Sunday, June 22, 2014

Naomi Klein explains 'contingency workers' at Microsoft in her book No Logo

On page 249 of No Logo, Naomi Klein starts explaining how high tech companies have develeoped the use of 'contingency workers': 'The percentage of Silicon Valley workers employed by temp agencies is nearly three times the national average' (1998). And Microsoft, the largest of the software firms, didn't just lead the way to this part-time promised land, it wrote the operating manual.

about half the workers are officially employed by outside 'payroll agencies'... The only way to tell the temps from the 'real' Microserfs is by the color of their badges: blue for perms, orange for permatemps...
it's hard to rationalize legally that the person is not an employee unless they are an employee of someone else- in Microsoft's case, that someone else it the payroll agency...
Bob Herbold, COO (in 1997): 'Don't get caught with useless fixed assets' (page 251). How many top managers at Microsoft shared this ideology? While he served on the board of the Hutchinson Cancer Center he was also on the board of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.

Interestingly, the next chapter, chapter 11 is 'Bredding Disloyalty' and starts with a picture of Bill Gates getting 'pied' (pages 258)

Klein also looks at the workers who keep these companies running, most of whom never share in any of the great rewards. The president of Borders, when asked whether the bookstore chain could pay its clerks a "living wage," wrote that "while the concept is romantically appealing, it ignores the practicalities and realities of our business environment." Those clerks should probably just be grateful they're not stuck in an Asian sweatshop, making pennies an hour to produce Nike sneakers or other must-have fashion items. Klein also discusses at some length the tactic of hiring "permatemps" who can do most of the work and receive few, if any, benefits like health care, paid vacations, or stock options. While many workers are glad to be part of the "Free Agent Nation," observers note that, particularly in the high-tech industry, such policies make it increasingly difficult to organize workers and advocate for change.

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