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Highlights—August 13, 2011

  • CNET News: How IBM's 5150 PC shaped the computer industry. By Jay Greene. Excerpts: Most people in the Western world walk around with a powerful computer in their pocket or purse, otherwise known as a smartphone. It's not unusual to see someone clutching a legal pad-size gadget on airplane flights, such as an iPad, to read books. It's nearly impossible to walk into a coffee shop without finding someone pecking away at a trim notebook computer, checking e-mail and surfing the Web.

    The lineage of all those devices, in one way or another, flows directly back to a press conference some 30 years ago tomorrow. On August 12, 1981, IBM rented out a ballroom at the elegant Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York and introduced its landmark 5150 personal computer.

    Looking at the beige box today, nothing seems particularly remarkable. The rectangular CPU, with two black bays for floppy disks, isn't a marvel of design brilliance. There's nothing striking about the lines, the graphics, the color palette. The 5150 wasn't even the first PC. Apple, Atari, and Commodore produced so-called microcomputers that preceded it. And IBM's creation was inferior in some ways to those rivals.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Query regarding IBM US Salary and Band" by "sby_willie". Full excerpt: The band levels for levels 55,57,59,61 roughly are: Band 07 for level 55 (56); Band 08 for level 57 (58); Band 09 for level 59; Band 10 for level 61.

    There is definitely overlap with the bands that is much more than the level's had IMHO. It is not uncommon that a band 07 could be performing a level 57 (advisory) job. Also, a person who is a band 08 could be performing a level 59 (senior) job. BTW, band 06 might have the widest band vs. level comparison. The equivalent is level 52 AND 54 (associate and senior associate) for this band. Some could say an experienced band 6 can be doing level 55 (staff)work, especially when there is a paucity of promotions in IBM now.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Query regarding IBM US Salary and Band" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: IBM's current salary system is really dysfunctional. In the past (ten years or more ago) salary increases were not an annual "all at one time" affair. Your raises could vary in terms of both time between raises and percentage. If you were a good performer, and were paid below where you should be in your band, you would receive more frequent and bigger raises to "get caught up."

    In the current system, you damn well better hire on with a good salary because there's no such thing as getting caught up. With raises going to only "1" and "2+" performers (who make up an increasingly smaller percentage of employees), and those raises being miniscule (3% for a "1" performer, 1.5% or less for a "2+" performer), you'll never catch up with what more recent hires get. And, if you're a "2" performer (which is most likely more than 50% of all employees), recent history shows you'll never get a raise.

    Is it any wonder IBM is bleeding employees? And, if the economy *ever* gets better, expect an even larger exodus.

    IBM is what you get when a company is managed by bean counters.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Query regarding IBM US Salary and Band" by "thirtyyearibmer". Excerpts: I don't think any VP or Director today could "fix such a situation in today's IBM." All decision making has been centralized into finance working with human resources to control costs. The advantage of the ol' IBM was that a lot of the decision making capabilities were still decentralized and when a problem was found, it could be fixed. It was possible for a first line manager, director or VP to motivate by direct reward for outstanding performance.

    Personal and very humble opinion is that those abilities, even for executives, no longer exist in IBM. They are for the most part powerless in the face of expense controls.

    Eventually, those that are good, excellent employees will gradually move to where they are respected. Respect means paying for performance and that has been broken for a long time.

    Gerstner in his book "Who says Elephants Can't Dance?" says he fixed this problem with the massive across IBM "variable pay" based on IBM performance. I have yet to find a single IBM employee that believes if they work harder today that it will affect their variable pay. Yet no one seems to challenge his assumptions, eh?

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Query regarding IBM US Salary and Band" by "maxxcurrey". Excerpts: Mr. Gerstner deserves not one iota of respect IMO. ANYONE can sell off assets of a billion dollar company, terminate employees, steal their pensions and then run off into the sunset. After which such a slimeball can hire someone to ghostwrite a self-praising book on how they "saved" the company that they robbed.

    BTW, I have ALWAYS talk about salary at every corporation where I have been. I do NOT have a written contract which forbids it and it is legal to do so. Just because a manager says so does not make it so. In at least two cases two former peers got raises to my level. Information is power and my parents who were in unions raised me not to buy 100% into the corporate mantra. It is business and not family nor team no matter how much is said to the contrary. Would a family or team dump thousands so that a few at the top could live like kings? As Orwell wrote "some pigs are better than others".

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Query regarding IBM US Salary and Band" by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: Max, I agree with you on the salary discussion. Later in my career we, my peers and I, had open discussions. Personally, I didn't want friends of mine earning less than they deserved and the only way to have that discussion is above board and in the open. It was hard for me as I was raised that such discussions were associated with people that wanted to boast about how much they made. Many times that was what I observed and just kept my mouth shut in such conversations - I would ask myself, "what is to be gained by anyone in such a discussion but to put others down or raise yourself up?" So in general those discussions for me are still personal and with friends that are trying to evaluate where they are at, where they should go and are they being treated fairly?

    So I guess it always has to be put within the context of honest sharing of information. As I said, I think the current generation is much more open in these discussions, but businesses have brought that on themselves to a large degree with the lack of respect and belief that employees are expendable and interchangeable.

    As an example of the "new generation" and the silliness of the new IBM pay policies here is one experience I had recently:

    A friend of mine was resourced and at the time made 90,000 per year. He was gone for about 18 months and was then rehired by IBM at 120,000 per year. So IBM gave him a 30% raise, caused grief in his life that destroyed his loyalty to the company and is now working a lot less enthusiastically because of how he was treated. The paycheck is just a paycheck (but a much bigger one, eh?) - how much silliness is that? Is that maximizing stockholder value, treating people with respect or even good common business sense? I think not.

    Notice we talked salary! So some of this new generation stuff, I like! Maybe you can teach an old dog a new trick or two. Cheers, Pete.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Query regarding IBM US Salary and Band" by "sby_willie". Full excerpt: It always seemed peculiar to me that IBM didn't allow salaries to be discussed. It is like they knew very well of the inequities but didn't want to do anything about it. Keeping employees quiet about it only made this more strikingly stark. You would figure a company like IBM where RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL was once a pillar would always try to pay INDIVIDUALS as fairly as possible instead of trying to quell it or ignore it by making pay discussions between employees and even with management taboo.

    At least in the "old IBM" they touted "your overall compensation package" (i.e. your salary, your pension, your ESOP, your paid vacation, your retirement medical, etc.). Now does anyone ever hear of this anymore to even dare discuss it?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: FHA balance still unavailable" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Back in 1999, when IBM changed the pension plan, they also changed medical benefits for retirees. First Choicers (those who were within 5 years of being eligible to retire as of 7/1/99) got to keep the old pension plan and also the old medical benefits. All other employees were switched to a new retiree medical plan called the Future Health Account, or FHA.

    Under the FHA, IBM places $2500 a year into a notional account each year for 10 years, starting when you reach 40 years of age. Each year, the money in the account earns interest at a rate equivalent to the average of the 1-year treasury bill rate for the months of August, September and October, plus 1 percent. For 2011, the rate is 1.3%.

    Employees who were already over the age of 40 on 7/1/99 received an opening balance credit to their accounts to take a bit of the sting out of the conversion to the FHA. This credit ranged from $120 for someone who was just over 40 to around $20,000 for someone who was age 49.

    When you leave IBM, you can use the FHA money to purchase medical insurance only from IBM. But to qualify, you have to be at least age 55 with 15 years of service, or, if you had at least 1 year of service on 7/1/99, you can use the FHA if you leave at any age with 30 or more years of service.

    Based on the cost of IBM retiree medical insurance and the typical FHA balance that a retiree can expect to have, the money in the FHA will be enough to pay for medical coverage for 4 to 5 years for a single person, or 2-3 years for a retiree + spouse.

    Once the money in the FHA account runs out, you can still purchase retiree medical coverage out of your own pocket. In 2011, this costs around $6500 per year for a single person on the high deductible plan and $10,000 a year for the low deductible plan. Double those numbers for retiree + spouse coverage.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: FHA balance still unavailable" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: This is great. Just a couple more points:
    • IBM does not place any money into an account for FHA. It is a credit (on paper). It is not real money like a 401K account. This is in part why you have no right to the "money" if you leave IBM before 15 years of service, etc.
    • Those who otherwise are eligible for FHA, but with less than 15 years service, still have "access only" and can buy FHA by paying the full premium (just as those who run out of FHA money can continue with an FHA plan if they pay the full premium).
    • The intent of the FHA money is to help an early retiree bridge the cost of payments until Medicare kicks in. The money was never intended to pay for retiree health insurance.
    • The FHA premium cost is still a group plan and is still a better deal than buying insurance on the open market. Checking around, including ehealthinsurance.com (a program IBM participates in and will send a letter to leaving employees, that guarantees insurance without exceptions for pre-existing medical conditions for some time frame), the open market plans for a similar cost are inferior. Be sure you get a plan with a cap on the annual out of pocket cost, and has a prescription feature that is not limited to $x a year.
    • The FHA plans are more expensive and inferior in features to the IBM employee plans. Retiree plans are exempt from the Health Reform passed by Congress. The employee plans are no deductible or copay cost if you go to your primary care physician even for other than preventative. My former employee plan, the IBM PPO, was zero premium (single person) and I had that while on TMP after being RA'd from IBM. Employee plans also have co-pays, versus the FHA plans that have you pay % of costs - my FHA plan requires I pay 20% of bills which is costlier than a simple fixed $25 co-pay.
    • If you have the access only FHA feature, and you drop it, you cannot get back in (unlike those who still have some money left in the plan). Consider that there are retiree plans (Medicare eligible) that I am told access only participants can buy. Given the above, it may be advisable to not drop FHA (which is better than the open market) if you intend to continue FHA when you begin Medicare.
  • The Hindu Business Line (India): Layoff fears back to haunt IT industry. By Anjali Prayag. Excerpts: With the US economy downgraded, jitters are back for the Indian IT and ITeS jobs market. While the numbers are not yet intimidating, there is a fear of impending large-scale layoffs across the industry. For instance, Cisco, which has announced a global workforce reduction of 6,500, is said to be in the process of cutting its staff numbers in India by at least 300, according to a source in the company. IBM India is said to have started a layoff process that will affect at least 1,000 people. ...

    Sources in IBM India said right now, it is the bottom of the employment pyramid that will be impacted, but do not rule out senior people also being asked to leave. Earlier this month, HSBC Bank announced that it would cut 10,000 jobs. Although HR experts say at least five per cent would be from India, the company spokesperson clarified that the ‘announcement would have no impact on India.'

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: As U.S. stumbles, companies invest in consumer growth overseas" by "Paul S". Full excerpt: We may be long gone with this trend turns around - but we've already seen large salary hikes in India - between 15% and 30% at IBM, this year. IBM apparently didn't learn Watson's lesson: In a tight labor market, like India, if you trail in the prevailing wage rate you will lose your best people. Though apparently it took Sam and his henchpersons some years to figure that one out. Of course that salary gain probably amounts to less than $2000.00 a person, on average, but Sam has shown himself to be penny-wise and greed-foolish. Well not foolish when it comes to his personal own bottom line.

    Now with his own timeline drawing short he will probably unleash a maelstrom of nastiness against the US, Canadian and other 1st world country's loyal employees. I passed the CWA (Communication Workers of America) local office here in Poughkeepsie and gave a horn toot of solidarity to these folks, bedecked in their red tee-shirted splendor. They are fighting for things already lost by the IBM US worker, given up with scarcely a fight. But it's not too late to organize and fight for a fair contract. Never think you cannot be RA'd. The warning shots have been fired, and they keep getting closer. If you are a 1 appraised engineer, and working 14 hours a day, you may be safe for awhile, but better go for a checkup...all that sitting can lead to blood clots.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Senior IT Specialist in Charlotte, NC: (Past Employee - 2009) “Good place to work.” Pros: IBM treats you well, both in compensation and professional/technical education, while you are there. You will be offered continual challenges and are expected to make your own way.

      Cons: Surprisingly, IBM offers no job security, or stability, even for outstanding achievement. You are expected to make IBM successful, and your reward is in your paycheck. There is no guarantee that your achievements will be considered during the continuous "musical chair" strategy IBM uses. Best advice - Get in, excel, and be prepared with an exit strategy.

      Advice to Senior Management: Upper management is too far removed from the action. Get connected with the people that are working hard to make IBM successful. First level managers don't have much management experience, and don't "bubble-up" outstanding effort being made by their teams.

    • IBM Consultant: (Past Employee - 2011) “Excellent brand, but don't judge a book by its cover.” Pros: Working only in Global Business Services, I can only discuss the consulting part of IBM. Having IBM on your resume is a positive. Its brand name is recognizable and trustworthy. The company has processes to get you into leadership positions, so long as you a standout employee. IBM also has great resources to get you more international exposure, such as their Corporate Service Corps, which is a 4-week Peace Corps-like experience to help projects along in developing countries. The connections you make from this intense program are lifelong and truly a worthwhile experience.

      Cons: IBM's consulting business suffers from far too many processes, and upper and middle management are likely overweight. The processes are largely driven by corporate bean counters and their methods pervert what should be every consulting company's mission: to bring value to the client. GBS measures individual success in terms of how many billable hours are charged to the client, rather than the value that is created for the client. I would argue adamantly that the latter will create much greater and sustainable business growth whereas the former only focuses on short-term quarterly reports to the shareholders. Consultants are expected to work these significantly longer hours in order for the company to be "competitive." Seeing that there are so many processes and approval mechanisms in the day-to-day, I would say that the company can be more competitive by being more efficient.

      Training budgets are so low that almost no one can take classes outside of what is offered on the intranet. Intranet training, moreover, is specifically geared to IBM's core functions as an IT and services company. However, there is no flexibility should your field be on the frontier of IBM, such as Smarter Planet, which focuses on improving the nation's health care and sustainable development. Such subject matter training is not offered in the intranet curriculum.

      Advice to Senior Management: Surely a business that specializes in business consulting can look internally to streamline itself.

    • IBM IT Specialist in Portsmouth, South East England, England (United Kingdom): (Current Employee) “Work generally OK, management poor, pay very poor, little reward.” Pros: Great people, knowledgeable, often interesting work. Cons: Pay, management especially senior management are very poor, no recognition in meaningfully ways (i.e. pay!), too much unreasonable process for pay rise and promotion etc Advice to Senior Management: Reward your employees much more, rather than the pay and pensions of very senior management. Stop buying back shares that only benefit senior management and not 99% of employees or shareholders. Invest better in all parts of business not just 'research division' and invest in people not yourselves!l
    • IBM Sales Representative in Southfield, MI: (Past Employee - 2009) “Waste of Time.” Pros: The benefits with IBM are very good. Cons: Since Lou left the company Sam as no clue how to lead. He believes that running a company by daily forecast calls is the way to run a company. Advice to Senior Management: None
    • IBM Anonymous in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Worse than a government organization for policies and procedures.” Pros: Good training opportunities network with professionals across globe. Flexibility of work timing, Brand name.

      Cons: Worst in employee compensation - especially if you are a long timer in the company - don't ever stay for more than 4-5 years! IBM benchmarks your salary to be the median of the worst in industry and best salary in industry. That means if you will never be paid the best salary, in this company how much ever good you are!

      Long timers will get stagnated with not much career growth.

      No good employee benefits except for trainings that are available.

      Performance evaluation is the worst that I have seen in the industry. It's all subjective and driven by the perceptions of the manager. Your manager is the god and be always in his/her good books; that is the key for survival (even if you don't do any work!) Everything (your promotion, hike, bonus or any thing else), all are linked with your annual evaluation rating (so called "PBC rating" - 1,2,3, etc.) and surrounds around that magic number. If you are not in the top 10% list of your team forget about any good hike or promotion or benefits for the next one year.

      Worst HR policies. The actual HR team hides behind the so called "people managers" and drive the policies through them. The people managers act as puppets in the hands of HR with no good power to take any meaningful decisions. No accountability for the actual HR team on employees.

      The company was very good when it was a small organization in the late 90s to early 2K. Now it's just another government-like massive junk organization with lot of red tapism in it. Worst policies and procedures. Not at all employee friendly.

      They boast a lot about their market leadership position in innovation, brand name, technology advancement etc. etc., but all those are done by a small % of the company's workforce in some labs in some other foreign countries. As a regular normal employee who work in usual projects you will never get to see any of those stuff in your lifetime nor will be able to be a part of those.

      Advice to Senior Management: Please open up your eyes and see the amount of erosion of the good skilled people from this great company. You need to change your notion that you can run a good company by just hiring a set of low cost college students from 3rd or 4th grade colleges by paying few pennies. If you need quality in your product, you need to pay for quality raw material (aka good technical resources). If you continue the current trend, the history of the company will get over in the 110th year. Change your HR policies first. Make your HR team accountable for the employees. HR also should be questioned why the quality of the products and services are getting degraded. Give credit to the long timers and value their loyalty to the organization instead of taking their loyalty for granted and paying them peanuts while you hire junk from the market paying through nose!

    • IBM Consultant in Washington, DC: (Current Employee) “Non-existent culture; talent/intelligence among IBM consultants disappointing.” Pros: IBM pays very well for university graduates, relative to other similar jobs, and it's a company that is known by virtually everyone, looks fantastic on a resume. Cons: -Corporate culture is extremely sterile, and cold. -IBMers are treated as "units" rather than as people. -The level of talent and intellect in IBM's Public Sector consulting practice is disappointing. -A high degree of nepotism, and jobs are handed to people even when the IBM relative (son, daughter, niece, nephew, etc) hired wouldn't be otherwise talented enough to hold the job. -Significant lack of people skills among managers. -Culture isn't friendly to those who aren't "IT people."
    • IBM Anonymous in Boulder, CO: (Current Employee) “Started good but slowly cutting on everything offered as intensives to work at ibm.” Pros: Vacation time and health coverage is good. They are good with working flexible schedules. Cons: Very slow to increase base salary. Constantly slashing incentives such as college, pension, shift premiums. Advice to Senior Management: Stop cutting the employees salaries as a leverage to boost ibm stock prices
    • IBM Senior Consultant in Fairfax, VA: (Current Employee) “Survival of the fittest.” Pros: You are really forced into action. You'll get exposure to a lot of things. You will be forced to become a leader. If you're a top performer, you will get compensated for it. Cons: Extremely long hours. Potentially get stuck in one area. Advice to Senior Management: Communicate to employees and be clear in defining advancement and promotions.
    • By Darin: It's survival of a percentage, not the fittest, period. Every year they decimate the ranks. They don't care who goes. So long as they get rid of a percentage of US workers and send the work to low cost countries, that's all that matters. I was a PBC 1/2+ every year for 10 years in IBM. The "reward" was laughable.
  • Los Angeles Times: As U.S. stumbles, companies invest in consumer growth overseas. Many begin to give up on the ailing American shopper and make plans to chase growing demand in Asia and Latin America. By Don Lee. Excerpts: Many major U.S. companies are making big plans to expand overseas even as some of them announce new layoffs at home, and there's a chilling reason why: They're beginning to give up on the American consumer as a source of future growth.

    For years, U.S. companies went off shore to get cheaper labor and lower manufacturing costs for products to be sold to Americans. Now, as the nation's economy stalls and personal incomes stagnate, they see consumers in Asia and Latin America as offering brighter prospects for future sales and profits. In effect, as many corporate executives look ahead, the United States has a diminishing place in their thinking.

    The nation's tax laws reinforce the pattern. American companies have piled up mountains of profits overseas, but they must pay very high taxes if they bring the money home. So instead of investing back home, they are more apt to put the money into overseas expansion, adding jobs there. ...

    Major layoff announcements by big corporations already have begun to rise again in the U.S., hitting a 16-month high of 66,414 jobs to be shed in coming months, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Strikingly, the largest layoff actions last month were accompanied by disclosures that the same companies planned to ramp up their operations — including hiring — in emerging economies. ...

    "Now there are more doubts about how temporary the slowdown is" in American consumer spending and economic activity, said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University. "Instead of positioning for demand in the U.S.," she said, "larger companies will shift more resources abroad and small businesses will be staying in the sidelines. ... Pent-up demand isn't enough."

  • Inside Tech: 5 Signs Your Resumé is Passé. By Tania Khadder. Excerpt: The workplace is not what it was five years ago. Neither is the job hunt. The most successful candidates are those who are ready and willing to adapt to a changing landscape. But it doesn’t matter how ready you are for the modern workplace if your resumé’s straight out of 1994. And sometimes, it’s the most minute details that make all the difference. Does your resumé speak to the modern hiring manager? Or does it need a serious makeover? Your resumé might be passé if…
  • New York Times: Sharp Rift in a Strike at Verizon. By Steven Greenhouse. Excerpts: The decision by 45,000 workers at Verizon Communications businesses to go on strike Sunday over proposed benefit cuts reflects sharp battle lines. On one side is a highly profitable telecommunications company that is eager to trim costs in its declining businesses; on the other are unionized workers who fear that the many concessions demanded by their employer will force them to give up decades of hard-won gains.

    The walkout is unusual at a time when unemployment is steep and organized labor has lost several big battles. But union leaders are angry that Verizon has budged little from its long list of demands during six weeks of negotiations. The unions have resisted Verizon’s requests for concessions on scores of issues because the company has been very profitable overall, with net income of $6.9 billion in the first six months of this year.

  • Center for American Progress: Top 10 Reasons Middle-Class Retirement Is at Risk. Many Americans’ ‘Golden Years’ May Be Anything But. By Christian E. Weller. Excerpt: American families typically rank retirement income security as one of their top economic worries. Today they have plenty of reasons for their angst. Household wealth dropped precipitously during the Great Recession, leaving the majority of families inadequately prepared to maintain their standard of living in retirement. And the especially weak labor market since 2007 left many households with fewer options to work longer to compensate for insufficient retirement savings. The numbers tell a depressing tale of widespread retirement income insecurity...
  • truthOut: Capitulation, Not Compromise, Led to a Debt Deal. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: What would I have done? That’s the question President Obama’s kinda-sorta defenders keep asking; it’s supposed to be a conversation-stopper.

    But the answer is clear: I would have made a statement declaring that giving in to this kind of blackmail would constitute a violation of my oath of office, and that my lawyers, on careful reflection, have determined that there are several legal options that allow me to ignore this extortionate demand. ...

    As Mr. Chait said in his article, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don’t care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don’t matter at all.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 8/08/11: I just read Mac Randy's testimony about how IBM is leading the industry in flexible work arrangements, such as work from home. I wonder if anyone told Randy about Software Groups "Back to the Labs" initiative, where IBM is forcing employees to come into work everyday if they live within 50 miles of their assigned lab. -JustRandy-

      Alliance Reply: So you expect Randy to tell the truth and say and do things in the employees interests? Fight for a contract and organize, and stop 'wondering' what Randy or Sammy or any of the Executives are being informed about what is going on, or doing. THEY are the ones that initiate these kinds of 'initiatives". They all know what they are doing. Join the union and fight for a contract. Right now our brothers and sisters in the CWA and IBEW are fighting Verizon. They already have contracts; but the company is trying to take away the things that the contracts protect. The union is out there fighting together. That's what IBMers need to do. Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701 is 100% in solidarity with the Verizon workers.

    • Comment 8/08/11: Word passed down today to contractors in my part of IGS: 1) NO overtime allowed except for a few pre-approved special cases. 2) Must take 5-days off (unpaid of course) between now and end of Sept. Naturally there can be no impact to the customers. Huh??? How's that work again??? -anonymous-
    • Comment 8/08/11: Heard from a fairly good source that the next RA is scheduled for either the end of September or the second week of October. Sorry, could not get any information on percentage of employees affected or divisions/locations. The source did emanate from SWG. -SammyChopoYourJobo-
    • Comment 8/08/11: The same pay reduction (can't sugarcoat this furlough) just came down through CDI. -anonymous-
    • Comment 8/08/11: Alliance. They just do not get it. Today's IBMer does not understand that every time an RA happens they have less people to organize and less leverage if a strike is needed. Every day that goes by IBM is bringing up offshore sites and the need for, and therefore the leverage that IBM US workers have, dwindles. If the last remaining IBM US worker votes to organize then he or she will have 100 percent of the union vote; but when that one person strikes IBM says, "so what". Less workers means less impact and less leverage in negotiations. What are you waiting for?? -Exodus2007-

      Alliance Reply: We will not give up. We must continue to make it clear that there is no other option. Thanks for your support as always, Exodus2007. We appreciate your comments, too.

    • Comment 8/08/11: Re: -SammyChopoYourJobo- If there is an RA coming, it's most likely Aug. 25th, so they have get people off the books by end of the quarter. re: Greed Sammy Selling stock had nothing to do with RAs. Sammy probably had inside info in the upcoming downgrade of US debt, and knew the market would tank. That's how it works at the highest level. -qtr_century-
    • Comment 8/08/11: Today we were notified that personnel in my division must be at 112% utilization and we must give up our vacation if we are to make that goal. Those who miss 112% utilization (even if this is caused by vacation) will receive a flat, nonnegotiable "3" on their annual evaluation. This is a speedup. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 8/09/11: It's official - Div 7 ITD - OT for non-exempt employees now capped at 2 hours per week max. Contractors also being furloughed for 5 days. -Black N Blue-
    • Comment 8/10/11: Just received word that we may only work 2 hours OT per week, through Sept. 23rd. This comes after record profits, and that 15% pay cut we took awhile back. Div 7 - ITD. -So Done-
    • Comment 8/10/11: I know this is off subject; but please honor and show solidarity for the Verizon land line workers strike. If you are wireless and have Verizon put off any purchases of cell phone services and the like. We are all in this US corporate labor mess together. -we're red-

      Alliance Reply: We do honor and show solidarity to our union brothers & sisters, in CWA. We have also posted a notice on our web page front, with our commitment to Stand with Verizon workers. We encourage everyone to visit www.cwa-union.org and keep updated on our fight. Thank you for notifying IBMers of what it means to fight together.

    • Comment 8/10/11: If you are in ITD Div 7, and your manager's PBC has a "reduce cost" item in it, then an RA is coming to your area. They only have one way to meet this commitment. There was an RA last Nov, then Feb, then May, so most likely one in Aug. -anonymous-
    • Comment 8/11/11: In order to get unemployment benefits for a furlough you generally have to be out of work for 5 consecutive days in (five unpaid days, also known as the "waiting week") or make less than the maximum unemployment rate for the week for the state you work in in order to be able to file a UI claim. IBM knows this. That is why it is only a 5 day furlough for contractors. It would be interesting to see if a contractor is denied a request to take 5 consecutive days furlough ("work week") so there is no chance any UI claim can be filed. If we had a union we can stop atrocities like this. -furloughed-
    • Comment 8/11/11: Many American corporations are watching record profits come in and are sitting on tremendous amounts of cash reserves. They are not hiring. They are not increasing worker pay. In fact, they are reducing the number of employees each quarter and the only ones receiving a cut of the take are the looters at the top of the corporate food chain. IBM is certainly among them. I have no idea what sort of atrocities it would take for American citizens to realize what is being done to them. -Spamwich-
    • Comment 8/12/11: Word is around that contractors in IBM India will soon be in the line of fire. Non performing regulars are also expected to be nailed. No facts or figures are known yet. -BRIC IBMer-
    • Comment 8/13/11: Try this. When the manager tells you to reduce overtime, you tell him that you will eliminate it completely. And then do exactly that. Watch for his response -gadfly-
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: 30 Years Ago Today: The Day the Middle Class Died. By Michael Moore. Excerpts: From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

    Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."

    Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.

    And they've succeeded

  • New York Times opinion: S&P and the USA. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: OK, so Standard and Poors has gone ahead with the threatened downgrade. It’s a strange situation. ...

    On the other hand, it’s hard to think of anyone less qualified to pass judgment on America than the rating agencies. The people who rated subprime-backed securities are now declaring that they are the judges of fiscal policy? Really?

    Just to make it perfect, it turns out that S&P got the math wrong by $2 trillion, and after much discussion conceded the point — then went ahead with the downgrade.

    In short, S&P is just making stuff up — and after the mortgage debacle, they really don’t have that right. So this is an outrage — not because America is A-OK, but because these people are in no position to pass judgment.

  • Wall Street Journal: Rating the Ratings Firms: An 'I' for 'Ignore'. Excerpt: For the last five years, the global economy has been shaken by the proclamations of these conflicted, cartel-like entities. From overrated mortgage-backed securities to sovereign-debt hostage-taking, Fitch, Moody's and S&P have gone from dropping the ball to flexing their institutional power as the market bully. Entrusted with too much power, they have been injudicious in using it. And ,in the case of U.S. debt, their evaluations have smacked of self-serving self-righteousness. The firms put the debt of global corporations and the global economy at risk.
  • New York Times editorial: The Truth About Taxes. Excerpts: A week later and we are still amazed at how the Republicans in Congress pulled it off. They held the economy hostage, won some cheap political points, and all of us will spend the next decade paying the ransom as government programs — $900 billion over 10 years in the first round — are slashed and the recovery is put at risk. ...

    A week later and we are even more amazed by the failure of Mr. Obama and the Democratic leadership to stand up to this intransigence. If they do not start pushing back, with the same ferocity, the results will be disastrous. ...

    And while “no new taxes” pledges are almost always big political winners, Americans are also figuring out that the country cannot keep on this way. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, 63 percent support raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year to help address the deficit.

    If that is not enough to energize the White House, here are a few more facts. To avoid across-the-board cuts, Congress must enact at least another $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures over the 10 years. For all of the talk of “big government,” there is no way to cut that much in discretionary programs without crippling basic functions. Lawmakers could eliminate the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pell Grants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and Head Start and still not cut $110 billion annually.

  • New York Times editorial: Race to the Right. Excerpts: It is far too simplistic to blame the loose coalition of Republicans known as the Tea Party for the debt-limit debacle. It was not the Tea Party fringe of the Republican Party that dragged the economy to the brink — it was its center. The party has moved so far to the right that there is little difference between fringe and mainstream.

    Through a combination of fear and fervor, Republican leaders in Congress and in the presidential campaign have lined up behind a radical new strategy in which all major decisions are made under threat — to shut the government in April, to implode the economy in July, to cut off money for the Federal Aviation Administration in August. Party leaders have said they will do this again and again, in perpetuity. ...

    This rightward flood tide has also picked up most of the Republican presidential field. Considering what a clear triumph the final bill was for the Republicans, cutting $2.4 trillion in spending without a dime of new tax revenue, at least a few candidates would logically have supported it. Only Jon Huntsman, however, has spoken up for it. The rest said they found it insufficiently ruthless, fearing a primary loss if they seemed the slightest bit soft.

  • New York Times opinion: What Happened to Obama? Excerpts: When Barack Obama rose to the lectern on Inauguration Day, the nation was in tatters. Americans were scared and angry. The economy was spinning in reverse. Three-quarters of a million people lost their jobs that month. Many had lost their homes, and with them the only nest eggs they had. Even the usually impervious upper middle class had seen a decade of stagnant or declining investment, with the stock market dropping in value with no end in sight. Hope was as scarce as credit.

    In that context, Americans needed their president to tell them a story that made sense of what they had just been through, what caused it, and how it was going to end. They needed to hear that he understood what they were feeling, that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety. What they were waiting for, in broad strokes, was a story something like this:

    “I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.”

    A story isn’t a policy. But that simple narrative — and the policies that would naturally have flowed from it — would have inoculated against much of what was to come in the intervening two and a half years of failed government, idled factories and idled hands. That story would have made clear that the president understood that the American people had given Democrats the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress to fix the mess the Republicans and Wall Street had made of the country, and that this would not be a power-sharing arrangement. It would have made clear that the problem wasn’t tax-and-spend liberalism or the deficit — a deficit that didn’t exist until George W. Bush gave nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks largely to the wealthiest Americans and squandered $1 trillion in two wars.

    And perhaps most important, it would have offered a clear, compelling alternative to the dominant narrative of the right, that our problem is not due to spending on things like the pensions of firefighters, but to the fact that those who can afford to buy influence are rewriting the rules so they can cut themselves progressively larger slices of the American pie while paying less of their fair share for it.

  • Smirking Chimp: Obama: It Became Necessary to Destroy the Economy to Save It. By Bob Burnett. Excerpts: First, Washington politicians do not understand how the U.S. economy works. It's not that complicated: a robust economy depends upon steady consumption by average Americans, not millionaires and billionaires. Working folks aren't consuming because they either don't have the money or are saving it because they are fearful. These Americans aren't going to spend more because the debt crisis got resolved. They are worried about their jobs and the jobs of family members and friends. They understand the debt-limit crisis had nothing to do with jobs and that Washington pols don't get it. That's why average Americans are pissed off at both Parties. ...

    The Republicans have a wrong-headed but consistent message: reduce taxes and government and the economy will magically blossom. The Reagan and Bush years demonstrate this ideology is BS, but there is no countervailing message because the Obama Administration is lost. If the president really believed the number one problem facing America was jobs he would have refused to negotiate with Republicans when they manufactured the debt limit crisis; Obama should have said, "This has nothing to do with creating jobs and will make the economy worse. Congress, get to work on America's real problems!" ...

    We've now seen at least five examples where Obama had an opportunity to make a real difference and lost it by being overly accommodating: the amount of the original stimulus, whether or not to break up "too-big-to-fail" banks, health care, the federal budget crisis, and the debt crisis. (It's probably true that the president caved to the military on Afghanistan, but we don't know as much about that negotiation.) In the debt crisis negotiation, Republicans got what they wanted because the president was soft. ...

    It didn't have to be like this. President Obama had two opportunities to call the Republicans' bluff and chose not to. In December he could have refused to sign any budget deal that did not include ending the egregious tax cuts for millionaires and raising the debt ceiling. On August 2nd, he could have refused to sign a debt-limit agreement that did not include new revenues. In both cases he could have dared the Republicans to shut down the economy. The bottom line for Liberals: we're on our own. It's naïve to expect help from President Obama. The economy will continue to spiral downward and Liberals will have to figure out how to save it.

  • Smirking Chimp: How to Think About Standard and Poor's Downgrade. By Dean Baker. Excerpts: Standard and Poor's downgrade of U.S. government debt captured headlines across the country and around the world. It is a newsworthy event, but primarily as another colossal failure by a major credit rating agency.

    First, it is worth mentioning the important background here. S&P, along with the other credit rating agencies, rated hundreds of billions of dollars of subprime mortgage backed securities as investment grade. They were paid tens of millions of dollar by the investment banks for these ratings. We know that concerns were raised by their own people about the quality of many of these issues. This was at the least astoundingly incompetent. It was quite possibly criminal. ...

    Finally, what does the risk of default on U.S. government debt mean? The debt is issued in dollars. That means it is payable in dollars. The U.S. government prints dollars. This means that if for some reason the government was unable to tax or borrow to raise the money to pay its debt then it could always print it. This may carry a risk of inflation, but S&P is not in the business of making inflation predictions, they are in the business of assessing the likelihood that debt will be repaid. (Of course if they are worried that inflation will erode the value of U.S. debt, S&P would also have to downgrade all debt denominated in dollars everywhere in the world.) In short, there is no coherent explanation that can be given for S&P's downgrade. This downgrade was not made based on the economics. We can only speculate about the true motive.

  • Good Magazine: Must See Chart: Tax Breaks for the Rich Versus Budget Cuts. By Liz Dwyer. Excerpts: Need a stark breakdown of just why it is that attacks on public employees in Wisconsin and beyond are striking such a nerve? Take a look at this chart from the Center for American Progress comparing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy to budget cuts to 10 social safety net programs.

    Combine this visual depiction of our supposed "shared sacrifices" and "painful cuts" with the extremes of wealth and poverty our culture editor, Cord, shared yesterday—how the 400 wealthiest Americans are now richer than the bottom 50 percent of citizens—and it's not hard to understand why people are protesting.

  • New York Times op-ed: Win Together or Lose Together. By Thomas L. Friedman. Excerpts: In the wake of the hugely disappointing budget deal and the S.& P.’s debt downgrade, maybe we need to hang a new sign in the immigration arrival halls at all U.S. ports and airports. It could simply read: “Welcome. You are entering the United States of America. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.”

    Because our country is now finding itself in the worst kind of decline — a slow decline, just slow enough for us to keep deluding ourselves that nothing really fundamental needs to change if our future is to match our past. ...

    Regarding growth, we surely need a much smarter long-term fiscal plan than the one that just came out of Washington. We need to cut spending in areas and on a time schedule that will hurt the least; we need to raise taxes in ways that will hurt the least (now is the perfect time for a gasoline tax rather than payroll taxes); and we need to use some of these revenues to invest in the pillars of our growth, with special emphasis on infrastructure, research and incentives for risk-taking and start-ups. We need to offer every possible incentive to get Americans to start new businesses to grow out of this hole.

  • New York Times op-ed: Credibility, Chutzpah and Debt. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: To understand the furor over the decision by Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, to downgrade U.S. government debt, you have to hold in your mind two seemingly (but not actually) contradictory ideas. The first is that America is indeed no longer the stable, reliable country it once was. The second is that S.& P. itself has even lower credibility; it’s the last place anyone should turn for judgments about our nation’s prospects.

    Let’s start with S.& P.’s lack of credibility. If there’s a single word that best describes the rating agency’s decision to downgrade America, it’s chutzpah — traditionally defined by the example of the young man who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he’s an orphan.

    America’s large budget deficit is, after all, primarily the result of the economic slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis. And S.& P., along with its sister rating agencies, played a major role in causing that crisis, by giving AAA ratings to mortgage-backed assets that have since turned into toxic waste.

    Nor did the bad judgment stop there. Notoriously, S.& P. gave Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered a global panic, an A rating right up to the month of its demise. And how did the rating agency react after this A-rated firm went bankrupt? By issuing a report denying that it had done anything wrong.

    So these people are now pronouncing on the creditworthiness of the United States of America?

  • Huffington Post: Obama's Tipping Point. By Cenk Uygur. Excerpt: I have been saying for a long time now that President Obama is the world's worst negotiator and has absolutely no interest in fighting for progressive principles. I didn't make this up out of the whole cloth. I voted for the guy and I desperately wanted him to succeed. But my job is to cover politics and when you cover Obama all you see is him running for cover. ...

    How did he not see that the Republicans would bludgeon him with the lack of jobs after he agreed to their spending cuts -- which would only lower the number of jobs in the country? How could anyone not see that and think they know anything about politics?

  • Smirking Chimp: Loopholes for Assholes. By Stephen Pizzo. Excerpts: The right wing propaganda machine reminds us at every turn that they are not called "The Rich." They are called "The Job Creators." (You know, like God The Creator, that kinda thing. ) And like God, we are supposed to treat them with not only reverence, but gratitude -- gratitude for all they have done and, supposedly will do, for us.

    But their largess is, of course, conditional. Should we require of them anything, especially a small portion of their wealth for the nation that made them rich -- ah, sorry, I mean, made them "job creators" -- well, then they will turn their backs on us. There will be no jobs for you, you ingrates!

    I hope you're all clear on this, goddammit. Because these job creators are busy folks. They travel a lot, to places where they are indeed creating jobs, like China and the Marshall Islands and such. There they have plenty of folks happy to reward them for their largess -- with more largess, in the form of dirt-low taxes and even dirtier and lower environmental standards, or as they call them, "job killing regulations."

  • Christian Science Monitor: What can Congress do to create jobs? Five Republican proposals.
  • Christian Science Monitor: What can Congress do to create jobs? Five Democratic proposals.
  • AlterNet: 6 So-Called "Job Creators" Who Won't Hire The Unemployed. Allstate Insurance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and the University of Arizona are just a few of the companies advertising that they will only hire people who already have jobs. By Nathan Birnbaum. Excerpts: As President Obama hits the road on his jobs agenda bus tour, millions of individuals trying to re-enter the job market, seeking to eke out a modest living so that they too can live the American Dream – or what’s left of it anyway – are stuck in a rut. They write hundreds of cover letters, perfect their interview techniques and network like crazy, but sometimes the barriers are too high.

    What some may not know is that a number of employers, including household-name companies, have taken the position that the unemployed should forget about obtaining a job altogether.

    Log on to any jobs site, do a quick search and the results may surprise you: slews of job ads are essentially warning the out-of-work that they worthless and disposable. Welcome to 21st Century, post-Recession hiring discrimination: where you must be an “employed or recently employed” person to get a job.

    Yes, for those individuals who make up the 9.1 percent unemployed in the United States, many laid off through no fault of their own, misfortune is a disqualifier. Numerous employers, staffing agencies and online job posting firms have adopted policies that explicitly deny employment to the unemployed. And they don’t even try to cover up their intent. The language in the qualification requirement sections of the ads leave nothing to the imagination: “currently employed,” “must be currently employed,” “currently employed on a permanent basis,” “must be currently or recently employed” etc. If you are none of the above, as 14 million Americans are, you’re out of luck.

  • AlterNet: The 'Super Congress' Is a Scam Designed to Force Cuts To Popular Programs And Keep Taxes On The Rich Low. Ignore all the process stories about the vaunted Gang of 12 -- here's how the endgame plays out. By Joshua Holland. Excerpts: In the months ahead, we're going to be treated to an endless parade of process stories about the Gang of 12 “super congress” that emerged from the debt ceiling deal. Each time a staffer leaks some bit of trivia about the internal machinations of this opaque committee, the Beltway media will write a flurry of stories about it, lawmakers will signal whether they might support this provision or that one and the pundits will sift through the tea leaves trying to predict whether this time the kind of “grand bargain” the Washington Post editorial board lusts after will finally come to pass.

    It will all be a piece of Kabuki theater. The way this deal ends is fairly easy to predict – it's a set-up that will result in fairly deep cuts to domestic spending, won't raise taxes on the wealthy and will leave “defense” spending largely untouched – a process that will force cuts to important public services.

  • AlterNet: Meet the Global Financial Elites Controlling $46 Trillion In Wealth. The economic elite have at least $46 trillion in wealth – but who are they? We look at the people and the industries picking the pockets of the working class. By David DeGraw. Excerpts: While 68.3 million Americans struggle to get enough food to eat and wages are declining for 90 percent of the population, US millionaire household wealth has reached an unprecedented level. According to an extensive study by auditing and financial advisory firm Deloitte, US millionaire households now have $38.6 trillion in wealth. On top of the $38.6 trillion this study reveals, they have an estimated $6.3 trillion hidden in offshore accounts. In total, US millionaire households have at least $45.9 trillion in wealth, the majority of this wealth is held within the upper one-tenth of one percent of the population. ...

    If all this isn’t obscene enough, to further demonstrate how the global economy has now been completely rigged, Deloitte’s analysis predicated, based on current trends, that US millionaire households will see a 225 percent increase in wealth to $87.1 trillion by 2020. Accounting for wealth hidden in offshore accounts, they are projected to have over $100 trillion in total within the next decade. ...

    Now consider, according to the latest IRS data, only 0.076 percent of the population, less than one-tenth of one percent, earned over $1 million in 2009.

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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