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Highlights—December 5, 2009

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Why don’t companies apply more risk analysis to layoff decisions?" by "its_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: Executive management believes everyone is replaceable (regardless of whether that's true) and also believes that everyone's skills can be replicated by hiring a bunch of global resources and training them for 6 weeks (that's definitely NOT true), and that everyone with the same job title has the same capabilities (also definitely NOT true).

    But that's their thinking, if you can call it that. Quality of delivery, timeliness of delivery and productivity do not matter to them. All that matters is minimal cost.

    If an account crashes and burns because of inferior global resources, the execs compare the savings from using low cost resources versus the costs of account penalties due to delivery failures and as long as the savings are greater than the penalties, they're fine with that.

    Net - not only does IBM not value its skilled employees, it doesn't care about the customer either. This is an extremely short term strategy. You'll know the jig is up when the rats (execs) cash-in and jump ship.

  • eWeek: Sparks Fly from All Sides: The H-1B Visa Debate. Excerpt: With the possible exception of network neutrality, no other subject is more likely to spark a debate than the issue of H-1B visas, the temporary work visa program allowing American companies and universities to employ foreign guest workers who have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree. The tech industry wants the government to expand the program, while others think H-1Bs are used to replace American IT workers and administers at lower salaries. Here, eWEEK takes a look at all sides of the debate and what some key players are saying about H-1B visas.
  • The Register (United Kingdom): HP staff vote to strike. By Chris Williams. Excerpts: Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at the division of HP formerly known as EDS have voted by a more than three-quarters majority to go on strike over jobs and pay. Some 78 per cent voted for a walkout, with 92 per cent supporting action short of a strike including refusing to work overtime. PCS said its members working on Department of Work and Pensions contracts will strike for one day on 10 December.

    The dispute has its roots in HP's takeover of EDS last year. Some 3,400 UK workers have since been axed, and those remaining have been hit with a pay freeze. PCS general secretary Mark Serawotka said: "The ballot result illustrates the depth of anger amongst a workforce who face a second year of pay freezes despite the company delivering fourth quarter revenues of 30.8 billion US dollars."

  • The Register: HP hit with another strike. HP CDS becomes department of no work and less pensions. Excerpts: More industrial unrest is threatening HP, where another union today announced that its members will strike. Unite said it will organise a walkout, involving about 100 staff, on 7 December. Yesterday, the Public and Commercial Services Union said its members working on Department of Work and Pensions contracts for HP (the division formerly know as EDS) will strike on 10 December. The Unite dispute surrounds the transfer of 150 workers from HP to HP CDS, a subsidiary company.

    The union accuses HP of "taking advantage of weaknesses in current employment legislation to remove pay and pension benefits, including a performance bonus scheme worth up to £2000 and the final salary pension scheme". ...

    Unite south west regional officer Andy McDowall said: "The members have had an irreplaceable pension benefit removed by a cash rich employer when they had every opportunity to allow it to continue. To add insult to injury, they have also removed our members’ contractual bonus arrangements, resulting in a further cut in wages.

  • BusinessWeek: The Case Against Retirement. Financial and demographic developments point toward Americans working into their golden years. And that's a good thing. By Chris Farrell.
  • Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, LLP: Health Care Reform May Outlaw Reductions In Retiree Medical Benefits. Abstract: H.R. 3962, the health care reform legislation passed by the House on November 7, would bar any substantial reduction in benefits or substantial increase in premiums for health care benefits being provided to retirees. Unlike most provisions of the proposed reform bill, this prohibition would take effect on the date of enactment (the date the bill is signed by the President). Employers who are contemplating any re-evaluation of their retiree medical programs, now or in the future, should consider the impact this proposal will have on their ability to amend or terminate retiree health care benefits, if it is ultimately enacted in the final legislation.
  • IDG Connect: H-1B demand spike may signal improving outlook for skilled pros. Excerpt: Demand for H-1B visas has accelerated over the last six to eight weeks after being flat for months. This comes as the number of companies planning to increase college hiring is also on the rise. Together, the trends may be early indicators of an improving economy for skilled professionals. Throughout summer and into September, demand for H-1B visas flatlined at about 45,000 visa petitions. But on Friday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service released data showing that in two weeks alone it had received 3,300 H-1B petitions, continuing a spike that began in October that has increased the number of visas petitions to 58,900, approaching the 65,000 cap. ...

    Opponents view H-1B hiring as means to bring in young workers at lower wages and deprive U.S. workers of jobs, which was one of arguments made by the Programmers Guild in its lawsuit challenging an extension of the student visa program. Business proponents say they should be able to hire foreign students as easily as U.S. students. Offshore firms in India depend on the visa to conduct business in the U.S., a practice that may be curbed if legislation by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) if a bill they get that limits visa holders, including L-1 visas, to half of workforce. The Indian firms see any effort to restrain visas as a trade issue; Grassley and Durbin have called it " legal discrimination ."

  • The Register (United Kingdom): What ever happened to storing pics with electron cannons? Blue Blue's digital photo beam. By Austin Modine. Excerpts: This simple and self-evident truth carries over to storage systems as well. Normally, storage is a bit of bore to yours truly - yet this column can't help but make an exception to the terrific IBM 1360 Photo-Digital Storage System for two simple reasons: 1) It has an electron cannon; and importantly 2) Sorry, stepped away for a cup of coffee. Does the system still have an electron cannon? Yes? Fantastic.

    The bulky IBM 1360 includes this dangerous-sounding device for a good reason. Built in 1967, it was the first system designed from scratch to store over 1 trillion bits (~116GB). Ponder that 116GB is an OK chunk of storage even today. Then puzzle how IBM engineers built it back in the '60s. Answer: Unlike storage systems of its time (and really, any since) the 1360 stored data inside cabinets stuffed with drawers of photographic film imprinted with binary data rather than the usual methods of magnetic drums, platters, or tape. The system even contained its own internal "film processing laboratory," which developed the film automatically. The film and drawers were moved about my means of pneumatic tubes and a robotic arm. Obviously, this was a very complex rig - but it worked. Of the handful of commercial systems built, three were still being used into the late 1970s. ...

    IBM's Almaden laboratory in Silicon Valley had previously worked on system using a similar photo-storage concept for the CIA during the 1950s to store the agency's sizable library of microfilm documents. IBM peddled the idea to the Atomic Energy folk and they liked it. IBM was offered a $2.1m contract for two machines: one at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the other at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Later, two more systems were ordered for the National Security Agency and one for the Los Alamos National Lab.

  • Time Magazine: The '00s: Goodbye (at Last) to the Decade from Hell. By Andy Serwer. Excerpts: Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era. We're still weeks away from the end of '09, but it's not too early to pass judgment. Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want — just give thanks that it is nearly over.

    Calling the 2000s "the worst" may seem an overwrought label in a decade in which we fought no major wars, in historical terms. It is a sadly appropriate term for the families of the thousands of 9/11 victims and soldiers and others killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the lack of a large-scale armed conflict makes these past 10 years stand out that much more. This decade was as awful as any peacetime decade in the nation's entire history. Between the West's ongoing struggle against radical Islam and our recent near-death economic experience — trends that have largely skirted much of the developing world — it's no wonder we feel as if we've been through a 10-year gauntlet. Americans may have the darkest view of recent history, since it's in the U.S. that the effects of those trends have been most acute. If you live in Brazil or China, you have had a pretty good decade economically. Once, we were the sunniest and most optimistic of nations. No longer. ...

    For the average working stiff, it was a pretty lousy 10 years. The median household income in 2000 was $52,500. Last year (the most recent year available) it was $50,303. And given that the unemployment rate has climbed to 10.2%, income will almost certainly drop again this year. Low-income Americans fared even worse. In 2000, 11.3% of Americans were living below the poverty line. By 2008, that number had risen to 13.2%. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans without health insurance increased from 13.7% to 15.4%. ...

    Our economic narcissism was certainly the culprit in the devastation wrought by financial markets, which have subjected us to an increasingly frequent series of crashes, frauds and recessions. To a great degree, this was brought about by a lethal combination of irresponsible deregulation and accommodating monetary policies instituted by the Federal Reserve. Bankers and financial engineers had an unsupervised free-market free-for-all just as the increased complexity of financial products — e.g., derivatives — screamed out for greater regulation or at least supervision. Enron, for instance, was a bastard child of a deregulated utilities industry and a mind-bending financial alchemy.

    Historian H.W. Brands of the University of Texas points to the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 as an unfortunate tipping point of deregulation. Glass-Steagall, passed in 1933, separated investment banking and plain-vanilla banking, which some experts argued made markets safer. (Certain restrictions of Glass-Steagall were repealed to allow the merger of Citicorp and Travelers. Let's just say that didn't end well.) "That was the single moment when the seeds for the bad stuff were planted," says Brands. "There was a belief that technology, the Internet and financial instruments had changed things, and the ones selling this idea and these instruments were making a lot of money."

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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 12/02/09 Been following the board for a couple years but have not posted. 20 yr dedicated employee who stopped bleeding blue recently. I sacrificed a lot for IBM and have never been below a 2+. Always felt this was "my" company and worked like I owned a piece. Was a two way relationship for awhile. Eventually when it's not paid back the relationship changes. Never seen so much money taken at the top with so little shared where the work gets done. Profit and share price is great but we are told once again "times are tough....sorry".

      From the CEs, CSEs, PEs and "lowly" ITD sys admins and DBAs , it's been the effort of the people, not the process, that have made our customer's happy. Always hero effort going the extra mile. Now the people are punching a timecard thinking about how to get out. Feels like the stock option execs are riding on the backs of the people working 80 hour weeks. Good job Sam, enjoy your millions. If I were you I would have stopped the employee survey as well. -ComeBackLou-

      Alliance Reply: If you don't mind, I'd prefer; and I think other ex-IBMers would prefer, that "Lou" stay where he is. He's the one that started all this firing of IBMers in 1994. I was there, I know. He was the original hatchet man, who taught Sam P. everything he knows about squashing working people. He permanently damaged that feeling you have that it was "your company". No thanks.

  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 11/30/09 I was RA'ed with a PBC of two 2's in a row. The PBC means nothing. When they want to kick you out they will. I've been gone for several years now and have recurring nightmares from the experience. I've been considering going to a doctor and getting a lawyer and suing IBM for mental abuse. IBM caused some serious damage to my mental facilities. For that I will hate IBM as long as I live. -exIBMer-
    • Comment 12/01/09 Does any one know if Sammy is invited to Obama's job summit? If so, we should deluge the White House about his record on US jobs. Heck, inviting CEOs to discuss US job creation is like asking the fox to improve security at the hen house. The ironic thing about why companies are hurting is because they've undercut the US consumer (i.e. US Workers) by sending jobs overseas. The are reaping what they hath soweth. -Boulderite That's Been Wronged-
    • Comment 12/01/09 Has anyone experienced the wrath of the new bench policy? Just to make sure I have the details: after 4 weeks on the bench you get approached by management to take the severance package (at this point it is up to you to take it or continue looking for a new project), after 8 weeks you get the severance package and you are done. Is this correct? Do they try hard to push you to any project out there, to get you off the bench, or does it seem that they actually want you stick around on the bench to give them the cause to get rid of you a little later? With a lot of people hitting the bench at the end of the year it would be interesting to see how thorough IBM will be in following this policy.

      Leave of absence: Can IBM lay you off while you are on LOA? By going on LOA do you make yourself more vulnerable and IBM is more likely to pick you for the next RA after you come back? Are you allowed to work for a different company while on LOA (and if not, is there any way around it?)

      401K & Low Interest account that IBM used to contribute money to (not sure if it is considered pension): Is there anything to keep in mind/watch out for when leaving IBM? Will the lump sum amount be taxed as income? Are there any other restrictions of how you can use that money? Are there any "gotchas" when it comes to your 401K?

      As you can see I've got a lot going on and thus have tons of questions. I would really appreciate it if people can share their experiences and insights. Thanks

      Alliance Reply: In answer to your question about LOA: IBM can fire you for ANYTHING, including while you are on LOA. This is because you are an "at will employee". There are NO LABOR LAWS that will protect you from being fired while you are on LOA. IBM's rules most likely, do not allow you to work for another company while you are on LOA from IBM... probably no 'way around it'.

      You don't have an employment contract with IBM unless you are in upper management or are possibly a Band 16 or higher Specialist, Engineer, SW Architect, or whatever. You are still an "at will employee". IBM can break it's own rules and there's nothing you can do about it. Join the union, organize your co-workers and grow the numbers of union co-workers until you can legally petition the NLRB to call for an election.

      Also, 401k accounts are not considered pensions and are not protected by ERISA. 401k monies are taxed when you withdraw them from the 401k account OR after you have transferred the 401k into an IRA or an annuity and then withdraw money from the IRA or annuity.

      Also, it's not a "layoff". Layoff is a term used by union members that get laid-off from their jobs; but get called back at a later time when the company does better. IBM, by and large, does not call you back...you're fired. You don't have a union contract with a stipulation in it that allows for your return to work after you've been laid-off. I hope I have answered some of your questions.

    • Comment 12/01/09 to -ignatz713-, I support your call for Unionizing. However, I think a lot of current IBM'ers are not affected by the pension change that happened 10 years ago such as myself. Yes, I agree that the benefits have been chopped away at excessively and the one that affects me the most is the Salary. I think that it is hard to get people's attention on matters that do not affect them. No matter how much people complain about the pension, it does not affect people that were hired from 1999 and beyond. It would be nice to see a pension, but it is not going to happen in this economy and with the trade imbalances we have today.

      The world is Flat and we need equal pay for our colleagues that work in India, China, Russia, etc. And yes, we would have to see their currency values rise before that happens through attrition. I think it would matter more if the Unions focused on a World Wide Union for fair pay for equal work performed. Our counterparts are grossly underpaid. On another note, if you read the recent articles on how Indians take action in India when provoked, you would see that they have more passion about their jobs then the people here. Why? I believe because they have such a desperate life style where their US colleagues are not desperate enough to take action to form a Union. Maybe what matters is desperation, but the sad part is that no one will be desperate until their last weekly check of Unemployment is spent. -What-Matters-To-People-

    • Comment 12/01/09 I rise to defend -ignatz713. ALL IBMers including those hired today were affected by the Pension heist of 1999. Because of it YOU have no defined benefit pension. You were screwed before you even got your ID Badge. The lack of defined benefits like a pension make you a disposable asset like a pen or a staple. Use you and then throw you away. No long term commitment to you, your health, your wealth or your families. The pension in and of itself is really a physical representation of the respect for employees that was lost along with it. Something measurable and tangible.

      As far as what matters to people, I for one couldn't care less what a worker in a BRIC nation makes. It will not pay my bills, Feed my kids or pay my taxes. If you really believe the world is flat then by all means go work in a BRIC country. I am sure the BRIC workers care just as little about what we make. As long as they have jobs and are bettering themselves why should they. Just as IBM has always said they will never be the low cost service provider we will never be the cheapest source of labor. A race to the bottom of the salary ladder will destroy our economy and all the lives to depend on it.

      When America signed NAFTA and moved most manufacturing jobs out of the continental U.S. we were sold on the idea that the high tech jobs would more then make up for it. Now those are also leaving under the guise of the world is flat and a world economy. What will replace them? Swindling people on Wall Street only works when people have income to invest. Selling Real Estate only works when people have jobs.

      Where do Americans work when ALL the software and manufacturing and services jobs are overseas? Do we become a nation of drones dependent on the government to feed us? We cannot all become farmers . Hunting and Gathering does not work well in the cities. Its called robbery and looting. If we do not organize to protect jobs in America what else do we do? Hanging onto what you have while waiting for the headsman's axe to fall on you is not a good game plan. Pretending it is not going to is just as bad. Resigning yourself to what you believe is the inevitable by saying the world is flat so why bother fighting for what's right is not a long term solution either. -Boulderite-

      You assume the President is not well aware of Sammy's doings. Trust me he is. Or at least his advisors are. They simply do not care. Sammy and his ilk contribute big money to Politicians. We do not. Money talks loudest in D.C. Expect no help from there. -Exodus2007-

    • Comment 12/01/09 To exIBMer regarding "I was RA'ed with a PBC of two 2's in a row." and the mental abuse: My last rating, before I was RA'd was a 2. My last Variable Pay bonus was $5K and I got a 3% raise. Then they RA'd me. Prior to that I was a 2+, and prior to that a"strong " 2 for 6 years straight. For many of the 10,000+ there was no rhyme or reason other than they got all the PBC 3 's, many 2 's and I heard from a manager they even had to hit some 2+ 's just to make the organization 's number (GIVEN to them by the Line of Business GMs). As for the mental abuse...same here. But mine was a result of speaking out about discrimination (not being invited to meetings so they could sneak in additional scope for my team) and subtle harassment (blonde jokes, pictures of half naked biker girls and rock stars in bras blatantly displayed on the walls of TEAM LEADs.) After my complaint , I went from being a top performer, great team lead, $5K Informal Award winner to SUDDENLY "everyone on the team had something negative to say " about me. Details? Names? No, they couldn't tell me that. I Open Doored and won. I got some little note from Ginny. The OD investigation took SO LONG (2 months) I had actually found myself another job in a new division. In my Open Door exit interview with my 2nd line, she said I 'd probably get a "3 " in my new job because "I was new ". Interesting how they can determine THAT before I even STARTED.

      After my first 6 months there, that 's what I got. My first "3 " since I was hired into IBM 6 years earlier and the last "3 " I had ever gotten in the next 6 years.

      So when the PE I "matrixed reported into " on my next account started hitting on me I said nothing. I am sure he was aware of my previous complaints, and the results, and was just ready to have some real fun. He would stand in the middle of the hallway, smile, and block my passage. In crowded client meetings, he would nudge and wink at me. On 2 occasions he threatened to talk to my manager (his peer) about "what to do with me " if I continued to (do my job) and be contentious with him on work-related issues.

      Finally, this PE asked me to come over to his place so he could"drive me hard because I wasn't getting enough at home "... I said nothing because I knew the IBM routine. It would be turned around to being my fault. I think I did have 1 other IBM manager as a witness to what he said but that manager reported into this PE. Maybe that manager would admit to it now.

      Any other ladies out there with similar stories? The IBM management script is verbatim, I 've heard it in 3 different organizations, all within Global Services. "We 've talked to the team and "EVERYONE" had something negative to say about you. " This can happen right after you've been given a promotion, award, more responsibility/team to manage. No warning, discussion, nothing. I have never, to this day, EVER heard back from HR, management, or anyone else at IBM that my allegations were investigated and were not worthy of my complaint. I never heard anything about whether my allegations were real, warranted an investigation, nothing. I was just removed from my position, very publicly, and then left to fight for my reputation. So much for affirmative action or promoting women in technology. That's just for the women who shut up and put up with it.

      Anyway... if you think we can break through the RA release that, frankly, we signed under DURESS (what, not sign and get $0 in this economy?) I'm with you on a lawsuit. If your story is as ridiculous as mine, lets write a book together. I've got a stack of notes and documentation 2 inches thick. HR has seen it all so they can't sue me for slander. Love to see 'em try.

      All the rest of you...joining the union is not just about wrongful and illegal (age bias) Job Cuts and PBC ratings. This is about IBM breaking the law, year after year and getting away with it. If you are not looking to leave IBM right now you should join the union. What I 'm saying is true, this is who you work for now. Believe it. It took me 5 years before I did, and now look at me. -Retaliate to the Retaliators!-

    • Comment 12/02/09 Excellent post, -Retaliate to the Retaliators!- , thank you for sharing the truth. Too bad there are so few other boards where you can tell your story.

      >>My last rating, before I was RA'd was a 2. So was mine. Before that it was a 2+ and lowered for no good reason whatsoever by my brandy new manager who didn't have a clue what I did, and I was told I could escalate if I didn't like it. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. IF I had a contract, I would have stood a chance with the managers she sucked up to.

      >>For many of the 10,000+ there was no rhyme or reason. I would guess 'most' or 'all'. The execs just wanted to get rid of those who made too much (relatively speaking of course in relation to the overpaid execs and first line managers and suckups), were too old, and were too close to actually USING the employee health benefits that they were going to need because they gave their heart and soul and lives to for three decades. My, my, didn't we need a contract? Damn straight we did.

      >>But mine was a result of speaking out about discrimination. My, my, now isn't that interesting. You mean they don't ENCOURAGE the truth? They only reward lies and kissing up? What DO you know? Good for you for not being part of the problem.

      >>Any other ladies out there with similar stories? Wow, no, sorry. How horrific. I only had to deal with stupidity and mendacity and backstabbing and humiliation and demeaning and ignorance. I'm sorry your experience was even worse. IF you and I had a contract, think how much better off we would have been. Now's the time (for a contract), 25% who don't kiss a**. If not now (for a contract), then keep reading here and be prepared to tell your horror stories, if you have the stones that is.

      >>If you are not looking to leave IBM right now you should join the union. Amen, sister.

      >>What I 'm saying is true, this is who you work for now. Amen, sister. After three decades, I couldn't believe what my manager and her henchman team leader did to me. But did it they did, and happily because they kept their jobs.

      >>Believe it. It took me 5 years before I did, and now look at me. Once again, amen sister. As the poster on another board said, NOW IS THE TIME TO UNIONIZE. -ignatz713-

    • Comment 12/02/09 To Curious in VA re: voluntary separations. In general, no, if you have a good relationship with your mgr, you might be able to work out for you to be picked. A good mgr should prefer picking a volunteer, too bad good mgrs are a minority. The latest rumor uses acronym BOLD=BuyOuts, Layoffs, Dismissals, so there is hope for you. Since it would result in the savings IBM is looking for I don't understand why IBM wouldn't offer BuyOuts unless upper mgmt just likes screwing the little people. -QTR_CENTURY-
    • Comment 12/03/09 To Retaliate to the Retaliators!, Thank you for your post. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the IBM abuse. The sexual abuse you endured should not be tolerated. It sounds like you have a good case for a sexual abuse lawsuit. I am having trouble sleeping at night from all the abuse I endured at IBM. I wake up just about every night with nightmares about my IBM experience. I am a little reluctant discussing it here since I want to talk to a doctor and lawyer first. Best of luck with your recovery from IBM and new life. -exIBMer-
    • Comment 12/05/09 That little stirring you feel in your heart when you see your coworkers, friends and country get systematically abused, mistreated, fired and replaced for cheaper labor, and those left in your group under funded, understaffed, and grossly overworked to pick up the pieces; when the company cheats workers of benefits through co-employment schemes, then robs the rest of their pensions; not because the company is doing poorly, but in times where the stock price continues to rise on record profits; and you see these things done not for the long-term good of the company, but only for short-term greed and executive rape - that little stirring is God's way of reminding you of your sense of decency, morality and human dignity.

      No more US layoffs! "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing". Let us not assassinate this country further, Mr. Palmisano. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? -Joe Punchclock-

  • 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
    • Comment 11/29/09: Band Level = 7 Message = Without good political support or a "seasoned support group", fighting a PBC is difficult. If the PBC is 3 with all negative comments, I would probably try fighting the evaluation. If it is a 2 with comments that are not bad, then let it go. It sounds like there has been turmoil, which has affected climate of the work area. It sounds like there has been mgt change and fuzzy lines as to who is in charge. There might also be a significant degree of personality clash. However, as a seasoned employee, I have maintained a high degree of comprehensive work on "keeping clients happy" and helpfulness to clients and peer team members in my work. The thing to notice here is pointing out Climate, and personality clash, but continued same high level of professionalism on my part. Working in IBM is like a marriage gone bad, but have a dependence for shelter and food. The only thing left is "play nice" and join this union. -Young Lady-
    • Comment 11/29/09: Band Level = was 8; Years Service = 25.42; Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr PBC = RA'ed; This Yr Bonus = 0; Message =".. If it is a 2 with comments that are not bad, then let it go.." Being satisfied with a PBC 2 means you don't mind being one step from a PBC 3 and the ramifications of it. PBC 2 is just one step from being "managed out" of IBM. Not that PBC 2+ are immune from being managed out or RA'ed: they are not. I ought to know. PBC 2: you have no shot at any raise, even if that raise is 1% or so. PBC 2: you have no chance of a promotion ever. If you feel you are a PBC 2+ or higher than I would be vocal about it. What do you really have to lose by tooting your own horn? -sby_willie-
  • International Comments
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • New York Times op-ed: Are We Going to Let John Die? By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpts: If Joe Lieberman or other senators came across John Brodniak writhing in pain on the sidewalk, they presumably would jump to help him and rush him to a hospital. Unfortunately, an emergency room won’t help — indeed, the closest E.R. has told him not to come back, he says. So, for those members of Congress who are wavering on health reform, listen to John’s story.

    John is a sawmill worker from Yamhill County, Ore., where I grew up. He was a foreman at a mill, he felt strong and healthy, and he had very basic insurance coverage through his job. On April 18, he was married, at age 23, and life was looking up.

    Ten days after the wedding, he was walking in his backyard carrying a neighbor’s dog — and he suddenly blacked out. That led, after rounds of CAT scans, M.R.I.’s and other tests, to the discovery that the left parietal lobe of his brain has a cavernous hemangioma. That’s an abnormal growth of blood vessels, and in John’s case it is chronically leaking blood into his brain. John began to have trouble walking and would sometimes collapse. He developed spasms and restless leg syndrome, he began to use a cane, and his mind suffered. ...

    With John unable to work, he lost his job — and his insurance coverage. Esther had insurance for herself and for her two children (from a previous marriage) through her job building manufactured homes. But she couldn’t add John to her plan because of his pre-existing condition. Without insurance, John has been unable to get surgery or even help managing the pain. When he collapses or suffers particularly excruciating headaches, Esther rushes him to the emergency room of one hospital or another, but an E.R. can’t do much for him. One hospital has told them not to come back unless he gets insurance, they say.

    Esther used up her family leave time to look after her new husband. “Then I went back to work, and he fell several times,” she said. “I told my boss that I had to quit. Taking care of John was more important than building someone else’s house.” That meant that the couple had no income — and no insurance for anyone in the family, including the children. Neighbors have helped, and a community program has paid the rent so that they are not homeless. But bills are piling up, and John and Esther don’t know how they will cope.

    The doctors warn that pressure from the growth could lead a major blood vessel nearby to burst, killing him. “They tell me I’m a time bomb,” John said. With a touch of bitterness, he adds, “It sort of feels as if they’re playing for time to see if it bursts, to save them from doing anything.” ...

    John says the principal obstacle to treatment appears to be simply his lack of insurance. In August, he qualified for an Oregon Medicaid program, but he hasn’t been able to find a doctor who will accept him as a patient for surgery, apparently because the reimbursements are so low. Doctors tell him that his condition is operable — but that they can’t accept him without conventional insurance. He is increasingly frustrated as he watches his family crushed by the burden of his illness. ...

    John’s story is not so unusual. A Harvard study, to be published next month in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests that almost 45,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a consequence of not having insurance. John may become one of them. If a senator strolled indifferently by as John retched in pain, we would think that person pitiless. But isn’t it just as monstrous for politicians to avert their eyes, make excuses and deny coverage to innumerable Americans just like John?

  • Forbes: HMO Implant Nightmare: Batteries Not Included. By David Whelan. To succeed, ObamaCare will have to do something about capricious denials of care by big insurers. Excerpts: If John Grisham were looking to write about health care reform he might be inspired by a recent federal lawsuit filed in Mississippi against the local Blue Cross & Blue Shield and the Electric Power Association's benefits plan. The lawsuit provides a window into the chaos created by America's piecemeal insurance market. Workers face an ever-shifting array of health benefits that change each year at open enrollment time as employers shop around for better deals. What's covered in 2008 suddenly may not be in 2009.

    Plaintiff Paige Riley, 42, is an extreme example of what can happen as a result. She alleges that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi refused to cover an operation to replace the batteries of a stomach-pain device she had surgically implanted in 2005. As a result, Riley had to fork over the $43,364.27 cost in cash. ...

    Her husband's employer, Electric Power Association, covered the first operation and a second operation to put in new batteries in 2007. But by the time Riley needed a third operation to get another set of batteries this spring, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi was the plan administrator for the Power Association. It ruled that the Enterra was experimental and refused to cover the new batteries, the lawsuit says. Appeals were denied, according to the lawsuit filed in federal district court in Jackson, Mississippi on Nov. 10.

  • Kaiser Health News: Seven Things You Didn't Know Were In The Senate Health Bill. By Mary Agnes Carey, Phil Galewitz and Laurie McGinley. Excerpt: Pay attention: The "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" -- better known as the Senate health care overhaul bill – is chock full of interesting but little publicized provisions affecting consumers. Sure, the bill is mainly a blueprint for overhauling the insurance system. But look closely and you'll see a variety of items that would affect people from the cradle to old age – from breast pump use to retiree health benefits. It's a congressional tradition, adding pet interests that otherwise might not pass to a big bill that at least will be put up for a vote.
  • ComputerWorld: Harvard study: Computers don't save hospitals money. By Lucas Mearian. Excerpts: Himmelstein and his team of researchers pored over data on computerization at approximately 4,000 hospitals between 2003 and 2007 from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, along with administrative cost data from Medicare Cost Reports and cost and quality data from the 2008 Dartmouth Health Atlas. Himmelstein, who was once the director of clinical computing at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts, wrote that the misconception that computerization brings cost savings in hospitals is not new. He pointed to ads by IBM and Lockheed Corp. from the 1960s and 1970s touting computerization as a way to reduce paperwork and improve health care. In the 1990s, experts also espoused the benefits of computerized patient records, saying they would be adopted quickly and yield huge administrative savings.

    In 2005, one analyst group projected annual savings of $77.8 billion through computerization; another predicted more than $81 billion in savings, as well as a big improvement in health. Today, the federal government's health information technology Web site proclaims that the "broad use of health IT will: improve health care quality; prevent medical errors; reduce health care costs; increase administrative efficiencies; decrease paperwork; and expand access to affordable care." ...

    "For 45 years or so, people have been claiming computers are going to save vast amounts of money and that the payoff was just around the corner," he said. "So the first thing we need to do is stop claiming things there's no evidence for. It's based on vaporware and [hasn't been] shown to exist or shown to be true." ...

    Himmelstein, who was once the director of clinical computing at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts, wrote that the misconception that computerization brings cost savings in hospitals is not new. He pointed to ads by IBM and Lockheed Corp. from the 1960s and 1970s touting computerization as a way to reduce paperwork and improve health care. In the 1990s, experts also espoused the benefits of computerized patient records, saying they would be adopted quickly and yield huge administrative savings.

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.

  • Wall Street Journal: No More Executive Bonuses! The problem isn't that they are poorly designed. The problem is that they exist. By Henry Mintzberg. Excerpts: These days, it seems, there is no shortage of recommendations for fixing the way bonuses are paid to executives at big public companies. Well, I have my own recommendation: Scrap the whole thing. Don't pay any bonuses. Nothing.

    This may sound extreme. But when you look at the way the compensation game is played—and the assumptions that are made by those who want to reform it—you can come to no other conclusion. The system simply can't be fixed. Executive bonuses—especially in the form of stock and option grants—represent the most prominent form of legal corruption that has been undermining our large corporations and bringing down the global economy. Get rid of them and we will all be better off for it.

    The failings of the current system—and the executives who live by it—are painfully obvious. Although these executives like to think of themselves as leaders, when it comes to their pay practices, many of them haven't been demonstrating leadership at all. Instead they've been acting like gamblers—except that the games they play are hopelessly rigged in their favor.

    First, they play with other people's money—the stockholders', not to mention the livelihoods of their employees and the sustainability of their institutions.

    Second, they collect not when they win so much as when it appears that they are winning—because their company's stock price has gone up and their bonuses have kicked in. In such a game, you make sure to have your best cards on the table, while you keep the rest hidden in your hand. ...

    All too often, financial measures are a convenient substitute used by disconnected executives who don't know what else to do—including how to manage more deeply. Or worse, such measures encourage abuse from impatient CEOs, who can have a field day cashing in that goodwill by cutting back on maintenance and customer service, "downsizing" experienced employees while others are left to "burn out," trashing valued brands, and so on. Quickly the measured costs are reduced while slowly the institution deteriorates. ...

    Put differently, executive compensation these days reinforces a class structure within the enterprise that is antithetical to its effective functioning. Because of its symbolic nature, executive compensation as currently practiced sends out the worst possible signal to everyone in the enterprise. ...

    Too many large corporations today are starved for leadership—true leadership, meaning engaged leadership embedded in concerned management. And the global economy desperately needs renewed enterprise, embedded in the belief that companies are communities. Getting rid of executive bonuses, and the gambling games that accompany them, is the place to start.

  • New York Times opinion: The Jobs Imperative. By Paul Krugman. Excerpt: If you’re looking for a job right now, your prospects are terrible. There are six times as many Americans seeking work as there are job openings, and the average duration of unemployment — the time the average job-seeker has spent looking for work — is more than six months, the highest level since the 1930s.

    You might think, then, that doing something about the employment situation would be a top policy priority. But now that total financial collapse has been averted, all the urgency seems to have vanished from policy discussion, replaced by a strange passivity. There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers. This is wrong and unacceptable.

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.

This site is designed to allow IBM Employees to communicate and share methods of protecting their rights through the establishment of an IBM Employees Labor Union. Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act states it is a violation for Employers to spy on union gatherings, or pretend to spy. For the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, notice is given that this site and all of its content, messages, communications, or other content is considered to be a union gathering.