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EA Settles Employee Lawsuit

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the one-down-a-few-hundred-to-go dept.

The Courts 53

Vicissidude writes "EA has agreed to pay out $15.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by artists seeking overtime pay." From the aticle: "The employees charged that EA violated labor laws requiring it to pay overtime and were seeking past-due overtime pay and penalties. Under the settlement, about 200 entry-level artists will become hourly workers eligible for overtime pay and a one-time grant of restricted EA stock. Those employees would then be excluded from bonuses and stock option grants. No news on the lawsuit filed by EA programmers."

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This is a good sign (2, Interesting)

mindaktiviti (630001) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729706)

It would be nice if video game employees would be properly compensated for their hard work and dedication as opposed to just working at $13-18 / hour if you converted their salaries to wages.

But I have a question, are European game companies the same?

Re:This is a good sign (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13729976)

$13-18 / hour IS the compensation! If you want more, start your own company or move to North Korea, commie.

Re:This is a good sign (2, Insightful)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730703)

$13-$18/hr is what they make if they only work 40hr weeks. When you start working as much overtime as is required in the software industry the hourly wage starts to go down quite a bit.

Re:This is a good sign (1)

James_Aguilar (890772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13731924)

At my school comp for CS majors is $50K on average right out of school. If you work 40 hours a week with no vacation for a year this is $23/hr. Video game companies generally pay above average wages because they require above average talent. So . . . yeah.

Re:This is a good sign (2, Interesting)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732218)

Video game designers usually pay below market rate in other CS disciplines, because they have such a high number of people wanting to work in their industry. Especially for the entry level jobs. Add that to massive mandatory overtime, and its quite easy for a game dev to make in the low teens per actual hour worked.

Re:This is a good sign (2, Interesting)

badasscat (563442) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732565)

Video game designers usually pay below market rate in other CS disciplines, because they have such a high number of people wanting to work in their industry. Especially for the entry level jobs.

I worked for a major publisher in New York for several years (you figure out which; there is only one) and I don't know anybody there who made less than $50,000 per year regardless of experience level. Now, I didn't know everybody at the company, and I didn't know everybody's salary even among my friends and acquaintances, but nobody there felt like salaries were the problem.

In fact, the impression I got from working there was that this particular publisher, at least, paid higher than average salaries (compared with other industries) specifically so that they'd be able to demand more of the workers in terms of hours worked. There was no such thing as a 40 hour work week. If anybody complained, the implicit (if not explicit) response from management would be "go try finding a company that'll pay you as much as we do for the work you do."

People who say this is about the money are really missing the point. This lawsuit was not about money, because salaries in the game industry are actually fairly high. This lawsuit was about time, and maybe more importantly, the respect of an employees' time when they're not supposed to be at work. I think most people would agree that there is a point at which almost no amount of money makes a job worth it anymore. If you're asked to work, say, 167 hours per week (that's every single hour of every week, minus an hour per week for sleep), but your employer will pay you $1 million per year, is that worth it? I would turn that down. Maybe I could do it for a week just to make a quick few thousand bucks, but after that I'd probably be almost literally dead.

So the goal of this lawsuit was really to force EA to acknowledge that employees have their own time too. And if EA wants a chunk of that time, they have to ask, and it's going to cost them. They're not just going to get it for free anymore. Maybe that will cause them to think twice about forcing what amounts to slave labor conditions on their work force in the first place.

Re:This is a good sign (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732708)

50K in new york isn't that great. I was making 70K starting 4 years ago doing firmware. With stock grants and cash bonuses, I'll be making 90K for the next 4 years. While its not hideous, you are not being paid over industry average.

Thats why its not worth even considering doing games for me. Sure, it'd be interesting, but insane hours for low pay.

Re:This is a good sign (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733573)

It would be nice if video game employees would be properly compensated for their hard work and dedication as opposed to just working at $13-18 / hour if you converted their salaries to wages.

Video game employees should be classified properly as hourly workers, which may or may not increase how much money they take home. You can't say X job deserves Y money, when there is a long line of people who would gladly do the job for less. Many programmers would work for free just for the pride of getting their names on a video game.

Re:This is a good sign (2, Interesting)

tepp (131345) | more than 8 years ago | (#13734532)

Many programmers would work for free just for the pride of getting their names on a video game.

I've worked on muds which had "free" volunteer help... the quality of the work you get is abysmal. And, people burn out real fast when 4-8 hours per night is needed to maintain the schedule.

Once you are out of college, you need money to pay rent, get food, get your beater car to work, get new computer equipment (my 3 year old computer needs a new graphics card sooooo bad right now, pixel shaders make it choke)...

The sad fact is, people need money to survive. You can't expect someone to work 60+ hours a week for free, not if they aren't living in Mommy's basement and eating her food. Which, I'd really rather not do cause while I've done that in the past, it's downright humiliating. And, the smell of the cat's litterbox near the bed is such a wonderful odor....

My experiences working with "free" programmers:

1) It took a lot of oversight and managers and QA folk to deal with these guys. A small minority were very good, but they typically were being paid by some other company to work for them, so they left quickly. Which meant the majority of our programmers were people who did not program for a living. So their code was abysmal. They didn't check for error conditions, boundry conditions, loss of connection issues... spelling was abysmal. Grammer was abysmal. Getting them to adhere to our code specs and our general "look and feel" of the world was very difficult cause "that's not fun!". You can't fire free help, so you spend a lot of time explaining to them why they can't have a fuzzy toilet seat cover in the middle of Minas Tirith. And they complain. And they try to sneak it through anyway.

2) Those who eventually became better programmers because of us, or those who already were programmers who joined us - eventually get better paying - okay, PAYING jobs in a few months. The sad fact is our game required 4-8 hours per night of programming to make any decent progress into releasing new areas. Even at 4 hours a night, that's 32 hours a week. When an employer comes along and offers that person lots of money to work at a "normal" job that requires overtime, say 60 hour workweeks , they find they can't work on the two towers anymore and stay sane.

3) Burnout. Again, if you work 32 hours for free every week, eventually you suffer from burnout. At some point, your name in the "programmers" section just doesn't cut it anymore. Maybe your car broke down and you need to fix it and you're broke. Maybe you get a girlfriend and you want to spend time with her. Maybe you got a new game and you want to play that instead. Remember - these are free employees, so we can't demand nothing... which leads me to:

4) It is nearly impossible to do a scheduled release with free help, due to people leaving due to burnout or better pay, or just poor quality of the others.

Yes, you can find programmers to work on games for free. But trust me, it is so not worth it.

Re:This is a good sign (1)

CaseM (746707) | more than 8 years ago | (#13757684)

Grammer was abysmal.
Well, at leest you didn't clame there speling was abyssmal ;P

Re:This is a good sign nawwww! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13742155)

Those guys are not earning their money as it is. Or maybe they ARE!!!
This is not a good sign. That last game my grandson spent his hard earned fifty dollars on was a non running dawg. The name of it was "Lord of the Rings Battle for Middle Earth" and it was no good. The box claimed that it would run on a windows 2000 system. We have several of these. This onion was installed and later removed from each one, one by one, as it proved itself non-operational on each of them in turn. Trying to find out why it would not run was an excercise in frustration all its own! 'Readme files' were no help at all. One in game 'help' file stated something that was not on the outside of the shrink wrapped box; and that was a total disclaimer of any warrantee that it would even run, along with a total refusal to refund the purchase amount or any part thereof for any reason. One 'help' topic had the nerve to imply, as they probably could not legally come out and demand this as a quid pro quo, that Win2K users would have to download not only all the newest 'upgrades' (SP4), but also would
have to 'install all the newest patches and security upgrades'. This would effectively turn the system into a DRM laden XP home spy for micro$$$$$$$$$$$. They also had the chutzpah to claim that the particular crash that it had was a 'response to our possession of anti virus software or 'sharing' software in a particularly nasty implied insinuation. This did not really surprise me, as life has taught me that really brazen con artists and outright thieves often attempt to make accusations or implied accusations against their victims to draw attention away from themselves. I had a system crash, requiring the total re-installation of a Win-2k operating system. Well, I thought, now lets see if this system runs with no other software on it except a video driver and an audio driver. Well the first thing it did then was choke and cry because it could not get onto the internet....that driver had not been configured yet. It still did not run. How can a 'copy protection crash' (EA's words) occur on a system with no software installed at all except the operating system and itself? This game will run on an XP system, but it has problems there too. After trying all our other machines and removing the digital trash from each one....and removing the other trash it left behind when its uninstall program got through.....heh heh.... thought it would leave a little spyware behind but we caught them at it...we then tried it on a laptop running that damned XP spyware garbage. It liked that! But only barely! IF one tried to build more than one 'building' at a time, it would crash. And BURN! It would crash the system to a frozen screen and crash not only itself, but the supposedly stable 'XP' system as well. It also ran the laptop hot when it ran for the 10 minutes of so that it ran until it thought of an excuse to burn the computer down to the video distortion screen of death. When this crash occured, the ON/OFF button had to be held down for 15 seconds before the system would shut down. Rebooting would invariable lead to a blue screen on reboot followed by a complete system check and a 'friendly message' from microsoft demanding us to allow them to send all the 'system configuration and other reports..(checkbook and credit and social security numbers, etc) to microsoft for 'anal...yses'. Needless to say my Grandson is extremely unhappy with EA. As a family group we have taken a vow to NEVER AGAIN BUY ANY GAME MADE BY EA. We are stuck!
We are sorry! Heed our warning and beware this company like the plague.

Apparently it sucks. (4, Interesting)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729752)

http://boards.polycount.net/showthreaded.php?Cat=0 &Number=73470 [polycount.net]

So all those long time employees that were screwed over will not be compensated, will not get any improvement in their work conditions and apparently there's no pay out, either.

Overall this settlement is worse than the Microsoft antitrust "Seattlement".

First Zonk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13729801)

This is very good and I agree to your opinion.

Now hourly workers? (3, Insightful)

mindaktiviti (630001) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729841)

Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said EA will get productivity gains from the changes and, if it needs to, will control costs by weeding out slower workers.

He said the artists who are reclassified as hourly would likely get more supervision and be assigned work-related quotas, resulting in less job satisfaction.

"Think of it more like a factory worker," he said. "The assembly line just sped up."

Is this really a win for the artists? Are quotas a good thing for game development? If an artist is supposed to pump out x amount of textures or models or what not, then will they still be able to put out great games?

I can see it now, an artist who's talents are probably at the higher end of the spectrum...but this is because he takes a bit more time on his work, thus giving managers the excuse to fire him at whim because he's not "performing up to standards."

Re:Now hourly workers? (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730182)

I can see it now, an artist who's talents are probably at the higher end of the spectrum...but this is because he takes a bit more time on his work, thus giving managers the excuse to fire him at whim because he's not "performing up to standards."

Then he'll find a job elsewhere, have better working conditions, probably better pay, and in all liklihood a better self-worth which will cross into his personal life as well.

If EA is really going to bounce a "higher end" talent because they aren't meeting draconian quotas, then they don't give a shit about game quality or employee quality and aren't worth working for anyway.

Re:Now hourly workers? (2, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 8 years ago | (#13731443)

Working for EA is the loss for these people, not the settlement.

It's obvious they are working for a company that does not value the work done as much as it values the bottom line, when you work for a company like that your two options are typically put up or leave. Yes, you can try to force the company to create a better working environment, as this lawsuit attempted to do, however it's about as useful as sitting the school bully into a the group of his normal victims and telling everyone to get along.

EA doesn't care, they figure they can find more cheap labor shoping themselves to the newly minted 'idiots' coming out of college that are still inexperienced enough to not realize that they are signing up for a death march rather than a trial by fire.

And this will continue until EA has such a poor repuation overall in the industry that they will HAVE to pay top dollar for people to work for them, which will likely be a long, long time. The only way for these people to 'win' this is to leave EA for companies that don't think that employee's are disposable resources.

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732057)

Want to fix the problem? Ban non-compete agreements for all non-executive positions. Problem fixed overnight - EA would have to retain their employees and be nice to them or see them quickly rush over to somebody else. Non-competes are one of the most anti-competitive, anti-worker, pro-business schemes in the modern workforce and should be eliminated.

Disclaimer: I am pro-capitalist, pro-profit and all for the right of a company to maximize their bottom line. I don't care if corporation X makes a trillion dollars a day and pays their executives $50,000/hour while paying the workers who actually do everything $5/day so long as there is no coersion involved in retaining said workers. The free market applies to the workforce just as much as it does to WalMart - but non-competes inflict a horrible skew to favor the employers and are patently unfair.

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732383)

You're not a capitalist. Non-competes are part of the compensation package an employee agrees to. Bathroom break limits, healthcare benefits, etc. You are coercing the employee with your law by preventing them from being able to sign one.

Banning non-compete clauses outright would be akin to raising the minimum wage in that it increases the cost of labor without the mutual consent of the employer and employee.

The workarounds would be to make everyone a 'contractor' and only those who agreed to non-competes would be awarded the 'contracts.'

The REAL solution isn't the one that you propose but for the workforce at EA to organize themselves and demand the nc be dropped or they will strike. And then they will find out whether they have real value in the economy or if they can be easily replaced by people who will sign the ncs. Or maybe EA will determine it really isn't worth it to make people sign NCs. Who knows - but the point is, that is a capitalist solution and one that will work - your's will have more negative impact than positive.

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732918)

You're not a capitalist. Non-competes are part of the compensation package an employee agrees to. Bathroom break limits, healthcare benefits, etc. You are coercing the employee with your law by preventing them from being able to sign one.

In other words a company should have the right to force their employees to work in hazardous conditions without protection? Government does have legitimate interest in establishing safe and humane working conditions. I can still be pro-capitalism and be against requiring miners to work in mines without shoring timbers or receptionists to be forced to breathe bromine or lead fumes all day long.

Banning non-competes is far from raising minimum wage requirements: people will still get paid according to market rates, even if EA would prefer that market rate to be lower. What you are promoting is that the employer should be considered to have 100% of the capital and the employee to have 0%. This is entirely unfair, anti-competitive and leads to lower wages all around (except for the executives).

Unions, on the other hand, overstep their bounds. Airlines are going bankrupt mainly because they can't afford to pay the contracts the unions demanded and received. The NHL lost a season because the unions wanted more than what the owners were willing to pay. Ford and GM are in serious trouble becuase they can't afford to pay the union workers everything that was promised. Big steel unionized pensions were bailed out by the taxpayers who had to pay above-market costs for steel. And thanks to SEIU and AFSCME you have government workers who are rude, incompetent, lazy but with guaranteed job security to the point where the city/county/state must either raise taxes or cut services to keep the unioneers employed. (I have repeatedly heard stories about elected officials who were told flat out by the employees that they (the employees) would be there long after the electees were out of office so they had better get used to it).

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13736199)

I fear you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what capitalism means. It really involves one thing - ownership and soverignty over that ownership with no coercion. If I own a software company, and you want to work for me, saying that I can't dictate the relationships of that which I own - without coercing anyone - is not capitalism.

Similarly, I cannot force you to accept my non-compete clause. But you can't force me to rescind it in order to work for me. There can be no 'coercion.'

The only thing that coerces is government and it's agents - so the only coercion going is your government telling me I cannot use non-compete clauses.

Making an argument on the relative differences between NCs and minimum wage is irrelevant. They are still both anti-capitalism, pro-coercion.

Labor unions. That they have driven businesses into failure is not a bad thing. Businesses failing is not a bad thing in general. Their lost sales are given to more competitive companies who do a better job. However, the gov'ment has leveled the playing field in unions favor - particularly government unions - in terms of making it easier for them to be recognized, etc.

Now, what exact part of that isn't clear and what am I missing? Or do you conceed that you are a capitalist with exceptions?

Because if you think an employer can 'coerce' any employee into anything, then you are missing a fundamental tenant of capitalism in your understanding.

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13736521)

If I own a software company, and you want to work for me, saying that I can't dictate the relationships of that which I own - without coercing anyone - is not capitalism.

This is not what I am saying - you may dictate the relationships of that which you own, but when the relationship is terminated you should have no say over what you do not own. You may keep your patents. You may keep your copyrights. You may enforce protection of both when infringements are discovered. But you should not have any power over somebody not in your employ.

Labor unions. That they have driven businesses into failure is not a bad thing. Businesses failing is not a bad thing in general. Their lost sales are given to more competitive companies who do a better job.

True. In many cases the more competitive companies are overseas and the local industries survive mainly on protectionist policies that unfairly penalize the consumer.

However, the gov'ment has leveled the playing field in unions favor - particularly government unions - in terms of making it easier for them to be recognized, etc.

I'm not convinced that government unions should be allowed.

Now, what exact part of that isn't clear and what am I missing? Or do you conceed that you are a capitalist with exceptions?

I don't think anybody is a pure anything without exceptions: I myself have only one absolute belief on which I am intractable. On everything else I am willing to reconfigure and reallign my beliefs as I see a viewpoint that I like better. On this subject, I see nothing wrong with trying to make as much profit as one can - if that's your gig, have at it. But I think that non-compete agreements should not be binding. Or, if you -really- insist that you deprive a person of their livelihood then pay them for it: I would not object to you paying a decent salary to somebody in exchange for them not working for the competition. But I do not accept as fair the notion of "you can't work for me and you can't work for anybody else... sit and starve for two years until the NCA runs out".

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13736581)

But you see you signed the NC as a condition for current employment. You can't buy a car with a loan, give it away/total it, and not pay the rest of the loan off. Maybe you should have not taken the job with the NC anyway rather than whining about it afterwards.

But we really don't disagree - I stated your position is not capitalist, and you agree it is not. QED.

Re:Now hourly workers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13740625)

The government's court system is what defines what is and is not a legally valid contract, as well as what enforces them. In a sense, people only abide by contracts because they are coerced to do so.

Isn't the enforcement of non competes much the same as any other government supported monopoly practice?

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13749575)

The government's court system is what defines what is and is not a legally valid contract, as well as what enforces them. In a sense, people only abide by contracts because they are coerced to do so.

Actually, you are wrong on two counts. First, the court system does not define what is legal and what is not in general, the legislature does.

Second, you ARE coerced into keeping your agreement, but you were not coerced into making the agreement. I'm perplexed why this isn't self evident.

More Quickie-Mart Capitalism (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733258)

In California, non-competes are basically unenforceable and it hasn't changed anything. Management is paid astronomical multiples of the non-management workers just like the rest of the country.

Please spare us all the "Unions are evil" diatribe because it's baseless dogma brought to you by the wealthiest Americans. Your going to need to re-read the next couple of lines a few times because it will shock you.

The "unions are evil" dogma is designed to minimize competition for wealth and labor.
1. It prevents you from maximizing the wealth from your activities and instead passes most of it onto the owners.
2. The wealthiest individuals remain just that. It protects the rich from the poor.
3. Bargaining units are the only way to effectively negotiate with the property-owning class. They want your labor to make them richer and you'll work when they want, not when you want. If that's 7-days a week, then work or you are fired. The EA story is a perfect example.

Now, please do not run on about the airlines. You know nothing about the economics of the airline industry:
1. The big players are failing to adapt to a deregulated market
2. Maybe more importantly, the price of fuel figures very highly into the prosperity of the airline industry.

Now, I accept you have an opinion that is different than mine, but your reliance on dogmatic beliefs is obvious. Please do not stae them as fact.

Re:More Quickie-Mart Capitalism (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733400)

I don't state unions are evil anywhere. I don't believe that unions are evil. I do believe that unions have a place, but that they - like everything else - overstep their bounds and do things that they shouldn't.

(I can't help but notice that you don't mention AFSCME... that is one union that should not exist - public employees should never be allowed to unionize.)

2. The wealthiest individuals remain just that. It protects the rich from the poor.

At the end of the year who ends up with the larger salaries... the union chiefs or the people they "represent"?

Now, I accept you have an opinion that is different than mine, but your reliance on dogmatic beliefs is obvious.

As is your steadfast and unquestionable support of unions. I have no issues with collective bargaining - that is part of the free market. No union strength is anti-competitive. Too much union strength is anti-competitive. The balance, like pretty much everything else lies somewhere in the middle.

You know nothing about the economics of the airline industry:

And this assessment is based on.... ? For example, I think pilots are grossly overpaid because there is a tremendous glut of perfectly qualified pilots who can't break into the business while the union fights tooth and nail to protect the jobs of pilots who push back after having pushed down a few too many drinks.

Re:More Quickie-Mart Capitalism (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 8 years ago | (#13734451)

I think we can both agree that both sides labor/capitalists can over-reach.

At the end of the year who ends up with the larger salaries... the union chiefs or the people they "represent"?
Let's talk valuation for a minute. If I as a representative get another $500 million out of an organization for it's workers, it is the equivalent of a CEO who increases the value of a corporation. If I ask for $1 million of that,(0.2%) there's $499 million to distribute to the workers. No, it's not overpaying.

I stated "Unions as bargaining units are the only tool the worker has to wield in American Capitalism." That you grossly simplified my statement regarding unions just tells me you've got to stop watching so much TV.

Here's my personal opinion:
That unions in general are in decline in the U.S. has as much to do with the way the declining unions are operate as the capitalists failure to adjust to the changing markets and failure to stay ahead of new competitors. (A general example would be GM/Ford)

And this assessment is based on.... ?
I had a professor in finance class 2/3 years ago that studied it as his research area and used only airline industry examples. Wouldn't stop talking about it either. It was a good class for me, but he wasn't a popular teacher.

For example, I think pilots are grossly overpaid because there is a tremendous glut of perfectly qualified pilots....
More quickie-mart rationalizations. Unplug the TV and turn off the radio. Controlling the supply of resources to increase profits is used by anyone who can do it successfully every day. The evil labor empire is going to deprive you of low wages, no medical care and unfunded pensions! Oh no! Send in the military!!! But it's okay when Microsoft, the Music distribution industry, AMA, etc. do it?

public employees should never be allowed to unionize.
You choose one Union out of many and generalize to all others. C'mon it isn't an axis of evil. Yet.

Re:More Quickie-Mart Capitalism (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13734847)

If I as a representative get another $500 million out of an organization for it's workers, it is the equivalent of a CEO who increases the value of a corporation. If I ask for $1 million of that,(0.2%) there's $499 million to distribute to the workers. No, it's not overpaying.

Personally I think that extra million should go to the people actually doing the work but that's just me.

That unions in general are in decline in the U.S. has as much to do with the way the declining unions are operate as the capitalists failure to adjust to the changing markets and failure to stay ahead of new competitors. (A general example would be GM/Ford)

Don't forget the steel industry... or the poor state of public schools largely caused by the AFT.

Controlling the supply of resources to increase profits is used by anyone who can do it successfully every day. The evil labor empire is going to deprive you of low wages, no medical care and unfunded pensions! Oh no! Send in the military!!! But it's okay when Microsoft, the Music distribution industry, AMA, etc. do it?

Now who is being rash? Unions do not deprive corporations of low wages: India and China do that. Unions deprive me of a more diversified national economy.

Unfunded pensions? I don't believe in pensions and think they should be abolished in favor of 401(k) contributions. Make it 10:1 matching from the corporation for all I care - but if you look at the collapse of the airlines, the collapse of Delphi, the junk status of GM and Ford you will consistently see that pensions are always one of the biggest issues. Once a person stops working for a company (or the government!) they should stop getting money from them. It is a question of individual responsibility to save up enough for retirement, even if that means holding off on that second home, buying fewer new cars and taking fewer cruises during the working years. These pensions are why so many cities and states have to cut services and raise taxes - they have to divert public funds to people who are no longer providing any benefit to the community at the expense of the community.

Yes, everybody tries to restrict supply to artificially increase prices - a certain diamond family has perfected this system and turned otherwise mere curious bits of smushed coal into something of value. And if they can do it on their own that is all fine and good and great, but they can't. They are demanding that I spend my tax dollars to cover the unsustainable pensions - if they can get by with what people are willing to spend on the services they provide then so be it. But if the unions demand and receive more than the company can provide then leave me out of it.

Ah yes, the old personal responsibility line... (1)

Generalisimo Zang (805701) | more than 8 years ago | (#13735493)

keraneuology said:

Once a person stops working for a company (or the government!) they should stop getting money from them. It is a question of individual responsibility to save up enough for retirement, even if that means holding off on that second home, buying fewer new cars and taking fewer cruises during the working years.

Now hold on... a moment ago you were *supporting* non-compete agreements.

But now, you say that an there should be no ongoing obligations between a worker's former employer and himself. So... the employer should be obligated to provide nothing, and the employee should be obligated to continue doing things to benefit the employer??

Then, you pull out the tired dogmatic mantra of "personal responsibility".

Uh huh. It's always about "personal responsibility" when the employee is getting screwed, but why isn't it ever seen the other way around?

Maybe the EMPLOYERS should show some "personal responsibility" in the well-being of their own bussiness, and pay their employees enough and treat them well-enough so that they don't run off to work for a competitor. Why don't we ever hear the mantra "personal responsibility" ever used in connection with the employer?

Why is it that an employee who budgets badly is "irresponsible", but the corporation who employs him is always "a victim of a downturn in the economy" when it goes to borrow a few billion of our tax money to stay in bussiness?

Face it, you have a double standard. Mainly, because you worship those who have capital, and privately disdain those who work for a living as somehow being lesser people... and it shows in your arguments.

Re:Ah yes, the old personal responsibility line... (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13735754)

Now hold on... a moment ago you were *supporting* non-compete agreements.

Not I... I am strongly opposed to non-compete agreements. If a company doesn't respect the talents and contributions of an individual then they should run the risk of said individual jumping ship and going to the competition. I don't quite follow your train of thought... the quoted text was regarding pensions to which I am also opposed because they force companies (and governments) into financial holes from which there is no graceful exit.

It's always about "personal responsibility" when the employee is getting screwed, but why isn't it ever seen the other way around?

I'm all for responsibility for the corporations: I say let them sink or swim on their own merits. I oppose handouts, subsidies and protectionist tariffs. I wouldn't mind seeing government contracts require a maximum salary ratio of 40:1 (a number I picked up in some economics class as being the ideal pay disparity between the highest and lowest salaries in a company) but certainly think that any non-government business relationship should have no such restrictions.

Maybe the EMPLOYERS should show some "personal responsibility" in the well-being of their own bussiness, and pay their employees enough and treat them well-enough so that they don't run off to work for a competitor.

This is exactly why I oppose non-competes. I think the employee should be allowed to graze in the greener grass on the other side of the fence on a whim if he so desires.

Why is it that an employee who budgets badly is "irresponsible", but the corporation who employs him is always "a victim of a downturn in the economy" when it goes to borrow a few billion of our tax money to stay in bussiness?

Borrowing (and paying back at market interest rates) isn't that big of an issue with me. Grants and handouts, on the other hand... a certain airline recently declared b/k twice and required massive inflows of public funds and massive public contributions to maintain the excessive pension plan for which the unions negotiated not with me (who is now paying for it) but with executives who knew that they faced no personal consequences for signing such a silly contract. The unions negotiated impossible terms for their members, I say let the union members recover their losses from the negotiations team and leave me out of it.

Face it, you have a double standard. Mainly, because you worship those who have capital, and privately disdain those who work for a living as somehow being lesser people... and it shows in your arguments.

Please connect the dots... I utterly fail to understand how you conclude this. I am not rich and put in 70 hours a week to maintain an OK standard of living. I certainly work for a living and think that people who hold the most capital - Bill Gates, for example, or Martha Stewart, or various Tyco and Enron executives - are people who do not deserve my admiration or praise. I think people who work for a living are far more admirable than the Paris Hiltons of the world... so how do you reach your conclusions?

oh... (1)

Generalisimo Zang (805701) | more than 8 years ago | (#13737063)

Perhaps I misread your initial comments.

Quick bit about unions (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13738279)

Just a quick blurb about unions [detnews.com] (UAW in particular) that appeared in one of the papers I surf every day:

Discussing the imminent implosion of Delphi - union members are being asked to sacrifice 2/3 of their salaries or Delphi will most assuredly go bankrupt,

[UAW President Ron Gettelfinger] likely wouldn't acknowledge, however, that his union demanded "more, more, more" -- and often got it -- when its biggest employers increasingly could not afford it; that labor contracts that pay laid-off people to sit at home or bar plant closings are increasingly indefensible; that being the undisputed "gold standard" for industrial workers has long since priced UAW members out of a competitive market, enabling others to undercut the union almost at will.

Nor would a long procession of auto execs, many of them now reclining in the retired comfort of million-dollar homes far from gritty Detroit, admit that they succumbed to short-term expedience too often. Wooed by the "cooperative" union-management spirit of the '80s and '90s, they mistook labor peace for smart business decision-making and ceded control of vast portions of their companies to union leaders whose goals were antithetical to theirs.

Where were the leaders during this period? It was clear to anybody with an ounce of intelligence and reason that the deals being cut with the UAW were simply inappropriate - the people who drove this company into the ground should be held personally responsible for their errors, having been clearly incapable of running a business. Furthermore, the members of the board that appointed these people should be forever banned from holding any position of trust within any public corporation - private companies can, of course, hire anybody they want, but these people simply can't be trusted to have any say over anybody else's money. This is a prime example of the economic blight where people with no talent or ability can amass wealth and power beyond the dreams of regular people: a meritocracy this obviously ain't.

But this is fairly typical: unions ask for and management gives unreasonable packages on a regular basis. Eventually every single case will be marked by a significant correction and the unionized workers will usually end up the worse for wear. Consider the NHL action - all that fuss and the players ended up getting less than what had been initially offered. True, in some cases the unions might win, but it will always come back to bite them.

I am 100% in favor of unions on issues of workplace safety or reasonable hours and overtime. But demanding (and receiving) ... 95% of salary and full benefits when laid off in the case of the UAW? ... simply isn't a reasonable and prudent business decision. Yes, the top execs are greedy and often rather on the slow side. Even I could do a better job than many (though certainly not all) of them. But even though I may be accused of anti-people and a worshipper of the allmighty dollar the current situation at Delphi tends to show that I am in the right.

Re:Last One (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 8 years ago | (#13735577)

Personally I think that extra million should go to the people actually doing the work but that's just me.
Wait a minute, that's my contribution to the Union. I "produced" $500 million. Members don't work for free and neither do I. My point was overpaid management makes the exact same arguement to justify their wages.

poor state of public schools
Hmmm, no. I can argue the following:
1. Taxpayers don't want to pay for public schools and a host of other public services. They haven't for decades. Privatizing schools effectively prices most american children out of an education. (See public university tuition inflation rates as an example)
2. You will find public schools in areas where parents are involved and generally wealthy enough to make the time to attend to their children are quite good. Teachers are in unions at those schools too! Wow!

Unions deprive me of a more diversified national economy.
How exactly? When in the history of the world was there was a union for an industry that didn't exist?

I'll throw you a bone: Maybe you think they deprive the nation of a fully-employed workforce? If you would like to see an example of a fully-employed population, examine farm communities where there is practically no unemployment. No one I've ever met wanted to pick produce because "the money is good."

people who are no longer providing any benefit to the community at the expense of the community.
What?! You are using the fruits of their work right now! The computer you are using didn't just magically appear. Neither did the road, power and water services.

you will consistently see that pensions are always one of the biggest issues
Ummm. No.
Their biggest issue is they don't have the income to support the pension promises they made. Now,they made lots of profits many years ago and magically, most of it didn't end up in the pension pool like it was supposed to. Hmmm, where did it go? Who diverted it? Why? I'll leave that one for you to research.

They are demanding that I spend my tax dollars to cover the unsustainable pensions
Really? Demanding? Ummm. No. Again, many communities have very irresponsible fiscal management practices with an electorate that want to behave like children and blame someone else for their financial foolishness. That's generally what gets them into this situation.

Please take the time to develop thoughtful, well-informed ideas based on many different opinions. Better yet, get involved in local government. I urge you.

Re:Last One (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13735863)

Personally I think that extra million should go to the people actually doing the work but that's just me.

Wait a minute, that's my contribution to the Union. I "produced" $500 million. Members don't work for free and neither do I. My point was overpaid management makes the exact same arguement to justify their wages.

I think it is a stupid argument for the executives as well. I'm an equal opportunity knocker.

You will find public schools in areas where parents are involved and generally wealthy enough to make the time to attend to their children are quite good. Teachers are in unions at those schools too! Wow!

I've known many products of these "quite good" districts. Most of them have never heard of Adam Smith, have no idea how Jefferson or Hamilton shaped the nation, can't balance a checkbook, or distinguish between a noun and a verb. They can, however, wax long on how diversity is important for everybody except for white males, recite from memory every slang term for three dozen sexual positions and chant some mantra about how big corporations are destroying an ecosystem they have no recollection of having actually seen but they know it is up in the greenhouse layer somewhere. Yeah... that's educated.

Unions deprive me of a more diversified national economy.

How exactly? When in the history of the world was there was a union for an industry that didn't exist?

I don't understand your second line there, but a diversified economy is one with a healthy mix of productive citizens some designing, some building, some moving, some transporting, some repairing, some serving, and others doing something else. This nation has surrendered most of our steel industry and large segments of our manufacturing base. We are mostly a service economy these days as most manufacturing jobs are now located in non-union countries, and our service opportunities are quickly moving off-shore as well. Medical transcription and billing, banking, radiology, tech support, architecture, product design... all are more cheaply done elsewhere. (Personally I'm waiting for them to offshore executives... pretty much anybody at the VP level or above could be replaced by somebody in Bombay or Beijing for a fraction of the price...)

Their biggest issue is they don't have the income to support the pension promises they made. Now,they made lots of profits many years ago and magically, most of it didn't end up in the pension pool like it was supposed to. Hmmm, where did it go? Who diverted it? Why? I'll leave that one for you to research.

Those pensions were fully funded until the company stopped making as much money and the unions demanded that the companies avoid making things more efficient. If the companies had been allowed to streamline the pensions could have continued to be fully funded. If the unions had accepted 401(k) plans instead of pensions the problem would not exist.

They are demanding that I spend my tax dollars to cover the unsustainable pensions

Really? Demanding? Ummm. No.

What would you consider the federal pension guaranty fund? Who do you think pays for that?

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

James_Aguilar (890772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13731949)

That's how animation was done back in the day at Disney. Factories of "in-betweeners" filling in the details between frames drawn by more advanced animators, who themselves were modelling their work off of storyboards and drawings done by the person in charge. All for the sake of the dream of becoming that guy who leads everyone else.

Yeah, people will still do the work, and they will like it. Perhaps not for the work itself, but for what it can bring.

Re:Now hourly workers? (1)

tprime (673835) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732867)

This is exactly what EA wanted. In their minds, instead of having to fire the workers who brought this hell upon them, the lack of benefits and job satisfaction will make them quit on their own. This will leave the workers who don't mind being abused as the staff. The job market is FULL of people who would love to work on any games, even if it means spending their lives at work. They will just replace the "whiners" with the "suckers" and move on.

Not necessarily for the best (4, Interesting)

lividdr (775594) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729968)

TFA is light on details - $15.6M for ~200 people is less than $8K apiece and that doesn't consider legal fees, etc that come off the top. It's also not clear if this is in cash or in 'restricted' EA stock or some combination thereof.

I used to work a salaried position that didn't pay overtime but demanded 50 - 60 hours/week. I asked about changing to hourly and was told, flat out, that it would be a pay cut. My salary, apparently, included an "allowance" of about 15% for "overtime compensation". If I converted to hourly, not only would I take a 15% pay cut, but I would absolutely never, ever, be allowed to put in overtime.

Sucks to be these guys. You just know that EA is going to do everything it can to make them unhappy so they quit. There are too many naive people out there who want jobs in the games industry.

Corporate IT/software development needs to clean up its act, but they have too much leverage over employees - "cheap" contractors and off-shoring. When your company is measured by the bottom line and double-digit increased "value" to share-holders year-after-year, there just isn't any business case to treat people fairly. It's despicable, but that's the attitude that business schools are churning out.

Re:Not necessarily for the best (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730046)

The people affected are "entry level", i.e. newbies. The kind that you can replace easily. Of course, the pros are pissed off, too. Would be funny if they lost some of their high-profile people to this.

Re: Math is Hard! (4, Informative)

BladeRider (24966) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730461)

You need to recheck your calculations. It would be approx. $80K each (before legal fees, etc).

Re: Math is Hard! (1)

lividdr (775594) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730705)

Oops. Must remember not to do math before 8AM.

The question still stands whether it's cash or "restricted" stock.

Re: Math is Hard! (1)

lordofthechia (598872) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730964)

The question still stands whether it's cash or "restricted" stock.

In other news EA swiftly paid off it's pending settlement with its employees in copies of surplus pc and video games. "What am I going to do with 3,000 copies of Madden 2001, several hundred copies of "The Sims" and their expansions, and a whole crate full of copies of Golden Eye: Rogue Agent for the X-Box?" Said one incredulous artist who was expecting almost $80,000 in cash for his settlement. "I won't even get more than a buck or two a piece on E-bay. After my listing fees and shipping I'll end up with nothing!"

The lawyers for EA took a moment to thank the RIAA for the advise on how to properly settle a lawsuit.

Re: Math is Hard! (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732935)

Don't laugh. EA has held lots of publicity events to give away Madden in the past. It increase their market share immediately and it cost them nothing to burn copies after copies. Now that TakeTwo's ESPN NFL is gone, and EA pwns the NFL, they can ride low publicity gear for some time.

Re:Not necessarily for the best (1)

pnice (753704) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730701)

I used to work a salaried position that didn't pay overtime but demanded 50 - 60 hours/week. I asked about changing to hourly and was told, flat out, that it would be a pay cut. My salary, apparently, included an "allowance" of about 15% for "overtime compensation". If I converted to hourly, not only would I take a 15% pay cut, but I would absolutely never, ever, be allowed to put in overtime.

I had the same exact thing happen to me. Going back to hourly would mean no overtime and a pay cut. Staying salary they would deduct money for time missed and pay nothing for overtime. I finally quit after 7 years. Things are much better now.

Re:Not necessarily for the best (1)

Joe5678 (135227) | more than 8 years ago | (#13731141)

I know (at least in California) that they can't dock exempt employees for pay if you don't work 40 hours, as long as you at least show up for some part of the day. (They may be able to dock you vacation hours, I'm not clear on that).

Of course most companies will tell you otherwise, including mine.

Re:Not necessarily for the best (1)

James_Aguilar (890772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13731990)

You missed by an order of magnitude. It's $78,000, not $7,800. 1.56 * 10^7 / 2.0 * 10^2 = .78 * 10^5 = 7.8 * 10^4 = 78,000.

Re:Not necessarily for the best (1)

defkkon (712076) | more than 8 years ago | (#13732701)

Corporate IT/software development needs to clean up its act

I agree, to an extent. I'd say that's half the problem. The other half is that people need to find a better job. I realize that is easier said than done - but it can be done.

I'm a slightly higher-than-average salary, combined with excellent overtime pay that kicks in beyond the 40 hours/week. Combine that with stock matching and yearly bonuses, and I have nothing to complain about. I'm not bragging - I'm just saying that its worth looking around. It helps to work for a company that cares about its corporate image (which is why my company treats us the way it does).

The EA Assembly line (1)

Puhase (911920) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730037)

Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said EA will get productivity gains from the changes and, if it needs to, will control costs by weeding out slower workers. He said the artists who are reclassified as hourly would likely get more supervision and be assigned work-related quotas, resulting in less job satisfaction. So....instead of saying, "Madden '06 is coming out October 2nd no matter how many hours you have to work!" They can now saw, "Madden '06 is coming out on Oct 2nd and you only get 50 hours a week to work on it! If its not done, you're fired after its done!" Unrealistic weekly goals don't seem so much better than unrealistic release goals. I see the only advantage here going to veteran programers who are too valuable to get rid of. It just makes it harder for those just breaking in. Your either a star or your out. And it seems weird that EA would settle with the artists first. It seems far more likely they would have won that argument with artists having ambiguous time needs in only to visualize and create. Not to say that programers don't create, I just think they have more of a right to say that there is a nuts and bolts process to many things they do that requires long overtime hours to complete. Past this, I think its important to point out that this was a settlement instead of a judicial finding and so there is no hard and fast legal precedent here that can be cited by future employees for other companies.

Re:The EA Assembly line (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#13730179)

You say that like artists at EA had any artistic freedom. It's an assembly line over there, everyone does one step and usually there are very tight restrictions on what they make (e.g. "You make a head that looks like Sean Connery in the 60s!" "You make a matching body!" "You animate that to look like James Bond!").

challenge.. (2, Funny)

ecumenical_40oz (914889) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733000)

I'm glad to see that those employees are challenging everything (spoken with emphatic whisper).

Look at it like EA is (0)

Daysaway (916732) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733149)

$15.6m is what the production costs are on a high end 'AAA' title (ususally a bit less) in which would pay them back 100 times that. So EA didn't lose $15.6m for overworking these artists, they lost a potential of $1.4b.

The quality of life for EA employees has gone way up, and don't think for a second that EA is bitter, and going ot drive their employees out over this, because talent who is capable of performing to EA's standards is harder to find than one would think. Besides, EA has many different studios with the same parent name, which have nothing to do with each other. EA Stormfront has only one thing in common with EA Tiburon, they both make games for EA.

EA is not a bad company at all, and for being the biggest publisher/developer of video games in the world, I would say they are not the huge ugly corporate monster that most make them out to be.

Re:Look at it like EA is (2, Insightful)

Tankko (911999) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733290)

$15.6m is what the production costs are on a high end 'AAA' title (usually a bit less) in which would pay them back 100 times that.

Yes, and god knows they make 100x on every title they do.

Much like the movie and music business, most titles loose money, but the hits keep everything going. Who's to say if that $15M would have been spent on a hit or a non-hit.

Re:Look at it like EA is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13738596)

Much like the movie and music business, most titles loose money, but the hits keep everything going. Who's to say if that $15M would have been spent on a hit or a non-hit.

sorry but your wrong. most titles "don't make a profit" but most break even atleast.

Yes they are... I saw it with my own eyes. (5, Interesting)

Generalisimo Zang (805701) | more than 8 years ago | (#13735270)

I worked at EA.

Not only do they demand 60 to 70 hour work-weeks of their employees during "crunch time" (which is about 50% of the time on any given project), but the internal processes in place are incredibly short-sighted and just plain dumb from a productivity standpoint.

"Oh, that can't be true", you might say, "EA cares about productivity, they'd fix that."

Not true... well, it's true that they care about productivity, but they care more about keeping everyone under the thumbs of some seriously clue-less folks in management.

So they have the most ass-backwards processes in place that have people working 60 or 70 hours in a week, when 40 hour workweeks done with rational processes in place, would produce more products of a higher quality.

As an example:

There was a team working on an Golf game, with the name of a major golfing star 's endorsement. The team making the golf game was on a tight schedule, and decided to re-use a graphics engine and physics engine from a previously-released game.

So far, so good... however, the code in the company repository was from the alpha-phase of the previous game's development... complete with ALL of the bugs and issues that the OTHER team had already been paid millions to fix.

The company procedures in place mandated that they second team go through the standard procedures, and basically spend the first two-to-three months of the project, having the QA folks do the exact same testing that they'd already done on the previous title, in order to find and fix the exact same bugs that they'd already found and fixed.

Oh, but wait... it gets better. One of the QA leads had himself worked on the previous title, and had access to the bug database from the first title (which was something that would not normally be allowed to the QA folks on the second title), so he grabbed all of the bugs from the old database that were solely physics and graphics engine-related, and put them into the fresh database for the new title.

Everybody (on the project that is) was overjoyed. They'd just saved weeks or months of effort at reduplicating previous efforts... and then management found out what had occured.

The QA lead was reprimanded for violating procedure, and the project head was reprimanded for allowing the QA lead to violate procedure, and it looked for a bit like the QA guy might get fired, but in the end he was let off with a warning.

Jeesh... one boggles at what his fate would have been if he'd actually had access to the fixed code itself, rather than just the QA database that showed where to look for problems in the code.

Now, perhaps some of the people here on Slashdot might be familiar with an obscure concept called "Open Source". In this thing called "Open Source", people around the world collaborate on finding and fixing bugs, and sharing code that has been proven to function well.

Heh... at EA, they don't even share code between projects, and they don't even bother to properly archive the fixed and tested code that they themselves have already paid money to fix and test.

"Well", you might say, "That just proves that they're incredibly stupid, but doesn't neccesarally prove that they're evil."

True... that one story doesn't prove they're evil... but I personally witnesses about 20 even worse stories, and heard about another 50 more from folks working in the same building.

Trust me... EA as a company is both stupid and evil... or, perhaps just so criminally stupid that it begins to border on evil.
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