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Tech Firms Oppose Union Organizing 715

Posted by kdawson
from the fears-of-a-40-hour-week dept.
cedarhillbilly passes along a piece from TheHill.com on the chilly reception that tech firms and lobbying groups are giving to a bill promoting union formation, which has a chance of passing in a more strongly Democratic congress and with a Democratic president. "Up to now, large tech groups have been on the sidelines in what is likely to be one of the roughest fights in Congress next year. A few, however, are preparing to weigh in. That makes other tech lobbyists nervous that, by doing so, the industry could sacrifice relatively good relationships with Democrats and, therefore, jeopardize some of their other legislative priorities."
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Tech Firms Oppose Union Organizing

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  • heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:04AM (#26143975) Homepage Journal

    It's interesting that every single person in the article is against it except for a dnc congressman. The end of the article says he bemoans the lack of union growth. Why would he be concerned about union growth? Why would he be so concerned about union growth that he would try and take steps to lower the bar on organizing groups of people who probably don't even want it? Oh yeah - money. This is why I hate politics. This has nothing to do with serving people it is all about finding revenue streams to fund their next election. Maybe they can get the rest of the country to be like the state of Washington and force people into unions, fire the ones that wont join and rack up plenty of contributions that way.
     
    I was a union member for a number of years. (UFCW) Fortunately it was in a right to work state and it was my choice. And fortunately it was possible to relatively private about joining or not joining. None of this harassment that can come in other environments. Unions are just like employers - they are good to keep in check against one another but I think it is a mistake to think they are purely for the employee. They quickly fall to Pournelle's Iron Law [jerrypournelle.com]. This whole affair is a marked reminder of that fact.
     
    I don't think the Republicans are any better for what it is worth - but I think at least the discussion on what this is all about out to be frank rather than draped in a bunch of spin. Being cautious about unions is not being anti employee.

  • Re:UAW (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maxume (22995) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:18AM (#26144053)

    They worked extremely well for the people who have been members for the last 40 years. And the government is either going to make their pensions whole or loan the auto companies the money to do it, so pretty much, they (the 40 year members) don't have any downside at all.

  • Management vs Labor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:24AM (#26144091) Homepage Journal

    Of course the owners of the corporations are against their labor organizing. The purpose of a union is to spend more of the corporation's profits on labor, leaving less for the owners.

    What's interesting is how often the union's improved terms for labor increases labor's productivity. Which means a larger total profit, so even a smaller share of it to the owners can be a larger total amount than before the union, when worse working conditions produced less profit for everyone.

    Which shows that sometimes, the owners are not maximizing profit, but just maximizing their power.

  • Re:heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:25AM (#26144107) Homepage Journal

    I had some run ins with store managers that had napoleon complexes and the union got my back. I could never have worked for the union though because they had to spend a lot of time trying to help people who deserved to get fired keep their jobs.
     
    But it was a time and place when the employers really didn't care if they kept you or not and didn't want to give us decent insurance and the union helped that to happen - so I felt they provided more pros than cons. But it's easy for it to tip the other way.

  • Re:heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:30AM (#26144139) Journal

    Term limits have their own set of problems. California did this back in the 1990s, and I was an enthusiastic supporter of the concept. The problem is that it tends to bring in ideologues who have to run on their professed beliefs rather than their track record. I would gladly scrap term limits to get back politicians that can actually compromise with each other instead of walk the party line.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josecanuc (91) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:38AM (#26144239) Homepage Journal

    Just thinking here... What about the limit being only 2 consecutive terms, but either no upper limit on number of terms or a high limit like 6 or 8 terms?

    That might allow a chance to see something different, but allow the opportunity to bring back a good person if change didn't work out.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:46AM (#26144307) Journal
    In fact, there are many things that a union-like/guild-like would bring to the profession. We need those, and we'll invent a name for what it is later (preferably a recursive acronym) :
    - An ethical code of conduct (yes, it is a benefit to be able to refuse unethical orders)
    - A lobbying power (because EFF could do with a little help, having professional explain why forbidding crypto or wireshark is a bad idea)
    - A guaranteed standard in job contracts.
    - A measurable political and economical weight.
  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by johnsonav (1098915) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:50AM (#26144355) Journal

    ... and START OVER. This time with term limits and minimal pay.

    I'm with you on the term limits. But as to decreasing their pay, there's no better way to assure that congress stays the realm of the already rich. Congressmen make $169,300 dollars per year. If you go much lower than that, many people who would make excellent representatives would not be able to afford it. The rich already have the advantage of spending their personal wealth on their campaigns. I don't see how giving them one more advantage over the rest of us is a good idea.

    I think a good congressman is worth every penny of what he earns today. But term limits would help assure that they can't suckle from the government tit forever.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:53AM (#26144383) Homepage

    many IT shops treat their It people badly. They get paid less than the building maintenance people and are expected to perform tasks that are an order of magnitude more complex.

    These same shops charge Customers $90-$120.00 an hour for IT work, and then pay the IT guy $19.00 an hour POCKETING The huge profits. Unionizing would require the company to pay a decent wage, not allow them to work them 60-80 hours a week without overtime, etc....

    If companies would treat the IT guys honestly, there would not be any whispers of unionizing.

  • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:58AM (#26144435) Journal

    I suspect that you'll end up with professional place-holders, or you'll end up with politicians working in circles in places like California where the legislative bodies use the same term lengths and election cycles. The Assembly becomes the Senate and vice versa every eight years. It adds complexity where it doesn't really need to be.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:05AM (#26144511) Journal

    I know people in IT all over the US, and I never hear whispers of unionizing. Most IT people seem to be against unionizing.

    Where I work, I know what I make and I know the billing rate on the contract, and between my pay and the benefits that I get, about half of the billing rate is going to me. The client's management has some serious issues that need to get worked out, but a union isn't going to fix that.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:15AM (#26144609) Homepage Journal

    What you don't want is a behemoth like the UAW or teamsters barging into your business and telling you how to run it.

    I was in the Temamsters at one point in my life. Their problem isn't that they're a union, or big, but that the leadership is composed of mafia gangsters. Witness Jimmy Hoffa, who was undoubtedly dissolved in acid and poured down a sewer.

  • by sesshomaru (173381) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:18AM (#26144659) Journal

    Look, if your from the UK you mostly won't understand how this works. The American working class, at least the anti-union ones posting here, have been propagandized since birth to think "Union Bad!"

    On the other hand, it eventually penetrates through this fog that IT people aren't treated very well. So, the anti-union IT people have a dilemma, "I wasn't able to take my vacation this year, I have to work weekends, holidays and long hours everyday. Oh, and my boss is threatening to replace me with cheap overseas labor. Hmm... maybe if I was part of some organization of all the other IT workers, my life wouldn't be so miserable."

    Amongst this group, some will fear offending their god, "But if there are unions, then plutocrats will have less opulent luxury. Since one day, my faith in free markets, low taxes, and zero regulation will be rewarded by me being raised to the ranks of the plutocrats I don't want my opulent luxury reduced. Therefore, I will continue to keep my nose to the grindstone and forget this silly union nonsense."

    Another part of the group will think, "Maybe our holy plutocrats just don't know about how miserable they are making us. That's it, they actually like and care about us, but we have no way to approach them about the unintended misery they are causing. If we had an organization, we could let them know how crummy it makes us feel that they are depressing wages and forcing us to work insane hours. But... but... Union Bad! Well, maybe if we just don't call our organization a union it will be ok."

    The third part of the group thinks, "You know, my parents have healthcare, a pension and the ability to enjoy their retirement and take cruises and things. Meanwhile my retirement plan consists of a straight razor and a warm bath. You know, my Dad was in a union, and when he had to come in on weekends or work holidays he got paid extra money. Maybe the holy plutocrats are actually evil parasitic scumbags, and... I know this is heresy... unions are actually good and a path to prosperity for the working class."

  • by captbob2002 (411323) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:21AM (#26144695)

    ...

    Unions were great when dangerous jobs were causing people to get injured and killed. But now that this problem is taken care of...

    Tell that to the families of the people that once worked for Genwal Resources, Inc. and Murray Energy Corporation [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:23AM (#26144711)

    Indeed. This is why I'm for straight-up term limits. 2 terms for Senate, 4 for House (keeping in mind, a House term is only 2 years). That way a Senator can serve a maximum of 12 years, a House member, 8. I suppose you could up the limit to 6 for a House member if you want to keep the "maximum years to serve" even, I'm open to debate on that one.

    As far as "Only electing ideologues" issue, I'd say that we don't have ENOUGH of them at the federal level beyond the "big spender" type, which I don't find terribly exciting or desirable. I would WELCOME some ACTUAL ideologues to the ring. People who wish to serve as a politicians because they have a PASSION for their country and a PASSION for an idea. Even if I disagreed with the idea, AT LEAST I would be able to respect their passion. (Of course, I would oppose them just as passionately, but I would still respect them.) Instead we get the Blagojevich's of the world who could care LESS about ideas and good government, and are only there to line their pockets.

  • Re:Globilization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@ c o mcast.net> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:31AM (#26144821) Journal

    Or it can work to protect your job. I cant say I dont understand at all the disgust against unions (I do know, its mostly lies and its mostly thanks to Reagan republicans and democrats who where swindled and then swindled their kids into listening to the bullshit) but what I do know is IT workers, training their Indian and Asian replacements in the US WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING if unions where present. One of the biggest reasons its cheaper for companies to move to a new country has everything to do with willing Tech idiots training these people who will do their current job for LESS.

    One of the biggest reasons I enjoy being a tech in the education sector is because I know even though I myself am not tenured like teachers are, my job is protected as long as I do it and do it right. I wont be outsourced, and I wont be replaced by someone who is more willing to do it cheaper, and I will make my FAIR wage, and not have some asshole come up with bullshit pulled out of his ass why I shouldn't make more money while they gets a 4,000 dollar raise.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Temkin (112574) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:53AM (#26145119)

    There was some discussion weeks ago that Obama's biggest problem was the "old men" in Congress. The old line 60's liberals are running out of time, and they know it. When Clinton came into office after 12 years of Republican presidents, they essentially wrecked his presidency by causing the 94 backlash. Now they're in the twilight of their careers. This is their last chance.

    Term limits have a down side. Just ask anyone that was living in California back around 2000. The state legislature was full of people with no experience, and no long term commitment. They're still paying for the "power crisis", as well as the financial ineptitude of a never ending string of inexperienced legislators.

    I still think direct election of the senate was a mistake. The original appointment scheme made them beholden to their states.

  • Re:UAW (Score:3, Interesting)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:56AM (#26145159)

    Ok, a couple things that need clearing up here;

    There is a popular myth (promoted BY union-types) that Unions are the SOLE reason that we aren't all minimum wage slaves serving our evil corporate masters as they sit atop thrones made from the bones of our fathers. Obviously, that's an exaggeration, but the way some union people talk, you would be hard-pressed to think they believe anything different.

    The truth is that labor relations and labor LAWS had been changing for a good 50 years by the time unions arrived on the scene. Indeed, there is ample evidence to show that, rather than speed the adoption of improved safety and labor laws, the unions, and the backlash they produced, actually SLOWED the advancement of labor and safety laws in the United States.

    Even IF the unions WERE the arbiters of fairness and safety they claim to have been, those days are LONG GONE. Unions now are just another bloated bureaucracy looking for relevance. A solution in search of a problem. All the needed labor and safety laws are in place, and being strengthened regularly without Union input. People are well aware of their rights as citizens and as employees, and Business now recognizes that good employees are a valuable resource not to be squandered. We don't NEED unions anymore, and IT people ABSOLUTELY do not need them.

    We have simply outgrown them.

  • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @11:03AM (#26145227) Homepage

    A lot of the anti-union sentiment has to do with attitudes towards fellow techies: a vast majority of drivers consider themselves to be better-than-average drivers, and in a similar vein a vast majority of programmers and admins think that they're better-than-average at what they do. That illusion means that they think that they can get better salary and benefits on their own.

    Another issue is that most people see unions as part of a blue-collar system, and programmers as white-collar employees.

    They may be right, they may not be. But there's definitely a lot of BS that goes around.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nabsltd (1313397) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @12:10PM (#26146361)

    These same shops charge Customers $90-$120.00 an hour for IT work, and then pay the IT guy $19.00 an hour POCKETING The huge profits.

    Although I'm sure that some companies have this much disparity between their billing rate and the employee pay, it's got to be the execption rather than the rule.

    My company bills me out for between $100-120/hour, and my salary is about $50/hour. Add in the benefits they pay (between $10-15/hour), my share of rent and utilities for the building, the hardware they provide for me to do the work, etc., and although they certainly are making a profit, it's not nearly as much as you might think.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @12:12PM (#26146401) Journal

    Unions did a lot of great things for this country

    in the past.

    Times change, economic realities change and we now have institutions like OSHA. If all unions were to disappear tomorrow, we will not return to The Jungle [wikipedia.org].

    Current events notwithstanding, in most businesses there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them. As long as employers must compete for employees then working conditions will naturally remain good.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @12:15PM (#26146459) Homepage Journal

    There is a reason highly trained, highly skilled workers don't tend to unionize. It's because we're hard to replace, and relatively highly paid.

    Not if the offshoring and H1B lobbyists have their way. One of the reasons businesses are lobbying like hell for more visa workers is that they realize that they depend more and more on IT and that it's becoming a bigger proportion of their budgets. But they don't want to pay that; they want IT labor to become a cheap commodity.
                 

  • Problem is (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @12:29PM (#26146737)
    that times are changing. With India and China having their money tied to the dollar, it is designed to drain our economy. That esp. includes our tech jobs. I have lost 2 jobs in a row to them going to India. Yet, India is upset about the high prices of drugs to them because many of them are still made in USA or EU. So, they (and now china) are simply disregarding the patents and simply producing them in their country. Most union would work to prevent the jobs from being shifted overseas for these reasons. Sadly, many unions do not have a clue about how to retain the jobs. Instead of ignoring the overseas workers, they should insist that they have similar working condition AND that they get close to the same pay. Once the overseas are getting good money, they will thank the unions and be a member.
  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi@smokingcCOFFEEube.be minus caffeine> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @12:35PM (#26146841) Homepage

    I don't know what IT shop you work at, but the only place I worked like that was my first work experience which was a helpdesk center. Those type of jobs don't expect you to stay (like working as an oil jockey in a local car shop) and are more a starter job to get you to know what jobs are like after you come out of school and as a jumping board to better jobs: second level support, junior sysadmins (just like you're not expected to keep being an oil jockey, you eventually get to be a mechanic).

    I am in IT and I have never been treated like that after my initial work experience and if I ever would be treated like that (one of my previous jobs when I was a contractor was hinting at doing something similar) I just pack up and leave. The IT market is wide open there are enough decent jobs to go around so if you really deserve higher wages and less pressure, talk to your boss or go elsewhere. Of course, bosses are expected to turn a profit and they will use all means necessary but they will only (ab)use you if you let them. If they see you're going to leave and you're a good worker, they usually rather accommodate you and hire extra workers to offload you than having to let you go and find somebody else.

    As I always say: you're in service to your boss but your boss is also in service to you. As a good employee you have more power than your boss and especially in IT you hold a lot of cards (knowledge, experience, specifics of the systems) and value. Losing somebody good in IT usually makes a dent in their profit or can even have a ripple effect throughout the company if they can't find somebody and train them to be as good as you in time. A boss or CIO that understands that is a good boss.

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:21PM (#26148591)

    As a member of my "professional guild association" - the IEEE - let me tell you that it wouldn't help you remotely. They'll advocate positions that you agree with barely 50% of the time, be mostly useless in helping you advance your career, and not really offer any other viable services for rank-and-file members besides socialization and a glossy magazine.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpuriousLogic (1183411) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:29PM (#26148709)

    .... with the opinion that bad employees need unions more than good employees.

    I TOTALLY agree. I have worked at very large and somewhat small companies. In all of these jobs, I have seen good and bad techies. But the absolute worst I ever saw was when I worked for a large telco equipment manufacturer doing Solaris admin work. A good number of the "original" admins used to be in a union before outsourcing and reorganization. To a person, these were the dumbest, laziest, least educated admins around. One of these, crowned with the title of "Senior UNIX Administrator" did not know what a SHELL was. He had a user that would log in and just get a blank screen and could execute no commands. I told him, "Check /etc/passwd and see if he has a shell". This "Senior UNIX Administrator" had no idea what a shell was. I had to explain ksh, csh, etc. He also did not know what the kernel was (if you know that, then you can understand how shell's got that shell name).
    After I kind of read him the riot act on this total cluelessness, I asked how he got the Senior title. Turns out he dropped out of high school, got a job as tape operator on the old mainframes, and got promoted along the way because of the union contracts. He had seniority over the next closest person by at least a decade, and was easily pulling down $100k (in 1998). Thankfully, after outsourcing, he was the absolute first person to be laid off. I left that job in 2004, and from people that knew him, he had not yet been able to get a unix admin job and was working the counter at a golf pro shop for $8/hr.
    The lesson? If there had not been a union, this dead weight oxygen waster would never had gotten anywhere.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:00PM (#26149155) Homepage Journal

    unions are going to stop offshoring...How exactly?

    They could lobby Congress to stop running fat trade deficits against countries that favor exports more than their local consumers. Big trade deficits create lots of problems, including bubbles. They are not a good thing in general, not just labor issues.

    (I don't like lobbying in general, but something needs to counter-weigh big-biz lobbying as things stand.)

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:01PM (#26149179) Journal

    Speaking for many of those under-45s, we're largely grateful for what the unions did for us in getting laws enacted to protect us. We're also largely in favor of allowing collective bargaining and unionization where the employees want it. We just aren't necessarily in favor of it where we work, or under the conditions that many unions want for organizing.

    There are some unions for which I have a great deal of respect, such as those backing nurses because they have the patients in mind just as much as they have their members in mind. There are some unions for which I have a great deal of animosity, such as for aerospace workers because I watched my dad get the short end of things for much of my childhood while he worked for McDonnell-Douglas and later Boeing. He's still fairly bitter about what he saw on so many occasions, even after 15 years out of the union.

    Unions came about because management kicked around the employees. Employees used their power -- primarily numbers -- to force management to make concessions, and to form political blocs that would elect people who would codify into law fair labor practices. A failure of management led to actions by employees to change the situation. We're grateful for those actions, but we're also willing to say that they just may not be a good fit for our industry.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:18PM (#26149387)

    Just throwing this out there...

    I'm a white collar worker, a sound designer, (I'm on a deadline this morning so I'll be brief) and the entire film industry is unionized, at least everywhere in the US that matters w/r/t film production, LA, NY and Chicago. I think that a union can be a very good thing for white collar workers given a certain configuration of the benefits, and I think our industry is a pretty good example of how it can work.

    Some points

    • My union is IATSE [iatse-intl.org], and my particular classification is under the jurisdiction of Local 700, the Motion Picture Editor's Guild. All of the different jobs in film production are essentially under one gargantuan union (except for electricians, but this is minor). It never strikes against the industry as a whole (unlike some jerk unions I could mention), just against individual productions or producers that break the rules. [sag.org]
    • Our retirement benefits and health plan are union benefits. But UNLIKE the UAW arrangement, the health plans and retirement bennies are administered by a half labor/half producer board of directors, and there is no continuing liability to the producers. In short, once the producer pays the fringes on my weekly salary, they're never liable for another dime. The money goes into a trust and the trust pays for the health and retirement. Production companies and studios can go bankrupt left and right, but our benefits (and their liabilities) are insulated through the trust fund mechanism
    • Because most of the people in the film industry are freelancers, or because production companies and studios tend to do a LOT of hiring and firing on a just-in-time basis, my benefits follow me wherever I work in the business, as long as I work for a studio that's a signatory to the guild's collective bargaining agreement. I can work 5 months at Sony, 3 months at Disney and a month for an independent company, and as long as I work a minimum number of weeks every year I'll keep my benefits and stay up on my pension.

    The system is not without its problems: I rarely ever go to union meetings, I don't really know people that are Big Into The Union and a lot of us complain about some of its weird work rules. Many of the people in the union are very tight with management, and many people in management used to be, or are currently in the union, so there are lots of conflicts of interest and going through the formal grievance process can be politically... fraught. But the benefits, particularly the health, are excellent, completely portable, and I make a very good wage (which is important if you're trying to live in LA).

    It could be a model for IT folks if they find that suddenly the truly talented ones among them are being hired and fired in flocks and shipped across the country like cattle, which is about where the film industry was in the 1930s.

  • by jorghis (1000092) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @04:46PM (#26150579)

    Enough with the bullshit dishonesty. You don't care about secret ballots. You just hate unions. At least the unions are honest about their intentions.

    Wasnt it you who was decrying namecalling in another thread?

    I got an idea. This may be radical, but why don't you try treating employees well? Pay them a decent wage, give them good benefits and don't shit all over them. Maybe then they wouldn't want to form a union, and the vote would fail on it's own initiative.

    I think many would argue that this is exactly what most non-union companies do. Examples: Publix workers and Toyota factory workers. Both have substantially higher morale than their unionized competitors. Both have successfully resisted countless union drives. And both have higher entry level pay.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:22PM (#26151921)

    Boeing Aerospace has an engineering union. Perhaps we should ask them whether they feel it has been worthwhile or not?

    I had a good friend go to work for Boeing 20 years ago fresh out of college and join the union. His starting salary was a few $k higher than mine, but he only received a 3% raise every 18 months. I got 10-20% annual raises for the first 5 years based on performance. He's a team leader at Boeing now. I'm semi-retired after being a consultant the last 10 years.

    BTW, he had a 4.0 GPA and didn't work in college. I had a 2.8GPA but worked 30+ hours a week putting myself through engineering school.

    Unions are good for "average and below average" workers. They are not good for high performers (whatever that means), since performance usually doesn't lead to greater pay when you are in a union. Rather, time on the job does, even if you suck.

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