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Judge Denies Dismissal of No-Poach Conspiracy Case

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the in-for-the-long-haul dept.

Businesses 224

theodp writes "Testifying before Congress in 2007, Google's HR chief stated: 'We make great efforts to uncover the most talented employees we can find.' But according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Google actually went to some lengths to avoid uncovering some of tech's most talented employees, striking up agreements with Apple, Intel, and other corporations to avoid recruiting each other's employees. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh ruled that Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Disney, Pixar, Intuit and Lucasfilm must face a lawsuit claiming they violated antitrust laws by entering into no-poaching agreements with each other. 'I don't want to see any obstruction on discovery,' Koh told lawyers during a hearing. According to the head attorney representing the plaintiffs, the total damages could exceed $150 million if just 10,000 entry-level engineers were affected."

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Antitrust? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839083)

I'm for competition and against collusion, but that's supposed to be about the way companies sell products. How is poaching employees supposed to be good for the consumer?

Re:Antitrust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839127)

allows innovation to snowball rather than stand still

Re:Antitrust? (4, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839129)

It's not about the consumers, it's about turning employees into slaves.

Re:Antitrust? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839143)

I worked as a contractor for Google a few years ago. You would probably have to work in video game QA to find a bigger sweatshop out there.

Re:Antitrust? (2)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839317)

Care to share more details?

Re:Antitrust? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839193)

It is about the consumers - if you are busy dealing with political issues arising from some greedy low level programmers or engineers going to competing corporations and having to continually raise rates while getting less time out of each employee - which no matter how similar the field, equates to training time - the consumer is ultimately hurt by decreased improvements in new products. Aside from the fact it is just good moral behavior not to steal from your allies - because ultimately, none of the people who this "hurt" care about the success of the company they are working for past the point it effects their own personal career growth - as evident by the paranoia the project about the corporate world as a whole.

Re:Antitrust? (3, Funny)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839343)

WOW, wow and wow. So now the little man is the greedy one!!! How....funny. What is next? The little one is paying less taxes than the BIG one? Oh, yes, i almost forgot: WHITE IS BLACK AND BLACK IS WHITE.

Yes. (2)

Brain-Fu (1274756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839985)

What, you think being a programmer somehow cures someone of greed?

Just as businesses face real incentives to get as much work out of employees for as little money as possible, employees face real incentives to get as much money out of employers while contributing as few hours as possible.

While there are some people who are satisfied with "enough," it is human nature to want more.

Re:Yes. (-1, Flamebait)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840033)

Then your statement is misleading. You actually have to say that everybody is greedy, or that every tree is what, actually a tree, every planet is what, planet!
TRANSLATION: What is your point??? Do you like to share obvious facts?????

Re:Antitrust? (1)

jamiesan (715069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839419)

... Google, Apple...

They aren't allies.

Re:Antitrust? (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839639)

You might want to go research which mobile platform GOOG makes the most money from.

Hint, it's not Android.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839805)

This is the comedy of apple suing google.

They're suing google while using google to make their own money!

Funny, isn't it.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839991)

I think you have it backwards.

Apple makes money from Apple products
Google makes more money from searches on Apple products.

Apple is suing Google to (try to) strengthen the Apple platform. Which would benefit both Apple and Google.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839653)

Yes they are... behind the scenes. They have many overlapping interests.. and shareholders.. They just don't have a publicly visible association like the movie and recording industries.

Re:Antitrust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839617)

So, instead of "wasting" time for reorientation, now, the employee is locked, unable to change employers. Which in turn means, if they'll say he needs to take a 20% paycut to decrease costs, he'll have no choice. Whenever, he gets emails at home, IF he ever gets home because 80 hour weeks "should" be the norm in the corporate view, he should bend over and gladly accept all work piled on. Of course, he could refuse, but then he's deemed uncooperative, the "I" in "team" and so on.
He'll reach a breaking point, true, but humans are pretty resilient, and the corporation, may God bless it's rotten green papery heart, will still get a lot of years use out of those employees.
You might be OK, with sacrificing the lives and sanity of a few thousand people to get you iPhone, gmail, whatever a few days earlier, but it won't be that simple, because, not all people are willing to self destruct for someone else's goals. They'll start making up excuses to take free days, creating problems for others, then they'll do the most horryfing thing ... work only what they're given and nothing more!

I could go on and on, but the fact remains, if you want productivity, you must have competition.

Please note, that the ones that get burned by this are engineers, the heart-blood of every corporation. Not marketing, accounting or any other kind of corp-critter.

Oh, and if you're not working for a corporation, consider this, if the pay for their engineers would rise, then so would for every other engineer on the work-market.

Re:Antitrust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839715)

You forgot one thing that some seem to be able to do without to much problem. Since they can't get hired by anyone else while on the payroll, they leave the said company and start up a new one and then wait to get bought out.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839861)

I would be interested to know if this agreement was just anti-recruitment or an absolute will not hire.
If it's just anti-recruitment then I don't have a problem with it.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839909)

So, there are no other software companies except Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe that these enslaved employees can jump to?

Re:Antitrust? (3, Informative)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840107)

Why is that a reasonable excuse? How is that not discrimination? Why should my current employer disqualify me from a job with another one if I meet every other criteria for employment?

Re:Antitrust? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839257)

Becouse nothing screams slavery like agreement not to pach people that already make 3-10x average salary. Preventing some young engineer from making additional 2k$ per year is like putting chains on him right?
It's not like there are real slaves in the world.

Re:Antitrust? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839327)

Exactly. These people are overpaid as it is, and with so many in the US unemployed or underemployed, listening to them complain about this is about the same as listening to Mitt Romney complain he pays too much taxes. I see nothing inherently immoral or unethical about this; it just makes good business sense. These companies are in business to turn a profit, not stuff employees wallets. The people who write comments on here obviously have never owned a business in the real world.

Re:Antitrust? (2)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839355)

Dare to prove your point? Because, it is equally easy to say that they get 3-10x LESS average salary....

Re:Antitrust? (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839497)

It is short sighted to assume that this is just about well paid programmers. Employment law applies to all corporations. If it were legal for high value employers like Google etc. to conspire to drive down wages, then it would also be legal for low value employers to conspire and do likewise. It could easily be the case that, in certain geographic regions or areas of industry, there would only be a few potential employers for certain classes of worker, and collusion between these employers could drive wages down to minimum wage, or even down to an unliveable wage for places that don't have a minimum.

The market for employees is just like any other functioning market. Companies colluding to reduce competition in the marke makes the market less efficient. If you are an economist, or just a person who favors capitalism and competitive markets, then you should be against this.

Re:Antitrust? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839819)

Doesn't the same argument apply to unions? Sellers in this employee market are colluding to raise prices...

Re:Antitrust? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839705)

I'm sorry, but 10x average salary. Hmm, I'm an engineer. Average salary is somewhere around 45K a year. I don't know any that make 450K a year. I would say 2x isn't uncommon, and some of the highly compensated might make 3x average, but 10x, no.

But then comes the muddying of the water. First, we do a job that very few can do. The drop out rate in school is >70% of the people who attempt to earn the degrees. Further than that, I don't have a number, but a fairly large percentage enter the work world, and discover they can't handle it. This leaves a very small number of people who can actually produce as an engineer. Toss in that EVERYTHING needs to be engineered. Whether due to nature of the product or due to regulation, this is just a fact of life. This creates high demand and low supply, which leads to our seemingly high pay.

But wait, now for such a needed profession, then it turns out, we're actually not highly paid, even relative to what we do. For some odd reason, especially in tech, the companies are always locals with high cost of living. This means, comparing the salary of an engineer to a farmer in the mid-west isn't really fair. Compare an engineers salary to the average in the bay area, that'd be more fair. And then of course, the average american works on average of 38-39 hours a week. The typical engineer looks at 40 hours longingly. We're all salaried employees, which means we don't get overtime, and 50 per week is fairly normal. My last job, I would regularly crack 65 and even had a couple months where I was averaging 80 hours a week. People who've never worked 80 hours really can't grasp it. I never thought 80 would be much until I did it. that's 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. You literally get up, get dressed, drive to work, work, drive home, eat dinner, get ready for bed, and sleep. That's it. For double, or MAYBE triple the national average salary. And then you throw in companies that try to hinder people trying to improve their lot a little.

You'll undoubtedly say "well, if you don't like it, then leave", but that mentality ignores some very important factors. Engineers are an odd assortment. First, we typically genuinely love what we do. We don't mind working 50 hours a week, because we love it, but that doesn't mean we don't get exhausted. Also, our work ethic is typically top notch, and we have a huge amount of pride in what we do. We take ownership in what we create and it hurts us to abandon it. We also put up with an amazing amount of BS. A lot of companies understand this, and use it to their advantage to basically turn us into slaves. Yes, not in the literal sense, but by taking advantage of our idiosyncrasies, they effectively do.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839483)

It is legal for companies to put agreements not to work for a competitor in a contract. While having a similar net effect, it's open. This is different because its collusion in restraint of fair employment. However a lot of these anti trust laws are predicated on the size of the companies involved.

Re:Antitrust? (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839563)

"It is legal for companies to put agreements not to work for a competitor in a contract. "

They can put it in the agreement. It is, however, for the most part is unenforceable. One thing that people don't seem to realize is that if a contract is deemed to be against the public interest, it is null and void. Non-competes fall in this category except for some specific exceptions.

non-compete contract illegal in California (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839797)

Not just unenforceable, but actually prohibited in California (where all this anti-poach activity is going on)..
However, there are devious ways to achieve the same result: Allege that the leaving employee possesses trade secret knowledge that will inevitably be disclosed. Whether or not that's true (and the courts tend to say it's not), the threat of litigation accompanying your hiring that person tends to have a chilling effect on the whole thing.

Re:Antitrust? (3, Insightful)

hippo (107522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839149)

Because all of the employees that get a lower salary due to the agreement are also consumers. It also indicates that the companies are not interested in competing with each other to produce the best products by recruiting the best talent.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839187)

It is not that so much as it is bad for the employees. It is the same as if all the tech giants went into an agreement together to lower all of their workers wages (since they used a monopoly position to do it they could force a lot of people to work for less money). And while this is less nefarious sounding, no poaching does lower wages, significantly.

Re:Antitrust? (3, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839203)

It’s not about the consumers, it’s about the employees. Companies want to keep their payroll down so they conspire not to hire the other’s employees. Dampens completion and thus pay.

On the flip side, I have seen a rival company hire away whole teams. All of a sudden a company had a great line of business and the next day it’s across the street. Sometimes it has been a key operations department (i.e. the department that keeps the companies’ door open, not one that makes any profit.) It can be quite stressful for a company.

In my line of business, if somebody wants to poach another person’s team (Such as all of the brokers in a office or a analyst team) the only answer is more money. On the other side, if one want’s to poach a operations team, you got to leave enough people so the company can run. Not quite fair that the 2 types of people are treated different - it's jus the way the cookie crumbles.

Re:Antitrust? (4, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840105)

All of a sudden a company had a great line of business and the next day itâ(TM)s across the street.

Hey, you can't always be on the winning side of at-will firing.

Oligopsony (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839217)

I'm for competition and against collusion, but that's supposed to be about the way companies sell products. How is poaching employees supposed to be good for the consumer?

To be a consumer, one needs to be a producer first (credit notwithstanding). Now, if there is a very limited number of buyers for what one produces (oligopsony) then the price you could sell your goods or services would tend to be lower.

Lower input prices (employees) generally lead to lower consumer prices.

In any case, antitrust is a waste of resources since cartels are inherently unstable barring state intervention.

Re:Antitrust? (2)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839309)

You forgot, the consumer is not the customer, they are the product.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839325)

But mostly its about opportunity. If you're in it for the money, Google's pockets look mighty deep.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839423)

generally people are into the whole job thing `for the money`

oh ya it can be fun and intellectually stimulating and personally rewarding, but at the end of the day none of those things pay the rent or put food on the table.

Re:Antitrust? (3, Insightful)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839427)

I guess you could say it isn't, but the threat of workers being poached (in *some* sense) is what keeps wages from falling to zero in the first place, protecting the worker.

It happens in a different form for lower-wage workers, like in fast food or janitorial services: employers have to pay enough of a wage that the workers won't flee and go to someone else who offers more.

In high-wage tech jobs, it more often takes the form of some company actively seeking out the worker and making a competitive offer.

Either way, "competition" for workers is what keeps wages reflecting relative scarcity of that kind of labor (with a ton of caveats I won't go into, obviously. And whether or not you agree with the idea, antitrust is intended to prevent anti-competitive behavior, whether regarding consumers or workers.

Re:Antitrust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839481)

How is poaching employees supposed to be good for the consumer?

Because employyes MAKE whatever is in the actual product. - If you get the people who make the good shit youre golden.

Re:Antitrust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839647)

but that's supposed to be about the way companies sell products. How is poaching employees supposed to be good for the consumer?

Because employyes MAKE THOSE PRODUCTS.

Getting the guy who makes the shit is worth more than the shit alone.

Re:Antitrust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839665)

"The Sherman Act of 1890 thought to outlaw the restriction of competition by large companies, who co-operated with rivals to fix outputs, prices and market shares, initially through pools and later through trusts." From wikipedia. No poach agreements keep wages down which definitely affects prices (cost of products and services). It's most akin to getting together with other companies and agreeing on price fixes except this affects employees more then it does consumers. I'm sure there is alot of leeway in the interpretation of US antitrust laws but it seems there is at least enough merit to be at least taken to court. IANAL though.

Re:Antitrust? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839863)

Here's the real issue that nobody else has touched on. Pretend you are facebook. All of the high paying profitable tech companies in the valley have agreed not to poach from eachother, but nobody ever approached you about the same. Now, if you are not part of the cabal, then your business is one of the primary poaching targets of the group. It's not just an employee issue, it's a competition issue. Facebook/Microsoft/Oracle/Yahoo/Whoever should not legally have to be subjected to a coordinated brain drain attack from a group of other companies just because they didn't sign up for the crooked deal.

$150 million? to WHO? (3, Insightful)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839177)

It's great that they're getting hit for this, but who exactly is going to get that money?
Somehow, I doubt those effected will see a dime, and lawyers and government stooges are going to get it.
Justice for all my damn foot, why don't more people attack that part of the pledge?

Re:$150 million? to WHO? (5, Insightful)

jimbo3123 (320148) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839233)

Even if current employees don't see a dime of the damages, the ruling should affect all current and future employees who should now be better assured that they will get a competitive salary. If employers fail to compensate their employees fairly, there is now the ability to switch employers freely, like the law requires.

Re:$150 million? to WHO? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839625)

It's the nature of punishment. If you throw someone in jail for ten years, they're out ten years of productive, happy life, but that cost doesn't get redistributed to the victims of their crime. If you have system where inmates are put to work, then the county's getting to pocket some free labour, but that's about it.

Re:$150 million? to WHO? (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839669)

I'm not sure anyone who was affected is going to see the money. I believe it's more of a fine/punishment.

On the other hand, Apple made about $150M net free cash every day last quarter.

Common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839191)

Common sense tells me that shouldn't be illegal. It might turn out that it is, but it shouldn't be.

Re:Common sense (4, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839229)

If companies do not compete for employees then they are stifling salaries and playing people less simply because they have a monopoly set up.

Re:Common sense (2)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839231)

It's GOT to be illegal. Companies must compete (in terms of wages, working conditions, other benefits) for workers in order to have a working system. Otherwise, you sign up for Google and they can treat you however they like, they know none of the other companies will take you off their hands, so why pay you more?

Re:Common sense (5, Insightful)

noh8rz2 (2538714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839277)

this isn't about monopoly power; it's about workplace discrimination. If I apply for a job, it's illegal for the employer to deny me the job capriciously, including the fact that they have a side agreement with their competitors not to hire me.

Re:Common sense (1)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839415)

Agreed, you hit it much better than I did. Thanks.

Re:Common sense (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839519)

Even worse, parts of the allegations verge on blackballing: it's alleged that when an employer from company A applied to a job at company B, where A & B were part of the "no-poaching" collusion agreement, company B would not only refuse to hire them to avoid poaching, but actually rat the employee out to company A, telling them that this employee tried to apply for a job.

Re:Common sense (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839867)

*spit take* Actually, an employer should be able to deny you a job for any reason whatsoever. They're offering you money in exchange for your services they should be able to choose not to offer you money because they don't like your hairstyle or how your breath smells just as easily as if you were not qualified.

In the US, it is illegal to discriminate against protected classes, which are a legal construct, not a moral one. In addition, most people by now have realized that if they don't hire the best qualified people, they'll be at a competitive disadvantage.

Re:Common sense (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839921)

Utter bullshit. Legal not moral my ass. "We don't hire blacks" is an IMMORAL position as well as illegal. How's about you try joining the rest of us in the 21st century sometime?

Likewise your utter drivel about any reason whatsoever is exactly what can lead to mass exploitation. All it takes is a little collusion between employers and there's no reason to pay any staff decent wages. Your ideas would drag us back to the feudal era.

Re:Common sense (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839957)

"t's illegal for the employer to deny me the job capriciously"

Why?

Can they fire you capriciously (in at-will states)? Yes.

So, what's the difference?

Re:Common sense (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839341)

Otherwise, you sign up for Google and they can treat you however they like, they know none of the other companies will take you off their hands, so why pay you more?

Well, no.

From TFA, all that the various companies seem to have been doing is refraining from calling up workers at competing companies to see if they could get them to switch companies.

Said nothing at all about them restricting themselves from job-hunters who happened to be working for the other guys.

So if you don't like working for Google, and want to get a job with Microsoft (or whoever), what has been going on would have had no effect on you whatsoever.

On the other hand, if you worked for Google, and were happy there, you didn't have to listen to people trying to convince you to come to work for Microsoft calling you up weekly to see if you were interested in switching.

Re:Common sense (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839409)

Another story on this case seemed to say that it was more than just not head hunting each other's employees. That story, as I recall, indicated that the agreement included not hiring people who worked at one of the other companies who applied for a job.

Re:Common sense (1)

trongey (21550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839249)

So you're saying that if you worked for Pixar you would be perfectly happy that Lucasfilm can't come and make you a better offer.

Re:Common sense (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839329)

So you're saying that if you worked for Pixar you would be perfectly happy that Lucasfilm can't come and make you a better offer.

Yeah, you might end up having to work on another Star Wars prequel.

Re:Common sense (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839477)

Common sense says that you are actually lacking common sense....

Re:Common sense (4, Informative)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839711)

Of course it should be. People should not be locked into one employer just because any potential employer in their field has a No Poach agreement with their current employer. It seems ridiculous now, but as these companies get larger, and their reach and influence gets larger, it's only going to get worse.

If things like this are allowed to stand, how long will it be before you're basically locked into an employer for life? People laugh at the rhetoric that gets thrown around these days, like indentured servants, or serfs, but really, what else could you call employees in a situation like this? And what recourse would employees have? Leave their field entirely? Or the deliberately ignorant "Start your own business, then!!" that is thrown around whenever anyone complains about their employer these days?

It never ceases to amaze me how much the common man will fight against his own self-interest. In what possible way could these No Poach agreements benefit anyone that is not a C-level executive at any of these companies?

Re:Common sense (1)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839963)

Or they could, I don't know... go work for one of the other million tech companies out there?

Re:Common sense (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840061)

Ah, I'll remember that next time there's any discrimination lawsuit. Guess "Just go get a job somewhere else, then!" is number two on the list of "reasonable excuses" for abhorrent behavior by major corporations these days...

Unions (2, Insightful)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839279)

How is this any different from a union? And if it's okay for unions to do it, why isn't it okay for companies?

Re:Unions (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839533)

It's not actually legal for unions to do it; the "closed shop", where new hires can only come from the labor union's membership pool, is illegal in the U.S. since 1947.

Re:Unions (1)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839609)

That's not what these companies are doing (in fact, they're essentially doing the opposite of that). I meant that unions allow workers to "collectively bargain" with companies, and this is pretty much companies "collectively bargaining". Unions can force all new hires to become union members (which amounts to the same thing). Why people seem to be upset with the companies, however, is that they essentially agreed on certain salary rates, which is pretty much the primary function of most unions.

Re:Unions (1)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839633)

Edit: I have a confusing sentence in there. When I say, "Unions can force all new hires to become union members (which amounts to the same thing)," I mean it amounts to the same thing Trepidity was saying (closed shop), not the same as what the companies are doing right now.

Re:Unions (3, Interesting)

jittles (1613415) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839767)

Edit: I have a confusing sentence in there. When I say, "Unions can force all new hires to become union members (which amounts to the same thing)," I mean it amounts to the same thing Trepidity was saying (closed shop), not the same as what the companies are doing right now.

Unions cannot force employees to become members. They can, however, force employees to pay dues. The reason behind this is that they do not want employees to have an economic incentive to avoid the union. In some states, such as California, they cannot force you to pay the money directly to the union; you may contribute the money to a charity of your choice instead.

Re:Unions (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839795)

A group of employers representing a large portion of a sector seems to me more like the old-school industry-wide unions, which would coordinate labor action across multiple companies, and go on strike in an entire sector if demands weren't met (e.g. a simultaneous strike of all auto-workers at all companies). That's also banned since 1947, and now unions are required to individually negotiate with each employer in good faith, rather than coordinating labor action across a sector. So it seems pretty fair to ask employers to also individually negotiate, rather than attempt to set up industry-wide collusion.

Re:Unions (0)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839897)

I've been reading more into this case, and it looks like there wasn't any actual salary fixing or hiring bans. Essentially, the companies agreed to not "cold call" each others' employees with job offers, and this may have affected the salaries of some number of employees who would have been able to negotiate better salaries. But, let's be honest now, cold calling another company's employees is kind of a dick move.

So, essentially, they're being hit with an antitrust case for agreeing to not be dicks to each other.

And we wonder why capitalism results in the biggest dicks coming out on top...

Re:Unions (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840045)

We let individuals with little power on their own to form organizations to increase negotiating power... So it must make sense to allow massive corporations to form uber-massive collectives to crush employees? Are you... Fucking insane?

Re:Unions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839845)

It's also illegal to beat up non-union workers and vandalize the property of companies that hire them, but it happens all the time.

A friend of mine applied to work as a carpenter. He was told that first he would have to join the union; but before he could join the union he would have to show them his voter registration card showing the he was a registered Democrat (no Republicans allowed in the union, only union carpenters hired).

Re:Unions (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839907)

Depends on the state you live in.

Re:Unions (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839547)

Because you can choose to switch union and the unions don't conspire to stop that happening. You can even be a member of more than one union, and they don't conspire to stop that, either.

Re:Unions (1)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839655)

This isn't necessarily true. Some professions (teachers, for instance) have ONE union for a district, and you MUST be a member of that union to work in that district.

When they do poach, (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839293)

When they do poach they get slapped with lawsuits from the company they recruited from saying the person they got can't work anywhere near a computer for a number of years. So poaching really makes no sense because of the counter lawsuits.
Are they going to deny that people have "critical information" and shut down the lawsuits that follow from poaching ?

Re:When they do poach, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839465)

First, the potential penalty is at least an order of magnitude too small. Pocket change for those guys, who cares? Make it hurt.

Second, while we're at it, outlaw "non-compete" agreements. The only such contract that should be allowable is one that protects privileged inside company information, with the recognition that an employee may do things the way (s)he knows how regardless of where (s)he works without being accused of "copying."

It is just as detrimental to employees to allow anti-poaching agreements as to have the disastrous H-1B program in the manner it's been practiced.

Re:When they do poach, (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839467)

California Business and Professions Code Section 16600 nullifies any contract that restrains anyone from engaging in a lawful business, profession, or trade. In other words, non-competes and non-solicits are not legal in California. CA courts have also rejected the "eventual disclosure" theory that would prevent someone from taking a job because they know trade secrets.

Sec 16600 is, in part, why Silicon Valley is in CA and not NY or MA.

Re:When they do poach, (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839559)

But it is true only in CA, and Canada too btw.

Re:When they do poach, (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839491)

These "anti-compete" rules have no teeth except in a few isolated cases. My company has hired people from competitors and vice versa. Execs sometimes get all red in the face and talk about taking it to court (the same execs that poached from their competitors). The company lawyers get involved and break the bad news that there is no case. I've seen it happen enough times that it is comical.

There appear to be two exceptions: The trade secrets "rule" (have never seen this one applied) and the book of business rule (which I have seen... typically there is a waiting period before solicitation of existing clients). I made up these two "rules" based on my observations, there may be more nuance than what I am aware of.

So, to your point, these lawsuits have already been greatly shut down.

Fixed prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839305)

Part of a true free market is that workers can sell their talents to the highest bidder. If these companies get together and fix the price of labor then it's collusion.

150 million seems lite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839353)

Assuming they impacted 10k people from getting a better job. Also assume the better job would gotten the hire at least $10k more a year, be that in wages or benefits. After 2 years, all 10k people would have cost $200M the companies just in the increased wages/benefits.

It's 2012 and the information age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839357)

and we still need renaissance era anti-guild laws. Way to raise the bar IT industry.

Do No Evil (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839363)

Yup. People sucked down this motto and believed it. The fast is that the nature of business is often contrary to the general public interest. This is why we citizens band together in the form of governments to counterbalance some of the negative side of business. No, this isn't a diatribe against capitalism. It is simple a recognition that capitalism has its weaknesses that must be addressed and reckoned with.

Put two saints in charge of a business and you will find that they begin behaving in ways that the wouldn't if they weren't in a powerful position. it doesn't make them evil. It is simply a response to the environment and the forces around them. Our gov't should place restraints in place to minimize anti-society behavior.

When Google puts in the "no poaching" agreement, it is acting in its own best interest, but not in the best interest of society as a whole. Citizens should be free to work in the best environment for them. This isn't a profit driven value. It is a freedom based value. Google is acting against that and should be slapped in the language that corporations understand -- the bottom line. The slap must be hard enough to change behavior, or else it will be deemed a cost of doing business.

And if you still think that we just need the right people in charge of companies, people with the right ethics and then everything will be perfect, you are absolutely deluded. Granted, we DO need strong ethics in those who hold power. But be damned sure that even those people will act against the interest of the rest of us.

Uh what? (2)

oGMo (379) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839571)

Citizens should be free to work in the best environment for them.

So what's stopping someone from applying for another job? This is all about poaching: that is, the thing Microsoft did back in the day to kill Borland by making ridiculous offers to a direct competitor's employees to effectively hobble the company. How is that not evil?

If Google was sorting through their data to determine who the top Apple/Pixar/etc developers were and making them offers they couldn't refuse in an effort to stymie competition, that would be worth bitching about. There is nothing stopping anyone from applying for a job on their own time, and none of this is about not hiring the competition... it's just about not actively seeking out competitor's employees at their workplaces.

If it comes to light that these companies were actively refusing employment and reporting applications to their competitors (for "disciplinary purposes"), then it will be evil. Not pestering employees during work hours with potentially embarrassing job offers seems more like courtesy.

Re:Uh what? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839637)

You know what. I did misunderstand the summary. Thanks for pointing out my error.

Re:Uh what? (3, Informative)

zzsmirkzz (974536) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839855)

There is nothing stopping anyone from applying for a job on their own time, and none of this is about not hiring the competition.

Actually, from what I heard, this is also part of the agreement. Not to hire competitors employees, that apply for a job, on their own, with the company. Then, on top of that, to report to the competitor, after refusing the employee, that they attempted to apply for a job with them.

Just like laws, Contracts can have misleading titles too.

Re:Uh what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839983)

Because in doing so they create the same effect you rightly demonize Microsoft for with respect to Borland. If you take some of the largest tech industry employers and agree not to poach from eachother, where are you actively going to recruit from? Answer- the companies that aren't part of the deal. You can have the same end effect with this as you did Borland, but make it easier to hide behind the group.

How do you stop businesses from buying government? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839817)

They now have just one target to buy off. Get their own legislation put in place. etc.
 

Re:Do No Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839941)

Perhaps you're missing the part about all those companies, not just google are colluding to keep salaries down by illegal employment discrimination. They are all criminal companies and deserve to be made an example of, a very expensive one.

Re:Do No Evil (1)

the_scoots (1595597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839973)

This is an important distinction. Companies are not "evil" by nature, but they are REQUIRED to be amoral by the rules that govern them (beholding only to the shareholder).

Who wants to work for these companies anyway ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839429)

It is known by those who take the time to check into such things that none
of the companies mentioned in the summary are nice places to work.

But the judge is doing good work here. Screw all these companies if they
want to keep employees from having options, that is very very ugly behavior.

Ask Borland about poaching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839451)

and the effects it can have,

Re:Ask Borland about poaching (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839623)

But at the end of day MS finally got some REAL object oriented language. Oh, and its compile time is breath taking (compared to c/c++ compile time).

Judge does what now? (1)

Truedat (2545458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839485)

Judge Denies Dismissal of No-Poach Conspiracy Case

Three negatives! Did anybody else have trouble parsing that sentence? :-)

Re:Judge does what now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839645)

The judge dismissed the No-Poach Conspiracy case, but is now denying it?

Re:Judge does what now? (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839649)

nope

The secret clause discovered. (1, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839545)

Some knowledgeable sources close to the discovery process say that there is a secret clause buried in these contracts. Apparently all these companies agreed not to rouse 2000 employees in the middle of the night and herd them back to work for a cup of tea and some biscuits. But Apple found a loop hole, that this clause applies only to USA and not China. That kind of gotcha tactic upset the other players who were overheard saying, "tut, tut, it is not cricket, it is not done" in the Olde Duquesne Country Club. And one of them go so upset he drank a little too much and spilled it all to some friendly guy tending to him as he was throwing up in the men's room. That is how the whole thing came out in the open.

Seems to be a common practice (1)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839697)

When I was working a government job and was trying to go back to the private sector, I had several recruiters tell me that they couldn't hire me since the had government contracts.

In the private sector, I had seen the same as well. A company I was working for as a contractor wanted to hire me as their own employee, but their contract had a poaching clause that levied a substantial (5 figure) fee if they did so. They did do it for one of my coworkers, but he ended up leaving in less than a year so they were wary of doing it for anyone else.

Talent at Adobe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839905)

There is talent at Adobe? It is hard to tell with all of their buggy, bloatware applications.

Holding corporations accoutable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839999)

150 million! That's huge! That's like if a person pirated like 5 songs.

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