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How Silicon Valley CEOs Conspired To Suppress Engineers' Wages

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the ungentlemen's-agreement dept.

Businesses 462

Oneflower writes "As we discussed last week, a lawsuit is moving forward that alleges widespread conspiracy among the CEOs of Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, and Pixar to suppress the wages of their tech staff. Mark Ames at Pando explains how it happened, and showcases some of the emails involving Steve Jobs and other CEOs. Quoting: 'Shortly after sealing the pact with Google, Jobs strong-armed Adobe into joining after he complained to CEO Bruce Chizen that Adobe was recruiting Apple’s employees. Chizen sheepishly responded that he thought only a small class of employees were off-limits: "I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior level employees. I would propose we keep it that way. Open to discuss. It would be good to agree." Jobs responded by threatening war: "OK, I’ll tell our recruiters they are free to approach any Adobe employee who is not a Sr. Director or VP. Am I understanding your position correctly?" Adobe’s Chizen immediately backed down.'"

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462 comments

So, cue up.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058491)

...the apologist Libertarian/pro-Corporate/free-market/Tea-Bagger rump swabs.

CAPTCHA: "wastes"

Re:So, cue up.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058601)

Collusion, by definition, is not a free market.

When you think of a model of the "free market", think of hundreds or thousands of small merchants gathered in a town square hawking their goods, with many of them selling similar items.

CAPTCHA: "parent is an idiot"

Re:So, cue up.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058673)

Collusion, by definition, is not a free market.

no.

Re:So, cue up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059239)

Yes...?

Re:So, cue up.. (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 3 months ago | (#46058895)

Collusion, by definition, is not a free market.

...And since collusion is natural behavior in situations like this for company managers, it follows that in order for a market to be free, the behavior of its participants must be regulated.

Which, seriously speaking, is a rather interesting point.

Re:So, cue up.. (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#46058935)

Well, no. That is why we do not have a free market, pure free markets require a very idealized society where all sorts of things that states and regulation take care of simply do not exist, and thus are not very resilient when having to deal with other parts of the system. It is kinda like communism or anarchism... it would work great if humans were, well, not humans, and some magical force prevented defacto forces influencing things.

Re:So, cue up.. (4, Interesting)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 months ago | (#46059007)

Collusion, by definition, is a free market.

And it's where markets will always go if the power players in the market are friendly/courteous rivals. It helps those at the top.

And it's exactly why truly free markets aren't good for the average person.

Re:So, cue up.. (1)

lazarith (2649605) | about 3 months ago | (#46059197)

Unions also exist in a free market, and the serve the opposite effect of increasing wages. In a communist government, where businesses have ties to government, you can't piss off your boss, or you'll find yourself unemployed. Then other government-tied employers are too afraid to hire you because arbitrarily-enforced laws ensure that you're branded a criminal.

right, right.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059201)

No TRUE free market..

Re:So, cue up.. (-1, Flamebait)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 3 months ago | (#46058611)

Sorry, collusion and general douchebaggery is just as much of a leftist Dem characteristic as any other party.

Which party do you think Steve Jobs identified himself with? (hint: it sure as hell ain't the GOP or Tea Party)

Re:So, cue up.. (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46058693)

The fuck does the political alignment of the douchebags involved have to do with the economic policies that allow the abuse.

If you have a party that says "repeal all murder laws" and a party that says "murder laws are okay, we should maybe have them"(the political economic balance in the US). You shouldn't be going "Ha! At least one murderer was for the anti-murder party." as if it settles the issue. It's retarded.

Re:So, cue up.. (4, Insightful)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46058679)

OK. I am actually a free market libertarian software engineer. This does bother me, but I would suggest that the solution to these sorts of problems is exposure rather than laws. I don't feel that my ability to market my skills is significantly affected. I don't need to work for any company that would underpay me. Even though these are big companies, the percentage of software engineers they hire is a small percentage of the total.

As far as examples of negative aspects of the free market go, this is pretty mild.

I would suggest that a free market approach would be to go one step further and have shareholders conspire to limit CEO salaries. Those cut into corporate profits as well.

Re:So, cue up.. (5, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 3 months ago | (#46058735)

OK. I am actually a free market libertarian software engineer. This does bother me, but I would suggest that the solution to these sorts of problems is exposure rather than laws. I don't feel that my ability to market my skills is significantly affected. I don't need to work for any company that would underpay me. Even though these are big companies, the percentage of software engineers they hire is a small percentage of the total.

As far as examples of negative aspects of the free market go, this is pretty mild.

I would suggest that a free market approach would be to go one step further and have shareholders conspire to limit CEO salaries. Those cut into corporate profits as well.

Lots of luck.

A Corporation is NOT a one-person-per-vote democracy. It is one-SHARE-per-vote.

And guess who owns the majority of the shares in most corporations?

Re:So, cue up.. (4, Informative)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 3 months ago | (#46058803)

OK. I am actually a free market libertarian software engineer. This does bother me, but I would suggest that the solution to these sorts of problems is exposure rather than laws.

This time they got caught out in a few emails, next time they will just keep it to verbal agreements on the country club golf course. The "exposure" is not going to come from a few or even many Engineers complaining in isolation that there might be some collusion going on as the alternative offers are drying up.

I don't need to work for any company that would underpay me.

and if you did you would not be able to get a decent higher paying job elsewhere due to collusion like this.

Re:So, cue up.. (2)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46059029)

The "exposure" is not going to come from a few or even many Engineers complaining in isolation that there might be some collusion going on as the alternative offers are drying up.

The exposure doesn't need to come from engineers. It can come from anyone who knows about it.

What you are suggesting is that companies can forma a cartel for software jobs. I agree this is possible, but I don't think it's easy to make this cartel industry wide. The larger the cartel, the more unsustainable it becomes.

As it is, there are tons of opportunities out there for talented software engineers. There is more software that needs to get written than there is developers to write it. It takes a lot of effort to become a good engineer, and there is going to be a strong incentive to compete for these developers.

Even in the article among these few companies, apple was struggling to keep Adobe from ruining the cartel, and ultimately the emails got leaked.

Re:So, cue up.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058889)

You're funny.

Only laws will prevent this from happening. Perceptions can be swayed by gradually introducing change and exposure and by gradually "normalizing" this obviously criminal activity. Exposure is not effective, it can be managed with enough positive spin. Only laws with strong deterients are effective.

You say about Apple, Google, Intel, etc. "the percentage of software engineers they hire is a small percentage..." I don't think you know what those companies do.

Re:So, cue up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059023)

Exposure, yay! Now we all just stop using any products from Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, or Pixar!

It's not about wages (3, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | about 3 months ago | (#46059079)

I suspect that this was not overtly about wages. It was about retention. You can't just say, well they could have paid them more to retain them. As the e-mails indicate regardless of any feasible wages it would always be possible to offer higher wages to a subset of employees that could cripple the organization. That's what this was about. People are not simply interchangeable. When you hire someone it's also an investment of your core strength into them. So in the short term yes perhaps a few employees could have been enticed by higher wages but then ensuing self destructive battle would have damaged all the companies fitness, lowering everyones wages. So it's not a give this lowered wages.

This is one problem that collective bargaining does address. It tries to maximize employee wages over the long run and side effect is that trade unions also normlaize wages across all the companies. But the union is always balancing a companies ability to pay with killing the golden goose.

Re:So, cue up.. (3, Informative)

hey! (33014) | about 3 months ago | (#46059149)

I don't need to work for any company that would underpay me.

And how would you judge whether a company is underpaying you? By comparing what the company offers you to the *market price*.

What the CEOs stand accused of is colluding to depress the market price for engineering labor.

Re:So, cue up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059289)

So, without laws, what exactly will exposure accomplish? Immoral entities unrestrained by regulation, whether via laws or mob justice, have no fear of exposure. See: pretty much the entirety of human history.

Re:So, cue up.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058687)

Can't hear the tea-baggers over the liberal communist cries about how everyone should be paid $50/hour irregardless of skill and how CEOs and Sports Stars should be imprisoned for working hard enough to earn the millions they do

Re:So, cue up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058797)

irregardless

While I certainly agree with your point, that single word just murders your post and then rapes the corpse.

Re:So, cue up.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059013)

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregardless ~ Word has been in use since the early 1900's. Same ball park as "aint". It is a word that's used and nit picking over minor details doesn't change the core message.

It also can be used to emphasize the implied sarcasm (without the /s). I mean how stupid do you have to be to blame stuff on the Left/Right/Repub/Demo/etc without being willing to look at your own party?

Re:So, cue up.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058911)

I don't think you understand how pay works. CEOs and Sports Stars are not paid based on effort, they are paid based on projected ROI. You don't pay Peyton Manning whatever absurd figure he gets because he works harder than anyone else in the sport; you pay him that because you can make the absurd figure times 5 or 10 or 200 in ticket, merchandise, and advertising sales by having him available to the organization. Now most people, have an ROI more closely reflected to the intensity of our work. So it looks pretty bad when they don't work particularly harder than us but they get paid a hell of a lot more. What is fair shouldn't generally matter to what people are paid, but if enough people feel unfairly treated that is a recipe for crime and then civil unrest.

Re:So, cue up.. (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 months ago | (#46058769)

Doesn't matter which party, for stunts like this. It really breaks both sides philosophy on the economy.

The Conservatives/Free market folks, don't like this, because it is manipulating the Market to get cheaper workers, and falsify the Demand for the workers.
The Liberals/Controlled Market folks, don't like this as this manipulating of the market is happening in back doors without the correct oversight.

Re:So, cue up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058777)

Me, I'm a pinko leftist who's having a hard time feeling sorry for these poor exploited workers who may only make seven times the US median salary instead of eight.

Re:So, cue up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058865)

Maybe if you thought of it in terms of the exploited workers only making seven times the US median salary instead of eight, so that their CEOs could make eight hundred times the US median salary instead of seven hundred.

Re:So, cue up.. (3, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 3 months ago | (#46058893)

Nice troll, but I'll have fun with it...

1) conspire all you want, but Silly Valley isn't the end-all/be-all - there are lots of other just-as-exciting places to work.

2) You can gain more from their reputation than they can save by keeping your wages lower. For example, I could go there, do my time for a couple of years at $HOUSEHOLD_NAME, maybe do that at two or more of them, then go back to my home region with one hell of an intimidating resume, plus experience and ideas that can be put to damned good use. This allows me to command a far more comfortable salary/cost-of-living arrangement when I get back home. (Note: raw dollar counts are a stupid metric - always count cost-of-living, but I digress...)

3) Because of the above (and more), It's Silly Valley that loses out more than I do. I'll explain: I have personally turned down point-blank job offers from a few of the aforementioned names in TFA, because I already have similar big names on my resume, and they're not willing to compensate enough for the area's insane cost-of-living. What I mean is, after cost-of-living adjustments, they'd have to pay me $180k/yr or more to match the same level of financial comfort that I enjoy where I am now. Meet or beat that comfort level, and I'll move. Otherwise, unless I have no real alternative? I'll turn it down with a smile.

4) Because of the above (and more), the smarter tech folks are similarly clued-in, and are therefore harder to find and get (let alone keep) in that area. This in turn means this: over time, those companies lose out on the best talent, but upstart companies elsewhere gain that talent instead, allowing the little guys to more effectively compete. Meanwhile, Silly Valley winds up with a majority of people who boil down to two types:kids with no experience who leave as soon as they wise-up, or burn-outs chasing their own eventual start-up on the side (which means the latter will be somewhat worthless to the corp who hires them, and are likely stealing the company's ideas along the way while those ideas are still embryonic.)

QED: The market eventually does even things out, if you let it. Just because it doesn't happen on an instant-gratification timescale doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, eh?

Affects all engineers... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058497)

There's a knock-on effect... for those of us not employed at the named offenders, the salaries are suppressed. I hope they're convicted.

Re:Affects all engineers... (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46058709)

Absolutely, accountants uses average salary data for determining the maximum a position should pay is, meaning a group of major companies colluding hurts every single person in this field.

re. Affects all engineers... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058747)

Yep, can't wait to see Jobs spend the rest of his natural life in prison over this one.

Re:re. Affects all engineers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059051)

tee-hee

Re:Affects all engineers... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 3 months ago | (#46058963)

Well, sort-of... until the labor market gets tight enough. If you're DevOps or a sysadmin with chops, the market is plenty tight enough in many regions nowadays.

(I know because I'm trying to hire a few right now... top-notch talent is damned hard to find once you weed out the inexperienced and the bullshitters.)

Re:Affects all engineers... (0)

s.petry (762400) | about 3 months ago | (#46059277)

I'm sure that the pay being asked for or offered has something to do with the quality of the candidates. In the SF bay area, some people are offering less than 100K for senior level people with specialized knowledge. You get lots of bullshit candidates that way, because as a senior level person I just ignore these types of offers. Many companies have an interview process which includes asking bullshit questions, which makes it difficult to not be a bullshitter during interviews. Some ask if you use their products and what you think of their products as interview questions, or ask questions about things that have no place in the real world or about some obscure technology not on your resume.

Perhaps you are the one in a million that truly want's top notch talent and are willing to pay for it. Truth is most people making this claim really don't, they want what they can afford as long as it increases their chance for a bonus.

Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058519)

You'd think, from a free-market standpoint, that collective bargaining would somewhat equalize the sale and purchase of labor.

But nah, us engineers are too smart for that. We're all superstars and we're always looking to stab eachother in the back for a percentage.

Re:Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (3, Informative)

Shados (741919) | about 3 months ago | (#46058567)

Even with this kind of crap happening, salaries for good engineers keep spiking, with employers fighting each other, one upping each other, piling more bonuses, more vacations, more perks, year after year after year.

Once that trend stops and things start going down, maybe. But until then? Why would you want to standardize/equalize something when you benefit from the chaos? The companies with standard compensation packages based on specific rules almost all pay less than the others.

Re: Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058645)

Salaries go up but compared to other equivelent professional positions the share of company revenue/profit is significantly low. If you take reasonable comparisons with key professionals in other industries then you would expect software engineers to be making betweem 25%-40% than they are currently making.

Re: Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46058727)

I want to believe this, because it reinforces my own biases, but it's sounds incredible, so I can't justify accepting it as true.

Re: Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (1)

Shados (741919) | about 3 months ago | (#46058781)

Salaries go up but compared to other equivelent professional positions the share of company revenue/profit is significantly low. If you take reasonable comparisons with key professionals in other industries then you would expect software engineers to be making betweem 25%-40% than they are currently making.

Aside for Wall Street parasite, name one profession that has a better effort to salary ratio if they're good at it and have a few years of experience. Just one. I can't think of any.

Re: Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059009)

Reputable licensed plumber.

Just ask Mario how many gold coins he has as proof.

Re: Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059067)

Posting anon because I am moding.

One that is not a Wall Street Parasite, Easy!

Congressman! :P

Re:Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058899)

Why would you want to standardize/equalize something when you benefit from the chaos?

Because someone who isn't a good engineer can then ride the salary rates of the people with less seniority. If you stay someplace (or in some cases in the profession) long enough then you are basically guaranteed a good salary even if you are well below average.

FWIW: I'm a software weenie so completely non-union but I already see some of this happen in the larger company I work. My dad is a teamster (~30years) and they have some major competency/work ethic issues with a bunch of senior grades. I know there have been several times where the best person did not get the position because of seniority rules, but on one occasion my dad came out on the good end of it. He basically says it sucks but if you are willing to feel a little grimy it has its advantages.

Re:Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058723)

Good luck with that. 90% of you would be replaced by H1-Bs overnight. The other 10% would take a little longer.

Re:Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058915)

I'm unionized already and it's working out great for me and the company.

May your chains sit lightly upon you, friend.

Re:Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (0)

BobMcD (601576) | about 3 months ago | (#46059203)

May your chains sit lightly upon you, friend.

Your own chains clearly do. For now, at least.

Re:Time for unionization in the tech sector yet? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#46059037)

Sadly there is a bit of an attitude that collective bargaining is something only poor/weak people do, and the better class of people negotiate as individuals, even if it means they loose a lot. Which I guess makes sense, the middle class is already doing pretty well, so they can afford it... individual negotiation is a philosophical luxury since they are generally negotiating amount of luxury in their life.

threatening war? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058523)

Jeez, cmon. This is just about agreements to not directly recruit each other's employees. Nothing stopping those employees from applying to another company to gain better salary...

Re:threatening war? (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 months ago | (#46058571)

Except the fact that so many of the companies big enough to afford the better salaries and need lots of such engineers were in on it...

Re:threatening war? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#46058637)

And the bits about cross-company wage scale sharing, and the preference for recruited vs. applying employees...

More generally, if this agreement were not of value to the collaborators(and to the detriment of employees) why would they have bothered to take the time and legal exposure to hammer it out?

Re:threatening war? (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 months ago | (#46058743)

It occurs to me that GP might have been focusing on application "versus" recruitment. Recruitment happens whether the applicant applies unsolicited or applies due to invite. Employers do not assume a self-initiated application is a done deal. The applicant could have many applications fielded. To *your* point, recruitment happens when determining benefits and wages in either case.

prolonging the fall (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058585)

If anti-competitive practices were not in place (much like the 90's), you'd end of killing the market--for example, who'd pay for a $300K/yr J2EE architect? Really? The demand chain would realize these social apps have zero business value aside from advertising and next thing you know J2EE architect would be making 70K. Really, ruby "rock stars" making 200k/yr (cause folks in the valley are complaining now when the average is $125k/yr)

Why do I have a feeling this 'we're not making enough salary' attitude is not about fairness, but about creating a boom market in the valley? Which we truly haven't seen since 2003 (aka the current market is just a bunch of clique groups padding each other pockets much like DC is with all their contractors "job hopping").

The 1%'ers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058589)

The secret agreements were based on relationships, and those relationships were forged in Silicon Valley’s incestuous boards of directors, ...

So, tell me again how I can "work hard" and get into this upper echelon of business society and socio-economic class again? Old boys network even in the "meritocratic" Valley? It can't be!

Google’s human resources executives are quoted sounding the alarm that they needed to “dramatically increase the engineering hiring rate” and that would require “drain[ing] competitors to accomplish this rate of hiring.”

That's right! Because we all knoooowww that there are NO talented people outside of Silicone Valley!

....they generally considered cold-calling recruitment of “passive” talent — workers not necessarily looking for a job until enticed by a recruiter — to be the most important means of hiring the best employees.

Best? By whose standards?

You know folks, SV doesn't represent the rest of the World when it comes to tech talent. They all have their heads up their asses out there. They are where Wall Street was in 2007 - they thought they were top of the heap, could do no wrong, and everyone else was stupid. Then Wall Street got a wake up call.

It's coming Silicone Valley. Yours is coming.

Re:The 1%'ers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058633)

Wall Street got a wake-up call? Was there some imprisonment, some new regulation, or some other form of punishment exacted on Wall Street that I'm currently unaware of?

Re:The 1%'ers (2)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 3 months ago | (#46059041)

It's coming Silicone Valley.

Silicon, no "e". Silicone is the stuff in breast implants.. ..I’ll leave it to the reader to reinterpret the above quote in that context.

see also, increasing the # of H1Bs awarded (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058613)

If only the tech workers of the world had a touch more self and class-consciousness, they'd be able to see that, often, management is actively working against their interests. From wage-manipulation & collusion, to selling sitting cheek-to-jowl with coworkers as "open" and "collaborative," there's enough to give even a naïve, "everything is awesome!!!," workaday programmer pause.

Re:see also, increasing the # of H1Bs awarded (4, Insightful)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46058815)

The only one with your interests is you (and possibly your friends and family). The sooner people realize that the better. You have a professional voluntary relationship with your employer, where they are trying to get the most work out of you for the least money, and you are trying to get the most money out of them for the least work.

It's like buying a house. Is the seller your enemy? No but he's definitely not your friend either. It's a voluntary relationship where each side can expect the other to exploit any weakness for their own interest. That doesn't mean this relationship can't be beneficial to both parties under the right circumstances. A lot of companies take the strategy of getting people to produce by instilling company loyalty by treating their employees really well. Some don't.

Ironically Google is actually one of the companies that treats it's employees the best. Maybe they need to have strategies to keep employees salaries in check. I know I might be tempted to feel entitled to a ridiculous salary if I worked at google.

Re:see also, increasing the # of H1Bs awarded (4, Informative)

rmstar (114746) | about 3 months ago | (#46059003)

It's a voluntary relationship where each side can expect the other to exploit any weakness for their own interest.

For the engineers, it is a weakness that they are peasants before they are engineers. The CEOs have an unfair advantage over them, and that advantage is not part of engineers voluntary agreement.

Why do I have to even explain this to you?

Re:see also, increasing the # of H1Bs awarded (-1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46059215)

You made a bunch of statements, and really did not really support those statements. I wouldn't call this an explanation.

Does a CEO have more power than an engineer? Well I would hope so seeing as how it's his/her job to be the head of the company. Does a CEO have more power than all the engineers in a company? That's for the owner of the company to decide. If google shareholders had a choice to either pay X dollars to keep their CEO or all their engineers, I suspect they would keep the engineers.

Re:see also, increasing the # of H1Bs awarded (1)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#46059077)

yeah, but the goal is to become one of the people working against other's interests. If one tries to make the system better it reduces their god given payout that such intelligent people are entitled to, and if they don't get it that means some sinister force like the government is keeping it from them.

Steven Jobs (5, Insightful)

quax (19371) | about 3 months ago | (#46058669)

He always had the reputation of being a visionary and major league a**hole. I guess he's dead long enough now that we can acknowledge the latter again?

Re:Steven Jobs (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058765)

Again? I don't recall a time where it wash;t acknowledged that he was an asshole. I think everyone agrees, he was an asshole. He had some good traits for which he's admired but I think everyone, Apple hater and Apple fanboy alike, has always admitted Jobs was a dick.

And, to be clear, let's not forget that this story isn't about Jobs - it's about a significant number of CEOs. Let's keep the focus on the big picture rather than attempting to spin it as one man being a dick.

Re:Steven Jobs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058825)

Dude was a serious dickhead. Can't deny that.

Serfdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058677)

21st Century style

Perp Walk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058697)

These CEOs should all be perp walked and have all of their ill-gotten bonuses confiscated and re-distributed to their employees. Apple's $147 billion cash on hand should have a big bite of it redistributed to the employees shafted by these dirty thieves. Same with the other companies. A rising tide lifts all boats only when you don't have captain a-hole drilling holes in some boats... And yes, I am a libertarian free market guy. I want a free market where the government enforces fair play. This is definitely not fair play!

Re:Perp Walk (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 3 months ago | (#46059071)

I was an Apple shareholder at that time. If Apple inflated profits through illegal activity - activity they knew or should have known was illegal and would result in future fines and restatement of earnings - then they didn't just defraud the workers, they defrauded their shareholders, too. We could see shareholder lawsuits follow if this class action suit goes through, and shareholder lawsuits - especially those brought by large institutional investors who have their own legal teams and would get the bulk of any compensation - likely scare the companies far more than this worker revolt.

Expect to see all the companies settle while admitting no wrongdoing.

How does this keep salaries down? (2)

schwit1 (797399) | about 3 months ago | (#46058705)

How is this not self-defeating?

I would expect higher salary offers coming from outside the colluding companies. This would push many applicants to smaller shops and spread the wealth.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058801)

Yes..... Because all smaller shops are given money trees they can harvest infinite yields from when they form their articles of organization for their company/corporation.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058855)

I would expect higher salary offers coming from outside the colluding companies. This would push many applicants to smaller shops and spread the wealth.

That assumes demand (for labor) outstrips supply. There are still way more applicants than there are people willing to hire them.

Though of course that doesn't stop companies from asking for more H1Bs

And this also ignores the minefield that is IP law, which acts as a barrier of entry for new competitors, raising their costs which in turn limit their ability to offer better salaries.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058867)

coming from outside the colluding companies

From who? Some startup that is hiring college grads for 40k?

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058983)

That could explain the startup rush in the prior 5 years or so. Let the engineers start their startups, and then buy them back at a few millions a pop for "talent acquisition" so the VCs and angel investors can buy new supercars... Yup... I'm sure that saved the big companies a lot of money.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058985)

A bunch of big companies push their salaries down, so the overall going rate for the area is lowered. The (lowered) salary rate range is published and a bunch of companies grab that as their basis for making offers. Now people can always turn down an offer but when you get a bunch in the same range you'll probably most people will start to think that is what the deserve.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059033)

The big names in this deal are protected from that partially because of their big names. They are lowering the actual wage and relying on the ego-trip of being able to say "I work at Google" to prevent employees from going elsewhere, even when the wages are higher and/or the costs of living lower.

Some will wise up and finally look at the economic algebra, but then they have to also come up with an answer to "why did you want to leave [Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, Pixar]?" that people who haven't done all the economic algebra can believe.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (1)

Shados (741919) | about 3 months ago | (#46059039)

Kind of. The problem is those are companies everyone wants to work at. Maybe not you, definitely not me, but they're dream companies for a lot of people. So someone who wants to work, for, let say, Google, really will only consider an alternative offer coming from Amazon/Apple/Twitter/Intel/Whatever. All those big names. If its not a well known company for engineering, its not on their radar. So a handful of that subset fixing salaries would affect that whole segment, as they only need to outbid each other. If someone is picking between Apple and Amazon, and, let say, Amazon isn't part of the deal, then Amazon just needs to tack on 10k on top of Apple's fixed salary to beat their offer.

Yes, companies outside of that circle, the ones with less mind share, absolutely just throw money at people. They're not as cool, they can't handle the logistic to have free gourmet lunches and shuttles or be blessed by Steve Jobs, but they can just tack on an extra 40k/year and 60 grands in RSUs to outbid by a large margin. Often its not enough though to make someone turn down an offer from a big name, but it does work a lot.

Re:How does this keep salaries down? (4, Insightful)

skids (119237) | about 3 months ago | (#46059175)

It is self-defeating but not for the reasons you mention, as noted by other replies.

The reason it is self-defeating is that suppressing the salaries in fields where you badly need talent downregulates the cultivation of additional talent, and if the particular class of worker in question has any sideways mobility, may cause talent to leave those fields for either higher pay or easier work. A deficit in skills, whether highly compensated or not, negatively affects your end product, and even if you are colluding with competitors, negatively affects the market volume since there is less demand for crappy product. (For example, there is less demand now for Google hosted services than there would have been if they had not made a habit/reputation of pulling the rug out from underneath released products.)

Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058729)

"Schmidt instructed his Sr VP for Business Operation Shona Brown to keep the pact a secret and only share information “verbally, since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?”"

Does this mean Eric Schmidt and Shona Brown could be going to jail?

Anti-Capitalistic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058753)

I know nothing of the subject, nor am I a lawyer, or even associated with Silicon Valley in any way, but it sounds to me like these practices are anti-capitalistic from the worker's perspective, who are denied the opportunity of maximizing their profits in a high demand / low supply situation where this would normally apply were it not for their bosses trying to limit this in an illegal way.

It would be good for the culprits to be convicted. I don't know the laws over there, but over here if a company leader commits criminal acts, he is privately responsible for the financial losses. I would not be surprised if these guys can actually cough up the $9 bn together, but if they can, drain 'em dry, I'd say. If they can be thrown in jail for a few years too, good for the people. And not VIP jail - actual jail. For once I'm sorry Steve is no longer here to see this.

Extreme? If you take into account the sort of damages and punitive measures that can be taken against (even accidentally) inflicting monetary losses on a single individual or company, and you multiply that by the 100.000 or so (directly) affected workers, I would sooner call the above a "mild" punishment.

(also, reason #237059380 Google is more evil than it claims to be)

Re:Anti-Capitalistic (3, Interesting)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#46058875)

Company prohibitions against employees sharing salary information are also anti-capitalistic because they create information asymmetry.

Organized by Steve Jobs himself (1)

andydread (758754) | about 3 months ago | (#46058793)

As usual His Steveness conspires to threaten other companies to go along with this scheme. Similar to his book deal conspiracy. Steve was the king of arsewipes.

Re:Organized by Steve Jobs himself (2)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | about 3 months ago | (#46059205)

Sorry, I have a hard time feeling any particular outrage for Jobs over everyone else here.

He didn't say, "If you don't agree, I'm going to sink you," he said, "if you don't agree, I'm going to send recruiters over to poach workers, the way that the honest system works."

So he's a crook here, but he was threatening Adobe in a way that only mattered if Adobe's CEO was ALSO a crook. This doesn't work if there's an honest person in the ring--it's crooks all the way down.

Not Unique to Silicon Valley (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058829)

As a Technical Director (read: Guy in charge of a group of programmers), I know our company had similar agreements with other programming studios and technical firms in the geographical area we were located in. I learned of it by a slip of the tongue by our HR Director during a meeting.

I responded along the lines of "Well, if we would pay our programmers what they're worth after 3 years, instead of insisting on keeping them at Junior programmer rates, then we don't have a problem, and shouldn't need special back room deals to keep our talent". I unfortunately did not have the final say in pay increases, and did lose some of my staff to better payment offers. It was all I could do to compensate with treating the team with the highest levels of respect to keep them around due to shitty pay.

This was happening in Canada for context.

Doesn't Prove The Accusation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058909)

A gentleman's agreement not to poach form a competitors employee ranks is NOT the same as conspiring to suppress engineers wages.

To prove the latter, they would have to show that the competitors didn't simply agree to not poach, but instead agreed to refuse to hire beyond a certain wage.

No poaching agreements are perfectly legal and reasonable for all parties. This is much ado about nothing. Move along.

pile of anti-capitalist, quasi-socialist rhetoric (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058957)

The companies did conspire; the conspiracy was illegal; it almost certainly suppressed wages. But no, Steve Jobs was not interested in some grand scheme to shave a few % off the salaries of engineers; he was interested in not having projects disrupted by staff turnover. Wage suppression was just a side effect, about which he probably did not care at all. But instead of investigating that effect and explaining its size, Pando just rants, and rants, and rants...

In other words, a good subject for /., but a real piece of shit article about it. Maybe something better will come along soon ;-)

It is not [just] about wages (1)

Alexey Solofnenko (3400941) | about 3 months ago | (#46058969)

There is also often secret knowledge and skills. Most of Apple products are developed in total secrecy by small groups. Loosing key people cause product delays and extra cost. Companies cannot afford to pay too much to everybody to stop them looking for a new job. Instead they tried to limit attrition by hiding those opportunities.

Re:It is not [just] about wages (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 3 months ago | (#46058993)

What can they not afford? Losing the staff or paying them to stay? If the answer is both then they must be making a loss.

The Free Market (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46058989)

OK, these companies colluded. But shouldn't the free market bring forth a new company, willing to pay more and hire away the best employees of all these firms and thus out-compete them? There's no need to regulate - the invisible hand should be squeezing these guys all by itself now. Clearly these engineers aren't worth any more money, or they would have left to form this new company (or companies) and beat all the existing firms at their own games. No need for unions or anything anti-competitive (red tape regulations) to be brought in by the government, as the problem should self correct.

Like I said before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059031)

but got flamed, there is no professional association for engineers like there is for accountants or lawyers. Keep playing with your Raspberry Pis and arduinos at 45 while other professionals lobby for higher wages. Engineers are overgrown children, easily distracted by chlidish things, and employers know this.

What else is new? (2)

jmd (14060) | about 3 months ago | (#46059047)

My father once told me: If ten employers can sit around a table and decide how much to pay you, the employee should be able to have ten people sit around a table and decide how much you will be paid to work. This would be a union. (Or if you wish not to be be labeled union ... many in the tech sector think .... "I'm not a blue collar thug... I am a Professional" .. call yourself a special interest group)

The people sitting on one side of the negotiating table have specific interests to defend. The people on the other side have a different set of interests. That is why we call it negotiation. Hopefully to arrive at an equitable position for both sides.

Did it ever occur to anyone that the dysfunction of say Congress is so that there will never be an equitable solution for both sides to a given problem?

At the heart of all dysfunctional relationships (personal, political etc) lies on thing: Chaos. This way the people in power keep the power.

$0.02 worth. Or 0.00002 BTC

Are they in jail yet? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059115)

Jail the cocksuckers.

A Three word solution to this: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059145)

Class Action Lawsuit.

Sue the companies that participated for lost wages. Surely some lawyer group would love to take that on commission.

Sounds about right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059191)

They made their bed now they can lay in it.

I worked for HP in silicon valley 20 years ago (4, Interesting)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 3 months ago | (#46059193)

and this stuff was going on back then. They actually told employees they were doing it at the meetings where they announced annual pay raises. My coworkers cheered while I was dumbfounded that people missed the big picture. In essence they were saying "we've fixed engineer salaries with other big employers in the area so don't bother looking to get a better deal elsewhere".

When I left HP I went to work for Fujitsu- they didn't participate in the salary fixing- and instantly got 40% pay increase and kept my vacation time.

And I Thought I Was Just a Shitty Employee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46059247)

But now, I know the reason why I can't make more than 130k ad get fired often is because of some conspiracy. I shall start binge drinking to celebrate!

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