Thursday, October 02, 2008

Our Charming Corporatist State

Don't kid yourselves. We live in a country and state of ... by ... and for corporations. To wit:

A number of technology companies, including Sony, Electronic Arts, Apple and Cisco Systems, had been tripped up by California's overtime regulations, which stated that highly skilled technology workers earning less than $75,000 a year, or $36 an hour, were entitled to OT.

Sounds simple, but the devil is in the math. Companies have contended that as long as the worker's annual salary was at least $75,000, he or she was exempt from overtime pay, regardless of how many hours the employee clocked. Labor advocates have countered that the number of hours worked matters very much: They argued that the regulation in fact required companies to pay $36 or more for each hour worked, or else the employee was due OT.

As a result, programmers, engineers and graphic artists have filed lawsuits in recent years demanding overtime compensation for working long hours without extra pay. Some, including Sony and EA, have paid tens of millions of dollars to settle those cases.

The new law, which Schwarzenegger signed late Tuesday and took effect immediately, eliminates the hourly calculation. It says employers can instead meet the overtime exemption by paying their workers a gross salary of at least $6,250 a month. That equals the same $75,000 a year, but it means that high-tech companies now don't have to worry about keeping track of the number of hours their employees work, said Carol Freeman, a partner at law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Palo Alto. "There was an ambiguity in the law, and this clarifies that," Freeman said.

Kindly note that the "clarification" bones tech workers in a wonderful new way.

Where once tech workers had to earn at least $36 per hour, they now have to earn a baseline $6,250 per month, or $1,562.50 per week.

So let's do a little comparative math. The old law required at least $36/hr. At that rate, a regular workweek gets you $1,440/week. And if you work 43.5 hours, you're up to the new weekly minimum for tech workers of $1,562.50/week.

Does anyone who's got functioning frontal lobes think for a nano-second that tech companies or game companies are going to let people go home after 43.5 hours or work in five business days? Hell no. Most folks will be working sixty to eighty hour weeks just like always, and they'll be earning maybe eighteen bucks per hour, and it will all be perfectly legal because our Republican governor and Democratic legislature changed the damn law.

The above applies, of course, only to those who have been saved from the corruption and tyranny of paying union dues and working under the iron fist of a big, bad labor organization and its oppressive contract.

Meanwhile, our United States Congress is just now falling all over itself to bail out domestic and foreign corporations who had the bad judgment to buy junk-bond quality paper and now want the Feds to save them. Which of course the Feds will.

In the modern corporatist state, it's rugged individualism and free enterprise for workers, and socialism for companies "too large to fail" (whatever the hell that means.)


Floyd Norman said...

It just keeps gettin' better and better.

Sometimes it pays to be too damn old to work. Sorry, kids. The good old days are over -- and you missed it.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Steve. And someone tell me, when is it time to point fingers? I think now. The last 8 years of international, domestic, financial, moral, and ethical leadership have been missing under what will be considered the worst presidencey in U.S. History. Mind you, the state we're in is EXACTLY where the neocons wanted us to be: bankrupt. Poor right winged religous nuts were duped again, while the REST of us are left holding the bag while corporate zillionaires walk away unscathed.

Shame on bush and dick. Shame. It's going to take a whole lot of work to undo the damage they've done to this once great country. There is a special place in hell for these two. They sure ain't gwan' to hebbin.

Anonymous said...

On a practical note, Steve, do you think that studios can or will use this new law towards cg animators? I could certainly see them making the argument that they are "high tech" jobs. Are there union protections against them succeeding with that argument?

Justin said...

Hopefully someday the tech companies will realize that productivity significantly decreases after more than 40 hours.

I recently attended a Scrum training class in which they are able to accurately measure productivity. They were able to determine that for some Scrum teams maximum productivity was achieved at around a 35 hour work week and they actually had to send people home early.

With a shorter work week employees are more focused, more dedicated, are able to think more clearly, and make less mistakes. Think of this, you get the same amount of work from a 35 hour work week as you do from a 50 hour work week (due to increased efficiency and reduced number of mistakes), but only have to pay 70% of the price!

Anonymous said...

SO what's the solution?

Steve Hulett said...

It's been my observation, after years of doing this, that artists who are working eighty hour weeks, week after week, don't get much done.

They are so burned out that they mostly just stare at their computer screens ... and make mistakes.

What I've seen, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I was hoping you could address my question, please. I am genuinely curious.

Anonymous said...

I've worked for companies that didn't pay OT. Some people worked like slaves all hours of the day. I worked 9-10 hours and left, makeing sure I worked hard while I was there and got my work done. The owner would specifically ask me to work more, and I'd say, "are you going to pay me more?" He'd not answer directly and I'd not stay directly longer. I'd say "I'm no good past 12 hours I just stare at the monitor, and can't get anything done. I have to get my sleep" (which is true).
I never got fired. Just don't be afraid, and focus on being good. No one fires a good artist b/c the're not doing OT. They fire artist who are not producing.

Jeff Massie said...

Here's the roll call on how the State Senate and Assembly voted.

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