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Highlights—December 25, 2010

  • Associated Press, courtesy of Forbes: IBM spends $1M on lobbying in 3Q. Excerpts: IBM Corp. spent $1.0 million on lobbying in the third quarter, up slightly from the $850,000 the technology company spent in the same quarter in 2009. In the latest period, IBM lobbied on issues such as the use of information technology in transportation and the power grid, funding for research and the military, along with patent and tax issues. The government bodies lobbied included Congress, the Departments of Transportation and Defense and Health and Human Services, among others...

    Christopher Padilla, an IBM vice president and a former Commerce Department official, is listed as one of IBM's lead lobbyists on many issues.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Liquidation of IBM Benefits Plan for Retirees" by Anthony Nieli. Full excerpt: I agree with your conclusion completely. It's a shame we have to think about hurrying our lives (or our spouses lives) because of this. Assuming ObamaCare doesn't get repealed, 2014 may be too late for my spouse, if they drop medical in 2012. One major illness could easily bankrupt anyone.

    I remember when I was hired 40 years ago, the recruiter telling me that my wife and I would have "cradle to grave" benefits, and a job as long as I performed well. Although I was always a "1" or "2" performer, that didn't stop them from "easing" me out, by changing the rules in 1993, when Hatchet "Lou" Gerstner of "Barbarians at the Gate" fame, took over. As a Senior Systems Engineer, they ignored evaluations, and instead came up with some crazy formula supposedly indicating "revenue contributions", and of course, the higher you were, the higher the revenue that they expected.

    Not being a sales Rep, SE's didn't really have much that they could do to affect that number, so instead of getting rid of the sales reps, they got rid of the SE's, then made us sign papers saying essentially that we were ok with it, etc.

    IBM is not the company that you and I signed up for, that's for sure. all we can do is pray that we all made it to Medicare, as you said, without going bankrupt. Maybe we should throw our citizenship papers away, head to Mexico, then cross back illegally, and let Obama pay our medicare, etc. It's disgusting.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Liquidation of IBM Benefits Plan for Retirees" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: If IBM liquidates its retiree plans, then the Patient Protection Act is your best friend. And if you left IBM in your 50's or early 60's, your FHA won't last till Medicare. Again, the Patient Protection Act is your lifeline. You love your Social Security. You love your Medicare. Why not the Patient protection Act? Why so sour? I don't get it.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Another thought on why outsourcing is occurring..." by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: In my organization by executive mandate, the highest band an IT architect can be is a band 8. A band 8 IT architect can neither be promoted nor allowed to transfer to another organization to be eligible for promotion. You are stuck until your job goes offshore. Technical career path my ass.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Another thought on why outsourcing is occurring..." by "lastdino1". Full excerpt: Yes job family has a little to do with salary but the band is the main driver. When I left the plan was to bring the 2+ and 2 PBC ratings to 30%/70% so that almost no 2's got a raise and even some percentage of 2+'s didn't get one. I suspect by now no 2's are getting a raise and the percentage of 2+ to 2's is maybe 20/80. Not a good story but better then UI. Life is Good
  • TechRepublic: Dinosaur sighting: The days of Big Iron. By Jaime Henriquez. Excerpt: In the early 1970s, I worked in operations at Montgomery Ward's computer center in Chicago. It was the era of Big Iron, dominated by IBM, whose System/360 line of mainframe computers was used by government, larger corporations, and big universities. If you were part of this era, the images in this gallery may bring back a lot of memories. (Editor's note: The photos shown in this article are a trip down memory lane for old-time IBMers. )
  • TechRepublic: 10 things I miss about Big Iron. By Jaime Henriquez. Excerpt: In the early 1970s, I worked in operations at Montgomery Ward’s computer center in Chicago. It was the era of Big Iron, dominated by IBM, whose System/360 line of mainframe computers was used by government, larger corporations, and big universities. Much has improved since then. Still, thinking back to that time, there are some things I miss.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Lots of smart people, but demotivated by a finance-driven controlling corporate culture.” Pros: Smart people. Opportunity to work on interesting technologies. Generally good relationship between people. Good training for managers. Cons: Bureaucracy driven from the top by finance and risk aversion, with no consideration for human factors. Large amount of control and reporting. Slow decision process. Results in low morale, low productivity and inability to innovate. Advice to Senior Management: Give more autonomy to managers to do the right thing. Reduce number of approvals required to do anything.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Good work-life balance, fair if unspectacular compensation, good benefits, very bureaucratic.” Pros: - Good work-life balance, including flex time - Horizontal movement options, vertical movement more difficult - Co-workers generally are bright, helpful, friendly Cons: - Infinite layers of management, sometimes cross-matrixed mgmt = too many managers - Token, miniscule raises - Domestic layoffs, moving jobs overseas, cost-cutting (e.g. no business class travel, no reimbursement for home office expenses, etc.) Advice to Senior Management: Almost everyone I know at IBM is looking and will jump ship if an opportunity presents itself.
    • IBM Anonymous in San Jose, CA: (Current Employee) “IBM Cottle Road.” Pros: Access to develop large projects, large spend opportunities. Cons: no opportunity for advancement, more work less people, demeaning management.
    • IBM IT Architect in Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo (Brazil): (Current Employee) “Ok place to work, but beware of inflexible corporate culture.” Pros: - Good opportunities for career growth - Makes it easy for changing job roles and positions - Career path is well-defined - Broad business vision. Cons: - Salaries lower than competitors; especially if you are a long time employee - Too much competition within the company; hurts overall business strategy - Many layers of management and overlapping job roles - Inefficiency of resources and slow response to market changes - HW e SW divisions still depend on mainframe sales - Cross reporting makes employees waste time keeping multiple managers up to date. Advice to Senior Management: Reduce number of management layers and cross reporting. Speed up product development and invest in making employees more productive, with less administrative overhead.
    • IBM IT Architect in Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo (Brazil): (Current Employee) “Hard work, lack of support and no finance recompense for technical jobs.” Pros: - technical challenging; - huge customers; - work with some edge technological products; - some great software products and interesting methodologies Cons: - No finance recompense for technical jobs; - No recognition - No real carrier growth path; Advice to Senior Management: - Stop being so greed and start investing on human capital; - Focus again on being a excellent technological company; - Give real recognition to employees, mainly technicians, not only to managers.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2009) “How the mighty have fallen.” Pros: flexible work environment decent benefits - and perks (discounts on products - IBM and its customers) many locations worldwide. Cons: too big not making anything anymore, just buying companies and taking their IP too many layoffs to create a false bottom line for the market poor senior management. Advice to Senior Management: go back to what made IBM a great place to work and a great company to hire/buy from...make something, make it well, and do it with pride
    • IBM Anonymous in Armonk, NY: (Past Employee - 2010) “About as life fulfilling as watching a clock.” Pros: Great work life balance. Large breath of job opportunities. Cons: Boring environment. Everyone is old. Most jobs in Armonk and Somers New York area, which is in the middle of nowhere. Stuck eating at the building cafeteria for lunch. It's easy to get stuck there as the great work-life balance almost compels you to continue working there for below average pay. Advice to Senior Management: If you got to the top, do not leave. You have it easy and we both know it.
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • To Alliance@IBM supporters: The Alliance is the only organization that advocates and supports IBM employees and ex-employees. In fact, there are few like it in the Information Technology field. It is always difficult to keep an organization like this alive, but as a supporter you know how important it is that we exist. We are calling on you today to help keep us alive another year by joining as a member or associate member. See our online forms below. As our membership has dropped, it is imperative that we gain new members or this organization and web site will cease to exist. Help us keep our organizing and advocacy work alive!
  • General Visitor Comments: Due to a lack of membership growth the comment sections will be closed until we see sufficient growth in full membership, associate membership or donations. Many of you that visit our site have not yet joined, but seem to value its existence. The only comment section that will remain open will be Job Cuts Reports. If you have information that you want the Alliance to know about please send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com. Information of importance will be put on the front page of this web site. To join go here: Join The Alliance! or here: Join The Alliance!
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 12/22/10: Re Dubuque Craigslist rave - in my opinion, not IBM's, Dubuque is just a red herring set-up to give the impression that IBM is investing in US workers and infrastructure. You may only be there as a puppet to demonstrate a handful of US jobs were created. However the GDF purpose was and is to fool US IBMers and the state and federal government. When Dubuque GDF was first announced some of us heard certain job categories would be moving there, such as "admin" activities. However, I only know of 1 out of 25 of these jobs in my organization really went to Dubuque; the rest went to unskilled, intern level India, Brazil, Argentina and other remote country resources instead. As for the GDF plans, moving US regional data center operations to Dubuque, we saw warnings that US SDC folks would have to rejoin an existing data center, then later take pay cuts and move at their own expense to the Dubuque GDF. Well, I saw lay-offs of delivery and data center friends but I've seen no evidence of a migration of existing skilled delivery folks going to Dubuque GDF. I expect Dubuque will remain a cheap skeleton of what a real IBM data center should be. IBM will not invest in you, sorry to say. If IBM is hiring cheapest overseas labor, not even skilled or even train them, why would they invest in a more expensive US resource? -Whoopee-
    • Comment 12/24/10: Has anyone noticed that someone being RAed instantly becomes "persona non grata" in IBM? Outcasted. Ignored. Swept aside. Treated as something perhaps less than human. For instance, folks that get RAed get no help from their management recommending them for another work assignment in IBM, no letter or memo .cc'ed to their peers thanking them for their loyal service, they get no proper and dignified send off that some folks that leave the company for another opportunity usually get like a luncheon. Etc. etc.. I personally knew someone who made the Quarter Century Club during the time he was RAed and got no mention of it to his peers like other IBMers traditional get. His book also had no congratulatory letters in it. It's sickening. It's degrading. Let's get a union and restore basic human dignity in IBM for 2011. -IBManagedOut-
    • Comment 12/25/10: IBM has been on a downhill death spiral for at least 10 years. Sam's method for keeping the stock price up has been to cut US jobs and offshore them overseas. You people still with IBM really need to wise up. Until you ban together and form a union this abuse to US employees will continue. It is sad how Sam thinks he is good for America. Until he stops the US job cuts and starts creating US jobs he is clearly bad for America. Join the Alliance and support a Union! -True Blue-
News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
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: Estate Tax Will Return Next Year, but Few Will Pay It. By Paul Sullivan. Excerpts: Almost no one will have to worry about paying the estate tax under the tax legislation just approved by Congress. By one estimate, from Alan Rothschild, the chairman of the American Bar Association’s real property, trust and estate law section, less than one-half of 1 percent of people who die in 2011 will be hit by the estate tax. In contrast, 10.5 percent paid the estate tax in 1977.

    And even for the very few who will be subject to the tax, the increase in the gift tax exemption will allow them to give their heirs tens of millions of dollars before the estate tax even comes into play. “I think people will be seizing the opportunity for next year,” said Carol Kroch, head of wealth and financial planning at Wilmington Trust. ...

    Much is being made of how low the estate tax rate is above the $5 million exemption. Dan Kesten, a lawyer at Davis & Gilbert in New York, pointed out that a $100 million estate would pay $20 million less in taxes in 2011 than it would have if Congress had not acted and the estate tax had reverted to its 2001 level — a 55 percent tax rate for individual estates larger than $1 million. ...

    The real benefit to the extremely rich is the increase in the gift tax exemption to $5 million from $1 million. To a couple who have given money away to the limit of the old exemption, this means they can pass an extra $8 million to their heirs free of tax. “That’s changing an awful lot of plans,” said Kacy Gott, chief planning officer at Aspiriant, a wealth management firm. “Now, with a two-year window, we’re expecting a lot of gifts.”

  • truthout: Make Members of Congress Wear NASCAR Patches. By Thom Hartmann. Excerpts: The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group. — Franklin D. Roosevelt ...

    All of this is a way of saying that I am a somewhat typical “serial entrepreneur,” and fortunately we have a lot of them in America. They are generally middle-class people (my dad worked in a tool-and-die shop for 40 years, and my mom was a full-time homemaker with four sons), they generally do not have an inheritance or family money to draw on, and yet they spend their lives pursuing the American Dream.

    I have never relied on a member of Congress or a government agency to do me a favor or bend the rules. I have never given campaign contributions to politicians in hopes of getting favors that would help my business. I have never hired a lobbyist to try to amend laws that would serve my financial interest. And this is generally true of all the hundreds of thousands of sole proprietors and partnerships and small businesses across America.

    But that is not how big-time corporate America operates. To them making large campaign contributions and spending millions of dollars each year on lobbyists is just another investment that pays off handsomely. Their motto (in behavior, if not in fact) is You’ve got to pay to play.

    This flood of corporate money and influence in our government makes for a decidedly uneven playing field for businesses as well as taints and corrupts our government. Unfortunately, the trend is moving in the direction of allowing even more money to encroach into our politics, thanks to the Supreme Court. The absolutely necessary solution here is to bring honesty and transparency to our politics. ...

    As I noted in my book Unequal Protection, as of 2009 there were roughly 64 registered lobbyists for every member of Congress—more than 34,750 in total—and 138 of them are former members of Congress. Include state lobbyists, and there are more than 60,000 (because of variations in state laws on what is or isn’t a lobbyist, and who and how they should register, this may well be a significant underestimate: nobody really knows the true number.)

    Senator Bernie Sanders noted on my radio show during the Senate debates on financial services industry regulation that the banking industry was spending more than $1 million per day on lobbying and had hired more than 250 former members of Congress to lobby their peers, including people who had previously been considered to have highly ethical and spotless reputations like former Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.

  • Wall Street Journal: Sotheby's Hammers the Bears. By John Jannarone. Excerpt: There is an ageless debate over whether art imitates life, or vice versa. But one thing is clear: When life is good for the rich, the art market is sure to follow. Just a year ago, auction-house Sotheby's was expected to make only $37 million in net income during 2010. Fast forward 12 months, and the crisis is only a memory for the seriously rich. Sotheby's auctions netted $4.3 billion this year, a 90% increase from 2009. Analysts expect that to translate into four times as much net income as they expected, or $148 million.
  • truthout: Obama to the Corporate Powers: I Feel Your Pain. By Jim Hightower. Full excerpt: Guess who's whining the loudest these days, wailing that they're getting a raw deal from Barack Obama. Not the unemployed and barely employed - even though the White House has blithely ignored their critical need for a national jobs program. Not the poor, even though their ranks are swelling as millions of Americans fall out of the middle class.

    No, no, the most insistent demand for attention is coming from way above the poor and the middle class. Believe it or not, it's the CEOs of Americas biggest corporations and the top bankers of Wall Street who're stamping their little Gucci-clad feet, bawling that they should be getting more love and support from the president.

    It seems that the feelings of these precious ones have been hurt by Obama's occasional condemnation of the stupefying greed that's been shown by the likes of health insurance executives and Wall Street banksters. As one CEO put it, Obama's attitude "felt too much like we were the bad guys."

    Yoo-hoo, Mr. Multimillionaire Executive, YOU ARE! Corporate chieftains are ruthlessly downsizing the middle class, carelessly polluting our air and water, gleefully destroying our democracy by using their corrupting corporate money to buy our government and generally feeling entitled to run roughshod over everyone -- all while pocketing obscene levels of wealth for themselves. Yet they're the ones crying?

    Those guys are pathetic - they're a bunch of narcissists with a sense of entitlement. Obama ought to send each of them a box of Kleenex and tell 'em to go to hell. But unfortunately, he's no Harry Truman. So instead, he's giving in to them!

    "(I intend) to make clear to the business community," he recently announced, "that the most important thing we can do is to boost and encourage our business sector." Hello ... they're doing fine. The most important thing you can do is boost America's middle class.

    Obama's helping not only multimillionaire corporate CEOs. He's also helping their friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Of all the groups in America that need the president of the U.S. on its side, you'd think the last to win a pledge of support would be the Chamber.

    After all, this outfit, which is largely funded and run by a handful of America's biggest corporations, has become the most powerful lobbying force in Washington - and one of the richest front groups funneling secret corporate cash into our elections. Indeed, it poured tens of millions of those dollars into campaign ads this fall to demonize the president and turn the U.S. House over to anti-Obama Republicans.

    Yet, the day after the election, the Chamber found itself being wooed by the White House. The president even dispatched his treasury secretary to the Chamber's opulent headquarters to eat crow and promise that, henceforth, Obama and Team would be more corporate friendly.

    Good grief! Friendlier than Obama's Wall Street reform that coddled the big banksters, or his health care reform that further entrenches profiteering insurance giants inside the system? Or the tax bill cave-in that needlessly awards billions of dollars in special breaks for corporations and rich CEOs?

    Yes. So friendly that Obama is now holding an ongoing series of closed-door policy meetings with assorted CEOs. So friendly that he's already delayed regulations to strengthen anti-pollution rules. So friendly that his deficit-reduction panel proposes cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 26 percent. So friendly that he's planning to put a high-powered CEO right inside the White House with him, as demanded by the whining corporate powers who say they're not getting enough love from the president.

    Why do they get a special presidential slot? Why not one for labor, small farmers, consumers, the unemployed? Remind me again -- is this guy a Democrat?

  • New York Times op-ed: The Big (Military) Taboo. By Nicholas D. Kristoff. Excerpts: We face wrenching budget cutting in the years ahead, but there’s one huge area of government spending that Democrats and Republicans alike have so far treated as sacrosanct. It’s the military/security world, and it’s time to bust that taboo. A few facts:
    • The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.
    • The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?
    • The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.
    • The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined. ...

    Let me be clear: I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy. The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous. ...

    Paradoxically, it’s often people with experience in the military who lead the way in warning against overinvestment in arms. It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” And in the Obama administration, it is Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has argued that military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny; it is Secretary Gates who has argued most eloquently for more investment in diplomacy and development aid. ...

    They should remind themselves that in the 21st century, our government can protect its citizens in many ways: financing research against disease, providing early childhood programs that reduce crime later, boosting support for community colleges, investing in diplomacy that prevents costly wars. As we cut budgets, let’s remember that these steps would, on balance, do far more for the security of Americans than a military base in Germany.

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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