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CPSR - CPU, Issue 13

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Issue: 013 CPU: Working in the Computer Industry 02/15/95

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



  2. /*COMMENTS*/


  4. FEATURE: "The Truth About The Information Highway" By David Noble

  5. FEATURE: "Telecommunications from Labor's Perspective"

  6. BOOK REVIEW: _The Jobless Future_

  7. BILLBOARD: Two conferences and a list

  8. TOOLBOX: Job board & RSI book

  9. LABOR BYTES: Miscellanea

  10. EOF: "There But for the Grace of God Go I"


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

CPU is a project of the "Working in the Computer Industry" working group of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility / Berkeley Chapter (though views expressed herein are not necessarily those of CPSR).


Computer programmers are strongly attracted to libertarianism. I was first struck by the connection a while back while looking through the list of candidates for the 1992 California state-wide elections. Almost all those running on a proclaimed libertarian platform declared their profession as computer programmer or software engineer or at the very least were connected in some direct manner to the computer industry. Ever since I've noticed the net awash in l-think.

While sometimes claiming they want government out of their private lives -- i.e. non-regulation of sexual and drug practise (all healthy sentiments) -- computer libertarians are most often heard championing the "free market" as the appropriate adjudicator of all relationships under the sun. Arguments usually finish weirdly with individuals making a strange transference defending corporate practise: the liberty to exploit labor and amass property and goods unencumbered by government interference... though, government must remain to guarantee property, even in cyberspace (see the Gingrich Magna Carta. Also see Winter '95 _Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed_ for an informative article on libertarianism).

A recent _Wall Street Journal_ article ("Libertarian Impulses Show Growing Appeal Among the Disaffected: When the Government fails, Many Voters Are Asking: Who Needs It Anyway?: Mixed Blessing for the GOP", 1/20/95) cited the national director of the Libertarian Party saying: "We have more members in one computer company in Seattle than in some whole counties, and that company is Microsoft." The article notes the strong association between libertarians and the computer industry and quotes a computer consultant and a computer-company president, each transported by coming technologies of digital cash and transaction encryptions, which will enable hiding business from government. Able to avoid taxation, they question representation.

The article goes on to draw out the implications. "The social consequences of such ideas are enormous... If the electronically empowered were able to amass income beyond the reach of the Internal Revenue Service, for instance, the burden of financing government functions that even libertarians consider essential -- national defense, the courts and foreign policy -- would fall inordinately on those who don't have the same technological sophistication." While we may argue the merits and demerits of State (particularly the current U.S. government, run by a two- faced Speaker all for welfare-for-lockheed-but-none-for-children), what we are really seeing here, I'd argue, is a technician's version of the rich securing themselves in new snow-crash cities, opting out of a wider tax-base, and generally detaching and/or insulating themselves from the tumbling majority.

Does learning a computer language somehow soften the brain and kill social identification with others? Does working those long hours square-eyed in front of a monitor make the rest of the world fade so all that remains is the computer and you? Marathon programming stints do tend to dehumanize, but most of us recover after a couple of hours.

Gary Chapman, writing in _New Republic_ (1/9-1/16) of the digital generation that "libertarian" WIRED magazine has "identified, courted and helped shape", says it "is [a generation] that seems to have grown up without any civic obligations or significant hardships." Methinks this is at the root of the libertarian impulse.




From: Lucas Gonze
Subject: RE: Certification for Professions in computing

Just wanted to respond to one of the letters to the editor... [written by Jean Renard Ward, in CPU.012]

>The argument that technologies and standards in computing change
>too fast for certification to work fails with at least one very
>obvious counter-example: [...]

Point taken, but the pace of change in technology isn't the best reason to say certification is impossible. Good programmers accumulate data on how given technologies work (for example, operating systems) on the fly. What makes them good is completely different: 1) handling logic puzzles and 2) creative problem solving. Both of these are general "inclinations" as opposed to specific skills, and because of this, both defy testing.

>Physicians are both professionally unionized, and certified by
>the state. [snip] It is also a highly technical field where
>technologies and basic medical understanding in the specialties
>change often.

Physician certification encourages doctors to be correct instead of insightful. Good programmers tend to be the other way around.

>Engineers __are__ professionally unionized and certified in

True, but the European software industry is a bust. Flaky, undependable, uncertified American software engineers seem to be what the market wants.

[Sigh. We suggest you review back issues of CPU, and notice that the software industry is a global industry. It would appear that what the "market" wants is easy to hire-and-fire, cheap, dependable, available, expert engineers, whether they be Irish, French, Indian, Russian or American (and all points in-between). The U.S. certainly doesn't have a corner on that market, and we as programmers are dead in the water if we think so. As to the other points, why do employers require programmer's to have particular language skills, expertise in particular narrow areas and X years of experience if the trade is all "insight" to be picked up "on the fly." The letter writer seems to have a romantic notion of the programmer's trade, as most of it is rote, with the practice of insight the exception rather than the rule.-- Eds.]


From: John Roxburgh <JR1700@UCSFVM.UCSF.EDU>
Subject: Re: Inappropriate Language

In re: John Desmond's letter to the editor in CPU 012, regarding the use of "inappropriate" language, I must respectfully disagree. The purpose of publishing a paper or article is to communicate information to the reader. Logically, the writing style should be judged according to how well (or how poorly) it supports this goal, and not according to the degree of its conformity to some arbitrary standard.

To illustrate: The latest (v.1 n.48) issue of INFOSYS, perhaps the archetype of a "respectable on-line publication," includes the following among a list of working papers which are currently available from the Department of Information Systems at the City Polytechnic University of Hong Kong:

94/28 Miss Linda Lai
Complementarity of Systems Enquiry and Data Analysis in Information Systems Development

The title of the article which so aroused Mr. Desmond's wrath was:


Not to put too fine a point on it -- as I have the greatest respect and admiration for someone willing to write academic papers in a language other than their first -- which of these two pieces promises to deliver its informational load succinctly, cogently, and in a manner accessible to ordinary humans; and which seems more likely to be a highly effective cure for insomnia?


From: Glenn.S.Berman@CONRAIL
Subject: DPMA Contact

I was just forwarded a copy of 'CPU' & it looks great.

I just wanted to alert you that your reference 2 prof. organizations, IEEE & ACM only mentioning the availability of group insurance through them. Obviously, prof. orgs. serve other purposes... education, publications, networking, discounts on insurance & car rentals, etc.

I am President of the Montgomery County Chapter (PA, outside Phila.) of the Data Processing Management Association. We're an international organization, which has been around for over 30 years. Our membership is diverse, made up of programmers, analysts, managers, vice presidents of I/S, directors, data architecture people, PC & mainframe specialists, hardware & software vendors, consultants & recruiters (or, if you prefer, headhunters).

If you or any of your readers would like additional info, please contact our Na office at (708) 825-8124, P.O. Box 978, Park Ridge, IL 60068-0978.

Locally, we are planning a regional conference for May 11-12th about the Inform Highway. It will be held at the Great Valley (near Valley Forge) Hilton. It is a joint effort by us, Phila. and 2 other chapters in the area. Our region consists eastern PA, DE, MD, northern VA & Washington, D.C.

DPMA has a Compuserve forum for I/S professionals to exchange ideas and help solve each others' problems.

Additionally, our organization are members of the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals. This is the organization which conducts the CDP tests. ACM, ASM, ACW, BDPA, CIPS, ICCA, COMMON, ISTE & MMA are all constituent societies. If you'd like more info about certification, about which you published a letter to the editor [in CPU 012], ICCP may be reached at: (708) 299- 4227, 2200 E. Devon Ave., Suite 2 Des Plaines, IL 60018-4503.

Glenn S. Berman


by David Noble

At the end of November, the truth about the information highway finally got out. Protesting the announcement of another 5600 layoffs, 1200 Bell-Atlantic employees in Pennsylvania wore T- shirts to work which graphically depicted themselves as Information Highway Roadkill. The layoffs were just the latest round of cutbacks at Bell-Atlantic, which have been matched by the elimination of jobs at the other giants of the telecommunications industry -- ATT, NYNEX, Northern Telecom -- supposedly the very places where new jobs are to be created with the information highway. In reality, the technology is enabling companies to extend their operations and enlarge their profits while reducing their workforce, and the pay and security of those who remain, by contracting out work to cheaper labor around the globe and by replacing people with machines. The very workers who are constructing the new information infrastructure are among the first to go, but not the only ones. The same fate is facing countless workers in manufacturing and service industries in the wake of the introduction of these new information technologies.

What is most striking about the Bell-Atlantic episode is not just the provocative fashion statement of the workers, members of Communication Workers of America District 13. Rather, it was the company's exaggerated response. Bell Atlantic demanded that the workers remove the T-shirts and when they refused, their employer suspended them without pay. According to Vince Maison, president of the union, the employer suspended the employees out of expressed fear that their message would be seen by the public. Significantly, management was concerned about adverse publicity not just for Bell Atlantic but, more importantly, for the information highway itself. This was the first time the information highway was unambiguously linked with unemployment, by a union and workforce presumably best situated to reap its promised benefits. Apparently the company believed there was too much riding on the information highway bandwagon to allow this sober message to get around. But it did anyway. The (probably illegal) management action backfired. Rather than a few hundred customers catching a glimpse of the T-shirts during the course of the day's work, millions throughout North America saw them through the media coverage of the suspensions; within hours, the union was inundated with phone calls of support and orders for the T-shirts. The truth was out.

By now probably everyone has heard of the information highway, as a result of the massive propaganda blitzkrieg of the last year. Announcements heralding the dawn of a new age emanate incessantly and insistently from every quarter. The media gush with the latest info highway traffic reports (but not the fatalities), all levels of government are daily pressured into diverting public monies into yet another private trough, every hi-tech firm, not to mention every hustler and con artist in the business and academic worlds is rushing to cash in on the manufactured hysteria. The aggressive assault on our senses is aimed at securing public support and subsidy for the construction of the new commercial, infrastructure. Its message, which has become the mind-numbing multinational mantra, is simple and direct: We have no other choice. Our very survival, it is alleged as individuals, a national, a society, depend upon this urgent development. Those without it will be left behind in the global competition. And those with it? A recent "Futurescape" advertisement supplement to the _Globe and Mail_ by Rogers Cantel and Bell Canada warned that the information highway "raises the ante in competition. If we don't act, Canada and Canadian companies will be left behind.... the information highway is not a luxury technology for the rich. It is the way of the future. And those who do not get on the highway will not have any way of reaching their ultimate destination."

And what exactly is the destiny advanced by the information highway? Ask the Bell-Atlantic employees. The propaganda never mentions the roadkill, of course, but that is the future for many. Most people in Canada instinctively seem to know this already. According to a 1993 Gallup poll, 41% of those currently employed believe they will lose their jobs. But, despite this intuition, people have been terrorized into a hapless fatalism. It's inevitable. Or else they have been seduced by the exciting array of new tools and diversions: home-shopping, home-videos, home- learning, home-entertainment, home-communication. The operative word is home, because home is where people without jobs are -- if they still have a home. The focus is on leisure, because there will be a lot more of it, in the form of mass unemployment (Some lucky few will get home-work, as their job takes over their home in the sweatshops of the future). This is where we are headed on the information highway.

To see where we are headed requires no voodoo forecasting, futuristic speculation, much less federally-funded research. We just need to take a look at where we've been, and where we are. The returns are already in on the Information Age, and the information highway promises merely more of the same, at an accelerated pace.

In the wake of the information revolution (now four decades old -- the term cybernetics and automation were coined in 1947). People are now working harder and longer (with compulsory overtime), under worsening working conditions with greater anxiety, stress, and accidents, with less skills, less security, less autonomy, less power (individually and collectively), less benefits, and less pay. Without question the technology has been developed and used to deskill and discipline the workforce in a global speed-up of unprecedented proportions. And those still working are the lucky ones. For the technology has been designed above all to displace.

Structural (that is, permanent and systemic as opposed to cyclical) unemployment in Canada has increased with each decade of the information age. With the increasing deployment of so-called "labor-saving" technology (actually labor-cost saving) official average unemployment has jumped from 4% in the 1950's, 5.1% in the 1960's, 6.7% in the 1970's, and 9.3% in the 1980's, to 11% so far in the 1990's.

These, of course, are the most conservative estimates (actual unemployment is closer to double these figures). Today we are in the midst of what is called a jobless recovery, symptomatic and symbolic of the new age. Output and profits rise without the jobs which used to go with them. Moreover, one fifth of those employed are only part-time or temporary employees, with little or no benefits beyond barely subsistence wages, and no security whatever.

In 1993, an economist with the Canadian Manufacturers Association estimated that between 1989 and 1993, 200,000 manufacturing jobs were eliminated through the use of new technology -- another conservative estimate. And that was only in manufacturing, and before the latest wave of information highway technology, which will make past developments seem quaint in comparison.

None of this has happened by accident. The technology was developed, typically at public expense, with precisely these ends in mind by government (notably military), finance, and business elites -- to shorten the chain of command and extend communications and control (the military origins of the Internet), to allow for instantaneous monitoring of money markets and funds transfer, and to enable manufacturers to extend the range of their operations in pursuit of cheaper and more compliant labor.

Thus as the ranks of the permanently marginalized and impoverished swell, and the gap between rich and poor widens to 19th century dimensions, it is no mere coincidence that we see a greater concentration of military, political, financial, and corporate power than ever before in our history. In the hands of such self- serving elites -- and it is now more than ever in their hands -- the information highway, the latest incarnation of the information revolution, will only be used to compound the crime.

Visions of democratization and popular empowerment via the net are dangerous delusions; whatever the gains, they are overwhelmingly overshadowed and more than nullified by the losses. As the computer screens brighten with promise for the few, the light at the end of the tunnel grows dimmer for the many.

No doubt there has been some barely audible and guarded discussion if not yet debate about the social implications of the information highway focusing upon such issues as access, commercial vs. public control and privacy. There is also now a federal advisory commission on the information highway although it meets in secret without public access or scrutiny, doubtless to protect the proprietary interests of the companies that dominate its membership. But nowhere is there any mention of the truth about the information highway, which is mass unemployment.

For decades we have silently subsidized the development of the very technologies which have been used to destroy our lives and livelihoods, and we are about to do it again, without debate, without any safeguards, without any guarantees. The calamity we now confront, as a consequence, rivals the upheaval of the first industrial revolution two centuries ago, with its untold human suffering. We are in for a struggle unlike anything any of us have ever seen before, as the Bell-Atlantic employees testify, and we must use any and all means at our disposal. It's time we came to our collective senses, while there is still time. We must insist that progress without people is not progress. At the very least, as a modest beginning, we pull the public plug on the Information Highway.

[David Noble is a professor at York University and a historian of technology. He taught for nearly a decade at M.I.T. and was curator of the industrial automation at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He is the author of numerous books, including _Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation_ (Oxford University Press) and, most recently, _Progress Without People_ (a Canadian edition will be published this spring by Between the Lines). He lives in Canada.]


[The following comes from the Telecommunication Policy Roundtable's listserver, January 3, 1995 General Meeting Draft Minutes. To subscribe to the TPR listserver, send the message SUB ROUNDTABLE YOUR NAME to]

_"Telecommunications from Labor's Perspective" - a presentation by Debbie Goldman, Research Economist for the Communications Workers of America.

Ms. Goldman presented a general overview of union efforts and accomplishments in organizing within the evolving telecommunications industry. Key highlights from her presentation:

  • CWA represents 500,000 workers in the converging communications industry - most in traditional telephone. Despite the RBOC's (Regional Bell Operating Companies) efforts to maintain a division between labor relations policy in telephone and labor relations in other subsidiaries such as wireless. CWA has major organizing taking place in wireless. CWA also has union organizing projects going on in cable, too.

  • CWA's soon-to-be-approved merger with the Newspaper Guild will make it a union for workers servicing networks and also workers providing information to the networks.

  • CWA's major union contracts with AT&T and the RBOC's expire this year. Thus, in the midst of tremendous change in the telecommunications industry, CWA will be renegotiating these contracts.

  • Convergence is bringing together very different work forces. The wireline telephone industry is approximately 75% unionized, publishing and printing industries are only 35% unionized, and the percentage in the broadcast industry is even lower. The wireless industry is less than 1% unionized.

  • For wireless, the current major organizing project involves Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems. Three or four units have been organized.

  • Goldman made available two reports to the TPR, "Preserving High-Wage Employment in Telecommunications" and "Changing Information Services - Strategies for Workers and Consumers." Copies of these reports may be obtained by calling CWA (202) 434-1194.

  • CWA's president, Morty Bahr, is one of several public interest representatives on the Administration's National Information Infrastructure Task Force's (NII) Advisory Council and has been advocating the bedrock principle of universal and affordable access to communication networks and services.

  • Ms. Goldman shared several graphs with the TPR which:

    • showed that while overall workers' wages have fallen since 1973, unionized telecommunications workers have been able to maintain a stable standard of living; non-unionized telecommunications workers, however, are compensated significantly less for the same work.

    • showed the disparity in how companies treat their workers. For example, unionized Bell Atlantic pays a technician an hourly wage of $18.93 (or $35,000 per year) and provides a comprehensive, paid health plan and pension. In contrast, TCI pays about $10 per hour; workers must pay their own health insurance premiums; and TCI provides no pension - "In fact TCI makes it a policy that any place that CWA gets a contract, they refuse to negotiate a 401K plan - (they do often offer that as an incentive to their workers where there are no union contracts.)"

    • compared Sprint (a nonunion company) with AT&T (a unionized company) showing Sprint paying workers in positions predominantly filled by females, far below the union wage, "effectively reversing what 50 years of collective bargaining has done for women in the telecommunications industry. We are the only majority female service industry in the private sector, in which women earn what you would call an average wage in our society. We have been able, through collective bargaining, to overcome historic labor market based pay inequity. Sprint has brought it back."

    • traced the cash flow of the RBOC's. After paying all of their operating expenses these telephone companies in 1984- 1993 had an operating profit of 74.8 billion dollars. Those moneys flowed "up the ladder" to the parent holding companies - the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC's) - which then took 5.5 billion from the profit and reinvested it into the Bell Operating Company POTS (plain old telephone service), leaving 59 billion. 51 billion of those dollars were distributed to stockholders as dividends leaving 18.3 billion to invest in nontelephone investments. This 18.3 billion is made possible by the ratepayers and telephone employees. "Thus, both ratepayers and employees have a joint interest in making sure that these profits will be used to ensure that good jobs don't disappear and service doesn't decline."

  • Ms. Goldman described the various aggressive anti-union tactics employed by companies such as TCI and Sprint - from face to face confrontation and intimidation to anti-union video and pamphlet campaigns. "In this market, people have to be enormously courageous to stand up against this kind of (industry) pressure."

  • Goldman described telecommunication companies efforts to cut costs by firing employees and hiring subcontractors to do the same work, at lower pay, without benefits, and no job security. "You see many instances (usually with the managers) where an employee is hired and fired on day one then rehired back as an independent contractor. But they are not counted in the employment numbers."

  • At CWA we recognize that having an experienced well paid workforce that does not have high turnover, that stays on the job, that has good training, is key to service. Corporate re- engineering is affecting that. "At US West, for example, the company plans to go from hundreds of local exchanges down to 14 megacenters: engineering of the new network is being done out of one place for 14 states - 1/3 of the US geographically." In eliminating positions and centralizing operations, telephone service is in decline. In one study, USWEST failed to answer 70% of the calls placed to it by customers by a standard metric given, 25% of the customers received busy signals, and 8% were on hold so long they hung up."

  • CWA is working to negotiate agreements with the RBOC employers ensuring job retraining and placement for employees let go as companies downsize and industries converge. Thus, when companies start up new services, they would rehire former telephone union employees.


by Stanley Aronowitz & William DiFazio
University of Minnesota Press, 1994

I got this book for Christmas. I was given a gift certificate -- and though I'd been told the book wasn't that good -- the cheesy fountain and mall-atmosphere at Berkeley Barnes & Noble was bringing on a headache. I had to cash in my present fast.

This book ain't about no pork-chop. Its serious stuff. The authors contend jobs -- work as we know it -- is going away. They cite the tendency of new jobs to be part-time and/or temporary, and often at minimum wage. Official unemployment figures fail to measure the state of partial employment and those who have given up looking for work. The authors mention the thousands of layoffs at GM, IBM, Boeing, Kodak and Sears and that even "the older and most prestigious professions of medicine, university teaching, law, and engineering are in trouble: doctors and lawyers and engineers are becoming like assembly-line clerks... proletarians" (p. 54). The authors comment ":... we have yet to feel the long- term effects on American living standards that will result from the elimination of well-paid professional, technical and production jobs" (p. xi).

The mass of layoffs and the destruction of high-quality, well- paid, permanent jobs is produced by three closely related developments:

"First in response to pervasive, long-term economic stagnation and to new scientifically based technologies, we are experiencing massive restructuring of patterns of ownership and investment in the global market. Fewer companies dominate larger portions of the world market in many sectors, and national boundaries are becoming progressively less relevant to how business is done, investment deployed and labor employed... Second, the relentless application of technology has destroyed jobs and, at the same time, reduced workers' living standards by enabling transnational corporations to deterritorialize production... " and thirdly, U.S. corporations are locating not only low-skilled jobs, but also design and development activities in other countries such as India and China where labor is both skilled and cheap (p 8-9).

Their thesis may be synopsized: "All of the contradictory tendencies involved in the restructuring of global capital and computer-mediated work seem to lead to the same conclusion for workers of all collars -- that is, unemployment, underemployment, decreasingly skilled work, and relatively lower wages. These sci- tech transformations of the labor process have disrupted the workplace and worker's community and culture. High technology will destroy more jobs than it creates. The new technology has fewer parts and fewer workers and produces more product. This is not only in traditional production industries but for all workers, including managers and technical workers...." (p. 3).

Commenting particularly on computer programmers: "The specific character of computer-aided technologies is that they no longer discriminate between most categories of intellectual and manual labor. With the introduction of computer-aided software programming (CASP), the work of perhaps the most glamourous of the technical professions associated w/ computer technology -- programming -- is irreversibly threatened. Although the "real" job of creating new and basic approaches will go on, the ordinary occupation of computer programmer may disappear just like that of the drafter, whose tasks were incorporated by computer-aided design and drafting by the late 1980s. CASP is an example of a highly complex program whose development requires considerable knowledge, but when development costs have been paid and the price substantially reduced, much low-level, routine programming will be regulated to historical memory" (p. 21).

Arguing the above is the meat (& potatoes) of the book but chapters are given over to exploring aspects of these developments, particularly the commercialization of science and the university (i.e. the subordination of knowledge to serve profit-motives to the detriment of any other determinant).

Other chapters look at a city-planning office to study the effects CAD has had on the city-drafters and designers over the years; unions and their experience organizing "professionals" such as doctors, teachers and lawyers; the university tiered, tracked and tenure system; and recent writers on class (What!!! Class you say?!).

The authors devote a chapter to class analysis because -- though soft-pedaling -- they locate an important nexus of social change in a "New Class" of knowledge workers (after the work of Alvin Gouldner but with important qualifications), especially as the blue-collar worker and the service worker are replaced by automation. They acknowledge that members of the new class have "traditionally been the servant of corporate capital and the state." But Aronowitz and DiFazio see that with the proletarianization of knowledge workers described in their book -- and while capital still depends on their labor -- the new class begins questioning their identification with an exploitative ruling elite.

Here the authors' argument is weak. They say that computer programmers etc. constitute a new class, yet at the same time -- while describing its disappearance -- they are arguing that they really aren't that much different from their blue and pink collar cousins. Why not look to those outside of production altogether -- the marginalized former factory workers, managers, operators, (and yes, even programmers) etc., unemployed, or barely employed in temp or part-time or minimum wage work, who have little or no stake in the status quo -- as the "new class"?

An interesting couple of pages in _The Jobless Future_ traces the origins of "The War on the Poor", talking of a changing perception particularly amongst "liberals and leftist intellectuals" which has seen the resurfacing of the English 18th century ideal that "moral character" is built by economic independence -- without consideration that a (growing) unemployable class has no hope of participating in a shrinking labor market.

In the last chapter, the authors suggest some "pathways" for the future, taking into account presuppositions of their book study. "In addition, our proposals assume the goal of assuring the _possibility_ of the full development of individual and social capacities" (p. 343). Things they argue for: The need to reduce working hours; regulating capital to prevent capital flight; education as a right rather than a privilege (particularly poignant in "knowledge" times); a guaranteed income; a new research agenda steered away from profit to human motives and so on. They argue that we need to go beyond "full employment" towards "no employment" -- through the steps of shorter work weeks, redistributed work load, and so forth, and work to set things up so that such is possible.

Aronowitz and DiFazio's argument for a jobless future is convincing. It's recommended reading for those trying to get a handle on the changing workplace and its social fall-out. Their book also seems to have arrived into a spate of no-future-for-work commentary. There's the FutureWork list (see below). There is also Breecher writing in _Z Magazine_, a recent _Business Week_ article on the "Re-Thinking Work", a _Fortune_ cover story on "The End of the Job", the Canadian book _Shifting Time_ by Armine Yalnizyan, T. Ran Ide & Arthur J. Cordell, and the new book by Jeremy Rifkin, _The End of Work_.

In the face of these observations and predictions, nothing is being done to address the social dislocation upon us (unless you count prison construction) when the agency by which humans obtain necessities -- through sale of their skills and abilities -- is going away. Even worse, as Aronowitz and DiFazio remark at the start of their book, a grand delusion is in operation "as experts, politicians, and the public become acutely aware of new problems associated with the critical changes in the economy -- crime, poverty, homelessness, hunger, education downsizing, loss of tax revenues to pay for public services, and many other social issues -- the solution is always the same: jobs, jobs, jobs" (p. xi).



03/02/95 (Ontario/Canada), sponsored by the Ontario Federation Of Labor.

The one-day conference will deal with new information technology's effect on workers and unions. Open to members of Ontario Federation of Labor affiliates. Call John Anderson at 416-441- 2731 for more information and location.

03/03/95 - 03/04/95 Chicago, IL, sponsored by the Center for Urban Economic Development, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The conference will focus on the impact of the Technology Revolution on economic life, and it's social consequences. How new technologies can be deployed to raise everyone's standard of living. Community & union activists encouraged. To participate in discussions around the conference and conference issues, join the JOB-TECH mailing list. Send the following message:


to For more information, mail or call 312-996-5463

Jeremy Rifkin (author of _The End of Work_) will give the keynote on Thursday, March 2, 7:30 pm. Email for more info.

FUTUREWORK is a list concerning work, income distribution, and education under economic globalization and technological change. Much of the input has been interesting though the volume tends to overwhelm. Check it out. Send a "sub futurework your name" message to . For a moderated (and promised to be quieter) version of the list, Send a "sub FW-L your name" message to .

This tidbit about the bigger computer industry picture was in a recent Futurework post:

"I am an American and received engineering degrees from MIT and Stanford. For most of the past 8 years I have lived in Southeast Asia, either in Thailand or Singapore ... and for more than one year now I have been working for an American computer parts manufacturer in Thailand. The company is called Read-Rite.

"The future of work is often epitomized by the situation I am in. Our headquarters are in California (Milpitas). We have 1000 people in California, 8,800 in Thailand, 6,000 in the Philippines, 2,000 in Malaysia, 400 in Japan, and 20 in Singapore. The products we make (thin film magnetic recording heads for hard drives) were developed initially with hundreds of scientists and engineers at IBM in the early 80's. Now, we make millions of them yearly with a labor force that consists primarily of 18 to 25 year old high school graduates in developing countries."


INTERNET WWW JOB BOARD: ADION Information Service's "Monster Board" has good pictures and a bunch of job listings. You can actually apply on-line. Most of the opportunities are in the north-east (which would explain why my search on Software- Engineering jobs in California only turned up two openings). It is free at Email (From PR Newswire Boston, 12/05/94).


Tammy Crouch ( writes CPU:

Here's info on my first book on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The second book won't be out till later this year.

Title: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Overuse Injuries: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery"
Author: Tammy Crouch with Dr. Michael Madden Publisher: North
Atlantic Books, 1992
Price: $9.95. ISBN: 1-55643-135-X

This book shows how alternative therapies can enlarge the range of treatment choices beyond medication, cortisone injections, and surgery. Helps patients make the necessary changes in lifestyle, diet and attitude to recover from and even prevent repetitive stress injuries. Specific chapters cover ergonomics and computers, exercise, stress reduction, and much more.


JOBS: BORLAND is to cut 40% of its world-wide work force. The reduction from 1,700 to 1,040 workers is to be completed by June. (_WSJ_, 1/18/95) Meanwhile, Borland founder and still-chairman Philippe Kahn is taking up some of the slack in a new venture he is starting, called STARFISH SOFTWARE -- it will hire 30 people. (_New York Times, 2/10/95) 3D0 fired somewhere between "single digits" and 50 of its 300 workers the week before Christmas (_SFC_, 12/20/95). PRODIGY, the SEARS/IBM computer information service founded in the mid-1980s, is cutting its workforce by 15% laying of about 100 of its nearly 700 employees. In 11 years Prodigy has consumed more than $1 billion of its parents' money without turning a dime of profit. The _NYT_ suggests that new tech is partly to blame: HTML and other software tools allow individuals and businesses to create for themselves some of the services that Prodigy used to have to provide for them. (_WSJ_, 12/6/94, _NYT_ 12/6/94). UNISYS, the perpetrators of the recent GIF tiff on COMPUSERVE, will cut 4,000 jobs worldwide. The company has cut one-third of its workforce since 1990 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/30/94). The next day after that announcement, Unisys announced the formation of a fully-owned subsidiary in India. According to Newsbytes (1/4/95) the subsidiary, to be known as Unisys India Ltd., will be fully operational by March, 1995... Some 1,400 TANDY employees could lose their jobs when Tandy shuts down its Video Concepts and McDuff retail outlets (Newsbytes, 1/3/95).

TELECOM: Some more notes on the Bell-Atlantic "Road Kill" layoffs. BELL ATLANTIC paid Chief Executive Officer Raymond W. Smith $2,462,800 in salary, bonuses and stock options in 1993. The next four executive officers split $3,434,600. Bell Atlantic's value has increased 211 percent over the last five years. While the telephone industry was once 90 percent unionized, the multi-media industry is perhaps 35 percent organized. (Workers World Service 12/4/94) MERCURY COMMUNICATIONS LTD., the second largest British telephone company, plans to reduce its work force of 11,500 by about one third. All of the cuts are expected by the end of 1995. (LABOR-L 12/6/94)

FACTS AND MYTHS: The November '94 issue of _IEEE Spectrum_ completed a series on engineering employment with an article on "Layoffs: Myths and Facts." This last article has a U.S. focus and illustrates its previous claims with personal stories of engineers. Spectrum reports that while many indicators suggest that an economic recovery is under way, layoffs in high-technology companies are continuing. Not only are permanent jobs scarce, but a lot of vacant ones pay 10-50 percent less than such positions paid only a few years ago, and may also demand relocation. "Moreover, according to at least one observer, the full-time job itself may be disappearing as a way of structuring work."

The myths and facts:

-- MYTH: Being at the cutting edge of technology makes an engineer 

-- MYTH: Having many talents will set an engineer apart from the

-- MYTH: Skills learned in defense work can be easily converted to
   civilian use.

-- FACT: Continuing education or reeducation will keep an engineer 

-- FACT: Salaries of full-time engineers are falling.

-- FACT: Demand for temporary engineers is booming and
   compensation is high.

(Thanks to Jeff Johnson for pointing us at the article).

HOW LEAN IS MY VALLEY: Silicon Valley is 15 percent healthier than it was a year ago according to a new index developed by a public- private organization, "Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network", cited in the _San Francisco Chronicle_ (1/9/95).

The area surveyed -- Santa Clara county, parts of San Mateo, Alameda county (to Fremont/Newark) and Santa Cruz county (to Scotts Valley) with a population of 2 million -- gained an estimated 5,600 jobs last year after losing about 25,000 jobs from 1991 to 1993. "The paradox is that companies are more productive but they are doing it with fewer people," said Rebecca Morgan, president of JVSVN. Other findings are that software has emerged as the largest job generator but growth in four key industries, including software, was not enough to compensate for the loss of 17,332 defense jobs and 11,775 semiconductor jobs during the same period. Despite the net decline, work that remains is generally high-skill, high-pay.

Women and minority workers are making some progress. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of women managers more than doubled, to 59,933 from 28,858. The number of female engineers nearly tripled, to 12,236 from 4,399. Minority managers more than doubled to 32,642 from 13,534 and minority engineers shot to 21,874 from 8,405. By comparison, all managerial jobs in Santa Clara County increased 53 percent during the same period and engineering jobs grew by 62 percent [Why didn't this article give minorities and women as percentages also? - Ed.]. Despite the region's wages and wealth, charitable giving is below-average. Though the San Jose area ranks third in personal income, it ranks 39th in charitable giving. The study shows corporate giving isn't much better.

DEMAND FOR PH.D.s: Although the number of scientists with Ph.D.s keeps rising every year, job prospects for them keep dropping. More than 12 percent of new Ph.D.s in math had no jobs after graduation, and there is a 20-year high in joblessness among chemists. The trends suggest that the future for most American scientists lies in industry rather than in traditional academic research and teaching. (_Newsweek_ 12/5/94, from _INNOVATION_ 12/12/94. _INNOVATION_ is published once each week, with individual subscriptions available at $15 a year. To subscribe to Innovation, send the word "subscribe" in the body (not subject!) of a mail message to: Innovation-Request@NewsScan.COM)

RSI: The Labor Department reports that repetitive stress injuries are up almost 10% over last year, with 302,000 workers claiming problems. In 1984, only 34,700 U.S. workers reported RSI injuries. (Investor's Business Daily 12/28/94). A former administrative assistant at a Minnesota high school is suing IBM for more than $50,000, claiming she developed RSI from using an IBM keyboard. Apple Computer Inc. is also a defendant in the case. The two companies have denied the allegations, saying that the claimant's injuries are the result of her own negligence. (_Tampa Tribune_ 1/3/95).

HOLY SLAVE-LABOR: Bad enough competing with slave wages in the maquiladoras or Chinese (or American) prisons -- now the Roman Catholic Church is in on the game. 30 monks and nuns at six monasteries have turned their hands to new tasks on computers, including entering and checking data for publications, indexes and library catalogs. According to Edward M. Leonard, the president of Electronic Scriptorium Ltd., "The younger monks just love it. They see the computer as an extension of the monastery and something holy." [? - Ed] The head librarian for the Amherst County Public Library, said Electronic Scriptorium's $12,000 bid for converting its 32,000-card catalog was the lowest of three bids it received last winter. She attributed Electronic Scriptorium's "remarkably error-free" results to the lack of distraction in the lives of the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago who handled that particular assignment. "They were taking prayer breaks, not coffee breaks," she said. Leonard said each monk earns an hourly wage of $8 to $12. (_SFC_ 1/9/95) [Meanwhile, workers at the Vatican walked off of their jobs recently, complaining that they hadn't received a pay increase in eight years.]

IBM GERMAN UNIT LOSE IN COURT RULING OVER WORK HOURS -- IG Metall, Germany's largest industrial union, said it won a court victory in its dispute with an IBM subsidiary over working hours. IBM Deutschland Informationssysteme GmbH cannot unilaterally impose a 38-hour workweek on IG Metall members. IG Metall's contract calls for a 36-hour workweek.

The latest issue of _Resistor_, the newsletter of IBM Workers United writes that 700 workers laid of at Endicot, Poughkeepsie and Burlington are being replaced by essentially the same amount of temporary workers. It also notes that computer programmers who work as contractors for IBM in Austin, Texas claim IBM is using low-paid programmers from India to replace higher paid American workers according to an article in the Austin _American- Statesman_. The Labor Department is investigating Tata Information Systems, the employment firm responsible for hiring Indian programmers for the US. The article's author remarks "But we must remember that the temporary worker or the Indian programmer is NOT the enemy. The enemy is corporate greed and the designers of these policies who sit in the corporate board rooms forcing wages down worldwide and trying to keep all of us at each others throats."

[Thanks to Edupage/Educom for some of these pieces. Also thanks to Sid Shniad for passing us material]


"[I]n Silicon Valley this week, there was widespread condemnation of Intel's continuing refusal to acknowledge what outside experts consider to be the true depth of the problem. And yet the consensus among computer designers outside Intel seemed to be sympathy for their technical colleagues inside the world's largest chip maker.

"'Most of these guys think, "There but for the grace of God go I,"' said Jerome Coonen, an independent computer designer who helped develop the mathematical functions for Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh computer. 'They think, "I'm lucky they haven't found those wacky operations under my hood,"' Mr. Coonen added.

"Intel's Pentium foul-up can be traced to a tiny human error by an unidentified designer at the company.

"The flaw that has mired the Pentium in controversy was created by the simple omission of several lines of data from the software the designers used to create the chip's transistors. That in turn meant a handful of transistors were missing from the finished chip..." (John Markoff, "A Harsh New Arena", _NYT_, 12/14/94)

CPU extends a hand of support to the Unidentified Designer: Sister or Brother: Courage! We've been there too. We stand with you!

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