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    Highlights—April 10, 2004
  • Janet Krueger answers a question about IBM pension plans. Excerpt: Actually, the 30 years of service cap is not the basis of the age discrimination charges in Cooper v IBM -- the cap is purportedly based purely on years of service, rather than age, so is not necessarily age discriminatory. To see the age discrimination that is built into the 1995 formulas, you need to take two employees of different ages, with equal years of service and earnings, and see whether they earn equal benefits under the plan for each year. If the younger employee earns more than the older employee, then the plan can be found to discriminate by age.

    Since the online tool only lets you look at your own benefits, and does not let you input a hypothetical person who is several years younger or older than you, you won't see the problem just by asking for online reports. You can start to see it if you download the RetireQ spreadsheet, input your data, and then see what happens to your retirement benefit if you adjust your birth year. To be very explicit about the problem, IBM actually includes your year of birth in the formula, with older employees being credited with a lower interest rate than younger employees... Most of the press reports on Cooper v IBM have been focused on the cash balance conversion IBM introduced in 1999 -- they tend to overlook or ignore the problems in the 1995 plan, although most people who have looked at it detail agree the discrimination in that plan is much more egregious...

    And why, you might ask, is it more egregious -- two reasons... First, as described above, it explicitly factors age into the formulas in a very negative way. Second, most IBM employees still, to this day, believe it is a 'traditional' defined benefit plan -- IBM did the first conversion to a hybrid plan, otherwise known as a pension equity plan, or PEP, without full disclosure -- and courts have frowned upon 'secret' or 'hidden' conversions...

  • New York Times opinion by Bob Herbert: We're More Productive. Who Gets the Money? Excerpt: t's like running on a treadmill that keeps increasing its speed. You have to go faster and faster just to stay in place. Or, as a factory worker said many years ago, "You can work 'til you drop dead, but you won't get ahead." American workers have been remarkably productive in recent years, but they are getting fewer and fewer of the benefits of this increased productivity. While the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, has been strong for some time now, ordinary workers have gotten little more than the back of the hand from employers who have pocketed an unprecedented share of the cash from this burst of economic growth. What is happening is nothing short of historic. The American workers' share of the increase in national income since November 2001, the end of the last recession, is the lowest on record. Employers took the money and ran. This is extraordinary, but very few people are talking about it, which tells you something about the hold that corporate interests have on the national conversation.

    So if employers were not hiring workers, and if they were miserly when it came to increases in wages and benefits for existing employees, what happened to all the money from the strong economic growth? The study is very clear on this point. The bulk of the gains did not go to workers, "but instead were used to boost profits, lower prices, or increase C.E.O. compensation." This is a radical transformation of the way the bounty of this country has been distributed since World War II. Workers are being treated more and more like patrons in a rigged casino. They can't win. Corporate profits go up. The stock market goes up. Executive compensation skyrockets. But workers, for the most part, remain on the treadmill. ... I have to laugh when I hear conservatives complaining about class warfare. They know this terrain better than anyone. They launched the war. They're waging it. And they're winning it. If link is broken, view Adobe Acrobat version [PDF--29 KB].
    • "ibmmike2006" comments. Excerpt: On the other hand, how do you stop the abuse of Corporations in how the Productivity dollars are shared and distributed? At IBM, before Gerstner, you felt that the Productivity was being shared, partly, to everyone around you. When times were good, the little things, appreciations, the family dinners, informal awards, more new people with less layoffs, the general spirit level was higher. You could whistle "Happy Days are Here Again" and mean it. Money was not a motivator, but it helped. But, for the last decade or so, there have been continued layoffs, continued threats, never a feeling your efforts were being rewarded, intimidation, and abuse even when the "Good times" returned. In essence, you felt like you were being "used" like a worn out computer mouse, only to be discarded if you lost your ability to keep up the same hectic "bad Times" pace that robs you of time with your family and community. Today it seems, keep working harder, faster, "you may keep your job, maybe", see what Productivity gets you........more hours with less average pay, rules. Executives don't seem to listen or care, just look at the Executive Compensation portion of the IBM 2003 Proxy. Look at the loss of double time for Sundays, Loss of 10% Variable pay........announced this last year at IBM to IGS.

  • "i_be_mad_as_heck" asks IBM retirees to attend the IBM Shareholder's Meeting. Excerpt: Many retirees no longer receive a pension check, just a monthly bill for retirement medical coverage. When they retired, they were told that they would receive the same retirement medical coverage that employees receive at no cost. They were also led to believe that they would receive regular COBRA increases. Now their meager pension check is gone, and just to rub it in, they have to send in a monthly payment to cover the balance due for retirement medical coverage. What an outrage for those that contributed to the success of IBM for so many years. I sure hope Lou enjoys his annual checkup at the Mayo Clinic. There are many retirees paying for it with lost benefits.

    We need 10,000 retirees and spouses to show up at the Annual Shareholders Meeting ("ASM"), and let Sam know exactly how they feel about the retiree health coverage increases. Usually, only a few hundred shareholders and Evelyn Davis show up at the ASM. You can be sure that if 10,000 angry retiree shareholders and spouses show up at the meeting, it will get management's and the BOD's attention. Nobody likes bad publicity. Retirees may not be able to win in a court of law, but they can win in the court of public opinion. If the retirees don't do it, nobody else will. If you don't speak up for yourself, Lou and Sam win.
    • Information on attending the IBM Shareholder's meeting and the anti-offshoring rally that follows is available at the Alliance@IBM Web site.

  • Arizona Republic: As companies profit, workers getting raw deal. Excerpt: They're rising: gross domestic product, industrial output, corporate profits, the stock market and, especially, productivity. They're falling: job creation over the past three years, pension coverage, paid health care, job security, savings and polls tracking confidence in the direction of the economy. ... Corporate profits reached nearly 41 percent of national income between the first quarter of 2002 and the fourth quarter of 2003. That compares with a historical average of 15 to 18 percent, according to a study by Northeastern University. Labor compensation accounted for 38 percent of national income, compared with a historical 65 percent. Corporations continue to reward top executives lavishly, despite nods to correcting the excesses of the 1990s. "In reality," the New York Times reports, "most chief executives took home more cash and more stock last year." ... It wouldn't be such an explosive issue if everyone were equally afflicted. But there's a growing gap between those who work for a living and those who live off their "returns." It wouldn't be as corrosive if these trends were purely the result of natural economic forces. But people sense that policy is being gamed for the benefit of the powerful.

  • Washington Post: IBM Buys Indian Back Office Service Firm. Excerpts: International Business Machines Corp said on Wednesday it would acquire Daksh, India's third-largest back-office services firm, in the biggest acquisition yet in the nation's booming $3.5 billion sector. ... The deal, expected to be closed in May, will give the world's largest computer maker access to privately held Daksh's 6,000-strong employees, who mainly offer call center services to 13 clients including Internet retailer Amazon.com.

  • "dbx1912" describes what it's like to be an IBM SSR. Excerpt: When I hear how these SSR's have been treated over the past 10 years or so I have to either laugh or cry. IOW are they really that stupid, or just frightened sheep being pointed toward their eventual slaughter? Many of these folk use their own cell phones for business yet never claim expenses with IBM. Many are terrified to claim tolls and parking as well so they absorb this cost too. Others purchase their own tools and supplies because they get yelled at if they order anything. ...

    FWIW if I have to fart on my own time I bill IBM for it and I lost the guilty feeling a long time ago when I saw how much IBM has taken from me. IBM wants truth in reporting and actual and reasonable and I am giving it to them, every single dime even if I get it back 10 pennies at a time. I used to drop my parts returns at UPS on my own time when I happened to go buy the drop (25 miles away BTW), now I make certain IBM not only gets billed for my time but the 25 miles as well and I am entitled to it.

    Don't be a sucker! Management is laughing all the way to their VPP when fools use their own cell phones and pay their own bills. Think about it. Doesn't it make sense to get paid for the work you do? BTW as far as cell phones are concerned, do you realize how unprofessional it is to call other customers from a clients phone. IOW calling Sears from Wal-Mart to set up a call. It not only looks bad, but it is bad. Cell phones are a commodity like toilet paper and there is no reason why every SSR shouldn't have one. As far as benefits are concerned, I suggest every single SSR talk to their local EMC CE and see what he/she gets. Don't do it on an empty stomach though because you will puke. IBM says they follow the market averages but again they lie.
Coverage on H1-B and L1 Visa and Off-Shoring Issues
  • BusinessWeek: A Double Standard on Trade. Corporations that offshore jobs need to play fair. That means abandoning protectionist stances when it comes to their products. Excerpt: "I am a software developer who is about to be 'Bangalored.' Fine. I am not going to pout about it. The media writes that we are in a 'global economy,' so deal with it. O.K., I will. But we should take the global economy one step further. If U.S. corporations can offshore their labor, allow U.S. consumers to offshore their consumption. For example, if Pfizer (PFE ) can offshore its IT staff to save money, then I should be able to purchase my drugs from Canada or Mexico to save money. I would like to see how IBM would react if I could buy Thinkpad laptop from Singapore for $300. "U.S. corporations are lobbying for the right to offshore, yet also lobby for protection for their products. I say make it fair. If you want free trade, you should feel the sting of free trade... It's a global economy. Deal with it."

  • Computerworld: Outsourcing Grandma to Mumbai. Excerpt: Outsourcing has decimated the programming field, but it won't stop there. Consider this scenario, which you might at first think is ridiculous: It's possible that in a matter of years we might see outsourced thoracic and other types of expensive surgery. Think about it. Heart operations can cost well over $250,000. A thoracic surgeon in the U.S. can make as much as $496,000, and hospital beds can cost over $1,500 per day. But the scene is different in India. A surgeon there makes much less than his U.S. counterpart, and hospital rooms are far cheaper. For health insurance companies, this could mean colossal cost savings. Putting a heart patient on an Air India flight might even be cheaper than sending him across town by ambulette service. Should this scenario come to pass and you find yourself in this situation, you could try to fight the insurance company. But heart patients need surgery without delay. They don't have time to appeal what the health insurance company considers a normal and customary charge. This is my prediction: After the outsourcing cabal is done with the programmers and systems analysts, it will go after the doctors. The cost savings to the insurance companies are far too compelling.

  • The Financial Express: Outsourcing Is Less About Economics And More About Politics.

  • Washington Post: The Tech Jobs Gap. Excerpt: The Labor Department's announcement last week that U.S. employers added 513,000 jobs to their payrolls the first quarter of 2004 and 308,000 jobs in March alone is good news for the economy overall, but the employment picture is less rosy for the technology sector. Outsourcing of U.S. jobs and broad-based efficiency gains, The Miami Herald pointed out, are part of the problem. "In an economic irony, the tepid job creation nationally has occurred against a backdrop of strong growth, low interest rates and mild inflation -- often leaving analysts befuddled as to why companies haven't been hiring. Experts say one factor has been sharp rises in productivity, which means companies are hiking output without adding workers. Second, many jobs being created by the American economic recovery are actually in other countries -- like China and India -- where positions in manufacturing and technology have been outsourced," The Herald said.

  • Computerworld: Outsourcing sparks concerns over IT controls to meet Sarbanes-Oxley. IT auditors worry that outsourcers may not provide the documentation needed to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.

  • Kansas City Star: Offshoring jobs could drain public coffers, critics warn. Excerpt: As U.S. companies shift jobs to low-paid workers in developing nations, a growing number of economists and politicians worry that offshore outsourcing could damage the nation's fiscal health by draining tax coffers. Although proponents of offshoring dismiss such concerns as far-fetched or naive, some tax experts say the migration of lucrative technology jobs to India and China is shrinking U.S. employee tax contributions and could exacerbate state budget shortfalls. Others say offshoring could erode already-strapped Social Security, Medicare, workers compensation and other payroll-deduction funds more quickly than anticipated. ... "We're going back to the 1930s, when we had multiple families living together because times were so tight," said the resident of Lawrenceville, Ga. "I'm not sure these corporate executives understand the true costs of outsourcing -- no one's thinking about that, just the bottom line."

  • Communications of the ACM: Outsourced and Out of Control, by Lauren Weinstein. Excerpt: Large-scale outsourcing is growing at a frenetic pace around the globe. Many outsourced jobs involve countries where significant privacy laws do not exist; even if those laws are improved under pressure of potential lost business, effective enforcement would still appear to be highly problematic. Customer service outsourcing can give risky access to data such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers, telephone call records, and medical information. Recently, a Pakistani subcontract worker threatened to post U.S. patients' medical data on the Web if claimed back pay was not forthcoming. Software, sometimes of a critical nature, is now routinely subcontracted to foreign outsourced environments, bringing risks of development miscommunication or worse. The U.S. General Accounting Office noted the possibility of malicious changes to code since significant U.S. air traffic control system Y2K work had been subcontracted outside the U.S. without mandated background checks. There are even moves to outsource computer system administration to foreign centers, often in countries with poor (if any) computer security laws, creating the possibility of massive abuse of domestic systems by distant persons who could be difficult or impossible to effectively prosecute. Thanks to subcontracting, you might not even know that the company managing your system is using such facilities and personnel.

  • Washington Post editorial by Senator Ernest F. Hollings: Excerpt: When it comes to trade, however, multinational corporations contend that we do not need to protect, but to educate and to improve skills; productivity is the problem, they say. But the United States is the most productive industrial nation in the world, with skills galore. BMW is producing better-quality cars in South Carolina than in Munich. There are other obstacles that need addressing. For 50 years we have tried to penetrate the Japanese market, but have barely done so. To sell textiles in Korea, U.S. firms must first obtain permission from the private Korean textile industry. If you want to sell in China, it's a lot easier if you produce in China. "But we will start a trade war," is the cry. Wake up! We have been in a trade war for more than 200 years. And it's the United States that started it! Just after the colonies won their freedom, the mother country suggested that the United States trade what we produced best and, in exchange, Britain would trade back with what it produced best -- as economist David Ricardo later described in his theory of "comparative advantage." Alexander Hamilton, in his famous "Report on Manufactures," told the Brits, in so many words, to bug off. He said, we are not going to remain your colony shipping you our natural resources -- rice, cotton, indigo, timber, iron ore -- and importing your manufactured products. We are going to build our own manufacturing capacity. ...

    We need to organize government to produce and protect jobs, rather than export them. The Commerce Department recently co-sponsored a New York seminar, part of which advised companies on how to move jobs offshore. This aid for exporting jobs must stop. The Department of Commerce should be reconstituted as a Department of Trade and Commerce, with the secretary as czar over the U.S. trade representative. The department's International Trade Administration should determine not only whether goods have been dumped on the U.S. market, but how big the "injury" is to U.S. industry. The International Trade Commission should be eliminated.

    A culture of free trade has developed. The big banks that make most of their money outside the country, as well as the Business Roundtable, the Conference Board, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation (whose members make bigger profits on imported articles) and the editorial writers of newspapers that make most of their profits from retail ads -- all these descend on Washington promoting "free trade" to members of Congress. Members looking for contributions shout the loudest. Not just jobs, but also the middle class and the strength of our very democracy are in jeopardy. As Lincoln said, "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. . . . As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." Today's dogma is the belief that protectionism will mean trade war and economic stagnation. But we are already in a trade war, one from which the president and the Congress are AWOL.

Now on the Alliance@IBM Site:
Now on the WashTech Site:
  • The March Jobs Report: Quantity — not Quality. Excerpt: Research analyst and author Alan Tonelson said the number of jobs generated last month was a pleasant surprise, but the quality of the new jobs was not. "Most of them are lousy jobs," said Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Educational Foundation in Washington D.C. and author of "The Race to the Bottom: Why a Worldwide Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards (Westview Press). "Most of the new jobs don't measure up, in terms of wages, to those that were lost." In contrast, the nation's higher-wages industries continue to lag in job creation. The number of manufacturing jobs remained level after 43 months of steady declines. Information systems job numbers fell by 1,000. While the rate of job loss in that industry has slowed, tech firms still show a reluctance to begin hiring again.

  • Show Us the Jobs Travel Journal. Excerpt: WashTech members Charlie Seaman and Myra Bronstein traveled on the AFL-CIO-sponsored "Show Us the Jobs" bus tour March 24-31, and wrote personal journals along the way. Two large chartered buses left St. Louis with 51 riders on board, one from each state and Washington D.C. You may have watched the tour on television news reports or read accounts of it on the Web, but what follows are the personal accounts of two riders, each of whom say the journey affected them in profound ways they will never forget. That certainly comes through in their journals. We think you will find them affecting, too.

  • Filmmaker Documents Effects of American Job Losses. Excerpt: Last May, television producer Greg Spotts puzzled over a question he couldn't get out of his mind. With the U.S. economy supposedly on the rebound, why were so many of his friends out of work? So Spotts, 36, began to look into it. An hour of research before work one day turned into several hours over as many days. Spotts could see that something big, something on a global scale was happening. He learned that hundreds of thousands of the jobs that had been lost in the United States were showing up in places such as Mexico, China and India.
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