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CPSR - CPU, Issue 3

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Issue: 003 CPU: Working in the Computer Industry 6/10/93

CPU is a moderated forum dedicated to sharing information among workers in the computer industry.



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Editors for this issue: Michael Stack, Eric Auchard and Jim Davis. We may be contacted by voice at (510) 601-6740, by email to, or by USPS at PO Box 3181, Oakland, CA 94609.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the editors or CPSR. On the other hand, some do.


This issue of CPU focuses on a different side of the computer industry -- people working for minimum and near-minimum wages with few or no benefits, often in dangerous working conditions, cleaning the buildings, assembling the circuit boards, or doing other labor-intensive manufacturing. A recent issue of _Global Electronics_ (Pacific Studies Center, 222-B View Street, Mountain View, CA 94041, $12 per year) compared census figures with employment figures for Silicon Valley, and showed that by and large the manufacturing and custodial positions are occupied by women and minorities, mostly Asian and Hispanic. They are as much a part of our industry as programmers, technical writers, and marketers.

This "other" side of the computer industry has been actively working to improve their pay and working conditions. David Bacon's piece provides a good overview of the issues and recent events, including a strike at Versatronex, a Silicon Valley contract board assembly company. This issue is especially timely because janitors at the contract cleaning company used by Oracle have just launched an organizing campaign to obtain union representation. The support of people who work in the design/knowledge-production/symbolic- processing part of the industry can have a powerful influence on the companies involved. This support was lacking at Apple two years ago, during the janitors' campaign there, and it took over a year for the janitors to get the union representation they sought. With earlier and stronger support from the rest of the industry, the Oracle janitors won't have to wait so long.

As always, feedback, articles, news items, e-mail gossip etc. is welcome...

Jim Davis


by Andrew Gross

Silicon Valley's high-tech industry is known worldwide as a mecca for skilled programmers, engineers, and technicians. It is an industry that leads the world in technical innovation and creativity. Silicon Valley is a model of joint ventures between the private and public sectors, an experiment in high skills and high wages. Clinton has called Silicon Valley the future of America.

Silicon Valley has another side, however. This side is ugly and exploitative. It is a side that is barely known, even by those who work in the world of high-tech. It is the world of the low-wage immigrant worker.


Although the Valley's success is visible to the world, the janitors who come at night to clean the Valleys' gleaming towers are nearly invisible. These janitors are not directly employed by the high tech companies, but rather by cleaning service contractors, which are even less visible than the workers themselves. The workers suffer for this invisibility. Abuses that go unseen go unchallenged.

Skilled workers in the computer industry, like programmers and engineers, can expect salaries ranging from $40,000 to $100,000, with generous benefits. They can expect paid vacations, flexible hours, and room for advancement. The average, non-unionized janitor working in the computer industry can expect a wage of $11,000 per year for full time work, with no affordable health benefits. In some cases, janitors have reported paying as much as $500/month for family health benefits. Anyone who has tried to raise a family in the Bay Area on a programmer's pay can imagine what these sub-poverty wages mean for working parents.

To make rent payments and care for their families, janitors often take second and even third jobs. Some still have to collect food stamps to make ends meet. Without health benefits, janitors are often forced to rely on public clinics and emergency rooms when their children are sick or hurt. Those who ask for raises, or complain about health and safety, or try to organize are routinely fired.

At this moment, the Oracle Corporation in Redwood Shores offers a stark example of this divided workforce. Oracle is not an unusual case, although the extremes are shocking. The conditions at Oracle are representative of the conditions that janitors face throughout the high tech industry.


Oracle is a $1.2 billion company. It is the world's largest, and one of the fastest growing, producers of database software. Last fall, Oracle posted $10 million in profits. Their president posted a $279 million gain in his Oracle shareholdings last Christmas. In recent years, Oracle has doubled its revenues every twelve months.(1)

Oracle has a reputation in the Valley for treating its employees well. Salaries are high and benefits are plush. Oracle has its own travel agency, cafe, and catering services. The company health club includes a gymnasium, aerobics rooms, Nautilus and free- weight rooms, a swimming pool, and even a volleyball court. Oracle employees are entertained with New Games, stilt-walking events, and outdoor buffets.(2)

Oracle also has a reputation for progressive thinking, and has reason to be proud of many of its policies. Oracle employees volunteer to serve the poor and homeless in food kitchens. They deliver meals to homebound people with AIDS. They go on environmental clean-ups in Marin. They sponsor competitions to raise money for local food banks, and volunteer at neighborhood schools throughout the Bay Area. Oracle is also concerned about recycling. Oracle employees work hard to cultivate the company's social conscience when it comes to poverty, homelessness, AIDS, education, and the environment.(2)

However, Oracle appears to draw the line on its concern for fairness and social justice when it comes to the low income and immigrant workers who come to clean their offices each night. Janitors at Oracle have sent petitions to, and tried to meet with, the facilities managers to request fair treatment, a living wage, and respect for their legal rights. Not only has Oracle ignored these requests, but the janitors report that they have been subjected to repeated threats and intimidation from their supervisors for daring to speak out. Several say they have been told outright that they will be fired if they attempt to organize.

The janitors do not work for Oracle. They work for a janitorial contractor called Service by Medallion. Service by Medallion is currently under investigation by the US Department of Labor for violating Federal laws on overtime, child labor, and minimum wage. The National Labor Relations Board recently found evidence that Medallion has illegally interrogated employees who tried to organize against abuses.


The glass towers of Silicon Valley can be seen from miles around. Inside these towers, for as little as $40 a night, janitors clean the equivalent of a single family home every twenty minutes. In the janitorial industry, the grueling pace and powerful cleaning compounds make back injuries, chemical burns, and other hazards part of the nightly routine. Building services is an industry designed for abuse. Wage and hour, health and safety, and child labor laws are frequently ignored to meet productivity goals. Sexual harassment is not uncommon for the many women janitors who work alone at night, and who speak little or no English. Those who protest are routinely threatened or fired.


In building services, tenants wash their hands of responsibility for the workers, who are employed by a contractor. The contractors in turn blame the landlords for the low-bid system that they say forces them to pay poverty wages, while workers regularly report violations of wage and hour laws, and health and safety regulations. The landlord then points the finger at the tenant for not allowing rent increases, and around and around it goes. While landlords, tenants, and contractors pass the buck, the janitors suffer the consequences.


Janitorial contractors like Service by Medallion fight to survive under fierce competition, and continuously underbid each other to win contracts. Since it is a labor-intensive industry, competition means cutting wages and benefits, speeding up the work, and cutting corners on health and safety. Janitors frequently report that their employers don't even supply gloves, even though janitors work with caustic cleaning compounds every night.


Building owners claim they can't afford more for janitors' wages and benefits - that raising rents will drive tenants out. This is truly a case of crying wolf. Tenants don't flee buildings when janitors' are paid a living wage because janitors' wages represent only a fraction of the five cents of each rental dollar that goes towards cleaning services, a cost which landlords already pass through to tenants in the form of "leasing services." Most often, the increases that janitors fight for represent no more than a penny of each dollar of rent passed between million dollar companies.


According to a 1992 industry survey of commercial real estate in San Mateo County, average office space rents for $1.45/square foot/month. Janitors' payroll is 5% of rent or $0.07/square foot/month.(3) For an extra penny and a half, janitors could have health benefits and live at the poverty line instead of below it. As a cash figure, this penny and a half would add up to about $90,000 per year to improve conditions for Oracle's janitors. This figure is about 0.0075% of Oracle's $1.2 billion in annual revenues. That is 3/4 of 1/100th of 1% of Oracle's revenues. It is very difficult to understand why any company that publicly professes such concern for its own employees and the surrounding community wouldn't spare these tiny crumbs so that janitors and their families could live.


Right now, janitors at Oracle are organizing to protest the horrible conditions they face every night. They are part of a larger organizing campaign in Silicon Valley and the San Mateo Peninsula led by the Justice for Janitors union, Service Employees Local 1877. In this campaign, low-wage, immigrant workers struggle against the inequities in the high tech industry. The campaign is driven by coalitions of human rights groups, community-based organizations, churches, and unions. Its focus is to make these invisible members of our community visible and to create the base of support that they need to organize and win justice in their workplaces.


The janitors who clean Oracle's buildings occupy a key position in the campaign; their fate will have a broad impact on other low- wage immigrant workers in Silicon Valley. Service by Medallion is the largest non-union contractor on the Peninsula, and Oracle is one of their largest accounts. Service by Medallion's competitor has just gone union. However, so long as Service by Medallion remains non-union, they can continue to undercut the wages of janitorial workers across the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.

Although Oracle is Service by Medallion's largest and most important account, it is not their only one; Service by Medallion janitors report similar conditions at Adobe Systems, Solectron, Next, Motorola Communications, and Xerox. Among the Valley's most successful high tech companies, Oracle stands out in its policy of supporting non-union contractors. Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Tandem, Sun Microsystems, Amdahl, AMD, Seagate, Applied Materials, and National Semiconductor all rely on unionized contractors who adhere to minimum standards of fairness, decency, and respect for their workers' legal rights.


You can support the janitors' struggle just by asking the Oracle Corporation if they really intend to support exploitation under their own roof. Although Oracle has so far refused to consider the workers' requests for fair treatment, change is possible. Programmers, engineers, and other skilled high tech workers can play a critical role by bursting the bubble of invisibility that allows the abuse to go unchallenged.

Just send e-mail to:

President & CEO, Lawrence Ellison at: Co-Chairman, James Abrahamson, at: VP of Administration, Robert Shaver at:

Regular mail can go to:

Oracle Corporation World Headquarters
500 Oracle Parkway
Redwood Shores, CA 94065 (415) 506-7000

You can contact the Justice for Janitors campaign at:

SEIU Local 1877
186 E. Gish Rd
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 452-8515

United for Justice, a Peninsula Coalition for Social Justice
PO Box 1725
Palo Alto, CA 94302
(415) 322-7190


  1. Cited from Oracle's 1992 Annual Report, and the _San Jose Mercury News_, 9/23/92 and 12/24/92.
  2. Information on Oracle's policies gathered from numerous sources, including Oracle employees, Oracle's publications, guests invited to Oracle's events and buildings, and local newspaper stories.
  3. 1992 Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA) Experience Exchange Report, p. 277.


By David Bacon

[NOTE: This article previously appeared in January, 1993, in the San Francisco _Bay Guardian_ and is reprinted here by permission of the author.]

Sometime in mid-February the last workers at the Versatronex plant in Sunnyvale will file out of the plant's door for the last time. The remaining machines in the plant will be turned off and loaded onto trucks. Versatronex will no longer be a living entity. But many electronics workers in Silicon Valley, especially the immigrants, will remember the name. They will remember Versatronex as the first plant where production workers in the valley went on strike, and the first plant where a strike won recognition for their union.

"It's a little sad, but we said at the beginning that if the company was going to close, let them close," said Sandra Gomez, who lost her job at the end of the Versatronex strike. "But as long as the plant was open, we were going to fight for our rights."

Sandra Gomez comes from a small town outside Guadalajara. She lives with her brothers in San Jose, and worked at the plant with three other cousins. Almost all Versatronex' workers are immigrants from Mexico, mostly women. Her job assembling circuit boards at the Sunnyvale factory was her first after she came to the U.S., and she worked there for almost five years.

"I went to every meeting before the strike started," she remembers, "but I was kind of young, and I didn't know what to expect. Even though I spoke on television after the strike started, I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. But I learned a lot in those first days, and now I feel very strongly that we have to stand up for ourselves. Even if we lose our jobs here, we will keep on fighting for our rights wherever we work."

The closure of the Versatronex plant brings an end to efforts by workers in that particular plant to organize a union. But Versatronex is only one of a number of Silicon Valley worksites in turmoil as a result of workers' protests. Employees of another contract assembly plant, USM Inc., are demanding that they be paid for their last two months of work before their plant shut down. Janitors at the huge Litton facility in South San Jose lost their jobs when Litton switched to a non-union janitorial service paying lower wages, and have been out in the streets in protest since then.

Silicon Valley has become the scene of problems long associated with the sweatshops of other industries, but which are a new and startling contrast to the hi-tech public image the electronics industry projects. More stable and better-paying production jobs in the valley's large plants are shrinking, while contractors like Versatronex compete for business from those plants by cutting wages and conditions.

Yet the electronics industry in Silicon Valley is viewed by many observers as a potential model for the kind of economic growth needed to end the current recession. Significantly, the invited guests to Clinton's Little Rock economic summit from northern California were almost all executives of high-technology biotech or electronics firms. They argue that the development of high- technology industry, and new approaches to the workforce designed in that industry, are the secret to U.S. competitiveness.

The architects of the new president's strategy for reviving the economy and increasing U.S. industrial competitiveness all seem drawn from this same source. U.C. economics professor Laura Tyson, Clinton's newly-appointed head of the Council of Economics Advisors, argues that government support for the electronics industry creates high-paying jobs and the conditions for economic growth. So it's worth looking at the experience on the ground - the effect in real life when Silicon Valley puts its philosophy to work.

During the recent Christmas holidays, workers employed by Versatronex, USM and Litton marched through crowds of shoppers in downtown San Jose. They noisily protested declining conditions for the immigrants who make up the bulk of the workforce employed by Silicon Valley contractors. Their protest highlighted another new development in the home of high technology - militant and angry demonstrations by workers from the valley's factories.

Conditions at Versatronex give credence to the accusation by labor and community activists that a high tech image masks a reality of sweatshop conditions. The starting wage at the plant was $4.25 - the minimum wage - and employees with over 15 years earned as little as $7.25. There was no medical insurance.

Sergio Mendoza worked in the "coil room," making electrical coils for IBM computers for seven years. The work process involved dipping the coils into chemical baths, and drying them off in ovens. "They never told us the names or the dangers of the chemicals we worked with," he recalls. "Sometimes the vapors were so strong that our noses would begin to bleed. Women who cleaned parts with solvents had deep cracks in the skin on the end of their fingers." The company filed declarations with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District that it discharged 3400 pounds of ethylene dichloride, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere in 1991. Nevertheless, Versatronex workers allege that there was no ventilation system or scrubbers for discharges within or outside the plant.

Versatronex managers have refused to talk to the press since the strike started, but Pete DelBrocco, Versatronex president, wrote a letter to the San Jose Mercury News in which he declared that "Versatronex prides itself on maintaining a safe and clean working environment," and that the company "has made the safety of its employees its highest priority." He alleged that the company only used water to clean its circuit boards.

The conditions in the "coil room" are very different from those at IBM's own facilities in South San Jose, which it refers to as a "campus." IBM's order gave a big boost to Versatronex' contract assembly business over the company's 20-year history, and workers recall seeing IBM inspectors visiting their plant.

Another large customer who had their boards assembled at Versatronex was Digital Microwave Corp., a manufacturer of equipment for telecommunications networks. DMC also has a modern, expensive and antiseptic-looking facility in the new industrial development which took over the farmland of north San Jose. Digital Microwave had total sales last year of $136 million, with sales offices in six countries. It's meteoric rise from a startup in 1984 contributes to the Silicon Valley reputation for phenomenal growth. Yet last year it closed its own manufacturing facility in Scotland, while it became one of the main sources of work for the Versatronex plant.

At the high point of the 6-week Versatronex strike, 10 women strikers went on a hunger strike outside DMC's glittering offices. For four days they fasted to dramatize their effort to hold that manufacturer responsible for their working conditions. Male strikers supported them by setting up tents and living around the clock on the sidewalk outside DMC's front door. Word of their action spread like an electric current through the valley's Mexican and immigrant communities.

"We went on a hunger strike against Digital Microwave Corporation because they send work to Versatronex, and then they close their eyes to the conditions we work in," explained hunger striker Margarita Aguilera. "And after our strike started, DMC sent even more work into the Versatronex plant." At the end of the fast, DMC made public a letter written to Versatronex management which said that, although it didn't intend to intervene in the labor dispute, "you should be aware that we are actively seeking alternative suppliers to fill our needs. If we find such suppliers, it may well be that we will transfer our needs to those resources on a permanent basis."

The Versatronex strike, along with protests at USM, Litton, and movements like them among other South Bay workers, are upheavals from below, according to Maria Pantoja, an organizer for the United Electrical Workers. "They shine a light on conditions which are like apartheid for immigrants and sweatshop workers in Silicon Valley."

Workers at Versatronex called in the union after they had already organized themselves to protest their conditions, and as they were preparing to stop work to demand changes. When the company heard rumors of the stoppage, they held a meeting to head off the planned action. One of the workers active in the organizing effort, Joselito Munoz, stood up in the meeting and declared to company supervisors that "Se acabo el tiempo de esclavitud," which translated means "The time of slavery is over." Munoz was fired two days later, and on October 16 Verstronex workers went on strike to win his job back.

In the course of the strike which followed, the workers and the union used tactics drawn from the experiences of the workers themselves, including the hunger strike. "It is not uncommon for workers in Mexico to fast and set up 'plantons' - tent encampments where workers live for the strike's duration," according to Pantoja. "Even striking over the firing of another worker is a reflection of their culture of mutual support, which they bring with them when they come to this country. Their culture is a source of strength to them, and for our union as well."

Versatronex workers ended their strike on November 25, after the National Labor Relations Board issued a formal complaint, the equivalent of an indictment, against the company for illegally firing Munoz. The day after they went back to work, workers filed a petition with the NLRB for a union election at the plant. Then, as the union and the company were negotiating over arrangements for the election and accusations of retaliation against strikers, the company announced that it would close the factory permanently. The announcement was made the day before Christmas.

Despite the announcement, workers from Versatronex, USM and Litton have continued to organize protests over contracting and declining conditions. The three groups joined forces because they are all immigrants, and are all employed by contractors who do business with the area's large companies.

USM workers are mostly Korean immigrants, who lost their jobs a year ago when the owner suddenly closed the factory's doors, owing workers 2 months in back wages. Since then USM workers, supported by San Jose's Korean Resource Center, have organized protests against Silicon Valley Bank, whom they hold liable for their lost wages because the bank took control of USM's assets. USM workers have asked the U.S. Department of Labor to invoke federal regulations which would allow it to embargo the circuit boards produced during the two months in which workers weren't paid.

Litton janitors, also immigrants, are mostly Mexican. They worked for a union janitorial contractor, and some had worked in the Litton buildings for over 10 years. Litton brought in a new, non- union contractor, who employed a new workforce at lower wages and conditions.

The janitors workforce, represented by Service Employees Local 1877, is drawn from the same immigrant workforce employed on the production lines in the electronics plants. A year ago Local 1877 made an important organizing breakthrough when it forced Apple Computer, and later Hewlett-Packard Corporation, to sign agreements using union janitorial contractors. Those agreements came as a result of a long campaign to tie the two corporations to the poor wages and conditions of the janitors who clean their buildings. That campaign was spearheaded by the Cleaning Up Silicon Valley Coalition, a local coalition of unions, churches and community organizations which organized the downtown San Jose march.

Korean Resource Center spokesperson Bunshik Eom points out that the problems of workers at Versatronex, USM and Litton stem from the same contractor/manufacturer relationship, in which large companies control the work, and contractors compete for it by maintaining low wages and benefits in their assembly plants. "USM, Versatronex and Litton workers have a lot to gain by supporting each other, since their problems come from the same source," he explained.

In the middle of the Versatronex strike, National Semiconductor, one of Silicon Valley's largest employers, announced that it would close its last remaining mass-production wafer fabrication line within a year. This move, which would eliminate the jobs of hundreds of workers, is part of an overall plan by National to move its main production of integrated circuits to plants in other parts of the country, and to convert its Silicon Valley facilities to research and development. Other electronics companies in valley are also implementing the same strategy.

For workers on the fab lines, however, this move also eliminates stable jobs paying well above minimum wage. As the mostly Filipino fab workers lose jobs at National, they may well be absorbed by the growing number of sweatshops operated by Valley contractors. One National worker, who visited Versatronex workers on their picketline, explained that unemployment would eventually force them to consider taking these jobs at low wages and conditions. "I'm sure we'll resist at first," explained Romie Manan, "but after trying to pay our bills on unemployment benefits, we'll have no choice."

Immigrant workers in Silicon Valley's electronics industry are clearly not satisfied with jobs at any price, as their protests at Versatronex, USM, Litton and Apple have made plain. For them, the trend of economic development in the valley is leading to less job security, and lower wages and conditions. The industry is being restructured, polarizing its workforce between highly-paid engineers and managers, and production workers in insecure, and increasingly less-attractive jobs. The pursuit of competitiveness - of greater flexibility in production and lower labor costs - are leading to a increase in contracted production and indirect employment. But while flexibility and competitiveness increase the bottom line for the industry's giants, not everyone benefits, especially those on the bottom.

Part of the Silicon Valley mystique has been its aggressive proselytization of a "union-free environment." The industry's defenders have accepted the assumption that the growth of electronics companies has guaranteed a rising standard of living for electronics workers, and has removed their economic motivation for organizing unions. But as workers get caught on the downside of economic development, they are questioning that assumption. Rather than trusting that the benefits of high technology and economic growth will trickle down to them, they seem to find organizing unions a better guarantee for a decent life.

Will they get support from a new president in the White House, elected with the support of unions and working people? Or will the economic strategists of the new administration hold up the "union- free industry" as the solution to the nation's economic woes?


According to Lenny Siegel, director of the Pacific Studies Center, "There's a pretty clear trend over the long term" in increasing employment in contract assembly plants in Silicon Valley, "especially among companies which make computers. The main increase in employment in Silicon Valley has been in the computer industry." Most of the major computer manufacturers are trying to reduce the production section of their workforce, and concentrate on software development. So the increased employment in the industry reflects an increase in employment in contract assembly plants, Siegel says. "Major companies like Sun and Tandem have contracted out most of their production, and rely on companies like Solectron. This leads to deteriorating conditions for assemblers, since contract assemblers certainly don't pay what a company like IBM does." Siegel notes that Tandem just sold its state-of-the-art assembly plant in Watsonville to SCI, a contract assembly company, and IBM sold assembly plants in Charlotte, NC, and Bordeaux, France, to Solectron, another contractor.

To find out more about the activities of immigrant workers in Silicon Valley, and to get involved in supporting them, you can call the United Electrical Workers (UE) 510-534-0232, the Cleaning Up Silicon Valley Coalition 408-448-3542, the janitors union SEIU Local 1877 408-452-8515, or the Korean Resource Center 408-452-7642.

[David Bacon has been a labor organizer for many years, and writes on issues of labor and immigration.]


DEATH MARCH: Alright MICROSOFT NT Project Leader David Cutler! Our kind of manager! In white Reeboks and white trousers he single- handedly terrorizes the Pacific Northwest screaming about tardy NT builds and deadlines making sure that since he has no life, the two hundred plus engineers and testers working under him won't have one either. According to a feature story in the _Wall Street Journal_ (5/26/93) profiling the Microsoft development effort, the NT team went on a "death march," as one member put it, in an all out effort to fix-up the new operating system before a July release. Briefings and software builds were taking place on Saturdays and Sundays. For 18%, this was their first job out of college. [Do they think this is normal?] Joanne Caron, a 28-year- old French Canadian who was writing part of the DOS shell, found herself on the edge. If anyone criticized her, she said, "I'd jump down their throat." Meanwhile, her marriage was falling apart. "I put all my energy in my job," shes says. "I didn't even try to save the marriage." According to the article, Gordon Bell, a renowned computer designer and one of Mr. Cutler's mentors, thinks that while the NT chief's methods were harsh, "It's probably the only style that's going to make it in a project like this. I don't think there's anybody else in the world who could've built NT." As for Mr. Cutler's troops, they are divided in their feelings about the future. Many eagerly anticipate working on the next version of NT, while others sense that a chapter of their lives has ended. After nearly two years in "ship mode," with one deadline after another looming, "[w]e are all really worn out," says Charles Whitmer, a graphics programmer. "A lot of people are angry, tired and burned out."

AT THE TROUGH: John Sculley of APPLE earned $6,515,666 last year (salary plus stock options). The _San Francisco Chronicle_ (5/24/93) argues that if his pay was tied to Apple's stock performance, he should by rights have gotten a mere $615,639. W.J. (Jerry) Sanders III, CEO of ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES "exercised options that gave him a profit of $19.4 million" last fiscal year. [For this next part, keep in mind that IBM has laid-off, bought out, squeezed out, or forced into early retirement 40,000 over the past year.] IBM's new chief Louis Gerstner's pay package is back in the news. IBM's contract with Gerstner guarantees the value of his stock and options in RJR Nabisco Holdings -- his former place of employment. RJR stock plummeted the day after Gerstner took the helm at IBM. IBM guaranteed a price of $8.125 a share for a big chunk of his RJR stock and unexercised options but at the time of the article's writing, RJR stock was down to $5.625 a share meaning IBM would be shelling out $8.8 million if he cashed in his holdings, say, on that day. Gerstner is already getting a $2 million salary, a $1.5 million bonus, options for 500,000 IBM shares, and an estimated $5 million payment to cover other foregone RJR benefits. This and other small print with goodies in Gerstner's favor went hidden from IBM shareholders until a recent company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (WSJ 5/26/93).

WORKPLACE MONITORING: _Macworld_ (7/93) conducted a survey of 301 U.S. companies and found that 22 percent said they occasionally use electronic means to monitor employees, usually to investigate suspicions about someone's performance. The surveyed companies employ nearly 1 million people. By extrapolation, 20 million Americans may be subject to computerized on-the-job monitoring. Less than one-third of the employers who use monitoring warn employees in advance. Jeff Johnson of CPSR is quoted in the article saying that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 gives employers wide latitude to conduct electronic monitoring, with or without letting workers know in advance -- though the statute contains a provision that would seem to preclude supervisors from reading electronic mail messages on systems with outside access, unless either the receiver or the sender gives permission. The interpretation is routinely challenged, or the provision itself ignored. Senator Paul Simon, D-Ill., has sponsored legislation to limit electronic monitoring. The bill would:

  • Inform new employees they could be monitored.
  • Require employees be given warning of monitoring in some cases.
  • Limit how often an employee could be monitored.
  • Ban random monitoring of long-term employees.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND CAREER ADVANCEMENT: _Science_ magazine is considering publishing a major article on gay and lesbian scientists. The magazine's editor is reportedly looking for "good stories" about gay and lesbian scientific role models, or researchers whose sexual orientation blocked their academic or career advance. Have a story along these lines? If so, contact the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, P.O. Box 91803, Pasadena, CA 91109. They'll forward your story to _Science_.

LOADED AND DANGEROUS: Uh, Ken Kesey, used to take...DRUGS. Uh, he's famous for his cross-country drug tour in an old school bus, "Further" (The Sex Pistols bus went "Nowhere".) The hazy adventure is soberly catalogued in Tom Wolfe's book _The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test_. Kesey was unceremoniously dragged off of the stage at a recent Apple WorldWide Developers Conference evening event for -- was it shooting, snorting, sniffing or passing out tabs? Nope. He mentioned LSD (maybe he meant to say LCD?). That was enough to get himself manhandled from the stage at the Apple "groove fest" party, thrown for developers in May at the San Jose Convention Center. What were the Apple hosts expecting Kesey to talk about? B-B-B-B-Billy's stutter? "It came as a total surprise to us. We were absolutely straight," Kesey told the _San Jose Mercury News_ (5/17/93). "But they thought we were all loaded and dangerous."

THANKS -- NOW GET LOST: AT&T recently announced 1,000 layoffs at a factory honored last year with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the U.S. Commerce Department's prestigious award. The company blamed the cuts on slow sales and technology that left workers idle. Employees said the award had improved morale and made workers feel secure in their jobs. "We thought that would be a real turnaround. We worked so hard to win that, and to have this happen, its really sad," said Joanne Willett, who has worked at the plant for 13 years and was unsure yesterday whether she would be laid off.


Q> How many Technical Support people does it take to change a light bulb?
A> We have an exact copy of the light bulb here and it seems to be working fine. Can you tell me what kind of system you have? OK. Just exactly how dark is it? OK. There could be four or five things involved. Have you tried the light switch?

Q> How many beta testers does it take to change a light bulb?
A> We just find problems. We don't fix them.

Q> How many developers does it take to change a light bulb?
A> The light bulb works fine on the system in my office.

Q> How many software engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A> That's a hardware problem.

Q> How many hardware engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A> Tell software to code around it!

Q> How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A> Two, one always quits in the middle of the project.

Q> How many C++ programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A> You are still thinking procedurally. A properly designed light bulb object would inherit a change method from a generic light bulb class, so all you'd have to do is send it a bulb change message.

Q> How many secretaries does it take to change a light bulb?
A> One.

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