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Highlights—February 11, 2012

  • Forbes: The Top Hiring Employers in America's Biggest Cities. By Jacquelyn Smith. Excerpts: As unemployment levels fitfully decline, plenty of recession-weary businesses remain hesitant to expand their payrolls—but a new report from the job aggregator SimplyHired.com offers good news for job seekers everywhere: There are big companies in every major metropolitan area hiring in heaps. ...

    Here’s who is hiring in 15 big U.S. cities: ...

    • Detroit, Mich., IBM: 514 job openings
    • Miami – Fort Lauderdale, Fla., IBM: 476 job openings
    • Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minn., IBM: 521 job openings
    • New York, N.Y., IBM: 969 job openings
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "IBM Hiring???" by "finitewisdom". Excerpt: For some unknown reason, Forbes seems to think IBM has copious openings in several US cities. Where did they source their information? Certainly not from the IBM employment website.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Hiring???" by "bk2006pc". Full excerpt: Now you prove the depth and integrity of free US media that we all are proud of!!!
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Hiring???" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: This post from the Alliance@IBM site does a good job of explaining this phenomenon. From http://www.endicottalliance.org/jobcutsreports.php:
    Comment 02/05/12: @"More Jobs at IBM": Job openings may not really mean much. If they are really hiring, this could be to replace people that were fired and now they try to hire for a fraction of the wage. But actually it may not even mean that they are really hiring. Big companies use decoy job openings as PR tools. It doesn't cost much to post non-existent jobs but you will get positive coverage in the media, as you can see from the Forbes article. People like you and (local) politicians will be puzzled or even think that they need to support IBMs strategy, because they are hiring. If IBM doesn't really fill the openings, they can claim that they did not find suitable applicants and that they need to hire from abroad or fill the jobs in countries where the skill is available. PR means to create a favourable opinion in your local environment. Further tools that the PR departments use are pre-wirtten articles that go to the media at the same time as they pay for adds, positive reviews in e.g. GlassDoor and more things of this kind. Is it ethical to manipulate in this way? I wouldn't thinks so but that doesn't matter for a company that needs to keep the promises of the agenda 2012. So here the question is, do they only post job openings or are they really hiring in Miami, NYC, ... -anonymous-
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Hiring???" by "vaporbenefits". Full excerpt: Hey "It is only business" Doesn't have to be real :-(
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Is Future Health Account demonic? Yes, it is" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: Thanks to continued posts from madinpok, fhawontcutit, and others, the veil of obfuscation over the morass that is the future health accounts lifts just a little year by year by year...by year. It is astonishing to witness the success that IBM has had, since 1999!, at duping their employees who 'think' they are getting the FHA, stealing the FHA from those just shy of eligibility, and confusing their retirees who were hoodwinked into the FHA after being promised lifetime retiree medical.

    Access-only FHA? Imagine the bonus of the executive who came up with that one. As if the FHA weren't bad enough, they degraded it further with the access-only FHA.

    Oh yes, my point.

    There is a very good discussion going on right now, beginning with message 15921 (and earlier), on the ibmemployeeissues board which those still in the dark about the FHA should read.

    May we all outlive IBM's intentions for us.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Is Future Health Account demonic? Yes, it is" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: To me the most angering thing about FHA is that you accumulate credits for up to 10 years of service, and if you complete the ten years, you cannot access the funds unless you have 15 years of service. That is (surprise) incredibly unfair. The point I am sure is that IBM calculates most would leave IBM one way or another within 15 years and never collect. Older workers are RA'd. Younger workers typically job hop (and the 401K encourages that with portable pensions). It has to be intentional like that, to give IBM the advantage to best avoid paying out the benefit.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Is Future Health Account demonic? Yes, it is" by John Ngai. Full excerpt: As they say, the devil is in the details, and the fine print. The intent of the FHA is to show what medical premiums costs without any subsidy by IBM. If one uses the notional account in full at 100%, one can run out of funds in 3+ years, but you are expected to contribute a portion in the form of monthly premiums. If one makes an assumption of a 50/50% sharing, then the amount in the notional account will last longer. Will it last until Medicare kicks in? Maybe yes, if you are single. If with a dependent, you may be out of luck unless the dependent has their own coverage, and thus not using the FHA funds.

    For those retirees prior to FHA, IBM back in early 1990's capped the subsidy at $7000; that amount was reached in the 2000/01 timeframe, and any amount beyond that was paid with ever increasing monthly premiums, which reached $600 a month, deducted from the pension, before I became Medicare eligible.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Is Future Health Account demonic? Yes, it is" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: "The intent of the FHA is to show what medical premiums costs without any subsidy by IBM."

    Actually, no. The 'intent' of the FHA was to lighten the burden on poor IBM's pocket when it came to promised retiree health care for thousands of longtime employees. The 'intent' of the FHA was to replace promised lifetime retiree health care - NOT free, mind you - with an abomination that runs out when the longtime employee now retiree needs it most.

    The 'intent' of the FHA was just as it was designed, a clever executive brain child which robbed the longtime employee of an unwritten promise and replaced it with scrip that not only ran out, but could even be withheld if - again, clever executive - the employee didn't meet the criteria.

    Criteria which, as has been proven, could be manipulated by those clever executives. Executives who, as you know, do NOT have the FHA but rather the lifetime retiree medical.

    If you had the FHA, John, you would not be comparing it to the promised - not in writing, mind you - lifetime retiree medical that IBM owed - not in writing, mind you - their longtime employees now retirees.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Is Future Health Account demonic? Yes, it is" by "danmayerinetport". Full excerpt: Lifetime retiree health care actually went away long before FHA was started - in 1993 I think, when the company contribution was capped at $7000 for retirees and at 65 coverage switched to Medicare with a $3500 contribution. It's taken a while, but the $7000 IBM contribution now covers a bit less than 1/3 of total medical - although it might cover more than 1/3 if you opt for the high deductible plan and have unusually low medical expenses.

    By the time I get thrown into Medicare, for me it'll probably be down to 1/4 or 1/5. It's getting outrageously expensive to stay alive and IBM has decided not to fully fund my longevity.

    FHA is a similar but more aggressive move to reduce long term IBM expenses by capping the IBM contribution for retiree medical care, affecting employees who didn't get to keep the defined benefits pension. As I recall, FHA is capped so as to be comparable to about 3 years of IBM contributions under the former plan - equivalent to retirement at 62. And no contributions for age 65 and beyond.

    Yes the old plan is obviously better. But then again, it was even better in 1992. And even better for husband/wife employees who got 100% coverage before that.

    Isn't there a law of thermodynamics that applies to this situation?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Is Future Health Account demonic? Yes, it is" by "divaberyl". Full excerpt: Enjoy your current Medicare benefits as long as you can.

    What you described Pre-FHA is EXACTLY what will happen with the Ryan Bill proposed by the current House of Representatives. Vouchers will be provided in lieu of the current Medicare system As health care costs increase, Seniors will need to pay more and more out of pocket. In a short time, the vouchers will become no more valuable than grocery store coupons. It will be a boon to insurance companies which will offer products. Seniors who cannot afford insurance will just expire earlier than before.

    Although those 55 or older are exempt from the Ryan Bill, I fully expect that once the bill passes, an amendment will be proposed so that ALL Seniors can enjoy the same benefits of the 'Preserved Medicare System.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "RA Packages?" by "homeboy_05452". Full excerpt: Hi all, Got my 1st three appraisal in 34 years service this year. Not complaining, ready to retire anyway. Is there any info as to what RA packages include as far as severance packages yet? Expecting them to get rid of me whenever my group gets hit up, so info (and advice as to how to prepare) is becoming essential. Thanks in advance for whatever you have for data.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA Packages?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Usually 3 months pay with a 3 appraisal. A year of medical coverage (no dental) and some retraining money. Taxes take a bit chunk out of the severance since it's taxed at the rate of a bonus. Some of that comes back at tax-time, how much I don't know and depends on your state taxes too. Oh and of course the 30 days pay before you exit. If you are going to bump up your 401K recommend 6% at least to extract the most money out of IBM during your final pay periods. You have to do that sometimes up to 2 weeks before the paycheck arrives, so do that now if you can afford 6%. I'm sure there is a summary that is better than what I gave.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA Packages?" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: Go to W3 and search for USHR119, all the details are there.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA Packages?" by "mr_quarkwrench". Full excerpt: What a difference a couple of decades makes. I got my first three appraisal as I was approaching 30 years of service. I didn't have a very good relationship with my first line but figured my career could afford a 3. Besides, we knew there was a re org coming up and this guy would be gone.

    However, 2 days after getting the appraisal, my second line dropped by my office to see what was wrong. After about an hour of discussion, he re prioritized the appraisal items and my 3 became a 2.

    That was IBM. -- Don

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA Packages?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: What a difference indeed! But the same decent manager 20 years ago who is still in management is having to listen to the drumbeat of incessant offshoring and profit-mongering greed. These decisions come from the very top. There's a new boss, but the same evil, and the same group around her that has been perpetrating the crimes against employees for quite some time. It has so become the norm that people just shrug their shoulders and shuffle through their days, barely remembering the decency of a by-gone era. We could change this through organizing, instead of succumbing to what has become a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. We need only wake up and remember that at one time, 12 hour workdays and Saturdays were the norm and people shed blood to give us the few benefits we still hold onto.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Circle" by "flatsflyer". Full excerpt: Went for eye exam today and talk about confusion. My benefit card says, BC/BS on the front, Anthem on the back. After exam they said they could not fill their own Rx because BC/BS uses EyeMed for billing. Some how another insurance company called Blue Vision is also involved and the particular OD was not setup in their system. Call BC/BS and they told me I could go to Target, JCPenny, Lenscrafters and get prescription filled. Seems like there are 3 or 4 insurance companies, processors involved and none talk with each other. The final solution was to use and out of network reimbursement form, pay for frames and glasses and then send in form for reimbursement. Why can't we simplify this mess and get a single payer system?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Circle" by Penny Brewster. Full excerpt: I'm a physician who was an IBMer for 23 years before going to medical school. I wish we did have a single payer system - it would reduce office overhead considerably. As it is, with multiple insurers and multiple prescription plans, all of which also are constantly changing, trying to handle requests from patients is a nightmare. I read recently that the administrative costs of providing medical care in the US are 4 times those in Canada, and I'll bet most of that is because we do not have a single payer system.

    I'm very pessimistic about this situation ever changing, because there are too many large business interests that benefit from the current mess. They will fight tooth and nail against a change in the "status quo", unless the change benefits them in some way. Meanwhile, primary care providers such as myself sink deeper and deeper into a quagmire of paperwork, fewer and fewer MDs in training go into primary care, and those currently trying to provide primary care are bailing out in large numbers. A whole industry has sprung up, offering expensive courses to help MDs transition to "non-clinical" careers.

    The idea that turning health care loose in a "free market" will reduce costs is a myth, in my opinion. In addition to the fact that it is seen to be untrue, from an ethical standpoint I don't feel that health care should be treated like "just another industry".

    My advice is to stay as healthy as you can, as long as you can. Who knows what the future will bring? Nothing good for the patient, I'm afraid.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Circle" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: 1) Because the insurance companies spend millions on lobbying: http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=F09&year=a (That's just at the national level -- does not include the state level.)

    2) They make campaign contributions: http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/summary.php?cycle=2012&ind=f09

    3) They are ORGANIZED: http://ahip.org/about/

    4) They spend lots of money on PR, trying to convince us that we don't want 'single-payer': http://wendellpotter.com/2012/02/the-battle-for-vermonts-health/

    During my 20 years as a health insurance PR executive, I was involved in numerous efforts to make the very term "single payer" toxic to most Americans. We even spent hundreds of thousands of premium dollars in 2007 to help finance the operation of a front group, called Health Care America, for the sole purpose of trashing a movie — Michael Moore's "Sicko" — that put single payer systems abroad in a favorable light. You can rest assured that the industry will spend much, much more to make sure that Vermont does not succeed.

    5) Insurance companies make money off of us. http://wendellpotter.com/2012/02/the-battle-for-vermonts-health/

    Health insurers make enormous amounts of money off of us, something they cannot do so effectively in other countries, especially Canada. The four largest insurers, United, WellPoint, Aetna and CIGNA, reported earning a combined $11 billion on nearly $220 billion in revenues last year.

    The above links talk about single-payer movements in California and Vermont. Wendell Potter is an ex-Cigna VP - turned whistle blower who worked in insurance public relations for years.

    I HIGHLY recommend his book, "Deadly Spin": http://wendellpotter.com/allWendell/resources/DeadlySpinFlyer.pdf

    He knows the insurance playbook. Check out his blog for updates.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Circle" by "flatsflyer". Full excerpt: Spoke with IBM today, here is the deal:
    • IBM is self insured and pays BC/BS to administer the benefit
    • BC/BS outsources to a fully owned subsidiary named Anthem
    • Anthem outsources to a fully owned subsidiary named Blue Vision
    • Blue Vision outsources to a separate company named EyeMed

    I ended up paying $223. for my glasses, my question to the IBM Representative (Contractor not Employee) was quite simple. With four companies plus the provider making a profit (None where charities) how much profits to these companies are my benefits paying for?.

  • Albany TImes-Union: 401(k)s aren't a retirement plan to bank on. By Matthew T. Ryan. Excerpts: My city's pension costs have increased significantly in the past decade, so you might expect me to support the 401(k)-style retirement plan now under consideration in New York. But I don't.

    Even if a 401(k) plan were optional, it would be dangerous for our retirees, both economically and morally.

    The point of 401(k) plans was to supplement pensions, not replace them. Using a 401(k) in place of a defined benefit pension would undercut the financial security that our workers deserve.

    Instead of the reliable benefit of the pension system now in effect across the state, a 401(k) plan fluctuates at the whim of the stock market. While some retirees could hit the jackpot, the chances are higher that they would hit rock-bottom if the market struggles as it has since the Great Recession started in 2007.

    Many retirees with 401(k) plans have met this fate, and the results have been difficult to watch. Seniors are going back to work well into their 70s and 80s, turning to food stamps and food banks just to eat, and putting a bigger strain on public assistance, especially medical services.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Marketing in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Where good work is not recognized but how much you do extra for the company.” Pros: Work life balance, Work from home flexibility, no manager harassment. Cons: Incompetent Senior Management, Bad pay, faulty performance review parameters. Advice to Senior Management: The gap between competent Indian resources and incompetent western functional managers will make you lose Indian managers very fast.
    • IBM Sales Manager in Sydney (Australia): (Current Employee) “Money Machine.” Pros: IBM give you a nice balance between personal stuff and work so no pressure there - good for those with small kids. Quite stable at GTS. Good for women as they are first candidates from promotion.

      Cons: This is a money machine with the management vision not going beyond the quarter. IBM are a collection of brands who will be cutting each others throats for every cent of revenue Very risk averse and hates to invest -- most of innovation is done at the client's expense, so your moral code will be terrorised. Each solution we do is done like it is first of its kind. Trying to get hold of an SME is more like a ping pong game and you will play the role of a ball. The amount of dead wood - we have forests.

      Advice to Senior Management: Walk the talk. Lead by example. Reduce the hypocrisy and complacency. Innovate REALLY not in your heads. Fix managers' charisma -- most have none. You are very process oriented but 90% are just obsolete burden which exists for historical reason. To test your new management appointments, please sack them if they start with changing the reporting hierarchy -- you are a matrix, why you need so many levels of management? Support your staff and provide them with real career advancement opportunities -- your GOM is a joke with 95% positions dead, opened to follow the process.

    • IBM Enterprise Architect - Technology in New York, NY: (Past Employee - 2010) “Instability of job focus - Constantly changing job responsibilities.” Pros: Education is required, supported, and is cutting edge. Access to industry information and research is highly valuable and transferable to future employment. Corporate and divisional goals are clearly articulated at the beginning of each year, although they frequently change dramatically from one year to the next.

      Cons: IBM makes no secret that they are moving thousands of jobs overseas. In order to stay under the radar they are accomplishing this in increments of under 1000 people at a time. The IBM infrastructure is impossible to gain proficiency in navigating: long time veterans have trouble finding out 'where to go or who to talk to'. Benefits have stagnated over the years and the huge number of retirees draw on IBM revenue. IBM's research is cutting edge, but the generally do not execute on trillion dollar ideas. When IBM lays people off, they target the most senior and highly paid employees. It is common that layoffs include 30 year veterans who have had incredible success at adding value to IBM and increasing IBM revenue: these people are shell-shocked and blind sided when they get word their job has been offshored.

      Advice to Senior Management: IBM is not making any friends in the United States by sending the jobs overseas. For every senior person that is laid off, IBM makes a solid enemy in virtually ever industry in the world. Also, start capitalizing on the wealth of patents that are granted each year. There has got to be at least 1 multi-billion dollar idea in the 15000 patents IBM files each year.

    • IBM Senior Customer Fulfillment Advisor in Research Triangle Park, NC: (Current Employee) “Good, but could be better.” Pros: Pay and benefits were good. Flexible work/life balance and could work remotely. Cons: Lack of job security as you never knew if your job would be redundant. Always changing procedures that work to try out potentially better but not always good procedures. Couldn't always meet team members scattered across the US. Advice to Senior Management: Better training. Need better forecasting of possible job redundancies and better help in finding new jobs within IBM.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Mediocre place to work!!!!” Pros: Flexible schedule and the ability to work remotely. Cons: Weak and indecisive first line managers, utilization, annual performance reports, job security, status quo (some projects are going to do this because they've always done it this way--blows me away), lack of innovation when it comes to internal policies, procedures, processes...paperwork nightmare just for the sake of paperwork (my opinion), benefits are not impressive. Advice to Senior Management: Step up and talk to your employees! Give relevant FEEDBACK. Don't tell a person they're doing great all year and then hit them with a low PBC. Take time out your "precious day" to read email from your employees. I have never seen so many individuals in leadership positions unwilling to respond/answer email. A lot of, "I'll talk to you off the record" crap... Seems like most are afraid of losing their jobs.
    • IBM Systems Administrator in Lexington, KY: (Past Employee - 2011) “IBM Lexington. Kind of like a soggy bowl of cereal, cold and limp.” Pros: To get IBM onto your resume. Hope to work on cutting edge systems. Hope to advance your career. Lexington is a great town in which to live. Cons: Morale in Lexington is pretty bad and that is a shame because the people still working for IBM are really good but they have been abandoned by IBM. Complete lack of over sight and lack of recognition. Advice to Senior Management: Take care of all of your people. Not just the ones working on Watson.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Bad place for growth and learning, good place if you want to stay in your comfort zone.” Pros: You can work as much (or as little) as you want. Great place for people who want a relaxed job and focus on other priorities in life. Good colleagues. Cons: Technical growth is very slow, spend more time with red tape then doing work that matters. Weak middle management, greedy upper management. Since the time I've been here, working conditions have only declined more and more, and employees are getting increasingly unhappy and outspoken about unhappiness. Advice to Senior Management: Stop with the short-term thinking & stop being too cheap to invest in your own employees
    • IBM Senior Software Engineer in Herndon, VA: (Past Employee - 2011) “Location matters for growth.” Pros: Great people , assets and forward thinking management. Teleworking Flexible time. Cons: Pay not so competitive. If you are in Software Group like I was it is important you are in CA, MA or in Raleigh to get promoted. Advice to Senior Management: Pay deserving employees more and bring back thank you award system. Give the opportunity to technical leaders to attend Information On Demand conferences and not for people managers.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alerts (PDF). This week's issue includes these stories:
    • White House Twitter Event Answers Seniors’ Policy Questions
    • Obama Administration, Alliance Members in Several States Take on Voter ID Laws
    • On the Web: Presidents’ Day Lobby Week Toolkit, Link to New Rhode Island Site
    • Doctors – and Seniors - Can’t Afford Medicare Payment Cuts
    • Social Security Presents Obama with Opportunity to Win Over Hispanic Voters
    • Medicare Expected to be a Major Issue in Congressional Races
    • Nevada Alliance Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Vets
    • Regional Meetings to Begin Later This Month in Las Vegas
  • CBS MoneyWatch: When retirement comes too soon. By Steve Vernon. Excerpt: People sometimes hit an unexpected bump on the road to retirement: a job loss, an illness, a disability or the need to provide care to a family member. Such an event can force you to make a number of decisions very quickly, possibly throwing a monkey wrench into any retirement plans you may have made. This urgency can also lead to decisions you'll come to regret later.
  • Washington Post: Tax tips for the 99%. By Kevin McCormally. Excerpt: While the punditocracy dives into the details and debates the vices and virtues of Mitt Romney’s and Newt Gingrich’s 2010 tax returns, we found a gold mine in tax savings for ordinary folks who will never need a Swiss bank account.
  • AARP: 10 Tax Tips Everyone Over 50 Should Know. Double check that you are taking advantage of every deduction and credit available to you. By Carole Fleck.
  • Pensions & Investments: PBGC updates estimate of funding relief for American Airlines. By Hazel Bradford. Excerpts: Congress gave American Airlines an estimated $2.1 billion in pension funding relief over the past six years, nearly double an earlier estimate, the PBGC announced Monday.

    According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., American Airlines received specific funding relief in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and an Iraq War spending bill in 2007 that allowed airlines to spread their unfunded liability in 2008 over 10 years instead of seven. The war spending bill also let American use an interest rate of 8.25% to compute required contributions for 2008 through 2017. American and other airlines got additional relief for required contributions in 2006 and 2007.

    PBGC officials are fighting plans by the airline's parent company, AMR Corp., to terminate its four defined benefit plans as it goes through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. PBGC Director Joshua Gotbaum is reminding members of Congress that the airline received several rounds of pension funding relief from 2006 to 2011, which allowed the company to make lower pension contributions.

  • Financial Times: Lenovo: making it all click. Excerpt: Lenovo looks to be well beyond the dark days that followed its eye-popping purchase of IBM several years ago. On Thursday, the world’s second biggest computer maker by units announced that revenues grew by 44 per cent in the third quarter compared with the prior year, while net income was up by over one-half. This sent its share price up 4 per cent, adding to a 38 per cent gain over the past year. Over the same period, the Hang Seng fell 9 per cent.

    Lenovo investors have much to be grateful to chief executive Yang Yuanqing for. The company is defying expectations by expanding beyond its Chinese borders. Acquisitions of German consumer electronics company Medion and a joint venture to make PCs with Japan’s NEC helped push sales in mature markets up by 80 per cent. These regions now make up over two-fifths of total sales. It also grew its share of China’s PC market to over one-third, bounds ahead of Acer in second place.

  • The Detroit News: Marchionne: Chrysler's hourly employees to get bonuses Friday. By Bryce G. Hoffman. Excerpts: Chrysler Group LLC's 26,000 U.S. hourly employees will get their profit-sharing bonus checks Friday, according to an email CEO Sergio Marchionne sent late Monday to local union leaders, a copy of which was obtained by The Detroit News. In his message, Marchionne praised workers for helping restore the Auburn Hills automaker to profitability and said they would receive a base bonus of $1,500 before taxes and union dues. Workers who worked overtime will receive more; workers who did not put in a full year of full-time work will receive less.
  • In These Times: Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers Move Ahead in Fight for Justice. By David Moberg. Excerpts: Warehouse workers from Wal-Mart distribution centers in metropolitan Chicago and southern California took two big steps this week toward enforcing laws on working conditions and wages, fighting retaliatory firings, and ultimately forcing Wal-Mart to live up to its responsibilities as an employer.

    Working through Warehouse Workers for Justice, workers at the Elwood, IL, distribution center—reputedly Wal-Mart's largest with 3 million square feet of space—filed suit against Eclipse Advantage and Schneider Logistics for firing roughly 65 workers on December 29. In November, some of these workers had sued the two companies for violating state and federal wage and hour laws, such as not paying a minimum wage or premium pay for overtime in many cases.

    The new amendment to that suit filed on February 1 claims that Schneider and Eclipse as "joint employers" failed to give the required 60-day notice of a mass layoff required by the federal WARN Act.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 02/06/12: Looks like things are not getting any better at IBM. I had 20yrs before getting RA'ed in Canada, 2009. Glad I'm out now, found a much better job where they reward their employees for making the numbers, not cut jobs like IBM does, after reporting record profits. -RA'ed 2009-
    • Comment 02/06/12: This year the RA bug finally got to me... Should've seen it coming. Nothing but Gov't accounts, No Sales rep and removed from accounts I built back up. Always you are the best technical CTP I have... I guess the New IBM will not be technical, we'll see how that lasts... Who do I feel them most sorry for, my customers... - LongTimer-
    • Comment 02/07/12: Since it is approx. mid 1st QTR 2012 and the talk of RAs are in the air but has anybody heard of any contractor jobs being terminated or furloughs for this QTR? -contracted- Alliance reply: We have heard of contractors with CTG being furloughed.
    • Comment 02/07/12: For how many years has IBM (alongside other corporations) been tearing apart the American workforce? Three years ago the current wave of RAs started. Anyone that is still unaware and not discussing it never will. Eventually the only US workers left will be either those who kiss the ring of each and every executive or those who stood together and fought. Make your choice now. I am sick of the whining without action. -Backlash-
    • Comment 02/08/12: Most of my team works from home and the few that are sitting in a DC are the sole survivors or close thereto. How would we possibly organize. We have a large offshore team and the remaining US workers are assigned to projects and RFS work and it seems like everyone is in their own little world. -I joined...now what- Alliance reply: As a new member you have been added to our member elist. All members are bcc'd. You will be getting emails on what you can do and regular updates for members. Thanks for joining!
    • Comment 02/09/12: LongTimer, how do you know the RA bug got you? You were told already? I believe the big one is still to come for IGS - probably end of this month. -Endangered Species - American IBMer-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • The Commonwealth Fund: The Income Divide in Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Help Restore Fairness to the U.S. Health System. By Sara R. Collins, Ph.D., Ruth Robertson, M.Sc., Tracy Garber, and Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D. Overview: The new Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of U.S. Adults finds nearly three of five adults in families earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level were uninsured for a time in 2011; two of five were uninsured for one or more years. Low- and moderate-income adults who were uninsured during the year were much less likely to have a regular source of health care than people in the same income range who were insured all year. In addition, uninsured lower-income adults were more likely than insured adults in the same income group to cite factors other than medical emergencies as reasons for going to the emergency room. These included needing a prescription drug, not having a regular doctor, or saying that other places cost too much. The Affordable Care Act will substantially narrow these inequities through an extensive set of affordable coverage options starting in 2014.
  • Kaiser Health News: Consumers Hit By Higher Out-of-Network Medical Costs. By Julie Appleby. Excerpts: When Sharon Smith chose an out-of-network specialist to perform a complicated jaw surgery on her teenage son last May, she knew it would cost her more. But she was not expecting a $15,000 difference.

    Consumers have long complained about the cost of going outside their health plan's network, but Smith encountered a new twist: a growing number of insurers have changed the way they calculate reimbursements to shift more of the expense to patients.

    Now, instead of paying a percentage of the "usual and customary" charges from physicians and other providers, insurers are basing reimbursements on a percentage of what Medicare pays, which can be much less. "Every carrier is moving to this," says Ken Sperling, global health care practice leader at the benefit consulting firm Aon Hewitt. ...

    Payment Changes 'Buried' To be sure, the information about how the insurer would calculate the payment was included on page 108 of a 126-page booklet outlining the Oxford plan offered by her husband's employer. The two-page explanation says the employer purchased a rider from Oxford that changed out-of-network payments from a percentage of usual and customary charges to Medicare rates plus 50 percent.

    "It was so buried I never saw it," says Smith, adding that even if she had, there was no easy way to find out what Medicare pays for a procedure.

  • Huffington Post: Total Health Care Costs Fall When Poor Are Provided Insurance: Study. Excerpts: The concept of support for universal health care is taboo among Republicans who scrutinize the Affordable Care Act -- dubbing it the "Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" -- and call for its repeal. But a new UC Irvine study challenges the GOP argument that the health care law is too costly, with data illustrating that health care costs on the whole fall when poorer, uninsured patients are provided with insurance.

    "In a case study involving low-income people enrolled in a community-based health insurance program, we found that use of primary care increased but use of emergency services fell, and -- over time -- total health care costs declined," David Neumark, a co-author of the study, said in a release accompanying the findings.

    The study -- which focused on uninsured people in Richmond, Virginia who fell 200 percent below the poverty line -- found that over three years, health care costs fell by almost 50 percent per participant, from $8,899 in the first year to $4,569 in the third after they received insurance. Participants who enrolled in health coverage made fewer trips to the emergency room, which are notorious for running up patient bills. Instead, insured participants went for more primary care visits.

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: The Citizens United catastrophe. By E.J. Dionne Jr. Excerpts: We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.

    Two years ago, Citizens United tore down a century’s worth of law aimed at reducing the amount of corruption in our electoral system. It will go down as one of the most naive decisions ever rendered by the court.

    The strongest case against judicial activism — against “legislating from the bench,” as former President George W. Bush liked to say — is that judges are not accountable for the new systems they put in place, whether by accident or design.

    he Citizens United justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators, going back to the passage of the landmark Tillman Act in 1907, who sought to prevent untoward influence-peddling and indirect bribery.

    If ever a court majority legislated from the bench (with Bush’s own appointees leading the way), it was the bunch that voted for Citizens United. Did a single justice in the majority even imagine a world of super PACs and phony corporations set up for the sole purpose of disguising a donor’s identity? Did they think that a presidential candidacy might be kept alive largely through the generosity of a Las Vegas gambling magnate with important financial interests in China? Did they consider that the democratizing gains made in the last presidential campaign through the rise of small online contributors might be wiped out by the brute force of millionaires and billionaires determined to have their way? ...

    Justice John Paul Stevens’ observation in his dissent reads far better than Kennedy’s in light of subsequent events. “A democracy cannot function effectively,” he wrote, “when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

    But ascribing an outrageous decision to naiveté is actually the most sympathetic way of looking at what the court did in Citizens United. A more troubling interpretation is that a conservative majority knew exactly what it was doing: that it set out to remake our political system by fiat in order to strengthen the hand of corporations and the wealthy. Seen this way, Citizens United was an attempt by five justices to push future electoral outcomes in a direction that would entrench their approach to governance. ...

    Those who doubt that Citizens United (combined with a comatose Federal Election Commission) has created a new political world with broader openings for corruption should consult reports last week by Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo in the New York Times and by T.W. Farnam in The Washington Post. Both accounts show how American politics has become a bazaar for the very wealthy and for increasingly aggressive corporations. We might consider having candidates wear corporate logos. This would be more honest than pretending that tens of millions in cash will have no impact on how we will be governed.

  • Huffington Post: The Downward Mobility of the American Middle Class, and Why Mitt Romney Doesn't Know. By Robert Reich. Excerpt: January's increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story -- the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class. Most of the new jobs being created are in the lower-wage sectors of the economy -- hospital orderlies and nursing aides, secretaries and temporary workers, retail and restaurant. Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain working only because they've agreed to cuts in wages and benefits. Others are settling for jobs that pay less than the jobs they've lost. Entry-level manufacturing jobs are paying half what entry-level manufacturing jobs paid six years ago.
  • New York Times: The Advantages and Risks of Gingrich’s Tax Strategy. By Paul Sullivan. Excerpts: Most analysts focused on one thing, in looking over the presidential candidates’ newly released 2010 tax returns: what was their effective tax rate? But what intrigued me was the simple but old-fashioned entity Newt Gingrich had set up for his speaking and consulting business — the S corporation.

    That corporate structure offered him some tax savings, but an S corporation is usually meant for businesses, often family-held, that make and sell products. It is not often used by someone whose income comes from writing books, giving talks and doing consulting work.

    Mr. Gingrich received a tax advantage by reporting the bulk of his earnings — $2,478,539 — as profits from his S corporation, exempting that portion of his income from the Medicare tax. ...

    Had Mr. Gingrich earned the same amount as a banker or a lawyer from a company or partnership, he would have paid the Medicare tax on the full amount of his income. In 2010, Mr. Gingrich paid $1,000,959 in federal taxes (which included Medicare tax on the $450,000 of his income classified as wages).

  • Wall Street Journal: Living Very Large. Shooting ranges, an indoor tennis court, a bedroom bigger than many houses: For a small cadre of very wealthy owners, building big is back. A bird's-eye view of some of the mega mansions going up across the country. By Juliet Chung. Excerpts: The latest project of Hyatt hotel heir Anthony Pritzker is a 49,300-square-foot building designed by an architecture firm in Paris. It involves a small army of specialized consultants and boasts amenities like a bowling alley, hairdressing area and gym. The project, in the hills above Los Angeles, isn't a luxury hotel—it's a private home for Mr. Pritzker and his family. ...

    Hedge-fund manager Cliff Asness is building a 25,900-square-foot, Colonial-style home with an indoor swimming pool and tennis court in Greenwich, Conn., according to permits and other town records. Nearby, a 31,500-square-foot mansion is being built for Lee Weinstein, founder of data-center concern Xand, with 15 bathrooms (plus additional powder rooms), a 2,500-square-foot master suite and a basement with a theater, wine cellar, juice bar, dance studio and sauna, records show. Twenty miles away, in Westport, Conn., Melissa and Doug Bernstein, whose Melissa & Doug company makes educational children's toys, are creating a compound of more than 30,000 square feet with a stand-alone ice-cream parlor, plans show. The main house alone is 29,500 square feet and includes a gym partially covered by glass; there's also a guest cottage, pool cabana and rec-room-and-garage building. The property also has a pool, tennis court and playground. The town deemed the home complete last summer; the tax assessor in 2010 valued the property at $19.8 million.

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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