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Tech firms ain't what they used to be 
Posted (2017-09-05)

Another reason for wage stagnation: the rise of uber-tech and the outsourcing of menial labour. Yes, technology has transformed our (US & CA’s) industries and you can’t roll back the clock on that. But look at the difference between the benefits & opportunities Kodak offered even its janitors compared to Apple today.

Corps in CA are also turning to temp agencies for labour and feel no responsibility for how those workers are treated or how they might benefit the company with additional training. Hence the NEED for Workplace Reforms that include paid personal time off, sick leave without fear of being fired, etc – in other words, the things in Ontario’s Bill 148.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/upshot/to-understand-rising-inequality-consider-the-janitors-at-two-top-companies-then-and-now.html?smid=tw-share

David McLaren
Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JDavidMcLaren

Web: https://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/


David, 

Thanks for sharing the article as it took me down memory lane a bit.  I worked at IBM from 1984-92.  The President of IBM Canada at that time started out in the mailroom!  The first few years, cafeteria staff were IBM employees and then they contracted out.  The cafeteria staff were offered jobs on the manufacturing line or in admin services.  Some chose to join the contractor who ran the cafeteria (probably a bad choice).

What I picked out of the article (as my lens has a different filter), were a few points:

1.  The "traditional" paternalistic company is dead.  I happened to be stuck in traffic at Black Creek and Eglinton Ave in Toronto recently where Kodak Canada had its sprawling offices.  Watched as cranes constructed condos.  Kodak, RCA and to a lesser degree IBM have had their lunch eaten because they would not change to new realities.  

Another memory lane tidbit.  In the early 2000's, I had RCA as a small client.  I recall during a visit to their Indianapolis HQ how much they treasured RCA history.  The building lobby had a fantastic display of old RCA equipment that pioneered the industry in the early 1900's.  Problem is that by 2000 they were irrelevant.  At some point, that WILL happen to Apple.

2. Tech companies predominately are not unionized.  They expect a lot out of core employees and treat them well.

3. The notion of contracting out non-core staff is the right thing to do. Apple management know very little about cleaning services, cafeteria management etc, and need to focus all energies on great product development to stay successful.  If they don't, they simply become another RIM, losing out to visionary companies that are fantastic at their core focus.

4. Article illustrates the need for marketable skills of individuals.  More than ever, having an education is vital.  That also translates outside of tech.  A labourer in the construction industry is paid poorly compared to an electrician or skilled carpenter. A skilled chef can make a great living, a dishwasher not so much.

5. While the article points out how many people the Kodak's and IBM's employed compared to today's tech titans, the argument does not measure the entire supply chain of employment by Apple..  I'm sure if the author researched Apple staff numbers, contract manufacturers, shippers, cleaners and everyone that contributes to Apple, the numbers would be comparable.  It just so happens that Apple sticks to its knitting in an increasingly specialized business world.

6. This being Labour Day, I would offer up that the labour movement needs to place greater focus on the people in our world who want to and are working, but are not improving their lot due to poor wages, lack of skills, or advantageous employers.  It is not the Apple's of our world.

Have a great day,

Stan Didzbalis

Stan

I think the point of the article comparing Kodak to Apple (for me at least) is the change in respect for workers at the lowest rung of the income ladder. That’s just not the case anymore as I hear from both young and older workers these days. Not only is respect lacking but workplace opportunities to improve peoples’ education and position are too.

Having said that, I find it hard to disagree with any of your points. Certainly it falls to the individual to improve on the talents they are given. Individual responsibility is very much a part of our culture, even though business seems less interested in helping the lowly paid among their employees discover, let alone use, their talents.

Somewhere beyond out dialectic is a synthesis … a way of looking (your ‘lens’) at this that embraces both our points of view – your individual responsibility and liberty (entrepreneurship) and my collective action. I wonder what policy recommendations would fall out of that synthesis?

And this being Labour Day, I’ve attached a photo of two guys from our Bruce Grey Owen Sound NDP Youth Wing who walked in the Labour Day parade in Port Elgin. And yes, the once and future Jack Layton did ride this bike.

Happy Labour Day

David

David McLaren
@JDavidMcLaren
https://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/

 


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