Today, on International Workers’ Day, I bring you a story on IBM’s labor practices. The post IBM Outsourcing Thousands of Jobs to India has been one of the most widely read and commented articles on this blog. Understandably, there is a lot of agitation around the issue of outsourcing American jobs. I recently spoke with Alliance@IBM Representative Rick White on what is transpiring at IBM. Following the interview are a series of videos with IBM in the news. The hypocritical comments from IBM CEO Sam Palmisano in the first video, and his audacity to ask for stimulus money, are reprehensible.
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Can you tell us a little about your role in the Alliance IBM. What are you attempting to accomplish?
I’m presently the Treasurer, Web Maintenance, Organizer, and Health & Safety Representative for Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701. Alliance@IBM was formed in August of 1999 as a union and employee advocate for IBM employees, domestic USA.
We’re a National/Local which is not an oxymoron; but appears that way. We represent all IBMers that want to be represented by CWA (Communications Workers Of America) and we also serve as a Local for each IBM USA location where we have active and public members. Since the 1990’s, 40% or more of USA IBMers have been working from home. Many of these workers are in IBM departments that are scattered around the world, i.e. their boss could be in Texas, their co-workers as far away as China; while they work at home in Poughkeepsie, NY.
We also work closely with unions in Europe and Japan that are firmly placed in IBM locations there. Since IBM is an “International” company by definition, we believe that it should be unionized internationally. That status is yet to be realized, but we’re continuing to work at it.
Our goals are preserving and improving our rights and benefits at IBM. We also strive towards restoring management’s respect for the individual and the value we bring to the company as employees. Our mission is to make our voice heard with IBM management, shareholders, government and the media. While our ultimate goal is collective bargaining rights with IBM, we are building our union now and continue to challenge IBM on the many issues facing employees from off-shoring and job security to working conditions and company policy.
Our membership is large by local standards, but very small by national standards. We have @5000 total supporters and about 360 dues paying members, out of a company population of about 120,000 USA wide. The reasons we formed in 1999 were centered around IBM’s treatment of it’s workers; both blue-collar and white-collar in regard to the Pension swindle and layoff practices, and other issues in the 1990’s. We forced IBM to change its policy on its Cash Balance pension plan in 1999, from no choice for IBMers with less than 25 years of service; to the option for an additional 35,000 IBMers (40 years of age and 10 years of service) to choose between the Cash Balance pension and the defined benefit pension (the one workers with 25 years service had).
We even got help from the Senate Finance Committee, when they asked then IBM HR director, Tom Bouchard to testify before them and explain why there was such a disparity between the two plans. Mr. Bouchard announced and offered the choice between the two plans on the day he testified before the committee.
How many jobs have been lost at IBM in 2009? Prior to then?
That is a hard question to answer. Mostly because of the churn, over the years and the offshoring and outsourcing; which has been happening in IBM, steadily since the 1990’s. The other reason is that IBM rarely announces the numbers. When they do; its a hard figure to confirm. IBM USA employed roughly 135,000 people in the 1990’s…we’ve run the calculations many times, and the number keeps changing because of the way IBM does business in other countries. We can never get a net job loss. My guess is somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 jobs or more, since the 1990’s. Again, it’s very hard to know for sure. (Note: Resource Action is IBM’s term for firing. it’s not a lay-off because the workers are not recalled to work.)
How many of those job losses were a result of outsourcing?
Again, very difficult to answer. It’s very complicated; or appears to be as a result of IBM’s practices world wide. In 2007 and 2008 IBM replaced 14,000 jobs world-wide. We still don’t know for sure, how many of those were here in the US.
Did IBM offer to relocate the employees to the countries the jobs were being outsourced too?
No. IBM usually tells employees being RA’ed that they have 30 days to find another job within IBM; however, behind the scenes, IBM freezes internal IBM hiring for IBMers being fired. It’s nothing but an egregious ruse.
You may also be referring to an IBM company policy called “Project Match”; which offers IBMers that are fired, an “opportunity” to move out of the United States and go to IBM Brazil, IBM Russia, IBM India, IBM China, IBM Vietnam, IBM Philippines, etc. Supposedly, IBM pays for the trip, but that’s it. Once the ex-IBMer leaves he/she cannot have their USA IBM job back. They must work for the IBM location they chose and figure out how to function in the same job capacity, for say 40% of their pay or less in their new ‘home’ country. They are also assigned the additional task of training the employees in that country, once they arrive.
For example, an Operation Analyst may make between $40,000 and $60,000/year working in the US for IBM. When he/she becomes an IBM India employee in the same job, they make about 250,000 rupees or $5,000.00/year. Living conditions are unknown to us so far. Rick Clark, fired IBM employee spoke to the press about his experience during his RA and subsequent offer to go to another country. To read the interview with Rick Clark: If You Want a Job…
Were there employees who chose the option of relocation?
There may be. We haven’t confirmed any yet. Our Comments sections have mentioned people actually doing it, but they didn’t leave their name or contact information. My guess is, not many take it.
What is the solution to keeping these jobs in the U.S.?
One step to take is for IBMers and ex-IBMers to speak out about this and come forward and testify, if necessary, to the Federal govt about this program and the offshoring. Globalism may not be stopped; but we should stop giving bailout money and tax breaks to companies that offshore and outsource, without regard to the impact on the USA.
IBMers need to organize and get IBM to the bargaining table. In exchange for very limited outsourcing, a union contract could stipulate a process that benefits both the workers and the company. The details could be worked out to everyone’s advantage.
Explain what an “At Will Employee” is.
Basically, “At Will Employee” means that a worker has the right to quit without notice for any reason or no reason; and the Company has the right to fire the worker without notice for any reason or no reason. The workers have no bargaining rights whatsoever, under this policy. The Dept. of Labor will not help workers who are fired under this policy. That’s why a union contract is so important. Most workers in the USA today do NOT understand “At Will Employee” policy.
How are labor laws skewed in favor of corporations (such as IBM) over the employee?
They have high priced lawyers that have subverted labor law in favor of the corporations. They have used labor law cases and sympathetic labor board members to turn labor law against the employees. They use their power, money and influence to run roughshod over workers.
Most present day labor policies are derived from the NLRB decisions on the multitude of cases brought before the NLRB, between unions and management of a company. These are disputes, over a large list of reasons for filing an Unfair Labor Practice or other reasons, between labor and management. Many are only significant to the particular company or union and do not affect the whole USA. For example, a union organizer gets fired for “misconduct” during an organizing campaign at a particular company. The union files a ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) and the case goes to an NLRB appointed administrative judge. The judge decides in the union’s favor, and the company appeals to the NLRB labor board. The NLRB also decides in favor of the union organizer. The company appeals to the US District court of appeals The Court decides in favor of the company. This means only union organizers in that Court’s district are affected by that decision; however, if the union appeals to the Supreme Court, and the Court hears the case and then decides in the company’s favor, the decision applies to ALL union organizers in that situation, in the entire country.
A relatively recent case (2004) was the reversal of the Weingarten Rights. The right of employees to have union representation at investigatory interviews was announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1975 case (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251, 88 LRRM 2689). These rights have become known as the Weingarten rights. The reversal basically removed Weingarten Rights from non-union workers, enacted in 2000, under the Clinton Administration. Which means that workers called into the boss’s office for a disciplinary meeting or investigatory interview, etc.; no longer have the right to have a co-worker witness the meeting and/or exchange between the affected worker and his/her boss.
Union workers still have Weingarten Rights. Here is a link to a Weingarten Rights explanation: EMPLOYEE’S RIGHT TO UNION REPRESENTATION
How common is it for an employee nearing their retirement to be fired from their job at IBM?
Fairly common since the 1990’s. IBM disguises the reason, to steer clear of age discrimination law suits; Although there have been Class Action law suits filed, in the past.
A review of their Resource Action packages will show, statistically, that the older workers (45-60yrs) are affected in greater amounts than the younger ones (18-35yrs).
Are there currently any online petitions or actions in circulation?
We currently have a “Take Action” on our web site to contact The President, Vice President, and the respective Congressional and Senate Reps for the person’s districts: Take Action” is “Job cuts and job shifting offshore by IBM!
Where can readers learn more about issues re to IBM?
Our web site is chock full of information about IBM: AllianceIBM There are also many articles on the internet that discuss IBM and its practices and Globalism in general.
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IBM CEO Palmisano
IBM criticized for plans to shift U.S. jobs to India while seeking stimulus money
IBM draws criticism for job cuts, outsourcing