Article 43

 

Workplace

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Workplace Stress

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This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

ByJena McGregor
Washington Post
March 22, 2018

Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer doesn’t mince words. WORKPLACE STRESS - the result of conditions like long hours, a lack of health insurance, little autonomy on the job, high job demands—don’t just hit productivity or damage morale. They’re killing us.

"It’s pretty clear that the human costs—in terms of death—and the economic costs, in terms of elevated health care spend, are quite substantial,” Pfeffer said in a recent interview about his new book, DYING FOR A PAYCHECK.

Pfeffer’s book, released Tuesday, is built around a 2015 paper that said more than 120,000 deaths a year and roughly 5 to 8 percent of annual health care costs may be attributable to how U.S. companies manage their workforces. A core argument: Instead of adding wellness programs or yoga classes, companies need to focus more on the management practices that lead to substantial health issues, such as layoffs, job insecurity, toxic cultures and long hours—not only for their own bottom lines but so they don’t offload those costs to broader society. As he told a Stanford publication: I want this to be the ‘Silent Spring’ of workplace health,” referring to the 1962 book by Rachel Carson that spurred the environmental movement.

We spoke with Pfeffer about his research, “social pollution,” and where your workplace ranks on the list of leading causes of death. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What did your research show?

For decades there has been epidemiological literature that looked at the effect of individual things like not having health insurance or the absence of job control and other work conditions like long hours. What I thought we needed to do is figure out - not for all of them but for many of them - what the total toll of them was on both mortality and health care costs.

I enlisted two operations research colleagues to help, and we did a meta analysis on all the literature and they did some fancy modeling. We found that there are basically 120,000 excess deaths per year attributed to these ten workplace conditions and they cause approximately $190 billion in incremental health care costs. That would make the workplace the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. - higher than Alzheimers, higher than kidney disease.

One of your arguments is that while we’ve dramatically lowered physical accidents and safety issues in the workplace, the health impacts of social or stress-related work conditions have remained unaddressed. Can you elaborate?

We focused on the physical environment, and we now need to focus on the social environment the human environment. With the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace accidents and chemical exposures and injuries has gone down dramatically because it’s been measured, because its been regulated and because those regulations have been enforced.

But regulating and measuring the causes of workplace stress seems much more difficult and much more nebulous than preventing people from, say, falling down the stairs on the factory floor.

I don’t think so. There are validated scales for all of these. It]s not hard to measure hours. It’s not hard to measure shift work. It’s not hard to measure work-family conflict. It’s very easy to measure whether you have health insurance or not.

We have said to companies they cannot pass costs [of environmental damage] on to the broader society. We have not done that with respect to health. I would argue that its actually maybe harder to measure smokestack emissions than it is to measure healthy work conditions. If we wanted to regulate it, we could regulate it.

What about wellness initiatives, health risk assessments and smoking cessation programs? Do any of those ideas work?

No. The evidence on that is pretty clear. The reason they don’t help is also pretty clear. Wellness programs are an attempt to remediate the harmful effects of whats going on in the workplace. Instead of remediation you need to prevent. Instead of causing you to over-smoke and over-drink and over-eat and under-exercise because of what goes on in the workplace, and then giving you a wellness program, they should change the underlying work conditions. If I change the workplace so you didn’t do that stuff in the first place, you wouldn’t need a wellness program.

What was the most startling statistic you discovered in your research?

There are several. The 120,000 excess deaths a year. According to one study I cite, more than a million people are dying due to OVERWORK IN CHINA. The American Institute of Stress claims that stress is costing employers $300 billion a year. There are 2 million WORKPLACE VIOLENCE incidents reported a year.

So what needs to be done?

The first thing I would want to do is we need to get a better handle on its scope. We need to measure it. You can see how many people are dying from air pollution a year. In the U.S. no agency does the same thing that weҒve done for water pollution, air pollution or infectious disease, which is to measure the harm the toll ח of the workplace on human health. If I can measure the effect of physical pollution on health, I can measure the effect of 10 workplace practices.

You talk about the phrase “social pollution.” What’s that?

Harmful practices, as determined by a large epidemiological literature, that are reasonably widespread and exact a physical and psychological toll. Work-family conflict. Long work hours. The absence of job control. Being MICRO-MANAGED.

But how do you measure micromanagement?

There are validated scales that measure job autonomy. It’s a concept that has been around in management and leadership literature for decades. We require companies to report on lots of things, and a bunch of political people run around and say human life is sacrosanct and human well being is important. My response to that is if it is, we ought to take it seriously, and if we’re taking it seriously, we ought to measure it.

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image: stress pie chart

Workplace Stress

Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.  Increased levels of job stress as assessed by the perception of having little control but lots of demands have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension and other disorders.  In New York, Los Angels and other municipalities, the relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so well acknowledged, that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is assumed to have a work related injury and is compensated accordingly (including heart attack sustained while fishing on vacation or gambling in Las Vegas).

Although the Institute is often asked to construct lists of the mostӔ and leastӔ stressful occupations, such rankings have little importance for several reasons. It is not the job but the person-environment fit that matters. Some individuals thrive in the time urgent pressure cooker of life in the fast lane, having to perform several duties at the same time and a list of things to do that would overwhelm most of us provided they perceive that they are in control. They would be severely stressed by dull, dead end assembly line work enjoyed by others who shun responsibility and simply want to perform a task that is well within their capabilities. The stresses that a policeman or high school teacher working in an inner city ghetto are subjected to are quite different than those experienced by their counterparts in rural Iowa. It is necessary to keep this in mind when sweeping statements are made about the degree of stress in teachers, police personnel, physicians and other occupations. Stress levels can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons.

Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. One survey showed that having to complete paper work was more stressful for many police officers than the dangers associated with pursuing criminals. The severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individualגs sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Scientific studies based on this model confirm that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands but have little control are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Digesting the Statistics of Workplace Stress

Numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades. While there are tons of statistics to support these allegations, how significant they are depends on such things as how the information was obtained (self-report vs. answers to carefully worded questions), the size and demographics of the targeted group, how participants were selected and who sponsored the study. Some self-serving polls claiming that a particular occupation is the “most stressful” are conducted by unions or organizations in a attempt to get higher wages or better benefits for their members. Others may be conducted to promote a product, such as the
“Stress In the Nineties” survey by the maker of a deodorant that found housewives were under more stress than the CEOs of major corporations. Such a conclusion might be anticipated from telephone calls to residential phones conducted in the afternoon. It is crucial to keep all these caveats in mind when evaluating job stress statistics.

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Posted by Elvis on 03/31/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Third World U.S.A. Part 10 - The Gig Economy

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[L]ivery car driver Douglas Schifter killed himself outside the gates of City Hall, after writing in a suicide note posted to Facebook, “I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.”
- Democracy Now, March 22, 2018

“The Gig Economy” Is the New Term for Serfdom

By Chris Hedges
Truthdig
March 25, 2018

A 65-year-old New York City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, HANGED HIMSELF in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him to make a living. It was the fourth SUICIDE BY A CAB DRIVER in New York in the last four months, including one Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.

"Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families,” wrote Schifter, “they squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” He said he had been working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.

Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. Uber drivers make about $13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this falls to $8.77. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber and one of the founders, has a net worth of $4.8 billion. Logan Green, the CEO of Lyft, has a net worth of $300 million.

The corporate elites, which have seized control of ruling institutions including the government and destroyed labor unions, are re-establishing the inhumane labor conditions that characterized the 19th and early 20th centuries. When workers at General Motors carried out a 44-day sit-down strike in 1936, many were living in shacks that lacked heating and indoor plumbing; they could be laid off for weeks without compensation, had no medical or retirement benefits and often were fired without explanation. When they turned 40 their employment could be terminated. The average wage was about $900 a year at a time when the government determined that a family of four needed a minimum of $1,600 to live above the poverty line.

The managers at General Motors relentlessly persecuted union organizers. The company spent $839,000 on detective work in 1934 to spy on union organizers and infiltrate union meetings. GM employed the white terrorist group the Black Legionthe police chief of Detroit was suspected of being a member - to threaten and physically assault labor activists and assassinate union leaders including George Marchuk and John Bielak, both shot to death.

The reign of the all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance. The job conditions of working men and women, thrust backward, WILL NOT IMPROVE until they regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists. There are some 13,000 licensed cabs in New York City and 40,000 livery or town cars. The drivers should, as farmers did in 2015 with tractors in Paris, shut down the center of the city. And drivers in other cities should do the same. This is the only language our corporate masters understand.

The ruling capitalists will be as vicious as they were in the past. Nothing enrages the rich more than having to part with a fraction of their obscene wealth. Consumed by greed, rendered numb to human suffering by a life of hedonism and extravagance, devoid of empathy, incapable of self-criticism or self-sacrifice, surrounded by sycophants and leeches who cater to their wishes, appetites and demands, able to use their wealth to ignore the law and destroy critics and opponents, THEY ARE among the most repugnant of the human species. DON’T BE FOOLED by the elites’ skillful public relations campaigns - we are watching Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $64.1 billion, mount a massive propaganda effort against charges that he and Facebook are focused on exploiting and selling our personal information - or by the fawning news celebrities on corporate media who act as courtiers and apologists for the oligarchs. These people are THE ENEMY.

Ochisor, a Romanian immigrant, owned a New York City taxi medallion. (Medallions were once coveted by cab drivers because having them allowed the drivers to own their own cabs or lease the cabs to other drivers.) Ochisor drove the night shift, lasting 10 to 12 hours. His wife drove the day shift. But after Uber and Lyft flooded the city with cars and underpaid drivers about three years ago, the couple could barely meet expenses. Ochisors home was about to go into foreclosure. His medallion, once worth $1.1 million, had plummeted in value to $180,000. The dramatic drop in the value of the medallion, which he had hoped to lease for $3,000 a month or sell to finance his retirement, wiped out his economic security. He faced financial ruin and poverty. And he was not alone.

The corporate architects of the new economy have no intention of halting the assault. They intend to turn everyone into temp workers trapped in demeaning, low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs without job security or benefits, a reality they plaster over by inventing hip terms like ”THE GIG ECONOMY.”

John McDonagh began driving a New York City cab 40 years ago. He, like most drivers, worked out of garages owned and operated by businesses. He was paid a percentage of what he earned each night.

“You could make a living” [then], he told me. “But everyone shared the burden. The garage shared it. The driver shared it. If you had a good night, the garage made money. If you had a bad night, you split it. That’s not the case anymore. Right now we’re leasing” [cabs at the garages].

Leasing requires a driver to pay $120 a day for the car and $30 for the gas. The drivers begin a shift $150 in debt. Because of Uber, Lyft and other smartphone ride apps, drivers’ incomes have been cut by half in many cases. Cab drivers can finish their 12-hour shifts owing the garages money. Drivers are facing bankruptcies, foreclosures and evictions. Some are homeless.

“The TLC [New York City Transportation and Limousine Commission] wanted to limit yellow cab drivers to 12 hours a day,” he said, referring to the distinctive yellow cabs that have medallions and can pick up passengers anywhere in the five boroughs. There was a protest. Yellow cab drivers were protesting that they have to work a 16-hour day in order to make a living. It’s cut everything. “Everybody’s fighting for that extra fare. You would be at a light with two or three other yellow cabs. You saw someone up the street with luggage you would run the lights to get to them. Because that might be an airport job. You’re risking your own life, risking getting tickets, you’re doing things you would never have done before.”

“We don’t have any health care,” he said. “Sitting for those 12 to 16 hours a day, you are getting diabetes. There’s no blood circulation. You’re putting on weight. And then theres that added stress you’re not making any money.”

Uber and Lyft in 2016 had 370 active lobbyists in 44 states, dwarfing some of the largest business and technology companies, according to the National Employment Law Project. Together, Uber and Lyft lobbyists outnumbered Amazon, Microsoft, and Walmart combined. The two companies, like many lobbying firms, also hire former government regulators. The former head of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, for example, is now on the board of Uber. The companies have used their money and their lobbyists, most of whom are members of the Democratic Party, to free themselves from the regulations and oversight imposed on the taxi industry. The companies using ride-hail apps have flooded New York City with about 100,000 unregulated cars in the past two years.

“The yellow cab has to be a certain vehicle, said McDonagh. “It’s a Nissan.” [Nissan won the bid to supply the city’s cabs.] Every yellow cab has to charge a certain price. When that drop goes down, that’s regulated by the city. They added on all these extra taxes, for the MTA and for the wheelchair [half of all yellow cabs are required to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020], a rush-hour tax. Uber comes in. No regulations at all. They could pick whatever type of car they want. Whatever color of car. They could change prices when it’s slow. They can lower the prices. When its busy they can do price surging. It can be two or three times. Whereas the yellow cab is just plowing along at the same rate at the same time. Going to Kennedy Airport from Manhattan is $52. No matter what the traffic is like, no matter how many hours it takes you to get there. Uber will jack up its prices two or three times. You might have to pay $100 to get to Kennedy Airport. While the yellow cab industry is almost regulated to death, Uber is coming in with new technology, figuring out different ways how [it is] going to make money.  “Its finished, with the yellow cabs.”

Life for Uber and Lyft drivers is as difficult. Uber and Lyft use bonuses to lure drivers into the business. Once the bonuses are gone, these drivers sink to the same economic desperation as those driving yellow cabs.

“Uber is leasing cars,” McDonagh said. “They have car dealerships that will sell. They advertise as, ‘Listen, you can have bad credit. Come down to Uber. Well get you the money or loan to buy this car.’ And what they do is they’ll take the money directly out of what you’re making that day to pay for the loan. They can’t lose. And if you go under, they’ll sell the car back to the dealership and then redo it for the next immigrant driver. There’s a whole scam going on.”

“As a yellow cab driver, you don’t see the world vision,” he said. “But there’s that famous term - the RACE TO THE BOTTOM. You’re working more and more hours for less and less wages. This is the new gig economy. Someone will use an Uber to go to an Airbnb and get on his phone to order something from Amazon to eat in his house. All those shops are now gone. From cashiers to cab drivers. I feel like I’m a blacksmith or a typesetter at a newspaper business trying to explain to you what the yellow cab industry used to be. We’re becoming obsolete.”

“Guys are sleeping in the cab,” McDonagh said. “They’ll go out to Kennedy at 2 or 3 in the morning. They pull into the lot and go to sleep to catch [passengers off] the first flight that’s coming in from California a couple of hours later. You have guys who won’t go home for a couple of days. They’ll just stay out on the street. They roam the street to try to make money. It’s dangerous for the passenger. The amount of accidents will be going up because drivers are drowsy.”

McDonagh said Uber and Lyft cars must be regulated. All cars should have meters to guarantee an adequate income for drivers. And drivers should have health care and benefits. None of this will happen, he warned, as long as we live under a system of government where our political elites are dependent on campaign contributions from corporations and those who should be regulating the industry look to these corporations for future employment.

“We have to limit the amount of cabs, particularly here in New York City,” McDonagh said. If we did it in the yellow cab industry for 50 years, why can’t we do it with Uber? They’re adding 100 cars a week through the streets of New York. This is insane. When you call an Uber, the biggest complaint people have now is, ‘The car is here too quick.’ They’re there within two or three minutes. I can’t even get dressed. They’re rolling empty throughout the city, waiting for that hit.”

“Horses in Central Park are regulated,” he pointed out. There’s 150 of them. They make a great living there, the guys on the horse and buggies. Say Uber comes in and says, We want to bring in Uber horses. And we want to add 100,000. And let’s see how the market will handle it. We know what’s going to happen. No one will make money. They’re all around Central Park. And now no one can go anywhere because there are now 100,000 horses in Central Park. It would be considered madness to do that. They wouldn’t do it. Yet when it comes to the yellow cab industry, for 50 years all we could have was 13,000 cabs, and then within a year or two were going to add 100,000. Let’s see how the market works on that! We know how the market works.

“They [the horses] work less hours” [than cab drivers], he said. “They don’t work in hot and cold temperatures. If you believe in reincarnation, you should come back as a horse in Central Park. And they all live on the West Side of Manhattan. We live in basements in Brooklyn and Queens. We haven’t upped our status in life, thats for sure.”

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Posted by Elvis on 03/27/18 •
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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cutting Old Heads at IBM

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As it scrambled to compete in the internet world, the once-dominant tech company cut tens of thousands of U.S. workers, hitting its most senior employees hardest and flouting rules against age bias.

By Peter Gosselin and Ariana Tobin
Pro Publica
March 22, 2018

For nearly a half century, IBM came as close as any company to bearing the torch for the American Dream.

As the world’s dominant technology firm, payrolls at International Business Machines Corp. swelled to nearly a quarter-million U.S. white-collar workers in the 1980s. Its profits helped underwritea broad agenda of racial equality, equal pay for women and an unbeatable offer of great wages and something close to lifetime employment, all in return for unswerving loyalty.

But when high tech suddenly started SHIFTING and companies went global, IBM faced the changing landscape with a distinction most of its fiercest competitors didn’t have: a large number of experienced and aging U.S. EMPLOYEES.

The company reacted with a strategy that, in the words of one confidential planning document, would “correct seniority mix.” It slashed IBM’s U.S. WORKFORCE by as much as three-quarters from its 1980s peak, replacing a substantial share with younger, less-experienced and lower-paid workers and sending many positions overseas. ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years.

In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees.

Among ProPublicas findings, IBM:

· Denied older workers information the law says they need in order to decide whether they’ve been victims of age bias, and required them to sign away the right to go to court or join with others to seek redress.

· Targeted people for layoffs and firings with techniques that tilted against older workers, even when the company rated them high performers. In some instances, the money saved from the departures went toward hiring young replacements.

· Converted job cuts into retirements and took steps to boost resignations and firings. The moves reduced the number of employees counted as layoffs, where high numbers can trigger public disclosure requirements.

· Encouraged employees targeted for layoff to apply for other IBM positions, while quietly advising managers NOT TO HIRE THEM and requiring many of the workers to train their replacements.

· Told some older employees being laid off that their skills were out of date, but then BROUGHT THEM BACK AS CONTRACT WORKERS, often for the same work at lower pay and fewer benefits.

IBM declined requests for the numbers or age breakdown of its job cuts. ProPublica provided the company with a 10-page summary of its findings and the evidence on which they were based. IBM spokesman Edward Barbini said that to respond the company needed to see copies of all documents cited in the story, a request ProPublica could not fulfill without breaking faith with its sources. Instead, ProPublica provided IBM with detailed descriptions of the paperwork. Barbini declined to address the documents or answer specific questions about the firms policies and practices, and instead issued the following statement:

“We are proud of our company and our employees ability to reinvent themselves era after era, while always complying with the law. Our ability to do this is why we are the only tech company that has not only survived but thrived for more than 100 years.”

With nearly 400,000 people worldwide, and tens of thousands still in the U.S., IBM remains a corporate giant. How it handles the shift from its veteran baby-boom workforce to younger generations will likely influence what other employers do. And the way it treats its experienced workers will eventually affect younger IBM employees as they too age.

Fifty years ago, Congress made it illegal with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, to treat older workers differently than younger ones with only a few exceptions, such as jobs that require special physical qualifications. And for years, judges and policymakers treated the law as essentially on a par with prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and other categories.

In recent decades, however, the courts have responded to corporate pleas for greater leeway to meet global competition and satisfy investor demands for rising profits by expanding the exceptions and shrinking the protections against age bias.

Age discrimination is an open secret like sexual harassment was until recently,” said Victoria Lipnic, the acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, the independent federal agency that administers the nations workplace anti-discrimination laws.

Everybody knows its happening, but often these cases are difficult to prove because courts have weakened the law,” Lipnic said. The fact remains it’s an unfair and illegal way to treat people that can be economically devastating.

Many companies have sought to take advantage of the court rulings. But the story of IBMҔs downsizing provides an unusually detailed portrait of how a major American corporation systematically identified employees to coax or force out of work in their 40s, 50s and 60s, a time when many are still productive and need a paycheck, but face huge hurdles finding anything like comparable jobs.

The dislocation caused by IBMs cuts has been especially great because until recently the company encouraged its employees to think of themselves as ҒIBMers and many operated under the assumption that they had career-long employment.

When the ax suddenly fell, IBM provided almost no information about why an employee was cut or who else was departing, leaving people to piece together what had happened through websites, listservs and Facebook groups such as ӔWatching IBM or ӔGeographically Undesirable IBM Marketers, as well as informal support groups.

Marjorie Madfis, at the time 57, was a New York-based digital marketing strategist and 17-year IBM employee when she and six other members of her nine-person team Ӕ all women in their 40s and 50s were laid off in July 2013. The two who remained were younger men.

Since her specialty was one that IBM had said it was expanding, she asked for a written explanation of why she was let go. The company declined to provide it.

חThey got rid of a group of highly skilled, highly effective, highly respected women, including me, for a reason nobody knows, Madfis said in an interview. ӔThe only explanation is our age.

Brian Paulson, also 57, a senior manager with 18 years at IBM, had been on the road for more than a year overseeing hundreds of workers across two continents as well as hitting his sales targets for new services, when he got a phone call in October 2015 telling him he was out. He said the caller, an executive who was not among his immediate managers, cited Ӕperformance as the reason, but refused to explain what specific aspects of his work might have fallen short.

It took Paulson two years to land another job, even though he was equipped with an advanced degree, continuously employed at high-level technical jobs for more than three decades and ready to move anywhere from his Fairview, Texas, home.

“It’s tough when you’ve worked your whole life, he said. “The company doesn’t tell you anything. And once you get to a certain age, you don’t hear a word from the places you apply.”

Paul Henry, a 61-year-old IBM sales and technical specialist who loved being on the road, had just returned to his Columbus home from a business trip in August 2016 when he learned he’d been let go. When he asked why, he said an executive told him to “keep your mouth shut and go quietly.”

Henry was jobless more than a year, ran through much of his savings to cover the mortgage and health insurance and applied for more than 150 jobs before he found a temporary slot/

“If you’re over 55, forget about preparing for retirement,” he said in an interview. “You have to prepare for losing your job and burning through every cent you’ve saved just to get to retirement.”.

IBM’s latest actions aren’t anything like what most ex-employees with whom ProPublica talked expected from their years of service, or what today’s young workers think awaits them - or are prepared to deal with - later in their careers.

“In a fast-moving economy, employers are always going to be tempted to replace older workers with younger ones, more expensive workers with cheaper ones, those who’ve performed steadily with ones who seem to be up on the latest thing,” said Joseph Seiner, an employment law professor at the University of South Carolina and former appellate attorney for the EEOC.

“But it’s NOT GOOD FOR SOCIETY,” he added. “We have rules to try to maintain some fairness in our lives, our age-discrimination laws among them. You cant just DISREGARD THEM.”

“Old Heads” Needn’t Apply

For much of its history, IBM viewed its fate and that of its predominantly U.S. workforce as INSEPARABLE. By the late 1960s, the company’s grip on the mainframe computer business had grown so great the Justice Department sued it for monopolizing the industry, a case that dragged on for years before being dropped as “without merit.” Such dominance convinced executives they could deliver extraordinary workplace stability in return for loyal service.

“When recessions occur or there is a major product shift, some companies handle the resulting workforce imbalances by letting people go,” explained an employee handbook of the 1980s. By contrast, “IBM retrains, reassigns and even relocates employees.”

“For their part, continued the handbook, employees must be flexible, willing to change, work overtime, and adapt to new situations quickly.” The logic behind the bargain was that people are a treasured resource.” At IBM, they are treated like “one.”

But within a decade, IBM had stumbled not once but three times, in ways that would come to cost both the company and its workers. First, it failed to appreciate the major product shiftӔ behind a new chip technology that first entered peoples lives as the guts of pocket calculators and cheap digital watches and was making possible increasingly powerful and networked personal computers that undercut the companyӔs mainframe business. Second, it misjudged its employees reaction to switching to a kind of pension that no longer rewarded older, long-service workers. IBM workers responded with a lawsuit that forced the company to settle by paying more than $300 million and reinstating expensive traditional pensions for more than 100,000 of them.

And by the early years of the new century, IBM was falling behind again by failing to quickly devise innovative uses for the internet like its new rivals, Google, Facebook and Amazon. As it slipped, the company began having second thoughts about the price of unbending loyalty to its long-serving workforce.

In a little-noticed paper issued in 2006 by the London office of one of the companyҒs consulting arms, executives praised boomers experience, but described them as Ғgray hairs and ғold heads. While recognizing that older workers were important to high-tech employers such as IBM, it concluded that ԓsuccessor generations are generally much more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers.ԓ

The paper was subsequently cited in an age discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before the complaint was settled last year, the plaintiffs alleged in a filing: IBMŔs Boomer employees being labeled by IBMӒs own research as uncollaborative, skeptical of leadership, technologically unsophisticated, less innovative and generally out of touch with IBMs brand, customers and objectives ג were shown the door in droves.

By the time IBMҗs current CEO, Virginia GinniԒ Rometty, took over in 2012, the company had shifted its personnel focus to millennials.

Rometty launched a major overhaul that aimed to make IBM a major player in the emerging technologies of cloud services, big data analytics, mobile, security and social media, or what came to be known inside as CAMS.

At the same time, she sought to sharply increase hiring of people born after 1980.

CAMS are driven by Millennial Traits,Ӕ declared a slide presentation for an invitation-only IBM event in New York in December 2014. Not only were millennials in sync with the new technologies, but they were also attuned to the collaborative, consensus-driven modes of work these technologies demanded, company researchers said theyd discovered. Millennials Ӕare not likely to make decisions in isolation, the presentation said, but instead ғdepend on analytic technologies to help them.

By contrast, people 50 or over are ԓmore dubious of analytics, ԓplace less stock in the advantages data offers, and are less ԓmotivated to consult their colleagues or get their buy in Itԓs Baby Boomers who are the outliers.

The message was clear. To succeed at the new technologies, the company must, in the words of the presentation, Œbecome one with the Millennial mindset. Similar language found its way into a variety of IBM presentations in subsequent years.

Even before the New York conference, IBM had begun a major effort to recruit millennial employees. It launched a blog, ԓThe Millennial Experience, and a hashtag on Twitter, #IBMillennial.ԓ It began an online and print advertising campaign primarily featuring young people. It established a Millennial Corps,Ԕ a network of more than 5,000 young IBMers whom Rometty and other top executives said theyd regularly consult before making business decisions. And it sharply improved benefits, like parental leave, especially important to younger employees.

Its initiatives won IBM plaudits from womenӔs groups; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations; human rights and disability associations; indeed advocates for just about every class of people protected under U.S. equal employment opportunity laws.

And the entire effort was guided by something that then-IBM brand strategist Bill Grady told the 2014 conference: WhatҒs good for Millennials is good for everyone.

Exit Strategy

As IBM trained its sights on younger workers, it also took steps to change the way it dealt with those whoӒd spent many years on the job. It embraced a legal strategy that made it much easier for the company to dismiss older workers, and to do so in ways that minimized legal consequences and largely avoided public attention.

Until 2014, IBM had provided two lists to workers getting laid off. One showed the positions and ages, but not the names, of all the people laid off from their business units at the same time. The other showed the positions and ages of all those staying on. For example, Madfis, the digital marketing strategist, got a list when she was let go in July 2013.

Such lists are common in corporate layoffs, thanks to a disclosure requirement added to the ADEA in 1990. The reason for the new rule was that virtually all employers had begun making severance pay and other parting benefits contingent on a laid-off worker signing away the right to sue the company. Congress wanted to make sure that before employees signed such waivers they understood enough to make knowing and voluntaryԒ decisions about whether they might have been targeted because of their age.

IBM complied with the disclosure requirement for more than two decades. As a result, even when the company stopped disclosing its U.S. employment totals and thus its job cuts Ӕ the numbers still became known as employees collected and tallied the number of layoffs from lists provided to workers by various company units.

One Departure, Two Letters

Just a few months after receiving a layoff notice, the same employee received a congratulatory letter about retiring.

So after it ran into political flak for its workforce reductions, IBM decided to stop giving out the lists. When Diane Moos, 62, of Long Beach, California, lost her job as a systems security specialist in May 2016, she had no way of knowing how many people had been laid off with her, or their ages.

IBM spokesman Doug Shelton said at the time the company was acting out of concern for its workers who had complained the disclosures infringed on employee privacyח even though the lists contained no names.

How did IBM get around the legal requirement for the disclosures? With a move that even critics acknowledge is ingenious.

The companyӔs pre-2014 layoff documents required employees receiving severance to waive all bias claims based on race, national origin, ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, age ג disability, medical condition, or veteran status. The new documents deleted Ӆage from the waiver list. In fact, they specifically said employees were not waiving their right when it came to age and could pursue age discrimination cases against the company.

But, the new documents added, employees had to waive the right to take their age cases to court. Instead, they had to pursue them through private arbitration. Whatԓs more, they had to keep them confidential and pursue them alone. They couldnt join with other workers to make a case.

With the new documents in place, IBM was no longer asking laid-off workers to sign away their right to complain about age bias so, the companyԒs lawyers told the EEOC, the disclosure requirement in the 1990 amendments to the age act no longer applied.

Critics say the companys argument is hard to square with the statuteҒs clear requirements.

You have a law that says older workers being laid off need this information and employers are obligated to provide it. You have a company thatҒs not providing it, said David Lopez, the former general counsel for the EEOC. ӒHow can this not be undercutting the intent of the law?

In their relationships with both workers and customers, American corporations are making increasingly heavy use of arbitration, contending the process is fair and saves all parties time and legal costs. The Supreme Court has repeatedly expanded the right of companies to require that disputes be settled by arbitrators rather than judges.

When it comes to employment claims, studies have found that arbitrators overwhelmingly favor employers. Research by Cornell University law and labor relations specialist Alexander Colvin found that workers win only 19 percent of the time when their cases are arbitrated. By contrast, they win 36 percent of the time when they go to federal court, and 57 percent in state courts. Average payouts when an employee wins follow a similar pattern.

Given those odds, and having signed away their rights to go to court, some laid-off IBM workers have chosen the one independent forum companies canԓt deny them: the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thats where Moos, the Long Beach systems security specialist, and several of her colleagues, turned for help when they were laid off. In their complaints to the agency, they said theyԒd suffered age discrimination because of the companys effort to Ғdrastically change the IBM employee age mix to be seen as a startup.ғ

In its formal reply to the EEOC, IBM said that age couldnt have been a factor in their dismissals. Among the reasons it cited: The managers who decided on the layoffs were in their 40s and therefore older too.

Tilting the Table

Whether IBM is staying within U.S. age laws as it cuts from and adds to its workforce turns largely on how and why the company chooses individuals to be eliminated. While executives say they never target older workers, internal company documents and interviews suggest otherwise.

Consider, for example, a planning presentation that former IBM executives said was drafted by heads of a business unit carved out of IBMŔs once-giant software group and charged with pursuing the C,Ғ or cloud, portion of the companys CAMS strategy.

The presentation laid out plans for substantially altering the unitӔs workforce. It was shown to company leaders including Diane Gherson, the senior vice president for human resources, and James Kavanaugh, recently elevated to chief financial officer. Its language was couched in the argot of resources,Ғ IBMs term for employees, and ӔEPs,ғ its shorthand for early professionals or recent college graduates.

Among the goals: Shift headcount mix towards greater % of Early Professional hires.Ҕ

Among the means: “[D]rive a more aggressive performance management approach to enable us to hire and replace where needed, and fund an influx of EPs to correct seniority mix.”

Among the expected results: [A] “significant reduction in our workforce of 2,500 resources.”

A slide from a similar presentation prepared last spring for the same leaders called for re-profiling current talentӔ to create room for new talent.Ӕ Presentations for 2015 and 2016 for the 50,000-employee software group also included plans for aggressive performance managementӔ and emphasized the need to maintain steady attrition to offset hiring.Ӕ

IBM declined to answer questions about whether either presentation was turned into company policy. The description of the planned moves matches what hundreds of older ex-employees told ProPublica they believe happened to them: They were ousted because of their age. The company used their exits to hire replacements, many of them young; to ship their work overseas; or to cut its overall headcount.

Ed Alpern, now 65, of Austin, started his 39-year run with IBM as a Selectric typewriter repairman. He ended as a project manager in October of 2016 when, he said, his manager told him he could either leave with severance and other parting benefits or be given a bad job review something he said heӔd never previously received and risk being fired without them.

Albert Poggi, now 70, was a three-decade IBM veteran and ran the companyגs Palisades, New York, technical center where clients can test new products. When notified in November of 2016 he was losing his job to layoff, he asked his bosses why, given what he said was a history of high job ratings. They told me,ג he said, they needed to fill it with someone newer.Ӕ

The presentations from the software group, as well as the stories of ex-employees like Alpern and Poggi, square with internal documents from two other major IBM business units. The documents for all three cover some or all of the years from 2013 through the beginning of 2018 and deal with job assessments, hiring, firing and layoffs.

The documents detail practices that appear at odds with how IBM says it treats its employees. In many instances, the practices in effect, if not intent, tilt against the companys older U.S. workers.

For example, IBM spokespeople and lawyers have said the company never considers a workerӔs age in making decisions about layoffs or firings.

But one 2014 documentreviewed by ProPublica includes dates of birth. An ex-IBM employee familiar with the process said executives from one business unit used it to decide about layoffs or other job changes for nearly a thousand workers, almost two-thirds of them over 50.

Documents from subsequent years show that young workers are protected from cuts for at least a limited period of time. A 2016 slide presentation prepared by the companys global technology services unit, titled ҒU.S. Resource Action Process and used to guide managers in layoff procedures, includes bullets for categories considered ғineligible for layoff. Among them: ԓearly professional hires, meaning recent college graduates.

In responding to age-discrimination complaints that ex-employees file with the EEOC, lawyers for IBM say that front-line managers make all decisions about who gets laid off, and that their decisions are based strictly on skills and job performance, not age.

But ProPublica reviewed spreadsheets that indicate front-line managers hardly acted alone in making layoff calls. Former IBM managers said the spreadsheets were prepared for upper-level executives and kept continuously updated. They list hundreds of employees together with codes like ԓlift and shift, indicating that their jobs were to be lifted from them and shifted overseas, and details such as whether IBMԓs clients had approved the change.

An examination of several of the spreadsheets suggests that, whatever the criteria for assembling them, the resulting list of those marked for layoff was skewed toward older workers. A 2016 spreadsheet listed more than 400 full-time U.S. employees under the heading REBAL,Ԓ which refers to rebalancing,Ӕ the process that can lead to laying off workers and either replacing them or shifting the jobs overseas. Using the job search site LinkedIn, ProPublica was able to locate about 100 of these employees and then obtain their ages through public records. Ninety percent of those found were 40 or older. Seventy percent were over 50.

“IBM frequently cites its history of encouraging diversity in its responses to EEOC complaints about age discrimination. IBM has been a leader in taking positive actions to ensure its business opportunities are made available to individuals without regard to age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation and other categories,” a lawyer for the company wrote in a May 2017 letter. “This policy of non-discrimination is reflected in all IBM business activities.”

But ProPublica found at least one company business unit using a point system that disadvantaged older workers. The system awarded points for attributes valued by the company. The more points a person garnered, according to the former employee, the more protected she or he was from layoff or other negative job change; the fewer points, the more vulnerable.

The arrangement appears on its face to favor younger newcomers over older veterans. Employees were awarded points for being relatively new at a job level or in a particular role. Those who worked for IBM for fewer years got more points than those whod been there a long time.

The ex-employee familiar with the process said a 2014 spreadsheet from that business unit, labeled ӔIBM Confidential, was assembled to assess the job prospects of more than 600 high-level employees, two-thirds of them from the U.S. It included employeesғ years of service with IBM, which the former employee said was used internally as a proxy for age. Also listed was an assessment by their bosses of their career trajectories as measured by the highest job level they were likely to attain if they remained at the company, as well as their point scores.

The tilt against older workers is evident when employees years of service are compared with their point scores. Those with no points and therefore most vulnerable to layoff had worked at IBM an average of more than 30 years; those with a high number of points averaged half that.

Perhaps even more striking is the comparison between employeesԒ service years and point scores on the one hand and their superiors assessments of their career trajectories on the other.

Along with many American employers, IBM has argued it needs to shed older workers because theyҒre no longer at the top of their games or lack contemporaryҒ skills.

But among those sized up in the confidential spreadsheet, fully 80 percent of older employees those with the most years of service but no points and therefore most vulnerable to layoff Ӕ were rated by superiors as good enough to stay at their current job levels or be promoted. By contrast, only a small percentage of younger employees with a high number of points were similarly rated.

No major company would use tools to conduct a layoff where a disproportionate share of those let go were African Americans or women,ח said Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior attorney adviser with the EEOC and former director of age litigation for the senior lobbying giant AARP. ThereӔs no difference if the tools result in a disproportionate share being older workers.

In addition to the point system that disadvantaged older workers in layoffs, other documents suggest that IBM has made increasingly aggressive use of its job-rating machinery to pave the way for straight-out firings, or what the company calls Ӓmanagement-initiated separations. Internal documents suggest that older workers were especially targets.

Like in many companies, IBM employees sit down with their managers at the start of each year and set goals for themselves. IBM graded on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being top-ranked.
Eroding Protection Under the Law

Older Americans who face discrimination on the job canԓt rely on the courts as much as earlier generations did. Read more.

Those rated as 3 or 4 were given formal short-term goals known as personal improvement plans, or PIPs. Historically many managers were lenient, especially toward those with 3s whose ratings had dropped because of forces beyond their control, such as a weakness in the overall economy, ex-employees said.

But within the past couple of years, IBM appears to have decided the time for leniency was over. For example, a software group planning documentfor 2015 said that, over and above layoffs, the unit should seek to fire about 3,000 of the units 50,000-plus workers.

To make such deep cuts, the documentsaid, executives should strike an Ԓaggressive performance management posture. They needed to double the share of employees given low 3 and 4 ratings to at least 6.6 percent of the divisionғs workforce. And because layoffs cost the company more than outright dismissals or resignations, the documentsaid, executives should make sure that more than 80 percent of those with low ratings get fired or forced to quit.

Finally, the 2015 documentsaid the division should work to attract the best and brightest early professionalsԒ to replace up to two-thirds of those sent packing. A more recent planning document the presentation to top executives Gherson and Kavanaugh for a business unit carved out of the software group Ӕ recommended using similar techniques to free up money by cutting current employees to fund an influxח of young workers.

In a recent interview, Poggi said he was resigned to being laid off. Everybody at IBM has a bullet with their name on it,Ӕ he said. Alpern wasnt nearly as accepting of being threatened with a poor job rating and then fired.

Alpern had a particular reason for wanting to stay on at IBM, at least until the end of last year. His younger son, Justin, then a high school senior, had been named a National Merit semifinalist. Alpern wanted him to be able to apply for one of the companyӔs Watson scholarships. But IBM had recently narrowed eligibility so only the children of current employees could apply, not also retirees as it was until 2014.

Alpern had to make it through December for his son to be eligible.

But in August, he said, his manager ordered him to retire. He sought to buy time by appealing to superiors. But he said the managers response was to threaten him with a bad job review that, he was told, would land him on a PIP, where his work would be scrutinized weekly. If he failed to hit his targets Ғ and his managers would be the judges of that heҗd be fired and lose his benefits.

Alpern couldnt risk it; he retired on Oct. 31. His son, now a freshman on the deanגs list at Texas A&M University, didnt get to apply.

ҒI can think of only a couple regrets or disappointments over my 39 years at IBM,ғ he said, and thatԔs one of them.

Congratulations on Your Retirement

Like any company in the U.S., IBM faces few legal constraints to reducing the size of its workforce. And with its no-disclosure strategy, it eliminated one of the last regular sources of information about its employment practices and the changing size of its American workforce.

But there remained the question of whether recent cutbacks were big enough to trigger state and federal requirements for disclosure of layoffs. And internal documents, such as a slide in a 2016 presentation titled ӒTransforming to Next Generation Digital Talent, suggest executives worried that ԓwinning the talent war for new young workers required IBM to improve the ԓattractiveness of (its) culture and work environment, a tall order in the face of layoffs and firings.

So the company apparently has sought to put a softer face on its cutbacks by recasting many as voluntary rather than the result of decisions by the firm. One way it has done this is by converting many layoffs to retirements.

Some ex-employees told ProPublica that, faced with a layoff notice, they were just as happy to retire. Others said they felt forced to accept a retirement package and leave. Several actively objected to the company treating their ouster as a retirement. The company nevertheless processed their exits as such.

Project manager Ed Alpernԓs departure was treated in company paperwork as a voluntary retirement. He didnt see it that way, because the alternative he said he was offered was being fired outright.

Lorilynn King, a 55-year-old IT specialist who worked from her home in Loveland, Colorado, had been with IBM almost as long as Alpern by May 2016 when her manager called to tell her the company was conducting a layoff and her name was on the list.

King said the manager told her to report to a meeting in Building 1 on IBMԒs Boulder campus the following day. There, she said, she found herself in a group of other older employees being told by an IBM human resources representative that theyd all be retiring. ҒI have NO intention of retiring, she remembers responding. ғIm being laid off.ԓ

ProPublica has collected documents from 15 ex-IBM employees who got layoff notices followed by a retirement package and has talked with many others who said they received similar paperwork. Critics say the sequence doesnt square well with the law.

ҔThis country has banned mandatory retirement, said Seiner, the University of South Carolina law professor and former EEOC appellate lawyer. ғThe law says taking a retirement package has to be voluntary. If you tell somebody Retire or weԓll lay you off or fire you, thatђs not voluntary.

Until recently, the companyҒs retirement paperwork included a letter from Rometty, the CEO, that read, in part, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you well on your retirement Ԓ While you may be retiring to embark on the next phase of your personal journey, you will always remain a valued and appreciated member of the IBM family. Ex-employees said IBM stopped sending the letter last year.

IBM has also embraced another practice that leads workers, especially older ones, to quit on what appears to be a voluntary basis. It substantially reversed its pioneering support for telecommuting, telling people whoӅve been working from home for years to begin reporting to certain, often distant, offices. Their other choice: Resign.

David Harlan had worked as an IBM marketing strategist from his home in Moscow, Idaho, for 15 years when a manager told him last year of orders to reduce the performance ratings of everybody at his pay grade. Then in February last year, when he was 50, came an internal video from IBMs new senior vice president, Michelle Peluso, which announced plans to improve the work of marketing employees by ordering them to work Ԓshoulder to shoulder. Those who wanted to stay on would need to ғco-locate to offices in one of six cities.

Early last year, Harlan received an email congratulating him on ԓthe opportunity to join your team in Raleigh, North Carolina. He had 30 days to decide on the 2,600-mile move. He resigned in June.

After the Peluso video was leaked to the press, an IBM spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that the ԓvast majority of people ordered to change locations and begin reporting to offices did so. IBM Vice President Ed Barbini said in an initial email exchange with ProPublica in July that the new policy affected only about 2,000 U.S. employees and that ԓmost of those had agreed to move.

But employees across a wide range of company operations, from the systems and technology group to analytics, told ProPublica theyԓve also been ordered to co-locate in recent years. Many IBMers with long service said that they quit rather than sell their homes, pull children from school and desert aging parents. IBM declined to say how many older employees were swept up in the co-location initiative.

They basically knew older employees werenԒt going to do it, said Eileen Maroney, a 63-year-old IBM product manager from Aegean, South Carolina, who, like Harlan, was ordered to move to Raleigh or resign. ӒOlder people arent going to move. It just doesnԓt make any sense. Like Harlan, Maroney left IBM last June.

Having people quit rather than being laid off may help IBM avoid disclosing how much it is shrinking its U.S. workforce and where the reductions are occurring.

Under the federal WARN Act, adopted in the wake of huge job cuts and factory shutdowns during the 1980s, companies laying off 50 or more employees who constitute at least one-third of an employerҒs workforce at a site have to give advance notice of layoffs to the workers, public agencies and local elected officials.

Similar laws in some states where IBM has a substantial presence are even stricter. California, for example, requires advanced notice for layoffs of 50 or more employees, no matter what the share of the workforce. New York requires notice for 25 employees who make up a third.

Because the laws were drafted to deal with abrupt job cuts at individual plants, they can miss reductions that occur over long periods among a workforce like IBMs that was, at least until recently, widely dispersed because of the companyԒs work-from-home policy.

IBMs training sessions to prepare managers for layoffs suggest the company was aware of WARN thresholds, especially in states with strict notification laws such as California. A 2016 documententitled ҒEmployee Separation Processing and labeled ғIBM Confidential cautions managers about the ԓunique steps that must be taken when processing separations for California employees.

A ProPublica review of five years of WARN disclosures for a dozen states where the company had large facilities that shed workers found no disclosures in nine. In the other three, the company alerted authorities of just under 1,000 job cuts ԓ 380 in California, 369 in New York and 200 in Minnesota. IBMs reported figures are well below the actual number of jobs the company eliminated in these states, where in recent years it has shuttered, sold off or leveled plants that once employed vast numbers.

By contrast, other employers in the same 12 states reported layoffs last year alone totaling 215,000 people. They ranged from giant Walmart to Ostrom’s Mushroom Farms in Washington state.

Whether IBM operated within the rules of the WARN act, which are notoriously fungible, could not be determined because the company declined to provide ProPublica with details on its layoffs.

A Second Act, But Poorer

ith 35 years at IBM under his belt, Ed Miyoshi had plenty of experience being pushed to take buyouts, or early retirement packages, and refusing them. But he hadnt expected to be pushed last fall.

Miyoshi, of Hopewell Junction, New York, had some years earlier launched a pilot program to improve IBMԒs technical troubleshooting. With the blessing of an IBM vice president, he was busily interviewing applicants in India and Brazil to staff teams to roll the program out to clients worldwide.

The interviews may have been why IBM mistakenly assumed Miyoshi was a manager, and so emailed him to eliminate the one U.S.-based employee still left in his group.

That was me,Ғ Miyoshi realized.

In his sign-off email to colleagues shortly before Christmas 2016, Miyoshi, then 57, wrote: I am too young and too poor to stop working yet, so while this is good-bye to my IBM career, I fully expect to cross paths with some of you very near in the future.Ӕ

He did, and perhaps sooner than his colleagues had expected; he started as a subcontractor to IBM about two weeks later, on Jan. 3.

Miyoshi is an example of older workers whove lost their regular IBM jobs and been brought back as contractors. Some of them Ӕ not Miyoshi became contract workers after IBM told them their skills were out of date and no longer needed.

Employment law experts said that hiring ex-employees as contractors can be legally dicey. It raises the possibility that the layoff of the employee was not for the stated reason but perhaps because they were targeted for their age, race or gender.

IBM appears to recognize the problem. Ex-employees say the company has repeatedly told managers җ most recently earlier this year not to contract with former employees or sign on with third-party contracting firms staffed by ex-IBMers. But ProPublica turned up dozens of instances where the company did just that.

In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees.

With nearly 400,000 people worldwide, and tens of thousands still in the U.S., IBM remains a corporate giant. How it handles the shift from its veteran baby-boom workforce to younger generations will likely influence what other employers do. And the way it treats its experienced workers will eventually affect younger IBM employees as they too age.

Fifty years ago, Congress made it illegal with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, to treat older workers differently than younger ones with only a few exceptions, such as jobs that require special physical qualifications. And for years, judges and policymakers treated the law as essentially on a par with prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and other categories.

In recent decades, however, the courts have responded to corporate pleas for greater leeway to meet global competition and satisfy investor demands for rising profits by expanding the exceptions and shrinking the protections against age bias.

גAge discrimination is an open secret like sexual harassment was until recently, said Victoria Lipnic, the acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, the independent federal agency that administers the nationԓs workplace anti-discrimination laws.

Everybody knows itԒs happening, but often these cases are difficult to prove because courts have weakened the law, Lipnic said. ӒThe fact remains its an unfair and illegal way to treat people that can be economically devastating.ԓ

Many companies have sought to take advantage of the court rulings. But the story of IBMs downsizing provides an unusually detailed portrait of how a major American corporation systematically identified employees to coax or force out of work in their 40s, 50s and 60s, a time when many are still productive and need a paycheck, but face huge hurdles finding anything like comparable jobs.

The dislocation caused by IBMҔs cuts has been especially great because until recently the company encouraged its employees to think of themselves as IBMersҒ and many operated under the assumption that they had career-long employment.

When the ax suddenly fell, IBM provided almost no information about why an employee was cut or who else was departing, leaving people to piece together what had happened through websites, listservs and Facebook groups such as Watching IBMӔ or Geographically Undesirable IBM Marketers,Ӕ as well as informal support groups.

Marjorie Madfis, at the time 57, was a New York-based digital marketing strategist and 17-year IBM employee when she and six other members of her nine-person team all women in their 40s and 50s Ӕ were laid off in July 2013. The two who remained were younger men.

Since her specialty was one that IBM had said it was expanding, she asked for a written explanation of why she was let go. The company declined to provide it.
Marjorie Madfis was among seven women in their 40s and 50s laid off from their IBM marketing team in White Plains, New York, in 2013. The two members who remained were younger men. The only explanation is our age,ח says Madfis. (Demetrius Freeman for ProPublica)

They got rid of a group of highly skilled, highly effective, highly respected women, including me, for a reason nobody knows,Ӕ Madfis said in an interview. The only explanation is our age.Ӕ

Brian Paulson, also 57, a senior manager with 18 years at IBM, had been on the road for more than a year overseeing hundreds of workers across two continents as well as hitting his sales targets for new services, when he got a phone call in October 2015 telling him he was out. He said the caller, an executive who was not among his immediate managers, cited performanceӔ as the reason, but refused to explain what specific aspects of his work might have fallen short.

It took Paulson two years to land another job, even though he was equipped with an advanced degree, continuously employed at high-level technical jobs for more than three decades and ready to move anywhere from his Fairview, Texas, home.

ItӔs tough when youve worked your whole life,Ӓ he said. The company doesnҔt tell you anything. And once you get to a certain age, you dont hear a word from the places you apply.Ӓ

Paul Henry, a 61-year-old IBM sales and technical specialist who loved being on the road, had just returned to his Columbus home from a business trip in August 2016 when he learned hed been let go. When he asked why, he said an executive told him to Ҕkeep your mouth shut and go quietly.

Henry was jobless more than a year, ran through much of his savings to cover the mortgage and health insurance and applied for more than 150 jobs before he found a temporary slot.

ғIf youre over 55, forget about preparing for retirement,ԓ he said in an interview. You have to prepare for losing your job and burning through every cent youҔve saved just to get to retirement.

IBMӒs latest actions arent anything like what most ex-employees with whom ProPublica talked expected from their years of service, or what todayԒs young workers think awaits them or are prepared to deal with Ғ later in their careers.

In a fast-moving economy, employers are always going to be tempted to replace older workers with younger ones, more expensive workers with cheaper ones, those whoחve performed steadily with ones who seem to be up on the latest thing, said Joseph Seiner, an employment law professor at the University of South Carolina and former appellate attorney for the EEOC.

ӒBut its not good for society,ԓ he added. We have rules to try to maintain some fairness in our lives, our age-discrimination laws among them. You canҔt just disregard them.
ӒOld Heads Neednԑt Apply

For much of its history, IBM viewed its fate and that of its predominantly U.S. workforce as inseparable. By the late 1960s, the companys grip on the mainframe computer business had grown so great the Justice Department sued it for monopolizing the industry, a case that dragged on for years before being dropped as Ғwithout merit. Such dominance convinced executives they could deliver extraordinary workplace stability in return for loyal service.

ғWhen recessions occur or there is a major product shift, some companies handle the resulting workforce imbalances by letting people go, explained an employee handbook of the 1980s. By contrast, IBM ԓretrains, reassigns and even relocates employees.

For their part, continued the handbook, employees must be ԓflexible, willing to change, work overtime, and adapt to new situations quickly. The logic behind the bargain was that ԓpeople are a treasured resource. At IBM, ԓthey are treated like one.

But within a decade, IBM had stumbled not once but three times, in ways that would come to cost both the company and its workers. First, it failed to appreciate the ԓmajor product shift behind a new chip technology that first entered peopleԓs lives as the guts of pocket calculators and cheap digital watches and was making possible increasingly powerful and networked personal computers that undercut the companys mainframe business. Second, it misjudged its employeesԒ reaction to switching to a kind of pension that no longer rewarded older, long-service workers. IBM workers responded with a lawsuit that forced the company to settle by paying more than $300 million and reinstating expensive traditional pensions for more than 100,000 of them.

And by the early years of the new century, IBM was falling behind again by failing to quickly devise innovative uses for the internet like its new rivals, Google, Facebook and Amazon. As it slipped, the company began having second thoughts about the price of unbending loyalty to its long-serving workforce.
This excerpt from a 2006 IBM Business Consulting Services paper titled The Maturing WorkforceҒ refers to baby-boomer employees as gray hairsӔ and old heads.Ӕ Read the full report.

In a little-noticed paper issued in 2006 by the London office of one of the companys consulting arms, executives praised boomersӔ experience, but described them as gray hairsҒ and old heads.Ӕ While recognizing that older workers were important to high-tech employers such as IBM, it concluded that successor generations Ӕ are generally much more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers.

The paper was subsequently cited in an age discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before the complaint was settled last year, the plaintiffs alleged in a filing: ӅIBMs Boomer employees ԓ being labeled by IBMs own research as uncollaborative, skeptical of leadership, technologically unsophisticated, less innovative and generally out of touch with IBMҗs brand, customers and objectives were shown the door in droves.Ғ

By the time IBMs current CEO, Virginia הGinni Rometty, took over in 2012, the company had shifted its personnel focus to millennials.

Rometty launched a major overhaul that aimed to make IBM a major player in the emerging technologies of cloud services, big data analytics, mobile, security and social media, or what came to be known inside as CAMS.

At the same time, she sought to sharply increase hiring of people born after 1980.

ғCAMS are driven by Millennial Traits, declared a slide presentation for an invitation-only IBM event in New York in December 2014. Not only were millennials in sync with the new technologies, but they were also attuned to the collaborative, consensus-driven modes of work these technologies demanded, company researchers said theyԓd discovered. Millennials are not likely to make decisions in isolation,Ԓ the presentation said, but instead depend on analytic technologies to help them.Ӕ

By contrast, people 50 or over are more dubiousӔ of analytics, place less stock in the advantages data offers,Ӕ and are less motivated to consult their colleagues or get their buy in Ӕ Its Baby Boomers who are the outliers.Ӆ

The message was clear. To succeed at the new technologies, the company must, in the words of the presentation, become one with the Millennial mindset.Ҕ Similar language found its way into a variety of IBM presentations in subsequent years.

Even before the New York conference, IBM had begun a major effort to recruit millennial employees. It launched a blog, The Millennial Experience,Ӕ and a hashtag on Twitter, #IBMillennial. It began an online and print advertising campaign primarily featuring young people. It established a ӔMillennial Corps, a network of more than 5,000 young IBMers whom Rometty and other top executives said theyԓd regularly consult before making business decisions. And it sharply improved benefits, like parental leave, especially important to younger employees.

Its initiatives won IBM plaudits from womens groups; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations; human rights and disability associations; indeed advocates for just about every class of people protected under U.S. equal employment opportunity laws.

And the entire effort was guided by something that then-IBM brand strategist Bill Grady told the 2014 conference: ԒWhats good for Millennials is good for everyone.ғ
Exit Strategy

As IBM trained its sights on younger workers, it also took steps to change the way it dealt with those whod spent many years on the job. It embraced a legal strategy that made it much easier for the company to dismiss older workers, and to do so in ways that minimized legal consequences and largely avoided public attention.

Until 2014, IBM had provided two lists to workers getting laid off. One showed the positions and ages, but not the names, of all the people laid off from their business units at the same time. The other showed the positions and ages of all those staying on. For example, Madfis, the digital marketing strategist, got a list when she was let go in July 2013.

Such lists are common in corporate layoffs, thanks to a disclosure requirement added to the ADEA in 1990. The reason for the new rule was that virtually all employers had begun making severance pay and other parting benefits contingent on a laid-off worker signing away the right to sue the company. Congress wanted to make sure that before employees signed such waivers they understood enough to make Ҕknowing and voluntary decisions about whether they might have been targeted because of their age.

IBM complied with the disclosure requirement for more than two decades. As a result, even when the company stopped disclosing its U.S. employment totals ғ and thus its job cuts the numbers still became known as employees collected and tallied the number of layoffs from lists provided to workers by various company units.
One Departure, Two Letters
Just a few months after receiving a layoff notice, the same employee received a congratulatory letter about retiring.

So after it ran into political flak for its workforce reductions, IBM decided to stop giving out the lists. When Diane Moos, 62, of Long Beach, California, lost her job as a systems security specialist in May 2016, she had no way of knowing how many people had been laid off with her, or their ages.

IBM spokesman Doug Shelton said at the time the company was acting out of concern for its workers who had complained the disclosures ԗinfringed on employee privacy ד even though the lists contained no names.

How did IBM get around the legal requirement for the disclosures? With a move that even critics acknowledge is ingenious.

The companys pre-2014 layoff documents required employees receiving severance to waive all bias claims based on ԗrace, national origin, ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, age disability, medical condition, or veteran status.ғ The new documents deleted ageŔ from the waiver list. In fact, they specifically said employees were not waiving their right when it came to age and could pursue age discrimination cases against the company.

But, the new documents added, employees had to waive the right to take their age cases to court. Instead, they had to pursue them through private arbitration. Whats more, they had to keep them confidential and pursue them alone. They couldnӔt join with other workers to make a case.

With the new documents in place, IBM was no longer asking laid-off workers to sign away their right to complain about age bias so, the companys lawyers told the EEOC, the disclosure requirement in the 1990 amendments to the age act no longer applied.

Critics say the companyҒs argument is hard to square with the statutes clear requirements.

ҒYou have a law that says older workers being laid off need this information and employers are obligated to provide it. You have a company thats not providing it,ғ said David Lopez, the former general counsel for the EEOC. How can this not be undercutting the intent of the law?Ҕ

In their relationships with both workers and customers, American corporations are making increasingly heavy use of arbitration, contending the process is fair and saves all parties time and legal costs. The Supreme Court has repeatedly expanded the right of companies to require that disputes be settled by arbitrators rather than judges.

When it comes to employment claims, studies have found that arbitrators overwhelmingly favor employers. Research by Cornell University law and labor relations specialist Alexander Colvin found that workers win only 19 percent of the time when their cases are arbitrated. By contrast, they win 36 percent of the time when they go to federal court, and 57 percent in state courts. Average payouts when an employee wins follow a similar pattern.

Given those odds, and having signed away their rights to go to court, some laid-off IBM workers have chosen the one independent forum companies cant deny them: the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That’s where Moos, the Long Beach systems security specialist, and several of her colleagues, turned for help when they were laid off. In their complaints to the agency, they said they’d suffered age discrimination because of the company’s effort to drastically change the IBM employee age mix to be seen as a startup.

In its formal reply to the EEOC, IBM said that age couldn’t have been a factor in their dismissals. Among the reasons it cited: The managers who decided on the layoffs were in their 40s and therefore older too.

Tilting the Table

Whether IBM is staying within U.S. age laws as it cuts from and adds to its workforce turns largely on how and why the company chooses individuals to be eliminated. While executives say they never target older workers, internal company documents and interviews suggest otherwise.

Consider, for example, a planning presentation that former IBM executives said was drafted by heads of a business unit carved out of IBM’s once-giant software group and charged with pursuing the OC, or cloud, portion of the company’s CAMS strategy.

The presentation laid out plans for substantially altering the unit’s workforce. It was shown to company leaders including Diane Gherson, the senior vice president for human resources, and James Kavanaugh, recently elevated to chief financial officer. Its language was couched in the argot of resources, IBM’s term for employees, and EP’s, its shorthand for early professionals or recent college graduates.

Among the goals: “Shift headcount mix towards greater % of Early Professional hires.”

Among the means: “[D]rive a more aggressive performance management approach to enable us to hire and replace where needed, and fund an influx of EPs to correct seniority mix.”

Among the expected results: “[A] significant reduction in our workforce of 2,500 resources.”

A slide from a similar presentation prepared last spring for the same leaders called for “re-profiling current talent” to “create room for new talent.” Presentations for 2015 and 2016 for the 50,000-employee software group also included plans for “aggressive performance management” and emphasized the need to “maintain steady attrition to offset hiring.”

IBM declined to answer questions about whether either presentation was turned into company policy. The description of the planned moves matches what hundreds of older ex-employees told ProPublica they believe happened to them: They were ousted because of their age. The company used their exits to hire replacements, many of them young; to ship their work overseas; or to cut its overall headcount.

Ed Alpern, now 65, of Austin, started his 39-year run with IBM as a Selectric typewriter repairman. He ended as a project manager in October of 2016 when, he said, his manager told him he could either” leave with severance and other parting benefits or be given a bad job review” something he said hed never previously received - and risk being fired without them.

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Posted by Elvis on 03/22/18 •
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Failure

image: failure - when yourbest isnt good enough

I OPENED THIS SITE back in 2004 WRITING ABOUT the EROSION of MIDDLE CLASS AMERICA and MORE PERSONALLY - long term unemployment/underemployment - that DESTROYED my hope for any kind of happy RETIREMENT - and replaced it with PRAYERS for an early DEATH.

14 years later I’m still wondering HOW MUCH FURTHER down a hole A LOT of AMERICANS can SINK.

image: bls table A-12 march 2018

Long-term Unemployment, Its Causes and Effects
Why 1.4 Million Can’t Find Work Even After Looking for 6 Months

By Kimberly Amadeo
March 9, 2018

Long-term unemployment is when workers are jobless for 27 weeks or more. To be counted as such by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they must have actively sought employment during the previous four weeks. That means the number of long-term unemployed is probably under-counted. Most people become discouraged and DROP OUT OF THE LABOR FORCE AFTER SIX MONTHS. They are not included in the labor force participation

Long-term Unemployment Statistics

In February 2018, there were 1.397 million long-term unemployed individuals. There are 20.8 percent of the unemployed who have been looking for work for six months or more. That’s better than the record high of 46 percent in the second quarter of 2010. The number of unemployed first dropped below 2 million in May 2015.

The rate is also better than the darkest days of the 1981 recession. At that point, 26 percent of the unemployed were out of work for more than six months. Total unemployment then was also worse than it is today. The overall unemployment rate was 10.8 percent. Although the Great Recession initially created a higher percentage of long-term unemployment, it has subsided.

Causes

The two causes of long-term unemployment are CYCLICAL UNEMPLOYMENT and STRUCTURAL UNEMPLOYMENT. Cyclical unemployment itself is often caused by a recession. Structural unemployment occurs when workers’ skills no longer meet the needs of the job market.

Long-term cyclical and structural unemployment feed off of each other. A recession causes a massive rise in cyclical unemployment. Those who can’t find jobs become long-term unemployed. If out of work long enough, their skills become outdated. In time, this contributes to structural unemployment. They have less money to spend, resulting in reduced consumer demand.

It further slows economic growth, leading to more cyclical unemployment.

Many say that there are three other reasons for long-term unemployment: welfare, unemployment benefits, and unions. Government assistance programs require the recipients to look for work. It inflates unemployment statistics by 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent because not all would be actively looking. Those people really shouldn’t be considered part of the labor force. Benefits may also encourage people to hold out for better-paying jobs, further extending unemployment.

Unionization creates classical unemployment by forcing companies to offer higher wages than they otherwise would. These companies must lay off workers to maintain budget and profit goals. These workers may only have skills suited for a particular industry and may be unwilling to take lower wage jobs. That can result in structural, and ultimately long-term, unemployment.

Effects

Only 10 percent of the long-term unemployed find a job each month, according to a report by the San Francisco Federal Reserve. It is worse than the 30 percent per month of the short-term unemployed who are successful.

The situation is not hopeless though. The report also found that half of the long-term unemployed find a job in six months, and 75 percent do so within a year.

Even those who hadn’t found a job in 18 months find something in the end if they keep looking. The San Francisco Fed found that the chances of finding a job didn’t decline even though they had been unemployed for so long.

Being unemployed for six months to a year will almost always strain personal finances. A Pew Research study found that recession affected the long-term unemployed worse than others in the areas of personal relationships, career plans, and self-confidence. In particular, the long-term unemployed reported the following:

· More than half (56 percent) saw their income decline, compared to 42 percent of the short-term unemployed and 26 percent of those who kept their job.

· Almost half (46 percent) experienced strained family relations compared to 39 percent of those who weren’t unemployed as long. 43 percent lost close friendships.

· Almost one in four (38 percent) lost self-respect, and 24 percent sought professional help for depression compared with 29 percent and 10 percent of the short-term unemployed.

· The recession has had a “big impact” on their ability to achieve career goals for 43 percent of them compared to 28 percent of their short-term peers.

· More than 70 percent say they changed careers. Almost a third (29 percent) became underemployed with lower pay and benefits than their previous job. It’s no surprise that they became very pessimistic about their chances of finding a good job. Only 16 percent of the short-term unemployed were worse off.

A a SWEDISH STUDY found that the long-term unemployed began losing their ability to read. On average, a person who had been unemployed for a year dropped 5 percent on reading comprehension test scores.

How Long-term Unemployment Benefits Extensions Help

Federal unemployment benefits extensions assisted the long-term unemployed in their job search efforts.  Congress approved the extensions in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They were re-authorized every year till 2013.

The benefits provided the long-term unemployed with up to 99 weeks of unemployment checks. It helped support them until they could find decent jobs. Without the extensions, they would have had to take any job they could, leading to underemployment. This might preclude them from ever catching up as their skills became more outdated.

Unemployment benefits only help those who were laid off, though. Some employers fire workers for cause or ask workers to resign in return for a severance package so that they don’t have to pay benefits. Workers who quit, part-time workers, the self-employed and students or mothers just entering the workforce aren’t eligible for benefits.

Also, not all of those eligible for benefits received the entire 99 weeks of unemployment checks. They had to live in a state that meets a minimum unemployment rate.

How to Calculate the Long-term Unemployment Rate

The long-term unemployment rate is easy to calculate because the BLS breaks down the statistics each month in the EMPLOYMENT SITUATION SUMMARY. The number of people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more is in TABLE A-12. It also calculates the percentage they make up of the total unemployed. This table gives you the data for the previous three months, seasonally adjusted. It also allows you to compare the last two months and year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 03/15/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace • Section Personal
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Friday, March 02, 2018

Big Media Hides Truth About Immigration II

image: Immigrant in small cubicle

Feds Provide Almost $2 Billion in Subsidies to Hire Alien Grads Rather than U.S. Grads

By David North
Center For Immigration Studies
February 27, 2018

The OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT) program, in which the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT pays American employers to discriminate against American workers has grown rapidly in recent years, and during FY 2017 it used nearly $2 billion swiped from trust funds for the elderly to favor 240,000 alien college grads over an equal number of U.S.-resident grads.

It is hard to believe, but true; employers of FOREIGN STUDENTS who have a degree from a U.S. institution are given an 8.25 percent tax break if they hire an alien, rather than a U.S. college grad with the same skills, and paid at the same salary, as we described in some detail in a recent posting.

When we wrote the prior article, we were working with out-of-date numbers; subsequently we secured estimated FY 2017 data that shows that some 240,000 American workers are adversely impacted by this program (shouldered out of jobs by the subsidized aliens); earlier data set that number at 140,000.

The subsidies to hire the foreign alumni are extracted from the Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance Program trust funds and were estimated to be in the area of $1.155 billion in that article. It is now clear that in FY 2017 the total subsidies came to something like $1.98 billion, or close to $2 billion.

The program, as we noted earlier, has had silent but bipartisan support; it was created by the Bush II administration without any congressional authorization, was subsequently expanded by the Obama administration, and has been tolerated by the Trump administration.

The employers benefiting from the subsidies directly, and universities benefiting indirectly, know all about the program, which is all but unknown to the older Americans subsidizing it, and is similarly unknown to the young U.S. college grads who are hurt by it. Given this twisted political dynamic, inertia, and the total silence of the MEDIA on this point, the program persists and grows each year.

Estimation Techniques: Jobs Lost. There is an obscure USCIS documentthat shows the number of approvals of Employment Authorization Documents by category, “EADS by Classification and Basis for Eligibility, Oct. 1, 2012 - June 29, 2017”, that Daniel Costa of EPI pointed out to me.

It shows the numbers of OPT/EADs (usually good for one year) issued to F-1 college grads, as well as the number of extensions for F-1 alums who had studied science, technology, engineering, or math - STEM - and each of these, recently, has been good for two more years. So I added the most recent regular OPT and STEM/OPT estimations to the prior year’s STEM extension data to get a current estimate of the number of subsidized JOBS held by OPT aliens (and thus denied to U.S. workers) at the end of FY 2017.

Data were available for only the first nine months of FY 2017 so, assuming a constant flow of these applications, I multiplied the available number by 1.333, which produced this:

Estimated regular OPT for FY 2017: 153,646
Estimated STEM extension for FY 2017: 44,073
Reported STEM extensions for FY 2016 : 45,184
Total: 242,903

This I have rounded down to 240,000 to account for some returns to the old country and some movements to other visas, primarily the H-1B, but probably some conditional green cards for those newly married to citizens or green card holders. Perhaps this downward adjustment should be 5,000 or 10,000 larger, but not much more.

Estimation Techniques: Losses to Trust Funds. Then I took the 240,000, and applied a guess of $50,000 a year for these jobs (it is probably rather higher for the STEM people) and multiplied to get a rough idea of the total wages. It comes to about $12 billion.

Since employers and employees routinely ח each contributes 8.25 percent of the salary to the trust funds, this indicates a loss to the funds of 16.5 percent of the whole, or a total annual loss of $1.98 billion.

So the government is giving almost $2 billion in tax breaks to American employers if they hire alien - not resident - workers.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 03/02/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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