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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—June 25, 2011

  • Wall Street Journal: Catching a Lift From IBM. By Mike Maremont and Tom McGinty. Excerpts: Is long-retired IBM Chief Louis V. Gerstner Jr. still a frequent flier on IBM Corp.'s jets? The number of trips by the computer giant's jets to Stuart, Fla., and Nantucket, Mass., near where public records show Mr. Gerstner has homes, certainly would suggest so.

    The IBM fleet landed 66 times in Stuart, Fla. over the four years ended last December, and 48 times on the resort island of Nantucket, according to Federal Aviation Administration flight records. The Nantucket trips were clustered in the summer; the Florida journeys generally came during the cooler months up north and included flights to and from golf haven Augusta, Ga.

    Counting travel both to and from Stuart and Nantucket, the approximate cost to IBM shareholders for those flights was $1.1 million, according to Wall Street Journal estimates. The estimates are based on hourly operating-cost figures supplied by consulting firm Conklin & de Decker Aviation Information. ...

    Mr. Gerstner, now 69, retired at the end of 2002 and is credited with pulling IBM out of a deep slide in a celebrated corporate turnaround. According to a revised employment agreement signed that year, he was given a 10-year post-retirement consulting contract that entitled him to a range of perks, including access to IBM cars, an office and apartment.

    He also was given "preferred" access to IBM aircraft, with his priority in ordering up the planes outranked only by current Chief Executive Samuel Palmisano. ...

    The airport in Stuart is about a dozen miles from Mr. Gerstner's beachfront residence in Hobe Sound, Fla., which according to county property records has two main buildings, a pool, a fountain and a market value of $8.2 million. Mr. Gerstner's waterfront residence in Nantucket has a 5,500 sq. ft, 4-bedroom main house and a separate guest house, and is assessed at $10.4 million.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: 100th Anniversary Book" by "llizbutler". Excerpt: Hi, I was just cleaning my office, getting ready to dispose of IBM memorabilia and I stumbled across the THINK magazine IBM 75th anniversary issue. Besides having a page that clearly lists RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL as a basic belief which the company now denies ever existed, there is a letter from John Akers congratulating all on IBM's 75th anniversary. Odd this is that this was published in September 1989. This THINK magazine celebrated 1914 as the date IBM was created and referenced looking ahead to 2014 as the 100th anniversary. Tom Watson JR wrote a comment in the magazine. It hasn't been 25 years since 1989 so where did the new IBM come up with 2011 as the 100th anniversary? Revisionist history?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "When should the IBM Centennial be celebrated?" by "thirtyyearibmer". Excerpt: Do you think that 2011 is the real centennial anniversary of IBM? There are alternatives:
    • 2014 would be one hundred years from when TJ Watson Sr. took over IBM.
    • 2024 would be when CTR took on the IBM moniker.

    Maybe 2011 is the technical centennial but maybe 2014 should be seen as the centennial of when IBM once acquired its heart and soul from its founder - only to abandon it less than one hundred years later?

    By celebrating 2011, the current executive staff has successfully evaded being compared to the IBM leadership (Watson Sr. and Jr.) that set the foundation for them to take credit for the past 100 years.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Might be RA'd" by "sjwilde56". Full excerpt: I am eligible for full retirement (55 and 30 years) at the end of 2011. I am thinking I will be RA'd soon, since I am GBS and have been on the bench for over 2 months. My question is: how can I ensure that the RA package I get will include a bridge?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Might be RA'd" by "fstephens". Full excerpt: If RA'd, request the bridge from the IBM HR group, not your manager. They can have all retirement needs addressed and then you can let your manager know. They usually have to sign off that they were told about it by IBM HR.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Might be RA'd" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: I don't think there is anything you can do to ensure that the RA will include a bridge. But it almost certainly will. So far, every RA IBM has done has included a bridge.

    About the only thing you could do is talk to your manager and volunteer to leave if they were to give you a bridge. Again, they almost certainly would give you a bridge. But you wouldn't get any severance pay, or the transitional medical coverage. Volunteering to leave seems like a poor bet to me. You'd be leaving a lot of money on the table by not waiting for the RA to happen.

    I'm sure this a stressful position to be in and it is hard not to worry about it. I hope everything works out for you.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Might be RA'd" by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: There are also very poetic "RA Days" or Resource Action Days. They are days set aside for massive layoffs across the company or across a division.

    It started on the 20th with a note from Sam Palmisano that stated, "We should all feel good about the company's ability to invest in people in these very concrete ways."

    It ended with a note on the evening of the 21st of January from the General Manager of Tivoli saying, "Perhaps the best part of a new year is the fresh start we get to refocus on our strategy and goals. SWG revenues were up 11 percent in 2008, and up 3 percent in the fourth quarter (both at actual rates). Unfortunately, the Tivoli team struggled to reach our double-digit revenue growth goals throughout 2008. I am proud to say that the team did a great job of reducing expenses -- a continuing high priority for 2009."

    The worst I ever saw was this twenty-four period. It was a blood bath that caught my manager, two friends on my direct team and too many to count that I knew across the company and around the world.

    In fact, just last week at at retirement gathering in Austin, I heard of two others caught that day. One after 45 years just retired; the other was caught before he could qualify for the full IBM retirement as a second choicer.

    It is like reliving a bad dream over and over again. I know that a lot of "old timers" just don't understand how much IBM has changed. This is a small example of how disconnected the corporate staff is from reality. No cheers on this note. Pete.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Might be RA'd" by "Tony". Full excerpt: To add to that: MIS=Management initiated separation also know as " Fired, " " Let go, " and "Left the business." As in management memos I have read, "Need to step up MIS attrition"...

    These days with frequent resource actions, managers will try to avoid all the work and headache involved with letting an individual go (especially if they are an EO counter) via MIS but will manage their rating to be the bottom of the group so the people they want to get rid of will be able to be let go easily when there is a directed resource action.

    Some managers also play games and keep giving moving targets to people that are retirement eligible in the hope that they will tire of the games and decide to retire on their own - which is much cheaper for the company and they may be able to backfill with a person of considerably lower pay level.

    If you think that you are on the list for an MIS / RA you need to play your cards right. Make sure you are in on time and put in an honest days work. Make sure all your paperwork is clean and on time. Save all communications from your manager on your performance and request all counseling in writing. Log all ( and solicit ) positive feedback from peers and customers. Keep up a positive attitude with your coworkers and customers. And be aware that anything you say can and will be used against you if they wish. Make it as hard as possible for them to let you go and to explain to anyone why they did.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Family vs Team changes in large corporations" by Don Shuper (retired Boeing employee). Excerpt: Over the years I have participated on this Board, I have noted at times that so called IBM management concepts and changes regarding treatment of employees have been almost identical to that of Boeing. For those who may be interested in an in depth study - 1996-7 to about 2007 of the effects of such changes on (ex) and to current employees, I suggest you get a copy from the local library of a book written specifically about Boeing - but in reality applicable to many other large companies such as IBM.

    The title is Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, by Edward S. Greenberg, Leon Grunberg, Sarah Moore, and Patrica B Sikora.

    There were four surveys run on a pseudo random group of Boeing employees, one every three years. About 2000 to 3000 employees were contacted- with the help of Boeing lists. Efforts were made to contact managers, shop, technical, and engineers.

    I've read about 1/2 of it so far, and I believe, except for obvious ' manufacturing' differences between computers and airplanes, every mention of Boeing could probably be changed to IBM with little change in the story or results or observations.

  • New York Times: Indian Company Under Scrutiny Over U.S. Visas. By Julia Preston and Vikas Bajaj. Excerpts: A giant Indian outsourcing company with thousands of employees in the United States is facing an expanding federal investigation prompted by claims from an American whistle-blower that it misused short-term visitors’ visas to bring in low-cost workers from India.

    Accusations that the company, Infosys Technologies, repeatedly violated the terms of business visitor visas were first raised in a lawsuit filed in February in Alabama by Jack Palmer, an Infosys project manager. Aside from Mr. Palmer, at least two other Infosys managers in the United States have submitted internal whistle-blower reports pointing to Indians on business visitor visas who were performing longer-term work not authorized under those visas, according to internal documents and current Infosys managers. ...

    The Infosys inquiry coincides with a broader attack in Congress on longer-term visas, known as H-1B, that Infosys and other Indian companies rely on to bring Indian technology workers to the United States. With unemployment for Americans stubbornly high, lawmakers have become increasingly reluctant to defend H-1B visas, which give temporary residence to highly skilled foreigners. In recent years, the top companies receiving those visas were not American names, but Infosys and another big Indian outsourcing company, Wipro. ...

    The events began with Mr. Palmer, 43, a project manager from Alabama who was hired by the company in 2008. In a sworn affidavit he submitted to the federal court, Mr. Palmer said his differences with Infosys management began after he was summoned to a meeting in Bangalore in March 2010. Top executives, he said, discussed ways to “creatively” get around H-1B visa limitations “to fulfill the high demand for its customers at lower cost.”

  • LiveMint and the Wall Street Journal: Seeking reforms in guest worker programmes. US policy discussion needs to explicitly include labour mobility. It’s obvious that many firms use these visa programmes for temporary labour mobility rather than to bring workers to America for permanent residence. By Ron Hira. Excerpts: Proponents of expanding American guest worker programmes such as the H-1B, L-1, and B-1 visas argue that these programmes supply workers who complement the American workforce. But the evidence shows that they are often used to bring in less-expensive foreign workers who substitute and compete against American workers. The programmes are clearly displacing and denying job opportunities to American workers, and driving down their wages and working conditions. American workers who lobby their government to close loopholes in the guest worker programmes are simply acting in a rational way, responding to policies that they know harm their economic interests.

    Even in good economic times the current programmes would be bad for American workers, but given the current jobs crisis gripping America they are especially harmful for American workers. The depth and severity of the American jobs crisis has been understated by most commentators, many of whom point to the eight million jobs lost in the Great Recession beginning in 2007. The reality is that the American economy hasn’t been creating enough jobs for more than a decade and has a shortfall of at least 18 million jobs. This protracted jobs malaise is a historic first. ...

    Given the current American labour market, try placing yourself in the shoes of one of those American IT workers en route to the unemployment line by way of training his foreign replacement? His future will likely be long-term joblessness and if he is lucky enough to get one of the few jobs available it will come at a significantly lower salary.

  • Washington Post: Business group: Public companies shouldn’t have to compare CEO and worker pay. By Peter Whoriskey. Excerpts: Here’s one financial figure some big U.S. companies would rather keep secret: how much more their chief executive makes than the typical worker. Now a group backed by 81 major companies — including McDonald’s, Lowe’s, General Dynamics, American Airlines, IBM and General Mills — is lobbying against new rules that would force disclosure of that comparison.

    The lobbying effort began more than a year ago. It involved some of the biggest names in corporate America and meetings with members of both parties on the House Financial Services Committee and Senate banking committee.

    The companies and their Republican allies in Congress call comparisons between the chief and everyone else in the company “useless.” ...

    “The real reason House Republicans want to keep the typical worker’s pay secret is that it may embarrass some companies to reveal that they pay their CEO in the range of 400 times what they pay their typical worker,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who added the requirement to the financial regulatory overhaul bill that passed last year.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Managing Consultant in Toronto, ON (Canada): (Past Employee - 2011) “Somethings are very okay, but important things are generally ridiculous.” Pros: - at times interesting projects; - development can happen if you land good projects & roles, if you are in a BS role - good luck. Cons: - skill / career development is absent; - zero variable comp for delivery staff that hit utilization targets while partners/management bonuses are fully topped up; - Promotion rationale is ever changing and unclear; - Red tape is applied to red tape layered on top of bureaucratic silliness. Advice to Senior Management: Your internal workings are seemily more important than the clients that we serve.
    • IBM Systems Programmer in Atlanta, GA: (Current Employee) “Good place to start.” Pros: Good company to start a career at. Average benefits. Cons: Like any other multinational. Employees are fodder for the international business machine. A$$ kissers advance easily. Real talent often overlooked. 1st and 2nd line management usually not qualified. Stodgy, "Think" moving an elephant. Take the job knowing you will leave in a few years. It's a good training ground but be ready to move on to move up. Sales rules. You'll do good there as long as you make the club but watch out for bum territory assignments if you are too successful. That's how they dump you. It is unspoken but you are not allowed to make too much in sales. Engineering is dead end, no different from other multinationals. Learn something and move on.

      Advice to Senior Management: Invest in America. Stop outsourcing and stomping on American workers. Stop whining about corp tax cuts. Be the IBM of Watson and not the A$$ holes that you currently are.

    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Not what is used to be.” Pros: Work from anywhere. Flexible schedule. Management does not micromanage you. Competitive salary. Brand recognition. Great learning opportunities. Many different job opportunities. Work with clients large and small from every industry.

      Cons: The layoffs and expense cuts have gone too deep. Those that remain often work 60+hrs a week just to keep up. No incentive to do a good job. The top performers are only rewarded with 1% to 2% pay increases which is hardly worth the effort it takes to be considered a top performer. Overall, company morale is at an all time low.

      Advice to Senior Management: Senior Management needs to wake up and recognize that every day IBM's top talent is walking out the door for a better opportunities. They need to start treating their employees like indispensable assets rather than a drag on their bottom line.

    • IBM Anonymous in Austin, TX: (Current Employee) “Good place for new college hires but probably not the best place to stay for more than a few years.” Pros: Technical teams have a lot of experience and are extremely competent, some of the best in the industry. Technology, at least historically, has been good. Good work/life balance is possible. If you can telecommute it is a big win/win.

      Cons: Most of the top talent will be retiring soon. Benefit plans repeatedly raided, older employees lost big-time from retirement plan bait and switch. Little or no salary increases year after year. Employee profit sharing is a joke since only the executives see anything even in an outstanding year.

      Advice to Senior Management: Cost cutting has helped the financials short term but its taken a huge toll on technology and ability to compete in the future. You need to get rid of the bean counters and invest in retention policies and competitive analysis.

    • IBM Senior Managing Consultant in Saint Louis, MO: (Current Employee) “Great at the beginning, but trending to very bad over last 5 years, as a US citizen employee, I am not what they wanted.” Pros: Flexibility to live almost anywhere I needed to. Great brand name. Solid pay and benefits if you can get and KEEP a US citizen, US based job.

      Cons: Career paths and mentoring that used to exist, have all disappeared in truth, but are still praised and lauded as real (this can be very confusing). Unless you are one of the extreme performers (aka selling madly for them), you will NOT be praised or rewarded and WILL treated as a cost to be minimized. In a company of excellent people, it is very disconcerting to be called 'OK' when you are in fact world class and perform at that level daily. Company is now going out of its way to hide where employment is taking place and where it is getting moved from and to (aka no longer publishing employment by country, only overall employment, and NOT commenting on layoff's unless required by outdated local law).

      Advice to Senior Management: Be honest and open about the labor sourcing direction you are taking, EVEN to the labor you are using. The fiction of 'mutual commitment' is distressing and hard to swallow. It in fact has a greater impact of quality of product than almost anything else. Your people can't be BOTH world class intellects AND stupid enough to not see their treatment for what it is.

  • Computerworld: 100 Best Places to Work in IT 2011. (Editor's note: IBM is not in the top 100.)
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Worldwide Day of Action: June 14, 2011. US IBM workers wear black and blue to call attention to job cuts and declining work conditions. Press Release-Day Of Action (PDF). Download Flyers:
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 6/21/11: RAd here. Trying to maintain positive outlook and attitude. However, it's very difficult for me to have to be the one to inform team members, managers and executives, including long time friends, I support that I am leaving. When I hear their words of consolation and empathy and tell some I cannot assist them due to the chaos of unplanned work to do educating and transferring my functions to others, I just break down and feel terrible. It's tough to work under these conditions. Why don't those that own these changes make the announcements to the affected co-workers. Very inappropriate of them and shows lack of accountability. -me-
    • Comment 6/21/11: Thanks a lot Sam. I Just got your note about the "IBM Special Equity Grant". I'm nearly 60 with 30 years do you actually expect me to be kept (allowed to be) around for when it vests in December 2015? This is the magnanimous $1,000 stock option grant that was much ballyhooed a few months ago. It equates to 7 shares. -HaH-
    • Comment 6/21/11: IBM Account employees in GBS AMS: Prepare yourselves for either an RA or a travel initiative. Better hope for the RA since if you get the travel initiative and refuse to accept a travel job, you will be assumed to be quitting, and there will be no severance for you. Prepare yourselves. Why should Americans work on the IBM Account when the majority of IBMers are no longer Americans? The IBM Account will move overseas and will be managed by GRs and Liquid Portal competitions. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 6/22/11: I received my IBM special equity grant. What a joke and insult. I doubt many will be around in 2015 to even collect this. The carrot and stick is not very effective if you have a rotten carrot. To top it off, the value of this is laughable for the time it takes to vest and I doubt the capital stock will worth much in 2015. -Seriously-Flawed-
    • Comment 6/22/11: My time is close, I've been training my GR replacement. Actually the third person as the two previous GR ones left with no notice. I am amusing myself teaching them what to do, leaving out critical details that I have learned through experience. I consider this to be MY intellectual property, learned over 20 years of hard work and overtime, not as part of IBM training. The cost to IBM will be greater in the short and long term because the knowledge and experience has been lost. -Soontogo-
    • Comment 6/22/11: -Soontogo-, Good work, my friend! Now read my list and make sure you take with you anything not tacked down as you get closer to the expected magic date. If these little tidbits of experience are transportable to another company, there you have the entree to your new job. Make sure your management team know as you go out the door that you were an alliance member. They cringe when they hear that from RA'ed personnel. There will be the cost of the loss of your skills and experience to Big Blew. However, it's more important that you parlay, if possible, those differentiators into an asset for your next job, probably with an IBM competitor or as an expensive IBM contractor!

      The special equity grants mean that the executives are ready to unload stock as it goes down in value. The last time HR and management pushed "options" and "stock grants" for non-executives was just before the stock hit its peak. Crashing stock prices plus layoffs meant few, if any, of the employees got anything of value. In the late 90's, managers were given the option to offer employees options instead of a salary increase. The old sage guys and gals immediately opted for salary. That increased their pension (for those lucky enough to have it) and their 401(k) contributions. Most of those who took options never vested due to RAs or the stock went down below levels where they had to pay to get their options issued! A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, in IBM it's more like 3 or 4! Always look for the story behind the management line. Then act on your best interests solely! -Active Measues Guy-

    • Comment 6/22/11: -Soontogo-, Kudos! I'm still employed but who knows for how long. I've been kicked off a rather big internal project earlier in the year. I've been off the project since Feb, but still get contacted for knowledge transfer items. I've long had the same philosophy. There are little tid-bits that I learned (things I spent hours on or just plain hard challenging things that took a while to learn thru experience) that I will never transfer to them. They'll need to learn the same way I did, but experience shows many of these resources will not learn. They just are not experienced enough to know where to start. They want to be handheld and spoon fed information instead of learning it on their own. The project has suffered tremendously, I just sit here with a big grin on my face watching it happen. -big grin guy-
  • IBM Global Union Alliance Comments:
    • Comment 6/15/11: Country = Bulgaria; Union Affiliate = PODKREPA; Job Title = na; IBM Division = GDC' Message = I work for IBM, Global Delivery Center in Sofia, Bulgaria. Yesterday the company was full of guards from the security company. When we asked the guys why there are so many of them they confessed that the manager asked the management of the security company to be omnipresent here as a 100-year- celebration was going on at the company and he feared a protest and distribution of protest leaflets from the union at the company. I was really smashed. It all happens in 21st century in EU. No rights to protest, no right to have union activities. What a shame! What a disgrace for IBM! -anon-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times: Health Law in a Swirl of Forecasts. By Milt Freudenheim. Excerpts: After nearly two weeks of widespread queries and criticisms, McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm, posted on Monday the questionnaire and methodology of an online survey it had released that was denounced by the White House and others for contending that nearly a third of employers would definitely or probably drop coverage for employees when provisions of the health care law took effect in 2014. ...

    In posting “details regarding the survey” on its Web site Monday, McKinsey acknowledged that its survey was “not comparable” to the studies by the budget office, Urban Institute or others using economic modeling. Rather, it surveyed business owners using an online panel. McKinsey said it paid for the survey by Ipsos, a French marketing firm, “to capture the attitudes of employers,” large and small.

  • The Buffalo News, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: Single-payer coverage eyed in New York State. By Douglas Turner. Excerpts: In New York, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, has introduced legislation creating a single-payer plan for all residents of the state. Gottfried is Health Committee chairman. His bill has more than 60 Assembly and Senate cosponsors. Among them are Democratic Assembly Members Sam Hoyt, Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Mark F. Schroeder, of Buffalo. The bill creates the State Health Plan, which would become an authority, drawing revenues from the State Health Trust Fund. The fund would get its money from federal and other funds already going to the state from Medicaid and other sources, plus new payroll taxes. The payroll taxes would be 2 percent on employees, 8 percent on employers and 10 percent on the self-employed. Private health insurance premiums now are about 22 percent to 25 percent of payroll. ...

    “We can get better coverage, get all of us covered and save billions by having New York provide publicly sponsored single-payer health coverage,” Gottfried said. He said this may be the closest New York could get to an economic silver bullet, making the state much more “job friendly” by eliminating the need for employers to pay for health insurance.

    Right now, the state is in the cellar as a place to do business. Health care costs are at least 16 percent of all goods and services produced statewide, or nationally. Most other industrialized nations spend 8 percent to 10 percent on health care and get better quality.

    More importantly, a single-payer system would provide coverage for individuals, as more and more private employers say they are planning to end paying for this defined benefit when the weaker federal plan becomes effective in 2014.

  • Wall Street Journal: Out-of-Network Rates. By Anna Milde Mathews. Excerpts: Consumers know they will have to pay out of their pockets if they use medical providers outside their insurers' networks. But because of a little-noticed change, they may find themselves with even bigger bills than they expect. Several major insurers are now using rates based on Medicare fees to calculate payments for out-of-network providers. Those amounts are often a lot lower than what doctors and hospitals actually charge. The upshot: Providers may bill patients for the difference. What's more, that bill comes on top of whatever patients owe in deductibles or co-payments.

    New York entertainment attorney Mark D. Sendroff says he knew he'd get a bill when he went to an out-of-network surgeon for a shoulder operation last summer. But he was shocked when his Aetna health-insurance plan paid only around $1,000 of the surgeon's approximately $30,000 charge -- and part of the payment was his deductible. "It was absolutely crazy," he says.

    Mr. Sendroff thought the plan was going to pay his doctor based on a "usual and customary" rate that's supposed to represent a typical charge for his area. Instead, the insurer pegged the doctor's reimbursement to 110% of the fee paid by Medicare. Mr. Sendroff appealed the decision, and after he contacted the New York attorney general's office, Aetna agreed to pay more, he says.

  • Wall Street Journal: Court Strikes Down Limits on Data Mining of Drug Records. By Brent Kendall. Excerpts: The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Vermont law that barred the sale of doctors' prescription data to drug companies, ruling the law interfered with the pharmaceutical industry's First Amendment right to market its products. Data companies such as IMS Health Inc. gather information from pharmacies about which medicines doctors are prescribing and how often. Drug makers buy the data, using it to refine their marketing pitches and measure which salespeople are the most effective.

    2007 Vermont law effectively banned the practice in the state. It said data-mining companies can't sell the prescription information for marketing purposes, and drug makers can't use it, unless the prescribing doctor consents. Vermont lawmakers said the measure would protect the privacy of doctors and patients and help to control health-care costs on expensive brand-name drugs.

    The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said the law was an unconstitutional restriction on drug makers' free-speech rights.

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.

  • Washington Post with Bloomberg: With executive pay, rich pull away from rest of America. By Peter Whoriskey. Excerpts: It was the 1970s, and the chief executive of a leading U.S. dairy company, Kenneth J. Douglas, lived the good life. He earned the equivalent of about $1 million today. He and his family moved from a three-bedroom home to a four-bedroom home, about a half-mile away, in River Forest, Ill., an upscale Chicago suburb. He joined a country club. The company gave him a Cadillac. The money was good enough, in fact, that he sometimes turned down raises. He said making too much was bad for morale.

    Forty years later, the trappings at the top of Dean Foods, as at most U.S. big companies, are more lavish. The current chief executive, Gregg L. Engles, averages 10 times as much in compensation as Douglas did, or about $10 million in a typical year. He owns a $6 million home in an elite suburb of Dallas and 64 acres near Vail, Colo., an area he frequently visits. He belongs to as many as four golf clubs at a time — two in Texas and two in Colorado. While Douglas’s office sat on the second floor of a milk distribution center, Engles’s stylish new headquarters occupies the top nine floors of a 41-story Dallas office tower. When Engles leaves town, he takes the company’s $10 million Challenger 604 jet, which is largely dedicated to his needs, both business and personal. ...

    For years, statistics have depicted growing income disparity in the United States, and it has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. In 2008, the last year for which data are available, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent. But economists had little idea who these people were. How many were Wall street financiers? Sports stars? Entrepreneurs? Economists could only speculate, and debates over what is fair stalled.

    Now a mounting body of economic research indicates that the rise in pay for company executives is a critical feature in the widening income gap. The largest single chunk of the highest-income earners, it turns out, are executives and other managers in firms, according to a landmark analysis of tax returns by economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley T. Heim. These are not just executives from Wall Street, either, but from companies in even relatively mundane fields such as the milk business. ...

    In world rankings of income inequality, the United States now falls among some of the world’s less-developed economies. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, which uses the so-called “Gini coefficient,” a common economic indicator of inequality, the United States ranks as far more unequal than the European Union and the United Kingdom. The United States is in the company of developing countries — just behind Cameroon and Ivory Coast and just ahead of Uganda and Jamaica.

  • AlterNet: CEO of Walmart Makes in One Hour What the Average Employee Makes In a Year: How Skyrocketing Inequality Is Hurting America. A new report shows exactly who the top 0.1 percent of Americans with all the wealth are. The question is, what can we do about it? By Sarah Jaffe. Excerpts: LS. Robson “Rob” Walton, Walmart chairman, has a net worth of about $19.7 billion. And he's only number 9 on the list of 2010's top 20 richest Americans.

    Walmart workers, meanwhile, make around $8.75 an hour—about $18,000 a year. They'd have to work over a million years to approach what the chairman of Walmart Stores is sitting on. Alice and Jim Walton each have about $20 billion, and Christy Walton has $24 billion.

    Last year Jonathan Turley noted that the CEO of Walmart, Michael Duke, makes his average employee's yearly salary every hour. ...

    The news that the income gap is growing in the United States is probably not news at all to most working people. But this data throws the trend into sharp relief. Surprise, surprise, they're mostly not media personalities or athletes (just 3 percent). They're chief executives and managers (41 percent), and of course they work in finance (18 percent)--the same executives who are benefiting nicely from policies that have favored the rich and tilted the playing field in their favor, maintaining low personal and corporate tax rates and in some cases actually bailed their companies out with government funds. ...

    Another new report, this one in Mother Jones, points out some more maddening statistics. Productivity is up 80 percent since 1979, but workers' wages have hardly risen at all. The number of people working more than 50 hours a week has steadily increased, and workers are now expected to be available and responsive to email communications when not at the office. The report charts the return of growth in gross domestic product (GDP), but not jobs to match. And those multinational corporations with multimillionaire CEOs are hiring more people overseas than they are at home. ...

    Whether it's social norms or political decisions that have changed, the system that we've got is working everyday people harder and harder for a smaller and smaller share of the pie. There may not be an obvious alternative yet, but how long will 90 percent of Americans be content with the squeeze?

  • New York Times editorial: Wal-Mart Wins. Workers Lose. Excerpts: Wal-Mart Stores asked the Supreme Court to make a million or more of the company’s current and former female employees fend for themselves in individual lawsuits instead of seeking billions of dollars for discrimination in a class-action lawsuit. Wal-Mart got what it wanted from the court — unanimous dismissal of the suit as the plaintiffs presented it — and more from the five conservative justices, who went further in restricting class actions in general.

    The majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia will make it substantially more difficult for class-action suits in all manner of cases to move forward. For 45 years, since Congress approved the criteria for class actions, the threshold for certification of a class has been low, with good reason because certification is merely the first step in a suit. Members of a potential class have had to show that they were numerous, had questions of law or fact in common and had representatives with typical claims who would protect the interests of the class.

  • New York Times op-ed: Wal-Mart’s Authoritarian Culture. By Nelson Liechtenstein. Excerpts: Monday's Supreme Court decision to block a class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart was a huge setback for as many as 1.6 million current and former female employees of the world’s largest retailer. But the decision has consequences that range far beyond sex discrimination or the viability of class-action suits.

    The underlying issue, which the Supreme Court has now ratified, is Wal-Mart’s authoritarian style, by which executives pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers.

    Indeed, the sex discrimination at Wal-Mart that drove the recent suit is the product not merely of managerial bias and prejudice, but also of a corporate culture and business model that sustains it, rooted in the company’s very beginnings. ...

    But that avoids the more essential point, namely that Wal-Mart views low labor costs and a high degree of workplace flexibility as a signal competitive advantage. It is a militantly anti-union company that has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to current and former employees for violations of state wage and hour laws.

    In other words, the patriarchy of old has been reconfigured into a more systematically authoritarian structure, one that deploys a communitarian ethos to sustain a high degree of corporate loyalty even as wages and working conditions are put under continual downward pressure — especially in recent years, as Wal-Mart’s same-store sales have declined. Workers of both sexes pay the price, but women, who constitute more than 70 percent of hourly employees, pay more.

    There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.

    Why? Because, for all the change that has swept over the company, at the store level there is still a fair amount of the old communal sociability. Recognizing that workers steeped in that culture make poor candidates for assistant managers, who are the front lines in enforcing labor discipline, Wal-Mart insists that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store, often hundreds of miles away.

    For young men in a hurry, that’s an inconvenience; for middle-aged women caring for families, this corporate reassignment policy amounts to sex discrimination. True, Wal-Mart is hardly alone in demanding that rising managers sacrifice family life, but few companies make relocation such a fixed policy, and few have employment rolls even a third the size.

  • The Money Party: Questions for The Money Party: Why Negative Job Growth Since 2000? By Michael Collins. Excerpts: The Money Party is a very small group of enterprises and individuals who control almost all of the money and power in the United States. They use their money and power to make more money and gain more power. It’s not about Republicans versus Democrats. The Money Party is an equal opportunity employer. It has no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. Democrats are as welcome as Republicans to this party. It’s all good when you’re on the take and the take is legal. Economic Populist

    Negative job growth for eleven years is the best evidence concerning our economic troubles. There were 135 million jobs in 2000 for a workforce of 144 million. Today, there are 139 million jobs for a workforce of 154 million. That represents negative job growth when you factor in population growth. Job growth in this economy hit a dead calm in 2000 and is now moving backwards. If the issue isn’t raised, how can we address the phenomena?

    The solutions offered by congressional Republicans are packed with their favorite programs (House and Senate versions). Unfortunately, their proposals don’t have much to do with increasing jobs. The first recommendation calls for the federal government to “start living within [its] means.” How does that happen? Pass a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget and put the budget process in a “straight jacket” through fixed spending limits. We are told that this will “cut spending to immediately and substantially reduce deficits.” The Republicans fail to mention how many jobs will be created. Their program makes rules on spending but, with one exception, it neglects to mention any specific programs that should be cut. Guess which program they mentioned? Their manifesto suggests that we must “control entitlement spending”. e.g., Social Security. How convenient. They cite the one program running a substantial surplus, the lifeline for seniors.

    The Republican jobs program eliminates all those regulations they love to hate. Generating more jobs by eliminating regulations is laughable. Since 2001, rules and regulations for business (e.g., Wall Street) have been tossed overboard at a record pace. No new jobs were created during this period. The collapse of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed are the main effect of eliminating regulations. ...

    Both parties go on ad nauseam about job training and make the compulsory references to community colleges as the key element. Community colleges are outstanding resources. They need more funding. But the notion that there is a skills gap between the employees and available jobs was totally debunked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A recent BLS revision of its new jobs data showed that all those new jobs simply don’t exist.

    Neither party addresses the ravages of free trade. They talk about export growth but forget the reciprocal, friendly free trade deals plus the import of skilled professionals that end jobs here while creating them over there. The Money Party has done nothing about negative job growth. The party’s Republican and Democratic factions won’t even mention that this has gone on for eleven years. ...

    The Money Party is short on imagination. It won’t allow its minions, the servants of power, to think outside the box of the status quo. The party is a one trick pony. The party is also short on compassion or even the most elementary forms of common decency. It’s OK to see millions of people evicted, jobless, without health care, etc., as long as short term profits are maintained for those CEO bonuses and other enrichment for a tiny minority. It’s perfectly acceptable for this to go on despite available solutions. If you don’t look, it’s not there should be their motto.

  • truthOut: Why the Republican War on Workers Rights Undermines the American Economy. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: Republicans in Congress are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board, which is likely to consider a relatively minor rule change allowing workers to vote on whether to unionize soon after a union has been proposed, rather than allowing employers to delay the vote for years. Many employers have used the delaying tactics to retaliate against workers who try to organize, and intimidate others into rejecting a union. This war on workers’ rights is an assault on the middle class, and it is undermining the American economy.

    The American economy can’t get out of neutral until American workers have more money in their pockets to buy what they produce. And unions are the best way to give them the bargaining power to get better pay.

    For three decades after World War II – I call it the “Great Prosperity” – wages rose in tandem with productivity. Americans shared the gains of growth, and had enough money to buy what they produced. That’s largely due to the role of labor unions. In 1955, over a third of American workers in the private sector were unionized. Today, fewer than 7 percent are.

    With the decline of unions has come the stagnation of American wages. More and more of the total income and wealth of America has gone to the very top. The middle class’s purchasing power has depended on mothers going into paid work, everyone working longer hours, and, finally, the middle class going deep into debt, using their homes as collateral. But now all these coping mechanisms are exhausted — and we’re living with the consequence. ...

    Germany is growing much faster than the United States. Its unemployment rate is now only 6.1 percent (we’re now at 9.1 percent). What’s Germany’s secret? In sharp contrast to the decades of stagnant wages in America, real average hourly pay has risen almost 30 percent there since 1985. Germany has been investing substantially in education and infrastructure.

    How did German workers do it? A big part of the story is German labor unions are still powerful enough to insist that German workers get their fair share of the economy’s gains. That’s why pay at the top in Germany hasn’t risen any faster than pay in the middle. As David Leonhardt reported in the New York Times recently, the top 1 percent of German households earns about 11 percent of all income – a percent that hasn’t changed in four decades.

    Contrast this with the United States, where the top 1 percent went from getting 9 percent of total income in the late 1970s to more than 20 percent today. ...

    The current Republican assault on workers’ rights continues a thirty-year war on American workers’ wages. That long-term war has finally taken its toll on the American economy. It’s time to fight back.

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.