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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—March 31, 2012

  • PC World: IBM CIO Discusses Big Blue's BYOD Strategy. By Chris Kanaracus. Excerpts: IBM CIO Jeanette Horan has plenty of IT projects and systems to worry about, but perhaps one of the most pressing and timely is Big Blue's ongoing BYOD (bring your own device) rollout, which is aimed at including all of the company's 440,000 employees over time. ...

    IBM's BYOD program "really is about supporting employees in the way they want to work," Horan said. "They will find the most appropriate tool to get their job done. I want to make sure I can enable them to do that, but in a way that safeguards the integrity of our business." To that end, the company has issued a series of "secure computing guidelines" to employees in an effort to raise awareness of online security and the sensitive nature of corporate data, Horan said.

    So far, about 120,000 users are accessing IBM's network through mobile devices, and of that total, 80,000 are supplying the device and paying the monthly service fees, according to IBM spokesman Tim O'Malley. The remaining 40,000 are using smartphones issued by IBM. The company has an "aggressive" projection for growth for this year, although a specific figure wasn't available, O'Malley said. ...

    Employees who want to use their own devices have to agree to Horan's policies, which include that their device be wiped once they leave the company, she said.

  • LinkedIn's Greater IBM Connection: Why does IBM tend to keep talent trapped and waste the potential of it's human resources? Should HR be doing a better job and should the Senior Exec's show more interest? Full excerpt: It was my observation that managers would not let employees transfer out of situations where both the employee and another group in IBM could greatly benefit from the change. It seemed that there was a preference to manage "3's" out of the business in one group rather than let them go to another group that wanted them and where the individual could be a 2 or better performer.

    Selected responses follow:

    • "Would not let"? How could a manager prevent a transfer? Have ever gone through the slow and painful process of managing someone out of the business,with weekly (daily) performance reviews and the likelihood of a personal grievance at the end of it? what manager in their right mind would not want an employee who is only average in a role not go to a place where they could do better? Something about this does not smell right.
    • ****: That was my experience (mostly) in my 33 years of IBM management, although I must say there was a sprinkling of good "people managers" who did what was right for people and the company. Problem is that the system does not reward the good people management behavior, so the successful managers learn to act in their self-interest. I an the few other good people managers who did the right things did so in order to look ourselves in the mirror in the morning, not because there was any career benefit. In fact, it probably hurt our careers. Hence, the system mostly gets what it motivates.
    • My personal observations over my 32 years (20 plus in management) was that my experience was very much like what **** described so well in his comments above.

      The earlier years in the "old" IBM there was a serious on employee development with some management accountability. Employee opinion surveys and employee 360 reviews of their management were done and used to help evaluate the job managers did. While Rich is right...good managers were generally not rewarded...bad managers were identified and coached or move out of management.

      In the last decade the management accountability and employee feedback on their managers was not there and the "system" didn't police the people development or people skills jobs done by managers. Nor were managers held accountable for growing the value to the business of the "human capital" assigned to them. As long as the performance plans/development plans/etc...were done on time and plans met...the managers generally skated in this area.

      Today I mentor a number of "young" employees and it seems rather common that they feel trapped in jobs/groups, are not undergoing any or many development activities and there's a lot of frustration. Most seem to feel they'll have to leave IBM to find a better opportunity. I find this sad...especially since IBM's invested so much during their first 5 years in the business in hiring/training and initial development. Additionally, there seems to be limited ability to move around in the business for most employees who might seek career enrichment, skills expansion or a better "fit" of skills/interests to a job. I posted the discussion item to try to validate or not my observations with the input of people who have "been there and done that" or who "are there and doing it" now.

    • my 2 cents... what I saw during my last 2 years in IBM was an attempt to move even more to databases for skill mapping, CV wizards and whatnot. Managers were forced to enter and evaluate employees based on some standard format hardly applicable to non-GTS job roles, while at the same time HR was cutting any form of management or skill development. Lots of material available on-line for self education of course, but fewer courses.

      The feeling I had was that they were trying to replace skills development with skills mapping... nothing wrong with better understanding where the right skills are, the question is what you do to enhance them once you have identified them. I never perceived HR as a Human Resources function, just mainly an admin organization.

      Senior Execs are often too short in one job / organization to have time to care... I changed VP 4 times in 2 years, you don't even have time to get to know your management and they are off to new careers.

    • "been there and done that" Unfortunately, my perspective is that being such a big organization, all comes down to a number: revenue. If you are in area of non-revenue generation, chances are quite little and mobility is not a priority. I also agree that interest of managers comes from their own people skills, not because of benefits for their career or HR training. I went through a manager which did not see my potential in almost 4 years, and a second one who saw it and tried to retain me in just one year in her department. Finally I had to leave the company to seek for better opportunities and growth. Despite the manager surveys, Quarter reviews with upper management, skill databases updating, still HR needs to work on that and actually use the information they gather. In my almost 5 years I saw so much talent wasted and leaving the company. I enjoyed and learned a lot on IBM, but the HR side was a bit disappointing.
    • In general IBM has missed the profound and revolutionary changes we've seen in talent management. For some reason the entire "manage to strength" movement has been ignored by IBM, and HR continues to operate in the dark ages. All the observations in this thread are true, what's missing is recognition of the core cause: IBM managers are not trained to recognize an employee's core strengths or their innate talent, and instead concentrate on shoring up an employee's weakness. This is like asking a great catcher to play center field. There's a reason that player is a great catcher - his musculature, strength, arm, ability to see the ball. You stick that guy in center field and while he might make a good center fielder he will never be a great center fielder. IBM managers and executives aren't interested in building truly great teams where each individual is simply "cut out" for the role they play, because on the surface it appears they are not rewarded for that. However when all the players on the team are in the right role everybody benefits. Unfortunately I doubt developing the kind of "smarter manager" that IBM needs is probably not in the company's DNA.
    • My experience with the skills matrix and the surveys is as following: 1. When I joined IBM, my first opinion survey was very positive, but in time (3 surveys later, or 5 years later) it deteriorated to very negative one. The result? I was never asked to participate to an opinion survey again! 2. After completing the skills matrix very carefully for about 6 years, I tested the system by inserting 5's to every field! Result? Nothing happened! Next year, I inserted 1's and still same result, Nothing! (By the way, a friend of mine used to do the same thing for a period of 5 years! Guess what happened? If you said nothing you win!) Looks like a few thing are there, just to be there! Just my 2 cents.
    • I was just a CE (for 20 years), no big aims, no big responsibilities, not wanted to go managing, as I felt uneasy managing people. But I consider myself a good technician, and very good to solve difficult problems, using logic (well , maybe a bit of luck too). What happened in the latest years of IBM, they wanted people to sell (sell products, sell services, sell packages) and didn't care for good skill in solving problem or understanding the system. I felt that this was one of the reason I was invited to quit IBM when they needed to diminish headcount.
    • As several others have mentioned, it's clear that over time, the emphasis on employee development and growth has diminished to the point that it was perceived as an added cost only as opposed to the potential returns of the investment. As for the notion of providing other opportunities in the rest of IBM, it's a cultural value that is lost. We live in a world where people change jobs every few years so the value of retaining someone in the company for long periods of time isn't valued....perhaps it's even viewed as a negative thing, or at the very least, not encouraged by management. I recently changed career within IBM and I had to do all the work, but I was lucky enough to have a manager that didn't want to get in the way....so there's still hope to go fight for opportunities
  • ZD-Net: IT workers bore brunt of offshoring over past decade: analysis. By Joe McKendrick. Excerpts: IT departments in larger companies bore the brunt of the offshoring and overall decline in business service jobs, the report finds. About 1.8 million IT-related jobs will have been lost during the 15-year time period. ...

    The Hackett Group report examines employment patterns among 4,500 major companies during the 2002-2016 period. The researchers calculate that between 2002 and 2016, 3.7 million of all business service jobs will have been eliminated through a combination of productivity improvements (3.2 million, or 39%) and offshoring (2.1 million/25%), partially offset by 1.6 million jobs (20%) created through economic growth. This represents a net decline of 45% over the 15-year period.

  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert (PDF). This week's articles include:
    • Seniors, Others Await Fate of Health Reform as Supreme Court Hears Arguments
    • Alliance’s 2011 Voting Record: A Breakdown of the Findings
    • House Passes the Ryan Budget; Alternatives Rejected
    • National Leaders Address Michigan Alliance, NEA
    • Alliance Members in the South, Northeast Can Still Register for Regional Meetings
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “OK” Pros: Good training ground. Opportunity to learn many different skills. Many people with expertise in wide range of areas. Large company with set processes and structure. Cons: Layoffs regardless of financial stability of company. Losing best people to other companies. Many old timers and not enough new blood.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “Don't be a fool and work here!” Pros: You can fly in coach nearly anywhere you want whenever you want, and people outside of IBM still respect the business card. Cons: IBM's business model can be summed up this way: Acquire companies as cheaply as possible, do as little to integrate the technology as you can, drive the sales team to quotas that they perpetually miss, cut every dime of expenses and shift as many costs to the employees as possible, spend no money on training (called "enablement" at IBM), and spend a lot of money on high-minded commercials that don't really describe any actual products you can buy. Anyone working there disagree? Advice to Senior Management: My advice to managers who want to get ahead at IBM is play it by the book and wait your turn at bat, perhaps for a whole career. To those who find that a sorry lifestyle: get out now before you waste more of your prime years!
    • IBM Senior Consultant in New York, NY: (Current Employee) “Unfortunate. IBM GBS (consulting) is NOT what I would recommend for young, ambitious people.” Pros: Fridays work from home. Unlimited sick leave. Good brand on your resume. Cons: The old guard is cliquish and resistant to new, fresh talent. Jobs are being offshored at a blinding pace...so not sure where the corporate strategy is headed. Advice to Senior Management: Reason top school MBA hires are leaving you or not accepting offers is because there is no room to grow. Place them in strategic projects. Include Watson/Smarter Planet project in consulting gigs. And what's the deal with the embarrassing raises/bonuses???
    • IBM Marketing Manager: (Past Employee - 2011) “Underpaid and Overworked.” Pros: The flexibility to work from home is great, but most IT companies allow this.

      Cons: The flip side of working from home is that there is no work-life balance. In fact prior to leaving IBM, they changed the term Work-Life Balance to Work-Life Integration. There is no balance at all. IBM will grind you to a nub for wages far less than industry standard. The focus on EPS has caused a cutback on everything. For example, the allocation for expenses has become even more of a joke now that I have left. When I was at IBM the per diem for food in NYC was $50 - that might get you a decent lunch. Now, IBM even pro-rates the per diem based on when you leave your house.

      If you have a family and your family will be relying on you to provide insurance, run away as fast as you can. The amount that people have to pay for family coverage is outrageous (although single coverage wasn't too bad when I left in 2011.)

      Advice to Senior Management: IBM needs to change its fundamental business model. They understandably acquire successful companies as it is easier to acquire than provide the R&D on so many products. However, IBM destroys the processes that made those companies successful (marketing plans and sales compensation are two points that come to mind immediately). This is particularly noticeable in the Software Group.

      The practice of underpaying their employees (for the prestige of working at IBM or as my first line manager said, 'Happy to just have a job') leads to mediocre employees as the talented individuals leave as soon as a better opportunity presents itself. When the average tenure of a sales individual is 12 months, there is something fundamentally wrong.

    • IBM Management Consultant: (Current Employee) “Just a Job” Pros: Large client base providing an opportunity to stay busy. Cons: - I am just a number and everything is done by statistics. - Employees are treated as though they are dishonest. Advice to Senior Management: Stop treating people as though they are dishonest. Start treating people as people not numbers.
    • IBM Managing Consultant Lab Tech in Research Triangle Park, NC: (Current Employee) “Hard, Grinding Difficult, Ever changing,” Pros: Big parking lot, air conditioning most of the time even in the winter, fast response to maintenance problems. Cons: Constant fear, low pay , poor benefits, no way to complain without getting pissed on. Advice to Senior Management: What management? Completely hands off, never giving direction. or feedback. Just constant grinding work.
    • IBM Managing Consultant: (Current Employee) “Used to be a great place in the 90's” Pros: Money is good. Moral has been low for years. Everyone always wonders which dept will get reduced next quarter. Cons: Things have changed. A body shop the last 6 years. Lot's of off shoring and layoffs. Advice to Senior Management: None. It's a tough economy. The giant can't operate as it used to.
    • IBM Senior Project Manager in Markham, ON (Canada): (Current Employee) “The company has changed a lot over the years and not in the direction of thinking employees first.” Pros: wealth of information; people are great; lots of free educational material - on-line learning, virtual learning, Harvard white papers; multiple different areas of the company. Cons: poor pay compared to industry standards; inequitable promotions; poor work/life balance; poor leadership and strategic thinking; non-people support environment. Will action people out of the company at lower levels before taking executives out and expect those left behind to pick up the extra work; you can be guaranteed you will be working a regular 50-60hr work week unless you set the boundaries. Advice to Senior Management: take care of your people; reduce salaries of those in executive leadership roles and pay the people that make it happen; fairly post positions ensuring everyone equally has an opportunity for the role; stop taking away things like the Thank You award - there is now nothing left for us. Next on the chopping block will be grants to non-profit organizations for our volunteer time
    • IBM Consulting Sales Specialist: (Past Employee - 2012) “Positive.” Pros: Well respected company in the industry. Cons: Antiquated processes. When it comes to PBC rankings managers are limited in the numbers of 1 rankings they can give. Just a number to the company. You can be laid off even if you have always had positive reviews. Advice to Senior Management: Hire ifs to review internal processes and fix them.
    • IBM Consultant: (Current Employee) “Prepare for long hours, low pay, bad benefits, micromanagement, red-tape and pigeon-holing.” Pros: - Reputation, hence it is a great resume filler (and what I want from this company); - Long company history; - If you get to travel (consulting type roles), you can end up spending maybe a day or 2 in very neat places on the company dime.

      Cons:

      • Very cheap: Examples: they pay poorly for per diem (food allowance during travel), forces the employee to spend money to buy a phone even for business (I've never heard of this until IBM),
      • Micromanagement everywhere on many levels.
      • Excessive administration
      • Extremely long hours are possible.
      • Their internal systems are very excessive causing red tape everywhere.
      • Low compensation compared to what's out there. To be fair, Accenture isn't better at least on a consultant level. The likelihood of rising in the company isn't good either. You get in on a "band" and to rise is extremely difficult and arduous.
      • Globalization is great for the company but very poor for your day to day life. Your "team" consists of people in 3, 4 different countries and that's fine. But you won't know the 10 people sitting next to you. Total lack of human touch is not unexpected. Specifically, you'll even loose a basic "hello" or "goodbye" or "how was the weekend" conversation since all the people around you are working on different projects, and tomorrow it will be a different 10 people.

      Advice to Senior Management: Key Point: Pay more money, then I'll put up with the life sucking vampire of a company that this is. Alternatively: Don't ride your low level employees like they're sheep. I know that's what we are but that will make me quit and go somewhere for a 40% pay bump. Watch me.

    • IBM Senior Software Engineer in Gurgaon, Haryana (India): (Current Employee) “It was the worst company I worked with in my 6 years & 6 months of experience” Pros: Work from home. Unlimited number of Sick & Casual leaves. Cons: Appraisal process is very bad. You did not get any hike during & when you resigned they will give you 3 rating so that they will not pay you variable salary. Advice to Senior Management: In the project I worked i.e. BIPSAAS there is very bad project management. Do something to improve it.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “It was pretty disgusting and nightmarish.” Pros: I joined IBM as it was a big brand name and it was near to my hometown. Also, I got an opportunity to work on some latest technology in my area. Cons: The management was pretty stupid, useless and irrational. The emphasis was on presence rather than on results. The peers were also not of top quality which made your life difficult. Advice to Senior Management: I would say just change this people manager model of yours. It gives too much of power to the people managers which they often misuse.
    • IBM Technical Support Engineer in Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo (Brazil): (Current Employee) “Support Rational Customer in Americas.” Pros: The flexibility to work some days from home is the best part of my job. Cons: The salary and the opportunities to grow are very bad. They told you that growing depends on you but this is not true. There is no bonus for performance or options to buy stock. The roadmap 2015 is a joke...they only cut the costs and only the executives managers and investors will have gain with this. Advice to Senior Management: Be honest and don't lie about career opportunities and salary improvements since we really know that this didn't exist nowadays.
    • IBM Sales Specialist: (Current Employee) “As a long time IBMer, it is sad that IBM no longer respects their employees.” Pros: Lots of good, smart people work here. It is reasonably easy to move jobs if you are a good performer. Total benefit package is competitive. Cons: Salary is not competitive if you've been here a while, best of come from outside. The work environment is getting unbearable. Unrealistic quotas have become the norm, so compensation suffers. IBM used to be a stable and enjoyable place to work, not any more. Work-Life balance has suffered over the past three years and continues to trend down. Management has a goal to drop US headcount significantly over the next few years. Advice to Senior Management: Be realistic on your goals. Show some respect for your employees. Stop all of the nepotism in the company. It's ridiculous that, in a company the size of IBM, that a VP can actually have members of his family directly reporting to him.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Its OK.” Pros: Work from home. Some work/life balance. Seems like everyone else in the company is doing good work except me. Brand name? Cons: Poor paymasters. Every single holiday an employee takes has to be compensated by working on some weekend as it affects the forecast given by the so called managers. They go to the extent of asking the employees to compensate even the sick days. Mind you these holidays are regular holidays such as August 15, October 2nd etc and the earned holidays. Very manager driven company for everything.
    • IBM IT Specialist in East Hartford, CT: (Past Employee - 2010) “So so.” Pros: It looks good on your resume. Cons: It's stingy stingy stingy stingy company. Advice to Senior Management: Make band 6 or 7 to person visible to management.
    • IBM Anonymous in Guadalajara, Estado de Jalisco (Mexico): (Current Employee) “A Grind.” Pros: Low stress environment if you are willing to go with the flow, average pay and compensation, good mobility options. Not a bad choice for moms. Cons: Slow, glacial growth within the company unless you work in sales. If you work in sales, cutthroat environment. IBM is now an overpriced giant, prepare for the crash. Advice to Senior Management: Stop pumping the stock price and start investing in your people. Resource actions are robbing you of your talent, the one thing that differentiates IBM. We no longer make much of anything (and when we do, it's all outsourced, even our development), we are an intellectual property company... don't sell off your intellect for the sake of goosing your stock options. Stop taking Strategic Directives as gospel. Just because moving something someplace else is cheap or reducing inventory is lean or investing in new technologies is fashionable don't think it is always the best solution. Sometimes it pays to keep things in house, retain inventory, say no to bad clients and unproven technologies.
    • IBM Planner in Austin, TX: (Past Employee - 2012) “Bureaucratic giant focused on cost reductions and controls.” Pros: Benefits are decent and generally speaking I found it easy to get personal time off when needed. My organization was spread out across the globe, so while I worked at an IBM office, I could work from home whenever I needed/wanted.

      Cons: After 34 years I was selected to participate in a "Resource Action". I was given 30 days to find another job or be out the door. (I was out the door.) These RAs, always the end of the second month of a quarter, are designed to lower costs quickly. They are a common occurrence and because there are so many organizations the overall numbers are never high enough to get media coverage. It is a cloud over every employee's head.

      Executive management doesn't want to hear bad news, so middle management will spin any problem to save themselves. Even bad programs/products get out the door, the management in charge get their awards and move up and out before stuff hits the fan. Then new management has to fix the problem that they didn't cause.

      Non-performing employees are kept around because headcount is so micromanaged that if someone is let go, there's a good chance that there will never be a backfill. So, managers are continually faced with the problem of keeping a bad performer around just to save the spot or save it until they're forced to make an RA selection.

      Expenses are micro-managed. In my group, if you asked for $8 business cards, you had to go through reviews and get half a dozen upper managers to okay it - oh, and provide a list of external customers that you interfaced with to prove that the cards would be used in a clear revenue opportunity. Just before I left, the edict came out from CHQ - no external monitors or minidocks if you had a laptop. SW and HW developers writing code, running scripts, compiling, debugging in multiple windows, why would they need an external LCD monitor to actually see what they're doing??? Penny wise and pound foolish. Be prepared to buy things you'll need to do your job with your own dime.

      It is clear that the goal is to reduce US headcount and increase headcount in those countries where the P/Y rate is a third of what it is in the US. That would be a good financial decision if those individuals had the necessary skills AND if they stuck around to do work and provide continuity. Turnover in those countries is very high because the employees are focused solely on making more money (who can blame them).

      IBM is clearly not the company I went to work for 34 years ago. We used to be proud to be IBMers. Today it is a paycheck. IBM tries to recruit from the best schools and the pay is competitive in the beginning, but by year 4, those hires will be behind their peers in other companies. IBM may have more patents than any other company, but it doesn't play out in how they reward their employees in job opportunities and advancement.

      Advice to Senior Management: Put as much effort in growing your employees as you do in figuring out how to pinch pennies and put bureaucratic controls in place to stymie them.

    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Not really what I was hoping for.” Pros: There is a lot (and I mean a lot) of career advancement opportunity, but you really have to be an IBM'er at heart to take advantage of it. Pay is very good compared to the industry standard. Most management is very cognizant of having you balance life and work. Cons: Bonuses suck. Sometimes the actual expectations of management are vague and it takes a long time to get things done because of this. Be prepared to have 20 people involved in every decision on what does/doesn't get done.
  • The Guardian (United Kingdom): Government IT contractors hire staff in India to work on benefits system. Disclosure appears to contradict minister's assurances that department's major IT projects would not go abroad. By Rajeev Syal. Excerpts: Hundreds of computer technicians in India are being hired to help develop an IT system for the government's universal credit welfare programme, work potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds, despite promises that large data projects would remain in the UK. Workers in Bangalore and Mumbai are being hired by the outsourcing firms Accenture and IBM to help design and maintain a delivery system for universal credit, internal documents show. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) signed contracts with the two firms reported to be worth £525m each in December.

    The disclosure appears to contradict assurances from the employment minister, Chris Grayling, who told parliament in November that he would not allow his department's major IT projects to go abroad.

    Union leaders and MPs reacted angrily to the disclosure. Mark Serwotka, leader of the PCS union, said: "With unemployment high and still rising, ministers should be taking every opportunity to create skilled jobs, yet it appears plans are already well advanced to offshore the development of what is supposedly their flagship benefits system. ...

    He said using Indian labour would keep costs down and allow for work around the clock. "We are looking to maximise the use of offshore development in the interests of both cost and time. In relation to cost, the greater the amount of development work we can do offshore, the lower the overall blended rate for the programme. Another benefit of offshore where time is concerned is that we are able to drive more design and development hours from each working day." ...

    Last week the Observer disclosed that the government had secretly agreed that the personal data of 43 million drivers in the UK could be contracted offshore to India. Data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, including addresses and registration plate numbers, along with credit card details, will now be accessible to staff outside the UK.

  • Fiscal Times: Why the Brains of ‘Knowledge Workers’ Don't Wear Out. By Mark Miller, Reuters. Excerpts: The Great Recession has left millions of mid-life Americans up a creek without a paddle. Having lost jobs at the peak of their careers, they must find new work for the second half of their lives. Many will likely need to reinvent their careers – and may consider themselves too old to embark on something new.

    Mark Walton begs to disagree. The former CNN correspondent transformed his own career 20 years ago by becoming a Fortune 100 leadership consultant. Now 61, Walton has spent the past five years studying people who transformed their careers successfully in their 50s or early 60s, and invented new ways of working that extended into their 70s, 80s or even 90s.

    A growing body of neuroscience research suggests that old dogs can learn new tricks, and that they can do it better than the young ones. Walton elaborates on how the scientific research connects with the real life experiences of successful mid-life transformations in his new book, Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond (McGraw-Hill).

  • AARP: Older Workers Delay 'Encore' Careers. Tight finances hinder transition to public service work. By Carole Fleck. Excerpts: Three in four older adults faced significant financial hardship for at least six months while they moved from their longtime line of work into an “encore” career helping others, and one in three endured such difficulty for more than two years, according to a new survey.

    An estimated 31 million people ages 44 to 70 are interested in transitioning to socially oriented encore careers, according to the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures, which jointly commissioned the survey. But respondents’ answers suggest that about 40 percent are staying put because of financial problems.

  • New York Times: A Few Things to Ask Your Financial Adviser. By Carl Richards. Excerpts: For years, I’ve encouraged people looking for help managing their money to ask questions, lots of questions. One of the best questions you can ask is, “Do you act as a fiduciary?”

    A fiduci-what?

    Even though it’s a topic that’s gotten more coverage in recent years, you’re not alone if you haven’t heard the term as it relates to financial advisers.

    So what does it mean to act as a fiduciary?

    In simple terms, it means that your customers’ interests come first. The client and advice to the client are at the center of a fiduciary relationship. Not the advisers. Not the firms. The clients.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 03/22/12: If you have a union representing you, your raise will depend on that contract, not an "appraisal" by your manager. And, any layoffs to occur will have to go thru said union contract. That is why the middle class thrived when there was unions and is being depleted now that unions have been declining since 1975. Connect the dots-- decline of unions = decline of the middle class. -anonymous-
    • Comment 03/23/12: Yes, I know I will likely be gone by 2015. So be it. Welcome to corporate America. The new era is start ups. I wish a union would help. But, until the American people wake up, it is a lost cause. Perhaps it may start soon. I just don't see it. We have some of the dumbest and smartest people in the world. I'm just concerned about the balance... My advice, if you work here at IBM, then don't rely on your job. If you have a plan B, C, and D they can't take anything from you and your stress goes way down. Use them, don't let them use you. Build your skills, gain knowledge, and don't do stupid jobs that won't benefit you.

      The US economy today is all about self interest. If you play your cards right, you can use IBM to propel you into something great. The days of working at IBM for 30-40 years are gone. We can debate whether that is good or bad for eternity. Personally, I only do jobs that help me, I focus on technical jobs popular on LinkedIn and other soft skills. If that makes me an RA candidate, so be it. I'll take the package and move on to something much better.

      As for those complaining that they are working too many hours. IBM does not have a gun to your head. I worked seven days a week in 2011. No more. Now, I work five days. I told my manager I will not do that job anymore. I'm focused and work hard. But I refuse to work the weekend. If that means I get canned, fine. We all need to take responsibility.

      If you believe in economics, IBM will not be able to do this forever. The market will shift eventually back to an employee market. Overseas costs will increase, and skill levels will not keep up. I'm not opposed to unions. I just think the current US climate is.

      With that said, even if you feel Alliance is right in the smallest way, I suggest you join. At a minimal, they do provide valuable statistics and work with government officials. The dues are cheap. Good luck everyone. It is no different than supporting a church, NPR, or whatever your favorite cause it... -AcceptReality-

    • Comment 03/23/12: I've often wondered why so many people visit the Alliance site -- yet so few people join. Since I don't believe there's anyone working for IBM who can't afford $10 a month, then I assume that it's one of three things:
      1. You're afraid you won't be anonymous and someone "higher up" will find out and fire you
      2. You don't believe in unions
      3. You don't think it will do any good and that the Alliance will never get enough people on board to actually form a union.

      First off, as the Alliance has said repeatedly in this forum, it's not possible for IBM to find out who you are if you want to remain anonymous. It would be illegal for them to try. So you can put yourself at ease for #1.

      If you don't believe in unions -- or if you don't believe enough people will join the Alliance to form one, let me offer you this thought: Why are you here reading this? Because the Alliance is practically the only source that exists for real information about what is happening in the company. IBM is certainly not going to provide you with all of the dirty secrets they like to hide.

      I am happy to be a member and pay my $10 a month to, if for not other reason, support their efforts and get at least some information about what is going on. You should be too. Become a member and support the Alliance. -Big Blue Bayou Alliance member-

    • Comment 03/24/12: I think I know why IBM folks visit this site and don't join: IBM is full of employee folk who want someone else to do the fighting for them for free and are brainwashed that unions are bad for them. This is apathy at it's worst. I am disappointed in almost all IBM management's actions since Gerstner. I am even more disappointed in most of my fellow IBM folk who don't join the Alliance but still visit this site. When are these folk gonna see the light? When are they gonna believe? -SoBlue-
    • Comment 03/24/12: First, I'm prepared for the rants from either Alliance readers, or for the moderator. That said, I found it quite funny to find my 'About Your Company' book of 1981. I don't see a copyright notice so... do you think there's a market to reprint this book, as a collector's item? I've lost at least $40K per year * 40 years. Instead, I received @ $60K cash balance, one time. Yes, please feel free to rant at me because I never heard of the Alliance until weeks after I lost my job. And, feel free to rant again, because I didn't then join the Alliance. My grandfather, and one uncle, were both union members. My father wasn't; however he was in that fortunate generation - it lasted @ 15 years - to have A PENSION. So, I guess there was a twenty year window in which a normal working person might have hoped to have a future. Rant away. -No One-
    • Comment 03/25/12: "If you have a union representing you, your raise will depend on that contract, not an "appraisal" by your manager. And, any layoffs to occur will have to go thru said union contract. That is why the middle class thrived when there was unions and is being depleted now that unions have been declining since 1975. Connect the dots-- decline of unions = decline of the middle class. -anonymous-" This post is perhaps the best description in the simplest terms of why IBMers need to organize. This should be quoted on the front page. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 03/25/12: -No One-: The Alliance has always been active since 1999 (and it's roots even before that, i.e. the Resistor and IBMWU). Since IBM has the money, influence, and clout to control public opinion and the media, I can understand to a degree why you might not have heard about the Alliance. But the Alliance has been widely quoted in many news articles over the years since 1999; so if you paid some attention long enough, I think you could have had a chance to have heard at least a bit mention of the Alliance.

      But, yes, America is largely turned against unions, and so the Alliance has suffered lack of exposure because of it. It does stink that IBMers finally find out about the Alliance once they are RAed. By why is that so? I don't want to rant myself. It really does no good for us all! But let's all unite now and spread the word. Let's expose IBM for what it is. BTW, Keep that "About Your Company Book"! See how IBM has broken their retirement promise to us all. Yes, that booklet is proof of why there is a movement to unionize and why the Alliance is still more than relevant! -IBMUnionYes-

    • Comment 03/26/12: The Alliance will be holding rallies against job cuts and offshoring IBM jobs in April. If you want to participate or help organize a rally please contact us at ibmunionalliance@gmail.com -Alliance-
    • Comment 03/26/12: Do you have information on US IBM workers being terminated and the work filled by an L-1 visa holder(offshore IBM worker brought into the US by IBM). If so, send information to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com -Alliance-
    • Comment 03/26/12: Just heard my old manager is retiring after 30 years and they are having a get together for him. I can't even imagine who will go except the anti union brown nosers. We all have a right to get in that 30 years security and then retire. Organize and Unionize. It's the only way. Then you can retire after a long and healthy career, just like management. -Gone_in_07-
    • Comment 03/27/12: Gone_in_07.... We all have a bitter taste in our mouths, but, I just went to a friend's retirement lunch, and I am no way a brown noser. I have seen many friends "retire", that is, RAed over the years. One goes to these "parties" because you have worked with and respect the person. I also have had some mgr's that I would never attend their parties, but that is on an individual base. BTW I have been an active Alliance member since 1999, attended many ASM's and have passed out more fliers then most.. Even at Somers... -Ich Bin Muede-
    • Comment 03/27/12: Well it is time for me to leave IBM and go to work for ___. Any pro's or con's of retiring vs. voluntary separation? I have 20 years. -It's Time- Alliance reply: If you and others come here for answers, don't you think you should join the organization that makes this available?
    • Comment 03/27/12: To It's Time- First and for most, join the Alliance. 20 yrs, are you at least 55 and are still under the defined pension plan? If so, that is your choice. I left IBM back in 2007 with almost 24 yrs in L2 Support due to an opportunity that does not come knocking except for once in a lifetime, I jumped and thankful for the blessing. I have many friends still at IBM that wish they were somewhere else. I got a fellow IBMer to join the same company I was employed by back in 2011. Brush up on your skills, join the Alliance and let's try and save what is left of this once great company everyone wanted to work for ! Unite and stand strong, join the Alliance! I am a paying member, it's peanuts! Stand up and do something your children, grand children will be proud of! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/27/12: Rumor is that the Greenville SC Outsourcing Services division being sold off to Iron Mountain. Got this from the team leader in charge of imaging who claims to be protected and in the know. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/27/12: Tomorrow is my last day at IBM, as is many others, and we all know more to come, I leave having learned a lot, and worked with many, many of the brightest people, so was good ride while it lasted, onto the next adventure, now just need to find the key to my Tardis. -The Dr-
    • Comment 03/28/12: The IBM Legal Dept. is also handing out RA's to IBM Legal Dept. employees. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/28/12: This post isn't a report of a job cut / RA; however I'd like to thank *IBMUnionYes* for a thoughtful reply to my rather unhappy comment. [I wrote the original comment as 'No One', and my post was itself quite a rant. Sorry!] In any case, finding the old IBM handbook was an eye-opener. It clearly called out IBM's history of full employment [to paraphrase] and respect for the individual; and was kind of sad to find. Anyway, on a positive note, with so many leaving IBM, our networks are expanded to other companies. And no, I'm not happy that there is no true job security without a union or other protection [TAA, etc.] However, I'm also sorry for the negative tone of my previous post. -No One-
    • Comment 03/28/12: Just wanted to tell you what is happening at our company. We were bought by IBM ~half a year ago (close to a thousand employees). IBM started by saying how this brings a lot of opportunities to us, etc... Lots of lies, basically. But now they are getting serious: our managers we told that once anybody quits, the replacement will be hired in China/India. At least for development -- total outsourcing. Awesome, eh? -a new IBMer-
    • Comment 03/28/12: To Another Disgruntled Employee - Did you fight this? You should have because HR policy is very clear when it comes to rating drops. The employee is supposed to be advised by their manager they are in danger of losing the rating and they are to be given ample time to fix the issue...they can't just drop you! This is my situation but I am by no means sitting back accepting that package with grace and dignity. Hell no...I am fighting with every ounce of energy I have! I should have been gone today, but I'm here until resolution! At this point, either way is fine with me...bottom line is I fought for my rights and put some much needed spot light on the fact that PBC's are as worthless as paper anymore! Yes I am a member of Alliance, yes I joined when I got RA'd but I'm here and I'm fighting, not just for me, but for everyone, current and future! To all, if there is a rally in your area, please attend! We need to get off the forums/Facebook/Twitter and be heard in public where it counts! -Ciao Big Blue-
    • Comment 03/29/12: To Ciao Big Blue --- Get Real! The only result of fighting a PBC rating is the satisfaction (sic) of maybe winning. You can be sure the 'victory', if not the fight, will surely put a target on your back for the next round of RAs. The only fight worth fighting is banding together with your fellow workers to fight the beast, as stated in the last part of your comment. Join up and make it count! -Anon-
    • Comment 03/29/12: I agree with Anon about fighting the PBC rating. I fought mine and met with my 3rd line manager weekly for about a month until he wore me down. He kept going over the same things over and over and over. I finally agreed to accept the PBC rating and move on and get back to work. They dropped me further in the PBC rating in the next cycle and I ultimately got laid off. Don't trust your management. They are very good at this stuff and they will wear you down. The ball is in their court without a Union on your side. You have absolutely no one on your side without a Union. You are totally on your own fighting the big bad Big Blue. -LostToBigBadBlue-
    • Comment 03/29/12: Hi Anon - I fought my PBC and had it change and not even 6 weeks later I'm paying for it, every thing I do is being monitored, expenses are being rejected along with increased work hours, no budget for education, meanwhile others from my team continue to wine and dine customers along with taking education, shows up at 9:AM and leaves at 3:PM, so yes you may think you won if you had your 3 rating overturn but watch you back, personally I don't give a s*** anymore so they can take it all away, but I guarantee you IBM will not get me working no 60 hours a week, I will force them to package me out before I work 1 minute more that 40 hours a week.. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/29/12: I miss the days when our datacenters were full of busy, smart, productive people...happy to be working and living the American Dream. It was fun to go to work, and feel like we were of REAL service to our customers, and proud to work for IBM. The respect we felt from our customers was evidence of the level of service we provided. Over the last several years the datacenters have become ghostlands...and the customers have come to expect less than professional service and leave it up to the SDMs and PMs to cover up and gloss over all of the wasted time and effort that goes into simple tasks that were expedited to their satisfaction just a few years ago. IBM does not realize that their most precious asset, their REPUTATION is taking a hit. You get what you pay for. It s not too late, IBM. Stop the 2015 Roadkill. It is not working. -Wants to be Proud Again-
    • Comment 03/30/12: To -Wants to be Proud Again- the 2015 roadmap IS working. IBM is getting the EPS they desire. The 2015 roadmap has nothing to do with employee satisfaction or customer service. It's all about lining the pockets of execs and major shareholders. -anonymous-
    • Comment 03/30/12: I have been entertained by the posts of those who challenged their PBC. It seems most are realizing that they won the battle and lost the war. As a former manager, I saw first hand in management meetings how they were going to get that employee. It is very easy to completely crush an employee and NEVER violate any legalities or even IBM policies. I would politely suggest those who did challenge to start looking for a new career because they are toast in IBM. BTW, believing any of the nonsense about HR being on your side is amusing. Their goal is to stop you in your tracks regardless of rule violations. It is time to grow up and understand the ONLY hope is a union. But the rank and file just don't get it. They have the Superman syndrome!!! -Anonymous- Alliance Reply: Thank you for your straight forward analysis. <humor> Any chance you have some advice on how the Alliance can convince the 'Superman' syndromes' to join the "Justice League" union and stand up for themselves? :-) </humor>
    • Comment 03/30/12: I have been entertained by the posts of those who challenged their PBC. It seems most are realizing that they won the battle and lost the war. As a former manager, I saw first hand in management meetings how they were going to get that employee. It is very easy to completely crush an employee and NEVER violate any legalities or even IBM policies. I would politely suggest those who did challenge to start looking for a new career because they are toast in IBM. BTW, believing any of the nonsense about HR being on your side is amusing. Their goal is to stop you in your tracks regardless of rule violations. It is time to grow up and understand the ONLY hope is a union. But the rank and file just don't get it. They have the Superman syndrome!!! -Anonymous- Alliance Reply: Thank you for your straight forward analysis. <humor> Any chance you have some advice on how the Alliance can convince the 'Superman' syndromes' to join the "Justice League" union and stand up for themselves? :-) </humor>
    • Comment 03/30/12: As a former manager, I saw and was forced to participate in totally unfair appraisal ratings and RAs. The HR system in IBM is rotten. Employees below directors are not respected, not even the managers. I too, was caught up in the possibility of keeping my job at the time to later understand that I would be RA'ed, also. After 28 years and 2 months, I got the "boot". I was not 55 years old, therefore, I could not retire. Basically, told "get the hell out of here". Age discrimination has kept me from getting another job. My brother was a member of a union in another company and when their doors closed, he got his retirement and many other benefits because his union had negotiated these items. IBM employees need a union, so that, they can quit getting run over by "Big Blue." -RA'ed in 2009-
    • Comment 03/31/12: Counts are in - 2560 US IBMers disappeared from the network on 3/28. The Alliance estimates based on RA packages received are lower than actuals. So, when are the next 2500 going to be fired, and to those IBMers reading this - are you so naive and/or arrogant to think that it won't be you?? -Anonymous-
    • Comment 04/02/12: The numbers of IBMers fired on 02.27.12 is still increasing. See this link for the recent (today's) update: IBM JobCuts 2-27-2012 -Alliance-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Smirking Chimp: The Court and the Mandate: Let the 'Left' Be Left Again. By Richard Eskow. Excerpts: The world's been turned upside down by the Supreme Court hearings on the individual insurance mandate. Left is right, right is wrong, and the future is uncertain. There are only two approaches to health care that we know are constitutional: a European-style 'socialized medicine' system, or the old system of uninsured people dying in the streets.

    Conservatives are viciously attacking an idea developed in right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation as an alternative to the Clintons' health reform. That means that, by their own framing, the right is now fighting for the "freeloaders" who don't "take responsibility" for their health costs. That's what you get when a Democratic President tries to compromise with the Right - Republicans attacking one of their own ideas as "socialism."

    It's just as off-kilter on the other side of the aisle. Democrats and some of their liberal supporters are vehemently defending a law that forces Americans to buy insurance from private insurance companies - companies whose hikes of as much as 24 percent were just ruled "excessive" in nine states - for coverage so weak that enrollees can still be driven into bankruptcy by medical expenses.

    The "left" solution involves forcing people to pay inflated premiums to private corporations, while the "right" is rejecting its own proposal. Who's on first?

  • Washington Post opinion: Judicial activists in the Supreme Court. By E.J. Dionne Jr. Excerpts: Three days of Supreme Court arguments over the health-care law demonstrated for all to see that conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature, diving deeply into policy details as if they were members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

    Senator, excuse me, Justice Samuel Alito quoted Congressional Budget Office figures on Tuesday to talk about the insurance costs of the young. On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts sounded like the House whip in discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell. He noted that without various provisions, Congress “wouldn’t have been able to put together, cobble together, the votes to get it through.” Tell me again, was this a courtroom or a lobbyist’s office?

    It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called “judicial activists,” remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.

    Justice Stephen Breyer noted that some of the issues raised by opponents of the law were about “the merits of the bill,” a proper concern of Congress, not the courts. And in arguing for restraint, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked what was wrong with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.” It was nice to be reminded that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship. ...

    Liberals should learn from this display that there is no point in catering to today’s hard-line conservatives. The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed, single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal. ...

    One of the most astonishing arguments came from Roberts, who spoke with alarm that people would be required to purchase coverage for issues they might never confront. He specifically cited “pediatric services” and “maternity services.”

    Well, yes, men pay to cover maternity services while women pay for treating prostate problems. It’s called health insurance. Would it be better to segregate the insurance market along gender lines?

    The court’s right-wing justices seemed to forget that the best argument for the individual mandate was made in 1989 by a respected conservative, the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler.

    “If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street,” Butler said, “Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services — even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab. A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract.”
  • The New Yorker: Heavy Burden. By Jeffrey Toobin. Excerpts: It’s well known by now that Donald Verrilli, Jr., the Solicitor General, had an off day at the Supreme Court last Tuesday, when he was called on to defend the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the part of the Affordable Care Act which requires people to buy health insurance. Still, it’s worth noting the magnitude of the challenge that he was facing. The key issue in the case is whether Congress, in passing the law, exceeded its powers under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which allows the government to regulate interstate commerce. Consider, then, this question, posed to Verrilli by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: “Assume for the moment that this”—the mandate—“is unprecedented, this is a step beyond what our cases have allowed, the affirmative duty to act to go into commerce. If that is so, do you not have a heavy burden of justification?” Every premise of that question was a misperception. The involvement of the federal government in the health-care market is not unprecedented; it dates back nearly fifty years, to the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. The forty million uninsured Americans whose chances for coverage are riding on the outcome of the case are already entered “into commerce,” because others are likely to pay their health-care costs. ...

    In the more than seven decades since the New Deal, the Supreme Court has avoided this sort of line-by-line parsing of the policy choices made by legislators. As the Justices have said repeatedly, the courts should overrule the work of Congress only on the rarest occasions. “Conclusory second-guessing of difficult legislative decisions,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist once observed, “is not an attractive way for federal courts to engage in judicial review.” In recent years, the Justices have intervened in these matters solely to protect the rights of minorities shut out of the legislative process. (Insurance companies, though they are few in number, do not count as a “minority.”) Now, instead, the Supreme Court acts as a sort of supra-legislature, dismissing laws that conflict with its own political agenda. This was most evident in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, when the five-Justice majority eviscerated the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law (not to mention several of its own precedents), because Congress showed insufficiently tender regard for the free-speech rights of corporations. The question now is whether those same five Justices will rewrite—or erase—the health-care law on which Barack Obama has staked his Presidency.

  • The Rand Corporation: The Real Cost of Healthcare. By Arthur L. Kellermann. Excerpts:The U.S. spends far more on healthcare — per capita and as a percentage of GDP — than any other nation on Earth, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2010, that amounted to approximately $2.6 trillion. Each year, we Americans not only pay more for private health insurance than the citizens of other OECD countries; we also spend more on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. And on top of that, we devote more tax dollars, per person, to healthcare than the Swedes, the French, the Germans, the Canadians or the British.

    Can our country afford to spend this much? Of course not. Healthcare spending is siphoning federal and state money from other urgent priorities, including deficit reduction, defense, education and law enforcement. High healthcare costs hinder American businesses' ability to compete in the global marketplace. Many U.S. companies are deterred from offering coverage to their employees by the high costs of healthcare.

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: A Single Hedge-Fund Hustler Makes More Than 85,000 Teachers: Why Are Our Priorities So Messed Up? This obscene distribution of income is what we get for failing to rein in Wall Street. By Les Leopold. Excerpts: Why is America’s distribution of income so colossally obscene? You have only to look at Forbes most recent listing of the top 40 hedge fund moguls – men who, like Pharaohs, sit on top of our income pyramid. Together their personal income from hedge fund hustling was $12.8 billion in 2011.

    The top hedge fund guru, Raymond Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, hauled in $3 billion, which comes to a whopping $1,442,308 an HOUR, (assuming he worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.) It would take the typical U.S. family 29.2 YEARS to earn as much as Mr. Dalio earned in one HOUR.

    How much is $3 billion per year? It's hard to wrap one's head around a number as large as a billion. Here's some context...

    • That’s as much as 60,673 typical U.S. families earn: Just think about that for a moment. One person earns as much as sixty thousand hard working middle class families.
    • That’s enough to hire 85,911 entry level teachers: While we’re laying off teachers right and left to close budgets that were destroyed by the Wall Street crash, Wall Street’s top hedge fund manager earns as much in one year as tens of thousands of entry level teachers who on average earn $34,920 a year. That what we get for failing to rein in Wall Street.
    • That’s enough to hire 17,143 pediatricians: How is it possible for money managers to be as “valuable” as thousands of doctors who protect the heath of our children and earn on average $175,000 a year?
    • That’s enough to wipe out the student loan debts for 120,000 graduates. The average loan burden for graduating students is now $25,000. One year of income from Mr. Dalio could wipe-out the entire average student debt of 120,000 graduates. ...
    • That’s enough to wipe out the negative equity of 46,153 average homeowners: Today there are approximately, 11.1 million homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home is worth. ...
    • That’s enough to cover the per person average health care costs of 397,984 Americans.
    • That’s more than the Gross Domestic Product of the 5 poorest African nations combined.
    • That’s enough to feed 62 million hungry school children for a year: Our obscene distribution of income becomes even more obscene when compared to world hunger. What a top hedge fund manager makes in one year could feed 61.9 million school children from all over the world for one year. What he makes in one HOUR is enough to provide a nutritious meal to 29,748 hungry kids every day for one YEAR. ...

    Do they at least pay their fair share of taxes? No. Hedge funds take advantage of the “carried interest” loophole which allows much of their income to be taxed at the 15 percent rate instead of the top rate of 35 percent. Each time Congress tries to close this outrageous loophole, hedge fund money and lobbying makes sure the bills fade away.

  • Bill Moyers: Bruce Bartlett on Where the Right Went Wrong. In this Moyers & Company segment, Bill Moyers talks with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote “the bible” for the Reagan Revolution, worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he’s a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star.

    Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies — pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists — are destroying the country’s economic foundation. When he called George W. Bush out as “a pretend conservative” in his book Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, Bartlett was fired from his position as a senior fellow at a conservative think tank. His new book is The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform — Why We Need It and What It Will Take.

  • New York Times: The Rich Get Even Richer. By Steve Rattner. Excerpts: New statistics show an ever-more-startling divergence between the fortunes of the wealthy and everybody else — and the desperate need to address this wrenching problem. Even in a country that sometimes seems inured to income inequality, these takeaways are truly stunning.

    In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households.

    Still more astonishing was the extent to which the super rich got rich faster than the merely rich. In 2010, 37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent, a teaspoon-size collection of about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent.

    The bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The top 1 percent, whose average income is $1,019,089, had an 11.6 percent increase in income. ...

    Government has also played a role, particularly the George W. Bush tax cuts, which, among other things, gave the wealthy a 15 percent tax on capital gains and dividends. That’s the provision that caused Warren E. Buffett’s secretary to have a higher tax rate than he does.

    As a result, the top 1 percent has done progressively better in each economic recovery of the past two decades. In the Clinton era expansion, 45 percent of the total income gains went to the top 1 percent; in the Bush recovery, the figure was 65 percent; now it is 93 percent.

  • Huffington Post: The Buffett Rule: It's About Restoring Tax Fairness. By Tammy Baldwin. Excerpts: Some things are just so obvious, and make so much sense that, people from all walks of life can agree. Like tax fairness, for example. Way back in 1985, President Reagan -- yes, that Ronald Reagan, hero of conservatives everywhere -- talked about eliminating tax loopholes and giveaways for the richest Americans. ...

    Between all the back and forth, the real underlying issue is becoming lost. We're talking about restoring fairness to our tax system. The tenant of the Buffett Rule is to fix something so broken, so wrong that Ronald Reagan agreed. Our tax code is fundamentally unfair because the system taxes income typically earned by the wealthy, like investments, at a lower rate than income earned by middle class workers, like salaries. More troubling, the system is full of tax loopholes, corporate giveaways and carve-outs for millionaires and billionaires. This has left us with a world in which middle class families are paying more of their overall income than our richest 1%.

  • Huffington Post: GOP: Killing Vulnerable Americans With Kindness - Literally. By Leo W. Gerard. Excerpts: As a favor to struggling Americans, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., proposed a federal budget last week ravaging programs for the poor, elderly, disabled, young, veterans, jobless, students and other vulnerable people. Ryan did it, he said, because these programs, food stamps, health insurance, Pell grants, veterans' hospitals and the like are demeaning.

    Yes, demeaning.

    So Ryan plunders them and gives the savings to the rich in the form of additional tax breaks. Half of the savings in Ryan's budget come from destroying health insurance programs. That would cost tens of millions of Americans their coverage.

    Uninsured and underinsured toddlers, injured veterans, and disabled workers may die from some curable disease as a result. But at least Ryan will save those people from being demeaned! That Ryan, what a guy, huh? Arranging for the nation's well off to shirk responsibility to the vulnerable -- then calling it kindness.

    Ryan offered up the sequel to last year's failed country club conservative budget and explained that he purged programs for the hapless because a social safety net:

    ". . . lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It's demeaning."

    Oh. That's the demeaning thing! It isn't being so poor that health insurance is unaffordable, getting emergency treatment for a broken hip, then being hounded by hospital bill collectors while still in a body cast and unable to work. It wouldn't be watching your mother die in unbearable pain of a treatable cancer because she couldn't afford health insurance. It wouldn't be realizing your child may die because you lost your job and with it your health insurance during the Wall Street-caused recession, then discovered your baby suffers a rare heart disease that's treatable for those with insurance, but fatal for those without because they can't afford the medications.

  • CNET: Boeing's new business jet is fit for a king. The aviation giant unveils a new private jet--a modified 737-700--that is geared for luxurious long-haul flights. Think multiple HD monitors and very big beds. Plus a shower! By Daniel Terdiman. Excerpts: If you find yourself in the market for a new super luxurious private jet, Boeing has got you covered. The aviation giant unveiled its latest Boeing Business Jet today, a modified 737-700 capable of carrying 19 passengers up to 6,444 miles at 609 miles per hour. ...

    Although Boeing didn't say how much the new plane cost, it did say that the specially outfitted 737-700 was sold to a private American businessman.

  • CNET: Why you can't sue your wireless carrier in a class action. Millions of wireless subscribers probably don't realize that since a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, consumers can no longer file class action suits against their carriers. By Marguerite Reardon. Excerpts: When AT&T slowed down Matt Spaccarelli's unlimited data plan on his iPhone, the unemployed truck driver from Simi Valley, Calif. took the country's largest phone company to court. And as a surprise to all, he won.

    But Spaccarelli's victory rings hollow. In fact, the route he was forced to take -- suing AT&T by himself as opposed to employing a more influential and wider ranging class-action lawsuit -- illustrates just how difficult it is to change a carrier's business practice through legal means. Rather than big changes and a return of his unlimited high-speed access, he ended up with $850 and a lot of disappointment. ...

    But thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 2011, which upheld a company's right to include a clause in contracts prohibiting subscribers from suing the company as part of a class action, Spaccarelli had only two options when fighting AT&T's new policy: He could enter into an AT&T-funded arbitration program or file his suit in small claims court. Spaccarelli opted for small claims court.

    What this meant for AT&T was that instead of facing a multimillion dollar lawsuit, which represented thousands of disgruntled subscribers, the company only had to deal with a single subscriber and damages of $850. Even though AT&T lost its case and paid Spaccarelli the court-awarded damages, the company was not forced to change its throttling policy. And in fact, it still slows down service on what it considers its heaviest data customers, even though AT&T still calls the plan "unlimited." ...

    Because all four major wireless carriers in the U.S. include such arbitration-only clauses in their contracts, wireless customers, in particular, are more vulnerable to potential abuses by large companies. And in a market where more than 90 percent of the population subscribes to wireless service, that means that millions of consumers no longer have access to a full range of legal options when their carrier breaks the law.

    "Companies should not be able to effectively insulate themselves from liability when they rip off their customers," said Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has sponsored a bill that would prohibit companies from inserting arbitration clauses in consumer contracts. "But that's what a recent decision by the Supreme Court has allowed them to do."

  • In These Times: GE’s Warm and Fuzzy Ad Campaign Ignores U.S. Job Slashing. GE paid an average of 2.3% in taxes over the last ten years, while slashing its US workforce by 32,000 jobs. But its new ad campaign aims to whitewash all that. By Roger Bybee. Excerpts:
    “The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” —Alex Carey, author of Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.

    No corporation has surpassed General Electric's mastery of profit-maximization, or its use of public-relations ("corporate propaganda") to mask its true aims behind the widely-supported goals of expanding scientific horizons, "bringing good things to life" and rebuilding America's industrial base.

    But sometimes the profit-maximization skills of GE's top executives and tax lawyers surpass the ability of its PR staff to put an appealing gloss on the company's conduct. For example, the disclosure that GE racked up $14.2 billion in profits in 2010 while paying no federal income taxes was not well-received by the American public. GE not only avoided paying any taxes, but even managed to collect $3.2 billion in federal tax credits. This occurred against a backdrop of GE continuing to slash its U.S. workforce by 32,000 jobs, from 165,000 to 133,000 over the 2004-2010 period.

  • Jim Hightower: Secret corporate cash perverts elections… and public policy. Excerpts: Corporate political money doesn't just buy elections – it buys government policy. Check out Americans for Prosperity, a fine-sounding group organized under the tax code as a "social welfare" organization. But, having poured some $40 million into the 2010 elections to help elect candidates who would push its agenda, exactly whose welfare and prosperity is it pushing?

    OpenSecrets.org – a follow-the-money watchdog – gives us a peek at the who's who of selfish interests behind AFP. Start with its founder, board chairman, and generous benefactor, David Koch, a far-right-wing Republican billionaire dedicated to imposing a corporate plutocracy over America. Big Oil also contributed to the torrent of special-interest cash that AFP unleashed on the 2010 elections, as did Art Pope, a discount-retail tycoon whose foundation slipped $1.6 million into AFP's political work. Pope sits on AFP's board, and on the board of the virulently anti-government Bradley Foundation, which added half-a-million bucks to AFP's electioneering effort.

    What did they buy? A corporate-hugging tea party takeover of the U.S. House, a flock of vituperative union-bashing governors like Wisconsin's disgraced Scott Walker, and the perversion of the Republican Party's entire policy agenda into Koch-headed nuttiness. AFP's political honcho even brags about fomenting nuttiness, pointing out that every Republican candidate – from local to presidential – must now be in lockstep with Big Oil in denying the existence of climate change, because the party's electorate has turned anti-science. "That's our influence," he gloated. "Groups like Americans for Prosperity have done it."

  • Creators.com: The Truth About the U.S. Postal Service. By Jim Hightower. Excerpts: Each day, six days a week, letter carriers traverse 4 million miles toting an average of 563 million pieces of mail, reaching the very doorsteps of our individual homes and workplaces in every single community in America. From the gated enclaves and penthouses of the uber-wealthy to the inner-city ghettos and rural colonias of America's poorest families, the U.S. Postal Service literally delivers. All for 45 cents. The USPS is an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation.

    So, naturally, it must be destroyed. ...

    Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations — including the remarkable convenience of 32,000 local post offices — are paid for by peddling stamps and other products.

    The privatizers squawk that USPS has gone some $13 billion in the hole during the past four years — a private corporation would go broke with that record! (Actually, private corporations tend to go to Washington rather than go broke, getting taxpayer bailouts to cover their losses.) The Postal Service is NOT broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored "losses," the service actually produced a $700 million operational profit (despite the worst economy since the Great Depression).

    What's going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that's what.

    In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who'll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who're not yet born!

    No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.

  • Washington Post opinion: Republicans are causing a moral crisis in America. By Katrina vanden Heuvel. Excerpts: There is moral crisis afoot! So say the Republican candidates for president, their pals in Congress and in state houses. Abortion, gay marriage, contraception — contraception, for Pete’s sake — things that so shock the conscience that it’s a wonder The Washington Post can even print the words!

    Here’s something I bet you wouldn’t think I’d say: They’re right. There is a moral crisis in the United States. The only thing is — they’re wrong about what it is and who is causing it.

    The real crisis of public morality in the United States doesn’t lie in the private decisions Americans make in their lives or their bedrooms; it lies at the heart of an ideology — and a set of policies — that the right-wing has used to batter and browbeat their fellow Americans.

    They dress these policies up sometimes, give them catchy titles like Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity.” But they never cease to imbue them with the kind of moral decisions that ought to make anyone furious. Ryan’s latest budget really is case in point. It’s a plan that says that increases in defense spending are so essential, that massive tax cuts for the wealthy are so necessary, that we must pay for them by ripping a hole in the social safety net. The poor need Medicaid to pay for medicine and treatment for their families? We care, we really do, but the wealthy need tax cuts more. Food stamps the only thing standing between your children and starvation? Listen, we feel your pain. We get it. But we’ve got more important things to spend money on. Like a new yacht for that guy who only has one yacht. ...

    It is a very strange thing that the people who lecture most fervently about morality are those who are most willing to fight for policies that are so immoral. They watch Wall Street turn itself into the Las Vegas strip, take the economy down and destroy people’s lives and livelihoods. To that they say, “By God we need less regulation. Get me the hose, I have things to water down!” They see a CEO of a bank or a corporation, someone who passed off all of the risk and took on all of the reward, and they say, “Get that man a bigger bonus! In fact, get him two!”

    They see corporate interests flood the political system with unfathomably large sums of money, they see lobbyists defining the terms of debate, and they say, “Now this . . . this is what democracy should look like.”

  • The Smirking Chimp: The Republican Budget is for Billionaires. By Dave Johnson. Excerpts: The new Republican budget (called the "Ryan Budget" by DC insiders) reflects current electoral reality: billionaires and corporations now finance candidates, and we get government of, by and for billionaires and corporations. The rest of us no longer matter, except as "the help" and, at least to the extent we haven't been entirely fleeced, a flock to harvest. This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts -- mostly for the rich. After adding $10 trillion to the deficits Republicans then claim that severe cuts are necessary to "fight deficits." Right. Details below. ...

    The smoke and mirrors: they claim this budget is necessary to reduce deficits, but it doesn't even pretend to. Instead it starts by cutting taxes on the rich and their corporations by another $4.6 trillion while making permanent the Bush tax cuts, costing another $5.6 trillion. It gives a $187,000 tax cut to every millionaire! ...

    Cuts Everything Government Does For Regular People. This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy! After handing billionaires and their corporations trillions, increasing deficits by an additional $10 trillion, the Republican budget then cuts the things government does for the rest of us: Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance and public investments (mostly infrastructure and education), and pretends it is necessary because of deficits. (It increases funding for military contractors.)

  • Washington Post opinion: The rich are different; they get richer. By Harold Meyerson. Excerpts: Occupy Wall Street is not known for the precision of its economic analysis, but new research on income distribution in the United States shows that the group’s sloganeering provides a stunningly accurate picture of the economy. In 2010, according to a study published this month by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez, 93 percent of income growth went to the wealthiest 1 percent of American households, while everyone else divvied up the 7 percent that was left over. Put another way: The most fundamental characteristic of the U.S. economy today is the divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

    It was not ever thus. In the recovery that followed the downturn of the early 1990s, the wealthiest 1 percent captured 45 percent of the nation’s income growth. In the recovery that followed the dot-com bust 10 years ago, Saez noted, 65 percent of the income growth went to the top 1 percent. This time around, it’s reached 93 percent — a level so high it shakes the foundations of the entire American project.

    While never putting a premium on economic equality, America has always prided itself on being the preeminent land of economic opportunity. If all of this nation’s wealth is captured by a narrow stratum of the very rich, however, that claim is relegated to history’s dustbin. Research by Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, as part of the Economic Mobility Project, has shown that intergenerational mobility in the United States has fallen far below the levels in Germany, Finland, Denmark and other more social democratic nations of Northern Europe. Now, Saez’s analysis of income data provides further evidence that mocks America’s self-image as a land where hard work yields rewards. ...

    The consequences of this concentration of wealth and income extend beyond the purely economic. A middle class enduring prolonged stagnation isn’t likely to fund projects the nation needs to undertake — such as rebuilding our infrastructure or increasing teacher pay — or, ultimately, to retain its faith in the efficacy of democracy. The rise of super PACs, the low rates of taxation on capital gains and hedge fund operators, the ability of the major banks to fend off reform — all testify to the power of a neo-plutocracy beyond democratic control. ...

    Capitalism can create prosperity, but left unfettered it doesn’t create broadly shared prosperity — and never will. If belief and participation in democracy are sustained by people’s conviction that democracy produces good economic outcomes, then the growing concentration of wealth and income in the United States is a long-term threat to everything we profess to stand for. A nation where 93 percent of income growth goes to the top 1 percent is not a nation that will embark on great projects, or long command the allegiance of its people.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Should Be Made In America! By Dave Johnson. Excerpts: We need to rebuild our country, and we need to do it with steel and supplies that are made in America. It actually costs taxpayers more to "save money" by outsourcing then it saves because of the "safety net" costs from lost jobs and factories. A new campaign launching today is going to use billboards to make this point to local officials who might outsource these projects. I attended the launch event. ...

    The new national “Should Be Made In America” campaign will begin placing billboards wherever politicians are willing to outsource projects to China and other countries. This campaign will also use online activism to urge the use of American-made components for infrastructure projects financed with U.S. tax dollars. ...

    Under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger California turned to China for the steel in the new Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. The argument for purchasing Chinese steel was that it would "save money," but when the costs to other state and federal government agencies as well as to the larger economy are added up, the costs to taxpayers are much more than the savings.

    This outsourcing cost of thousands of American manufacturing jobs (3.5 million man-hours), which meant:

    • loss of state and federal tax revenue from taxes on the wages and taxes of the workers and taxes on the companies that employed them,
    • outgoing cost of unemployment benefits, food stamps and other "safety net" programs,
    • cost of resulting foreclosures,
    • the "ripple effect" economic costs of all these lost jobs -- lost sales at stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc.,
    • loss of worker training and in-country manufacturing infrastructure. ...

    In addition to "safety net" cost and loss of tax revenue, there is a competitive cost when taxpayer dollars are used to purchase major components of infrastructure projects. The Chinese company that was selected to provide the steel for the Bay Bridge did not yet have the manufacturing ability to make the components. Our taxpayer dollars built the new facilities for them, and now they can bid against American companies for more projects!

  • The Smirking Chimp: Deadbeat Nation: Why the Public Should Cut Off Wall Street's Credit. By Richard Eskow. Excerpts: We've spent billions of dollars - perhaps trillions - to rescue big banks. But instead of dialing back on the risky behavior that shattered the economy in 2008, they're doubling down on it. And when their bill comes due we won't just be asked to pay it again. We'll be asked to take the blame for it again, too.

    But who are the real deadbeats in this country? Banks acted recklessly in the years leading up to the financial crisis - and ran up a bill which the rest of us have been paying since 2008. And guess what? They're doing it again.

  • The Financial Times: Only the rich are benefiting from America’s recovery. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: Luxury retailers are smiling. So are the owners of high-end restaurants, sellers of upscale cars, holiday planners, financial advisers and personal coaches. For them and their customers and clients, the recession is over. The recovery is now full speed.

    But the rest of America isn’t enjoying a recovery. It’s still quite sick. The finances of many Americans remain in critical condition.

    The Commerce Department reported last Thursday that the economy grew at a 3 per cent annual rate last quarter (far better than the measly 1.8 per cent in the third quarter of last year). Personal income also jumped. Americans raked in over $13tn, $3.3bn more than previously thought.

    Yet all the gains went to the top 10 per cent and the lion’s share to the top 1 per cent. More than a third of the gains went to 15,600 super-rich households in the top one-tenth of one per cent. ...

    Meanwhile, employer-provided benefits continue to decline among the bottom 90 per cent. The share of people with health insurance from their employers dropped from 59.8 per cent in 2007 to 55.3 per cent in 2010, according to the Commerce Department. And the share of private-sector workers with retirement plans dropped from 42 per cent in 2007 to 39.5 per cent in 2010. Yet the so-called “talent” in executive suites is getting gold-plated healthcare coverage for themselves and their families, along with deferred compensation and fat pensions subject to few, if any, taxes. ...

    Fed chairman Ben Bernanke – who doesn’t have to face voters on election day – says the US economy needs to grow faster if it’s to produce enough jobs to bring down unemployment. Well, yes. But he leaves out the critical point.

    We can’t possibly grow faster if the vast majority of Americans, who are still losing ground, don’t have the money to buy more of the things American workers produce. There’s no way spending by the richest 10 per cent will be enough to get the economy out of first gear.

  • Huffington Post: Who Pays for Political Ads? By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship. Excerpt: Great efforts are underway both locally and nationally to keep secret the identities of people and organizations paying for local political advertisements. But Americans can still do something, even when broadcasters shirk their responsibilities. Here's what you can do to reveal who's paying for -- and hiding behind -- misleading political ads on your TV.

    Over the years we've been reporting on how power is monopolized by the powerful. How corporate lobbyists, for example, far outnumber members of Congress. And how the politicians are so eager to do the bidding of donors that they allow those lobbyists to dictate the law of the land and make a farce of democracy. What we have is much closer to plutocracy, where the massive concentration of wealth at the top protects and perpetuates itself by controlling the ends and means of politics. This is why so many of us despair over fixing what's wrong: we elect representatives to change things, and once in office they wind up serving the deep-pocketed donors who put up the money to keep change from happening at all.

  • New York Times: Why Gas Prices Are Out of Any President’s Control. By Richard H. Thaler. Excerpts: Here is a one-item test to see whether you are guilty of cloudy thinking about gas prices: Do you believe that they are something a president can control? Many Americans believe that the answer is yes, but any respectable economist will tell you that the answer is no. ...

    Here is why: Oil is a global market in which America is a big consumer but a small supplier. We consume about 20 percent of the world’s oil but hold only 2 percent of the oil reserves. That means we are, in economics jargon, “price takers.” Domestic production has increased during the Obama administration, but it has had minimal effects on global prices because, as producers, we are just too small to matter much. And even if domestic oil companies further increased production, they would sell to the highest global bidder. ...

    If you’re not convinced by economic theory or the opinions of economists, consider some recent history. Presumably, no one would call President George W. Bush unfriendly to the oil industry. Yet the price of gasoline rose steadily during most of his administration. In February 2001, just after Mr. Bush took office, the average price of regular gasoline was $1.45 a gallon. By June 2008, that price had risen to $4.05. Still think presidents and oil-friendly policies can determine oil prices? ...

    If you hate the Obama health care program and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by all means give the president a big share of the blame. And if you love them, give him some credit. What makes no sense is to blame the president for rising gas prices, where he has virtually no control, but not to give him some credit for rising stock prices and an improved labor market, domains where his policies — along with those of the Federal Reserve and Congress — are more likely to have had an effect.

    When we make our choice on Election Day, we should consider that the winner will have an important impact on policies in many areas: health care, distribution of the tax burden, Supreme Court nominations, and abortion rights. The candidates’ differences on those issues should be driving our decision, not the wishful thinking that a president can simply lower the price of gasoline. Or Scotch, alas.

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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