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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—September 5, 2009

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree message board: "United Way and other campaigns. Intelligence and kindness" by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: Bob - I can't speak as a retiree, but I can speak as a employee heading toward retirement. "Respect for the Individual" died about the time you retired. Back when you were around, you had a job as long as you performed it well. If needs changed, IBM would transfer and/or retrain you.

    Most employees of IBM don't get the opportunity to retire - they are resourced actioned out of the business - not fired for performance, nor laid off with opportunity to get rehired, nor dropped because there isn't work, they're just dumped with minimal or no severance, no retirement and no retirement medical in order to meet that quarter's financial targets.

    Disrespect. The survivors of the quarterly resource actions are being subjected to sweatshop-like work conditions - long hours with a frantic work pace, with no time to "think". They killed that motto too.

    More disrespect. The company is being run with the sole goal of short term stock price. Longevity and future viability of the corporation doesn't play into the equation. Once Sam retires and cashes in, expect these short-sighted chickens to come home to roost.

    Jobs are offshored to low cost resources in low cost countries regardless of whether employees there can do the work or can even learn to do the work. India offshoring is nothing but a major FUBAR with no hope of success. Customers are pissed with them, so are the US counterparts that work with them.

    More disrespect for employees and now, disrespect for customers.

    The IBM US employee population is now about 100,000 and plans are in place to drop this to 35,000. A decade ago, we were over 270,000.

    Last, most things in IBM have moved to a corporate centric heavy-handed command and control organization run by arrogant and clueless tyrants each with their own bloated and unresponsive bureaucracies. The lower levels of management and employees are not allowed the freedom to think, or the ability to create a better way of doing things, or the option to innovate, or the ability to decide.

    Corporate knows best, you do everything their mandated way, exactly as they specify, whether it makes sense for the situation or not. You have no discretion or ability to question corporate, your improvement suggestions are ignored at best, at worst they can be career-limiting. There is no feedback accepted from those in the trenches who have to make the business actually work. They treat highly trained experienced professionals like babies and idiots.

    More disrespect. The net is that IBM US has gone from being one of the best places to work to one of the worst. IBM doesn't deserve your respect nor mine.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "IBM is Hiring! 1,300 employees thru 2Q10" by "cybertramp66". Full excerpt: Ha. Imagine my surprise to open the Right Mgmt Sept newsletter and find this little gem in the sidebar advertisements. IBM is Hiring!
    IBM has opened a new facility in Dubuque, IA -- a Technical Services Delivery Center. The center will primarily support U.S. strategic outsourcing clients, providing server systems operations, security services and end user services, including maintenance and monitoring of computer hardware and software systems. The recruiting team at IBM will be hiring approximately 1,300 employees through 2nd quarter, 2010. For a review of the technical and shared services opportunities, please visit the following web site created specifically for this new facility. The web site allows you to view the opportunities and apply on line. (more)

    And if you go to that link, there is a picture of a lady in a business suit gazing in wonder out the window at a modern city with 100 story sky scrapers. If you go to Google Images, you see Dubuque looks like a mill town of 4 story brick factory buildings. Not dissing Dubuque, I'm sure it is a nice town. But the photo is typical IBM smoke and mirrors.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM is Hiring! 1,300 employees thru 2Q10" by Daniel Sulin. Full excerpt: Well of course they need to hire more cheap labor (i.e. college hires). Since all the people who are going to refuse to move to Iowa are gonna get canned...err I'm sorry those people are going to quit (no package, no unemployment, nadda). This is exactly what IBM wants. They are criminal masterminds. Instead of just laying off people (which looks bad). They just force people to either move or quit their job. Considering they are offering no moving allowances for these moves and the housing market is awful. A lot of established people are gonna have to choose to stay where they are at and lose there job.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree message board: "IBM Charitable C C" by "Paly". Full excerpt: I got a letter from Donofrio today asking me to have my charitable contribution deducted from my pension. I donate what I can to St Joseph's School for the Lakota Indian children and it ain't much. I wrote right on his letter that he should get out of his office a little while and talk to some of the lower level retirees and find out what kind of hell some of us had been through because we believed in IBM. I used to admire him but old Nickie seems like he is as bad as those other insensitive scrhrumbags in Armonk.
  • LinkedIn, The Greater IBM Connection. The business network for current and former IBMers and retirees. Discussion: How to get back into IBM? Full extract: Hi, I have already worked in IBM before so I am aware of IBM's internal environment, but can anyone help me to know how to get back into IBM now ? Thanks.

    Selected responses to the above question follow:

    • Those working at IBM have a complete view of nearly all jobs that are open. If you have current friends there, they can look up areas of specific interest. Even when cutting back IBM sometimes has a bonus program for such friends who help you get hired if you happen to have a competency the want at that tim. (much cheaper that recruiters). There are openings posted on IBM's website but I have found that ineffective. You need one or more insiders to help you.
    • I don't want to burst anyone's balloon. Unless you are located in India or other low wage country, I don't think IBM is too open to hiring except maybe at from the college level. (i.e. new graduates). For those who are not following the buzz, IBM is laying off people almost every month in North America. Waves of experienced people are being let go as jobs are moved overseas or work is downsized due to the economy. Unless you have a rare skill or are located in an area such as Dubuque Iowa where they just opened a new facility, I wouldn't count on seeing much 'hiring' of former employees right now. Think of the severance packages they have to pay to let someone go. Why would they do that and then HIRE someone else? If they needed people, it would be much cheaper to keep their existing staff. The days of paying an IBMer to find a friend and bring them into the business are in the past for now. It may resurface in the future as the economy turns around. You might try business partners of IBM and see if they need any help.
    • If you are located in India, then I think you need to look at Bangalore. That's where IBM has a big presence. Be thankful you don't live in North America. The perception is that IBM can hire 4 or 5 people in lower wage countries when they let go one in North America..due to salary differences. So many in North America are losing their jobs and they are not happy about it. Now I hear there may be some government pressures.. if IBM wants US government business, they cannot keep moving jobs overseas. And it isn't just to India..they are going to Brazil and Eastern European countries where the salaries are lower too. Even Indian workers are getting 'competition' from other parts of the world.
    • Kaustubh, IBM is a wonderful company to work for. It has and does offer jobs in many countries often based on the amount of revenue in that country and availability of a skilled workforce. I worked for IBM outside the US most of my career and the currency / skills equation helped me land a wonderful position serving my country plus the US and some others for many years. Currencies do fluctuate up and down however so what was economical at one point may turn out to be less so at a later time. This is a fact of life..

      Labor markets fluctuate as well. India, for example, didn't have the volume of talented recruits when I started with IBM over 42 years ago. And the demand for 'lower wages' will be relentless. Salaries are increasing in India much faster than in North America and other countries because of the demand for resources there and they have a higher attrition rate because jobs are plentiful and changing jobs for higher pay is attractive. As other developing countries produce a more educated workforce and currencies fluctuate, the movement of jobs that are not location dependent will favor those locations and may disfavor India, at some point.

      The people that worked hard for IBM, who helped build the company when those other resources were not available, are losing their jobs due to Globalization. They took out mortgages, set up their lifestyle, with the expectation that if they worked hard, diligently, kept improving their skills and provided excellent service to IBM, they would continue to have employment with IBM. When I joined IBM, there was a labor shortage and IBM's main objective was to try to hold on to its employees that it invested in training. They strived to keep these employees for 'life', promising to retrain them if the skill mix needed changed. That pact is broken. There is no longer a job for life, despite how hard you work.

      This restructuring hurts morale of those left behind..wondering when they will be let go. It ruins the image of a company as a ' good place to work' if they drop human resources in favor of lower wage/currency issues. It is a delicate balancing act for IBM.

      I agree that there are capable people everywhere in the world. There is no reason why someone in a developing country with the right education and drive cannot do as well as someone in the US. But right now there are people in North America who are capable, dedicated, hard working and have helped build IBM over many years, who feel discarded Their loyalty through good and bad times is no longer being rewarded. That's hard to swallow for them.

      Sadly this is the global economy (from the Book ..The World is Flat) taking its toll. All businesses have to manage to match their competitors cost structures and if they don't adjust, they will lose business Employees losing their jobs in higher wage countries are having to make adjustments.

      I was also commenting on the original question..how do you get back into IBM. If you are in North America...that's hard to do right now. If you are in other low wage locations, then it depends on what country you are in, who you know and who remembers you from when you were in IBM. They would be your biggest advocates, if positions are available..

    • A couple of quick comments. IBM has a very small set of approved vendors that contract to IBM. It is very difficult if not impossible to get on that exclusive list of Approved Contract Vendors and it has been reduced in number over the past year or two. IBM does not hire independent contractors. The liability is too high as well as the chance of nepotism and favoritism..its still the almighty dollar that speaks very loudly in the hallways of IBM.

      Second, you paint with a very broad brush when you say its the only way to get rid of the deadwood. Getting rid of deadwood isn't the problem, weak leaders and managers creates the problem. Failure to address poor performance is a fault of weak managers. Fire the managers who can't do their jobs and bring some of the work back to the US where it belongs and stop adding to the fire of eroding our US manufacturing and working base.

      Greed in many companies to create bigger profits at the cost of quality and people only propels unemployment and a steadily decreasing skill set. The targets for MIS had been 5 - 6% every year for at least the last 10 - 15 years IBM had never achieved it. All the forced distribution, team based decision making and ranking has done is create a negative environment fraught with fear, neglect, back stabbing and burned out valuable people fighting for their livelihood. I pity the fool whose manager has no backbone and the will to fight for them in these meetings of measured performance.

      The focus has changed, the values have been eroded and the IBM values and ethics which were in the stratosphere have plummeted to the depths of the cesspools. I was let go, I valued my entire career with IBM. I learned a lot and after receiving the blue boot and experiencing a good nights sleep because I no longer worried about my slave driving, insensitive, rude, micro manager with a nervous giggle. With the shift in direction and lack of respect for people, I really don't want to go back into the new IBM. I will just pack up my dignity and my core values and move on to a new career with all the skills I learned and all the experiences I had.

  • BusinessWeek: Executive Pay Overshadows Pensions, the Details. By Nanette Byrnes. Excerpt: More details are out on which companies spent more in 2008 on executive stock grants than on employee pensions, and other important expenses. The study in The Analyst’s Accounting Observer that I wrote about yesterday has now been released to the press, and with it much more detail on the companies which prioritize options and restricted stock grants over other promises. The idea behind the report, its author writes, is partly to shed light on what is being put into stock compensation versus other obligations (like pensions) and opportunities.

    Forty companies put more than five times their pension contributions toward stock grants, though all but two of them have plans that owe more than their current assets. And some companies with pension shortfalls put nothing at all into those plans last year, but still gave out stock compensation.

  • Bloomberg: IBM to Invest in Emerging Markets, Mergers Head Says. By Katie Hoffman. Excerpts: - International Business Machines Corp., whose leader pledged to go “on offense” during the recession, will make investments and acquisitions in developing countries, its new mergers chief said. “Growth markets are very high on the list of priorities for IBM and very high on the list of priorities for me,” Eli Mendoza, head of corporate development at the Armonk, New York- based company, said in an interview. “We’re going to continue to grow very aggressively.”

    The economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China each grew at least 5 percent last year -- about five times the rate for the U.S. Mendoza, who took on his new role June 15, previously headed up development in Japan and growth markets for IBM, the world’s largest provider of computer services. He has spent most of his career outside the U.S.

  • eWeek: Indian Trade Group Proposes New H-1B Visa Approach. By Roy Mark. Excerpts: The Indian software industry association Nasscom is proposing that the U.S. Congress create a new category of visas to replace the increasingly controversial H-1B visas. As Nasscom sees it, Congress should create a "service" visa to allow companies to send workers to the United States for a limited amount of time. The new visa would not lead to immigration status or permanent residency. ...

    The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would require all employers wishing to hire an H-1B guest worker to first make a good-faith attempt to recruit a qualified American worker. Employers would be prohibited from using H-1B visa holders to displace qualified American workers. The bill would also prohibit what Grassley and Durbin call the "blatantly discriminatory" practice of "H-1B only" ads and prohibit employers from hiring additional H-1B workers if more than 50 percent of their employees are H-1B holders.

  • Forbes: The 401(k) Fee Fiasco. By Peter Beller and Amina Khan. Excerpt: Unfortunately for the millions of Americans who are counting on such accounts to fund their retirements, 401(k) plan fees are often absurdly high and next to impossible to uncover. Buried in plan literature are kickback schemes (in which fund firms pass on a portion of fees collected to the plan administrator in exchange for shelf space), custodial, advisory and record-keeping fees, transaction costs and innumerable other charges that few participants have any clue they're shouldering--or, in many cases, any ability to uncover. Often, human resources executives are as ignorant about the true costs of 401(k) plans as rank-and-file workers. High, poorly disclosed fees are an especially big problem among smaller companies.
  • Workforce Management: Sabbatical Programs Aid Work/Life Balance. Sabbatical programs can help employees rejuvenate as well as serve as an alternative to layoffs. By Sally Roberts. Excerpts: In addition to family and medical leave programs, some employers offer their employees extended leaves of absence to pursue personal endeavors or just rejuvenate. The purpose of such leaves or sabbaticals is simple: Give valued employees the time off they want and avoid the costs associated with turnover by keeping them tethered to the company. Given today’s turbulent economic times, such leave programs offer employers an alternative to layoffs, experts say. Sabbaticals are a response in part to today’s 24/7 work world, says Kathie Lingle, director of the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance for Work-Life Progress, a global human resources association. ...

    New York-based consulting firm Accenture is one of those employers. Although the firm offers a variety of work/life programs, an employee survey revealed that the most requested work/life program the company lacked was a sabbatical, says Sharon Klun, Accenture’s Phoenix-based director of work/life initiatives. "It was not necessarily about the pay," Klun says. "It was about having time in their lives to do what was really important to them." In response, Accenture launched a self-funded sabbatical program in 2007 called Future Leave for all U.S.-based employees, under which workers can take up to three months’ time off every three years to do whatever they want. Although the program is unpaid, employees can set money aside each paycheck or each month, "so when the leave does come, they are not necessarily as strapped" for money, Klun says.

  • New York Times: A Reluctance to Retire Means Fewer Openings. By Catherine Rampell and Matthew Saltmarsh. Excerpts: To the long list of reasons American companies aren’t hiring — business losses, tight credit, consumer retrenchment — add the fact that many of their older workers are unable, or afraid, to retire.

    In other parts of the developed world, people are retiring as planned, because of relatively flush state and corporate pensions that await them. But here in the United States, financial security in old age rests increasingly on private savings, which have taken a beating in the last year. Prospective retirees are clinging to their jobs despite some cherished life plans. As a result, companies are not only reluctant to create new jobs, but have fewer job openings to fill from attrition. For the 14 million Americans looking for work — a number expected to rise in Friday’s jobs report for August — this lack of turnover has made a tough job market even tougher. ...

    The diverted life plans of families like the Petruccis are an unintended economic consequence of the nation’s sprawling 401(k) plans. These private retirement savings vehicles, designed 30 years ago as a supplement to traditional corporate pensions, have somewhat haphazardly replaced the old system, like an innocuous weed that somehow overgrew the garden. As is apparent in this downturn, the economic effects of such an ad hoc system can be perverse. In boom times, when companies need more workers, the most experienced employees may decide to retire, taking comfort in their bloated 401(k)s, whose values typically fluctuate with the financial markets. ...

    Though their pension systems may be strained, people in many countries with stronger safety nets are still exiting the labor force in lockstep despite the global recession. Last year in the United States, almost a third of people ages 65 to 69 were still in the labor force; in France, just 4 percent of people this age were still working or looking for work. After all, Europe isn’t just the land of “socialized” medicine. It is also the land of “socialized” retirement plans, and like other automatic stabilizers, pensions help cushion the blow of an economic crisis. ...

    “The financial crisis hasn’t affected me,” says Jens Erik Soerensen, a 63-year-old in Hellerup, Denmark, who works as a researcher at Chempilots, a Danish company that develops polymers for use in the medical device industry. Mr. Soerensen has calculated that when he retires, the combined disposable income that he has with his wife (Lone, also 63, who retired this year from her job in TV production) will fall by about 20 percent. The couple will also continue to benefit from universal health coverage. ...

    Still, the American preference for self-reliance, instead of more socialized financial protections, remains strong, even among those who lost big. “I don’t want to depend on anybody else in my retirement,” Mr. Petrucci said. “Not family members, not our children, and certainly not the government, for that matter.”

  • The Motley Fool: That CEO Makes How Much? By Alyce Lomax. Excerpts: Did anyone at Abercrombie & Fitch bother to consult a stock chart before deciding on CEO Mike Jeffries' compensation? Jeffries lands at No. 10 on the list of 2008's highest-compensated CEOs, according to The Corporate Library. His lofty reward for a year marked by disastrous results at his company only emphasizes CEO pay's continuing disconnect from anything resembling reality.

    Jeffries raked in $72 million in 2008, according to The Corporate Library's list. It calculated "total realized compensation," which includes vested shares of restricted stock and stock options that were exercised. In Abercrombie's proxy statement, Jeffries' compensation -- excluding these items -- is listed as $15.9 million.

    Abercrombie & Fitch's business has been in the doldrums for quite some time now; its shares fell 70% in 2008. Sales growth has slowed dramatically since the fiscal year ended January 2006, actually decreasing in the latest completed fiscal year. Meanwhile, earnings per share have fallen steadily since the year ended February 2008. If Jeffries' pay is commensurate with his performance, I'm just not seeing it. ...

    Sadly, it seems clear that some have suffered more than others from the ravages of a troubled 2008. Company leaders shouldn't be doing just as well financially, if not even better, while shareholders and employees take monumental financial punches to the gut. The guys at the top deserve an equal share of the sacrifice, especially if they expect an outsized slice of the rewards.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
Minimize
  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 08/31/09: The rumours are flying through GBS or GTS whatever the heck we are now that there will be another wave in September, are we the only ones that have heard this? -Gotta love IBM-
    • Comment 09/01/09: I heard Global Services ITD SSO org has an RA scheduled for September. No word on how many might be affected. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/02/09: Non resident 1st line due in Sept. and again in Nov. Sounds like they are reviewing "who will be selected" and RA's in Nov. Area is STG Good luck all -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/02/09: Actually hate to break it to you folks, but IBM/Wipro have been strategic partners in MANY ASIA ventures since 2002, just google it and I am sure it will pop up. I for one know that even the Bangalore facility has a L shaped area that is nothing but Wipro there and both utilize it, been there - trust me and so have my colleagues. That was ran by a couple of recruiting agencies and looking for IBM personnel to do the work, NK! Spoke to three people involved and the Call Centers are next this month to start by end. This is no joke, they mentioned that consolidation would be eight facilities and based work would start in Atlanta area as a jumping off point. -IBM UC'd-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 09/01/09: There are more cuts coming in several areas. Had a couple of drinks with a manager and he let is slip. He has 14 people and must release 3. He said you will NOT see a WARN announcement. No one is enforcing it anyway and it is as toothless as a 40 year old lion. I think those who are left who do not join the union deserve what they get. I feel bad for those who do join and are attempting to fight back. They will just be cannon fodder. -ontheoutsidelookingin-
    • Comment 09/01/09: "There are more cuts coming in several areas. Had a couple of drinks with a manager and he let is slip. He has 14 people and must release 3. He said you will NOT see a WARN announcement. No one is enforcing it anyway and it is as toothless as a 40 year old lion. I think those who are left who do not join the union deserve what they get. I feel bad for those who do join and are attempting to fight back. They will just be cannon fodder. -ontheoutsidelookingin-" You are right on. I am close to the BTV executive John DiToro and I can assure you that the cuts are not over. John is targeting 500 to 1000 people at the BTV plant. Everything is lean six sigma cutting costs. Expect the people close to retirement to get tapped. Of course John Ditoro won't admit it. Best of luck to all. -Whistle Blower-
    • Comment 09/01/09: I think the thing that pisses me of the most about the years I spent at IBM is the fact that now I'm ashamed to admit I worked there for as long as I did. IBM'ers used to be proud of the company (rightfully or not), now everyone knows it's a shit hole and the employees left are just trapped rats or spineless fools. -anon-
    • Comment 09/02/09: All the US workers on my team will be off-shored by December. We are to train our replacements for a period of time. Was informed that if offered a position in IA and we don't take it, we waive severance. How is a pay cut to IA and a relocation a comparable job? Is this happening to others? -FoxyAKA97-
    • Comment 09/02/09: The Alliance is seeking contact with RA'd employees from Massachusetts in order to file for TAA benefits. please contact Lee Conrad at ibmunionalliance@gmail.com -Alliance-
    • Comment 09/02/09: re: Sr Project/Program Manager Call Center & Outsourcing (2484) -- Only a desperate fool who knows nothing about what project management in IBM entails would take that job for that pay. It's probably posted because there are no internal takers. Guess IBM is running out of chump PMs.-PM who quit IBM- (moved from job cut reports)
    • Comment 09/03/09: History will document that this 5-10 year period represented the systematic dismantling of IBM U.S. ( & other U.S. co's.) ; jobs lost that will never come back; and to the benefit of a handful of individuals. All because of extraordinary tax breaks at the expense of the American people. No one seems to really understand what's going on except those who are personally affected. Healthcare is a picnic compared to this. My advice? Speak up to your representatives now or forever hold your peace. If you don't, then you can read about it in your future grandkids' history books. The future doesn't have to be that way. -annonymous-
    • Comment 09/03/09: Anyone else in the USA have their department headcount cut to the bone to the point where it will be a pleasure to get RA'ed? At least the company will be able to function again soon, since they will be able to hire back the 3-4 workers overseas per US person fired that it actually takes to do the work, and for the same cost! It really does make dollars and sense. Who cares about quality or reason anymore. All it's about now is shoveling as much cash into the gullets of the insatiably greedy, short-term thinking and self-interested executives as humanly possible, before they jettison the remaining US workers and abandon their country with cheshire smile upon golden parachute. Sam should be hung from the neck until dead as a traitor to the USA. That would make for a Smarter Planet! Good luck IBM USA. -Joe Punchclock-
    • Comment 09/04/09: Don't know if this rumor is true or not. The support centers in Dallas and Austin are being shut down by July 2010. The support is going to India. There are job ads on Indian websites for the support jobs right now. So the rumors seem to be true. -Funky Cold Medina-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: "I am pleased to announce that we will not only be paying bonuses to IBMers worldwide, based on individual performance, but that they'll be funded from a pool of money nearly the same size as last year's. That's significant in this economy -- and especially so, given the size of the 2007 pool. Further, our salary increase plan will continue, covering about 60 percent of our workforce. As always, increases will go to our highest performers and contributors. We should all feel good about the company's ability to invest in people in these very concrete ways."
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
    • Comment 08/31/09: Country = Japan; Union Affiliate = JMIU-IBM; Job Title = staff; IBM Division = IBM-Japan; Message = IBM Japan has officially announced that there will be no raises of any kind for any reason this year. This is a consistent and natural conclusion to IBM-Japan's ongoing policy the past several years of giving smaller and smaller raises to fewer and fewer people. -Becoming poorer-
    • Comment 09/03/09: Country = UK; Union Affiliate = no; Job Title = IT Specialist; IBM Division = ITS; Message = Just been told that management want staff to volunteer to take unpaid holiday to cut down on costs. This from a company that apparently makes billion -itjustgetsworse_intheuk-
    • Comment 09/03/09: Country = Australia; Union Affiliate = No; Job Title = IT Specialist; IBM Division = AU SO; Deliv Message = Just been told that as at start of week plans underway in all AU offices for SO Deliv staff (at least) to move back to offices (i.e. Work from Home has "failed" according to manager type). Part of GDF actions supposedly (i.e. co-location). I guess the problem is these wankers in IBM-US management driving this ex McKinsey Lean now GDF strategy don't give a tinkers cuss for their co-workers during the economic downturn.. but hey, that next quarter result must sure look good when those that don't want to return to 2-4hr commutes and an extra $200-250/month in fares decide to jump ship we've already added $50+/month to pay for internet access for the "pleasure" of working from home- gee IBM, think of the money you'll save and offload to us !Cost reductions! And sure, we'll all come back to the office and "buddy-up" with someone again (maybe you'll send us some nice ICs from the BRIC group to co-train as well!) But hey chaps, who's going to sort out your workload once the upturn comes? Where will your good Solution Designers, SMEs, and brains-trust people be? Working for the opposition, working for a client, out on a contract somewhere.. the smart ones will never promote IBM product once they're out there.. EMC, HDS, Stotek hardware sales, CA software, will get the new deals. And irony is, all the nice Line 1 managers will get the shaft too, because they already have Line1s in India and China that are cheaper than you too.. hang on, doesn't that mean we can then drop some local Line2s as well! Wow.. could take out a whole division here or there and an Exec as well.. Get your resumes ready all, as what I am seeing is if you're in a first-world country i.e. incl US, Canada, UK, AU, etc, and in GTS/SO, IBM really doesn't want you or your expertise, so go flog it to someone who does. If they really want you back on contract, charge them triple the going rate. And don't pander to them and train the BRICs, stuff em, find some excuse to be busy. -Despairing_Specialist-
    • Comment 09/04/09: Country = uk; Union Affiliate = None; Job Title = Storage Expert; IBM Division = ITS; Message = I have been with IBM for approx 15 years. During my time it has gone from being a pretty good employer to the state we are now, i.e. no pay increases, no bonuses, taken away broadband and all the other shocking stuff they have carried out in the last few years. However I am currently working at a customer site and as I have been so naffed off with IBM, I spoke to the customer about going to work for them full time. They have now offered me a full time job more pay less hours etc. What I am trying to find out before I resign is to see if there are any voluntary redundancy deals in IBM or if anyone has heard that they are likely to ask for volunteers or make people redundant soon in the UK. Any ideas, please. -ukibmer-
    • Comment 09/05/09: Country = UK; Union Affiliate = No; Job Title = Architect; IBM Division = STG; Message = Hi -ukibmer- . On your question about redundancy packages in the UK, I think this is unlikely. I am now out of IBM, and prior to leaving had the same thought as yourself, should I hang on a bit and see if they offer some packages. I gave up on that idea though as I in my heart I knew I was too young for IBM to offer me a package. Its fairly obvious the people they want to lose are the older more expensive workers, and this is how the C Plan changes have been targeted. I do know of relatively recent times two people who did get packages, one had been on long term sick and the other cut a deal with their manager for a bad PBC after long service. But now, I suspect the plan is to let the pension changes be the cause of people exiting the business. -Big Z-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • New York Times op-ed: Until Medical Bills Do Us Part. By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpts: Critics fret that health care reform would undermine American family values, not least by convening somber death panels to wheel away Grandma as if she were Old Yeller. But peel away the emotions and fearmongering, and in fact it is the existing system that unnecessarily takes lives and breaks apart families.

    My friend M. — you’ll understand in a moment why she’s terrified of my using her name — had to make a searing decision a year ago. She was married to a sweet, gentle man whom she loved, but who had become increasingly absent-minded. Finally, he was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. The disease is degenerative, and he will become steadily less able to care for himself. At some point, as his medical needs multiply, he will probably need to be institutionalized.

    The hospital arranged a conference call with a social worker, who outlined how the dementia and its financial toll on the family would progress, and then added, out of the blue: “Maybe you should divorce.” “I was blown away,” M. told me. But, she said, the hospital staff members explained that they had seen it all before, many times. If M.’s husband required long-term care, the costs would be catastrophic even for a middle-class family with savings.

    Eventually, after the expenses whittled away their combined assets, her husband could go on Medicaid — but by then their children’s nest egg would be gone, along with her 401(k) plan. She would face a bleak retirement with neither her husband nor her savings. ...

    The existing system doesn’t just break up families, it also costs lives. A 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, found that lack of health insurance causes 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year. That’s one person slipping through the cracks and dying every half an hour. In short, it’s a good bet that our existing dysfunctional health system knocks off far more people than an army of “death panels” could — even if they existed, worked 24/7 and got around in a fleet of black helicopters.

    So, for those of you inclined to believe the worst about President Obama, think it through. Suppose he is indeed a secret, foreign-born Muslim agent who is scheming to undermine American family values while killing off as many grandmothers as possible. If all that were true, why on earth would he be trying so hard to reform our health care system? We already know how to prod families into divorce and take a life unnecessarily every 30 minutes — all we need to do is reject reform and stick with exactly what we have.

  • New York Times editorial: Majority Rule on Health Care Reform. Excerpts: Mr. Obama should know from sad experience the pitfalls of seeking bipartisan cooperation from a Republican Party that has sloughed off most of its moderates and is dominated by its right wing. His stimulus package was supported by no Republicans in the House and only three Republicans in the Senate, so-called moderates whose support was won by shrinking the package below the size at which it would have done the most good.

    Now the same sort of damaging retreat may be happening in the Senate Finance Committee. Three committees in the House and one in the Senate have used their Democratic majorities to approve liberal health reform bills. The only bipartisan negotiations are between a rump group of three Democrats and three Republicans on the Finance Committee who hail from largely rural states with small populations, namely Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming. Somehow this small, unrepresentative group has emerged as the focal point for bipartisan health care reform.

  • Forbes: The Party Of Medicare. That's the GOP, in case you hadn't noticed. By Bruce Bartlett. Excerpts: Once upon a time, the Republican Party opposed open-ended entitlement programs like Medicare as a matter of principle, often paying a heavy political price for doing so. But those days are gone. Today, the GOP not only doesn't oppose entitlements, it has become their defender. This is perhaps the biggest reversal in American politics since the Democrats went from being the party of Southern racists for 150 years to being the party of civil rights in the 1960s. ...

    Among those the AMA recruited in its fight against Medicare was a Hollywood actor named Ronald Reagan. He recorded a speech in 1961 explaining that Medicare was not just the first step toward a total government takeover of medicine, but the imposition of socialism throughout the economy. Said Reagan, "Behind it [Medicare] will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day, as [Socialist Party leader] Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism."

    The "slippery slope" argument has been a staple of conservatives' thinking for decades--they claim that every government program is the first step on the road to socialism. And, as economist F.A. Hayek argued in his 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, that inevitably leads to totalitarianism. This argument continues to be made today in the health care debate, even though it is transparently false. The nations of Europe have governments much larger than ours and long had national health insurance without suffering the sort of tyranny that was certain to have come about by now if Hayek was even remotely correct.

  • New York Times op-ed: Missing Richard Nixon. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Many of the retrospectives on Ted Kennedy’s life mention his regret that he didn’t accept Richard Nixon’s offer of a bipartisan health care deal. The moral some commentators take from that regret is that today’s health care reformers should do what Mr. Kennedy balked at doing back then, and reach out to the other side. But it’s a bad analogy, because today’s political scene is nothing like that of the early 1970s. In fact, surveying current politics, I find myself missing Richard Nixon. ...

    But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

    As many people have pointed out, Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance. Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to “approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures.” No illusions there about how the magic of the marketplace solves all problems.

    So what happened to the days when a Republican president could sound so nonideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal? Part of the answer is that the right-wing fringe, which has always been around — as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, “crazy is a pre-existing condition” — has now, in effect, taken over one of our two major parties. Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been able to negotiate a health care deal, have either been driven out of the party or intimidated into silence. Whom are Democrats supposed to reach out to, when Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was supposed to be the linchpin of any deal, helped feed the “death panel” lies?

    But there’s another reason health care reform is much harder now than it would have been under Nixon: the vast expansion of corporate influence. We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.

    And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That’s especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

    That spending fuels debates that otherwise seem incomprehensible. Why are “centrist” Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so opposed to letting a public plan, in which Americans can buy their insurance directly from the government, compete with private insurers? Never mind their often incoherent arguments; what it comes down to is the money. Given the combination of G.O.P. extremism and corporate power, it’s now doubtful whether health reform, even if we get it — which is by no means certain — will be anywhere near as good as Nixon’s proposal, even though Democrats control the White House and have a large Congressional majority.

  • New York Times: Health Bill Would Cut Drug Spending for Many on Medicare, Budget Office Says. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: Premiums for drug coverage would rise an average of 5 percent in 2011, beyond the level expected under current law, and the increase would grow to 20 percent in 2019, the budget office said. “However,” it said, “beneficiaries’ spending on prescription drugs apart from those premiums would fall, on average, as would their overall prescription drug spending (including both premiums and cost-sharing).” ...

    Republicans have criticized the House bill on the ground that it would finance coverage for the uninsured, in part, by cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from projected Medicare spending, in ways that could adversely affect some beneficiaries. In response, Democrats have said the bill would help beneficiaries by narrowing and eventually eliminating a gap in Medicare drug coverage, informally known as a doughnut hole. Nancy LeaMond, an executive vice president of AARP, the lobby for older Americans, welcomed the report as evidence that “health care reform will lower drug spending.” “Opponents of reform may use today’s projections to try to stall reform,” Ms. LeaMond said, “but we hope they will look at all the facts before jumping to a false conclusion.”

  • New York Times: Fighting Health Care Overhaul, and Proud of It. By Katharine Q. Seelye. Excerpts: Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who predicted that President Obama’s effort to overhaul the health care system would become his “Waterloo,” is doing his best to make that happen. Taking questions from a friendly crowd of 500 people here the other day, Mr. DeMint did little to correct their misimpressions about health care legislation but rather reinforced their worst fears. When one man said the major House bill would give the government electronic access to bank accounts, Mr. DeMint told him the bill was never about health care. “This is about more government control,” he declared. “If it was about health care, we could get it done in a couple of weeks.” ...

    “He’s playing to the fund-raising base, both here in South Carolina and nationally,” Mr. Bailey said. Mr. DeMint’s town-hall-style meetings, where he promotes his new book, “Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America’s Slide into Socialism,” tend to be more like cheerleading sessions than the angry confrontations faced by lawmakers elsewhere. Here, he fueled speculation that a health care overhaul would cover illegal immigrants, although specific language says it would not. He also said senators and members of Congress would “absolutely not” pass a new health plan if they had to go on it themselves. ...

    The subject of health care in Mr. DeMint’s own state rarely comes up either. But South Carolina, much of which is poor and rural, faces some particular challenges. Its unemployment rate of 11.8 percent exceeds the national rate of 9.4 percent. And 16.2 percent of the population has no insurance, more than the national average of 15.3 percent. Rather, voters seem more interested in whether Mr. DeMint might run for president.

  • Wall Street Journal: Burger Chain's Health-Care Recipe. Paying More for Insurance Cuts Turnover, Boosts Sales and Productivity. By Sarah E. Needleman. Excerpts: Four years ago, executives of Burgerville, a regional restaurant chain, agreed to pay at least 90% of health-care premiums for hourly employees who work at least 20 hours a week. Today, the executives say the unusual move has saved money by cutting turnover, boosting sales and improving productivity. Burgerville's experience is notable for the food-service industry, where turnover is high and fewer than half of chains offer health insurance for part-time hourly employees, according to People Report, a research firm. The chains that do offer benefits pay on average 49% of the cost for employees working at least 30 hours a week, People Report says. ...

    Burgerville's initiative "not only improves quality of service but it saves money by not having to replace staff as frequently," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic Inc., a Chicago consulting and research firm for the food industry.

  • Roll Call: Burner Helping House Liberals Hold Firm on Public Insurance Option. By Tory Newmyer. Excerpt: An organizer for liberal House Democrats says the bloc “isn’t bluffing” as it prepares to take a reputation-defining stand to protect a public insurance option in the health care overhaul. Darcy Burner, executive director of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, said the health care debate has rallied traditionally disparate Congressional liberals to hang together, while galvanizing support for their position from an array of left-leaning outside groups. The result, she said, is that Democratic leaders will not be able to clear a package through the House if it does not include the public plan.
  • New York Times op-ed: Roosevelt: The Great Divider. By Jean Edward Smith. Excerpts: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S apparent readiness to backtrack on the public insurance option in his health care package is not just a concession to his political opponents — this fixation on securing bipartisan support for health care reform suggests that the Democratic Party has forgotten how to govern and the White House has forgotten how to lead.

    This was not true of Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congresses that enacted the New Deal. With the exception of the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 (which gave the president authority to close the nation’s banks and which passed the House of Representatives unanimously), the principal legislative innovations of the 1930s were enacted over the vigorous opposition of a deeply entrenched minority. Majority rule, as Roosevelt saw it, did not require his opponents’ permission.

    When Roosevelt asked Congress to establish the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide cheap electric power for the impoverished South, he did not consult with utility giants like Commonwealth and Southern. When he asked for the creation of a Securities and Exchange Commission to curb the excesses of Wall Street, he did not request the cooperation of those about to be regulated. When Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act divesting investment houses of their commercial banking functions, the Democrats did not need the approval of J. P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs or Lehman Brothers. ...

    Roosevelt relished the opposition of vested interests. He fashioned his governing majority by deliberately attacking those who favored the status quo. His opponents hated him — and he profited from their hatred. “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today,” he told a national radio audience on the eve of the 1936 election. “They are unanimous in their hatred for me — and I welcome their hatred.” ...

    For Roosevelt was a divider, not a uniter, and he unabashedly waged class war. At the Democratic Convention in 1936, again speaking to a national radio audience, Roosevelt lambasted the “economic royalists” who had gained control of the nation’s wealth. To Congress he boasted of having “earned the hatred of entrenched greed.” In another speech he mocked “the gentlemen in well-warmed and well-stocked clubs” who criticized the government’s relief efforts.

    Roosevelt hived off the nation’s economic elite to win the support of the rest of the country. The vast majority of voters rallied to the president, but for a small minority he was the Devil incarnate. Few today remember the extent to which Roosevelt divided the nation. The sense of unity wrought by World War II blurred the divisiveness of the 1930s. Also, Roosevelt endeavored to ensure that more than half of the country was always on his side. Finally, and most important perhaps, the measures he championed have stood the test of time. It is difficult for Americans today to comprehend how anyone could have opposed Social Security, rural electrification, the regulation of Wall Street or the federal government’s guarantee of individual bank deposits.

    Roosevelt understood that governing involved choice and that choice engendered dissent. He accepted opposition as part of the process. It is time for the Obama administration to step up to the plate and make some hard choices. Health care reform enacted by a Democratic majority is still meaningful reform. Even if it is passed without Republican support, it would still be the law of the land.

  • New York Times op-ed: Health Care That Works. By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpts: Health care reform may be defeated this year in part because so many Americans believe the government can’t do anything right and fear that a doctor will come to resemble an I.R.S. agent with a scalpel. Yet the part of America’s health care system that consumers like best is the government-run part.

    Fifty-six to 60 percent of people in government-run Medicare rate it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. In contrast, only 40 percent of those enrolled in private insurance rank their plans that high. Multiple surveys back that up. For example, 68 percent of those in Medicare feel that their own interests are the priority, compared with only 48 percent of those enrolled in private insurance.

    In truth, despite the deeply ingrained American conviction that government is bumbling when it is not evil, government intervention has been a step up in some areas from the private sector.

    Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting. So almost every country moved to what today’s health insurance lobbyists might label “socialized firefighting.” In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments.

    We have the same for policing. If the security guard business were as powerful as the health insurance industry, then it would be denouncing “government takeovers” and “socialized police work.”

    Throughout the industrialized world, there are a handful of these areas where governments fill needs better than free markets: fire protection, police work, education, postal service, libraries, health care. The United States goes along with this international trend in every area but one: health care. The truth is that government, for all its flaws, manages to do some things right, so that today few people doubt the wisdom of public police or firefighters. And the government has a particularly good record in medical care.

  • New York Times: Obama Aides Aim to Simplify and Scale Back Health Bills. By Robert Pear and Jackie Calmes. Excerpt: President Obama plans to address a joint session of Congress next week in an effort to rally support for health care legislation as White House officials look for ways to simplify and scale back the major Democratic bills, lower the cost and drop contentious but nonessential elements. Administration officials said Wednesday that Mr. Obama would be more specific than he has been to date about what he wants included in the plan. Doing so amounts to an acknowledgment that the president’s prior tactic of laying out broad principles and leaving Congress to fill in the details was no longer working and that Mr. Obama needed to become more personally involved in shaping the outcome.
  • Miami Herald: $5-a-day Cinergy Health insurance piles up complaints. Aventura-based Cinergy Health is pulling insurance ads that some say promise a lot more than their policies actually offer. By Beatrice E. Garcia. Excerpt: TV ads touted Cinergy Health's low-cost medical insurance for as little as $5 a day -- the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a hamburger. But the policies promoted by the Aventura company delivered far less coverage than the ads promised, say New York state insurance regulators, who ordered Cinergy to take the ads off the air in mid-August. Florida may soon take action, as well. After an investigation, state insurance regulators also determined that the company that actually writes the policies, American Medical and Life Insurance, defrauded consumers with ads indicating that its limited-benefit health insurance plan offers comprehensive medical coverage. American Medical's license to sell insurance in Florida could be revoked. ...

    The insurance plan that Cinergy marketed provided far less than comprehensive coverage. For instance, it pays $500 for five doctor's visits per year or $300 annually for diagnostic tests including a high-tech MRI -- a test that costs $2,000 or more in most states. The ads say most preexisting conditions are accepted, but the fine print noted a six-month waiting period for preexisting conditions. The ads' promises have led to dozens of postings by consumers on complaint sites such asRipoffReport.com and Complaints.com who say they were misled by American Medical and the ads Cinergy has been running.

  • The Huffington Post: The Public Option is Popular, Moral and Inexpensive, Therefore it Must Die. By Bob Cesca. Excerpts: The public health insurance option as defined in both the Senate HELP bill and the House bill (HR 3200) is not a far-left liberal proposal. A far-left liberal proposal would actually be a single-payer plan. The public option is actually a program supported by almost everyone, despite the misleading way it's currently being discussed by Republicans, town hall wingnuts, cable news "smackdown" panelists and other very serious members of the Washington establishment. ...

    The health insurance lobby in collusion with both the corrupt and spineless Blue Dogs and the lying hacks who control the cartoonish Republican Party have successfully convinced large chunks of Washington that the public option is some sort of ultra-left concoction manufactured inside the secret underground Wellstone Memorial Lib-ratory located beneath Howard Dean's cavernous walk-in Birkenstock closet. ...

    Additionally, I'm not aware of any centrist voters who are particularly in love with the idea of a healthcare reform bill that contains mandates but no public option escape hatch. As I wrote last week, this is without question a transparent, massive and compulsory government handout to corporate criminals. Such a bill would require us to buy a policy from a private health insurer -- the same corporations that are currently denying coverage to paying customers and literally getting away with murder; the same type of corporation that randomly tripled my monthly premium, forcing me to either cancel my policy or go out of business. Every American citizen would be mandated by law to pump their cash into a system that's inherently corrupt and, from a production standpoint, wholly worthless. The public option, though, would provide an option of good conscience for those of us who find it morally repugnant to financially support the private insurers.

    The convergence of government power and corporate greed is centrist? Really? Once again, the public option solves the problem.

    And then there are the polls. Last week, the AARP published the results of a poll showing 79 percent of the American people support "a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase." Unless 79 percent of the American people are far-left liberals, this poll indicates that the public option enjoys support from practically everyone. 61 percent of Republicans support the public option. 80 percent of independents. Literally, the "centrists."

  • AARP Bulletin: Health Care Reform: The Assault on Truth. By Patricia Barry. Excerpt: Where did this myth come from? On July 16, Betsy McCaughey, a former Republican lieutenant governor of New York, appeared on a conservative radio show. Citing page 425, she said: “Congress would make it mandatory … that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner … all to do what’s in society’s best interest.” On July 23, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, leader of the House Republicans, issued a statement saying: “This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law.” On Aug. 7, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin described the proposal as setting up a “death panel.”
  • Whitehouse.gov: Take the "What's In Reform for You" Quiz. Excerpt: Just answer a few simple questions and the quiz will tell you the ways in which somebody like you will benefit.
  • Daily Kos: The Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 22% of Claims. By National Nurses Movement. Excerpts: It's time to stop talking about make believe death panels, and talk about the real ones. Six of California's biggest insurance companies have rejected more than one in five claims the past seven years -- according to data the insurance giants, Blue Cross, PacifiCare, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net, Cigna, and Aetna report to the state Department of Managed Care. ...

    Claims denial rates by leading California insurers, first six months of 2009:

    • PacifiCare -- 39.6 percent
    • Cigna -- 32.7 percent
    • HealthNet -- 30 percent
    • Kaiser Permanente -- 28.3 percent
    • Blue Cross -- 27.9 percent
    • Aetna -- 6.4 percent

    ... Why do they companies deny claims? Because it pays. It's also a reason why private insurers divert up to 30 cents of every healthcare dollar to overhead -- much of it spent to support warehouses full of claims adjustors needed to deny care, to keep down their "medical loss ratio" or profits lost on approving claims.

    Our nation remains the only one in among industrial nations to link access to healthcare to private profit. That's one reason for data like this:

    Data released in late August by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which tracks developed nations, found that among 30 industrial nations, the U.S. ranks last in life expectancy at birth for men, and 24th for women.

  • New York Times editorial: President Obama’s Health Choices. Excerpts: President Obama’s address to Congress about health care reform on Wednesday is the moment for him to stand tough for a large and comprehensive plan. This is no time to yield on core elements of reform or on the scale of the effort in search of enough Republican support to provide the veneer of bipartisanship, or even the one or two Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster. ...

    Mr. Obama needs to highlight the concerns that got many people agitating for government help in the first place — the rising premiums and co-payments required for their health insurance policies, and the likelihood that, if forced to buy insurance on their own, perhaps after losing a job, they would be unable to afford it or even be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. ...

    We are alarmed at reports that the price for winning over Republicans and conservative Democrats might be a drastically scaled-down plan that would cost not $1 trillion over 10 years but perhaps only $700 billion or much less. That big a reduction would be a mistake. The insurance reforms that people most want — and the insurance industry is willing to accept — depend on achieving near universal coverage to spread the risks over a large group of healthy and unhealthy people. ...

    If Mr. Obama is reaching out for broader support, he may be too diplomatic to point out the cynicism of Republican opponents who are late-blooming advocates of deficit reduction. The Bush administration and a Republican-controlled Congress enacted a Medicare prescription drug benefit that will cost the government almost $1 trillion over the next decade without raising or saving a penny to pay for it.

    They also passed tax cuts for wealthy Americans that will cost more than $1.7 trillion over 10 years, again without making provisions to offset the costs. Now they are complaining that $1 trillion for health care reform — fully paid for over the next 10 years — is too much to spend on a problem that has been festering for decades.

  • Rolling Stone: Sick and Wrong. How Washington is screwing up health care reform – and why it may take a revolt to fix it.By Matt Taibbi. Excerpts: Let's start with the obvious: America has not only the worst but the dumbest health care system in the developed world. It's become a black leprosy eating away at the American experiment — a bureaucracy so insipid and mean and illogical that even our darkest criminal minds wouldn't be equal to dreaming it up on purpose.

    The system doesn't work for anyone. It cheats patients and leaves them to die, denies insurance to 47 million Americans, forces hospitals to spend billions haggling over claims, and systematically bleeds and harasses doctors with the specter of catastrophic litigation. Even as a mechanism for delivering bonuses to insurance-company fat cats, it's a miserable failure: Greedy insurance bosses who spent a generation denying preventive care to patients now see their profits sapped by millions of customers who enter the system only when they're sick with incurably expensive illnesses.

    The cost of all of this to society, in illness and death and lost productivity and a soaring federal deficit and plain old anxiety and anger, is incalculable — and that's the good news. The bad news is our failed health care system won't get fixed, because it exists entirely within the confines of yet another failed system: the political entity known as the United States of America. Just as we have a medical system that is not really designed to care for the sick, we have a government that is not equipped to fix actual crises. What our government is good at is something else entirely: effecting the appearance of action, while leaving the actual reform behind in a diabolical labyrinth of ingenious legislative maneuvers. ...

    It's a situation that one would have thought would be sobering enough to snap Congress into real action for once. Instead, they did the exact opposite, doubling down on the same-old, same-old and laboring day and night in the halls of the Capitol to deliver us a tour de force of old thinking and legislative trickery, as if that's what we really wanted. Almost every single one of the main players — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Blue Dog turncoat Max Baucus — found some unforeseeable, unique-to-them way to fuck this thing up. Even Ted Kennedy, for whom successful health care reform was to be the great vindicating achievement of his career, and Barack Obama, whose entire presidency will likely be judged by this bill, managed to come up small when the lights came on. We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good. It was that bad. ...

    The only committee that didn't finish a bill is the one that's likely to matter most: the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by the infamous obfuscating dick Max Baucus, a right-leaning Democrat from Montana who has received $2,880,631 in campaign contributions from the health care industry....

    The game in health care reform has mostly come down to whether or not the final bill that is hammered out from the work of these five committees will contain a public option — i.e., an option for citizens to buy in to a government-run health care plan. Because the plan wouldn't have any profit motive — and wouldn't have to waste money on executive bonuses and corporate marketing — it would automatically cost less than private insurance. Once such a public plan is on the market, it would also drive down prices offered by for-profit insurers — a move essential to offset the added cost of covering millions of uninsured Americans. Without a public option, any effort at health care reform will be as meaningful as a manicure for a gunshot victim. "The public option is the main thing on the table," says Michael Behan, an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. "It's really coming down to that." ...

    Even worse, Baucus has set things up so that the final Senate bill will be drawn up by six senators from his committee: a gang of three Republicans (Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming) and three Democrats (Baucus, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico) known by the weirdly Maoist sobriquet "Group of Six." The setup senselessly submarines the committee's Democratic majority, effectively preventing members who advocate a public option, like Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, from seriously influencing the bill. Getting movement on a public option — or any other meaningful reform — will now require the support of one of the three Republicans in the group: Grassley (who has received $2,034,000 from the health sector), Snowe ($756,000) or Enzi ($627,000).

    This is what the prospects for real health care reform come down to — whether one of three Republicans from tiny states with no major urban populations decides, out of the goodness of his or her cash-fattened heart, to forsake forever any contributions from the health-insurance industry (and, probably, aid for their re-election efforts from the Republican National Committee). ...

    All that's left of health care reform is a collection of piece-of-shit, weakling proposals that are preposterously expensive and contain almost nothing meaningful — and that set of proposals, meanwhile, is being negotiated down even further by the endlessly negating Group of Six. It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse. And it's virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come. "They'll pass some weak, mediocre plan that breaks the bank and even in the best analysis leaves 37 million people uninsured," says Mokhiber, one of the single-payer activists arrested by Baucus. "It's going to give universal health care a bad name."

    It's a joke, the whole thing, a parody of Solomonic governance. By the time all the various bills are combined, health care will be a baby not split in half but in fourths and eighths and fractions of eighths. It's what happens when a government accustomed to dealing on the level of perception tries to take on a profound emergency that exists in reality. No matter how hard Congress may try, though, it simply is not possible to paper over a crisis this vast.

News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • New York Times: Wall Street Pursues Profit in Bundles of Life Insurance. By Jenny Anderson. Excerpts: After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one. The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

    The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money. Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated. ...

    Financial innovation can be good, of course, by lowering the cost of borrowing for everyone, giving consumers more investment choices and, more broadly, by helping the economy to grow. And the proponents of securitizing life settlements say it would benefit people who want to cash out their policies while they are alive.

    But some are dismayed by Wall Street’s quick return to its old ways, chasing profits with complicated new products. “It’s bittersweet,” said James D. Cox, a professor of corporate and securities law at Duke University. “The sweet part is there are investors interested in exotic products created by underwriters who make large fees and rating agencies who then get paid to confer ratings. The bitter part is it’s a return to the good old days.”

  • The Consumerist: Banks Once "Too Big To Fail" Now Even Bigger After Meltdown. By Laura Northrup. Excerpt: Remember those banks that the federal government bailed out because they were "too big to fail?" Well...after mergers and bank takeovers (some encouraged by the government) those banks bailed out because they were "too big to fail" now are much bigger. JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America combined now control more than 20% of all bank deposits in the United States.
If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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