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Microsoft

Microsoft Settles 'Permatemp' Case For $97 Million 256

pq writes: "The NYT is reporting that Microsoft has settled its 'Permatemp' case for $97 million. Another bullet, successfully dodged. 'Microsoft continues to be a great place to work,' said their VP." For those not following, the suit alleged that Microsoft was using not-very-temporary employees secured by temporary placement agencies to avoid giving them the benefits for which other Microsoft employees were eligible.
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Microsoft Settles 'Permatemp' Case For $97 Million

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  • May I humbly suggest that you read this [wired.com]--it speaks for itself. Yes, it's 45 web pages long, but well worth the read.

    -- Shamus

    This space for rent, reasonable rates
  • I live near MS, and I have a crapload of neighbors who work there, and my understanding is that regardless of what MS and the temps agreed to, the heart of the issue is federal and state law.

    Even if you're a temp with a contract, if you're given the duties of an employee, the demands upon you are the same as an employee, and this persists for a long enough time to convince a judge that it's not a temporary situation, you are in effect an employee. As such, even if the contract says otherwise, you are required to get all the employee benefits.

    Basically, if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, a piece of paper indicating that it's a goose isn't relevant.

    MS tried to skirt around this by hiring de facto employees, calling them temps and dodging their legal responsibilities to give them benefits. The temps may not have gone in asking for it, but there's nothing wrong with forcing MS to comply with the law when they're the ones who weren't doing it.

    There are plenty of boneheads on /. who will claim that this is awful, and that contracts should be honored no matter what. I think that they forget that human beings are not economic bacteria in a cycle of stimuli-response, but that we have social desires (e.g. preventing people from starving in the street) that are more important than adhering to an imperfect system of economics. (i.e. any of them)

    I don't see a contradiction in this case. It is more important that employers not abuse their employees than it is to let the employees accept it because they have very little choice in the matter.
  • This isn't GM itself... We're a division in the financial industry.

    It's actually a great company. When I first started I'd end up in a room with 10 other people making critical decisions and we'd find out that not one of us was an employee.

    It's different now, we don't have as many contrators, but management is willing to get things done.

    I can imagine the automobile division is very different, and as I understand it their IT shop is run by EDS and can't get anything done without loads of paperwork.
  • Let's look at the elements necessary for a contract:

    • Agreement - if the temps agreed to continue working (as temps) for a given period of time (and this can be implicit agreement, simply by going ahead and working that period of time after hearing a unilateral offer), and someone at Microsoft agreed that they would after this period offer the temps a full-time position, this requirement is met.
    • Consideration - both sides must have some value changing hands; this need only be a change in legal position. An agreement to stay in one's current job qualifies as consideration. So does an agreement to offer further employment.
    • Contractual capacity - Presuming that everyone involved is over 18, sane and sober, there's no question here.
    • Legality - The contract can't be formed to accomplish an illegal goal. I'm going to call this one fine here too.
    Thus, if someone at Microsoft told the temps "stay here [x] long and you can have a full-time job" and one of those temps said "sweet!", you've got a contract.
  • You're still being too idealistic - your idea of a minimalistic government will never occur as long as there are people who have many more resources than the bulk of the population.

    The fundamental problem: the government has to have MORE resources than the people it is trying to constrain, otherwise they will use THEIR resources to overwhelm it whenever they want. And it will have to have the organization necessary to manage those resources (otherwise the resources will be ineffective).

    Even if the government used its resources at 100% efficiency (which I highly doubt, given historical precedent), I don't think the result will fit your idea of a "minimalist" government.
  • No. Money alone is not enough to permit anyone to arbitrarily modify political process, and money is not the sole (or even the primary) thing a government needs to govern.

    Does the amount of money in the US treasury really affect the level of corruption? If Fort Knox were full of gold at this moment (rather than being all but empty, as it is), do you honestly believe that this could change the way that legislation can be bought? The government's wealth has little or nothing to do with the political process.

    Do you, then, believe that the government which does the most -- which is the most active in the lives of the governed -- is the most resiliant to attack? It is this government, that which has no enforced (constitutional or otherwise) standards and rights keeping the government out of the people's affairs which is the MOST likely to violate its people's freedom on behalf of the wealthy (or some other fancy of the day).

    A government's source of power is not the taxes it collects, but rather the full faith and trust of the governed. Certainly, some means of gaining revenue are required -- the failure of the Articles of Confederation demonstrates this sufficiently -- but by far the most powerful thing any government has is the trust of its people. Would you call the United States government a failure prior to the establishment of the national bank? Before the New Deal? Prior to the institution of the income tax? I would say that none of these are by any means true. In its initial state, the United States federal government had less control (financial and otherwise) over the governed and had a Congress far more tightly hamstrung by a Court which read the Constitution by a far more strict interpretation. Can you honestly and with a straight face tell me that -- at a federal level -- there was more corruption then than now?

    The government that governs least, governs best. It was true two hundred years ago and is still true today.

    If you tell me that you honestly believe that anyone -- William H. Gates included -- could buy a constitutional amendment, I'll give up and let you have the last say in this thread. The simple truth is that while legislation may be bought, the framework which makes that legislation possible -- the Constitution and, more recently, the courts' interpretation thereof -- cannot be changed without true and genuine widespread assert. Were this framework established more strictly, then -- without the elastic clause and other openings which permit the Federal government to grab power which rightfully belongs to the states -- we would have a genuine limited government, and one unbendable by those with anything less than a truly just and universally appealing cause.
  • How could you say that if I were in that position, I'm not being abused?

    Well, lets suppose I'm an employer.. There is such a glut of unskilled homeless crackheads available to the market that I can't get but a few dollars a day for the services of my ditch-digging company. I can't price my services any higher (and provide better wages to my crackhead employees) because every other ditch digging company in town can get cheap crackhead employees, and there just aren't that many more people who need ditches dug. So if the employment arrangement is benefitial to me (someone to dig ditches at the market price) and benefitial to my crackheaded employee (food and shelter) and both parties enter the agreement then nobody is being abused. And obviously the homeless crackhead is deriving benefit from the arrangement because he's not starving anymore.

    I suppose you missed the day in school when they taught basic economics; supply and demand. You get paid what you are worth. If you aren't getting paid what you are worth you go find someone who will pay you that. If you can't find anyone who'll do that then you are already being paid at your fair market value.

    The only entity in society that can coerce, abuse, or otherwise impress their will on others is the government, as it is the only entity that can legally use force. Unfortunately people think that government is the solution to any situation they see as 'unfair', when they have their own ability to correct the problem by not dealing with the perpetrator of the 'unfair'ness. Handing more power to government just makes it more rife for manipulation by presure groups, at the detrement of the rest of the population.

    I'm pretty sure Bill Gates spends ~50% of his money on taxes, which government mostly dole's out to special interest groups, which could be considered 'charity'; then again it could be considered extortion. If you are making 20K/Yr your taxes are substantially less (less than 20%?) Therefore, yes, Bill Gates does give more to 'charity' than you. Notably he also provides a living for ~40,000 people (employees), which surely provides vastly more than you are providing to anyone.

    Go read Ayn Rand, you'll thank me later.

    -- Greg

  • How could you say that if I were in that position, I'm not being abused?

    Like this: you're not being abused. You don't have to accept that person's offer, and if you don't you are in exactly the same position you were before. If you do accept the offer, then you are better off as a result (otherwise, you wouldn't accept). In no case are you made worse off by being offered what you consider to be an unfair deal. What you are really asking for is enforced charity.

    It's still wrong to hire someone on a temporary basis, keep them around for YEARS because they think they'll eventually get hired full-time

    Well, that depends. If the employees were told that they would definitely be made full-time at some point, then there would be a breach of contract. If they weren't lied to or made any false promises, then they are responsible for their choices. I don't know the details of this particular case, so I'm not going to declare Microsoft either guilty or innocent. However, I will say that wishing you had negotiated a better deal should not be grounds for unilaterally altering an employment agreement after the fact.

  • No. Money alone is not enough to permit anyone to arbitrarily modify political process, and money is not the sole (or even the primary) thing a government needs to govern.

    I talked about "resources", not just money - money is an extraordinarily flexible "resource", but anyone with influence has additional resources, which might be stuff they have purchased with their money, or might be other "intangible" resources like "connections" to other influential people.

    Do you, then, believe that the government which does the most -- which is the most active in the lives of the governed -- is the most resiliant to attack?

    No, I believe that a government will not be able to stave off an attack unless it has more resources than its enemies (and the organization necessary to use them). It doesn't have anything to do with the "activism" of the government.

    One thing we partly agree on:

    A government's source of power is not the taxes it collects, but rather the full faith and trust of the governed.

    Yes, I agree that the GOVERNED can be an incredibly important "resource" - as long as they trust that the government is ultimately acting in their best interests. If they don't, then the government will have to use other important resources - like the police force and/or the military.

    The government that governs least, governs best. It was true two hundred years ago and is still true today.

    You have not said anything which proves this to me (or even provided a good example which counteracts my opinions). I do not believe in proof by mantra, no matter what the Libertarians hope.

    If you tell me that you honestly believe that anyone -- William H. Gates included -- could buy a constitutional amendment, I'll give up and let you have the last say in this thread.

    Depends on the amendment. For a "bad" amendment (one which would probably destroy the society), no one in the world has the resources to force something like that through the US government - because the US government is so powerful. Plenty of examples of "bad" amendments being forced through 3rd world nation governments though, where the well-off individuals in those nations are more powerful than the entire government (and they like it that way).

    For a "good" amendment, though - one which said rich person can use their money to convince (via advertising or whatever) most of the society that it would be in their best interests to pass that amendment - sure, a rich (or connected) person or organization has a much better chance of getting an amendment like that passed than any other individual.

    Were this framework established more strictly, then -- without the elastic clause and other openings which permit the Federal government to grab power which rightfully belongs to the states...

    Ahah, you have used the correct buzzwords to identify yourself as a "state's rights"-above-all advocate. I'll assume you're not a "mainstream" Republican, since their leaders seem to flip back and forth between state's rights depending on what political matter they happen to be arguing.

    Well, I completely disagree with your opinion - the state governments are MUCH more amenable to pressure by special interests than the federal government, because they have so much less resources to defend themselves against an organized attempt to "bend" them, and because there is (usually) so much less widespread publicity on such attempts. It's MUCH more difficult to do such things on a federal level, because of the sheer power of the federal government & due to the deep scrutiny that almost any federal action undergoes.

    That's one of the main reasons the conservative Christian movement loves any arguments which gives more legal authority to the states, because it diffuses the power down to organizations which are more amenable to pressure by special interests than the federal government and aren't monitored as carefully by the media so active opposition won't be rallied as quickly.

  • Strange land, this Slashdot place:

    Employers who want to exploit staff by setting up two tiers of employees - those with some security and benefits vs. those with none are somehow contributingto the greater good because being compelled to treat people well costs too much and would lead to no one being hired at all.

    Well doesn't that fly in the face of the overweening mentality here @ /. that I'M SO GREAT I CAN COMMAND ANY SALARY AND BENEFIT AND THE REST OF YOU ARE SLACKERS. Those two thoughts don't seem to go together. But then again, unlike you I may not up for the Fields medal or the Nobel fucking prize.

    Here's another interesting /. paradox: the "Didn't you know what you were doing, didn't you know that you had no benefits?" concept. This is actually an extension to the I'M GREAT YOU SUCK theory. It really applies to people who have never had to work at a company that hires from an approved vendor list and any contractor must be from a company on that list to get hired. Normally the way this works is the person is either an employee of that company or a contractor to it and the hiring company hires someone from the firm on the list. The rate is fixed and is typically something like 3x what the person is actually paid though it can be somewhat less where the hiring company has more leverage.

    There are so many paradoxes in /. land. They generally fall into the category of "I'm a spoiled young jerk who's never had anything bad happen to me and even if it did I have no responsibilities to other people anyway. Times are great they always will be and anyone who can't be prince of their realm is obviously a loser".

    Well for all you people who have never seen a recession, you're about to. And when this employer who is held to no rules suddenly tells you that if you want to continue to be a contractor you have to cut your rate in half or, you have become an employee for a 2/3 reduction in your income, please don't hesistate to remind that employer that regulations cost money and how fucking grateful you are to have a job at all.
  • No, I believe that a government will not be able to stave off an attack unless it has more resources than its enemies (and the organization necessary to use them). It doesn't have anything to do with the "activism" of the government.
    What position do such organizations as the NSA, the FBI, the FCC and the infrastructure created by them take among the resources you speak of?

    I'm still trying to understand exactly what you term a 'resource'.

    The government that governs least, governs best. It was true two hundred years ago and is still true today.

    You have not said anything which proves this to me (or even provided a good example which counteracts my opinions). I do not believe in proof by mantra, no matter what the Libertarians hope.

    Ahh, well -- it was a try. I was hoping you would recognize the origin of the quote and thus acknowledge that your pro-big-government stance is really quite new to this country.

    To briefly go over the reasoning behind this belief, though, I'll list the assumptions and conclusions: All laws reduce individual freedom. Some minimal level of enforced order is necessary for a society to function. The goal of a society is to function correctly [defining a 'correctly functioning' society is a whole nother discussion, so I'm leaving such out] while maintaining the greatest possible level of personal freedom. Hence, a society should enforce the minimal necessary level of law and no more. You'll note that government is referenced only implicitly method of enforcement used by a society. That's important -- the society comes first.

    Well, I completely disagree with your opinion - the state governments are MUCH more amenable to pressure by special interests than the federal government, because they have so much less resources to defend themselves against an organized attempt to "bend" them, and because there is (usually) so much less widespread publicity on such attempts. It's MUCH more difficult to do such things on a federal level, because of the sheer power of the federal government & due to the deep scrutiny that almost any federal action undergoes.
    And WHY do the state governments have less media attention given to them and (thus) fewer "resources"? Because "everybody knows" that the federal government is where the power is. If your average American looked to the state government when they wanted a new program, a new law, and otherwise saw that as the means of production, and the media looked there when trying to find something sensational to be investigated, then the state government would be able to withstand corruption.

    Yes, I agree that the GOVERNED can be an incredibly important "resource" - as long as they trust that the government is ultimately acting in their best interests. If they don't, then the government will have to use other important resources - like the police force and/or the military.
    The governed are the only resource which may be used by a morally correct government. Is it not the support of the governed which gives the government both the moral and literal power to act? Any use of military or police force to sustain the government against the will of the governed is wrong. Furthermore, remember that the police and military are made up of the governed; attempts to take actions clearly to the public detriment will likely result in a coup -- as they should.

    If you don't think I read correctly, look again at your words and tell me if you meant them as they read. You state that the military and/or police will need to be used if the governed do not believe that the government is acting in their best interests. If the governed do not believe that the government is acting in their best interests, the government should be destroyed and replaced, not sustained through repression.

    If you tell me that you honestly believe that anyone -- William H. Gates included -- could buy a constitutional amendment, I'll give up and let you have the last say in this thread.

    Depends on the amendment. For a "bad" amendment (one which would probably destroy the society), no one in the world has the resources to force something like that through the US government - because the US government is so powerful. Plenty of examples of "bad" amendments being forced through 3rd world nation governments though, where the well-off individuals in those nations are more powerful than the entire government (and they like it that way).

    These nations are all missing other elements of a functioning democracy -- like having government accountability to a well-informed public. THIS is what effectively prevents corruption.
    For a "good" amendment, though - one which said rich person can use their money to convince (via advertising or whatever) most of the society that it would be in their best interests to pass that amendment - sure, a rich (or connected) person or organization has a much better chance of getting an amendment like that passed than any other individual.
    Of course. Do you want it to be any other way? That's not buying an amendment but rather buying public support, and it's a different thing because if the amendment is a bad enough idea, public support can't be bought at any price.
  • by tokengeekgrrl ( 105602 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:29PM (#563689)
    ...for Microsoft from 1987 to the present then you might be covered by the lawsuit. I am as I was a contracter there for almost 2 years from 1995-1997. Check out http://216.13.224.31/msoft.htm [216.13.224.31] for more information.

    - tokengeekgrrl
    "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions

  • What position do such organizations as the NSA, the FBI, the FCC and the infrastructure created by them take among the resources you speak of?
    I'm still trying to understand exactly what you term a 'resource'.

    Those organizations ARE resources, and they HAVE resources. Examples of resources: money, manpower, technology, connections, laws. Anything or anyone someone can depend on to achieve a goal.

    I was hoping you would recognize the origin of the quote and thus acknowledge that your pro-big-government stance is really quite new to this country.

    Sorry, I read a lot, but have a lousy memory for quote sources (a definite annoyance when I'm trying to find a quote to buttress my own arguments :).

    I don't think of myself as pro-big-government as I do anti-powerful-special-interests. And I don't really care about moral arguments, partly because "morals" tend to be restated to fit the goals of the preacher, and partly because "morals" ain't going to mean squat to most of the population when it gets down to matter of survival.

    I tend to treat the whole situation by analyzing it as a system (product of being an engineer I guess), and my sense of system balance tells me that you can't control powerful-special-interests w/o having an equal or more-powerful agent acting on your behalf.

    The only other option for a balanced society is to have a systemic way of continually reducing the power of the special interests.

    And WHY do the state governments have less media attention given to them and (thus) fewer "resources"? Because "everybody knows" that the federal government is where the power is.

    The state governments are paid less attention BECAUSE the scope of their power is limited to their own state. People go to the federal government when they want laws which apply across the entire country. It's much more efficient & effective (and much less chaotic) than trying to get the same law passed in every state. People go to the states when they want a law which only applies to the residents of that state (or as I stated before, when they are trying to slip something in under the mainstream radar). As more and more of society's actions have cross-state-boundary implications, this makes the state governments irrelevant in many legal areas.

    This is also happening on a larger (global) scale w/regard to national borders, as technology has been pushing both transportation, shipping & communication ever faster.

    If your average American looked to the state government when they wanted a new program, a new law, and otherwise saw that as the means of production, and the media looked there when trying to find something sensational to be investigated, then the state government would be able to withstand corruption.

    I believe that the average American is looking at the appropriate level of government to handle issues at the appropriate level, and the media is responding the same way. On a slightly more cynical note, do you really think that the mainstream media will regularly describe the legal & political actions of their large corporate owners in unfavorable terms?

    The governed are the only resource which may be used by a morally correct government. Is it not the support of the governed which gives the government both the moral and literal power to act? Any use of military or police force to sustain the government against the will of the governed is wrong.

    As I stated above, I believe that "moral" arguments are pretty much worthless when looking at the stability of a society from a systems viewpoint.

    Furthermore, remember that the police and military are made up of the governed; attempts to take actions clearly to the public detriment will likely result in a coup -- as they should.

    It's a classic strategy when creating a totalitarian state to make sure that your police & military forces are isolated & alienated from the general populace, and/or treated preferentially by those in power. When they associate themselves with the rulers instead of the rulees, then it has been shown, with distressing historical regularity, to be quite happy with the job of subjugating the rest of the populace. (You could probably make a good argument that the current US public distrust of law enforcement, esp. in ghettos & other poor places, has already provided the seeds for this kind of alienation.)

    If the governed do not believe that the government is acting in their best interests, the government should be destroyed and replaced, not sustained through repression.

    Should be and will be are totally different concepts. People will put up with quite a bit of crap, as long as it is slowly increased & up until the point where they realize they've got a gun to their head, but find death preferable than the status quo. This is because most people are interested in survival, rather than promoting ideals like yours.

    If you're going to design a functioning society, then you'd better take into account that most people don't really care about your ideals or morals.

    That's not buying an amendment but rather buying public support, and it's a different thing because if the amendment is a bad enough idea, public support can't be bought at any price.

    Sure it can - you just lie to the public. Tell them what they want to hear, get them to rally behind you, then use their "public support" to get stuff done which benefits mainly you. Pretty easy for special interests, especially when they own most of the mainstream media outlets.

  • What position do such organizations as the NSA, the FBI, the FCC and the infrastructure created by them take among the resources you speak of?

    Those organizations ARE resources, and they HAVE resources. Examples of resources: money, manpower, technology, connections, laws. Anything or anyone someone can depend on to achieve a goal.

    You're talking like someone who believes that the ends justify the means -- like using money, manpower, connections and the like are all equally proper and just means of accomplishing some goal. The thing is, THEY AREN'T. Some kinds of resources are do more harm than good when given to a government, and that's what I'm trying to get across here. Just because you have (for instance) the FCC and can use them to stop corporations (and others) from usurping bandwidth regions doesn't mean that this goal justifies the broad swaths of law that are necessary to make the FCC possible.

    To give you an example of how things backfire, the very same laws that prevent corporations from making incompatible phone hardware are preventing folks on the Asterisk project (an open source effort to create free linux-based PBX software) from making their own affordable medium-density PBX hardware. All laws have unintended consequences -- even the DMCA wasn't intended by its creators to give the MPAA the power it's taken. Having lots of laws hamstrings everyone in a society, not just those who need to be controlled. Your ideal government, with sufficient 'resources' in the form of laws, connections and the like to effectively control those members of the population whom you percieve as doing ill to the public as a whole, will negatively impact the freedom of all of society -- not just the tycoons and barons.

    What you propose to do is to move from 'what's good for General Motors is good for the country' to 'what's good for the government is good for the country'. Neither of these is absolute truth. While 'what's good for the public's individual freedoms is good for the country' may not be absolute truth either, I believe that this mantra, if followed, will cause less abuse and harm to the public as a whole than either of the alternatives mentioned above.

    The state governments are paid less attention BECAUSE the scope of their power is limited to their own state.
    I entirely disagree. People ignore the state governments because they've been taught to think that the federal government is where laws get passed. Schoolchildren learn about the process of passing laws at a federal government; about who their representatives and senators are, etc; they never are taught about the state, and so it's merely not what people think about when they want a law passed. If the implied assumption in your argument -- that everyone wants the laws they support to affect the largest possible area -- then the default organization to go to for a policy change would be the United Nations.

    The crux of the issue is this: When I want a law passed, I want that law to affect the community I live in. I really don't give a sh*t about people out of state, just as folks promoting Federal laws don't generally spend much time thinking about how much better the world would be if their law also were applied in New Guinea.

    I can see federal laws being needed in situations where interstate trade is relevant. However, let's go take a look at what's happening in Congress right now. Last Friday's digest covers the introduction of S. 2508, A bill to amend the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 1988; H.R. 4020, to authorize the addition of land to Sequoia National Park; H.R. 1795, to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering -- and I'm stopping less than 1/7 of the way down the page. Do you honestly believe that these things need federal attention? That Colorado's state legislature is unfit to handle Indian water rights on their land? That California's legislature couldn't competantly administer their parks? That an Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering would never be created on a more local level -- or through corporate funding -- if the federal government took a hands-off approach towards everything not mentioned in their Constitution?

    On a slightly more cynical note, do you really think that the mainstream media will regularly describe the legal & political actions of their large corporate owners in unfavorable terms?
    No, I'm not that idealistic. However, do you really think that those in control of a large government will regularly describe the legal & political actions of their large corporate owners in unfavorable terms? Don't get me wrong -- I don't think that those in charge of a limited government will be any less bought out. However, the bought-out members of a limited government will be able to do less damage.

    You are the greater idealist here, by believing that a large government will become less corrupt rather than more. Whether you give the government power in the name of reducing corporate influence or towards any other goal, you won't reform humanity. Remember that this government which you strengthen is made not of machines but of men; that each of these comes from a hometown, and has friends there -- connections -- in industry, and that these connections work both ways. Were it not so, they'd quickly be lost. Recall that those men in the national government whom you hold in such high esteem almost invariably get there by going through their state governments, which you consider to hold such dangers of corruption. If you don't trust these men in their state positions, why do they become trustworthy when you give them so much more power?

    My view of government is cynical in the extreme; I'm somewhat less cynical about business. The reason? Those who go into government do so because they want power; they want to change the society of those around them. Those who go into business do it for money; they want to get rich -- perhaps their means of doing so may affect other men, but their goal is for themselves. I trust greedy men more than power-hungry ones; they want only my wallet, not my freedoms. While there exist among them men who would use the law to reduce consumer choice -- just as there have been those in the socialist movement who spoke of the unimportance of individual freedoms -- these are (thankfully) precious few.

    I don't think of myself as pro-big-government as I do anti-powerful-special-interests
    Then, in the interest of destroying a persistant disease, you propose a far more deadly cure.
    I tend to treat the whole situation by analyzing it as a system (product of being an engineer I guess), and my sense of system balance tells me that you can't control powerful-special-interests w/o having an equal or more-powerful agent acting on your behalf.
    You presume it's even possible to have another agent acting on your behalf. One of the design premises of our government, however, was that no part of it could be trusted to act in the public interest; thus, the power of the whole was limited, and each individual part set against another. The goal in this, of course, is to impede action in general -- to make it as difficult as possible for special interests or any other group to assert control. This equality of difficulty is important, if only for one reason: To me, you look like a special interest. You're a small group of people that wants to change the operation of government for everyone, as what you propose looks beneficial to you. Isn't that what everyone wants? To give you increased power to fight those other "special interests" is every bit as questionable as giving the corporatists more power to fight you. Far better to just decrease the power of government overall, so no special interests -- not me, not you, not AT&T -- can use government (with its unique powers) for good or ill.

    And as for a limited government -- you still have yet to explain why a government which is limited to doing 20 enumerated things is any less effective at doing those things than one with more general powers. This 'sense of balance' you have is the same thing which leads to the ridiculous argument that man could not possibly create an intelligence greater than his own, and is no more usable in a proper debate than my own arguments of morality.


    Finally, may I suggest that you add to your reading list Competition and Monopoly in American Industry, by C. Wilcox. One of its (rather interesting) findings is that monopolies -- such dangerous things they are -- are frequently created as a result of government action, and that in many cases the lifting of regulations would permit new entrances to the market. Having seen just this happening in the Asterisk project (individuals prevented from entering even very-low-volume manufacture of mid-capacity PBX equipment by the costs imposed by regulations intended to make the big corporations play fair), I'm inclined to agree.

    Finally, should this story be archived before we finish our discussion, I'd appreciate it if you'd contact me by email to continue this; frankly, rather enjoy it.

  • There are not enough H1B visas allowed in the U.S. to supply the current demand for Electrical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Computer Science Majors, and IT people

    To supply what would be the demand at a wage that is low enough to suit the employers, you mean. While averting higher salaries is arguably be a good thing (e.g. it keeps the industry in the US rather than sending it offshore; increases the productivity of the employer's assets), it doesn't sound very nice that our government has a program designed to reduce worker salaries.

    If companies were willing to hire older workers or to retain and retrain existing ones there would be many more people in the work force. Employers get too hung up on superficial criteria (e.g. N years of java rather than overall coding abilities). It's never taken me more than a week or so to start doing useful programs in a language and never more than a month before the language seems like second nature.

    Second flaw: Most of those people comming over and working on H1B visas are making damn good money.

    Damned good compared to what? If I have a position to fill, I can always fill it if I pay enough. It's because I'm not willing to pay a higher salary that I turn to a program like H1B.

    Actually, I don't have anything against the H1B workers -- most of them I've met are really very bright and good workers. I think that bringing in offshore talent benefits the country -- but I'd like to see them tracked for permanent residency, and to be treated with complete equality with native workers. If there really were a shortage of engineers, that's what we'd want to do. However, if you want to depress industry salaries, you bring in "guest" workers.

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:30PM (#563700) Journal
    The estimate up to 12,000 people we effected by the suit.

    So before legal fees, this comes to just over 8 thousand dollars, each.

    Now after the legal fees .... maybe two cents?

    Never mind the ability to cash in on the stock options before MS stock price went into trip digits for a while.

    There is a VERY interesting story here [theregister.co.uk] at the Register [theregister.co.uk] about how MS makes money off the microserfs via the stock options. To quote a small section:

    Microsoft's game plan for making money from stock options is quite simple. First, print some share certificates. Second, give out handfuls of stock options from time to time to keep the employees slaving away for at least 4.5 years until the shares vest. Third, Microsoft claims a tax rebate from the IRS when the employee takes up the shares and pays tax on them.

    Microsoft gained $5.5 billion in "stock option income tax benefits" in fiscal 2000, meaning that it had a tax benefit against share options that had been exercised (up nearly 80 per cent over the previous year). With corporate tax levels around 35 per cent, Microsoft effectively received an untaxed benefit of $16 billion. In practice, Microsoft has no choice but to pay employees substantially in shares if it is to keep its present level of staffing, since if it had used cash in fiscal 2000 instead of shares, this would have increased the salary bill by $16 billion - more than Microsoft's net income, and thus resulted in Microsoft making a loss of $7 billion.

    The beauty of this system for Microsoft is that it did not have to spend anything to grant the options, but gained $2.25 billion (shown as "common stock issued" in the cash flow) from what the employees have to pay to exercise the options. A line that should appear in Microsoft's accounts - but doesn't - is how much it saves as a result of stock option dealing. The total can be worked out by adding three things together: $0.5 billion from put warrants; $5.5 billion from the income tax that employees had to pay to acquire the stock; and $2.25 billion that employees had to pay Microsoft for the stock, making a total of $8.25 billion or 88 per cent of Microsoft's net income of $9.5 billion in fiscal 2000.

    Microsoft only made $5.8 billion on Windows, $4.9 billion on applications, and lost $1.5 billion on its consumer and other activities. Of course, Microsoft does not have to account for stock option dealing in this way under the present accounting rules, but the benefit that Microsoft gets is clearly of very great importance - and more than that received by any competitor. The provision for income tax in Microsoft's accounts was $4.9 billion, implying it would carry forward a tax credit of $680 million. There appears to be no direct way of identifying the rebate (in effect a subsidy on non-US sales) that Microsoft gets from the now-illegal foreign sales corporation scheme, but it must be considerable.

    Something to think about
  • I know many large companies who hire multitudes of contractors for this very same reason. But, as far as I know...having a bunch of contractors is legal. Any ideas why temps are not legal but contractors are? I will admit not having read the article..i never have bothered signing up for "free NY times."
  • by rudedog ( 7339 ) <`dave' `at' `rudedog.org'> on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:32PM (#563706) Homepage
    In any case, these are computer programmers and technical types - it's not as though they are working making footballs in the third world for tuppence happeny a day, is it?

    What makes you think they're techies? Do you believe that of the 42,000 people working for Microsoft, 41,999 are techies, with maybe 1 other person to answer the phones?

    The article doesn't give any numbers, but I would bet that most of these permatemps are not techies, but secretaries and support staff, who do not have as many options when it comes to seeking employment.
  • Ask most any contractor who has been involved in 'temp' labor, and they will tell you that their pay scale is significantly higher then that of full time workers for the same job.

    There have been several posts to that effect just in this discussion. I personally know someone who was offered full time employment on two occasions before he accepted it, because it involved a significant reduction in his pay.

    You are failing to think about basic economics here. We don't live in some simplistic populist jingoism pipe-nightmare [vs. pipe-dream] of evil corperations opressing poor workers. Workers, myself included, voluntarily sell our labor to firms that desire it to our mutual benefit.

    If anything, forced state regulation and forced benefit packages, by changing the underlieing economic situation and forcing coorperations to pay for many things that I don't necessarily want them to pay for, or even use or find advantage from are actually evil, not the corperations who want to purchase my labor. Any contractor, [indeed, ideally, any laborer] is a buisness, a minitaure firm in and of themselves, looking to negotiate the best profit that they can from what price the market will bear for their services.

    State regulation and forced 'benefits' are of no benefit, they merely

    A: reduce the salary the company can afford to pay me [thus locking a good part of the money I earn into the 'benefits' the state thinks are appropriate for my interests, vs. my own conception and determination of my interests]
    B: Put me in a situation [r.e. the results of this lawsuit and similar ones, to the degree that it sets a precedent] where the company will fear being liable if it actually keeps me on as a worker, thus you hear about intel preventing anyone from -ever- working for them for more then 2 years total in their lives, and microsoft having to fire competant temps who enjoyed willingly working there [and getting paid more then the forced 'benefit'ed official full timers] after a fixed period, [6 months, if I recall, and they have to wait at least 100 days before they can reapply].

    The only person who is having his freedom lessened is the temp worker, in the name of the nanny-state knowing what is really good for him.

    The real irony is that the forced benefits laws are enacted in the sincere belief that they will better the state of the worker, but this is naive and flies in the face of any economic reality. The 'benefits' are a big piece of the total dollar figure that the firm considers you to be worth and thus are willing to pay.


    ---
    man sig
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:32PM (#563710)
    BTW, this lawsuit is a very scary thing for those of us who ARE contractors. Because of this lawsuit, many companies are making it tougher to higher contractors. Intel, for example, will now only hire any one person as a contractor for a total of 2 years for that person's entire life. So, if I work for intel on four seperate NON-continuous contracts that last 6 months each, I could never be hired by Intel again unless I was taking a full-time employee position.

    As a contractor, I bring home approximately a 4x larger paycheck then I could by working as a full time employee. Granted, the security is not there, but with the contact base I have established over the years, I have never had trouble finding contracting work. (I'm self-employeed, I don't work through a contracting firm).

    In any case, because of this Microsoft court case, my job opportunities have become fewer. It's not enough to hurt me yet, but I could see this being a problem in the future.

    If people don't like the benefits they are getting from Microsoft (i.e., none in this case) then they should STOP working for Microsoft. It's ridiculous that this should have even been taken to courts. You ALWAYS have the option of looking for other employment if you don't like Microsoft's policies. What a bunch of whiners.
  • by goingware ( 85213 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @04:53PM (#563712) Homepage
    I was told when I was a contractor at Apple that one of the reasons a lot of companies use contractors is that this allows them to create inflated statements of revenues vs. numbers of employees, or expenses for employees in statements to the stockholders and financial press.

    Because contractor expenses count as expenses to vendors, while they are an expense, they make it appear as if your company is getting all this work done with far fewer employees than it really is. This is pretty significant as I understand that high-tech companies often employee as many as 40% of their staff as contractors.

    If I were a stockholder in any high-tech company (I got out well before the bubble burst) I'd be enraged at this.


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • I've seen a bad trend here in Silicon Valley, companies hiring pernament employee's to do 1 or 2 major tasks then firing them.
    Last job I worked at I was supposed to get a VPN solution running for the company, unfortunately the guy running the boxes down at GLBX could never make the time to give me some guidance. When I complained to management they excused his lack of co-operation.
    So I tried my best, after a month they started giving me the look of death, and low and behold the company got restructured. I was told they would let me keep my job until I found another, fortunate for me I found a better job.
    Over the course of the last two years i've seen companies like this several times, its been quite a roller coaster ride just to stay employed.
    Another nameless company hired me to convert word documents to HTML back in '95. I showed them the word 95 to html converter and I was fired the next day.
    Yet another nameless company hired me to automate their windows98 installs and integrate their software distribution with SMS. It took me 3 months to complete, and a week after it was tested and verified I got fired again.

    Point i'm trying to make here is this. Companies know that contracters are expensive, temp agencies are a pain in the ass, not to mention there is a loss of control. It's easier for them to have a HR person fill out all that paperwork, hire who you need for a job, then fire them. I've been a victim to it enough times to have a tolerance. Here is my advice...

    Make Freinds with a lawer.
    Send e-mail to lawer stating "i think they are going to fire me lets sue"
    make sure you disable screen savers and power saving for your monitor.

    Bad sysadmins fix stuff all day, good sysadmins keep everything runnning so they can read your e-mails and make jokes umongst themselves. Chances are if your gonna get fired they're sniffing your packets, reading your e-mails, and a bunch of stuff you don't wanna know about. Just make sure to have 1 corrospondance a day with your lawer and they'll let you keep your job till you find a new one.

    --Toq
  • Let me clarify my position a bit, to try and avoid getting painted into a "I-love-big-government-no-matter-what" stereotype and to correct some misrepresentations of my views which you seem to be following. As I stated before, I tend to view society and all of its elements (including corporations, individuals, organizations & government) as part of a large system. My idea of a preferable system is one where all parts of the system balance each other's power somehow, and that the system as a whole is stable even with either accidental or purposeful attempts by elements of the system to distort the system to their benefit.

    Keeping this system model in mind, the larger the player in this kind of system, the harder it is for the system to remain stable, because the larger players can cause larger perturbations which are harder to damp by the other elements in the system.

    In fact, for the system to remain stable, the OTHER elements (which can include government at any level, media, citizens, other corporations, etc) in the system MUST be powerful enough, either individually or collectively, to restrain the worst excesses of the largest "players" in the system. If they aren't, then the largest players will be able to distort the system's functionality for their own benefit, to the point where they can prevent ANY element of the system from presenting any kind of challenge to them.

    Now, any government, whether state/local/federal, is a special kind of "player". Instead of a company or an individual, where you can expect them to try and pursue their own interests at the expense of others, any government is (in an abstract sense) a "defender of the system" - w/in the scope of their authority, it is their charter to try and maintain the stability of the system. (Some might call this maintaining the status quo.)

    In this role, they almost BY DEFINITION assume the role of opponent to any other large player (whether corporation, individual, special interest, etc) who is trying to change the system's natural dynamics in a way which does not enhance the system's stability. And to achieve this goal, governments will accumulate the power necessary (in whatever form) to challenge those special interests.

    This is where your views & mine diverge. Working from MY model, I believe that any time you have a system with powerful special interests, to balance the system you will need a powerful "anti special interest" agent (or agents). The anti-special-interest power will concentrate at the level of society where the powerful special interests are working - in the case of powerful trans-state companies, this would be at the federal level.

    If there were a cohesive effective global government, then power would be concentrating there to try and constrain the multi-national corporations. (Although, the current situation between the multi-national corporations & global bodies like the UN might well prove a test case to see what happens when a government is not anywhere near as powerful as its opponents...)

    As I understand YOUR beliefs, the collective action of the individual elements of our society will always suffice to constrain the worst behavior of the large players.

    In the absence of an active force organizing our society's "individual elements" into one cohesive force (which is essentially what happens when the media manages to whip the public into a crusade of some sort), I strongly disagree that this will happen automatically - and the players who are actively seeking to manipulate the system for their own benefit will do their best to prevent organized opposition from such elements.

    Now, having either made my viewpoint clear or obfuscated the point beyond rational thought, I will address your points :)

    To give you an example of how things backfire, the very same laws that prevent corporations from making incompatible phone hardware are preventing folks on the Asterisk project (an open source effort to create free linux-based PBX software) from making their own affordable medium-density PBX hardware. All laws have unintended consequences -- even the DMCA wasn't intended by its creators to give the MPAA the power it's taken. Having lots of laws hamstrings everyone in a society, not just those who need to be controlled.

    I am not arguing that we need MORE laws - far from it. In fact, I believe that the current web of laws (on all levels of the US legal system) is making the system very "brittle" - just like an overly-complex computer program, with many interlocking & conflicting parts w/o little or no flexibility.

    This doesn't effect my argument that the government needs to be powerful enough to reign in the rogue players in society, however - and actually, the incredibly complex & inflexible state of the law is hampering the government's effectiveness & precision at controlling those rogue players (e.g., "loopholes").

    I'll repeat it again - as long as you have powerful special interests in your society, there must be an organized force (or forces) capable of restraining them. The more powerful, the larger the counter-force is required. Much to your irritation, this force will often be embodied as a government.

    What you propose to do is to move from 'what's good for General Motors is good for the country' to 'what's good for the government is good for the country'. Neither of these is absolute truth. While 'what's good for the public's individual freedoms is good for the country' may not be absolute truth either, I believe that this mantra, if followed, will cause less abuse and harm to the public as a whole than either of the alternatives mentioned above.

    You are misconstruing my views. They are more accurately described as, "what's good for General Motors is not necessarily what is good for the public", and, "the proper function of the government is to perform the actions which are best for the public, even if it hurts General Motors". (NOTE: I'm _not_ saying "especially if it hurts General Motors :).

    I believe that any entity responsible for the health of the society as a whole MUST keep its attention on the society as a whole, and keep issues such as individual freedom firmly w/in the framework of how individual freedoms contribute to the health of the society as a whole. I definitely don't believe that focusing on individual freedoms as a PRIORITY will automatically result in a healthy society, although apparently you do.

    If the implied assumption in your argument -- that everyone wants the laws they

    support to affect the largest possible area -- then the default organization to go to for a policy change would be the United Nations.

    No, the implied assumption in my argument is that people go to the level of government which is most effective at dealing with the problem they are trying to address. In the case of a nationwide company, they will try and go to the federal government to place constraints on that company's behavior, because the state governments don't generally have the power to affect such large companies much. Companies which are constrained to act w/in a single state aren't generally powerful enough to cause much damage to the overall society, so you end up with much more complaints about the large players to the nationwide scene.

    As far as the United Nations is concerned, people perceive them as almost totally ineffectual at being able to control the actions of multi-national corporations, so not too many people go to the UN as a solution to any problems caused by such companies. Who do they end up going to? The US federal government, of course.

    The crux of the issue is this: When I want a law passed, I want that law to affect the community I live in. I really don't give a sh*t about people out of state, just as folks promoting Federal laws don't generally spend much time thinking about how much better the world would be if their law also were applied in New Guinea.

    Then you must not really care about really solving problems. When a company has a nationwide policy of dumping toxic chemicals in local streams, it's not exactly efficient to have 3000 local governments each pass a law making it illegal to dump toxic waste in that locale's stream. You go to the federal level & get a law passed which makes it illegal to dump toxic waste in ANY local stream. That's one law versus 3000 separate laws - much more rational than your proposed scheme of forcing each local government to deal with it. I'm sure even you can think of a few similar examples.

    No, I'm not that idealistic. However, do you really think that those in control of a large government will regularly describe the legal & political actions of their large corporate owners in unfavorable terms?

    If your government has become "owned" by special interests, then your system has got problems, since the most effective societal agent for resisting special interest pressure has been "coopted". Whether or not this has actually happened, or is in the process of happening with the US government, is a whole other discussion.

    You are the greater idealist here, by believing that a large government will become less corrupt rather than more.

    No, as I stated above, I believe that a powerful government will form naturally in response to the pressure of powerful special interests. I don't think this because of idealistic or moral arguments - I believe it will happen because that's the way balanced systems form. If your government gets coopted by those special interests, and no anti-special-interest agent grows powerful enough to take its place, then your system has become unbalanced and will start distorting and producing more inequality until something breaks.

    My view of government is cynical in the extreme; I'm somewhat less cynical about business. The reason? Those who go into government do so because they want power; they want to change the society of those around them. Those who go into business do it for money; they want to get rich -- perhaps their means of doing so may affect other men, but their goal is for themselves. I trust greedy men more than power-hungry ones; they want only my wallet, not my freedoms. While there exist among them men who would use the law to reduce consumer choice -- just as there have been those in the socialist

    movement who spoke of the unimportance of individual freedoms -- these are (thankfully) precious few.

    This is kind of silly - when you say you "trust" people who are acting greedily, you don't actually mean that you think they're looking out for your best interests - what you REALLY mean is that you think you know what to expect from them. Whereas from a government, which may or may not have corrupt elements, you don't know whether it will 1) look out for you (if it doesn't hurt anyone else), 2) sacrifice your good for the sake of the society's health (if they're balancing society's good against yours), or 3) sacrifice your good for the sake of some special interest (if its corrupt).

    So instead, you think that it's better for society to be controlled by people who will always have their own interests as a priority instead of yours? And you think that they won't take your freedom if it means they can get more of your money? If so, I guess we have a irreconcileable opinion about the nature of greedy people.

    You presume it's even possible to have another agent acting on your behalf.

    No, I'm assuming that any government's charter is to maintain the stability of the system (or to maximize the health of the overall society). (This is MY idealism.) Hopefully, a healthy society will mean a good life for me (as an individual). I understand, though, that the government as an agent of the society might have to make decisions which will negatively impact my personal life to fulfill their charter. I start getting upset when I suspect that the government is making decisions which negatively impact my personal life to fulfill the desires of special interests, however, rather than addressing the needs of the society as a whole.

    One of the design premises of our government, however, was that no part of it could be trusted to act in the public interest; thus, the power of the whole was limited, and each individual part set against another. The goal in this, of course, is to impede action in general -- to make it as difficult as possible for special interests or any other group to assert control.

    Yes, the implementation & concept of checks & balances in the Constitution is an excellent example of a system where the founders were attempting to balance the power of the separate elements of government with each other (w/o making the implementation too complicated). If we knew of a way to implement such a simple & balanced sharing of power among all the elements of our society (large and/or small) I would be all for it (and it would greatly reduce the need for most government, actually). I do not believe that maximizing personal freedoms at at the expense of overall society concerns will accomplish this, however.

    This equality of difficulty is important, if only for one reason: To me, you look like a special interest. You're a small group of people that wants to change the operation of government for everyone, as what you propose looks beneficial to

    you.

    I'm not sure if you are using me as an example of a special interest, or as an actual special interest who has some stake in a large government. My "interest" in arguing for a powerful government is solely from my ruminations about society as a system. As I've stated above, my preferred system would be where ALL players (including the government) are relatively small, and can therefore cause only small perturbations in the system (and are systemically constrained from growing too large). Since we exist in a society where there ARE large, powerful special interests, however, I believe from my system model, that there must be a large, powerful organized agent to oppose them. Otherwise (and here's my special interest, I guess), I'm probably gonna get screwed by those large, powerful interests in the end.

    On the other hand, I'm a fairly high-paid professional in the information industry, so I'd probably end up in one of the "upper classes" which seem to be forming in our society. So I could claim that my interest is more academic than anything.

    One of its (rather interesting) findings is that monopolies -- such dangerous things they are -- are frequently created as a result of government action, and that in many cases the lifting of regulations would permit new entrances to the market.

    I'm sure I could argue that once a "natural" monopoly has been established, whether by governmental action (sometimes for societal benefit, sometimes by request by special interest) or by normal competitive means, the mere lifting of regulations is NOT usually enough to create a competitive market. By "natural", I mean activities which require a great deal of resources from a limited resource pool before becoming cost effective. Once a "natural" monopoly has established control over the "resource pool", then it is simplicity for an unregulated company to keep any potential competitors from reaching threshhold of competitiveness. "Natural" monopolies also cover "network effects" - products like Microsoft's software which are only valuable in the context of other products (like other Microsoft products and/or PCs and/or learning curves). It is very difficult for anyone to compete with Microsoft, because they have to compete not just on an individual product's merits, but against the merits of the ENTIRE Microsoft product "network".

    On the other hand, there are monopolies granted by the government (for instance, anything having to do with intellectual property), which are highly "unnatural" - if the regulations concerning THOSE monopolies were lifted, competition would arise in those markets as fast as people could write the investment checks.

    Finally, should this story be archived before we finish our discussion, I'd appreciate it if you'd contact me by email to continue this; frankly, rather enjoy it.

    If you wish, although I've pretty much exhausted my original thoughts on this topic - all I'd be able to do is try and provide rebuttals, which isn't exactly the basis of a healthy debate :)

  • My idea of a preferable system is one where all parts of the system balance each other's power somehow, and that the system as a whole is stable even with either accidental or purposeful attempts by elements of the system to distort the system to their benefit.
    Then we agree! The only thing is, I see government as (either directly or as an agent) one of these elements which attempts to rock the boat in their own favor rather than as a protecting element -- and history bears me out on this.

    Consider the dictatorships of the past. What special-interest group placed Pol Pot in power? Who brought Mussolini into his place in Italy? These men -- like other dictators -- came to power not due to forces outside the government seeking their own special interests but by already-active political groups looking for power not for themselves but because they believed the public would be better off under their control. It is these men who seek power for its own sake whom I fear the most, not those who look to protect their own smaller interests.

    Even those with smaller interests, however, would be harmless were government restricted. Consider the battles which the special interests have won -- the DMCA; the IP laws on drugs; the extension of copyright. It is through the operation of government that these special interests enforce their will on society. Remove the means -- restrict the government such that it may only operate in tightly controlled areas -- and you remove this chance of corruption.

    As I understand YOUR beliefs, the collective action of the individual elements of our society will always suffice to constrain the worst behavior of the large players.
    The large players, unaided by the government-enforced monopolies, will either be killed by outsiders who are more competitive or will with time destroy themselves -- or come to take a less harmful form. Do you really believe that Microsoft would retain its undisputed dominance for 20 more years without the DOJ's intervention?
    Then you must not really care about really solving problems. When a company has a nationwide policy of dumping toxic chemicals in local streams, it's not exactly efficient to have 3000 local governments each pass a law making it illegal to dump toxic waste in that locale's stream.
    But I'd gladly have 50 state governments making it illegal, each with slightly different verbage. In that way, those who pass overly restrictive laws (ie. any substance which is carcinigenic in /any/ quantity is restricted) don't affect an excess of people, and neither do those which pass insufficiently strong laws. I don't trust government to "get it right" -- neither local nor federal government. If programs and laws are done at a more local or state level, however, then there's a better chance that someone, somewhere, will find a solution which is nearer to optimal than elsewhere. Furthermore, those laws with nasty side effects will be identified and eliminated at a local level before the most succesful are copied elsewhere. Once a national law that sucks is passed, everyone's screwed.
    I'll repeat it again - as long as you have powerful special interests in your society, there must be an organized force (or forces) capable of restraining them.
    This large organized force is itself a special interest -- its interest not in profit itself but control over those who would make it, and thus far more dangerous.
    I believe that any entity responsible for the health of the society as a whole MUST keep its attention on the society as a whole, and keep issues such as individual freedom firmly w/in the framework of how individual freedoms contribute to the health of the society as a whole. I definitely don't believe that focusing on individual freedoms as a PRIORITY will automatically result in a healthy society, although apparently you do.
    That's right, I do. I believe that government should follow the doctor's creed: First, do no harm. In the same manner as many believe it better to let 10 guilty men go free than imprison one man innocent of a crime, I would rather permit 10 men to be trod upon by their fellows than allow one to be harmed unfairly by the operation of law. My reason for this is one of those moral arguments you so scorn: A man harmed by the government is harmed by an entity to which I have pledged my allegiance, to which I've helped lend power. A man trod upon by the government is trod on by you, me -- us all, and yet there is no one who individually did him wrong; no responsability except belonging to an ethereal "system". While each of these men in this system might care for his fellow man and may feel responsability for him individually, these same individually responsible individuals will often kill if operating on The Government's authority.

    This is what I fear. No corporation, no other entity, has the same potential for abuse as government or ever has since religion and government ceased to be one and the same. Government power is dangerous, tremendously so, and in a way unparalleled by anything else today, because many men consider that which is legal to be that which is just. I will gladly permit a multitude of corporate abuses to prevent far fewer government ones -- because once an abusive government comes to power, it is nearly impossible to stop.

    If your government has become "owned" by special interests, then your system has got problems, since the most effective societal agent for resisting special interest pressure has been "coopted". Whether or not this has actually happened, or is in the process of happening with the US government, is a whole other discussion.
    I find your claims here -- both explicit and implied -- proposterous. You seem to believe that the US government "stands apart" from those which it governs. Let me see how well you listened in your civics classes: When a senator or representative wishes to find out how a bill will affect a corporation or what modifications might be appropriate, what does he do? Commision an academic study? Submit a request for comments from the community? He listens to those men who advise him on the subject -- the lobbyists hired by the companies which his laws will affect. This is how laws are made here and now. Even if your senator has the public's best interests at heart, he hears about the effects of his actions from those who stand to benefit from them. He does not view his position as maintenance of the status quo (did you hear any campaign promises to keep things as they are this year?) but rather as promoting beneficial laws; these laws, which no doubt are more often than not intended to benefit the public, are among the most dangerous instruments of corporate power.
    I am not arguing that we need MORE laws - far from it. In fact, I believe that the current web of laws (on all levels of the US legal system) is making the system very "brittle" - just like an overly-complex computer program, with many interlocking & conflicting parts w/o little or no flexibility.

    This doesn't effect my argument that the government needs to be powerful enough to reign in the rogue players in society, however

    In short, the governement should have more power, but it should have less restrictions on how this power is applied. Without a comprehensive system of laws, you let those men composing the government of the day make what are in effect arbitrary decisions but which are made with the force of law.

    Am I the only one here who sees how dangerous this is? One of the things that makes a system of laws work is the presence of a level playing field, such that everyone must play by the same rules. If you allow the flexibility you claim the system needs, then you set the stage for the government to make things more and not less unfair by showing favoritism in application of its laws.

    This is kind of silly - when you say you "trust" people who are acting greedily, you don't actually mean that you think they're looking out for your best interests - what you REALLY mean is that you think you know what to expect from them.
    This next paragraph will sound a bit off the wall (hint: "you" are the government), but bear with me. I'll return to some hint of sanity, I promise.

    The greedy look out for my interests better than you ever could. They produce while you control. They strive for efficiency with every dollar I give them -- trying to save every penny towards their profit -- while you throw my money at causes I would never support, because they made someone in another state popular with his constituancy or paid someone back for connections used to support a campaign. They ask me to support them voluntarily, and offer a product in return. You ask me to support you, and threaten me with jail. They work hard to best their competitors by convincing me that their service is superior. You take the money you forced me to give and send men to kill those who threaten you. You then think you represent me? You could not make a more reprehensible claim. Yes, I truly believe that the greedy serve my interests better than the government -- even if they serve my interests only when they coincide with their own.

    If I give a man $5 and he gives me a meal, both our interests have been served. If I were not convinced that I would recieve fair value for my money, I would not have spent it. If I pay $5 in taxes, that money may go anywhere. I'm guaranteed no value; I can't ask for changes with the threat that I may withhold. The man who I gave the $5 to serves my interests -- makes me the best meal he can, as cheaply as possible -- because of his greed. The $5 I paid in taxes may be spent paying some farmer to grow less crops, may be spent subsidizing an unneeded business loan, may be spent on any number of unworthy causes -- and, even knowing this, I can't withdraw it. Yes, I trust the greedy man more than I trust the government. The greedy man has his greed as motivation; I can use it to control him, to make his interests be my own. Tho government's primary compulsion is to retain its own power; any care for me is secondary.


    Finally, one last question: What is important to you? What is it that your government exists to protect? Your freedoms? Your wealth? Your personal security? I believe you value wealth and security above freedom -- a terrible mistake.

    I know a fair bit of history, but I cannot think of one society in which men losing their freedoms did not have their wealth and security taken from them in short order. Those losing their wealth alone have usually regained it without much further loss; those losing their security or their freedoms (those two generally hand-in-hand) have always fared far worse.

  • Unfortunately people think that government is the solution to any situation they see as 'unfair', when they have their own ability to correct the problem by not dealing with the perpetrator of the 'unfair'ness.

    Bull. Do you think that employers follow the 40-hour work week voluntarily? They do it because the government tells them to. And if the government didn't tell them to do that, then they wouldn't, because the simple fact of the matter is that most people don't have the luxury of just quitting their job and taking another one, and employers know this.

    Take for example an average small town resident working at the local auto shop. Lets say that the managers of the 2 auto shops in town get together and start slowly increasing their employees' required hours until, a couple of years later, the mechanics find that they're working 6 days a week from 8am to 6pm.

    What choice does one of these mechanics really have? The only way he can change jobs is to uproot his family, leave his extended family and friends behind (and his wife's family and friends, and his kids' friends) and move to a different town. While the objectivists and the libertarians argue that this is what will happen, the reality is that this is an expensive price to pay for most people. Employers are fully aware that they have the balance of power in an employee/employer relationship, and they would leverage that power if they could.

    Historically, abuse of laborers has been common. For a real example, look at the coal mining towns at the turn of the century, where if you worked for the company, they pretty much owed you. You bought your house from the company (the payments were taken out of your paycheck). You bought your food and clothes from the company. If you were lucky, then maybe you saved up enough money to send one of your children to university and out of the mining town. You certainly never had enough money to actually move your entire family away, so it was either work for the company or watch your family starve.

    It was labor unions, and their pressures on government, that brought in fair employment regulations; it certainly wasn't done by the companies themselves. Their optimal economic strategy was the exploitation their workers, and the only reason that strategy didn't remain optimal was because of government intervention in the form of labor standards.

    Go read Ayn Rand, you'll thank me later.

    I have. She's full of shit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @02:44PM (#563720)
    I don't entirely agree with you. When I was 16 they recruited me out of high school to come work for them. I had written and published several semi well known tools to exploit holes in the ms tcp/ip stack after discovering some vulnerabilities.

    I worked on Win2K TCP/IP on security and performance related issues. I actually did quite a bit of programming for them. This was in 1997-1999 btw. I know several people who had been there for over a year without being hired on full time or receiving any benefits whatsoever. Myself included.

    In addition to that, the working conditions weren't that great. In fact they were exceptionally stressful. I worked 90 hour weeks for months in a row. They would not allow for time off to visit my family on the other coast when I requested it.

    The environment was VERY political. I was once chewed out by a more senior developer for proving him wrong on a technical point in a meeting.

    Many people slept in their offices or outside of them. I woke up with keyboard prints on my face several times..

    The situation was not like that in all groups, but I know that I won't work for them again.

  • Except that if the employer gives in, that creates a precedent which tells the employees that they can get the employer to roll over anytime they want by presenting a united front. And as long as the employer is making a profit, the employees are going to feel like they deserve a piece of it.

    So, the rational thing for the employer to do is to temporarily hire a gang of goons to beat the crap out of both "employees" and make sure they're too scared to demand better treatment, leave, or tell anyone (like the police). Cost effective, and sets a different precedent which is much more favorable for the business.

    remember the managers are members of the communtiy too, and they are human so they do care about more than just profits. They aren't some mythical evil greedy beings who only care about money.

    Very idealistic - but when looking at worst-case history, your statement is quite wrong. And that's why the law exists, to try and put constraints on the worst-case scenarios. (And why in the societies where such laws don't exist or aren't enforced, such abuses of employees DO exist and are widespread.)

  • Stupid quote of the month:
    Unions are for jobs that require little skill.

    Some Union labor:

    Airline Pilots (ALPA) [alpa.org]

    Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA) [natca.org]

    Electricians (IBEW) [ibew.org]

    Machinists (IAM) [iamaw.org]

    Next time you watch Sixty Minutes and hear about overworked pilots falling asleep while landing aircraft, think about why pilots need to stand together. Next time you're within 100 miles of SFO, DEN, ORD, DFW or JFK think about the people who manage virtual beehives of aircraft. Next time you plunk down a couple slices of bread in your toaster, think about the people who enforce licensing and standards so your house doesn't catch fire, wired by some sleaze with spare telephone wires. Next time you think about the complexity and precision that makes up a space shuttle or ISS, think about the people who actually make the parts and put them together.

    There are numerous other unions and "joe typical union guy" isn't some neanderthal, he's someone who wants fair compensation, decent hours and a safe work environment. Considering all the failed dotcoms put together by the sweat of geeks putting in 60+ hour weeks (some cases over 90) and getting squat when they're axed, it doesn't look like such a bad idea.

    --

  • by sanemind ( 155251 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:34PM (#563729) Homepage
    I mean, aside from the fact that we all despise microsoft per se, is this necessarily a good thing? Temp agencies have done much to contribute to flexibility both for the companies who hire [they have the option of contracting for labor when needed], and for workers [whose skills are commodified, allowing them to move from assignment to assignment with a great deal of flexibility and variety].

    Most importantly, though, is that temp work allows the circumvention of what some would say can be rather rigid state-mandated benefits packages, which significantly increase the cost of labor, and more importantly decrease the freedom of a worker required to recieve those benefits to concievably use those resources to some other better purpose or utility of their own choosing.

    Face it, the marginal decision as to whether or not to hire a worker is based two primary factors, the benefit of the work recieved, and the cost of paying for it. In traditional regulated full time labor large companies are required to offer all sorts of benefits, [many of which are of no use to some workers, i.e. paid family leave is required, but some workers are single and never have any oppurtunity to take advantage of it, nonetheless, it is factored into the cost of their employment and the determination of their salary].

    If rigid benefits packages weren't required, workers would have higher salaries as a result, and be able to utilize that money however they wanted, being it taking a vacation, purchasing quality health coverage [or passing over health coverage for the less risk-averse].

    Temp agencies have come to allow a circumvention of these rigid requirements, to the benefit of both the workers and the employer. Now that this 'loophole' is being closed up, do you think there will be nearly as many temp jobs available at microsoft [or other companies]? Nope. They will have to make sure that the workers really are temporary; people will be let go when they would otherwise have been kept on [and been wholly willing to do so as well] because, although their positions are justifiable without benefits [and obviously desirable by the workers, or they wouldn't be working there in the first place], they won't be with them.

    It is a true shame that some people some an oppurtunity to exploit the system and argue that they had a right to the traditional entitlements, even though that hadn't been part of the deal, and thus ruin it for future temp workers who liked the idea of contractual integrity.


    ---
    man sig
  • In other words, the notion that Microsoft's empire would be losing money if it weren't for this tax trick is pretty absurd.

    I don't see how you can be so confident about this. The market penetration of home computers is nearing 60%, upgrades won't sustain the same level or revenue. Microsoft is also spread out over a huge number of markets and has been trying to get into the high-end high-margin server markets for years. All of these things cost money. Their stock is nearly at a 52-week low and I'll bet it goes lower.

    With all these factors I find it difficult for you to be able to look through the accounting smokescreen they have thrown up and declare them as healthy as ever.
    --
  • I have been a contractor for some time now. I usually have contracts with terms around 6 months. However, I prefer to stay as long as possible if the employer wants. This way I can get some stability in my line of work, and I get pretty decent money too. I think MS's new temp worker policy is a loss for temp workers/contractors.
  • by Delirium Tremens ( 214596 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:35PM (#563734) Journal
    I thought wadges in Seattle, and thus Redmond, were extremely high.

    The SFGate says [sfgate.com]: But that's peanuts compared with Seattle, where the average annual income of $129,330 gave tech workers far more money to spend than their counterparts in San Jose, who made $85,100, according to the study by the American Electronics Association.

    Explanations?


  • So, I'm a temp. Have been for 9.5years (plus summers before then). I've never had any other kind of work except freelance contracting.

    On one hand, I think this decision is a dreadful precident which will have a chilling effect on my career. Though I don't agree that the "most important" aspect of temping is in anyway a "circumvention" of employment regulations, temping is a path actively and freely chosen by some of us, because of benefits of that mode of work. And it worth mentioning: some temp agencies have benes. I am offered health insurance, 401(k), etc. by mine.

    On the other hand, I remember 1993. Do you remember 1993? March/April, in particular. It was the bottom of the Recession. Remember the recession? I was doing reception jobs and being grateful to get them. One of those reception jobs was at, of all things, an employment agency. The Sunday before I started they had run an ad in the Boston Globe advertising five basic draftsmen positions. I started manning the phones on Monday morning, and the switchboard had lit up like the proverbial christmas tree. But not with draftsmen. With *architects* -- guys with 10 years of schooling -- with CAD/CAM experts with advance degrees -- all desperate for a job, even an entry level draftsman job.

    It was around then that I got one of the worst temp jobs I've ever gotten. A certain University had screwed up some safety records big time. When I got there I found out how and why that had happened:

    The U. had a two-tiered employee structure. Some employees with "normal" or "regular" employees. Others were "temporary", though in this case, it referred not to people hired through a temp agency but through people hired directly by the U. as "temporary employees". As such, they got no benes, less pay than the regular employees, and could be fired at any moment for no cause and with no warning. As it happened, the person neglecting the safety records was (A) a regular employee and (B) a bosom buddy and co-religionist of both the president and vice-president of that division. Every "temporary" employee in the division knew the safety records were being screwed up, but didn't dare report the responsible employee to anyone because they would lose a job they considered themselves lucky to have.

    Someone below asks "who put the gun to their heads", to which, I confess, the obvious-seeming to me answer of "why, Ron Reagan and his pet recession" leaps to my lips. Regardless of whom you blame for the recession, corporations were quite ready to use the power a buyers market in labor gave them.

    The idea that the market for labor is in any way a free market is patently ludicrous. As a temp, I actually interact with the labor market in a way which is a thousand times more market-like than someone who is a permanent/direct employee -- I sell my time by the hour on the open market -- and I am constantly astonished at how unfree the market is.

    The demand of laborer for money (that is, the reciprocal of demand for labor) is brutally inelastic. While critics of consumerism are quick to point out that if people had less consumptive lifestyles they would need less money (e.g. the frugality movement), they always neglect to notice that the single greatest financial obligation of most debters is mortgages/rent.

    Before the industrial revolution, "employment" as we think of it was a option, not a requirement. One could stay on the farm and work land that one or one's family owned. Indeed, the ideal of the farmer-citizen was part and parcel of the ideal of freedom to which the country aspired. Even if one did not own a farm, to own one's own house was considered basic. Today, to own a house is merely an aspiration for many people; attempting to do so chains them to jobs which in no way can then be considered gotten by free and uncoerced contract.

    We are quick to condem a supplier who illegally drives all competition from the market so as to be able to fleece the buyers; we call that monopoly and have made it mostly illegal. But what about when a company manages to become the only source of demand -- for labor? If are a draftsman and you live in an area which once had 10 architects offices, but now has 1 architect's office, what will you do if the one remaining employer offers you exploitative terms of employment? You either take it or you change lines of work or you move. Choices two and three have non-trivial expenses associated with them, especially seeing that their costs are set by markets which in turn are often tied to the labor market.

    So it is that when a market for labor collapses, the housing market does likewise (making it even more financially punative for homeowners to try to sell one's house and move) and other markets for labor also suffer (when architects stop hiring, often so too must general contractors, e.g.)

    In light of this, I understand perfectly how badly these permatemps could have been screwed. The only employer of technical people in town won't hire them directly, but offers exploitative terms. Other issues make moving or changing fields prohibitively expensive.

    I'm certain I don't know the solution to this problem. But its obviously nowhere as simple as most people are trying to make it out. It's not simply that temping exploits the temp (I am a temp and I am usually less exploited than direct employees.) It's not simply that the labor market is (or could be made to be) a free market (because it isn't and it can't).

  • > ... I'd gladly go to prision. I'd wear it like a badge.

    Why? Why would you be glad to suffer under laws you find morally reprehensible? Would you not rather break the law and evade punishment?
    Ryan
  • How could you say that if I were in that position, I'm not being abused?

    Well, really, you're better off than you were before. Would you rather that a middle-aged homeless man have a shack and one square meal and work like a dog for it, or that he have nothing?

    Right now, it's the latter option; homeless bums get nothing. Giving them jobs costs the full minimum wage -- same as a more responsible high school dropout -- but they're (percieved as) more likely to be dishonest/piss of the customers/cost a lot to give (govt-mandated) healthcare, whatever. So by raising the minimum level which a homeless bum can get paid, you prevent those homeless bums who aren't worth that minimum amount from having anything at all. If your goal is to raise the base standard of living, these measures don't do much.

    So what do you do? Make even those homeless bums who aren't worth minimum wage (in the eyes of a potential employer) recieve this 'base standard of living'? Now you've got this same base guaranteed both to homeless bums and people who work their butts off at minimum wage. Even if you make the homeless-bum-subsidy less than minimum wage, you're still reducing the number of people who are out in the workforce.

    So frankly, I'd rather let people be 'abused'. It's just like folks working in Nike factories. Maybe they make $.50 a day, but if there were better jobs available in their area, they'd have them. Having even an abusive, coersive employment situation is still better for the employed than having nothing, and that's something a lot of liberals seem to forget. If these shoe factory workers were making $5.75 an hour, then they'd be making more than skilled labor in their areas, and you bleeding-hearts would be crying foul because we've gone from exploiting a weak economy to totally overturning it (reducing the number of practitioners of skilled trades, raising the cost of goods now that a large number of people are capable of paying inflated prices, etc).

    The same thing applies to tech workers. If you agree to work on a temporary basis without benefits, and you let the company 'abuse' you, so be it. I say this as one of the "abused" population; I presently make something like 1/4 of what most of the people with my exact job description in my department at my company do, and with no benefits. However, this happens with my consent. YOU shouldn't stop in and tell my company that they need to either hire me on proper or fire me outright; if you do that, and I get fired, I'll be pissed. For that matter, if you do that, they hire me outright and they force me to move to the bay area and work full-time (telecommuting and working my choice of hours are part of my little agreement), I'll be pissed then too even if I'm making 4x the pay. In short, my agreement with my company is my own damn business, not yours. Keep out of it.

    Btw, while I don't donate money to charity, I donate time -- lots of it. I volunteer for libraries (doing tech work for free), schools (teaching kids to program), and other good causes. Just because I'm a Cold Hearted Bastard in my political views doesn't mean I still can't be a nice guy IRL. I really do think people should be nice to each other. I don't think the government should force niceness on them, though, which is effectively what redistribution policies do, and I fear that most of the good-intentioned programs in effect today really act to the detriment of those they're intended to help.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @03:23PM (#563740)
    I am not overly versed in the details of this case, but have seen similar things in other businesses. IT's not as clear cut as it may seem, and MS is not necessarily 'evil' for doing it.

    Lets' say you go to work for a temp agency. That temp agency hires you out to MS, for a LOOONG period of time. What's the problem? MS is paying the agency, you work for the agency. MS typically also pays the agency a lot more than what you yourself make.

    What's the problem? I mean, I'm not debating what the court decided... but really. Is it that clear?

    A similar incident here (calgary, alberta). A company hired some 'contract' workers. This was by mutual agreement; the workers and the employer both wanted it this way. I forget how it started, but in the end, the courts decided that these were, in fact, permanent employees, and not 'outside contractors'. THey sat in company desks, used company equipment, and came to and from the company every day to do their work. They ruled the company had to treat them as regular employees.
  • I live in Chico (in northern California), after spending some time in the bay area.


    I'm making literally 1/4 of what I made there. My quality of life is better. Not just a little better -- way better. I live in a bigger house (heck, I live in a house; I spent half my time there living in my cube or with friends), have a shorter commute, pay far less to eat out...


    The people who voluntarily live in the bay area are insane.

  • What professional organization certified you as an engineer?

    Microsoft and Novell. Microsoft Certified Systems ENGINEER and Certified Netware ENGINEER.

    So does that mean that you are legally liable when a system crashes? When you break rules, do you have your license suspended?

    Several years ago, the Department Of Labor and a court found that software engineer is a fancy name for programmer. It was different years ago, in the days of punch cards.


  • Though I am not the one addressed, I just have to answer.

    Not only I have worked in the private sector tech industry, I'm a medievalist in my spare time.

    You clearly don't know your history. What we are currently going through bears a striking resemblance to what happened to the labor market in the wake of the Black Plague.

    To say "well, things are different now" is profoundly ignorant. It has happened before that there was, as there is, a seller's market in labor. And every time it has happened, it has been rare and brief.

    History, sir, does record this. And it tells us that to presume the current state of affairs will last is folly.

  • But here, in Canada, and in the US, that is not necessarily enough to keep the IRS or Revenue Canada off your back, or your employers.

    The mere presence of a contract, even if the contractee is operating as a corporation, does not mean they are not legally an 'employee'.

    Factors like: where does direction come from. WHo dictates what must be done when. Is pay hourly or a lump sum. Do you also publicly offer services to others at the same time, or do you also do work for others. Do you work on the company's equipment on their premesis all the time, or your own at your own time.

    It boils down to... if they are paying you a lump sum to deliver a product by a date, and you do so, and have little other involvement with the company, you can get by as a contractor. If you are 'on contract' but work from a company desk, on company time, reporting to some company manager.... then you're out of luck.
  • MS saw a "loophole" in the law and took full advatage of it. What do you expect? Is it any wonder that the quality of code has gone down. What do you think you would do if you were only hired for 364days? You also had to pay your own medical insurance while working for one of the most profitable companies in American History? I think I'd be opening e-mail with backdoors and publishing windows code.

  • Look, this is comparatively simple; it is a principle of contract law that you cannot enforce a contract whose provisions are illegal.

    Sure, all I'm saying is that the contract in this instance should not be illegal.

    You give me the dough. I stiff you on the meth. You sue for injunctive relief to make me cough up the drugs. You get nothing, because the provisions of the contract were for illegal acts.

    Well, I'm not too fond of drug laws either, and that's a major reason why. With no legal framework, we may end up settling our disputes with firearms rather than in a court.

    State law requires that hourly employees be paid time and a half if they work more than forty hours in a single week. Your employer asks you to sign a piece of paper saying that you will work forty-five hours a week at base pay.

    If that's the case, I would have had a good reason to do so. Maybe I'm buying a house and need the extra money, but EvilCo isn't willing to pay overtime rates so I agree to standard rates. No foul, unless they had a gun to my head.

    You work at the job for six months before you meet a disgusting, slimy lawyer at a party. He convinces you to sue for back overtime.

    No he doesn't. I honor my contracts. (Plus I saw him looking at my wife.)

    Do you get it? It's illegal. The courts enforce laws.

    illegal!=wrong. Fugitive Slave Act, segregation, DMCA, etc, etc.

    The laws are mostly designed to do things like protect naive underage workers, migrant workers who might have poor command of English, and so forth. But they apply to everybody.

    Precisely, they are overly broad and restrictive. I'm not debating the existence or meaning of the laws which apply to this case. I'm saying they are bad laws that should be removed, as they unnecessarily limit freedom of both employers and employees.

  • I realize this might be hurting current contractors. I sympathize. But here is the issue:

    It's actually cheaper for an employer to simply say 'all my staff are 'on contract'' and not pay benefits, deduct taxes, or anything else, and simply pay higher salaries. All other things being equal, the bookkeeping is simple. The real problem is... how is this any different than a 'permanent employee' as defined by law?

    The problem isn't those who are benefitting from the situation, ie: contractors who are getting their way.. the problem is with companies saying 'well, we'll hire you as a contractor' and then just keep renewing the contract, becuase it's easier for them. In many places, it's illegal now.

    Now, if I do programming on contract, and I work from home, on mostly my own equipment, pay all my own bills, etc, and simply collect a cheque for my services.. that is contract work.
    If I go into their office, use their chairs, desks, computers, equipment, and office space, and work with their people all day, discussing with them, programming on the team with them, how can you say I don't fit the definition of an employee?

  • temps are legal. 'renewing' the temp contract over and over and over again, hence keeping a permanent employee without paying them the benefits due to such an employee, is what is illegal.

    I belive the article deals with a slightly different thing.. hiring employees as 'temporary contractors' and then just continually extending the contract.

    Remember, any 'contractor' position at a company is considered temporary.. so they could also have called this the 'permanent contractor' case.
  • I am a stockholder in companies that do this. Why get enraged? The cost to vendors and other sources of services is simply part of the cost of doing business. Whether they are developing product in-house, or farming it out, or paying contractors, it's still a cost of doing business.

    Why on earth would I look at simply the # of employees, versus how much product they move? I also want to see how much those employees (the company) are spending to do it! It's not illegal, and it's not even shady.

  • The beauty of this system for Microsoft is that it did not have to spend anything to grant the options, but gained $2.25 billion (shown as "common stock issued" in the cash flow) from what the employees have to pay to exercise the options.

    That's not entirely true. Technically, they are diluting ownership by share creation, so that stock options are not just printing money. However, these are the financial games that can be played with a reasonably strong stock -- shareholders who are being diluted don't care much as long as the stock continues to rise. And Microsoft has been hit hard when their stock goes below the strike price of options -- they've had to take various penalties to reduce the strike price.

    So yes, its a nice way to make the numbers look better; and yes, its a pretty cheap money option, and keeps the company from paying taxes, etc -- but its not bad or free money. Its just another thing that backfires when/if these companies plateau or start their downward spiral. Especially Microsoft, with their 4.5 year vesting plans and the great extend to which they are overextended with regards to the number of options versus the amount of ownership held by the company.
  • It's usually in the contract that the client isn't told how much you make and isn't even allowed to ask. You can be sure that as your skills increased your agency charged more. They just kep the difference and you didn't see any of it. This is very common, especially with the less experienced contractors.

    There was one poor guy on alt.computer.consultants [alt.computer.consultants] that was making $30 an hour from his agency, but they were billing him to the client at $90 per hour!

    This is one of the instances of unethical agency practices that led me to write Market Yourself - Tips for High-Tech Consultants [goingware.com]


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • by Greg@RageNet ( 39860 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @03:49PM (#563769) Homepage
    Lets say I'm the owner of one of these two auto shops; and lets assume two mechanics are needed for each of these shops to operate. Lets also assume that because only four mechanics are needed in this small town there are only four people qualified as mechanics that live here; the one's trained by the owners of the auto shops to be mechanics.

    Well if one of my mechanics suddenly decides to go join a commune, as a owner I've suddenly lost 50% of my workforce and am gonna be really screwed trying to either entice someone from another town to move here, or alternatively be short qualified help for a year while I pay to have some local kid trained to be a mechanic.

    The employer has the ability to be just as easily screwed as the employee.

    Abuse of owners is just as common throughout history as the abuse of laborers. Owners often lose their lives work and savings when countries outlaw or nationalize industries. Owners are also 'abused' (by your loose definition) when consumers no longer want or need their product. If you are for a 'minimum working standards' which employers must meet for employees, are you also for a 'minimum sales' in which consumers must purchase a given amount of product? They both derive from the same concept of entitlement!

    So the government legislates that we work 40 hour weeks. Thats all great and dandy if thats what I want to work; but suppose I want to work (and be paid for) 60 hour weeks for 9 months then take three months off every year? Oops, thanks to the laws I can't do that. California has a law which roughly mandates a work week of 5 days, 8 hours each. But sysadmining sometimes requires 12 hour days when things are crashing, and 4 hour days when there's nothing going on. Thanks to california lawmakers I'm technically in violation of the law.

    -- Greg
  • I've been employed as a full-time, independent consultant for two years and eight months. By independent, I mean I don't work through agencies.

    Please read why I feel you shouldn't either:

    At the very least, recruiters and contract agencies take 30% of your pay - recruiters take 30% of your first years pay, agencies take it the whole time you're a contractor. But if they can get away with it, they will take far more.

    And they're pushy and ignorant besides. How many of you have gotten a phone call from an agency who wanted to place you who clearly hadn't even read your resume, let alone understood it? The above two pages contain many horrifying anecdotes of recruiter and contract agency abuses, unethical practices and just plain stupidity.


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • but I really don't understand what business the courts have interfering in voluntary contractual relationships.

    Lets see.

    Contractors work under contracts. A contract is a divorce agreement between 2 parties. And, when 2 parties disagree, this gets settled by a judge.

    Looks like Microsoft and said CONTRACTors had a difference of opinion, and a court, interperting the law, decided Microsoft was in violation of the law.

    What would you rather have? No law? Congress pass a law/edict? Some form of government allowing this guy [antipornguy.com] to become in charge?

    This will accomplish little except to raise prices and take jobs away from people.
    Errr, how can Microsoft raise prices on Windows when there are 'free' alternatives? Microsoft is VERY aware of price pressures. Look at the laughter of the $13000 price for NT 3.1. Then, look at how quickly NT 3.1 sales increased when the price wnet to $250.

    And, if you listen to Brett Glass, the GPL is ment to take away jobs.

    This court action will have no marked effect on prices or jobs.
  • ...this [nytimes.com] is a good place to find out about them. It detail Microsofts policies and conditions.

    KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

  • This sort of thing happens so often that I wasn't sure it was illegal. Here in California it is a common practice to hire people as temps and have them work exactly 32 hours so they remain ineligible for benefits, which are mandated by law for full-time employees.

    There is the flip side to being such a large corporation: whereas small corps only shaft five or six employees at a time, MS generates 8-12000 disgruntled disenfranchised ex-serf-wanna-bes. Those kinds of numbers seem to generate sufficient land-shark interest.

    I bet Jenny Craig is laughing in her size 5 grave right now.

  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:48PM (#563796)
    You're absolutely correct. I work for a divison of GM now, but I entered here as a contractor 3 years ago.

    The Microsoft case changed the way this company treated contractors. Used to be you were part of the team, invited to celebrations, company parties, etc.

    That's not bad as I was used to it, but it is somewhat disappointing.

    Now they make it quite clear who is an employee, who is temp.

    It's also resulted in less of a reliance upon contractors.

    But there have been other factors which have hit the contracting/consulting world. It's becoming increasingly difficult for these companies to maintain business.
  • by Greg@RageNet ( 39860 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @02:03PM (#563797) Homepage
    to anyone's head? The temps' knew when they were going in what their pay and benefits were, and they could have rejected the offer if they found it unacceptable. Instead they took the jobs then turned around and sued Microsoft.

    I interviewed at hotmail shortly after they were aquired by MS. They wanted me to sign the 'standard microsoft paperwork' which had terms I could not agree to so I chose not to sign and went somewhere else. These people had the same option but instead entered legal contracts with Microsoft for their employment then turned around, breached their contracts, and sued Microsoft for damages. This is rediculous. Although this affects microsoft directly, all employers are now going to be wary about taking on non-employees, making contractor's lives more difficult.

    -- Greg
  • Perhaps I don't fully understand the case, but it seems to me that a temp worker knows he's not getting benefits. Hence the reason that they are usually paid more per hour.

    It doesn't seem that there was anything even close to a promise, let alone an exchange of consideration, in which Microsoft promised people benefits, or that they would only be employed for a certain duration of time (they could quit whenever they wanted)

    Where were the temp workers wronged? They weren't expecting benefits, they didn't receive them. They received employment at the amount that they work for..

    Any objection to this system would be an objection to the temp agencies as a whole- not what Microsoft did. Temp workers certainly weren't wronged; given that they don't receive benefits they generally carry home more dollars per week than their full-time equivilent (of equal experience, etc)

  • What I don't get is that Microsoft is the one pissing in the pool, abusing the system by stringing along people who WANT to work for M$ fulltime, and everyone jumps on the temps as the ones at fault here. Obviously IF the contract is all about "no strings" then that's great. But a lot of people will take temp work with a company when they can't get full time right now, in hopes of moving up. If they keep getting promises etc and then don't get moved up, don't you think that's a Microsoft problem?
  • So what if the mechanics get together and say to the managers that they don't like the working conditions and won't work anymore unless they are changed. At this point the managers are forced into a situation where if they want to stay in business they either need to hire new employees or improve working conditions. Since hiring mechanics from outside would probably cost more than compromising with their employees then the mechanics will have better working conditions. Societal pressures can also be brought to bear. If the people in the town want the managers to treat their employees better they can use social means to change it, remember the managers are members of the communtiy too, and they are human so they do care about more than just profits. They aren't some mythical evil greedy beings who only care about money.
  • Well okay, many temps felt screwed, because they realized that they could have earned much more.
    But, wait a moment, aren't you forgetting two things here?

    Firstly, most temps are people that don't WANT a full time job with the same company for a variety of reasons [family commitments, university / college, etc.].

    Second, why did they take the job if they weren't happy with it - more - why did many of them stick around for years [even now], only to turn around and ask for more afterwards?

    I'd have to say that this pure greed on behalf of the temps. "Hey their is a class action suit and if we join and complain, we might get some free cash".

    This has NOTHING to do with *fairness* or with treating Temps and Perms equal.

    In a time were software and dotcom hacks are sought after world-wide, they can pretty much write their own ticket. It appears to me that seeing this, the temps mainly envied the guys who are better off and tried to get some extra bucks.

    So, now M$ shares lost over 50%. That means the Perms' benefits are worth much less - will the Temps turn around and share some of the free cash
    with the Perms?
  • That is all fine and good if these people were actually just working for a number of weeks and then left. But in this case you had people working for 5-10 years on the same project, but couldn't move up or get the same benifits are their co-workers because of their status as temp. They we're fully employees except for the fact Microsoft wouldn't bite the bullet and pay them. Being temp is one thing, being a full employee and still getting screwed is another. This won't kill temp employment at all, but it will stop a company from trying to get around actually having to (god forbid) pay their employees the salary and benifits they are actually owed.

    Onto the main thrust of you argument though, you will not see higher wages as a result of fewer "required" benifits. History does not bare that out. Employers will pay as little as possible to keep the workers and require unduly time pressures on the works. Be glad you don't have to reapply for your job everyday like they did in the 1900's and have to work 15 hours shifts to keep you job and forget about vaction time, because it would never be offered. Leave for a day and your fired. Laws requiring worker rights and safety have made your life and the life of everyone else much better.
  • I realise that last comment is controversial - it mentions Bill Gates! - but I said it to shock everyone into thinking for once, and stop being emotional and selfish

    Let me get this straight.

    You mentioned Bill Gates in a sentence on /. to get everyone thinking instead of being emotional.

    Great idea!
  • by goingware ( 85213 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @05:44PM (#563811) Homepage
    It's important to understand that the IRS has a certain definition of what an employee is. And this definition applies no matter what contractual relationship may apply between the client and the contractor - even if (as a lot of consultants don't understand) the consultant is an incorporated company.

    There isn't a firm rule to define when someone is an employee or not, but the general test (from IRS ruling 87-41) is that you're not if you satisfy most of The Twenty Factors [rmpcp.com]. Here is a summary of them [contingentlaw.com].

    This basically means:

    • The contractor keeps his own hours
    • The contractor provides his own equipment and office space
    • The contractor takes on the financial risk
    • Whether the contractor is working, or could be working for more than one firm at a time.
    Really, the 20 factors are not a bad way to do business if you really are an independent business as I am, but in no way do most contractor/client relationships satisfy them.


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • I am one of those proponents of a so-called 'living wage' for the poorest folks.

    What happens when an employer can only afford to pay, say 45K/yr for a given task?? Instead of the three people hired to perform that task, one person is hired and the other two starve.

    Minimum/Living wages do one of two things, either they increase the cost of goods (increasing inflation, and therefore pricing things outside the wageearner's income) or increase unemployment (therefore increasing poverty and the percentage of unskilled labor in a population).

    There are various, benefitial, reasons why a market-decided wage is appropriate. If I am fresh outa high school, unskilled, living with parents or roomates, I would gladly take a salary exponentially less than what would support a family of four so that I could learn skills and make a living for just myself while working my way up the organization. However if I cannot work for less than the rather high amount that would support a family of four I will find myself chronically unemployed and never able to get the skills required to advance in ability!

    I do agree with one statement you made:
    Of course, since the lawsuit in 97, they now terminate you after that year, and you can't go back to work for them for over three months. Guess what. You still lose. Sucks being on the bottom of the pile, doesn't it?

    Yes, government intervention in the market place (this suit) has actually made life harder for both employers and employees. Government invervention often amplifies, rather than smoothes, the percived inequalities of a free-market economy.

    -- Greg
  • It's even worse here in Rochester. A certain major company HQed here that shall remain nameless has been known to lay off its workers and THEN hire them back as temps.

    I'm currently working in a department that has two full-time and one part-time permanent staff members -- and ELEVEN temps, at least one of whom has been there for two years. At that point, the company needs to suck it up and admit that it needs to hire more staff. :P

  • " Bonehead and proud of it. I have this wacky belief that agreements made between consenting adults
    should be honored, even if one person decides several years later that he's changed his mind."

    You can't sign a contract to break laws.

  • I know I am responding to flamebait, but I just can't help myself. :)

    The bottom line in any employer-employee contract is that the employee is free to leave at any time.

    You must live in a different world than mine. In my world, people are only "free" in that they are allowed to make choices. That doesn't mean they can't be forced into doing something. It doesn't mean they can't be coerced. It doesn't mean that they can't be forced to do something really shitty because there's no other way.

    If he does not, then he is not being 'abused' by the company for which he works.

    Let's take a real-world example.

    I'm a middle aged man, and have recently become homeless. I havn't eaten in two days, and it's been months since I've had anything other than garbage scraps. Someone offers me a job, saying, "I'll give you a shack to live in, and one square meal a day. It will keep you alive. In return, you must work for me twenty hours a day, digging trenches. You must remove an entire shovel full of dirt from the trench each second. You get one break for your meal."

    How could you say that if I were in that position, I'm not being abused?

    A person doesn't need to have a gun to their head in order to be forced - there are many other ways of doing it.

    I know this is a different situation, and I agree with what you said about them being techies and programmers. But that doesn't make it RIGHT, damnit. It's still wrong to hire someone on a temporary basis, keep them around for YEARS because they think they'll eventually get hired full-time, and then dump them.

    Just my two cents.

    Dave

    P.S.: I donated $2,000 to charity last year. I made $20,000 dollars last year(working full-time), so that's ten percent. I doubt Bill Gates regularily spends 10% of his income on charities. Not to mention the fact that the 10% I spent meant I couldn't have a car, whereas the 10% he would have spent would mean ... well, he'd have less savings. It's not like he'd just drop that much money on a purchase.


    Barclay family motto:
    Aut agere aut mori.
    (Either action or death.)
  • I'm sure you are proud of your experience there and the work you did, but do the products coming out of Microsoft reflect "and the development environment always encouraged "off the beaten path" thinking" ?

    My opinion is no. Reinventing symlinks, reinventing network protocols (with proprietary extensions that gain no functionality at all except to break cross platform compatibility), and integrating the browser into the Windows kernel are not my idea of advancements in personal computing.

    So, the question is when are we going to start seeing the fruits of this multi-billion dollar R&D that Microsoft is funding by increasing the cost of thier operating systems and office suites
    by 100% per year?

    When win95 was out
    "Windows 98 is going to be super duper!"

    When win98 was out
    "Win98SE is going to have increased fun and super happy ok gaming!"

    When Win98SE was out
    "Win2k is going to have the best of NT and 98 - plug and play, directx and stability (admitting unstable windows 98)"

    Now that Win2k is out
    "Whistler is going to be really really good"

    See the flip side of all this is that they are admitting that thier previous releases are unacceptable sub-par pre-beta crap.

    Customers consult with me about Windows ME, know what I say? Don't even bother, its Windows 98SE with some fluff. $129 for a new name.

    Yeah right.
  • From what I have heard, Microsoft does not treat their employees in Redmond very well. I have heard stories of people working long hours for $40k/year jobs. This was 5-7 years ago, mind you.

    From what I have seen in Silicon valley, they treat their employees there better. Contracters do not get benefits, yes, but they do get good money. Full-time employees get competitive salaries for silicon valley work.

    Of course, working for Microsoft in silicon valley tarnishes ones reputation, so Microsoft can be cheap with there employees in silicon valley the way they can with employees up in Redmond.

    - Sam

  • The bottom line in any employer-employee contract is that the employee is free to leave at any time. If he does not, then he is not being 'abused' by the company for which he works.

    Coming from someone who clearly has no experience dealing with a headhunter temp company.

    Here's how it works (experience comes from a family member in the tech area).

    Generally the people who go to work for these temp companies are out of work, and unable to find a job on their own. When the headhunter finds you a job, they may pay you $14 per hour while the hiring company pays the temp company $25 an hour. In addition, the hiring company usually cannot hire the temp worker directly without paying a huge fee to the headhunter.

    So most of you are thinking, wouldn't it be cheaper to just pay the large fee, and then hire the temp worker directly for, say, $20 an hour? You're saving $5 an hour! But the hiring company wasn't paying you any benefits before -- that was handled by the headhunter (if you're lucky).

    So the point is, for most people in these situations, you are stuck. Your job is decent, and you need the work, but you are totally shafted compared to the other people you work with that were hired directly instead of through a headhunter. In addition, it's much more difficult to get a raise or "move up" in the hiring company as a temp worker, due to the red tape involved with the headhunter contract.

    So why not just quit the headhunter, and get hired directly by the company you worked for, for more money? No way, the headhunter will have something in your contract that stipulates you can't go to work for the company for a set length of time (usually one year).

    The simple fact is that these employees have a choice, and they have chosen to work for Microsoft.

    No... these people work for the headhunter. The headhunter has a contract with Microsoft. It is not the same thing as CHOOSING to go work for Microsoft. The headhunter doesn't say, "Hey, do you want to go work for Microsoft?" They tell you about the job, you sign the contract, then you start working at company X, which turns out to be Microsoft or whoever.

    My father has gotten screwed over twice so far in these situations ... and usually the headhunter companies are run by real assholes... YMMV.
  • Lets say I'm the owner of one of these two auto shops;
    ...
    Well if one of my mechanics suddenly decides to go join a commune, as a owner I've suddenly lost 50% of my workforce and am gonna be really screwed trying to either entice someone from another town to move here, or alternatively be short qualified help for a year while I pay to have some local kid trained to be a mechanic.
    Hey! You can't have your cake AND eat it at the same timeé. Or do you think that, as an owner, you should be able to? If YOU are free to setup shop (it's called " free enterprise ") why shouldn't your employees ALSO BE FREE to decide to do what they want?
    The employer has the ability to be just as easily screwed as the employee.
    Isn't that unfair? Only employers have the RIGHT to screw others... Or is there some obscure clause somewhere that says that company owners age guaranteed a profit, no matter what?
    Abuse of owners is just as common throughout history as the abuse of laborers. Owners often lose their lives work and savings when countries outlaw or nationalize industries. Owners are also 'abused' (by your loose definition) when consumers no longer want or need their product.
    Ooooh, the free market isn't nice to you... Poor sweet little dear. Why don't you go see yout friends in the government and ask them to FORCE people to buy your crappy product???
    If you are for a 'minimum working standards' which employers must meet for employees, are you also for a 'minimum sales' in which consumers must purchase a given amount of product? They both derive from the same concept of entitlement!
    Hey, you're the one who's risking (not necessarly) your capital! Not your stupid workers. So, YES, you're ENTITLED to force people to buy your crap!
    So the government legislates that we work 40 hour weeks. Thats all great and dandy if thats what I want to work; but suppose I want to work (and be paid for) 60 hour weeks for 9 months then take three months off every year? Oops, thanks to the laws I can't do that. California has a law which roughly mandates a work week of 5 days, 8 hours each. But sysadmining sometimes requires 12 hour days when things are crashing, and 4 hour days when there's nothing going on. Thanks to california lawmakers I'm technically in violation of the law.
    Hey, though shit! Maybe if the employers didn't abused your workers in the past instead of treating them fairly, there wouln't have been that law between you and oodles of money...

    It's the perpetual story of the shortsighted who abuse the system, then everyone gets slapped.

    But it's not likely entrepreneurs will learn, so for the foreseeable future, you can see pressure to have laws to FORCE employers to be nice to their workers.

    --
    Game over, 2000!

  • That's not entirely true. Technically, they are diluting ownership by share creation

    They do not need to create shares. The company owns a certain number of shares itself. They sell CALL option contracts to employees for these shares, and if the employee exercises the contract, the shares are sold from the company's holdings to the employee. And I'm sure Microsoft routinely buys back its stock on the open market when it goes down.

    I don't know any of this for sure, obviously, but they don't need to create the shares to do this...
  • Nobody here is getting the point(not to pick on you specifically, keep that in mind).

    Everyone is talking about charity and you'd be better off, etc., etc..

    Digging a ditch takes a certain amount of work, a certain amount of effort. Whether the digger be a Doctor, a student, a small business owner or whatever, that work is worth a certain amount of money.

    I'm not forgetting anything either; I know you also have to take into account things like reliability, personality, personal intelligence, etc., etc..

    Dave

    Barclay family motto:
    Aut agere aut mori.
    (Either action or death.)
  • Thank you for seeing what I meant :)

    That two grand I gave away really hurt, and I'm not kidding. If I had known exactly how badly I would have needed it, I probably wouldn't have given so much so often. That's just the way it is.

    At least I know the various people who got it personally; I know they used the money well.

    Bill Gates, on the other hand, would need to give up almost all of his wealth before it affected his life in any way.

    Dave

    Barclay family motto:
    Aut agere aut mori.
    (Either action or death.)
  • No, I was replying to a comment :)

    The poster I replied to basically said, "No matter what happens, if you do something, it's your fault and nobody else is wrong."

    What I'm saying is that there are many ways to take advantage of someone.

    Dave

    Barclay family motto:
    Aut agere aut mori.
    (Either action or death.)
  • Fine, but were those temps offered a choice between full-time and temp work, or were the positions themselves only available to temps? If many more computer companies started offering only positions labelled as "temp" positions just to get away with providing fewer benefits, and it became increasingly harder and harder to find *any* computer jobs that weren't simply labelled as "temp" jobs, I'm sure you'd probably also agree that this doesn't sound like fair practice.

    I agree with the general point - that companies hire temp workers to cut costs. But that's about as far as it goes. Microsoft can't simply turn all of their programming jobs into temp positions, because they'd have no continuity of staff - essentially, they'd have an army of short timers and would need to spend a signifigant portion of their time brininging the new hires up to speed.

    Before the new policy decision, Microsoft could keep "temp" workers on the payroll for as long as they wanted, with no need to retrain them, and no need to hire them as full employees with benefits. That sucks.

    I agree with you that MS will probably still continue to staff a bunch of temps, but at some level, that's their prerogative. The point is that this policy now makes it less adventageous for MS to hire as many temps, because they can't keep them indefinitely.

  • Dammit, the post above is NOT a troll. I'm a contractor at IBM and have been for a year and a half.

    I agree with him. When my contract with them is done, I owe them nothing and they owe me nothing. We are both free to go at any time. This suits me more than permanent employment with them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I worked at Microsoft for over a year and a half as a temp before going full time. Going full time was NOT an easy decision. Temps are paid dramatically more than full time employees and are not subject to a lot of the rules that full timers are exposed to. I actually turned down two full time positions before I went full time. When I finally went full time, I took a 40% pay cut (yup, almost half my pay went away-this was TOUGH), hoping that it would be balanced by the other benefits, especially stock options. While a temp, I WORKED FOR A TEMP AGENCY, not microsoft. So, if I didn't like my benefits or wages, I could talk to my agency and work with them. I happened to be providing services to MS, but my employer was Volt. My point in all of this is just that I had two options. Work for MS directly, or work for a LOT bigger paycheck for an agency. I chose the second option. It is very common for all the temps I manage to be making WAY more money than I do, even after many years in the system. The options also haven't been what I'd hoped-all things considered I'd be better off if I'd remained a temp, especially considering that I never use my healthcare, use virtually no sick days, and don't have children or a family.
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @02:23PM (#563867) Journal
    For those who are wondering, Microsoft's new temp rules (effective as of this past July) are that each temp is not allowed to return to work for 100 days following a one-year stretch of employment. Yes, that's insane.

    Exactly what is your problem with this policy?

    The lawsuit alleged (reasonably, IMO) that Microsoft kept "temporary" employees, including developers, in their stable for years at a time. This, the plaintiffs argued, is unfair, because after you've been working at a job for a year, it doesn't feel very damn temporary. They said they wanted Microsoft to treat temps like temps - by keeping them in temporary positions - and hiring the rest of their employees full time.

    Microsoft could have (and still might yet) tried to dodge this bullet by shuffling temp employees around to different positions, claiming that the employee hadn't been in the same department long enough to qualify as a full-timer. Or, Microsoft could have terminated a temp's employment for a day and re-hired him the next day, then turn around and say "Oh, sure, he's been here since '97 - but he's been fired and re-hired three times since then.

    So, considering that this policy is pretty much exactly what the lawsuit was trying to achieve - keeping temps temporary, and hiring them full time if they prove too valuable to let go - I'm a little at a loss trying to figure out what your problem with it is. Or do you think that temp positions should come with job security? I mean, for god's sake, they're temps. They're supposed to be short timers.

  • The "permatemp" problem reaches far, far beyond Microsoft. To put it in perspective, Manpower (a temp agency) is *THE* largest employer in the United States.
    A friend of mine has a term for the massive shift to temporary employees: Disposable Labor.
    It is no suprise that in a society where everything else has disposable that labor has become disposable as well.
    This social ill has been brought to you by the WTO. WTO: Globalizing Poverty!

    --

  • Maybe it's good that anybody notices this at all.

    Similar thing happened to me and a woman I worked with at a local small business. We bailed the company out of a jam that would've killed it- but we didn't have contracts, it was nod-and-a-handshake, and as soon as someone came along who claimed he could do _everybody's_ job- we were cut loose, see ya. I landed on my feet- I'd been doing GFX work and had always done computer maintenance for them and fell back on that. She didn't, and got hosed for Christmas.

    There's a lesson in that, we could have demanded paper contracts (I actually asked about this several times but it was so smalltown a company that I produced a certain amount of shock merely asking) and as we didn't we depended on setting up a social relationship with an employer- who turned out to place no value on this. But there's a reverse lesson too- this employer uses software in violation of license agreements- not massively, but here and there- and it's just not smart of them to (a) do that and (b) piss employees off.

    In the final analysis the lesson to be learned is, don't trust untrustworthy people. In this case I'm not going to trust that they're going to be around indefinitely because they're vulnerable several crucial ways. I'll keep in touch and see if they hose themselves more- and if they get sufficiently hosed I'll bail them out again- this time charging all I can reasonably get. I went easy on them before, thinking that I was establishing a working relationship- and that is a good strategy with trustworthy people. It didn't mean squat this time so I shan't bother if the situation recurs. I made quite a bit of an effort to build for myself a reliable, useful role in a team situation. Firing half of the team made this useless, did not impress me and I won't make that effort twice for those people.

  • Just read about this on my cellphone, actually :-)
    Anyway, what MS was doing would be horrible in any company, but it is especially horrible in a company is rich as Microsoft.

    Warning: Sensibility filter off. The following is a [crazy] theory [guess]. Do not take it seriouslly.
    However, this "permatemp" thing does explain how MS can release a browser for free - and how it can be so buggy. They hire temp workers and set them to work at low pay (by MS standards) on the next Internet Explorer. The workers are unhappy without their benifits, and so they write poor code.
    Sensibility filter re-activated

    It's good that MS decided to settle, and I wish that they would do so with the DOJ. 14 years is a long time to be a "temp" worker.

    This comment makes no sene, just like my other comments
  • Your post is mostly interesting (if true), but:

    Microsoft has no choice but to pay employees substantially in shares if it is to keep its present level of staffing, since if it had used cash in fiscal 2000 instead of shares, this would have increased the salary bill by $16 billion...

    This is sort of a stretch. You're saying Microsoft would be losing money if not for this cute little tax trick, but you're assuming Microsoft would have to pay out as much in cash as their employees earned in stock options. I don't think this is realistic.

    If I make $100,000 a year, and my employer grants me options, and the stock does as well as MSFT, and those options vest and are sold for $2 million, that is $2 million on top of my salary. If, on the other hand, we remain a private company, I would not expect my salary to be $2.1 million! The options are a perk.

    In other words, the notion that Microsoft's empire would be losing money if it weren't for this tax trick is pretty absurd.

    -thomas
  • "Bonehead and proud of it. I have this wacky belief that agreements made between consenting adults should be honored, even if one person decides several years later that he's changed his mind. I especially oppose the concept that it is the government's job to tell me what agreements I can and cannot make because I am incapable of running my own life."

    You are Ayn Rand, and I claim a foolproof definition of Intrinsic Dishonesty :)

  • The real irony is that the forced benefits laws are enacted in the sincere belief that they will better the state of the worker, but this is naive and flies in the face of any economic reality.
    Economic "reality" flies in the face of the well-being of the majority of the population. Why else the stock markets rise so much whenever some big outfit announces huge layoffs????

    --
    Game over, 2000!

  • The ``permatemp'' settlement praised Microsoft for recent policy changes, saying that since 1997 it had hired some 3,000 former permatemps as workers with full benefits, and had adopted new practices to limit the length of temporary assignments.

    For those who are wondering, Microsoft's new temp rules [uslaw.com] (effective as of this past July) are that each temp is not allowed to return to work for 100 days following a one-year stretch of employment. Yes, that's insane. No, temps are out of luck for that stretch of time. Some can hopefully find work at other agencies or companies, but it's still a dishonest (though now "legal") practice.
  • by Kiss the Blade ( 238661 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:23PM (#563882) Journal
    The bottom line in any employer-employee contract is that the employee is free to leave at any time. If he does not, then he is not being 'abused' by the company for which he works. All whining about abuse of employees etc is besides the point entirely, IMO. The simple fact is that these employees have a choice, and they have chosen to work for Microsoft.

    In any case, these are computer programmers and technical types - it's not as though they are working making footballs in the third world for tuppence happeny a day, is it? Doesn't the geek community have better things to worry about than this?

    We should take a leaf out of Bill Gates book, and help the truly deprived, and not scratch our own backs here.

    [I realise that last comment is controversial - it mentions Bill Gates! - but I said it to shock everyone into thinking for once, and stop being emotional and selfish]

    KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

  • "The only entity in society that can coerce, abuse, or otherwise impress their will on others is the government, as it is the only entity that can legally use force."

    This is an astonishing claim. Go read the "Man used innocent company to spam millions of AOLers" story, the "Thomson will crush Xiphophorus/Ogg Vorbis like a bug" story, the "NSI continues to run completely amok" story, and the "Cracker breaks into credit card database and holds company for ransom" story, and then come back here and shut yer pie hole! ;P

  • Microsoft is doing some great things in Redmond in terms of technology, but Bill never wanted to have all his employees full time. He wanted to ensure that if MS hit hardtimes, that they could quickly cut staff (Temp workers). I don't really know what the temp worker were complaining about, they get paid more and have to flexibility to work at little as they want. I for one think MS is in the right. Go Bill. -Angreal
  • It's not a limit on how much you can work, it's a limit before the company has to pay overtime. The law in CA is such that any time worked over 8 hours a day is considered overtime. NV has a similiar law, but it is a 12 hour limit before overtime kicks in. (IMHO, CA employment laws are among the most screwed up in the nation) I also believe in most states being salaried being salaried implies that overtime isn't an option. When I worked for a Federal contractor, I could put in as many hours as I wanted. However, only the first 40 counted. I didn't care. I was having fun writing code on high powered workstations.

  • >...Next in the news: Teamsters organise developers at Microsoft... Ballmer slaps head and shouts, "Doh!"

    That would be a great idea. CPU - Computer Programmers' Union!

    The job market is still good, so the time for this has not yet come, but if it gets worse and there are more instances like this of employees getting shafted...

  • How can you not believe Microsoft would cut corners to increase profits?

    <SARCASM>
    Just because Windows is the most tested, perfectly stable windowing shell available is no reason to believe the rest of the company operates like that.
    </SARCASM>

    --Mike--

  • Even in your case, there may be a point.

    I mean, if you also tend to move around every once in a while, and if your direction generally comes from your consulting firm, and not the person who hired them.. I suppose you are probably okay. It still can and does get fuzzy; i've seen exactly that situation before. The government basically says well, even though you technically pay this big consulting firm, and they pay their people, it amounts to the same thing. You are paying, based on # of people, and how long they work, to ahve them there during hours you dictate, using your equipment, for extended periods of time.

    If anyone really wanted to get into it, i'd bet they could make some fuss over it.

    HOw is what you do different than people who own their own consulting firm, with one employee, and work it that way? Because that definately doesn't qualify all by itself.

    As the IRS documents in the US point out, the presence of a contract is not the point, the acutal work performed and how it is performed is what matters.

  • Yes, the ditch is worth a certain amount of money. Who are YOU to determine how much money that is?

    Our belief is that the understanding of the amount of value which should be traded for the construction of that ditch is fairly determined by market forces -- that, if the market is left alone, the amount which is paid to a man who digs a ditch is the amount that a ditchdigger should fairly be paid.

    If you try to hold that some higher amount is needed (because, after all, ditchdigging is hard labor), you're interfering with the market in a way that, eventually, has a negative impact -- every bit as much to the man who digs ditches (and may now have a harder time finding work) as to the man who has to pay the ditchdigger more, the man who's now having a harder time buying a house because construction costs rose because labor is more expensive, the fellow who is paying more in rent because the landlord has to cover his higher maintenence costs (because he's now paying the gardeners not what they're worth but what some gov't official thinks is fair), etc.

    The entire point of capitalism is to be a fair allocator of resources, and it works. Second-guessing the system does nothing but damage.

  • The law can prevent this worst-case scenario (which I know has happened far too often, though not in recent years) by shutting down employers who hire goons; there's no need to go beyond that. Government should always use the minimum force necessary to prevent abuse, and no more.
  • Tsk, tsk -- none of these are really coersion. The spammer didn't coerse the company into spamming -- he (illegally) used force. Thomson is (arguably) threatening to absue Vorbis through the operation of government. As for NSI, their authority in all cases is sanctioned either by a contract signed with the people buying domains (and if someone willingly signs a contract, it by definition ain't abuse) or by the government. Finally, the cracker goes back to illegal use of force.

    Perhaps the author of the former statement should have said that the government is the only entitiy that can legally coerce, abuse, etc.

  • How much do you want to bet their contract with the temp agency and the agencies' contract with MS didn't include any full-time hire clauses?

    Either they were told this in a fashon which permits it to be enforceable (and a contract doesn't have to be in writing to be enforced!) or they were never told it at all. If they trusted the words of their employer (or any fellow man) in a non-legally-enforcable context, that's their own stupidity.

    Contract law is effective in a lot more cases than one expects. When you buy an item at the store, you just agreed to an (implied) contract, and if you don't pay you're guilty not only of shoplifting but breach of contract. When you give your buddy $5 to buy you a burger, you just agreed to an (implied) contract; if he doesn't, you can sue under breach-of-contract law. If you agree to work for this fellow as a temp in return for his agreement to eventually makes you full time, there's an implied contract there too. (It has to be in writing if you agree that this will not happen prior to a year, and if your written contract disclaims any such additional verbal agreements, 'yer screwed... but otherwise, it really is a contract).

    But IANAL, I just sit in a classroom listening to one yak; thus, TINLA.

  • The obvious answer to THAT (from a business perspective) is to get the laws changed so that your employees aren't allowed to organize (or to make it very difficult to organize), and then if the employees try and ignore those laws, then the GOVERNMENT goons will come and beat them up for you.

    Actually, this scenario is just an example of the more general case where a small group of people with large amounts of resources can use those resources to coopt a government's functions into a form which is more favorable to that small group (and ignoring any negative effects on the rest of the population).
  • No, that violates the minimum-action principal. Preventing people from organizing is much more work than preventing (non-govt) people from beating each other up.

    I'm not looking at what a bunch of stereotypical greedy business owners want to do. I'm looking at what a minimalist government (the best kind!) should do to handle the situation without being overly intrusive. The solutions proposed by the socialist set (enforce minimum wage, yadda yadda yadda) are far more intrusive and difficult to Get Right than the real minimum effort needed (prevent employers' goons [or anyone else] from beating people up, etc).

  • Most likely, they were given the distinct impression that, like most temporary workers, they would be evaluated and potentially considered for full-time hire 6-12 months after starting. This is pretty standard for temporary workers...you bring someone in on a temp basis due to cash restraints or other limitations, then after a while you either give them a full-time job or you get rid of them. Microsoft was just keeping the people as temps indefinitely.

  • Buying and then giving away Microsoft products & services is not my idea of charity. Sounds more like yet another scheme to make sure the company can meet quarterly sales goals to me.

  • by Mooset ( 9986 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2000 @01:27PM (#563916)
    I have seen Microsoft from the inside many times and know quite a few of their employees very personally. If there is any truth that Microsoft had at one time denied employees benefits, I am sure it was some sort of mistake. In fact, according to the NY Times article, starting in 1997 they hired all of their Permatemp employees into full time positions with full benefits. (Of course that isn't mentioned on the slashdot front page.) The case only covers Dec 1986 thru 1997 temps and by making a settlement Microsoft is acknowledging that those employees deserve benefits. With full health, pentions, and stock options, Microsoft employees are some of the best treated workers I know. Microsoft IS a great place to work (and very challenging too!) and one of the most respected employers in the field.

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