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CPSR - CPU, Issue 4

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Issue: 004 CPU: Working in the Computer Industry 07/08/93

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



  2. /*COMMENTS*/

  3. Letters








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CPU is a project of the "Working in the Computer Industry" working group of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility / berkeley Chapter.

Editors for this issue: Michael Stack 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.


Welcome to issue #4 of CPU. This issue is a grab-bag of bits and pieces. The Labor Bytes section includes some items from a European correspondent; the Toolbox resource list looks at two newsletters of interest to engineers; we have a review of Gideon Kunda's book _Engineering Culture_; and we start a new Letters section.

As always, we are interested in hearing from you -- observations about the nature of your work, news items, gossip, etc. We started CPU to provide a means of sharing information among each other in the industry, to break out of the isolation that the work too often lends itself to. So share away.

We intend to devote one of the next CPU's to a discussion of the issues discussed in Edward Yourdon's recent book, _The Decline and Fall of the American Programmer_. We'd like to do this as a collection of observations, so if you've had a chance to look at the book, we'd like to hear your comments.

Finally, in the last issue we ran some information about the efforts of the janitors at Oracle to achieve union recognition as a means towards a living wage and basic benefits. Our intention has always been to see everyone who works for a computer or software company as part of the computer industry, whether he or she is an engineer, a technical writer, a secretary or a janitor. While we suspect that most of you are probably technicians of one sort or another, we feel that it is important to be aware of and lend support wherever possible to others in the industry who are not: "Hang together or hang separately" as the saying goes. Also, as engineering and other tasks become more routinized, I suspect that management techniques used on contract workers move up the work hierarchy, so the worlds may not be as remote from one another as they at first seem. While we don't intend for CPU to be devoted to custodial or assembly workers, we do think it is important to cover those sections of the industry as well.

Silicon Valley residents may be interested in a community hearing that will include testimony and talks about the situation faced by janitors at Oracle:




 United for Justice, A Peninsula Coalition for Social Justice

                         Invites you to

                      A COMMUNITY HEARING

                       Open to the public

Join Elected Officials and Experts to hear Peninsula Workers 
tell their own stories about what they face on the job.

Help make the Peninsula a better place to live & work

                 SATURDAY, JULY 10, 1993
      9:30am to NOON at the FAIR OAKS COMMUNITY CENTER
             2600 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City

For more information, please call: Dyanne at (415) 322-7190 
or Cindy of SEIU Local 1877 at (408) 452-8515


Jim Davis


Dear Editors,

When I subscribed to the CPU newsletter, it was because it billed itself as a being about "working in the computer industry," a topic which interests me since that is where I have worked for the past 13 years.

With each issue CPU appears to have removed itself further and further from this stated mission. The current issue [CPU 003 - Ed.] is mostly devoted to a diatribe about unionizing janitors, which is not a topic which interests me the slightest bit.

I'll keep my subscription for another issue to see if things change. If they don't I'll be dropping my subscription and suggesting that you advertise the newsletters political and literary agenda a little bit more accurately.

Regards, Tom Morris

Just read your CPU #1, very, very interesting. I am particularly interested in the problem of the globalization of the software industry and its effect on wages. Having recently read Robert Reich's _Work of Nations_, I certainly see the implications.

The problem is really two fold.

  1. There is an evening of global wages, to our disadvantage.
  2. There is no mechanism to spread the wealth within our own country between those with good incomes and the 80% without.

Of course the global labor market affects almost everyone. I cannot imagine any occupation (except prostitution maybe) that is not subject to its effects. Manufacturing is increasingly robotized in the broader sense that as productivity is increased there is less need for labor. I believe that the two curves, increasing need to design and manufacture complex technology and the effect of the technology on jobs, have probably crossed by now, leading to net loss. Those whose skills are least flexible are the most hurt. I refer you to two articles in the Summer issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. The first, "Technology and Jobs" by Robert J Whelchel, pgs 21-23 and the second, "Ignoring Limits to Growth" by Ian A. Nalder, pgs 24-28.

Whelchel points out that job retraining can require cultural retraining, a difficult task at best.

Well, congratulations on CPU, I'm looking forward to future issues.


[The following article originally appeared in the journal SOFTWARE OPPORTUNITIES IN JAPAN, Vol. 2 No.4 April, 1993 and appears here by kind permission. SOJ is a business journal reporting on the Japanese software industry. Contact: (408) 773-4550.]

As traditional, employment practice in Japan calls for hiring once a year, on April 1. The hires, recruited from school graduates, are subsequently handled and promoted as a group throughout their corporate career. The software industry, whose rapid growth in the 1980's was fueled by large orders from booming financial and other sectors, has been a major employer of new Japanese graduates. As in other Japanese industries, large software corporations professed commitment to the principle of lifetime employment.

These traditional employment practices are now being undermined by bad economical times. Already, the software industry has induced about 10 percent of its work force to leave their jobs. In April this year, there is evidence of drastic scaling down of new employment. For example in the past five years, SRA, a large Tokyo-based software house was hiring 50 to 100 new graduates annually. This year, there will be no new employees at SRA. CREO, IGS, and ISB are not hiring this year either. At INTERNATIONAL SYSTEMS, hiring has been on hold for the second straight year.

Even though these measures are temporary means to cope with the recession, some may induce permanent changes into Japanese employment practices. Lifetime employment is a relatively recent achievement of Japanese labor. To employers, it is a costly and cumbersome policy. Many Japanese companies may welcome the present recession as an excuse for permanent scaling-down of lifetime employment and other employee benefits.

It also remains to be seen to what degree management style at foreign software companies in Japan will affect local employment practices. For example, at the Japanese subsidiary of MICROSOFT, led by the 37 year-old President Makoto Narumo, there is no labor union and no spring labor offensive, common at large Japanese companies. Also, contrary to the established Japanese practice, salary increases at MICROSOFT, which last year averaged 8%, are based on merit and individual effort rather than seniority. Employee evaluations are based on the criteria set by the U.S. parent company. MICROSOFT has implemented a flexible time system, does not use time cards, and has reduced the amount of management supervision within the company. New employees are hired all year round.

This situation is typical of _gaishikei_, Japanesse subsidiaries of U.S Software companies. Japanese staff working for such companies often feel professionally and socially advanced compared to their colleagues at large Japanese electronic firms, and are willing to give up some of the traditional employee privileges in exchange for Western- style treatment and benefits. The traditional Japanese software establishment is watching the _gaishikei_ with a mixture of condescension and curiosity. There is little doubt, however, that Western management ideas are slowly infiltrating the Japanese corporate minds.


[from banisar@WASHOFC.CPSR.ORG]

               CPSR Workplace Privacy Testimony

                      Prepared Testimony
                   Statement for the Record
                      Marc Rotenberg,
               Director, CPSR Washington office,
    Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
                        H.R. 1900,
      The Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act

       The Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations,
              Committee on Education and Labor,
       U.S. House of Representatives June 30, 1993

Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the 
opportunity to testify today on H.R. 1900, the Privacy for 
Consumers and Workers Act.  My name is Marc Rotenberg and I 
am the director of the CPSR Washington office and an adjunct 
professor at Georgetown University Law Center where I teach a 
course on information privacy law.

Speaking on behalf of CPSR, we strongly endorse the Privacy 
for Consumers and Workers Act.  The measure will establish 
important safeguards for workers and consumers in the United 
States.  We believe that H.R. 1900 is particularly important 
as our country becomes more dependent on computerized 
information systems and the risk of privacy abuse increases.

CPSR has a special interest in workplace privacy.  For almost 
a decade we have advocated for the design of computer systems 
that better serve the needs of employees in the workplace.  
We do not view this particular goal as a trade-off between 
labor and management.  It is our belief that computer systems 
and information policies that are designed so as to value 
employees will lead to a more productive work environment and 
ultimately more successful companies and organizations.  As 
Charles Hecksher of the Harvard Business School has said good 
managers have no use for secret monitoring.

Equally important is the need to ensure that certain 
fundamental rights of employees are safeguarded.  The 
protection of personal privacy in the information age may be 
as crucial for American workers as the protection of safety 
was in the age of machines.  Organizations that fail to 
develop appropriate workplace privacy policies leave 
employees at risk of abuse, embarrassment, and harassment.

The concern about workplace privacy is widely felt in the 
computer profession.  This month Macworld magazine, a leading 
publication in the computer industry, released a special 
report on workplace privacy. The report, based on a survey of 
301 companies in the United States and authored by noted 
science writer Charles Piller, made clear the need for a 
strong federal policy.

Among the key findings of the Macworld survey:

>  More than 21 percent of those polled said that they had
"engaged in searches of employee computer files, voice mail,
electronic mail, or other networking communications."

>  "Monitoring work flow" is the most frequently cited reason 
for electronic searches.

>  In two out of three cases, employees are not warned about
electronic searches.

>  Only one third of the companies surveyed have a written 
policy on privacy

What is also interesting about the MacWorld survey is the 
high level of concern expressed by top corporate managers 
about electronic monitoring.  More than a half of those 
polled said that electronic monitoring was either "never 
acceptable" or "usually or always counterproductive."  Less 
than five percent believed that electronic monitoring was a 
good tool to routinely verify honesty.

These numbers suggest that managers would support a sensible 
privacy law.  Indeed, they are consistent with other privacy 
polls conducted by Professor Alan Westin for the Lou Harris 
organization which show that managers are well aware of 
privacy concerns and may, with a little prodding, agree to 
sensible policies.

What would such a policy look like?  The MacWorld report also 
includes a model privacy policy that is based on several U.S. 
and international privacy codes.  Here are the key elements:

>  Employees should know what electronic surveillance tools 
are used, and how management will use the data gathered.

>  Management should minimize electronic monitoring as much 
as possible.  Continuous monitoring should not be permitted.

>  Data should only be used for clearly defined, work-related

>  Management should not engage in secret monitoring unless 
there is credible evidence of criminal activity or serious 

>  Data gathered through monitoring should not be the sole 
factor in employee evaluations.

>  Personal information gathered by employers should not be 
disclosed to any third parties, except to comply with legal 

>  Employees or prospective employees should not be asked to 
waive privacy rights.

>  Managers who violate these privacy principles should be 
subject to discipline or termination.

Many of these provisions are contained in H.R. 1900, the 
Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act.  Clearly, the policies 
and the bill itself are not intended to prohibit monitoring, 
nor to prevent employers from protecting their business 
interests.  What the bill will do is help establish a clear 
framework that ensures employees are properly notified of 
monitoring practices, that personal information is not 
misused, and that monitoring capability is not abused.  It is 
a straightforward, sensible approach that does not so much 
balance rights as it clarifies interests and ensures that 
both employers and employees will respect appropriate 
limitations on monitoring capability.

The need to move quickly to establish a framework for 
workplace privacy protection is clear.  Privacy problems will 
become more acute in the years ahead as new monitoring 
schemes are developed and new forms of personal data are 
collected.  As Professor Gary Marx has made clear, there is 
little that can be imagined in the monitoring realm that can 
not be achieved.  Already, some members of the computer 
profession are wearing "active badges" that provide full-time 
geographical monitoring.  Properly used, these devices help 
employees use new tools in the hi-tech workplace. Improperly 
used, such devices could track the physical movements of an 
employee throughout the day, almost like a blip on a radar 

Computers are certainly powerful tools.  We believe that they 
can be used to improve productivity and increase job 
satisfaction.  But this requires that appropriate policies be 
developed to address employee concerns and that laws be 
passed, when necessary, to ensure that computer abuse does 
not occur.

This concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to answer 
your questions.


_Engineering Culture: Control and Commitment in a High-Tech Corporation_
Gideon Kunda
Temple University Press, 1992.

Gideon Kunda's "Engineering Culture" is a remarkable sociological study of life in one office of a real but pseudonymous high-technology company called "Tech". The title's pun refers to the two very different kinds of engineers that Tech employs: while the technological engineers get products to market, sociological engineers are also hard at work promoting a "corporate culture". This "culture" consists of a complicated, interlinked system of metaphors, stories, slogans, speeches, and ritual forms that provides through symbolic means what could never be achieved by coercion: an enthusiastic workforce that puts in extremely long hours of creative work with relatively little hope of advancement. These activities are not, of course, unique to Tech; many high-technology workers are familiar with the rah-rah atmosphere of companies that make hard work into a veritable meaning of life. What is not so obvious is the extraordinary amount of effort that regularly goes into creating this atmosphere. The "corporate culture" staff at Tech are continually engaged in documentation and assessment of the current state of the company's culture and developing and testing new devices for shaping that culture. Meetings, for example, are studied closely for their properties as ritual forms that effectively instill management's view of things while simultaneously containing any questions or dissent. For example, a considerable amount of lore, most of it consciously constructed by the "corporate culture" staff, surrounds the phenomenon of "burn-out", whereby workers' lives fall apart under the stress of extreme production pressures. This lore helps ensure that employees can watch their colleagues burn out in terrible ways without drawing any profound lessons about the nature of Tech and its work environment.

Kunda's investigation of corporate culture develops in deliberate stages. He begins by exploring the relevant sociological background. Much of this background derives from a voluminous literature on the sociology of organizations, but the notions of "culture" and "ritual" derive from anthropological studies of cultures which did not arise through conscious construction and manipulation. In particular, he presents the sociological notion of "normative control": "the attempt to elicit and direct the required efforts of members by controlling the underlying experiences, thoughts, and feelings that guide their actions (page 11)." Normative control, he says, lays claim not simply to employees' behavior but to their inner selves. As we will see, though, Kunda's study leads him to complicate this idea considerably.

Having presented this theoretical background, the author then outlines the major symbolic devices that Tech uses to shape its corporate culture: brochures, posters, slogans, electronic mail, and so forth. His real concern, though, is the interaction between managers and employees at Tech. The book's centerpiece is a series of remarkable stories about the conduct of meetings: every meeting, he observes, follows a common trajectory from joking smalltalk to serious presentation to complex discussions in which the company's culture is constantly invoked by all parties as a basis for interpreting situations and prescribing actions. Most telling of all are those occasions on which employees persist in questioning management's interpretation of the culture and its consequences. In such situations, points are awarded to those who can make the most sophisticated use of ambiguity and irony, for example by turning expressions of discontent with the company's views into further evidence for the truth of those views.

    Controlled self-consciousness, appropriate and timely
    use of an ironic stance, and the ability to shift
    frames and stances are considered signs of elegance.
    [Tech employees] evaluate each other on their ability
    to express both embracement and distancing and to know
    when to stop. By structuring and defining as playful
    those occasions where commonsense alternatives to the
    formal ideology are pronounced ... real dissent is
    preempted. ...Participants may become mired ever
    deeper in a paradoxical normative trap within which
    whatever one does, thinks, or feels can be -- and
    often is -- interpreted as confirmation of
    ideological reality claims (pages 158-159).

Kunda's views of "culture" and "ritual" at Tech thus diverge from the conventional understandings of those terms, as well as the conventional notion of "normative control" described above. Tech employees are highly aware of the ambiguities and contrivances of Tech's corporate culture, but this understanding only enmeshes them more deeply into the culture as it is actually played out in practice.

    Participants [in meetings at Tech] are systematically
    presented with an explicit awareness of the dramatic
    mechanisms that underlie the process of framing
    reality, and an open acknowledgment of the
    manufactured nature of cultural categories and
    symbols, including those that are central to the
    ritual performance itself. A self-consciousness that
    could be considered a fatal flaw in the ritual
    performances now becomes its central theme and is
    itself highly ritualized. This produces a potentially
    unstable balance between role embracement and role
    distancing that constantly calls into question the
    authenticity of the experiences associated with the
    member role ... (page 159).

The conclusion draws this theme out more fully:

    The culture I have attempted to describe is founded on
    self-awareness, reflection, and articulation in the
    service of a struggle for control. Consequently, it is
    a culture riddled with contradictions between
    ideological depictions and alternative realities:
    where democratization is claimed, there are also
    subtle forms of domination; where clarity of meaning
    and purpose is attempted, there is intentional and
    deeply ingrained ambiguity; where an overarching
    morality is preached, there is also opportunistic
    cynicism; and where fervent commitment is demanded,
    there is pervasive irony (page 222)

In the end, this crazy-making environment places its participants on a treadmill with no destination except burnout.

    ... many members find that their work lives are
    enmeshed in an ever-accelerating vicious cycle. The
    race to meet corporate standards of accomplishment,
    get corporate approval, and procure the pecuniary and
    personal rewards the culture promises becomes the only
    way to find stable meanings and compensate for a sense
    of confusion, lost authenticity, and inner emptiness;
    but it is a self-defeating exercise, one that
    recreates and reinforces the very circumstances it
    seeks to correct (page 222).

Readers in high-tech companies may react to this dire analysis differently depending on how long they have been on the job. High-tech work can be exciting; the pay is often good; the creature comforts of work are sometimes numerous; and working within a "strong culture" can often afford much more of a sense of freedom than working for a dictatorial boss. It takes time to develop a deeper and less charitable view of this newfound freedom. It's difficult to give up the ideals of empowerment and independence and the personal identity that goes with them, particularly in the absence of clear alternatives. But the Silicon Valleys and Route 128s are changing. Many of the enthusiastic newcomers of the 1980s are getting older, burning out, and getting laid off. High- tech jobs are moving abroad. The seductions of corporate culture depend on a certain conception of what it means to be an engineer, and it might be time to consider this question anew. Engineers, of course, have always been enthusiastic, committed workers, but "corporate culture" has hijacked these values, amplifying and distorting them into internalized roads to self-destruction. Engineering workers are catching on to this betrayal, though, and we can hope that the engineering culture of the future will be designed by engineers themselves.

Acknowledgments. This review has benefitted from comments by Marti Hearst and Michael Stack.

Philip E. Agre, Department of Communication
University of California
San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0503,


In recent weeks we've come across a couple of newsletters readers might find of interest.

One such is _Resistor_, a long-running monthly newsletter of the organization "IBM Workers United". The _Resistor_ carries commentary from the other side (i.e. not Wall Street's) alongside sensible advice to Gerstner et al. on how better to run sub-dividing Blue. Last month's issue led-off with a story written by one of the workers at IBM's Endicott/Glendale facilities describing management's insensitive handling of the pending layoffs at that plant. Other pieces speak of the inequality of the sacrifice: How supplies are cut-back; new equipment is not bought; wage increases disappear and workers are let-go while Corporate Headquarters goes unscathed and the Board of Directors gives Gerstner millions, etc.

IBM Workers United (IWU) promotes the idea of Employee Works Councils (IBM already has such organizations in its European offices, according to the newsletter). They propose workers electing representatives to plant level councils. Management would have to consult with these councils on everything from work organization to health and safety polices. The councils would not be unions, IWU insists, and they would not be able to call strikes. "It is democracy in the workplace and it is long overdue in IBM and in other companies" says a recent _Resistor_.

The same issue goes on to describe more of what IWU is about:

"As more people in this area and other locations read the _Resistor_, the old misconception of what we are is still a concern. In December 1989 we said this: 'IBM Workers United has always urged our fellow workers to organize and challenge, and we have always felt what was needed was a free and independent association of IBM employees, NOT an AFL/CIO union.'

"We have friends in unions and have worked with unions on various issues, BUT what works in some companies and locations doesn't necessarily work in others.

"The AFL/CIO only represents 13% of the American workforce. We believe in expanding the American Labor Movement towards new directions that can encompass all types of worker and employee organizations.

"We think workers today are looking for alternatives to the unionism of the AFL/CIO. Hundreds of thousands of workers have already set up their own independent organizations across the country to protect their interests. People want and need to have control of the organizations they belong to. IBM Workers United believes that is the way to go, but that it is only the first step. The second step is a Works Council. It has been done, it can be done. Changing times demand new ideas."

IBM Workers United and the _Resistor_ newsletter may be contacted at PO Box 634, Johnson City, New York 13790. They don't have a set sub rate; they ask for a donation instead.

Also from New York is another electrician's title -- _Short Circuit_, a "Newsletter of Engineering Empowerment" -- brought to you by the "Fuzzball Eater Society (FES)". Autumn, 1992 marks the premier issue which contains varied writings much of which I could make little sense of. There's mucho 'Art', more cyber-yawn articles and book-promos for authors of the FES in-crowd ('Academics' seemingly) but there's also some funny stuff ("Engineering Economics") and a decent piece entitled "Encapsulate Code, Empower People" by Frank 0'Grady. O'Grady writes interestingly that software is different: A software solution may not be arrived at by decomposing the big problem into discrete little pieces because primarily software's "about relationships of things rather than the things themselves." Because of this, he argues, traditional managerial techniques are under fire: "This is the core problem we face as software professionals. Our work fundamentally challenges the legitimacy of the organization's power structure. The evolutionary thrust of software is to create a holographic organization with complete real time data transparency. Unfortunately this will represent a kind of ego death to the traditional corporate manager... " and so on placing little confidence in the possibility of a 'Silver Bullet' coming down the pipe -- software manager's argot for Holy Grail (Structured Programming in the past, CASE tools today...) -- the bridle to rein in them unruly programmers. Subscriptions for _Short Circuit_ are $20 a year: PO Box 70, Bayside, NY 11361. (718) 423-6662.



Just when it seemed to be getting a bit quiet on the layoff front, bam, they were back with a vengeance. Although not the largest announcement, the one that has been getting the most play in Silicon Valley is APPLE's announced layoff of 2,500 workers, or 16% of its overall workforce. Apple currently employs 16,000 worldwide, of which about 2,600 are temps or contractors (according to the _New York Times_). Most of the layoffs are expected this month, and will come from all areas of the company, including R & D. Although the Apple layoffs had been rumored for weeks, "the size of the layoff stunned many employees," according to the _San Francisco Chronicle_ (7/7/93). Apple employees were angry, according to the Chronicle, because Apple announced the layoffs to the press before managers told employees. Some heard of the layoffs from radio reports. This is the largest layoff in Apple's history. The "market welcomes the move", reported the _SF Examiner_.

OTHER LAYOFF NEWS: The _Wall Street Journal_ (7/2/93) reports that IBM will announce this month that it will get rid of 50,000 workers this year, twice an earlier estimate. This brings IBM's worldwide workforce down to 250,000, from a high of 405,000 in 1985. French computer giant CIE DES MACHINES BULL will get rid of 6,500 workers from its worldwide operations. Bull owns ZENITH DATA SYSTEMS here in the U.S., and employs (now) about 35,000 people globally. These cuts follow a 1990-92 restructuring that shrank the company's workforce by 27%. TANDY will dump 500 workers in its personal computer operations as it sells its computer operations to AST.

NOTES FROM EUROPE: Last February, TANDON shut it's two year old production site in Vienna, laying off 250 people. At the same time Tandon will build a factory in the North of France for the production of 25.000 PCs monthly - thats 30% more then Tandon sells currently in Europe. I suppose that both have to do with fundings (end of funding in Austria, new funding in France), but I've no official source for that... ALCATEL-ALSTHOM is one of the biggest telecom & process control companies in the world with more then 200,000 people employed. In most West European countries there are big subsidiaries of Alcatel. Alcatel Austria (Vienna) will lay- off 180 of its 2,200 in 1993; Alcatel SEL (Germany) will layoff 2,200 of its 21,000. All has to do with restructuring, etc. The works council of Alcatel SEL has organized some local and one big demonstration to the headquarters of SEL in Stuttgart (6,000 people) and will go to the courts since the SEL bosses claimed in autumn '92 to guarantee most of the now endangered jobs. I've no information on other Alcatel companies all over the world right now, but will try to get them as well... As the problems at VIENNA SOFTWARE PUBLISHING (produced SW for OS/2) became obvious in November '92 (4 people of 25 were laid of) the works council organized a company assembly and some demands were formulated: make the full situation (financial, plans, etc.) of the company public to all employees, discuss future plans with a special employee working group and give a guarantee for the jobs (also the laid off ones) till June 93. The demands were rejected and VSP went on strike for three weeks. The strike was also supported by the unions. The only solution the company owners provided at the end was to let the company go bankrupt. Thats the negative point. The positive point is that more then 20 people became aware of how things work in the industry and that you have to organize and stand up against companies. All decisions taken in the strike were discussed and voted upon and always had a 100% agreement (since their demands were quite strong which is unusual in Austria, this was really amazing). All of the former VSP employed people are now union members - three were before. [these items are from an Austrian engineer - Ed.]

UNION ORGANIZERS ATTACKED BY SECURITY GUARDS AT ORACLE: The effort by janitors at Oracle to win unionization (reported on in CPU 003) took a violent turn on July 2 when security guards attacked a peaceful demonstration at Oracle. The demonstrators were trying to leave the company grounds when security guards from "Diplomatic Security" stepped in and prevented the people from leaving. Guards choked, and then punched Service Employees International Union Local 1877 President Mike Garcia in the mouth, splitting his lip. Only the Latino demonstrators were detained. The demonstrators had showed up at a party sponsored by Oracle's landlord, William Wilson, for Oracle employees to hand out leaflets and draw attention to the situation the janitors face at work.

ON THE OREGON TRAIL: We received the following item from a roving correspondent as he pedaled through Eugene, Oregon. It seems that SYMANTEC, the California based software octopus is considering moving 160 to 180 tech support and customer service jobs north to Eugene. According to the Eugene _Register-Guard_ (6/7/93), lower operating costs -- particularly wages, taxes and rent -- are a big factor in the company's decision. Employees who want to keep their jobs can move to Oregon, but they will be asked to take a cut in pay. While a spokesperson for the company wouldn't say how much of a cut was expected, one employee affected by the move said that they would need to take a 20 percent cut. The wage cut option has been met with some "skepticism", according to the article. The company has stressed the lower cost of living in Eugene, as well as the quality of life that the area has to offer as compensation. Symantec can draw on the talent at the University of Oregon, located in Eugene, and a nearby community college. Ads placed in the Eugene papers in March mentioned pay range of $18,000 to $26,000 for tech support positions.

AND YOU PAID SO MUCH FOR THAT COLLEGE EDUCATION: This little item by Rory J. O'Connor in the _San Jose Mercury News_ (6/30/93) says so much, that we quote it at length: "Sounding like a parody of its marketing literature, SUN MICROSYSTEMS told 40 workers their 'skill sets no longer match the company's core competencies and product strategies.' The translation: You're fired. The inference: And it's your fault. 'It's complete doublespeak, but they don't want to use the word fired.,' said an employee. Company spokeswoman Cindee Mock said the layoffs reflect Sun's belief that an employee's 'skill set' becomes obsolete at a rate of 20% a year."

"MATH GENIUS WITH LAB. WILL WORK FOR FOOD": That's a recent _Business Week_ (6/14/93) headline talking about how little U.S. companies are paying for the skills and knowledge of Russian scientists. HEWLETT-PACKARD, IBM, SUN and AT&T, among other firms have hired researchers desperate for work and resources for as little as $260 per month for chip and compiler design in Sun's case. Upset about the low pay, one physicist has formed a group called Thesaurus to fight exploitation of Russian scientists by Western companies. The BW article quotes Sergei Kapitsa, "When multi-million dollar deals may be based on your knowledge, you should be paid." The Sun team, for example, will not receive any royalties from any products they help create. The former Soviet Union produced a strong set of skills in the so-called "blackboard sciences" of mathematics and computing theory, which the Western companies seek to tap.


[The following words of advice were submitted anonymously by an Apple employee to Denise Caruso's _San Francisco Examiner_ "Inside Technology" column at the time of Apple's last major layoff, back in 1991, when 1,500 were let-go. -Ed.]

    "The Mercenary's 10 Commandments"

  1. Never forget that taking a new job means auctioning your services off to the highest bidder. Although money is not the only thing of value in the auction, it is the most important.

  2. Loyalty and bitterness are manifestations of the same obsolete emotion, at least in the context of the job market. Never do anything based on either - do what is in your interest.

  3. Take new job assignments based on how much they will add to your value and flexibility on the job market. If your employer attempts to force you to do work that is inconsistent with career advancement, leave. Try to leave on good terms, but leave.

  4. Network as much as possible with co-workers, be they peers, supervisors or subordinates. Contacts and good local references are very important things in finding a new job, nearly as important as your qualifications.

  5. Save your money. Corporations love employees who can't afford to do what they want to do, rather than what the corporation wants them to do. And don't be too quick to buy a house. If you wouldn't be able to take at least a 10 percent loss on the house in order to move for a new job, you're making yourself a slave to your house, and probably to your employer.

  6. Don't be afraid of temporary work. If you have 10 or more years of good technical experience, have kept up with the field and haven't burned out, then you're probably contributing more of value to the company than your boss. The only way to get what you're worth is as a temp (a.k.a "consultant").

  7. Be optimistic in selling yourself in interviews. If you have some background in a particular specialty, don't be afraid to talk it up aggressively. Your responsibility is to tell them what you know; it's their responsibility to find out what your limits are.

  8. Specialize, but don't over-specialize; you should have at least two specialty areas that you could sell to a potential employer. Job seekers who are "willing to do anything" go to the bottom of the resume pile, along with the people with obsolete specialties.

  9. Expect to be lied to. Our economic system provides powerful incentives for corporations, especially small ones, to lie to their employees.

  10. Above all, remember that there is no such thing as a permanent job. Job security means being able to get a new one.

CPSR is a nationwide public-interest organization that examines the impact of technology on society.

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Web pages edited by Dave Williams
Last Updated: Thur 4 April 1996 10:20 PST

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