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IBM Businesses The Almighty Buck Politics

IBM Union Calls It Quits (computerworld.com) 248

dcblogs writes: A 16-year effort by the Communication Workers of America to organize IBM employees into a union is ending. The union's local, the Alliance@IBM, is suspending 'organizing' efforts, and says its membership has been worn down by IBM's ongoing decline of its U.S. work force as it grows overseas. The union never got many dues-paying members, but its Website, a source of reports from employees on layoffs, benefit changes and restructuring, was popular with employees, a source of information for the news media, and a continuing thorn in the side of IBM.
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IBM Union Calls It Quits

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  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @04:41PM (#51251401) Homepage
    the decline of labour was ushered in during the seventies. as japan and europe completed reconstruction after world war II the trade-on-credit agreement from the US became decreasingly valuable to these nations and, instead, they began to outpace the dominant commerce sector in the US, namely manufacturing, with cheaper labour and higher quality in the void that was a reigning superpower resting on its laurels..

    in the interrim US firms worked to fight directly what they could not compete with. Harley Davidson lobbied for steep tarrifs on japanese motorcycles while other manufacturing firms slashed prices and increased nationalism in their advertising. Behind the scenes labour and social reforms which began, albeit halfheartedly under the carter administration, took off in earnest in the reagan administration. Through a combination of outsourcing, labor deregulation, union busting, and reductions in the US social safety net (welfare, unemployment benefits, and healthcare) corporations were able to impose longer working hours and lower pay, without the risk of strikes. Reagan did his part by firing eleven thousand air traffic controllers as a show of force and a clear message to the masses: the concessions of a benevolent capital class to a newfound middleclass are over.

    And now today, in this foul year of our lord 2016, the fact remains. Corporations no longer operate for the greater good of a people but for shareholder value. A corporation is now a job creator only as a last resort.
    • by KeithJM ( 1024071 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @04:51PM (#51251487) Homepage

      And now today, in this foul year of our lord 2016, the fact remains. Corporations no longer operate for the greater good of a people but for shareholder value.

      I won't go directly to corporations that cooperated with the Nazis for examples of corporations perfectly willing to execute innocent people (pre-reconstruction) for profit, but let's just say there isn't any reason to think the good old days were any better than today. Corporations used to have more rope and could take longer to turn a profit from investments, but profits were always the goal.

      • "You can’t treat the working man this way. One day, we’ll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve! Then we’ll go too far, and get corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!" -- Last Exit To Springfield [youtube.com].
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Don't blame the unions for what trust-fund babies running daddies company did to the US car industry. If the guy on the shop floor could see the Japanese coming what could he do? Requisition a few hundred million for a new assembly line for a new model?
          It's really funny how anti-union some Americans are when they vocally support the extremist union tactics of the NRA, which can be accurately described as a very political gun owners union.
          • by Cinnamon Beige ( 1952554 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @12:07PM (#51255935)

            Don't blame the unions for what trust-fund babies running daddies company did to the US car industry. If the guy on the shop floor could see the Japanese coming what could he do? Requisition a few hundred million for a new assembly line for a new model?

            If he could? He'd then run into the unions sobbing about jobs lost because the new assembly line no longer needs widget adjusters & sprocket polishers and possibly also the issues involved if retooling the current factory would require an extended closure, the EPA refusing to allow the upgrades to the old factory unless it suddenly meets requirements only an entirely new building could manage (never mind that the changes would result in less total pollution), and a nice random boatload of governmental and special interest groups who don't like the idea of building a new factory from the ground up because of the environmental impact (once again, even if it reduces total pollution) and various flavors of woo.

            This is roughly what people who were high enough in the companies to both see these problems coming and actually do something about it ran into in many industries, and it doesn't help that the car industry unions' upper levels basically sold out their members' long-term interests in order to secure votes for themselves when union elections came up like the politicians they are. This is a problem that isn't necessarily inherit in the system for nor intrinsic to unions in and of themselves, but it is unfortunately very business as usual for US unions once you get past the local level and probably part of why the IBM union failed to gain traction. (Why join a union if you feel you cannot trust the union's management?)

            This a systemic failure, and trying to fix it by changing only one part would be like trying to fix a system error in Windows by changing the color scheme.

    • The entire reason they are outsourcing and moving to Asia is because they are creating jobs. The alternative is to copy Japan and build fully automated US factories. But I think these CEOs are used to running empires and employing thousands and are really against the idea of running a multi billion dollar corporation whose only employees are the CEO and some board members.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @08:02PM (#51252831) Homepage

        To be blunt the entire reason for production into Asia is because Asian are willing to roll over and can willingly accept screwed over by their bosses. Western workers just need to suck it up, move themselves and their families to a one room hovel and learned to love a minimalist diet, be proud of the $1 per hour salary and be ready to grovel at the bosses feet at any moment. Then those worthless scum workers could have kept their jobs.

        What a crock. Reality is the western workers were slack, lazy and indifferent and allowed their rights to be eroded away, allowed their protections to be diminished and meekly pathetically allowed future generations of workers to pay the price for the current generations cowardice.

        No matter how much you give up, the insane psychopaths running corporations will always want more, so give the fuckers nothing, fuck em. They want class conflict, give it to them.

    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:05PM (#51251625) Journal

      Fact is, when comparing unions to corporations, there are no angels.

      Unions are quite prone to using dues-money for self-enrichment, power-playing, politicking... and even today, some unions are not above using violence and intimidation (on the down-low of course) to get their way among their membership, 'potential' members, and basically anyone who gets in their way or frustrates them. For example, the 'scab' who dared to cross picket lines, usually because he needed the income that damned badly.

      Mind, I'm not picking on either one - just providing perspective and balance here.

      I know of honorable and good unions (and had once been a member of one - the Ironworkers). I know of honorable and good corporations run by honest men. Problem is, they both sit on the bright side of a very long and subtly graduated scale that runs all the way down to some downright evil shit.

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:58PM (#51252071) Journal

        Unions are quite prone to using dues-money for self-enrichment, power-playing, politicking... and even today, some unions are not above using violence and intimidation...

        They are not "prone" to anything. Bad apples and jerks form in any large group of people or organization instances. It's human nature that a certain percent are jerks, or the majority of the group will act jerky at times.

        Enforcement and regulation may be needed to tame organizations if they take advantage of lack of enforcement or regulation.

        Unions are merely collections of people who work together for certain goals. They are not inherently better or worse than corporations, other than perhaps the enforcement and regulations they are governed under and/or external pressures from their environment of operation.

        Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        The fight over whether corporations or unions are the bigger sleazebags is a fake argument. They are made up of the same stuff: humans who follow human nature and who need some degree of governance and oversight.

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )
          What I don't understand is why the union-company relationship in the US seem to be so adversarial compared to other countries. Seems like either the corporation is on top and does whatever it pleases, or the union is on top demanding (and getting) ridiculous work rules and gold-plated benefits.
      • Fact is, when comparing unions to corporations, there are no angels.

        While I've never seen angels — and doubt they exist in this sorry world of ours — corporations are inherently better than unions.

        Troll my tail — for a corporation to make money, it has to sell something people want. Unions far too often have a captive "customer base — one must join, if one wishes to work in a properly "unionized workplace". Such as be a public school teacher or even a New York City carpenter.

        TFA

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Yet a gun owners union is fine.
          Even when one of the people running it had to be pardoned to be saved from execution for treason, selling weapons to the terrorists that had killed over a hundred marines less than a year earlier and embezzling money for a convertible plus house airconditioning.
          So why are unions who do not do overt political manipulation devil spawn but a gun owners union in all but name is something to be praised from the rooftops? It makes no sense so I'm curious as to the answer.
    • Through a combination of outsourcing, labor deregulation, union busting, and reductions in the US social safety net (welfare, unemployment benefits, and healthcare) corporations were able to impose longer working hours and lower pay, without the risk of strikes.

      If all of the above were done, then it shouldn't be cheaper to hire from other countries. The problem is that the opposite of what you said happened and it became more cost effective to hire from outside the country.

      Even now we hear cries for raising minuim wage and more vacation / health benefits - things like that are really suppose to make us more competitive to against other countries?

      • It became "cheaper to hire from other countries" because they can dump toxic waste right into the river and put workers in sweatshops where conditions are so bad that they require suicide nets to catch falling workers. Simple as that.
    • And the citizens are being told to just hold on a while, trickle down is bound to happen any day now.

    • Corporations no longer operate for the greater good of a people but for shareholder value.

      Hasn't it always been that way? At least, since Dodge vs. Ford Motor Co.?

  • Aaaaand.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BVis ( 267028 )

    Corporate shills claiming victory and deriding unions as evil in 3.. 2..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

      Actually, it's a wash.

      Unions do have a place and need in certain industries... it's just that tech isn't one of them. Anyone sufficiently competent in the tech industry can improve him/herself and get a better income over time - far faster than the typical Union could ever get you. There is a sufficient amount of work to be had out there for those who know what they're doing and can prove it... I think that only a brief 2-3 year period during the dot-bust was the main exception, in a field that has technica

      • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:03PM (#51251599) Journal

        Unions do have a place and need in certain industries... it's just that tech isn't one of them.

        Tech is special, because we're tech workers and we're special.

        Tech jobs are being outsourced faster than shit through a goose. Working conditions are suffering, job satisfaction is suffering, their work week is getting longer, pay is lagging, and we don't need to organize, dammit! Because we're special.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

          We're not "special" - our circumstances and mechanisms just happen to be unique. Just the way it is.

          Yup - there's outsourcing, but 9/10 times, it comes back to bite the corporations that do it, and bites them right in the ass... usually in a spectacularly expensive way. Outsourcing is often touted as a big, bad boogeyman, but it has been around for what, 10-15 years now? Given that amount of time, you'd think that the entire global tech industry would be based in Mumbai or Hyderabad by now - yet it isn't. T

          • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:41PM (#51251931)
            But the modern CEO very rarely stays at any company long enough to feel those effects. They come in, cut and slash, make their bonus...and their off to ruin the next company. Of course I might just be biased; I was recently "work force reduced" at HPE lol...but I got a severance package, so this time I didn't mind as much hahaha.
        • So you'd rather have US technology sector look like Detroit. Union jobs ensure that the union bosses live well and the workers still get screwed as the jobs move overseas anyways. Only difference is the risk of taking the entire company down to foreign competition instead of individual roles within the company because the company gets locked-in to whatever staffing model existed when times were good.

          If your job can be done cheaper elsewhere, it will be. It's only a matter of time, and protectionism and unio

          • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @09:43PM (#51253251) Journal

            So you'd rather have US technology sector look like Detroit.

            No, I'd rather have US workers in a system more like Germany's. a country of 80 million people that exports about as much as the United States w/ 350 million.

            Don't let right-wing media delude you regarding organized labor. It's the main reason workers anywhere have a decent standard of living.

      • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:09PM (#51251655) Homepage

        Unions do have a place and need in certain industries... it's just that tech isn't one of them. Anyone sufficiently competent in the tech industry can improve him/herself and get a better income over time - far faster than the typical Union could ever get you.

        You don't organize in a union for salary unless you are minimum wage earner. They have a big role in IT, but as legal assistence, being able to call on highly specialized lawyers to review your contracts, instead of paying 10s of thousands for one of your own, is worth every single fee. On top of being able to call them in as legal muscle if management is trying to screw you over.

      • People like you keep saying that, yet I'm not seeing it. I know a lot of people who work in tech and none have had their compensation increase dramatically in the last 15 years.
        • Maybe they aren't the "sufficiently competent" ones he's talking about.
          • Well if by "sufficiently competent" you mean people who do their day job and spend a lot of their personal time learning modern skills like mobile app development, web development, and the like.. I know some of those. Admittedly, some sit on their duffs and go through the motions but I know a lot of go-getters but they're not finding anything.
        • 15 years ago I made around 40% of what I make now in IT.

          I got a degree, came up with patent-able ideas, and made value for my company.

          In return, I have been compensated.

          Seems a fair deal.

          • I've never worked in a place where they told you where the 'new ideas' go. In fact in the places I have worked the job is very narrowly defined and people are discouraged from thinking outside of it. I've come up with some good ideas in the past and have been just told to 'do my job'. It's not like I was being told that because it was a bad idea, the reasons have always been something like, "well then we have to support it".
            • What makes you think they were 'good ideas'?

              I've known a few people with 'good ideas'. I threatened one of them in comments that if they ever checked in another 'good idea' I'd break all their fingers (and toes, so they couldn't code with their feet).

              'Then we have to support it' sounds like someone trying to tell you nicely that you have a very very bad idea.

              • It's hard to retort without going into specifics that I shouldn't go into. Let's just say that I have recent independent proof that the ideas were quite viable. I think more the issue is, in a large corporations you end up with managers that don't see the big picture. If you have a big idea it quite easily goes over their heads. Because your idea may not be quite in line with what your group does, you can be seen as a threat or a nuisance. A lot of managers really just want people who will be one hundr
      • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Oxygen99 ( 634999 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:13PM (#51251709)
        Woah there Hoss. Not so sure about that. We regularly hear about ridiculous crunches and there are plenty of IT workers being treated like crap by management through offshoring, sick leave abuse, holiday abuse or whatever. I recently had to sign a contract with a previous employer that threatened to sack me if I called in ill with a stress or mental related condition. Now that' clearly unenforceable but that's the kind of shit they pull.

        I can see why there'd be a tension between someone who can make out alright and someone on the lower rungs of the ladder, but managers are managers and workers are workers and wherever that differential exists, the former will always try and abuse the latter.
        • " a contract with a previous employer that threatened to sack me if I called in ill with a stress or mental related condition" Wow, that, to me at least, just sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. For me, my "mental condition" is ADD; so it's far more likely that I would forget to call in at all lol.
      • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by rcase5 ( 3781471 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @05:16PM (#51251729)

        Unions are not just about wage growth. They're also about protecting employees from abuse. Let's face it, over the last 20 years or so, abuse of tech workers has been rampant. Companies expect their tech workers to put in 50 to 60 hours a week with no overtime or comp time. Many tech companies offer their employees stock options, which are not as handsome as they used to be since the tax rules surrounding them changed a number of years ago. So tech companies often feed their employees the line "Well, the more you work and the harder you work, the more valuable your stock options will be in the long run". That rarely turns out to be the case; not every tech company turns out to be an Apple, or a Microsoft, or a Netscape, or a Facebook.

        Yes, I'll agree that I don't care for other aspects of unions either, like seniority over merit, and some unions can be very corrupt as well. But if tech companies aren't careful, they may have no choice but to deal with unions in the future. Running tech employees into the ground is not a sound or sustainable strategy for remaining competitive in the world. Unions could at least help ensure that practice stops.

        • You'd think the "game programmers" would be ripe for unionization; I guess they just must love those super-long days when crunch time comes.
        • Running tech employees into the ground is not a sound or sustainable strategy for remaining competitive in the world. Unions could at least help ensure that practice stops.

          It is sustainable if there is enough cheap labor around. Hence the corporate push for STEM and HB1 visas.

          Unionizing might just make that practice stop, but basically will guarantee that you get fired and offshored.

          For collective bargaining to be effective, the work delivered must be hard to replace.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We're all libertarian Uber-men while while the scales are tipped in our favor. Our skills and talents are in demand and we got to set the terms.

        It won't be like that forever. "Your own wage growth" will last exactly as long as it takes for your skillset to be commodotized and turned in to an expense item on a spreadsheet.

        Or until someone finds you inconvenient. Or wants your job. Or thinks you're after his job. Or doesn't like the way you looked at his wife. Or thinks you make too much money. Etc, etc, etc.

        • by BVis ( 267028 )

          This. I'd add that union membership also (usually) gets you progressive discipline, as in they actually need a reason to fire you. (In at-will employment states, which are nearly all of them, you can be fired for no reason at all. I have literally been told "We don't have to tell you.") Add in health benefits secured by the union and not your employer (so that your employer doesn't find out when you start seeing a therapist, and fire you because you're "psycho"), guaranteed raises (some tool is going to

          • You won't ever get bigger raises than 2.5-3%.

            If you stay at the same employer you might not... jumping ship on the other hand is hella profitable.

      • Re:Aaaaand.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @07:06PM (#51252529) Journal

        Unions do have a place and need in certain industries... it's just that tech isn't one of them. Anyone sufficiently competent in the tech industry can improve him/herself and get a better income over time - far faster than the typical Union could ever get you.

        Have you considered that it is not just about income for you but having an appropriate body to represent the political interests of the tech industry to legislators? That as a group of professionals there is no one there to represent us at a government level or lobby for or against laws that work against our individual interests as professionals. That a government or corporate level no one takes us seriously because no-one has our back.

        Overall, why would I (for example) want to chain myself down to the disadvantages of a Union (seniority-over-merit, cronyism, locked/lockstep wage growth and scheduling, monthly dues, aforementioned dues going to politicians and causes I do not support, being forced to join in some states even if I didn't want to, etc)... but little-to-none of the advantages?

        Because whilst you are a great tech, you probably don't read and lobby government about the laws that are going to affect your job and write to elected representatives to protect your interests and indeed, extend them. I'm reading 200-600 pages of legislation per year re technology and would gladly pay someone else to do it.

        My own wage growth has far outstripped anything that any union could provide, and has done so for 20 years now. If I don't like my employer, I can have at least two job interviews scheduled by the end of the day, and interviews/screens lined up by end-of-week.

        Well if it's just all about me then it's probably ok. However that attitude doesn't make it any easier for someone to get a foot in the door for who might just have less access to an opportunity because that job is overseas.

        As a group of professionals I think we have to grow out of the attitude that it's all about what I can get for me. If we had professional body looking after our interests then we may not see things like the IP provisions in the TPP or the H1B visa arrangements that we do.

        In all, we maybe taken a little more seriously.

      • Unions do have a place and need in certain industries... it's just that tech isn't one of them. Anyone sufficiently competent in the tech industry can improve him/herself and get a better income over time...

        In your current job, do you have health insurance? Sick leave? Vacation days? Safety standards? I wonder where those came from...

      • Anyone sufficiently competent in the tech industry can improve him/herself and get a better income over time - far faster than the typical Union could ever get you.

        Anyone can be better than average, yes. Everyone can't, any more than everyone can be a better than average driver. But that doesn't stop them from deluding themselves, or listening to a flattering scam artist who tells them they're a special little snowflake who'd only get held back by the unions.

        Just goes to demonstrate, once again, that prid

      • Unions do have a place and need in certain industries...

        Only if membership is voluntary. The second they are empowered to force people to join them, they become oppressors.

        They also become a monopoly at this point — and corruption sets in immediately — but that's secondary.

  • Beat the shit out of watson on the way out.

    • for a bunch of totally different, mediocre wanna-be-AI applications, that are in fact barely integrated dialog, database retrieval and stochastic evaluation tools, bought together from dozens of small companies?

      It took me a long time to finally get a real hands-on demonstration of Watson, and it was such a disappointment. Your everyday Google search feels more like "AI" than Watson.

      If IBM goes all-in on Watson, good night IBM!

  • I've had to work extensively with service provider telecom workers over the years, and one of the things that I've noticed that might make it harder to get union efforts going are that many workers were happy to rack-up the OT instead of the company hiring an appropriate-sized workforce. We were doing 2nd shift projects and many of the service provider workers brought in to do the equipment swap and patching had already worked a full shift during the first shift before putting in five to eight hours with u
  • ...if all the pressure to unionize and all the headaches that that entails might have at least early on, been part of the PROBLEM, causing more and more jobs to move overseas from the US?
    • ...if all the pressure to unionize and all the headaches that that entails might have at least early on, been part of the PROBLEM, causing more and more jobs to move overseas from the US?

      It didn't have anything to do with it.

      I was at IBM when they were just trying to get the union ball rolling, and for a while after that. Everyone inside IBM though they were a joke. The problem is, it was the CWA -- Communications Workers of America -- and their primary bailiwick was radio and telecom. They were desperately trying to diversify their membership base, as the jobs in that industry were drying up, and being replaced by communications over commodity infrastructure based on the Internet.

      So th

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