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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—May 21, 2011

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Fortune Magazine deletes comments on Sam's and Ginny's Articles" by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: Fortune magazine has deleted all comments on Sam Palmisano's article. It was an amazing read while it lasted. At last count over 200 negative comments (and they were growing daily) from sources all over the world - Brazil, Italy, Germany, UK and more. We all know where Fortune's fortune resides - not in the employee's of large corporations, but in a corporation's advertising budget. So now at least we know the words "free press" should not apply to Fortune - it is "expensive press" to be sold to the highest bidder.

    Editor's note: Some of the (now deleted from the Fortune site) comments are available in the March 12, 2011 version of these highlights. Following are some comments that have been posted since Fortune purged the original comments:

    • Schlubb Didubb, 05/09/2011 04:07 PM Where have the old comments gone? Were they deleted because they were - rightly - critical of IBM and Palmisano?
    • Salagatle, 05/10/2011 04:41 AM So, we can assume that the management of CNN Money have been forced into deleting all of the comments that were posted here. We can therefore further assume that any articles posted here will not be to the benefit of, or in the interest of their readers/investors, as the "Truth" can be deleted... Now we know - we will watch. As for the real story, those of us who know, know, and will post our opinions on websites that honor our right to comment!
    • TruthWatson, 05/10/2011 10:29 AM SHAME on the editors for deleting the HUNDREDS of truthful comments from IBM employees and ex-IBM employees from around the world who offered a peak behind the veil of Sam's IBM.

      Let me summarize what I read here last week. Yes. Sam's done a great job increasing shareholder value, but as the (now deleted) comments in this forum suggested, while Sam has been compensated $40 million over the past two years, IBM employees have been told there is no budget for raises. While shareholders are awarded record dividends, IBM tells their developers there is no budget to replace 4-year-old computers.

      IBM used to be a great company to work for and was a good investment for the past few years, but how much longer can Sam squeeze and neglect his employees for the benefit of shareholders?

    • IusTertii, 05/10/2011 11:38 PM Other deleted comments showed that IBM's profits/earnings per share etc under Sam have been climbing for years, while revenue has been essentially flat. The only way to do this is to be constantly cutting costs, which is not a long term sustainable business model. The constant trimming of staff benefits is sapping morale as well.
    • jackx1955, 05/12/2011 10:20 AM Shame on you CNN Money, shame on IBM and Sam Palmisano. It is ridiculous to delete all 200+ previous comments. We call it censorship which is a strong indicator for dependent Press of totalitarian systems. It couldn't been worse in China. How much did Sam pay you? It would have been wise to spend the money for his employees instead of paying you. He could also have learned from all these very sound comments. This could have had a positive influence on future comments. But he failed - again
    • Singerw1, 05/15/2011 09:08 AM To the editor(s): please let us (truthfully) know why the old 200+ comments have been deleted. Thank you in advance for your openness.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Raises?" by "trexibmer". Excerpts: Anyone hear yet what their IBM raise might be? Remember, even though IBM had record profits, and IBM's EPS targets are getting higher and higher, most of you will get little or no raises. And you IBM retirees can't add to the profits anymore, and are an expense and burden to IBM, so you can forget getting any COLA.

    Understand IBM has to do this to supposedly stay competitive in a tough global marketplace since the EPS is not as high as IBM wants it. It makes more bonus money and better stock option exercise money for the IBM executives the only employees in IBM that are not referred to as resources. And, you as a resource, or FTE work widget, should feel good about this: Sam THANKS YOU you for your hard work and understanding on this. This thank you should be enough compensation for not getting a raise.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "What was your greatest surprise?" by "fadedblue89". Full excerpt: I'm very close to pulling the trigger on retirement. I've done tons of reading and research, met with the financial planner many times, and at this point believe I have a good grasp of how things are supposed to unfold. So I have a plan, and we all know plans are just that -plans- and many times the reality is much different.

    What were your surprises on your way out the door? What new things became clear 30 days or so out? I'm looking for information that you've all discovered the hard way. Thanks!

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by Gary Brown. Full excerpt: My surprises: Unable to easily find a financial planner that was not on commission for a firm. Drugs from outside USA can save lots of money. Found easy ways to make money from hobbies (i.e., removing viruses and tuning computers). Annuities are commission-loaded and foolish. AARP makes a lot of money selling insurance. Never really retired in 2000; I went to a small 12-employee company and am still using customer service skills started in in 1966. Met many grumpy IBM retirees that had no outside hobbies or hardly exercised, Gary, 65
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by Sheila Beaudry. Full excerpt: The major factor for us was not understanding or being forewarned by anyone that when you retire they put you into a different medical retiree insurance pool which costs a lot more than the active employee pool. The costs also rapidly increased due to the cap they put on it. First it was $300/month for the two of us and 7 years later it is $1300/month. Of course this only applies to those fortunate to get any retiree medical. We will probably being paying $15,000/year before we can get Medicare.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "mjdeb2". Full excerpt: The increased cost of medical coverage as a retiree.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: My greatest surprise really was how little money you need to live on. If you have no debt, no mortgage and have an empty nest. Add up what you have to pay for (property tax, medical insurance premium, heating oil, whatever). Then determine your "nice to have" costs that you can be flexible about. If your budget has money left over you can plan the big cost extras like a vacation trip.

    I also spent the first months of "retirement" reducing costs by things like getting new quotes for house/car insurance and getting them from the same insurer - and taking AARP's safe driving course to add to the discounts. The best choice for me was AAA Mid-Atlantic, that throws in a loyalty discount for being an AAA member. They have a great rating with the state. I also dropped my land line phone and now have a "free" phone by signing up for the cable company triple-play discount - this promo was extended thanks to serious competition in my area (NY Metro region).

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "DC". Full excerpt: The only surprise has been the steadily increasing retiree contribution to medical insurance (for not yet medicare eligible) --- currently $1600/mo for self and spouse.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: Fadedblue89, I don't think I had any great surprises heading out the door. My situation is a second choicer with FHA which can make a difference if you are looking for "surprises" as I find a lot of folks seem real confused about FHA and if they even have an account or how to use it. This group kept me well informed on what I could/couldn't do with that.

    For FHA the minimum surprise was how much cheaper Cobra (100+ percent of current plan) was than paying for IBM's retiree health coverage through FHA. Final decision was to go on my wife's plan for the time being and probably then Cobra there when she retires and after that move back to FHA funded IBM health benefits. The risk is that IBM could dump FHA and leave me high and dry with worthless FHA dollars - my gamble that I will shake my head over if it happens, but that is our route to make it to Medicare qualification as least expensively as we can.

    One thing I did learn is that a Medicare decisions is a critical decision when that comes up between the two plans. I will be sure and get further information when that date arrives. It appears that I could move from my wife's plan back to FHA medicare, but not the reverse. So that decision will be a critical one that I haven't dug into yet but will dig deeper when that date arrives. So that could be a nasty surprise if not considered. As always leave some money in the FHA - don't run it dry as that is a criteria for getting back on (anyone out there that sees any errors in this, let me know.)

    Also, have them run an estimate of what your "net check" will be after taxes and everything you are considering. Do not look at the gross - don't be surprised on trying to survive on a 70 to 80% reduction in your income if you are in the category to get a pension check (which I will always say, I was one of the fortunate ones to be a second choicer).

    And remember the wise adage if you have a spouse, "You married for better or worse, but not for lunch." My wife is still working until we can see if we are compatible sharing lunch together! :)

    PS - figure out if your manager will support a retirement party and how much and throw one. A lot of folks are doing that. I managed to get away with 70+ folks because of good management - others I know of retired and never had a party. If you feel guilty about have a party like I did when so many of your friends will never qualify for retirement, make it about them not you. Get up and talk about those folks that supported you and made it possible for you to get where you are. They will be sad for what they lost, but supportive of a friend thanking them.

    PS - PS - I don't know your temperament, but I am a workaholic. I am working more now daily than pre-retirement but enjoying it more. That is not a surprise but an enjoyable realization. If my books don't sell, I will be back in another selling career of some type; only I will sell something I can believe in. What is life without a few gambles. Cheers and good luck. Pete.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "Portsmith". Full excerpt: I retired last September after 42 years, on the old pension plan. Both my wife and I were Medicare eligible at the time. There have been a few surprises.
    • It is easy to find out what Medicare coverage will cost. However, prior to actually starting the ball rolling with benefits, it was impossible to find out any meaningful data about IBM retiree medical benefit options and costs. For a Medicare eligible couple, they turn out to be manageable, with reasonable choices. For those not Medicare eligible -- well, as many of the responses to your question suggest, not being able to get answers can be problematic to say the least.
    • I was pleased to have a "Retirement Adviser" assigned to me - a single person I could call with questions and problems as I went through the process. I had heard horror stories from other folks who'd retired about always getting a different person with a different answer. For me, this worked out well.
    • Despite being very, VERY careful to make sure everyone understood that Medicare was primary and IBM coverage secondary, I discovered two months later when my wife got sick that it was bollixed up. It took another two months to get it fixed, and a few more to get everyone properly paid. Keep an eye on how they set this up.
    • My work prior to retirement was intensely technical, sometimes demanding, often urgent, and I loved it. I was afraid I would miss that. It took about 24 hours for me to get over that!! I've kept myself busy with some small construction projects at home, and with managing, upgrading and generally maintaining the computers for a local non-profit I'm affiliated with. I haven't felt bored!
    • When "they" tell you that you should have two months $$$ in hand when retirements starts, they mean it!! You will eventually get whatever you are entitled to, but it will take that long for all the paperwork to get done and the checks to get scheduled. IBM absolutely will NOT do any of that stuff until you've actually signed the paperwork on the last day.

    I hope things go well for you!

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "orsonbear". Full excerpt: I retired in 2007 after 39 years. First-choicer, IBM medical plan, not eligible for Medicare. No surprises. And did I miss IBM? No, never looked back. The retirement process went smoothly and the transition to receiving a check from Fidelity vs IBM and being on a different medical plan was uneventful. I chose the IBM High Deductible PPO, which costs $418 a month for my spouse and I (my coverage is actually free, the cost is all for my spouse). That amount also includes the Eye Care Plan which I chose to take; I didn't buy the dental plan. The medical premium has gone up a small amount each year since I retired, but it is manageable.

    I do not have a mortgage payment, car payments, or a credit card balance. The only way to go, even if you are not retired. I do not collect Social Security (waiting for 66) nor have I tapped my 401K. My spouse works, but it is a relatively low-paying job. Without that, and without SS or 401K usage, things would be uncomfortably tight. Still take nice vacations each year and enjoy life (actually, enjoy it a lot more without any IBM responsibilities).

    Personal opinion: there are numerous posts where people worry if they will get their first retirement check promptly on the first of the month after they retire. I filed my paperwork two or three months in advance, and my check was still a month late. No big deal. If your cash flow is managed so closely that you can't do without being paid for a month, are you really ready to retire?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: What was your greatest surprise?" by "mr_quarkwrench". Full excerpt: My greatest surprise was discovering that even though I'm on the old pension plan and medical plan (UHC) was if you actually get sick you'll need a large amount of additional money to stay alive. UHC says my max out of pocket is $3500 but I've spent well over $10,000/year since I was first diagnosed in 2004. I didn't go on medicare until 2008 and it is still in that range. -- Don
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Canada drug stores" by "oldgolfballs". Full excerpt: I didn't think I would ever have to consider Canada drugs but my wife has entered the nasty world of the donut hole! So am wondering what sites any one has had experience ordering, I priced drugs at 2 so far, canadadrug.com and bluesky, it seems that for her scripts that blusky has the better prices. Any comments would be appreciated. Andy.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Canada drug stores" by "ibmshaftee". Full excerpt: I used Canadadrugs.com for my wife for two years until she got on medicare. They were prompt and very reasonable compared to US drug stores. Never had a problem with them. They would always call when her order was due. When they called after medicare started I told them what happened and have not had a call since.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Canada drug stores" by Gene Ehrich. Full excerpt: We use http://www.springhilldrugs.com/
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Canada drug stores" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: This web site can be useful for checking out online pharmacies and comparing prices. They verify the pharmacies they list to a certain degree to try to ensure that they are reputable. http://pharmacychecker.com/
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Canada drug stores" by "torbilll". Full excerpt: I have used bluesky for a couple of years now. No problems at all. They are very reputable. Bill.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous in Columbus, OH: (Current Employee) "Not very employee friendly." Pros: IBM's brand name in the market and the innovation that happens in the research labs of IBM is one of the biggest reasons to work with IBM. Cons: IBM Is very shareholder focussed and not so much employee focussed. Cost cutting seems to be a constant focus, even in record years, employee's don't get record bonuses.
    • IBM Business Analyst in San Francisco, CA: (Current Employee) "IBM is a great company to work for and has awesome benefits." Pros: This really is a great job! I love the work that I do and the people that I work with. Like all jobs, work is work, but this is by for the best place that I have ever worked at. Cons: I don't really believe there are any significant cons worth mentioning, at least none that are company wide. Every now and then you run into a person that is difficult to work with, but you just stick it out and move on to the next project. Advice to Senior Management: Just keep doing what your doing, also I love the IBM commercials. I am definitely and IBM'er through and through!
    • IBM Member of Technical Staff: (Past Employee - 2011) "India Bangalore Machines." Pros: Work and life balance/ Telecommute. Cons: Everything else. Mgmt is incompetent and completely unaware of how much effort it takes to deliver. Advice to Senior Management: Retire already and let the people with real knowledge and real ideas move up and lead IBM before it goes off the cliff
    • IBM Tax Analyst: (Current Employee) "If you live in the US, stay away." Pros: Big name company. Reputation. Telecommuting options for work/life flexibility. Benefits. Cons: Outsourcing MANY US jobs. Little room for growth. Very average pay if not a little lower. Secretive with details about big changes. Advice to Senior Management: Invest in the US and stop outsourcing. It is not sustainable and will only come about to hurt the company in the end.
    • IBM Manager: (Current Employee) "Very nice." Pros: Work life balance. Secure even when market goes down. Cons: Very big organization, strong network works very well. Advice to Senior Management: More close look to employees aspiration will help.
    • IBM Business Analyst: (Current Employee) "Great start, too many cuts." Pros: Some brilliant people in the organization. Tremendous power when the company works as a team to accomplish a goal. Strong sense of community. Opportunity to experience a global workforce and global focus. When you work with teams committed to growth, there is real drive and determination. Cons: Business seems to be more concerned with cutting costs than anything else. So large you have trouble bridging organizations, sending a common message and employees become just a number. Advice to Senior Management: Pay more attention to your employees and less on cost cutting. Created an environment where everyone looks over their shoulder for the next "RA" which is counterproductive.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) "later" Pros: Working from home is great. Work with some top people in the market place. Brand recognition. Work can be done remotely. Cons: Poor bonus, utilization issues being over worked. Pay cycle for bonus or salary increases. They run IBM like it's broke. Advice to Senior Management: I will come back to enter in more, not at this time, will later and provide more information. Thanks you.
  • Business Insurance: Court can't alter CIGNA cash balance plan: Supreme Court. By Jerry Geisel. Excerpts: Courts do not have the right to rewrite the terms and conditions of an employer's new retirement plan, even if the employer did not properly explain the changes, due to federal pension law, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. Advertisement The case, CIGNA Corp. et al. vs. Janice C. Amara et al., involves a cash balance pension plan that CIGNA Corp. set up in 1998 to replace a traditional final average pay plan. ...

    The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut ruled that the insurer's description of the plan was incomplete and inaccurate and that it intentionally misled employees. The court changed certain of the new plan's benefits, including how an employee's opening account balance would be calculated among other changes.

  • Business Insurance: Duke Energy pays $30M to settle cash balance plan suit. By Jerry Geisel. Excerpts: A federal judge has given final approval to a settlement in which Duke Energy Corp. will pay about $30 million, including more than $9 million to plaintiff attorneys, to end litigation involving its cash balance pension plan. Advertisement In a suit filed in 2006 and later given class action status, the plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that Duke did not properly calculate the value of certain lump-sum distributions from its pension plan. ...

    Duke converted its traditional final average pay pension plan to a cash balance plan. Unlike many employers that have frozen defined benefit plans, including cash balance plans, and moved exclusively to defined contribution plans, Duke Energy continues to offer its cash balance plan.

  • Wall Street Journal: In Hiring, Firms Shine Images. Employer-Branding Campaigns Try to Attract Most-Coveted Job Candidates. By Joe Light. Excerpts: Companies have long set aside resources to develop and market consumer brands. Now, some are finding that to attract the best job candidates, they need to put similar efforts into their so-called employer brands. Unlike a company's product brands—say Fritos or Dial—employer brands target potential employees to make a company seem like a desirable place to work.

    The slow job market has brought the perception that job takers are plentiful, but already companies are finding that the most skilled candidates are in short supply, and are difficult to find, recruiters say. This has prompted some companies to launch employer-branding campaigns for the first time in several years.

    Potentialpark AB, a market-research firm that specializes in employer branding, has seen the number of analyses it does for companies almost double in the past year, said Chief Executive Torgil Lenning, whose clients include Hewlett Packard Co. and Credit Suisse Group.

  • Washington Post: As Indian companies grow in the U.S., outsourcing comes home. By Paul Glader. Excerpts: Ray Capuana paces the rows of cubicles in a haggard high-rise a stone's throw from Wall Street as his people hustle the phones and hope for a bonus check. His employees are not bond traders, though. They are call center workers. Many are African Americans without college degrees. Some lack high school diplomas. They work for a Mumbai-based company called Aegis Communications.

    India's outsourcing giants — faced with rising wages at home — have looked for growth opportunities in the United States. But with Washington crimping visas for visiting Indian workers, some companies such as Aegis are slowly hiring workers in North America, where their largest corporate customers are based. In this evolution, outsourcing has come home.

    Capuana, a manager for Aegis in New York, motivates this U.S. office with dress-down days and the prospect that workers could, one day, earn a stint training call center workers in Goa, India. One of his tasks is to staff 176 cubicles, where workers make or take calls for customers of prescription drug plans or Medicare contracts and enter and verify information. The pay runs $12 to $14 an hour, with bonus checks of up to $730 a month. ...

    At its U.S. sites, Aegis says, 90 percent or more of its workers are American. In that way, Aegis is an exception to the rule. Until now, India-based outsourcing companies have largely brought Indian workers into the United States using H-1B visas and L-1 visas and have been the heaviest users of those programs. ...

    Some say the visa practice has hurt U.S. jobs and wages. These new visa categories were created by the Immigration Act of 1990, allowing foreigners to work in the country for up to six years. The aim was to lure high-tech talent. Tech America, an industry trade group, says that the visas are crucial to American innovation, future competitiveness and job creation.

    But they have been abused, too. In a study released in 2008, the government found fraud and technical violations on 20.7 percent of H-1B applications. Violations ranged "from document fraud to deliberate misstatements regarding job locations, wages paid and duties performed," said Donald Neufeld, of the Department of Homeland Security, at a March hearing. ...

    Some lawmakers are looking to curb the practice and to encourage the India-based outsourcing firms to follow Aegis's model of hiring Americans at U.S. sites. Issuance of regular H-1B visas — 10,200 so far this year — is down 43 percent percent from 2010, according to federal data. Last year, the Obama administration added a roughly $2,000 fee per H-1B visa for large companies, which could be curbing applications.

    In the past, if, say, BNY Mellon inked an IT contract with Infosys, Infosys would handle 70 percent of the work in India and send 30 percent of its project staff to the United States on temporary work visas. These Indian workers often live in ethnic enclaves on the outskirts of a city, work long hours and earn less than an American would for the same work. ...

    Critics of the visa programs, such as Ronil Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, say the work arrangements can amount to indentured servitude. The workers are often paid "home-country wages" in America. "That's as low as $8,000 a year" with housing allowances, he says. The employers own the visas — so the workers can't bargain for wages, and if they lose their job they have to leave the country.

    Hira said Indian workers still make up more than 90 percent of most outsourcing companies' U.S. head counts. He and other critics argue that many of these workers are not more highly skilled than their American counterparts but are simply willing to work for less. "It's harming American workers," he said. "It's taking away their job opportunities, bringing down their wages and harming their working conditions." ...

    Robert Webb, chief information officer at Hilton Worldwide, said Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys increasingly rival the established consulting companies, such as IBM, Accenture and Bain Consulting, in areas such as integrating massive computer systems, developing applications for companies and even strategy consulting. He predicts that the India-based companies "will evolve to be more like one of the traditional consulting firms in the U.S." by taking on higher-end capabilities such as business planning, industry knowledge and change management. Already, they are "starting to encroach on IBM's territory, where data centers can be run from other parts of the world."

    He said IBM and Accenture are rapidly hiring talent in India and other emerging markets as a counterstrategy. "They're all keeping their eyes on wage inflation in low-cost countries" like India, where wages are increasing 10 percent a year.

    Hilton hired Tata Consultancy Services in 2009 to take over some back-office operations, such as human resources, financial systems and its intranet portal for the company's 10 brands and 3,700 hotels. Hilton used to handle this work in-house or with hundreds of small consultants.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Start Topic Life is great in the FABS" by "workforlife". Full excerpt: Yes, life is GREAT in the FABS. If you are an operator, you most likely work for Manpower. Your time is watched and if you so much as say 'boo' about the conditions or IBM, you are out the door. If you are a young production tech there is a good chance you are a long term complimentary (supplemental). You have three years to get a real job. Say one bad word and you are out. No HR on your side. New hire engineer with a masters. You may or may not be a full time hire. IBM does not want you any longer than 10 years. They do not care what you think. Long term tech or engineer. Keep your mouth shut or get a three and a free ticket to the RA train.

    Management has no clue why employee morale is so bad. Fishkill management has said so at public meetings. Production and development teams tell management what they want to hear while keeping the resumes polished and always ready.

    It is amazing that out second and third line were taken by surprise when 4 key people left in an 8 month period. Yes boss, yes boss, everything is just fine here.

  • New York Times editorial: What's Good for Workers... Excerpts: The refusal by Congressional Republicans to renew assistance for workers who lose their jobs to overseas competition is another instance of their callous determination to slash the budget at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans. It is also bad for American business and other constituents dearer to their hearts. ...

    The Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which has enjoyed strong bipartisan support, retrains displaced workers and provides extended unemployment insurance. The 2009 stimulus bill added health insurance benefits and expanded the list of those eligible to include the large number of service-sector workers displaced by outsourcing. Those expanded benefits expired in February.

  • AlterNet: Accusing DSK of Sexual Assault Took Guts -- But Union Protection Is Essential. A woman attacked by her employer's very powerful customer was perhaps empowered to come forward knowing her union contract meant she wouldn't lose her job for it. By Adele M. Stan. Excerpts: In ancient times we had fables, myths and parables to explain to us the vicissitudes of nature and the nature of power, stories drawn to illuminate a given culture's moral code. Today we have the news media.

    As a morality tale about abuse of power, and the abuses of the powerful, the fall from grace of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former chief of the International Monetary Fund, is a doozy. Arrested last week for allegedly assaulting and forcing sex on a housekeeper at a luxury hotel in New York, a man who once ranked among the world's most powerful now sits, forlorn, in a jail cell on Rikers Island -- all because an immigrant woman in a lowly position had the temerity to tell a superior that one of her employer's very important clients had done, by her account, terrible things to her.

    By any measure, it was a risky thing to do. There's a reason most rapes go unreported. But there was one thing that housekeeper knew could not be done to her for reporting her account, observes a colleague in the labor movement: she could not be fired for having done so, because of the contract between her union, the New York Hotel Trades Council, and the Sofitel Hotel at which she works. ...

    It could be that it's just in her make-up to do what she did in making her complaint against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, something the woman whose account brought down the mighty would have done whether her job was protected or not, something she would have done without the fellowship of her brothers and sisters in the union. But, when considering her options, having the bit of protection provided by the union likely played a role in her decision to move forward. Fellowship and solidarity surely have their place in the stories we tell to explain the nature of power.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • 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 5/17/11: All you folks in RSS, including sales, development, marketing, support, etc. You better get unionized quick before you get sold off. You might have 901-80 days then you are prime targets. -Old Retailer-
    • Comment 5/19/11: This India based contracting firm is using Liquid Portal as a job shop for freelancers, and they scrape 9.7% off the top of any IBM payments for accepted Liquid project work. Now even the low wage countries are competing with amongst themselves in this race to the bottom. http://www.rishabhsoft.com/ibm-liquid-player-candidate-faq (RAed 2009) -I'm Done-
    • Comment 5/20/11: Its amazing how eloquently folks can discuss IBM business practices and yet how little they know of their own financial positions regarding their personal business relationship with IBM. No one can tell us what their next raise will be. No one can tell us what year they will get a raise in. No one can tell us what their out of pocket healthcare costs will be. No one can tell us if they will get severance pay if they get fired. No one can tell us how long they will be employed at IBM. No one can tell us if they will earn a bonus and what it will be. I would think these things they do not know would be far more important to them then whether any open source software will be used or supported. I remember a line from a song. " How do you sleep when your beds are burning? " What does it take to wake IBMers up. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 5/20/11: I got RAed a few years ago from the Burlington VT plant. I made a good 6 figure salary and although I was a solid 2 performer and felt I was earning my keep I also felt let was let go to cut costs. I've seen in the local newspaper ads for my job. I don't bother to apply but don't they have to try to hire someone in the US first before they can grant a H1 Visa? It looks very fishy to me. I have a feeling they are bringing in foreign nationals and offering them half what I made to cut costs. That is not right. -gone from Blue-

      Alliance reply: You should contact your congressional reps about this and demand action and investigation. Also contact the Vermont and US departments of Labor.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • New York Times: A Doctor's Push for Single-Payer Health Care for All Finds Traction in Vermont. By Abby Goodnough. Excerpts: Many people move to Vermont in search of a slower pace; Dr. Deb Richter came in 1999 to work obsessively toward a far-fetched goal. She wanted Vermont to become the first state to adopt a single-payer health care system, run and paid for by the government, with every resident eligible for a uniform benefit package. So Dr. Richter, a buoyant primary care doctor from Buffalo who had given up on New York's embracing such a system, started lining up speaking engagements and meeting with lawmakers, whom she found more accessible than their New York counterparts. ...

    Twelve years later, Dr. Richter will watch Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, sign a bill on Thursday that sets Vermont on a path toward a single-payer system — the nation's first such experiment — thanks in no small part to her persistence. Though scores of people pushed for the bill, she was the most actively involved doctor — "the backbone," Mr. Shumlin has said, of a grass-roots effort that helped sway the Democratic Legislature to pass it this spring even as other states were suing to block the less ambitious federal health care law. ...

    As in all states, the cost of health care has increased sharply in Vermont in recent years. It has doubled here over the last decade to roughly $5 billion a year, taking a particular toll on small businesses and the middle class. All 620,000 of the state's residents would be eligible for coverage under the new system, which proponents say would be cheaper over all than the current patchwork of insurers. A five-member board appointed by the governor is to determine payment rates for doctors, what benefits to cover and other details. ...

    Dr. Richter said she embraced the idea of a single-payer system as a young doctor in Buffalo, where many of her patients put off crucial treatments because they were uninsured. As a medical student, she saw a patient with a life-threatening heart infection caused by an infected tooth that had gone untreated because he lacked dental insurance. "He was in the hospital for six weeks, and I was like, 'This makes no sense,' " she said. ...

    John McClaughry, a former Republican state senator who is against the new law, said Dr. Richter meant well but did not understand the "long-term damage" it would wreak. In particular, he said the law would drive away businesses that did not want to help pay for it. "She'll tell you that putting in single-payer will attract businesses from all over the place," said Mr. McClaughry, vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a conservative research group. "I don't think she has any appreciation of business decisions at all." ...

    Some supporters of single-payer health care say Vermont's law does not go far enough, mostly because it would allow at least a handful of private insurers to stay in the market indefinitely. Self-insured businesses like IBM, the state's largest employer, could continue providing health coverage to workers under the law, though they would have to help finance the new system, possibly through a payroll tax.

    Physicians for a National Health Program is among the critics, saying the law "falls well short of the single-payer reform needed." Allowing private insurers to remain in the state will prevent meaningful savings, the group says.

  • Huffington Post: Got Health Insurance? Pray You Won't Get "Purged". By Wendell Potter, Former insurance company executive; author. Excerpts: You might not realize it, but this is National Small Business Week. I'm betting many small business owners aren't aware of it, either. Perhaps that's because most small business owners are far more likely to be worrying about whether they'll be able to offer health insurance to their employees for another year.

    Or is this the year they join the ever-growing list of small businesses that have been "purged" by their insurance carrier?

    For several years now, insurance companies have been "purging" small business accounts they no longer consider profitable enough or that their underwriters believe pose too much risk. I became familiar with "purging" (yes, that's the actual word insurance executives use internally) toward the end of my career as an industry PR man.

    Virtually unknown outside of a few executive suites until I disclosed it in testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in June 2009, the practice is most prevalent at the big for-profit insurance companies -- the ones that are under the gun to meet investors' profit expectations every three months. Along with "rescinding" (cancelling) the policies of individuals who become seriously ill, purging small businesses that employ workers who get sick is a tried-and-true way of meeting Wall Street's expectations.

    All it takes is one illness or accident among employees at a small business to prompt an insurance company to hike the next year's premiums so high that the employer has to cut benefits, shop for another carrier or stop offering coverage altogether, leaving all their workers -- and their dependents -- uninsured. ...

    Meanwhile, U.S. health insurers are reporting record profits, and their CEOs are topping the list of highest paid corporate executives. So much for celebrating National Small Business Week.

  • New York Times: Gingrich Calls G.O.P.'s Medicare Plan Too Radical. By Raymond Hernandez. Excerpts: Days after formally announcing his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich on Sunday sharply criticized a plan by House Republicans that would drastically overhaul Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees.

    Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who led a conservative resurgence in the 1990s, said the Republican Medicare plan was "too big a jump" for Americans and compared it to the health care overhaul championed by President Obama. "I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change," Mr. Gingrich said on the NBC program "Meet the Press."

  • Wall Street Journal SmartMoney: Health Care Premiums on the Rise. Again. By Quentin Fottrell. Excerpts: The May 2011 medical index by consulting firm Milliman Inc. says health care costs for a family of four will rise 7.3% in 2011 to $19,393 for those insured through work, with employee out-of-pocket expenses up 9.2% this year versus 6.6% last year. "Trends in health care spending still far exceed most other goods and services," it said.

    Milliman's researchers said that employees are paying around $8,000 of the total annual healthcare costs, higher than other areas of consumer spending, as employers offer health plans with higher deductibles, and co-insurance and co-payment limits to control costs and to encourage workers to use medical care more selectively. That includes $4,728 in an employee contribution and $3,280 in employee out-of-pocket costs.

  • Spencer's Benefits Reports, courtesy of CCH: Few Families Without Health Insurance Can Pay Hospital Bills; Costs Shifted To Insured. Excerpts: Few families without health insurance have the financial assets to pay potential hospital bills, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). On average, uninsured families can only afford to pay in full for approximately 12% of hospital stays they may experience—and even higher income uninsured families are unable to pay for most potential hospital stays, the HHS found. ...

    "One of the most enduring myths in American health care is that people without health insurance can get care with little or no problem," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Nothing could be farther from the truth. The result is families going without care—or facing health care bills they can't hope to pay. When the uninsured cannot afford the care they receive, that cost must be absorbed by other payers. This is why expanding access to affordable health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is so important." ...

    Approximately 50 million Americans are uninsured. The report found that most uninsured people have virtually no savings. In fact, the median financial assets for all uninsured families are just $20, compared to a median of more than $14,450 in assets for the privately insured who are younger than age 65. Half of families with income at 400% of the FPL have financial assets below $4,100, compared to $50,000 for the privately insured under age 65, and these families can afford to pay in full for only 37% of their hospitalizations. ...

    The high cost of hospitalization means that lacking health insurance poses a greater risk of financial catastrophe than lacking car insurance or homeowner's insurance, the HHS observed. Although people are 50% more likely to have a car accident than to be hospitalized in a given year, the average bill for a hospital visit is over two-and-a-half times higher than the average loss for a car accident. And, while the bill for a single hospitalization is about the same as the average loss from a house fire, a person is ten times more likely to be hospitalized than to experience a house fire.

  • Physicians for a National Health Program: Hoosier rips WellPoint's greed, deceptive PR, and CEO pay. Excerpts: The following remarks were made by Karen Green Stone at the annual shareholders meeting of the giant health insurer WellPoint in Indianapolis on May 17. Green Stone is a member of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Care Plan, an affiliate of Physicians for a National Health Program. For the past several years she and other members of HCHP have challenged WellPoint's profit-driven business practices on the floor of the annual meeting, urging shareholders to vote for a resolution demanding the company return to its nonprofit roots. They've received significant media coverage for their efforts, and their support for single-payer national health insurance has also been noted. An excerpt from her remarks on Tuesday was published in the Indianapolis Business Journal. ...

    Since last year's meeting it's estimated that another 50,000 people have died in the United States because they are uninsured. That equals the entire population of Kokomo [Ind.]. ...

    After hearing Wendell Potter speak in Bloomington on his book tour (I'm sure you all know Wendell Potter) a friend said to me, "I sometimes thought I was crazy, a conspiracy theorist – now I know they really are evil." I read and talked to Wendell about his book, "Deadly Spin." What stirs my anger the most is the stealth and perversion you've used to shape public opinion. Your PR campaigns have nurtured fear and confusion in the minds of reasonable and caring Americans.

    I imagine it must be very difficult hold steady the concept of "I'm a good person and I work for a corporation that by its very nature lacks compassion and is indifferent to suffering." But good and intelligent people can sometimes fall into a trap.

    Everyone in this room knows that it's all about money and power. We know WellPoint's sordid history of rescission, rigged software, cherry-picking of healthy patients and denial of care. We know about the barriers you build, making it so difficult that people give up or die fighting with you.

    I hope that one or some of you in this room who feel the stirrings of having sold out will find the courage to go public with inside information because your business model is taking down America.

    Angela, it takes 285 public school teachers in Indiana who earn an average of $47,000 a year to equal your 2010 compensation package of $13.4 million. Would you kindly tell us why you are entitled to so much more than them?

  • New York Times editorial: Health Reform in Massachusetts. Excerpts: Mitt Romney's defense of the Massachusetts health care reforms was politically self-serving. It was also true. Despite all of the bashing by conservative commentators and politicians — and the predictions of doom for national health care reform — the program he signed into law as governor has been a success. The real lesson from Massachusetts is that health care reform can work, and the national law should work as well or even better.

    Like the federal reform law, Massachusetts's plan required people to buy insurance and employers to offer it or pay a fee. It expanded Medicaid for the poor and set up insurance exchanges where people could buy individual policies, with subsidies for those with modest incomes.

    Since reform was enacted, the state has achieved its goal of providing near-universal coverage: 98 percent of all residents were insured last year. That has come with minimal fiscal strain. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonpartisan fiscal monitoring group, estimated that the reforms cost the state $350 million in fiscal year 2010, a little more than 1 percent of the state budget. ...

    The average premiums paid by individuals who purchase unsubsidized insurance have dropped substantially, 20 percent to 40 percent by some estimates, mostly because reform has brought in younger and healthier people to offset the cost of covering the older and sicker.

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.

  • AlterNet: Appalling Greed: Richest 400 Average $270.5 Million Incomes, Pay Almost Nothing in Taxes. Compare that to 1955, when the country's most affluent made far less money and paid 51 percent of their income in taxes. By Sam Pizzigati. Excerpts: In 2008, the IRS revealed last week, 400 Americans reported at least $110 million in income on their federal tax returns. These 400, in a year that ended with millions of Americans out of work and home, averaged $270.5 million each, the second-highest U.S. top 400 average income on record. ...

    The rich in 1955 paid far more of their income in taxes than today's rich. In 2008, the new IRS data show, the top 400 paid only 18.1 percent of their total incomes in federal income tax. The top 400 in 1955 paid 51.2 percent of their total incomes in tax. ...

    You don't have to go all the way back to 1955 to see how little today's top 400 are paying in taxes. In 1992, the IRS stats detail, only 33 of the top 400 paid less than 20 percent of their incomes in federal income tax. In 2008, 253 did. ...

    The main reason: Today's rich are getting more and more of their income from capital gains — the profits from buying and selling stocks, bonds, and other assets — and these capital gains now face a substantially lower tax rate than they did two decades ago.

    Some specifics: In 1992, the top 400 grabbed 26 percent of their income from paychecks and 36 percent from capital gains. In 2008, by contrast, only 8 percent of top 400 income came from salary — 88 of the year's top 400 didn't even have jobs — and 57 percent came from capital gains.

    These 2008 capital gains faced only a 15 percent tax rate, down from a 1992 rate almost twice that high.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Snyder house rules: The massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich continues. By Jack Lessenberry. Excerpts: Well, Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder pulled it off. He got the Legislature to enact his massive tax cut for business and slap a tax on future pension income. This will be paid for — in part — by shortchanging education at all levels, from elementary to graduate school. ...

    Most of the business community is ecstatically happy. Most of those who care about education and the poor — or those who are part of those communities themselves — are apoplectic.

  • truthDig: One Lawman With the Guts to Go After Wall Street. By Robert Scheer. Excerpts: The fix was in to let the Wall Street scoundrels off the hook for the enormous damage they caused in creating the Great Recession. All of the leading politicians and officials, federal and state, Republican and Democrat, were on board to complete the job of saving the banks while ignoring their victims ... until last week when the attorney general of New York refused to go along.

    Eric Schneiderman will probably fail, as did his predecessors in that job; the honest sheriff doesn't last long in a town that houses the Wall Street casino. But decent folks should be cheering him on. Despite a mountain of evidence of robo-signed mortgage contracts, deceitful mortgage-based securities and fraudulent foreclosures, the banks were going to be able to cut their potential losses to what was, for them, a minuscule amount.

    In a deal that had the blessing of the White House and many federal regulators and state attorneys general—a settlement probably for not much more than the $5 billion pittance the top financial institutions found acceptable—the banks would be freed of any further claims by federal and state officials over their shady mortgage packaging and servicing practices and deceptive foreclosure proceedings.

    At the same time, the SEC and other federal regulatory bodies are making sweetheart deals with the bankers to close off accountability for creating and collecting on more than a trillion dollars' worth of toxic mortgage-based securities at the heart of the nation's economic meltdown—a meltdown that has seen the national debt grow by more than 50 percent, stuck us with an unyielding 9 percent unemployment and left 50 million Americans losing their homes to foreclosure or clinging desperately to underwater mortgages. On top of which an all-time high of 44 million people are living below the official poverty line and fewer new homes were started in April than at any other time in the past half century. With housing values still in free fall, we continue to make the bankers whole. ...

    Last week, it was revealed that Schneiderman's office has demanded an accounting from Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs as to the details of their past practice of securitizing those mortgage-based packages that proved so toxic. Maybe he will fail against such powerful forces, as did Spitzer and later Andrew Cuomo, but it is a test worth watching, since no one else, from the White House on down, seems to be concerned with holding the bailed-out banks accountable for the massive pain and suffering they inflicted on the public.

  • Washington Post: Sebelius, Democrats say House Republican budget would affect seniors 'on Day One'. By Felicia Sonmez. Excerpts: As Democrats have pummeled the House GOP over the sweeping changes to Medicare included in their 2012 budget blueprint, Republicans have defended the plan by noting that those who will be most affected by the cuts are people currently 55 and under.

    On Thursday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and a group of Senate Democrats contended that's not the case. ...

    Sebelius, Whitehouse and the other Senate Democrats argued that the House Republican budget blueprint drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would reopen the "donut hole," the prescription drug coverage gap for seniors on Medicare. ...

    The Democrats released a report Thursday showing what they said would be the state-by-state impact of the Ryan budget plan on seniors affected by the donut hole. The total additional cost to seniors annually would be $2.2 billion for prescription drug costs and $110 million for wellness visits, they said.

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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