Today is my mom’s birthday

December 27, 2010

My mom and I from the 1960s

Click on photo to enlarge

I have so many wonderful memories of my mom. She was a regular Norma Rae. Pauline was an Irish American working woman who was a lifetime member of the United Steelworker’s Union. I still have her union card.

I remember her working the picket line when her plant went on strike. She was president of her union local. She also liked to drink beer and smoked. It was that last part that killed her.

Despite her working she was old school. She did all the cooking and cleaning and waited on my father. Even though she was a fireball in the workplace she was afraid of driving and did not learn to drive until she was in her forties. When my father was hospitalized in San Francisco she drove to the city to visit him even though the drive terrified her. I sat in the back seat and was given the job of giving the money to the toll taker on the Bay Bridge. Once she drove away from the toll both before we completed that transaction.

My first wife Candy took care of my mom when she was dying. Candy discovered her one morning in the living room. She had apparently had gotten up in the middle of the night to have one last cigarette.


Huge SJSU Security Hole Remains Open

November 19, 2010


I have just returned from being on workers compensation for almost three months and am surprised (putting it mildly) to learn the security hole that gives student assistants access to the e-mail of every student, counselor, faculty, staff and administrator at SJSU is apparently still open. I posted about this in early August and have spoken to management, and been speaking to management, about this since issue since about March.

Why is hole still open? [See related post]

Google reportedly admits it downloaded personal data

October 27, 2010

Last summer our university migrated its employee e-mail to Google. According to a post in the Science and Tech section of Mail Online by Vanessa Allen, “The internet search giant was forced to confess it had downloaded personal data during its controversial Street View project, when it photographed virtually every street in Britain.” Allen said:

In an astonishing invasion of privacy, it admitted entire emails, web pages and even passwords were ‘mistakenly collected’ by antennae on its high-tech Street View cars. [Read More]

Because university e-mail between faculty, counselors and students is often very confidential this may be of concern to some university employees and students. According to Allen “Scotland Yard is already considering whether the company has broken the law.”

Commentary: The True Cost of Contracting Out

September 27, 2010

Rich McGee, the CSUEU Unit 9 Bargaining Unit Chairperson, is among the many union activists in our union who are worried about outsourcing. We are not talking just about the kind of outsourcing we commonly see, where work is transferred off site and in-house staff is eliminated. In addition to outsourcing of major services and the visible loss of large numbers of jobs, McGee is worried about what he calls the micro-erosion of jobs.

“The micro-erosion of jobs is where little bits of our worker’s jobs are taken away, and soon we have no jobs left,” said McGee. A good example of micro-erosion of jobs occurred at San Jose State University. Last Spring SJSU laid off about five percent of its CSUEU represented university employees, while at the same time outsourcing its e-mail services to Google.

When the e-mail system was in house CSUEU represented employees maintained the servers and protected the security of university e-mail. A common task done by CSUEU represented staff was password resets for users who lost or forgot their passwords. Many of the staff who did this were classified as Information Technology Consultants (ITCs.) These ITCs had other duties, few if any of them had resetting passwords as over 50% of their duties. None of them had campus wide ability to reset passwords. This work was distributed. Staff reset passwords only for the employees they themselves supported.

As part of the migration to Google the password reset function was taken away from long-time university employees and transferred to student assistants. These student assistants were given the ability to reset the passwords, and possibly access the e-mail accounts of every student, faculty member, counselor and staff employee at the university.

The “cost” of Google migration for CSU campuses was theoretically zero. But, the real cost as measured in training, lost productivity, weakened security and support of the Google migration has been far from free. In the SJSU example, the CSU system may be saving a few staff jobs and eliminating a few servers while incurring all the expenses listed above and concurrently sacrificing the security and integrity of university e-mail.

The true cost of contracting out state workers jobs, when you add in all factors, has cost our state dearly. SEIU Local 1000 has reported, “By our estimates, the state could save approximately $350 million annually by utilizing state workers to cut unnecessary and wasteful outsourcing in IT, medical services and architectural and engineering contracts.”

The micro-erosion of jobs is especially dangerous to us. There is language in our collective bargaining agreement offering some job protection for university workers when their jobs are eliminated due to contracting out. But, it has been harder to fight the loss of our work when the work being eliminated is spread among a pool of workers. In the SJSU example you had maybe 30 or 40 staff performing these functions as a percentage of their work. The work was contracted out, three workers in the classification that did the work were laid off and the university has argued there was no impact to CSUEU staff of the contracting out.

The micro-erosion of jobs does not even have to result in layoffs to be a threat. Attrition alone can take a toll, as jobs are not refilled as the work is taken away. Less staff paying into the retirement system threatens retirees as well as staff.

Not only does outsourcing take jobs out of the CSU system, it can take them totally out of the state and even the nation. Google has tens of thousands of oversees workers in Bangalore, Gurgaon and Hyderabad, India as well as other nations like China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. This is only one company. The CSU is outsourcing our jobs and off shoring our tax dollars.

“The state has been unwilling to collect information on private contracts and make it publicly available,” said Marie Harder, a senior information systems analyst and member of SEIU Local 1000’s Outsourcing Task Force. “We need to hold the state accountable to how much tax payer money they waste each year on outsourcing projects that could be done better and cheaper by state employees.”

Back from vacation

July 7, 2010
Niagara Falls, June 2010

Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side

Click on photo to enlarge.

I am back at work at the help desk. If you want to know more about our vacation, here is more!

SJSU employees will not get minimum wage

July 6, 2010

SJSU President Jon Whitmore sent an e-mail to all SJSU employees today that said:

In response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s directive to cut the pay of state workers to the federal minimum wage until a budget is passed, the California State University announced on July 2 that CSU employees will continue to receive their regular compensation.

From the CSU press release:

“We want to let CSU employees know that we have received confirmation from the State Controller’s office that our employees’ compensation is not impacted by this order,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “Employees will receive their regular paychecks and can expect their normal compensation.” The CSU intends to pay its employees with alternative revenue sources other than state general funds if it becomes necessary.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has announced an order to cut the pay of about 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour until a budget is signed. Payroll decisions for the first month of the fiscal year, which began on July 1, do not need to be made until July 20.

China manufacturer moves factories to protect low wages

June 15, 2010

According to a recent Business Insider post by Gus Lubin, High-tech manufacturer Foxconn is moving everyone except for iPhone workers to low-wage factories in China’s hinterland to keep wages low.

What is Foxconn?
According to Wikipedia, “The Foxconn Technology Group is a multinational business group and is the largest manufacturer of electronics and computer components worldwide and mainly manufactures on contract to other companies.” According to Lubin, “Foxconn Technology Group is moving hundreds of thousands of workers away from the Shenzhen factory where it doubled wages after a rash of suicides, according to China Daily.” Lubin wrote, “Looks like China will keep wage inflation at bay for awhile yet.”

Why should this matter to us?
Global manufacturing has been in a race to the bottom for a long time. At what point does it become unethical for US consumers, including our universities, to continue to support these kinds of business practices in order to get goods cheaper and cheaper?

In 1914 Henry Ford doubled the pay of his auto workers under the premise that, “since it was now possible to build inexpensive cars in volume, more of them could be sold if employees could afford to buy them.” This is the basic principle of the middle class. What hope does the middle class have in the long run as jobs are destroyed and moved to nations that institutionalize employee abuse?