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CPSR - CPU, Issue 8

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Issue: 008 CPU: Working in the Computer Industry 02/01/94

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



  2. /*COMMENTS*/









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PLEASE RE-POST THIS FREELY, especially at work. CPU material may be reprinted for non-profit purposes as long as the source is cited. We welcome submissions and commentary. Mail sent to the editors or to CPU will be treated as a "letter to the editor" and considered printable, unless noted otherwise.

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.


Though there is no danger as yet of the Internet self- referentially disappearing up its own orifice -- and should such a thing exist, it would no doubt be located somewhere around the alt.rush_limbaugh-fan newsgroup -- there is a strong tendency among on-line journals to waste bandwidth reviewing and repeating items from other on-line journals. CPU will try its best to shy from such behavior, though sometimes we can't help ourselves when someone has already done the hard work. A journal that has helped point us at interesting items from time to time is _The Computists Communique_. Its editor, Ken Laws, sent us a brief piece on _TCC_ and it's associated organization, the "Computists International." We've excerpted portions of it in this month's TOOLBOX. Write him for a sample copy.

Jim went to the Technology & Employment Conference held at MIT this January, announced in CPU_007. He shares his notes in a piece below.

Our MAILBOX carries comments on the "'Voluntary Severance' at HP Labs" article featured in CPU_007. The author, Jeff Johnson, responds.


Organizational Matters -- CPU to-date has been put together by a working group of the Berkeley Chapter of CPSR. We would like to turn this into a national working group of CPSR. CPSR bylaws requires 10 CPSR members to petition the board to establish the working group. If you are a CPSR member (and if not, you should consider it, email cpsr @ ) and would be willing to be part of this working group (your level of participation is up to you), please send a note saying as much to

Jim Davis

3. MAILBOX - 1

Jean Renard Ward ( writes:

> I would like to offer what might seem to be an iconoclastic
> comment on the rather discouraging (but factual) tone of the
> notes on "Voluntary Severance":
> The trend in American high-tech companies to shed engineering
> employees and use temporary workers or contract out development,
> is in the employees' interest, because it makes them more like
> plumbers.
> Salaried employees in high-tech industries have traditionally
> been exploited. 40 hours per week is a myth. There is __always__
> some nominal crisis, or product ship date, or competitive
> threat, or political decision that must be fought, that forces
> employees to work "extra" hours. Compensatory time-off never
> equals the additional time, much less the personal cost to
> people's families and communities. Salary bonuses work out to
> less per extra hour than what you can get doing overtime at a
> fast-food franchise. Promotions generally involve a greater work
> burden, not a reward.
> Many companies in high-tech, such as those working on national
> defence, have __always__ had a history of laying off people by
> the tens of thousands, either at the end of a major project, or
> as their seniority built up. Some of the "tactics" mentioned for
> reducing staff, such as transfers to remote places at the
> convenience of the company, also have a long tradition: one
> well-known joke within IBM was that the letters stood for "I've
> Been Moved" -- transfers to different parts of the country were
> just part of the culture, not an attempt to force people to
> leave.
> On the other hand, contract engineering positions pay well,
> and pay by the hour: it's not that you make more money by being
> paid for overtime, but that because they have to pay you for it,
> they don't make you work it very often. The work is shorter
> term, but the time it takes to find a new position is
> dramatically shorter as well. No false promises are made about
> continued employment, career growth, promotions, or bonuses, so
> there are no false expectations that make people bitter when
> they don't work out. Basically, you work like a plumber.
> In my own experience over the past 20+ years (which includes
> three start-ups, two very large companies that are now in
> substantial decline, one company that actually succeeded for a
> long while, and a couple of stints doing contract engineering),
> my family, my personal life, my personal income, and my health
> have done best while I was doing contracting -- that's what I've
> concluded, as have many of the people I meet contracting who
> were "severed" from their regular jobs. It is only the forlorn
> __expectation__ of things that makes the situations described
> under "Voluntary Severance" into bitter experiences.

Simson L. Garfinkel ( asks:

> If things are this bad, how come you aren't calling for
> unionization in our industry?

Jeff Johnson replies to both (First, Mr Garfinkel and then Mr Ward):

> The idea of a computer professionals' union seems completely
> reasonable to me. (I lived in Germany for a while, and there,
> programmers are unionized. For historical reasons, they are a
> sub-unit of the electricians' union.) However, I realize, as I'm
> sure the letter writer does, that any suggestion that an
> explicit union for computer professionals be formed here would
> be rejected in a knee-jerk fashion by most people in the
> profession as well as fought tooth and nail by companies.
> Company opposition is normal for any unionization effort, but
> the degree of anti-union sentiment among computer professionals
> would render the effort pointless.
> But what is the essence of a union? It is organization, to
> advance shared goals and improve the quality of working life.
> Computer professionals certainly do that, through the ACM, IEEE,
> EFF, the League for Programming Freedom, Computer Professionals
> for Social Responsibility, and other organizations. One such
> organization, the Software Entrepreneurs' Forum (SEF), has
> recently been organizing to oppose the increasing trend for
> computer companies in the US to hire foreign contract
> programmers (e.g., in India and China) for wages that are a tiny
> fraction of what U.S. programmers charge. If one were to examine
> the membership of the SEF, one would find many Libertarians and
> others who wouldn't ever consider joining something that was
> called a "union." But no matter; they are organizing anyway.
> There is little point to forming an explicit union, thus
> arousing opposition -- knee-jerk or otherwise -- among our own
> ranks and company management. We can be more creative than that:
> form a "virtual" union. And that is precisely what we are doing
> here, now, today, by contributing to and reading this
> newsletter, the very name of which could stand for Computer
> Professionals' Union.


> Mr. Ward ignores several important facts:
> 1. The companies were not replacing employees with contract
> engineers; they were reducing the number of engineers employed.
> Thus the trend Mr. Ward cites is irrelevant in this case.
> 2. At HP Labs, the engineers laid off were researchers,  not
> product developers. It is uncommon for people doing advanced,
> long-term research to be hired as contractors.
> 3. Mr. Ward may prefer contract work to salaried employment,
> but most engineers do not.

[Editor's note - We'd like to hear some more responses on Simson's question and Jeff's response -- is the level of organization and information sharing that exists now enough? Or do we need more?

As to Jean Renard Ward's points, while I don't mind contracting in and of itself (and many of his points are on the mark), I very much dislike the insecurity that goes with it -- how long between contracts? -- and the two-tiered labor system that exists between regular and contingent workers. Check out Charley Richardson's point in the report on the Technology & Employment Confernece below re: the "virtual corporation." - jd]


We received this note after CPU_007 went out:

> Hi.. I'm terribly sorry if this is the first you've heard, but
> Brendan Kehoe (of "Zen and the Art of the Internet" fame, among
> other things) was seriously injured in an auto accident on Dec.
> 31.  I just thought you might want to send out a message to the
> CPU mailing list.  His current condition can be gotten by
> fingering or sending mail to, and I can
> answer any questions or anything that you or anyone might have.
> Sorry if this news is late.. I've been having a helluva time
> catching up with all the folks Brendan knows.  He's in stable
> condition right now at the U of Penn med center, though he
> sustained massive head injuries in the accident.
> Thanks,
> Jefro   ..or..



[These are some notes from the Technology and Employment Conference, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on January 21 and 22. The conference was sponsored by the Technology and Culture Seminar and the Community Fellows Program at MIT. It's unfortunate that cloning technology is not very advanced, as there were several concurrent workshops that I was unable to attend. See note at end re: possible publication of presentations and papers.

I found much of interest in the conference, and I thought the themes and ideas being discussed would be of interest to CPU readers, so I've reported on the stuff that's not directly (but most certainly indirectly) related to people who work in the computer industry. My notes on the stuff directly related to high tech industries appears about halfway into the report... -jd]

The Technology and Employment Conference was a unique event. Academia and engineers came together with people from the labor movement to talk about the profound technological changes taking place, and their impact on not just work, since technical advances have always been affecting work, but on the _ability_ to work. The question on the table at the conference wasn't the technology itself, but, as David Arian, president of the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) said during the opening plenary session, who controls it and in whose interest. "You have a social responsibility", Arian said, addressing the engineering students and faculty in the packed hall. "You can't isolate the work you do on campus and think that what you do has no social impact."

Arian described the radical change that computers and electronics have had on the unloading of ships. He sketched out the history of the industry, from the manual unloading of ships in the 1600's, through the development of hoists and later steam and electric winches, then the development of container system, to the newest, state of the art port technology, a completely automated facility now in use in Rotterdam that uses no workers in the unloading of ships. All technical changes up until the mid-1980's included human beings, Arian pointed out, but the most recent changes are now resulting in the "absolute displacement of human beings at the point of production." "If we can't see this radical shift from labor-saving technology to labor-replacing technology, we're missing the point -- we're not talking about the things that are important," Arian said. "The social conscience [to deal with his new situation] has to come from some place," and Arian urged the conference attendees to take up the challenge.

Erik Brynjolfsson, from MIT's Sloan School of Management, told a press briefing that "the economic and social superstructure of the 70's and 80's is not working for the 90's. It's not suited to the new technical environment." Downsizing is substituting human capital with physical capital, he said.

Several speakers discussed the growing polarization in income. Juliet Schor, author of _The Overworked American_, showed that while real unemployment or underemployment (people working part- time jobs who wanted full-time work) had hit 20% in 1989, before the recession started, others are working longer hours -- by her estimate, the average family is working 1000 hours more a year (including unpaid work at home), another half-year of work. "What do we do with the possibility of higher productivity?", she asked the conference. One possibility is to distribute the work more equitably, and to work less. The idea of a shorter work week repeatedly came up. Schor pointed out that the way we distribute benefits, on a per-worker basis, as opposed to per-hour worked, or socially (unrelated to employment), as European countries do, is an incentive for companies not to deal with technical unemployment.

David Feickert, a representative of the British Trades Union Congress to the European Community, said they are pushing for a "Technology Charter", to advance the idea of "human-centered technology", and the idea of "free, disposable time" as a measure of wealth. The European Community has pushed for minimum social standards across the community to minimize what Feickert referred to as "social dumping" -- something left out of the NAFTA agreement.

General Baker (his first name is "General"), an autoworker at the Ford Rouge plant, a longtime union activist, and chairperson of the National Organizing Committee, gave perhaps the most moving talk of the conference, giving the "technological revolution", and the social devastation in its wake, a human face. In 1976, Chrysler employed 56,000 people in 26 plants in the Detroit area. Now they have 63,000 workers nationwide, and that's after they acquired American Motors. Detroit's population has shrunk by 15% in 10 years. Today, the homeless shelters in Detroit are filled with people that used to work in the now-roboticized paint shops and welding lines of the auto plants. Ford recently opened a new transmission factory in the Detroit area -- ten years ago a plant of that capacity would have employed 4,000 people; it only takes 200 to run the new plant. Baker reminded the audience that none of the changes to "lean production" had come without a fight by at least some sections of the autoworkers, as "the struggle for employment is the struggle for livelihood."

Baker and other speakers drew the connection between the changes in technology and cuts in welfare. General Assistance, Baker said, was originally implemented in Michigan in 1937 to provide some income to autoworkers while the factories were closed for model changeover. In 1940, it took six months to switch the machinery and assembly lines around to accommodate a new model. Today, Baker described, the 1993 cars are coming down the line, and right behind them, there come the 1994 cars. Michigan eliminated General Assistance in 1991.

With regards to high technology employment, a few speakers referred to the unemployment rate among engineers being around 4.4%, and that 200,000 scientists are without work. Sarah Kuhn, at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell contrasted the enormous optimism in the computer industry in the early 1980's, where the notion of "jobs for life" had currency, with today, where one out of four workers work on a contingency basis. I spoke on a panel with Charley Richardson, of the Technology and Work Program at U-Mass/Lowell and Marlene Archer of the Boston Computer Society. My remarks will appear in the next issue of CPU.

Richardson gave a number of insightful observations about high tech work. "The starting point is competition," he said, "and the end result is a loss for us," referring to the people who work in the industry. The long hours, high stress, perennial job insecurity associated with work in the new industries "is not a way to build community, have a life, or raise a family." He described this method of economic competition akin to one team at the Super Bowl bringing uzis, and mowing down the other team. The team with the uzis would probably then win the Super Bowl, "but that doesn't make it right." Richardson said the historical Luddites have been given a bum rap -- they were really about trying to develop social programs (a social charter) to save themselves during the transformation from handicraft textile production to industrial textile production. Richardson also described the notion of the U.S. being a "high skill, high wage" economy as racist, because it implied that Third World workers were only good for low skill, low wage work. The move of computer and software production offshore belies this notion, and he quoted from an April, 19, 1993 _Business Week_ cover story on doing business in Mexico:

"Mireya Ruiz, 27, is developing software for IBM in Guadalajara. Her husband, Jorge Ramos, also a programmer, works there, too. Jobs like hers pay high wages fro Mexico, up to $1,600 a month. And despite IBM's turmoil in the U.S., its Mexico operation saw a 10% hike in sales last year and added 7% more jobs to the payroll. The head office even decided to move a big software project from Rochester, N.Y. to Guadalajara, where software engineers are as proficient as they are in the U.S. -- and half as cheap."

The bifurcated computer industry, with high-skill jobs at one end, and no- or low-skill jobs at the other end, also means that workers cannot "rise through the ranks", as was once possible in many industries. "There's no passage in-between." Richardson also spoke about the shift to the "virtual corporation", where production is an ad hoc, temporary coming-together of "independent" contractors, that disperse when the project is complete. "If you guarantee me an income stream, I'll be as virtual as you want," he said. This is the big problem for contractors -- how to survive between contracts, when the work isn't there. "Companies are talking marriage and thinking one- night stand. What happens to the loser?"

Marlene Archer, with the Boston Computer Society, gave a ground- level view of unemployment in the computer industry. When calling lapsed members, the BCS discovered that the two main reasons for the fall-off in membership were company cutbacks -- they were no longer buying memberships for employees -- or the person's job was gone, and they couldn't afford the membership. According to a survey they did, of their 25,000 members, only half were full-time employed. BCS has provided free membership to unemployed members for three months, but that can be extended. They sponsor workshops to help members extend their skills, they host a support group for laid-off computer workers that meets once a week, they maintain a job-posting board, and they provide volunteer opportunities to members who want to stay active with their computer skills.

In another workshop, on "The Telecommunications Revolution," [a packed session, hosted by CPSR Board member Coralee Whitcomb, and including CPSR Board Member Steve Miller discussing the question of universal access to the NII], Ken Peres, a researcher with the Communications Workers of America, discussed the impact of the changes in telecommunications on the people who work in that section of the industry. He drew the following (approximate) diagram on the chalk board:

                    The Workplace of the Future

                       O             +-----+
                    ---+---          |     |
                       ^             |     |
                      / \    O+-+/   |     |
                     -   -    ^ ^    +-----+

                    Worker    Dog   Computer

                                    (Apologies to Mr. Peres)

And explained:

"The purpose of the worker is to feed the dog.

"The purpose of the dog is to bite the worker if he or she touches the computer."

He quoted from Bellcore documents indicating that the phone companies' long-term strategy vis-a-vis technology has been "end- to-end automation", where, from the time an order is placed, until the time the order is in place, there is no human action on the part of the phone company. "This is not just mechanizing, it's total job elimination." He cited the numbers of layoffs in the phone companies (see CPU # 7 and this issue's Labor Bytes). Behind the latest wave of merger-mania among the phone companies and cable companies is "a struggle to control production and distribution" of information in a "vertically organized behemoth." He noted that the phone companies costs have steadily been going down with new technology, while their publicly regulated rates have stayed the same or increased. The phone companies have been moving the resulting extra profits from the regulated, and largely unionized side of the industry, to unregulated, and un-unionized sections of the industry. ATT's purchase of NCR last year, and the mergers with cable companies are examples. ATT was 70% unionized in 1970, in 1990 it was 47% union.

A number of possible solutions kept coming up during the conference -- the need for a new "social charter" (one that can use the potential benefits of the new technology for everyone, and codify health care, education and income guarantees), a shortened work week, a guaranteed income, better distribution of the work that's out there, and the idea of bringing democracy to the workplace. As Elaine Bernard, who heads the Trade Union program at Harvard said, "Employment is a social problem, not an individual one." And at the root, the question of power in society kept recurring, and the imbalance between who controls technology and to what ends, and those who don't. "We're dealing with a beast," said ILWU President David Arian. "We have no power. We need to get back power."

The organizers of the conference were very pleased with the turnout. They intend to follow-up with conference attendees on how to proceed with some of the ideas that came out of the conference. To participate in this process, you can write to:

Technology and Employment Seminar
312 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 253-0108

Some of the ideas broached at the conference include replicating the conference in other areas, like the SF Bay Area and Chicago; and perhaps developing a "People's Technology Platform" out of the discussions from the conferences. _Z Papers_ may also be publishing the papers and talks of the conference presenters.


Dear Reader,

The purpose of this message is to communicate some facts relating to three weeks in the employ of Track Data Corporation (TDC) in the City of London, and to ask you to draw your own conclusions.

This is not a whingeing plea for sympathy, it is more a declaration that I do not cower to little tinpot inadequate bullies masquerading as management.

The following is the most relevant sequence of events starting in July 1993. There is much more material available, but in this instance I'll keep to the main crucial points for brevity :-

(a) At least 86 people apply for the job vacancy created at TDC by somebody's dismissal. During a second interview I make it perfectly clear that if this is not a serious long term commitment on their part then I am not interested, as I would have to scrap other plans which would not be recoverable. I get the job.

(b) I turn up for work and the welcome from the 'European Technical Manager' (ETM) is an irritated "you're lucky, I didn't want you here but the one I wanted took an offer somewhere else" (expletives deleted).

(c) After setting up my PC on the LAN from scratch, the ETM takes a look and says he wants one set up like mine and tells me to do it that evening. I do as I'm told (no overtime is paid BTW).

(d) On my arrival next morning I'm called into the office of an extremely agitated ETM and accused of what is a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act. I defend myself and give him several opportunities to withdraw his ridiculous and potentially highly damaging accusation and apologise, but he reacts with apparent contempt and shows no sign of doing so.

(e) I write to the General Manager (GM) regarding (d).

(f) The next day I get the most grovelling and embarrassing apology from the ETM, who begs me to write another letter to the GM stating that he has apologised and the matter is resolved. I accept his apology and write the letter.

(g) On the first day of the GM's holiday, I turn up for work and am called into the ETM's office where I am summarily dismissed. Despite three weeks in which to find just cause, the only reason given is (e) above.

(h) I communicate with TDC by fax to put my side of whatever story is circulating, and receive a fax from their solicitor demanding : retraction of my statements, an undertaking that I will not send any letters or faxes of any kind to TDC or its staff, and an undertaking not to publish to any third parties any libellous or malicious statements. I reply that nothing I have said is libelous or malicious and I'll communicate with whoever I please. I make it clear that the statement of fact is not libelous and I won't be silenced.

(i) Late at night at my home, I receive an 'anonymous' fax which is extremely personally abusive and threatening. The sender of the fax makes the *false* assumption that I have been relating my experiences "in cyberspace" (sic) and tells me to shut up "OR ELSE" (sic). The fax is rather childishly composed to appear to come from a sinister and all-powerful secret society. Certain facts in the fax prove its connection to TDC, and I report the matter to the Police who do nothing despite a clear breach of the law.

In the months following the above events I've tried to use the legal system to at least get an apology and clear my name, but without success. I will therefore use other methods, of which this message is the beginning.

All of the above facts are backed with documentation and voice recordings.

I expect my credibility to come under attack during my actions against Track Data Corporation, and kindly ask you to allow me to defend myself. I have nothing to hide and would be pleased to answer your questions.

I kindly ask any current or prospective client to carefully consider whether Track Data Corporation have shown themselves to be a 'quality employer', and whether some of their management are fit to wield any power in a responsible and civilised manner. Does TDC's clear contempt for a blameless employee cast doubt on their attitude to their clients? - I think it should. Happily, they are not a monopoly and you have a choice. Please consider all aspects of a company before paying for their services - in the long term it affects us all.

If you would like Track Data Corporation's side of the story, why not ask them ? Once again, I ask for the opportunity to defend myself if I come under attack so I'd appreciate it if you'd relay their response to me. Their address is :-

Track Data Corp., 37 Sun Street, London EC2M 2PY, England Phone: 071 377 0177 Fax: 071 377 5025

(They also have offices in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, Zurich).

I would have liked to give a much longer in-depth account of my short time at Track Data Corporation, but feel it would be overkill.

I authorise and encourage unaltered publication of this article by third parties on any media.

Thank you for your time/bandwidth Alan G. Osborne, 31 Astra House 19 The Mall Bromley Kent BR1 1TT Tel: 081 466 1706

(Alan adds clarification of item (d) above - Ed.)

He was raving about me having "gone through" his files on the server or somewhere. I've no idea what he had to hide, but he seemed very unstable as well as abusive and based his accusation on the appearance of his MS-Windows File Manager (!). It was a preposterous allegation on many counts, of course, not least of which that I didn't have time and was not alone in the office on the evening in question. Besides, I wouldn't dream of compromising my integrity by hacking around for no apparent reason - and for good measure, this during the first week of a job where the boss appears to resent my presence. To be labelled as a mischievous hacker (in the modern highly derogatory sense of the word) would be extremely damaging professionally. I had reason to believe that this accusation would go on my record.


> The Computists' Communique is an AI/IS/CS news service of
> Computists International.  The weekly issues of about 32KB (8
> pages) include job ads, journal calls, NSF announcements, grant
> and research news, online resources, and business tips.
> The Communique is concise and time-saving.  Two less-condensed
> digests are also available.  One covers job opportunities that
> are too applied to be summarized in the weekly Communique; the
> other covers research software announcements.  These timely
> "press release" digests are free if you want them, invisible if
> you don't.  All members get the Communique, so it's our main
> communication channel.
> Computists International is a mutual-aid association, founded
> April 1, 1991.  Members include professors, department heads,
> program directors, research scientists, professors, students,
> consultants, journalists, authors, programmers, and software
> entrepreneurs.  We have Computists in more than a dozen
> countries and in a great many AI-related labs and departments.
> What you get out of an association depends on your needs and on
> what you put in.  I can send a file of enthusiastic testimonials
> if you'd like to see how others have been helped.  Sample issues
> of the Communique are also available -- please ask for one if
> you're at all interested in joining.
> First-year dues are $135 for professionals, $55 for students (or
> those with equivalent salaries), and free for unemployed
> computer scientists.  You get an additional 50% discount if
> you're outside the US.
> -- Dr. Kenneth Laws (415) 493-7390
> Computists International 4064 Sutherland Drive Palo Alto, CA
> 94303 USA


DIAC Call for Workshop Proposals:


Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing (DIAC-94) Symposium, sponsored by CPSR

Cambridge, MA, USA
April 23 - 24, 1994

The National Information Infrastructure (NII) is being proposed as the next- generation "information superhighway" for the 90's and beyond. Academia, libraries, government agencies, as well as media and telecommunication companies are involved in the current development. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) and other organizations believe that critical issues regarding the use of the NII deserve increased public visibility and participation and is using the DIAC Symposium to help address this concern.

The DIAC-94 symposium is a two-day symposium and will consist of presentations on the first day and workshops on the second day. The DIAC Symposia are held biannually and DIAC-94 will be CPSR's fifth such conference. We encourage your participation both through attending and through conducting a workshop. We are currently soliciting workshop proposals. We suggest proposals on the following themes but any topic relating to the symposium theme is welcome.

 Systems and Services            Policy
   + Community networks            + Funding
   + Information services          + Role of government
   + Delivery of social services   + Economic modeling of networks
   + Privacy (including medical)   + Commercialization of the NII
   + Educational support           + Universal access
   + Meeting diverse needs         + Freedom of expression and
                                       community standards

 Electronic Democracy            Directions and Implications
   + Access to information         + Ubiquitous computing
   + Electronic town meetings      + Global hypertext & multimedia
   + Threats to democracy          + Computing in the workplace
   + Economic & class disparities  + Computing and the environment

 International Issues            Traditional & Virtual Communities
   + Language differences          + MUDs
   + Cultural diversity            + Communication ethics, values,
                                       and styles
   + National and international    + Gender relations in c'space
   + Cooperative projects          + Networking for indigenous

Workshops will be an hour and half in length. The proposal should include title, presenter, purpose of workshop, references, and plan. Workshops should substantially involve the audience and proposals in which some group product or action plan is created are preferred. As the proposals may be collected into a book, workshop proposals should be clear and informative to people who don't participate in the workshop. Proposals are due February 15, 1994 and acceptance and rejection notices will be sent by March 15, 1994. To discuss workshops or to submit proposals for workshops contact the program chair, Doug Schuler, doug.schuler @ . Electronic submissions are encouraged but paper versions are also acceptable (send them to CPSR/Seattle - DIAC '94 Workshop Submission, P.O. Box 85481, Seattle, WA 98145- 1481).




April 22-24, 1994

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Holiday Inn Metrodome

Presented By

The Labor Education Service of the Industrial Relations Center, University of Minnesota, The Minnesota AFL-CIO and Union Producers and Programmers Network

In Cooperation with International Labor Communications Association and Labor Institute of Public Affairs, AFL-CIO



  • Workplace at Risk: Jobs and Justice in the Information Age
  • Which Way on the Information Superhighway
  • The Challenge to Unions: Communicating in the 90s


LaborTECH was founded in 1990 to encourage and facilitate the use of new communications technology by labor. Like the three previous conferences, LaborTECH '94 will bring together organizers, computer experts, video and other media producers, and trade unionists with first hand experience to help you and your organization seize the power of new technology.

Changes are taking place at breathtaking speed in the development and use of communications technology ? computer hardware and software, television and imagining equipment, and the construction of the "information super highway." The 1994 LaborTECH Conference: "Labor Seizing the Power of New Technology", zeros in on how unions and their allies can come up to speed and use these new technologies to their own advantage.

These developments also bring with them disturbing changes in workplace dynamics, new job structures, and new physical effects on workers. What are the implications for labor unions, workers, and communities? What will be the impact as control of communication is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few corporate transnationals? Workshops and plenary sessions will also provide information and strategies for confronting the challenges of the "information age" in the workplace and the community.

LaborTECH '94 offers an exciting opportunity for trade unionists to hear a wide array of international, national, and general regional presenters involved in computer networking, video and TV production, workplace and communications issues, all from a union perspective.



  • Computer Software for Contract Research and Data

  • Global to Local: Computer Networking for Solidarity

  • Analog to Digital: What's new in video

  • Labor Video Strategies: Case Studies

  • Labor Computer Strategies: Case Studies

  • Community Radio and Public Access TV

  • Women, Technology and Power

  • How to Computerize Your Local

  • Labor's Voice: PBS and Mainstream Television

  • Technological Access: Haves vs. Have Nots

  • The Changing Workplace: Problems and Opportunities


The conference registration of $125.00 per person includes all plenary sessions, workshops and hands-on labs, plus the International Video Festival on Friday night. Lunch and continental breakfast on Saturday and Sunday are also included.


A special conference rate is available for rooms at the Holiday Inn Metrodome on April 22 and 23. Call (800) 448-3663 or (612) 333-4646, extension 680. Mention the LaborTECH Conference. All reservations will be accepted before March 24, 1994. Reservations after this date will be accepted on a space available basis. Room rate for Single or Double is $68.00 per night plus 12% tax.

For LaborTECH information, registration forms, and brochures contact:

John See or Howard Kling
Labor Education Service
University of Minnesota
217 19th Avenue South, Room 437
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

(612) 624-5020
Fax (612) 626-7747


LAYOFFS, ETC: WORDPERFECT said it will dismiss 1,000, or about 17.5%, of its worldwide workforce. "WordPerfect's action seems prudent," says the _Wall Street Journal_ "given the precipitous collapse in software prices over the past few years...
'Products that once sold for $500 are now selling for a tenth of that' when bundled in a so-called suite of programs". Laid-off employees, regardless of tenure, will receive 60 days' severance (1/25/94)...
The ASK GROUP said that it would lay off about 200, mostly in the U.S, of its 2,500 employees worldwide (_San Francisco Chronicle_, 1/14/94)...
METAPHOR laid off 20% of its 400 employees in January (_San Francisco Examiner_ 1/13/94)...
The dismal last quarterly report from DIGITAL will most likely prompt the company to crank up its layoff engine. Digital already plans to dump 7,000 people by June 30. (_WSJ_ 1/25/94)...
"These are shocking times for people in Silicon Valley... People have been out of work before but the fear now is that there won't be a resurgence in certain areas. Jobs are being eliminated and not coming back," says Jean Rossiter, a head-hunter for high-tech businesses, quoted in "Job Crunch: The Slamming Doors of Silicon Valley" (_New York Times_ , 1/23/94).

TELECOM: The telecom industry begins the year with GTE Corp., the largest local-phone company, announcing that it would cut its workforce by 14% (about 17,000) over the next three years (_SFC_, 1/14/94)... NYNEX announced cuts of 16,800 employees (about 22% of its payroll) in New York and New England by the end of 1996. Over the last four years NYNEX has reduced its work force by 13,000 with nearly all of the cuts coming through voluntary departures "Nynex is hampered by high costs and a work force that is being quickly outmoded by advanced digital technology" (_NYT_, 1/25/94).

HOW MANY NAVVIES WILL WORK THE DATA HIGHWAY? If the numbers employed by the service providers of today are anything to go by, not many! CompuServe serves 1.5M subscribers with 1,600 employees. Prodigy serves 2M subscribers (counting all family members) with 750 employees. America Online has only 350 employees, and AppleLink/e-World has 200. (_San Jose Mercury News_, 1/3/94).

1994 ESTIMATES: The Dept. of Commerce's "US Industrial Outlook 1994" estimates that satellite-based information commerce will increase 22.6%, data processing 15.5%, electronic information 14.4%, and computer professional services 9.6%. (_WSJ_, 12/29/93. EDUPAGE -- cited in _The Computists' Communique_)

TEMPORARY GROWTH: The Bureaus of Labor Statistics says that the temp industry accounts for only 1.4% of the gross domestic product, but generated 15% of all new jobs in the 12 months ending last November. The average part-timer works 22 hours a week; and more than 6 million want more hours. (_WSJ_, 1/25/94)

FOUR UNIONS LAUNCH ORGANIZING DRIVE IN SILICON VALLEY: Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Teamsters, Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees, and Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers hope to more than double union membership by 1997 in Silicon Valley, and are pledging $2 million to make it happen. Adopting a community-based approach, organizers are going door-to- door in low-income neighborhoods, focusing on workers in landscaping, food service, manufacturing and security companies, which will include workers at Silicon Valley high tech firms, or the contract firms they use. The organizing coalition is building on some of the pioneering organizing that SEIU has done with janitors that service companies like APPLE, HEWLETT PACKARD and ORACLE. (_SJMN_, 1/30/94)

9. EOF

"One software company has instituted an Employee Departure Bonus Program. Instead of paying a bonus for getting a friend to join the firm, the EDBP offers a sliding scale of payments for each employee hounded into leaving the company. Demoralizing a vice president of marketing into jumping ship earns a $1000 reward..." writes Steve Evangelou humorously(?) in "Layoff Software: a program concept whose time has unfortunately come" (_BYTE_, 2/94).

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

P.O. Box 717
Palo Alto, CA 94302
cpsr @

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