Archive for category Work Place
CHINESE RESTAURANT OWNER SAYS ROBOT NOODLE MAKER DOING “A GOOD JOB!”
[Source: arkazlive via YouTube]
Noodle peelers should probably start looking for other things to do around the kitchen – there’s just no competing with these robots. Not only are they saving restaurants in China money in wages, they can work rapidly and tirelessly for hours.
We reported on the robots, invented by restaurant owner Cui Runguan, last August. Now, we’re hearing from another restaurant owner who has had one of the robots in his “employ” for a month. How is the indefatigable noodle-maker working out at the Jinhe Noodle Shop in Beijing? The restaurant owner, with the last name Zhao, loves it and tells China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency that “It does a good job!”
Runguan’s robots peel noodle strips from a firm piece of dough and tosses them directly into boiling water “before diners’ eyes can follow the whole process.” To Zhao and a growing number of restaurant owners in China, choosing robots over human noodle cooks is a no-brainer. While a cook doing the same job would make about 40,000 yuan ($6,400) per year, the robot cost him just 10,000 yuan ($1,600). And no human chef can work so tirelessly.
China is expected to be the world’s largest market for robots by 2014 [Source: arkazlive via YouTube]
Its price is already down from $2,000 this past August, which is no doubt a big reason why more than 3,000 restaurants that have already relegated their noodle-making to the robot. As the technology improves and the cost to build and run the robot drops, business will only get better for Runguan, who has received four patents for the technology.
That humans can be replaced by robots that do the job faster and cheaper is an idea that now pervades Chinese employers. “Chinese companies usually start considering robots when the payment for a skilled worker exceeds 50,000 yuan ($8,060) a year,” Tan Xueke, a manager at the Xinsong Robot Automation Company in Shenynang, told Xinhua News Agency.
The repetitive action that goes into preparing certain foods such as noodles makes automation an obvious choice. In Japan robots are already being used to make sushi, and a robot in San Francisco can serve up 340 hamburgers an hour. But while robotic cooks provide restaurants a novelty for customers and savings for owners, other robots are invading China’s workplace on a much grander scale. Most notably is Foxconn who, last November, began replacing 1 million jobs performed by humans with robotic automation. The metamorphosis is advancing quickly. In late February the company announced it put a freeze on hiring new entry-level workers. This was due in part to a high worker retention rate following pay increases, but it’s also a conscious decision to accelerate the automation of their factories.
And as prices for the robots drop, they’ll continue to invade the workplace at increasing an increasing pace. Already China is expected to become the world’s largest robot market next year. And as entry-level jobs become scarce, out-of-the-job workers such as those at Foxconn and Jinhe Noodle Shop will find the new reality hard to swallow.
- Noodle Robots Replacing Workers In Chinese Restaurants (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Robots joining China businesses, factories (upi.com)
- Robots replace chefs, labourers in Chinese restaurants, farms (rediff.com)
- China sets up robot industry association (wantchinatimes.com)
- Food of the future at Harbin’s first robot restaurant (wantchinatimes.com)
- China sets up group to promote local robot industry (zdnet.com)
- Robots seen as living things (radionz.co.nz)
- Robots joining China businesses, factories (spacedaily.com)
- Humans feel empathy for robots: fMRI scans show similar brain function when robots are treated the same as humans (phys.org)
- Specialized robots join rescue efforts in quake zone (wantchinatimes.com)
N.H.L. and Players Union Reach Tentative Agreement to End Lockout
By JEFF Z. KLEIN
Published: January 6, 2013
The National Hockey League and its players union reached a tentative agreement on Sunday to end the lockout, after a marathon 16-hour negotiating session.
The end came at about 5 a.m. Sunday, the 113th day of the lockout, at a Midtown Manhattan hotel.
“Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on a framework for a new collective bargaining agreement,” the N.H.L. commissioner Gary Bettman said, standing alongside Donald Fehr, the executive director of the N.H.L. Players’ Association. “We still have more work to do, but it’s good to be at this point.”
“Hopefully within a very few days,” Fehr said, “The fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us.”
Pending ratification, which is likely, by the players and owners, a 48- to 50-game season is expected to begin before Jan. 20, with the Stanley Cup awarded by the end of June.
Scot L. Beckenbaugh, deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, emerged as crucial player for his efforts to end an often bitter lockout.
Saturday’s negotiations went on as players completed a vote on whether to authorize Fehr to dissolve the union if the talked stalled. Exercising that option would have probably ended the bargaining and push the proceedings into court.
But hopes rose that a settlement could be reached as the negotiations went late into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Bettman, the league commissioner, had set a deadline of Jan. 11 for saving a 48-game schedule.
Beckenbaugh spent 12 hours Friday shuttling between the N.H.L. office in Midtown Manhattan and the union’s hotel two blocks away.
Under federal mediation rules, Beckenbaugh was not allowed to reveal to one side what the other side had said. Rather, he was bound to discuss the issues with each side and learn how far each was willing to go without indicating what the other had said.
Finally he determined that it would be worthwhile to bring the sides together for a bargaining session, which began at 1:15 p.m. Saturday at the union’s hotel and turned out to be by far the longest since the stoppage began on Sept. 15.
Beckenbaugh started the day around 10:30 in the morning, meeting each side separately before presiding over the face-to-face talks. Often the two sides retired to caucus separately, and Beckenbaugh would shuttle between them.
Altogether, Beckenbaugh, 59, worked more than 30 hours on Friday, Saturday and into the wee hours Sunday to bring the two sides back together and keep them focused on the issues..
As the talks picked up some momentum, voting on the measure authorizing Fehr to dissolve the union ended at 6 p.m., with the membership of more than 700 players approving the move.
But that point became moot with the settlement.
The lockout began Sept. 15, when the collective bargaining agreement that had been in place for seven years expired. The atmosphere was cordial at first, but became increasingly bitter as negotiations stalled.
On Oct. 18, the N.H.L. took less than 15 minutes to reject three union proposals, with Bettman saying he was thoroughly disappointed.
“When you make three proposals and get shut down in 10 minutes, it’s hard to think the other side really wants to negotiate,” the Penguins star Sidney Crosby said.
On Dec. 6, Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner, informed the union via a voicemail message that the league had rejected another proposal, less than an hour after the offer was made. The rejection came even as Fehr, surrounded by more than a dozen players, was announcing that a framework for a deal was in place.
Shortly afterward, an angry Bettman said he was bewildered by Fehr’s actions, and Daly told reporters that the issue of contract term limits was “the hill we will die on.”
Fehr was criticized for not informing the union membership of the true nature of the owners’ proposals — a claim that he and other players denied, pointing out that several players were present for every bargaining session. But despite that and other accusations, the players remained united behind Fehr throughout the lockout.
As the lockout dragged on, some players made comments that fed the atmosphere of distrust. The Blackhawks’ Dave Bolland apologized for reposting a Twitter message about “wanting Bettman dead.” The Red Wings’ Ian White called Bettman an “idiot,” and the Panthers’ Kris Versteeg called Bettman and Daly “cancers.”
Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold were seen as especially fractious figures during talks, with each getting into arguments with players on the other side of the negotiating table. Leipold signed the free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical $13-year, $98 million contracts just before the lockout, then sought to roll those and similar contracts back in negotiations. Owners were not present for the final, successful bargaining sessions.
The lockout was the third since Bettman became commissioner in 1993. The three lockouts together have led to the cancellation of about 2,400 regular-season games since Bettman assumed office, some 10 percent of the games originally scheduled. That percentage is more than three times higher than for any other major league in the same 20-year period.
The first lockout cost almost half the 1994-95 season, as the league tried unsuccessfully to impose a salary cap on the players’ union. A settlement was reached Jan. 11, 1995, with play resuming on Jan. 20.
Each team played a 48-game schedule, down from the 84-game schedule of the season before. The Devils won the Stanley Cup on June 24, the latest finish to a season in N.H.L. history.
The second lockout canceled the entire 2004-5 season, the only time a full season in a North American major sports league was erased by a labor dispute. The league was successful in imposing a salary cap as well as getting players to accept a 24 percent pay cut.
In the aftermath, the players’ association was riven by dissension and ran through three executive directors before Fehr arrived in early 2010. He became executive director in December 2010, after leading the baseball players’ union from 1983 to 2009.
In 1994, the N.H.L. was on a popular and financial upswing after the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup victory in 54 years, but the lockout stalled the momentum. But the league was losing money before the lockout in 2004, which, from the owners’ point of view, made it essential that they get salary cap on players salaries and more control of costs.
The lockout that ended early Sunday morning was seen as especially self-destructive, coming as the league was growing financially and generating record revenues, including $3.3 billion last season.
Stanley Cup victories by teams in big American cities — Los Angeles in 2012, preceded by Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit — and strong contenders in Philadelphia and New York have helped raise the league’s profile. The 2010 Olympic hockey tournament, with N.H.L. stars in the spotlight, and the annual Winter Classic extravaganza brought high ratings and boosted fan interest in the United States. A strong dollar in Canada, where the N.H.L. remained the dominant sports league, raised revenues across the board.
But the success was deceptive; 10 or more clubs were believed to be losing money. By canceling the three least profitable months of the season, the lockout assured that clubs like Phoenix, Columbus, Florida and the Islanders cut their losses.
The lengthy layoff angered fans, sponsors and television networks. In 2011 NBC agreed to 10-year, $2 billion TV rights contract with the N.H.L., which provided a significant amount of programming for the struggling NBC Sports Network. Fans and sponsors may be slow to return to a league seen as habitually troubled by labor problems.
The fear among many involved with the N.H.L. is that on the American sports landscape, it has returned to the shadows from whence it only recently emerged.
“Hate to say it,” Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock said last month, “but we could end up like bowling.”
- NHL, players’ union reach tentative deal to end lockout (cbc.ca)
- NHL lockout to end as league, union reach tentative agreement (newsday.com)
- Tentative agreement to end NHL lockout (wwlp.com)
- NHL Lockout: Players’ Union, League Reach Deal To Restart Hockey Season (huffingtonpost.com)
- Another long NHL lockout ends with tentative deal between league, NHLPA (timescolonist.com)
- NHL, union make progress in marathon talks (miamiherald.com)
- NHL League And Players Reach Tentative Agreement To End Lockout (wilx.com)
- NHL, union make progress in marathon talks (cnsnews.com)
- Sources: NHL, union have tentative agreement (espn.go.com)
- NHL, players’ union reach agreement to end lockout (local10.com)
NYC Data Center Needs Focus on Fuel
by Mark Hachman | November 1, 2012
The most critical need for New York City’s data centers post-Hurricane Sandy is a steady supply of diesel fuel to power generators.
Who knew that the most critical element of operating a data center in New York City was ensuring a steady supply of diesel fuel?
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the challenges facing data center operators in the affected zones include pumping water from basements, waiting for utility power to be restored, and managing fuel-truck deliveries. And it’s become increasingly clear which companies had the resources and foresight to plan for a disaster like Sandy, and which are simply reacting.
For now, power is slowly coming back to Manhattan and its wealth of data centers.
In total, 676,000 customers in the New York area served by Con Edison remain without power, including 227,000 in Manhattan. Fortunately, the utility was able to turn on the power for one network in lower Manhattan, bordered by Vesey Street on the north; West Street; Broadway and State Street on the east; and the Battery’s southern tip. The utility noted that, although it has restored power to the networks, some buildings may still be without electricity due to basement flooding or damage to local equipment. Somewhat oddly, a comparison of ConEd’s outage map for the lower Manhattan areas between Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 shows more outages today than yesterday—possibly as a result of better or more granular reporting.
Here’s the latest on providers around the New York area.
Atlantic Metro has secured its LGA1 facility at 325 Hudson St., reporting that it is 100 percent restored. As of roughly 5 AM EST, it had 2,350 gallons of fuel powering it. The company said it is working to restore Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber services affected in the area. Overnight, the company dispatched teams to 111 8th Ave and 76 9th Ave to solve affected customer circuits.
The problem now is LGA4 at 121 Varick St., which suffered a generator failure Oct. 31. That facility is still not online, and Atlantic Metro is bringing in a rollup generator to solve the problem, which should be on site by 2 PM EST. “Once the generator arrives on site there will still be several hours of electrical work that needs to be completed to tie the unit into the bus and inspect the UPS units and properly power up the site,” Atlantic Metro said. “Our current operational timeline has us projecting site restoration to emergency power by midnight.”
No further updates were announced, including the NJ3 facility. “Authorities have given the OK to allow access into our NJ3 facility at 5851 Westside Ave, North Bergen, NJ,” the company said at about 3:30 PM on Oct. 30. No further updates have been given.
The company didn’t provide updates on its data centers or business services. “The vast majority of our cell sites in the Northeast are online and working,” it reported . “We are making progress in areas that were especially hard-hit, including New York City and New Jersey, where flooding, power loss, transportation and debris all pose challenges. We are working around the clock, including conducting ongoing damage assessment, rapid deployment of generators and equipment, and movement of key personnel from around the region and country, such as engineers and technicians, in order to restore service as quickly as possible.”
The company has waived late-payment and non-payment penalties, and signed a roaming agreement with T-Mobile.
No issues. Rob Rockwood, the senior vice president & general manager of Coresite’s Eastern Region, spoke with Bloomberg TV about how the company managed the disaster: its facility at 32 Avenue of the Americas used batteries to transition between utility and generator power. “It was a seamless transition,” Rockwood told Bloomberg.
The company then began estimating how quickly diesel fuel was being consumed, and worked out the logistics to resupply its generators.
Support teams are working with customers to migrate data or servers to other locations, the company said Oct. 31.
Via Twitter, the company confirmed fiber connectivity out of its 33 Whitehall facility; it Tweeted at 8 PM EST on Oct. 31 that “less than 2 feet of water” needed to be pumped out of the basement. “A 2 megawatt mobile diesel generator is confirmed to arrive tomorrow (Nov. 1) before 5 PM,” the company added. “There is a chance that power will be restored before 5PM.”
“It is our generator for at least one week or longer if needed,” Datagram added via its Website . “2MW is at least twice the power we need. Fuel tank will last two days. We have nightly fuel deliveries scheduled. We will keep generator on-site until we have ConEd utility power fully restored. We have offered to power the building elevators and emergency systems as well for everyone’s general safety. We do not know how long it will take to park and connect but we will be providing live updates and pictures as soon as it arrives.”
Customers such as Gawker are still using alternative sites to deliver updates.
Equinix appears to be stable, at about the same status as on Oct. 31.
“Three of our sites in New York and New Jersey (NY1, NY7 and NY10) are back on utility power,” the company said at 4:45 EST Oct. 31, its latest update. “The other five sites in the region remain on generator power. All of these sites have ample fuel onsite, and we have successfully received fuel deliveries today. We are scheduling regular deliveries to each site until utility power is restored. Early this morning, our NY9 site experienced a failed generator that impacted service to several customers. Repairs were made and service was restored within one hour and 15 minutes.”
Sites in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are operating normally, on utility power. Via Twitter, the company apologized for its lack of public updates, but said customers have access to “an extensive communications network”.
Ezzi operates three facilities: at 882 Third Ave. in Brooklyn, and at 75 Broad St. and 25 Broadway. The company has not published any updates on its Web site or Twitter feed. When Slashdot called the support line for an update, we were told that one data center remained open and one remained down. The representative then hung up.
Status unknown. The company has a facility at one of the major connectivity hubs at 67 Broad St., but hasn’t issued any updates. As of noon EST Nov. 1, a company representative said that the company was holding a meeting with its customers, and wouldn’t be able to comment until later in the day. Unfortunately, the company is still promoting its “Market Storm” bundle on its home page.
Internap operates two facilities, one at 75 Broad St., and one at 111 8th Ave. The Broad St. facility was flooded with up to three feet of water and shut down, and the company said late on Oct. 30 that it was “working as quickly as possible to implement a workaround for the fuel system that will allow us to bring the generator farm back into operation.”
On Nov. 1, things seem stable. The NYM008/LGA9 at 111 8th St. “continues to operate on stable generator power,” Internap said. “All UPS modules in phases 1, 2, & 3 are online and providing conditioned generator power to the critical infrastructure.” The site has enough fuel for two days, with continued fuel deliveries expected as needed until it returns to commercial power.
The NYMEXT1/LGA11 site at 75 Broad continues to operate on stable generator power, Internap said. UPS units are supplying conditioned generator power to the critical infrastructure. The building continues to pump water out of the sub-basement floors and access is limited for non-tenants. “There are currently two delivery trucks onsite to replenish the fuel supply and we will continue to bring in deliveries as needed until utility power is restored.”
As of 8 PM EST Oct. 31, Atlantic Metro reported that Internap suffered multiple power failures at the 76 9th Ave facility and that it was investigating some “fried network gear.” Internap reported that it was working through some “individual customer issues.”
Utility power should be restored in three to four days, according to ConEd.
“To this point, we have experienced no major service disruption. There have been a few isolated incidents affecting a small number of customers, and we are resolving these as quickly as possible,” the company said late Oct. 30. The company has issued no further updates.
Peer1’s operations at 75 Broad became one of the Sandy stories that made for good press: a bucket brigade that carried diesel fuel up 18 flights of stairs to the generators that kept operations running. The hosting company enlisted its own customers to help out.
But there’s bad news. Manpower appears to be running short. Worse still, the building is in shutdown mode, customer Squarespace reported at 11:16 AM EST . “We may not be able to deliver more fuel, as the building is shutdown mode. Last estimate is that we have about 3 hours left. Things change constantly, and we will keep you updated.”
Customer Fog Creek Software, meanwhile, transitioned its Trello collaboration service over to Amazon’s AWS as a preventative measure. The company had reported that the bucket brigade was running out of steam: “Our services remain up and running, but our additional helping hands to refuel the generator are being challenged,” it reported. “The good news is that we still have some Peer1, Squarespace, and Fog Creek employees at the data center to refuel as needed. All employees are on travel-standby to assist in refueling efforts.”
Earlier, at 9:03 AM EST, Squarespace also provided some fascinating on-the-ground color: “This building has 2 basements and both are flooded. As of 7AM EST today, the first basement has been completely pumped out. A broken water main was discovered which was ADDING water to the basement as the pumps ran yesterday. By using 3x the number of pumps overnight, they were able to outpace the water main, clear the basement and turn off the running water main.”
All sites are up and running, although some are on generator power. Basically, the status is unchanged from Oct. 31, with NYC1 at 60 Hudson St. and NYC2 at 111 8th Ave. running on generators. NYC1 has fuel for one day’s worth of service, with a refueling truck scheduled for Nov. 1. NYC2 has two days of fuel on hand, restocked at 4:30 PM EST on Oct. 31. The NJR1 site is also on generators, with “adequate” fuel levels, Telx reported. As before, the company advised customers to power down where they could.
No outages. Telehouse is now offering colocation space, telecom circuit cabling and IT Support services on a temporary basis (or limited basis) at all 3 of the company’s New York City Data Center facilities: 25 Broadway, Chelsea at 85 10th Ave. and the Teleport in Staten Island. Quarter, half and full cabinets are available on temporary one month or more basis over the next 60 days, in addition to long term commitments.
Verizon’s infrastructure services appear to be operational. “Because critical communications equipment (such as voice switches, data equipment and routers) are located on high floors in our buildings, they were not damaged by floodwater,” the company said the evening of Oct. 31. “But the water did damage some of backup power equipment such as switch gear, generators and fuel pumps, causing some repair delays.”
On Nov. 1, the company said little about its wired infrastructure services, choosing to focus on how it was erecting temporary wireless towers for customers, and rescue and recovery efforts.
- NYC Data Center Needs Focus On Fuel (tech.slashdot.org)
- Hurricane Sandy knocks out NYC data centers: Websites, services down (zdnet.com)
- 5:15 PM – Additional Options Turning up, Diesel Fuel Aplenty (status.fogcreek.com)
- Superstorm Sandy wreaks havoc on internet infrastructure (gigaom.com)
- Post-hurricane, New York’s internet industry runs on diesel (theverge.com)
- How Superstorm Sandy broke some of your favorite websites (qz.com)
- Con Edison Shuts Off Power in Lower Manhattan (datacenterknowledge.com)
- How Hurricane Sandy took out some of the leading English-language news sites (qz.com)
- Websites Scramble As Hurricane Sandy Floods Data Centers (huffingtonpost.com)
- Massive Flooding Damages Several NYC Data Centers (datacenterknowledge.com)
H-1B visa abuse limits wages and steals US jobs
The H-1B visa program was created in 1990 to allow companies to bring skilled technical workers into the USA. It’s a non-immigrant visa and so has nothing at all to do with staying in the country, becoming a citizen, or starting a business. Big tech employers are constantly lobbying for increases in H-1B quotas citing their inability to find qualified US job applicants. Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and other leaders from the IT industry have testified about this before Congress. Both major political parties embrace the H-1B program with varying levels of enthusiasm.
But Bill Gates is wrong. What he said to Congress may have been right for Microsoft but was wrong for America and can only lead to lower wages, lower employment, and a lower standard of living. This is a bigger deal than people understand: it’s the rebirth of industrial labor relations circa 1920. Our ignorance about the H-1B visa program is being used to unfairly limit wages and steal — yes, steal — jobs from US citizens.
There are a number of common misunderstandings about the H-1B program, the first of which is its size. H-1B quotas are set by Congress and vary from 65,000 to 190,000 per year. While that would seem to limit the impact of the program on a nation of 300+ million, H-1B is way bigger than you think because each visa lasts for three years and can be extended for another three years after that.
At any moment, then, there are about 700,000 H-1B visa holders working in the USA.
Most of these H-1B visa holders work in Information Technology and most of those come from India. There are about 500,000 IT workers in the USA holding H-1B visas. According to the US Census Bureau, there are about 2.5 million IT workers in America. So approximately 20 percent of the domestic IT workforce isn’t domestic at all, but imported on H-1B visas. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
H-1B is a non-immigrant visa. H-1B holders can work here for 3-6 years but then have to return to their native countries. It’s possible for H-1B’s to convert to a different kind of visa but not commonly done. The most common way, in fact, for converting an H-1B visa into a green card is through marriage to a US citizen.
H-1B isn’t the only way for foreigners to work in America. They can work to some extent on student visas and, in fact, many student visas are eventually converted to H-1B for those who have a job and want to stay but maybe not immigrate.
There is a misconception about the H-1B program that it was designed to allow companies to import workers with unique talents. There has long been a visa program for exactly that purpose. The O (for outstanding) visa program is for importing geniuses and nothing else. Interestingly enough, the O visa program has no quotas. So when Bill Gates complained about not being able to import enough top technical people for Microsoft, he wasn’t talking about geniuses, just normal coders.
I don’t want to pick on just Microsoft here, but I happen to know the company well and have written over the years about its technical recruiting procedures. Microsoft has a rigorous recruitment and vetting process. So does Google, Apple — you name the company. All of these companies will take as many of O visa candidates as they can get, but there just aren’t that many who qualify, which is why quotas aren’t required.
So when Microsoft — or Boeing, for that matter — says a limitation on H-1B visas keeps them from getting top talent, they don’t mean it in the way that they imply. If a prospective employee is really top talent — the kind of engineer who can truly do things others simply can’t — there isn’t much keeping the company from hiring that person under the O visa program.
H-1B visas are about journeyman techies and nothing else.
Companies can also transfer employees into the country who have worked for at least a year for the company overseas under an L-1 visa. These, too, are limited by quota and the quota is typically lower than for H-1Bs. Back in the late 1980s when the H-1B program was first being considered it was viewed as a preferable short-term alternative to L-1. It has since turned into something else far darker.
So has the B visa, which is intended for companies to bring their foreign employees into the US for business meetings and trade shows. You’d be amazed how many such business meetings and trade shows last 30 days as companies use B visas to enable foreign employees to work awhile in the United States. I’m told that IBM sometimes platoons workers on B visas, sending them to places like Mexico for a short time then bringing them back across the boarder for another stint.
Tourist visas are also commonly abused even though they specifically prohibit work.
The more interesting question here isn’t which multinational corporations consistently abuse B and tourist visas but which ones don’t, it is so common.
No Labor Shortage
A key argument for H-1B has always been that there’s a shortage of technical talent in US IT. This has been taken as a given by both major political parties. But it’s wrong. Here are six rigorous studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that show there is no shortage of STEM workers in the United States nor the likelihood of such a shortage in years to come.
You may recall a recent column where the IT community in Memphis, TN proved there was no labor shortage in that technology hotbed.
The whole labor shortage argument is total hogwash. Yes, there is a labor shortage at substandard wages.
Can all of this be just about money? Yes.
What are the Rules?
The rules for H-1B visas state that they must be for technical positions for which there is no comparable US citizen available and the position must pay the prevailing wage or higher.
It’s this definition of prevailing wage where we next see signs of H-1B abuse by employers. The intent of the original law was for companies not to use H-1B workers simply to save money. In the enabling legislation from 1990, however, there are two different definitions of the term “prevailing wage.” The first is quite strict while the second, which is used by self-certifying employers to set actual pay scales, has plenty of wiggle room.
Warning, dense reading ahead!
Here is the initial definition of “prevailing wage” in 8 USC 1182(n)(1)A):
1. The employer
(i) is offering and will offer during the period of authorized employment to aliens admitted or provided status as an H–1B nonimmigrant wages that are at least
(ii) the actual wage level paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the specific employment in question, or
(iii) the prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment,
And here is the redefinition of “prevailing wage” in 8 USC 1182(p)(4):
(4) Where the Secretary of Labor uses, or makes available to employers, a governmental survey to determine the prevailing wage, such survey shall provide at least 4 levels of wages commensurate with experience, education, and the level of supervision. Where an existing government survey has only 2 levels, 2 intermediate levels may be created by dividing by 3, the difference between the 2 levels offered, adding the quotient thus obtained to the first level and subtracting that quotient from the second level.
Note that section (p) requires that the Department of Labor set up four prevailing wage levels based upon skill but section (n) only requires a prevailing wage for occupation and location. There is no statutory requirement that the employer pick the skill level that matches the employee.
Let’s see this in action. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the mean wage for a programmer in Charlotte, NC is $73,965. But the level 1 prevailing wage is $50,170. Most prevailing wage claims on H-1B applications use the level 1 wage driving down the cost of labor in this instance by nearly a third.
If you were casually reading the statutes, by the way, you would never see this redefinition. That’s because section (p) does not refer to H-1B but rather to section (n) which is referenced by 8 USC 1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b).
Greed gone Wrong
But wait there’s more!
It’s not hard to suppose from this information that an influx of H-1B workers representing an average 20 percent of the local technical work force (those 500,000 H-1Bs against a 2.5 million body labor pool) would push down local wages. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that it does, too, but most of the more rigorous academic studies don’t show this because there is no easily available data.
What data is available comes from the initial employer applications for H-1B slots These Labor Condition Applications, called LCAs, include employer estimates of prevailing wages. Because there are always more H-1B applications than there are H-1B visas granted, every employer seeking an H-1B may file 3-5 LCAs per slot, each of which can use a different prevailing wage. But when the visa application is approved, it is my understanding that sponsoring companies can choose which LCA they really mean and apply that prevailing wage number to the hire.
Because the visa has already been granted of course they’ll tend to take the lowest prevailing wage number, because that’s the number against which they match the local labor market.
Remember that part of this business of getting H-1Bs is there must not be a US citizen with comparable skills available at the local prevailing wage. If we consider that exercise using the data from Charlotte, above, a company would probably be seeking a programmer expecting $73,965 or above (after all, they are trying to attract talent, right?) but offering $50,170 or below (the multiple LCA trick). No wonder they can’t get a qualified citizen to take the job.
Based solely on approved LCAs, 51 percent of recently granted H-1B visas were in the 25th percentile for pay or below. That’s statistically impossible under the intent of the program.
We have no clear way of knowing what companies actually pay their H-1Bs beyond the LCAs, because that information isn’t typically gathered, but remember that whatever level it is won’t include benefits that can add another 30-40 percent to a US citizen’s wage.
Extent of Abuse
Here is the Government of India touting its H-1Bs as cheaper than US workers, which of course they aren’t by law supposed to be.
I wish this was the extent of abuse, but it isn’t. A 2011 Government Accountability Office study found that approximately 21 percent of H-1B visas are simply fraudulent — that the worker is working for a company other than the one that applied for the visa, that the visa holder’s identity has changed, that the worker isn’t qualified for H-1B based on skills or education, or the company isn’t qualified for the H-1B program.
H-1Bs, even though they aren’t citizens or permanent residents, are given Social Security numbers so they can pay taxes on their U.S. income. A study by the Social Security Administration, which is careful to point out that its job doesn’t include immigration monitoring or enforcement, found a number of H-1B anomalies, the most striking of which to me was that seven percent of H-1B employers reported no payments at all to H-1B visa holders. This is no big deal to the SSA because these people qualify for no benefits, but it makes one wonder whether they are under-reporting just Social Security or also to the IRS and why they might do so? Those H-1B employers who do report Social Security income do so at a level that is dramatically lower than one might expect for job classifications that are legally required to pay the “prevailing wage.”
Maybe at this point I should point out that the H-1B visa program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. Feel better?
One defense of H-1B might be that it raises overall skill levels, but studies show H-1B employees to be consistently less capable than their US citizen counterparts. This data point is especially interesting because it is drawn from the LCA data where applying companies claimed that 56 percent of H-1B applicants were in the lowest skill category and could therefore be paid the least. So at the same time companies are claiming they need the H-1B program to bring in skilled workers, the workers they are bringing in aren’t very skilled at all. Or if they are skilled, then the sponsoring companies are fudging their paperwork to justify paying lower than market wages.
Either truth is damning and the latter is downright illegal.
Here’s where I’ll give a shout-out to the Libertarian contingent reading this column because they’ll tend to say “So what? It’s every man or woman for himself. Employers should be able to do whatever they damned well please while workers can always go elsewhere.”
But it’s against the law.
At this point a longtime reader of this column speaks up:
I have been a practicing immigration attorney for over 13 years. I have done many H-1B visas and like any other government program it was loaded and is still loaded with abuses… In my opinion, employers who need H-1B Visa workers should have to go through a screening process before they are allowed to submit the application and a bond should be posted if they violate the law.
For a large multinational corporation to play this game is not new. The reason that they carry on with these activities are for one reason only — control. Control of the employee and uneven bargaining at the end of the day. I have dealt with this with different multinational corporations… and they have, can and will act in the same manner. As always, it takes either an investigation by the USDOJ or massive fines (or both) to redirect bad behavior to federal compliance.
Even if I wasn’t at ground zero in this stuff, it would still bother me,” wrote another longtime reader who has spent his entire career in IT. “Our country spent decades learning to treat workers fairly and with respect. The driving force behind unions in the first place was to address serious problems in the workplace. With all this offshoring and H-1B crap, we’ve dumped 100 years of improving society down the drain. Maybe USA workers do cost too much. The problem is we are not fixing the actual problem. As more and more jobs go off shore, the damage to our economy grows. If we would fix the problemsthe playing field would be more level and USA workers could compete for jobs. These abuses by corporations are not only hurting USA workers, they are hurting our nation.
- H-1B visa abuse limits wages and steals US jobs (betanews.com)
- What Americans don’t know about H-1B visas could hurt us all (cringely.com)
- Cringley: H-1B Visa Abuse Limits Wages and Steals US Jobs (news.slashdot.org)
- Microsoft pitches new $10,000 H-1B visas (infoworld.com)
- Microsoft proposes over Rs 5 lakh fee for new category of H1-B visa (profit.ndtv.com)
- Microsoft proposes Rs 5 lakh fee for new category of H1B visa (ibnlive.in.com)
- Microsoft pitches $10,000 H-1B visa (infoworld.com)
- H-1B Visa Numbers Running Out (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Microsoft: ‘To fill 6,000 jobs, we’ll pay $10K per visa’ (theregister.co.uk)
- Onerous system costs US talented work force (syracuse.com)
BYOD makes employees work extra 20 hours unpaid
But they’re apparently happy to do so
Many employees are working up to 20 additional hours per week unpaid as a result of bring your own device (BYOD) policies adopted by their firms.
According to the quarterly Mobile Workforce Report from enterprise Wi-Fi access firm iPass, a third of mobile enterprise workers never fully disconnect from technology during their during personal time.
The iPass figures, based on a survey of 1,200 mobile enterprise workers worldwide, showed that only eight percent disconnect completely from work while they are on holiday.
The report also said that 92 percent of mobile workers “enjoy their job flexibility” and are “content” with working longer hours. In fact, said the report, 42 percent would like “even greater flexibility for their working practices”.
“BYOD is effectively turning us into a generation of productive workaholics, with many workers seemingly happy to work during their downtime in exchange for flexibility in how and where they work,” said Rene Hendrikse, VP of EMEA at iPass.
“Mobile workers want to help their companies stay competitive in a fast-paced and challenging business environment and for this reason nearly half of all businesses are now actively encouraging flexible working.”
However, iPass warned that employees run the risk of literally paying the price for this flexibility, with 18 percent shouldering their own mobile data bills, an increase of six percent from last year.
The poll also looked at the growth of video communications. Over two-thirds (67 percent) of mobile workers are using video conferencing and/or video chat applications more than they did in 2011.
Skype was the most popular video communications technology, with 70 percent of mobile workers using it as their first preference, and 36 percent used a Cisco platform. This was followed by 29 percent who preferred to use Apple’s FaceTime, and 13 percent chose Google’s Gmail video chat.
A fifth (19 percent) of mobile workers said their companies did not require security on smartphones or tablets to access work data.
- BYOD Makes Employees Work Up to 20 Extra Unpaid Hours Per Week (pcworld.com)
- BYOD makes employees work extra 20 hours unpaid (billhubbell.wordpress.com)
- Workers Working An Extra 20 Hours a Week Thanks To BYOD (mobile.slashdot.org)
- BYOD could have insurance implications (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
- 4 Bogus Arguments For BYOD (informationweek.com)
- BYOD perhaps not as widespread as previously thought (lenovo.com)
- What to consider for BYOD (lenovo.com)
- BYOD: Love or hate it, it’s here to stay (lenovo.com)
- Generation Y: Are we a BYOD policy nightmare? (zdnet.com)
- Know when to leverage BYOD and when to forget it (zdnet.com)
The Betrayal of the American Dream — A Once Vibrant Middle Class Is Now on the Brink
Donald Barlett and James Steele explain in their new book how American middle class has been impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite.
August 1, 2012 |
AMY GOODMAN: Democrats and Republican lawmakers are in a deadlock over whether to extend the politically decisive Bush-era tax cuts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is planning to vote this week to extend all the cuts, but Obama says those Americans making above $250,000 a year should return to the tax levels they paid before Bush took office. Pointing to the Senate’s passage of the White House-backed proposal, Obama called on House Republicans to support the bill in his weekly address on Saturday.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This week, the Senate passed a plan that I proposed a few weeks ago to protect middle-class Americans and virtually every small business owner from getting hit with a big tax hike next year—a tax hike of $2,200 for the typical family. Now it comes down to this. If 218 members of the House vote the right way, 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small business owners will have the certainty of knowing that their income taxes will not go up next year. That certainly means something to a middle-class family who has already stretched the budget as far as it can go.
AMY GOODMAN: In an interview on Fox News, Republican House Speaker John Boehner countered that Obama’s tax plan would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: President’s plan would cost about 700,000 new jobs that wouldn’t be created or could be lost by taxing small businesses. The House will not do that. The House will extend all of the existing tax rates. We’ve got 8 percent unemployment; we’ve got 41 months of it. This is not to be time—the time to be raising taxes on American small businesses.
AMY GOODMAN: As Republicans and Democrats continue disputing who should bare the brunt of the tax burden, our next guests argue America’s middle class has been decimated over the years due to policies governing not only taxes but also bank regulations, trade deficits and pension funds. Their new book chronicles how the American middle class has been systematically impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite.
We’re joined now for the hour by Don Barlett and James Steele, the award-winning investigative reporters. They have worked together for over 40 years, first at thePhiladelphia Inquirer, then at Time magazine, most recently at Vanity Fair. They’ve also written seven books. Their first book, America: What Went Wrong?, was a New York Times bestseller. They share two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Magazine Awards. Their new book is called The Betrayal of the American Dream.
Jim Steele, Don Barlett, we welcome you both to Democracy Now! Start off by laying out your thesis, Don. Start off by talking about the betrayal of the American dream.
DONALD BARLETT: It really goes back to when we did America: What Went Wrong?, which was in ’91. And at that time, people were upset around the country. They knew something was happening, but they didn’t know what. And what made that book so successful was that we pulled everything together in terms of pensions and pay and union membership—and just everything economics. And you could see that there was a systematic attack going on on the middle class.
At that time, it was still kind of—you know, could have gone either way if there had been a political response, which there should have been, but there wasn’t. And as a result, when—we received just literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters of emails over the last several years saying, “Would you go back and look at this in terms of what you wrote the first time?” And if we made one mistake the first time, it was we grossly underestimated how fast this country was going to go down the tubes. And we really did.
Back then, there were still defined benefit pensions, and people still had a hope of getting them. They’re gone. There was one wage structure. Now there are two-tiered wage systems all over the country. The one wage is gone. Income has been flat, for the most part, since then. You go down the list, and everything has gotten incredibly worse than it was then.
And one of the arguments that was raised by critics back then was because this—that series ran right at the tail end of one of the recessions, and people said, “Well, what’s happening now is really related to the recession, and once we’re out of the recession, everything will be fine.” And we made the point this was not true, that what was happening was totally unrelated to the recession. It was the result of structural defects in the American economy, and it was going to continue unless they were dealt with. Well, they weren’t dealt with, and now everything is—you couldn’t even go back now to the 2000 level and give people what they had then. It would be impossible, given the attitudes in Congress, the hardening lines in Washington.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about specifics and also go general. Jim Steele, the story of corporations tell a very major story about the United States, corporations like Apple and Boeing. Apple doesn’t manufacture one product in the United States?
JAMES STEELE: That’s correct. That’s correct. I think some of the parts—some of the parts are made here, but basically the essential products aren’t. And we made the point in the book—we actually wrote about this before a lot of the news surfaced this year—that what was significant about what Apple has done is not just their working conditions in China, which were horrendous by the subcontractors over there, but what they did, they completely closed down manufacturing in this country after really less than a generation. The historic pattern in this country was a product would be invented here, a company would go into business, they would start making it. Up and down the line, you had a broad-based workforce for that product, from folks on the factory floor to the designers, to the salesmen, so on, to the stockholders who might be part of that company. But ultimately, you had this broad-based situation. Apple originally had some manufacturing in this country but very quickly, in less than a generation, just closed that down and shipped most things to China and other countries. And it’s just part of that pattern where jobs that once middle-class people had in this country are now gone.
You see a similar kind of thing now going on with Boeing. Boeing has outsourced all kinds of parts of the new Dreamliner, its great new aircraft, which of course has recently run into some problems with parts of their engines falling off, apparently. But Boeing, as part of getting into the Chinese market, which everybody agrees will be a huge market, has manufactured all sorts of things over there. Basically, what Boeing is doing, which a lot of companies are doing, they are basically showing the Chinese how to make airplanes. And what have the Chinese done? They’re creating their own civilian aircraft industry, where we were told, I think, in this country the idea was have some presence there so we can sell them airplanes. But where is that going to lead down the line if we are turning over to them some of the technology that will let them build airplanes that are our principal export in this country?
- The Betrayal of the American Dream — A Once Vibrant Middle Class Is Now on the Brink (alternet.org)
- The Betrayal of the American Dream (wnyc.org)
- 10 Theories on Mitt’s Hidden $ | When Aging and Addiction Collide | Love in a Time of Layoffs (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- Review: 2-time Pulitzer winners tackle the economy (utsandiego.com)
- The Elites Are Unanimous: Lower Everyone’s Wages and Standard of Living – Except They Don’t Say it Out Loud | Economy | AlterNet (mbcalyn.com)
- Matt Taibbi Dishes on the “Biggest Insider Trading You Could Ever Imagine” | Economy | AlterNet (mbcalyn.com)
- Make No Mistake About It, The American Dream Is Deader Than Ever: Report From 20 Paws Ranch (themoderatevoice.com)
- Betrayal: House GOP leaders refuse to defund Obamacare (fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com)
- Joseph Stiglitz: The American Dream Is Now a Myth [Video] (johnmalcolm.me)
- Right Fears Entitlements Are Killing American Dream (pattidudek.typepad.com)
The Elites Are Unanimous: Lower Everyone’s Wages and Standard of Living — Except They Don’t Say it Out Loud | Economy | AlterNet
The Elites Are Unanimous: Lower Everyone’s Wages and Standard of Living — Except They Don’t Say it Out Loud
America’s 1% are in harmony on the matter that concerns them most — who gets the biggest slice of the pie.
July 19, 2012
Calls for a bipartisan “Grand Bargain” on taxes and spending for the next decade ring out daily, if not hourly, from the politicians and pundits who dominate our political media. But the national discourse is silent on the tacit agreement both parties have already made on the future that lies ahead for the majority of working Americans: a dramatic drop in their living standards.
The United States can no longer satisfy the three great dreams that have driven most of its domestic politics since the end of World War II: the multinational corporate class’s dream of limitless profits; the military-industrial complex’s dream of global hegemony; and the dream of the people for rising incomes and expanding opportunities. One out of three? Certainly. Two out of three? Maybe. All three? No.
So far, Corporate America gets priority boarding in the economic lifeboat – with the safest seats reserved for Wall Street. Four years after the crash, the financial sector remains heavily subsidized with cheap federal loans that it uses to buy higher yielding bonds, speculate in exotic IOUs and pay outrageous salaries to those at the top. Larger than ever, they are more than ever “too big to fail.” As a result, Wall Street continues to divert the nation’s capital away from investment in sustainable high-quality jobs in America.
Next in line is the Pentagon and its vast network of corporate contractors, members of Congress with military facilities in their districts and media propagandists for the empire. The administration, along with some libertarian Republicans, insists that military spending will not be spared in the coming era of austerity, and has proposed modest cuts over the next decade. At the same time, virtually all of Washington supports the policies that require huge defense budgets, i.e., remaining in the Middle East, expanding in Latin America and containing China in its own neighborhood. The threatened across-the-board cuts in federal spending that become automatic if a long- term budget deal is not made by December will almost certainly be finessed in order to protect the military budget.
All of which leaves the American middle class on a badly listing, although not yet sinking, economic ship. Even before the financial crash, real wages for the typical American worker had been stagnant for 30 years as a result of: 1) trade and investment deregulation that shoved American workers into a brutally competitive global labor market for which they were unprepared; 2) the relentless war on unions that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980; and 3) more recently, the erosion of the social safety net for low wage workers and the unemployed.
Still, workers continued to spend, and thus maintain national economic growth. While hourly wages flattened, overall family income rose because more women went to work. And cheap and accessible credit fueled everyone’s purchasing power
Today, with more women than men now employed, gains to family income from sending the wife to work are about exhausted. And given the huge overhang of non-payable debt on the part of both banks and consumers it will be a generation, if ever, before we see anther credit balloon strong enough to lift up the economy. So, now that these financial props have been knocked away, the trajectory of American incomes and living standards is a downward slope.
This decline will not be reversed by the long-awaited upturn in the currently stalled business cycle. Even with optimistic assumptions – e.g., that there will be no new recession, Europe avoids collapse, big US banks remain solvent — there is little prospect for a sustained boom in the demand for American labor sufficient to overcome the downward pressure on workers’ share of the economic pie. Cost cutting has become the central strategy for most American business, and for most of them the easiest cost to cut is labor.
The squeeze is not limited to workers in export or import-vulnerable industries. Wages and salaries are now falling across the board, in services and manufacturing sectors, among women and men, young and old. Health and pension benefits are being slashed and businesses are getting their work done with part-time and temporary workers, often supplied by labor contractors whose own survival depends on hiring labor at the cheapest rate possible.
Moreover, going to college is no longer the escape route for the vast majority of young people without elite connections or rich parents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2010 and 2020, nine out of 10 of the largest and fastest growing occupational categories will not require a college education. And the tenth, which includes medical professionals and college teachers, are likely to suffer dramatically in the coming age of fiscal austerity. The bright college graduates working as retail clerks at the Apple Store for $12 an hour are beginning to sense that their jobs do not represent a pause on the way up the professional ladder, but rather are a taste of their long-term future.
In the first few month of his term, Barack Obama signaled that he understood that the crisis of the middle class was more than a temporary condition of the business cycle. “We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand,” he said. “ We must build our house upon a rock… a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest.”
The building blocks of a new high-wage foundation are reasonably clear: 1) large government-led investment in infrastructure, education and new technologies that can create demand for jobs in both the short and long run; 2) Strict regulation of Wall Street and new trade policies to re-channel the country’s private capital away from short-term speculation and back to long term investment in producing high value-added goods and services in America; 3) a shift in national security policy away from world dominance and toward a a narrower definition of national defense.
Three and a half years later we are still stuck in the economic sand pile. The prolonged recession has further weakened the economy’s underpinnings and the failure of a “liberal” president to restore growth has discredited government – the institution that must lead any successful transition to a new economic path.
Certainly, most of the blame lies with the reactionary Republicans whose fear of their lunatic fringe trumps loyalty to their country. And there’s been some bad luck, such as the European crisis. But Obama shares some culpability. He took up the Bush plan for no-strings Wall Street bailouts, expanded unregulated trade, cold-shouldered his union base, and has now adopted fiscal austerity as his economic priority. Whether you think the president is a wimp, a willing tool of Wall Street or a political saint mugged by right-wing thugs, the fact remains that he could or would not engage in all-out battle for the economic transformation he so eloquently promised.
The last four years have demonstrated that, taken together as a governing class, the leaders of our two-party system are currently unwilling to do what is necessary to reverse declining standards. As for the next four, given the choice, Obama is clearly the better option. Under Democrats, the slide will be less steep and rough. Whoever the “real” Romney might be, the extinction of Republican moderates among the Party’s pool of potential policymakers means that his administration will be largely staffed by conservative fundamentalists and corporate fixers who can’t wait to return us to the dog-eat-dog labor markets of the pre-New Deal.
But Obama, if re-elected, will certainly not have a greater congressional majority than he had in 2009. Moreover, given the massive campaign contributions he will have had to raise from Wall Street and the rest of Corporate America, the elite investor class will play an even more influential role in his victory. Add in the bipartisan commitment to budget austerity, and chances of a significant progressive shift in Washington’s economic policies over the next presidential term become virtually zero.
The mantra of both candidates is, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” What they leave out is that, because they are unwilling to confront the power of Wall Street and the Pentagon, job growth in America now depends on driving labor costs lower loser and lower to attract business investment. This is the heart of the leveraged-buy out system that Romney offers to bring to the White House. And when Barack Obama cites an expanded GE plant in Kentucky as an example of the rebound of private sector jobs, the press release does not mention that workers who used to make $22 an hour are now making $14.
None of this is a secret to most of our governing class. Certainly, the CEOs and their major shareholders know it. Their economists know it. So do all but the most hopelessly ideological of policymakers. But acknowledging where future living standards are heading would require our political leaders to offer remedies that are unacceptable to Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. Safer not to look into the economic abyss and trust in good old American optimism.
Neither does the public want to stare too hard into the future. Majorities think that the next generation is going to be worse off, but they expect that they, personally, and their kids will be okay. So, while they might agree with the points made by the Wall Street Occupiers, it’s not worth the effort to join the protest. A PEW poll last fall reported that by a margin of 63-21 Americans believed that, “although there may be bad times every now and then, America will always continue to be prosperous and make economic progress.”
The American writer James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Until Americans face that they and their kids will not be okay, and that their own personal future depends on their ability to find leaders to willing to act on that reality, the implicit Washington grand bargain will remain in force. And we will continue on the road toward lower wages, falling living standards and blasted hopes.
- The Elites Are Unanimous: Lower Everyone’s Wages and Standard of Living — Except They Don’t Say it Out Loud (alternet.org)
- Minimum wage plus in-work benefits are still not necessarily enough for a minimum standard of living (blogs.lse.ac.uk)
- Are We Headed Toward A Servant Economy? (talkingunion.wordpress.com)
- Falling cost of living ‘won’t cure crisis in living standards’ (itv.com)
- ZFE should not be confrontational over minimum wage hike (times.co.zm)
- Groups call for higher minimum wage (kansascity.com)
- Soaring childcare and transport costs hit families hard (guardian.co.uk)
- Limited Government Works; Socialism Kills (economicnoise.com)
- Fifty shades of capitalism (salon.com)
- Socialist Canadians Wealthier Than Capitalist Americans? (outsidethebeltway.com)
Government and Industry Must Invest
Elaine L. Chao, the secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009, is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
UPDATED JULY 9, 2012, 10:11 PM
It may be hard to believe that in this dreadful economy there are a significant number of job openings going unfilled because employers are having difficulty finding qualified applicants. This phenomenon had been a growing concern among employers and some policy makers even when the economy was booming in the last decade. The situation has been alleviated by overall growth in unemployment, but it has not disappeared.
Why should anyone who is not one of these employers care? Because when so many millions of Americans have been unemployed for so long (43 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 27 weeks), it is tragic that any job openings are going begging for applicants.
Policy makers need to acknowledge that job training programs could improve and employers should overcome a myopic focus on quarterly earnings.
And many of these unfilled job openings are in higher-growth industries. As we have been painfully reminded these past few years, decline in one economic sector (housing) can be disastrous for the entire economy. Conversely, growth in one area of the economy reverberates positively across other sectors.
An annual survey of employers by the Manpower Group, released in May, found that 49 percent of employers in the United States are having difficulty filling certain positions. Information technology, engineering and skilled trades positions are cited as among the most difficult to fill. Among the top reasons employers cited for being unable to fill openings was lack of applicants, technical skills and experience. Drilling down into the data in this and other surveys it is apparent that other factors are also in play. These contributing factors include unwillingness on the part of employers in some cases to raise starting salaries significantly or invest in on-the-job training and less mobility among potential applicants who are underwater on a mortgage.
Though the situation is less serious than before the recession, at some point in the future the economy will improve and the labor market will tighten (partly because of baby boom generation retirements). To better deal with shortages of qualified applicants now and in the future, government policy makers need to acknowledge that government job training programs could stand improvement. Employers should overcome a myopic quarterly earnings posture and focus on long-term strategies for growth that include investing in their own skills-training efforts to enable a broader pool of applicants. To maintain their own competitiveness, workers need to attain and stay current on the qualifications needed to advance in a constantly evolving economy.
America’s competitive advantage lies in its human talent. All of us should be doing everything we can to cultivate and develop our work force.
- Why you can’t get a job (even when you’re qualified and the company is hiring) – Post Leadership – The Washington Post (mbcalyn.com)
- The Tea Party Is Not Dead – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Leave the Voting Age Alone – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Survey Finds Widespread Spying by Indian Companies – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Mandatory Service to Become an Adult – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- A Parent’s Role in the Path to Adulthood – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- The Hollowing Out – NYTimes.com (campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Break Up the Banks – They’re Still Too Big to Fail or Regulate – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Let Them Drink at 18, With a Learner’s Permit – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- The MedZilla.com Employment Report for July 2012: Bridging the Gap between Job Creators and the Perfect Candidate (prweb.com)
The Woman in the Facebook Frat House
An early staffer recalls the raucous days of a company in transition from Harvard dorm room to Silicon Valley
The author joined Facebook in 2005 as one of the first members of the company’s nascent customer-relations team. It was just a year since Mark Zuckerberg had moved Facebook’s headquarters from his Harvard dorm room to California. When she arrived, there were 50 employees working from a small office in downtown Palo Alto, and the collegiate culture remained thick. Here is some of what she remembers from those days.
At 11 a.m. on my first day at Facebook, the young, plain-looking guys in T-shirts, gazing at their screens, seemed startled—if not displeased—to see a strange new woman in the office.
The only other woman in the office—an administrative assistant—was more animated, smiling toothily as she welcomed me in. She sat in front of a large piece of graffiti art featuring a cartoonish, zaftig woman with green hair who floated above an ominous cityscape.
Much of the graffiti in the room featured stylized women bursting from small tops that tapered down to tiny waists, mimicking the proportions of female videogame characters. It seemed juvenile, but I wasn’t very bothered—it seemed like the kind of thing that suburban boys from Harvard would think was urban and cool. “We had to move the really graphic painting to the men’s bathroom because someone complained,” an engineer told me as he gave me a tour of the tiny office. He said this with the slight mocking disapproval that was my new colleagues’ default tone in response to anything that resisted their power.
A Stanford grad introduced me and another newbie to the janky application through which users’ emails to Facebook flowed. Once we learned how the software worked, he taught us, without batting an eye, the master password with which we could log in as any Facebook user and gain access to all messages and data. “You can’t write it down,” he said, and so we committed it to memory.
Security measures would be implemented later that made it impossible for anyone to use the master password without authenticating themselves as an employee. And a year after that, the password would disappear entirely in favor of other, more secure forms of logging in to repair accounts. But at the beginning, there was only one password. For us, as administrators, everything on Facebook really was there for the seeing.
In the winter of 2006, Facebook employees were treated to a vacation in Tahoe, where we all stayed together in a big house. Toward the end of one drunken night, I donned the bearskin, complete with head, which adorned the banister on the stairs. Mark Zuckerberg thought this was hilarious and insisted that I continue to wear the bearskin around my shoulders. One of the engineers naturally took pictures all night of our shenanigans to post to Facebook. In one of the last photos he took, Mark is gesturing at me haughtily like an emperor as I stand doubled over in laughter with the bear suit draped over me.
It was all innocent fun; everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, but when I saw the photograph appear in a Facebook album that Monday I was struck by the loaded nature of the image, ripe for interpretation, in which Mark appeared to be commanding a female employee to submit.
More interesting than the fact that the photo was taken and posted on Facebook is that it didn’t occur to anyone in the office that there was anything wrong with it, or that it revealed something unattractive about the culture of Facebook. As Mark wrote on his business card with boyish hubris, “I’m CEO, bitch.” The image of me in the bearskin was saying that power wasn’t something to be questioned; it was something to collect and brandish.
By 2008, there were rumors of an important new hire that Mark had made to the executive team. That Friday, he convened an All Hands to introduce Sheryl Sandberg, a high-powered, multimillionaire advertising and operations executive from Google, as chief operations officer. “Sheryl and I met at a party and we immediately hit it off,” Mark announced.
“We began talking for hours,” he went on. “She asked me questions about how I was running the company. I was really impressed with how smart she is.” Mark spoke with an uncharacteristic smile and glow, not flirtatious exactly, perhaps a function of some kind of sense of relief, as if he had been seeking someone like Sheryl for some time. “When I met Sheryl, the first thing I said was that she had really good skin,” Mark continued, “and she does,” he said, gesturing toward Sheryl, whose face had an admittedly creamy tone. She was smiling and didn’t flinch.
At a one-on-one meeting with Sheryl weeks later, I found out that she had an interest in the topic of women at Facebook and in Silicon Valley generally. She scheduled individual meetings with all the women in engineering. By that point, they numbered about 15 out of hundreds of engineers.
I told her that there were a few situations involving men in the department that I thought she should know about. For example, one of the senior managers had been known to proposition women in the company for threesomes. I also had an issue with an engineer who behaved, by turns, dismissively or aggressively toward female product managers. As I said to Sheryl about this second situation, “I was told by an engineering director to go in and talk to the guy and try to resolve the situation myself, but when I did that, the engineer somehow twisted things around and called me a bad feminist, as if to distract from the conversation at hand, and the conversation didn’t go anywhere. It was pretty unpleasant.”
I didn’t hear back immediately about any of the issues I had raised with her, until she stopped briefly by my desk one day a few months later and in the low, succinct office voice that she mastered, said, “I just want you to know that the situations you told me about have both been handled.”
I had heard nothing about it. “You see, I’m so good that I make things happen and no one even knows about them,” she said with a smile. Sure enough, the manager who propositioned employees had been subtly demoted and the aggressive engineer moved to another team.
I left in 2010. Since then, I’ve become accustomed to a world in which Facebook is one of the primary mediums through which people communicate and interact. To most of its users, Facebook seemed to come from nowhere; to me, it had meant long and sometimes very exciting hours—and some difficult experiences that didn’t belong on my Facebook “wall.”
- The Woman in the Facebook Frat House (smarterware.org)
- The Woman in the Facebook Frat House (allthingsd.com)
- Facebook’s Complicated Lady Problems (theatlanticwire.com)
- Linkpost | 6.24.2012 (chron.com)
- The Super Awkward Way Mark Zuckerberg Introduced Sheryl Sandberg To Facebook Employees (FB) (businessinsider.com)
- New Book Chronicles Facebook’s Fratty Antics (nymag.com)
- U Of C Frat In Trouble For “Conquistadors And Aztec Hoes” Party (chicagoist.com)
- A Day After Facebook’s IPO, Mark Zuckerberg Marries! (FB) (businessinsider.com)
- Need help with litter or graffiti? White Center woman launching ‘Neat Street’ (whitecenternow.com)
- Entrepreneurial Graffiti (takimag.com)