, the senior management just runs with the executive herd. Many observers think our economic system is in deep trouble -- read Ben Stein's excellent column in today' New York Times.
    So all you earnest newbies, look for your place in the sun either somewhere else, or not in your job if you work at IBM.
  • "1st Qtr - 2007" by "dallas20". Full excerpt: Not to be alarming, but I've heard a thinning of the GBS Americas ranks is planned. Looking for any further information.
  • "3-5%" by "Hugh_G_Rection". Full excerpt: Unless you are in ITS portion of GTS....they are facing something close to a complete shutdown.
  • "Band 8 at Financial Mgmt Div (Finance Strategy Group)" by "whirl123". Full excerpt: Just interviewed at IBM. I am being considered for a Managing consultant, band 8 position. Am in the process of receiving an offer. Am trying to arm myself with enough info so I can negotiate well.
    1. What salary range can I expect or what would be fair for a Band 8 in this division with 4 yrs consulting experience.
    2. Also can someone tell me all the bands currently in use at IBM and the titles associated with them.
    3. Is it really true that growth opportunity is limited once you get into IBM?
    4. Is it true that pay raises and bonuses are rare once you join the company and as a result you should try to negotiate a high salary? Also how realistic is trying to negotiate a signing bonus & additional vacation time?
    Prompt response is appreciated. Thanks.
  • " Answers" by "B5GovCon". Full excerpt: My opinion, with a caveat that I just left for a better opportunity.
    1. 4 years experience should be low 100s (110 at the most).
    2. Search the posts. This has been discussed many times before. Band 8 is not a one for one match with other Big 4 firms.
    3. Didn't find this to be true. I went from an 8 to a 9 in 2 years (recently left) and another person did it in 1.5 years, BUT we were in a growth market.
    4. Salary increase were not bad - 8% the first year (rated 1) and I would have gotten 10-15% if I stayed based on conversation with people when I left - who knows how true that would have been. Bonus last year was a little over 10%, not sure what t would have been this year. Forget negotiating vacation. Signing bonus depends on how much they want you.
    Hope this helps.
  • "I'll go the next step" by "B5GovCon". Full excerpt: Support services are definitely not equivalent to client facing in terms of capabilities, experience, etc. This is taken into account through a higher pay scale for client facing. Unfortunately, at IBM support services feel they run the company and business - which is part of the "IBM problem." I have been at 3 different consulting firms over the past 10 years and IBM is the only place this occurred. At the others support services knew their roles to "support" the professional practitioners.
    This is part of the reason I recently left IBM. FAs questioning hours on my project, HR telling us which schools we can recruit at, etc.
  • "It's sad, don't you think dose?" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: IT is just going down the drain in the west. I think one needs to really develop a strong rapport based on substance with the business, for and by themselves. One can't rely on a consulting business to do that for them anymore - but it makes me wonder what kind of person (and what kind of quality) this whole process will produce in the future. IT university enrolments are down by 11% in OZ, even those embarking on a university course know that the writing is on the wall for IT and hence consulting in the west.
  • "Something you may not want to hear" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: The writing is on the wall, but perhaps you're not interpreting it correctly. IBM is emphasising low cost labour in other countries and that's where they are focusing their efforts, to the detriment of western based resources, no matter how good those resources are (unless you are into selling. Even then, there is only so far you can go in a company with a focus like that if you remain with implementations.
    Don't hold your breath for a promotion (though don't stop trying to get it if your heart is set on it, but don't be disappointed if you don't get it either).
    IBM doesn't care enough about it's resources in the west to invest much in them. I suggest you buy a turban, get a deep sun tan and speak one of the common dialects now in wide use in IT throughout the world.
  • "Right" by "Dose of Reality". Full excerpt: Here is the strategy: Fill the roster with band 6 new hires and shove 95% of them into the "never will get anywhere" pool. In the meantime, extort "run through the walls, run up the mountain" kind of effort that is never paid for by the company, until they get fed up and leave.
    Fill the rest of the roster with clueless offshore tech heads that work with an even greater sense of desperation. Make the US exploitees cover up for the deficiencies of this group.
    Continue this cycle indefinitely. Call it bait and switch or labor exploitation, but the whole system depends on deception of both employees and clients alike.
    Go back and read my dog track story in this thread - carefully this time. It will all make perfect sense.
  • "Pertinent to your message" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: We had an implementation in Australia where a large percentage of the technical work was done offshore - no need to guess where. IBM didn't deliver on-time (no wonder of course with this scenario). The IBM implementation team actually spoke to the client and blamed to protracted go-live date on the off-shoring - which I have little doubt is true.

 



   
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