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The Courts The Almighty Buck

Judge Rejects $324.5 Million Settlement For Tech Workers, Argues For More 268

Posted by timothy
from the sticking-it-to-the-men dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Reuters: A U.S. district judge on Friday ruled that the $324.5 million settlement negotiated by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe with the tech workers who brought an antitrust lawsuit against them was too low. The judge cited the settlement amount of a similar lawsuit brought against Disney and Intuit last year which resulted in plaintiffs obtaining proportionally more for lost wages. And yet, according to the judge, the current plaintiffs have "much more leverage". She cited evidence clearly showing Apple's Steve Jobs strong-arming the other companies in the suit into agreeing to a no-employee-poaching agreement, and in one instance, of Google failing to rope in Facebook into a similar agreement which resulted in a 10% increase of all Google employee salaries. In other words, clear evidence that the no-poaching agreement effectively suppressed the salaries of these companies' tech workers. Another hearing is scheduled for September 10.
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Judge Rejects $324.5 Million Settlement For Tech Workers, Argues For More

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  • by thieh (3654731) on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:25PM (#47634975)
    New talents will be nigh impossible to develop from scratch because it's the same guys who shifts between the big firms. Is it really so hard to develop talent who isn't currently working for those firms?
    • by nolife (233813) on Friday August 08, 2014 @11:37PM (#47635647) Homepage Journal

      Devolving talent and skills requires time. There is always new people coming in but they do not come in immediately to the higher level positions. They start lower and possibly work their way up. If your top performers are leaving soon after they reach that "top performer" level, you will have less top performers. So, you recognize their benefit to your company and provide better benefits to try to keep keep them happy or you illegally collude with your competition and peers to not offer benefits greater then you or flat out refuse to hire them away from each other at any cost. These companies chose the later method.

  • And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:25PM (#47634977) Homepage Journal

    how could these companies say with a straight face that they only want more H1B visa employees due to lack worker shortage and not because they're trying to find cheaper labor?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thieh (3654731)
      Their straight answer is that the industry needs more workers or otherwise they will be forced to break such agreements and push up the wages which make the other firm to go on a head hunt and jack up the wages further.
      • Re:And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:40PM (#47635099)

        How horrible! Workers should be completely disposable, just like any common tool or machinery. Only the owners are truly indispensable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by roman_mir (125474)

          It's not about who is dispensable or not, companies do not exist to hire people, they exist to make products / provide services that allow the owners to make money, that's the purpose of a company. Hiring employees becomes necessary when there is more work that can be done, where the cost of hired labour is lower than the value produced by that labour. If you make labour cost too high, less of it will be bought, because the value produced by that labour may not be enough to cover the cost and to make some

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Dutch Gun (899105)

            I'm pretty sure the reason you were modded as flamebait is that you appear to be rather sympathetic to two multi-billion dollar corporations that were illegally conspiring to suppress the true market value of the wages of their highly skilled employees. You also touched a particularly sensitive nerve by justifying the use of outsourcing, something bound to be pretty unpopular on this site, so it's not too surprising. I do agree with some of the points you made. But it's the last paragraph that's the kill


            • Despite my personal disagreement with your position, your point was stated clearly, without inflammatory language or personal attacks. Unfortunately, -1 Flamebait all too often means "I vehemently disagree with you and wish to show my displeasure / suppress your viewpoint". It's petty and narrow-minded to mod someone down just because you disagree with someone. Goodness knows we can't actually have people disagreeing about something more substantial than one's personal choice of code editor.

              This is why I ha

            • by Rockoon (1252108)

              I agree that there are too many government rules, taxes, regulations, litigation costs. But you can't use that to justify what these companies did. It was wrong, plain and simple, as well as being illegal.

              How was it "wrong" and why is "illegal" something we care about?

              Behold the ordinance of laborers [wikipedia.org] which made it illegal to "entice away" other peoples employees (and also fixed waged to low levels, and required everyone under the age of 60 to work.)

              Just because the government says its illegal that does not make it wrong. As you see here one of the first labor laws of the western world pretty much mandated exactly what these two companies were doing. It can be argued that such laws were necessary at the

              • Re:And yet (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Dutch Gun (899105) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @09:18AM (#47636989)

                As a society, we make value judgments all the time about what sort of behaviors should be allowed or prohibited when engaging in commerce. Most of them are based on nothing more than a simple application of the golden rule, or other basic tenants of morality that most societies can agree upon: Don't lie. Don't steal. Don't cheat. Etc, etc.

                I wish you luck in trying to argue that, from a moral perspective, two corporations should have the right to secretly negotiate in order to suppress their employee salaries and maximize their profits. Don't lie. Don't cheat. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

                • by khallow (566160)
                  If we're speaking of straightforward stuff, secret negotiations to collude against workers may be wrong, but they aren't lying or stealing, perhaps not cheating either. Lying is the spreading of deliberate falsehoods. Stealing is the taking of someone's property. There's no such thing going on here. Similarly, cheating indicates the business acted unfairly or dishonestly in order to gain advantage. I can see how in some moral systems, fairness can be defined to preclude collusion, but that's only a feature
              • by MrKaos (858439)

                Behold the ordinance of laborers [wikipedia.org] which made it illegal to "entice away" other peoples employees (and also fixed waged to low levels, and required everyone under the age of 60 to work.)...

                during the black plague in England in the 1300's - hardly relevant now.

                Just because the government says its illegal that does not make it wrong.

                And just because something is legal does not make it just.

                If you hold the belief that the liberty of all people should be equal, then I believe that your morality should lead you

                • by khallow (566160)

                  Well, the agreements are between corporations, not people

                  They are between the leaders of these businesses who happen to be people. It would be just as much an act of collusion between people, if none of the businesses were corporations and thus, considered "people" by your viewpoint.

          • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @12:09AM (#47635769)

            > It's not about who is dispensable or not, companies do not exist to hire people ...

            For many years I worked for a corporation that was set up primarily for the purpose of hiring people and taking care of those employees. For the last 12 months, the company has been losing money by continuing to provide health insurance and such for employees who work fewer than 12 hours per month.

            You may think that's incredibly unusual, but actually it's not because many, possibly most, corporations are set up for the purpose of hiring a very small number of people, most notably the owners. There have been many times over the last 20 years when I, as the sole shareholder, have needed to choose between making more money or doing more good for the employees and customers. I decided that money is a means to an end. The PURPOSE if making more money would be in order to better take care of the people I care about. I'd like more money because it would allow me to send my daughter to a better school. I'd like more money because it would allow me to give more to my employees and other friends. I'd like more money because it would allow me to give more to organizations such as United Way and the Crisis Pregnancy Center. Choosing between being good to people or making more money, I choose doing good because after all the whole point of more money would be to do good with it. Choosing more money would be putting the means ahead of the ends.

            • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @08:39AM (#47636847)

              the company has been losing money by continuing to provide health insurance and such for employees who work fewer than 12 hours per month.

              Offtopic maybe, but one of the reasons the USA has lost film production jobs to "socialist" places like Canada and Australia is because those health insurance costs to the company do not exist. Instead there's a slight tax markup which is far less you would expect due to not having to waste a lot of cash funnelling it through insurance fat cats before it gets anywhere near the health services.

          • by AK Marc (707885)

            companies ... exist ... to make money.

            Companies are "people." Why do people exist? Companies exist so people can pool resources to do what people do. What do people do?

            For your statement to be correct, the sole purpose of people existing must be to make a profit. That is suitably flamebait.

            The problem in USA is not that Google and Apple had agreements not to hire from each other, it's that there are so few employers at all, and that's a problem of business costs being too high thanks to government rules, taxes, regulations, litigation costs, inflation etc.

            And that's loonitarian bullshit. Lower regulations, and there are more worker deaths, and more profits, but not more jobs (except to replace the dead workers). When the minimum wage goes down, there aren't more jobs, there are fewer. When the minimum

          • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

            Flaimbait != disagree.

            There is no disagree mod for a very good reason.

            they exist to make products / provide services that allow the owners to make money,

            No, that's not strictly speaking correct. I'm assuming you're referring to limited liability entities (LLEs). LLEs exist for the sole purpose of protecting the owner's personal assetsso that they can operate the company without personal risk.

            Many of these are set up to make a profit (as are some non LLEs, like sole traders and partnerships), but by no mean

          • by geoskd (321194)

            The problem in USA is not that Google and Apple had agreements not to hire from each other, it's that there are so few employers at all, and that's a problem of business costs being too high thanks to government rules, taxes, regulations, litigation costs, inflation etc.

            No, the problem is the free market economy. Economists will tell you that the proper functioning of free markets requires several things. First, It can exist only in the presence of proper supply and demand. This requirement has a prerequisite: Scarcity. without scarcity, Supply and demand cannot work, and the free market economy adjusts to create artificial scarcity.

            This problem is compounded in the labor market, where disenfranchised individuals go on to have very high costs for society. The markets app

          • by ultranova (717540)

            It's not about who is dispensable or not, companies do not exist to hire people, they exist to make products / provide services that allow the owners to make money, that's the purpose of a company.

            People start companies to institutionalize some set of goals, typically including making money. Society supports this, for example by acknowledging the existence of a company as a legal entity, because of the side effects, such as employment. Other tie-in groups have their own reasons to either support or oppose

          • I felt the need to re-arrange a bit so the most severe issues are first.

            The problem in USA is not that Google and Apple had agreements not to hire from each other, it's that there are so few employers at all, and that's a problem of business costs being too high thanks to government rules, taxes, regulations, litigation costs, inflation etc.

            Wrong, absolutely wrong. Companies colluding to reduce employee wages is illegal and a problem. Hence the ruling and pending judgement to both reward people shafted by these illegal arrangements and punish the companies for using them.

            Have you ever interviewed for either Google or Apple? I have, and their built in exclusion process ensures that they can hire only who they want when they want. If they want to save money they hire nob

    • by Entrope (68843)

      They could say that with a straight face because the two ideas ("worker shortage" and "cheaper labor") are two sides of the same coin. If there are more workers in a market, the average (or median) salary of an arbitrary engineer goes down. By definition, a shortage exists in any market when the price exceeds what buyers would like to pay. This is essentially why the "natural rate" of unemployment is not zero: There are workers who are not willing to accept the jobs that companies are willing to offer th

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by TiggertheMad (556308)
        This is essentially why the "natural rate" of unemployment is not zero: There are workers who are not willing to accept the jobs that companies are willing to offer them.

        It is also interesting to point out that there is an 'Unemployment Rate' statistic that is computed, but I don't think there is a corresponding 'Empty Job' statistic that is tracked in a similar fashion. In a perfect world, would the only thing preventing X workers from filling the X job openings in society be the negotiated rate of pa
        • by Entrope (68843)

          Not really. People consider factors besides salary when choosing jobs -- location, fringe benefits, work content, prestige, and more -- and there are other constraints on worker/job compatibility. A married person might become a homemaker if it takes too much effort to find a job that is sufficiently attractive; moving to a different city is expensive, especially for someone who expects low earnings; an employer cannot have a workforce that consists entirely of people who are learning to be productive in

    • Re:And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602) on Friday August 08, 2014 @09:54PM (#47635323)

      The solution to H1B visa employees is to simply have combination of a wage requirement plus an annual tariff on H1B visa employees such that the total cost of the H1B visa employee is higher than the median employee costs.

      If the companies still want H1B visa employees then there is a genuine shortage, and they'll pay what it takes to get employees.

      If suddenly they don't want piles H1B visas and start hiring locally, well.. that tells us there wasn't really a shortage.

      Given H1B employees tend to get paid less though, I expect that's the main reason they are desirable.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Even better is to require the company to hire a local worker at equal wages who produce nothing. The premise of H1B is that there are no local workers with the correct skill set to do the job. let the company hire all the H1Bs that they want. Just make them pay full wages to a local worker to train them to do the job. Given that this will double the pay that the companies claim is the prevailing wage, even if they are driving wages down, it will still cost them significantly more than just a local worke
      • by phorm (591458)

        Even at wage/cost parity, it still might not cover the benefit of having an employee who is beholden to the company and less likely to report unpaid overtime and/or poor working conditions etc.

        Look at the situation in Canada with TFW's. Approximately the same pay, but employees were benefiting from the ability to shaft employees while holding the "we'll pull your work visa if you don't tow the line" card.

        • Re:And yet (Score:5, Interesting)

          by JanneM (7445) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @01:33AM (#47635989) Homepage

          Given the premises of this thread (the costs and salaries of work immigration need to be controlled by the state), here a half-serious suggestion:

          Have work immigrants be employed by your federal govermnent, not by the company they work for. The immigrant reports their working hours and conditions to the government, and they get their salary paid out from there. The government dispatches the worker to the company, and get the salary and other costs paid back from them.

          The great benefit is that the worker is no longer there at the mercy of the company, and has no incentive to accept bad conditions or missing pay checks from them. And in any labour dispute they have the backing of a major legal and administrative organization. The government gets a clear view of exactly who the work immigrants are and what they do for their employers. The companies are relieved of some of the responsibility for these workers. Everybody has a common, single point of focus where they can turn in case of problems.

          • The only problem with your solution is that you are still assuming that the government works for the people. Government works for lobbies, and people are not a lobby.

          • by sysrammer (446839)

            Interesting suggestion. It would solve some problems. Of course, it seems every time we solve a problem we create a problem.

            Junglee has a point in his reply. Governments can be just as perverted as corporations, just as can be people.

            Business owners won't be happy because they won't be able to pay less-than-minimum wage. To them, this will be the evil govt taking their rights (profits) away from them.

            Unless the workers were somehow subsidized. Maybe they can work out some kind of business welfare system lik

    • by Livius (318358)

      They only hire people really, really good at the straight face.

      (Or they're actually mentally ill from the cognitive dissonance.)

  • by redelm (54142) on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:37PM (#47635059) Homepage

    Settlement? What settlement? This is a prima facie Clayton Act Anti-Trust violation. Multiple felonies, with jailtime due. Amazingly, this appearently exists on paper, so everyone who negotiated or signed it should go to jail.

    The Clayton Act makes organizing supplier boycotts a prohibited activity. And that's just what they have done -- organized a boycott not to hire an employee, times the collective number.

    That this has not gone to a Federal Grand Jury appears more like corruption than anything else.

    • by Entrope (68843)

      How was it a boycott if the engineers in question still had jobs?

      • by redelm (54142)
        Some of those with jobs might have tried to leave! Most likely to escape poor supervisors.
        • by Entrope (68843)

          Those who tried to leave probably succeeded. Can you cite to a single case where this anti-poaching agreement prevented an active searcher from getting a job offer?

          • by redelm (54142)
            Probably easy to find for the DoJ. Ask jobchangers. But not necessary. Anti-Trust law is highly unusual -- the govt does not need to prove harm, and it is much closer to "guilty until proven innocent". Just ask the oilcos.
            • by Entrope (68843)

              Yeah, I figured you had nothing.

              Standard Oil and Ma Bell were broken up because they exploited monopoly power. There's nothing remotely similar for tech employers. You claimed there was some kind of supplier boycott, I pointed out that there obviously wasn't one in the usual sense, and you fell back to "maybe this kind of harm happened, you can't prove it didn't!"

    • The Clayton Act only applies when someone applies it. If you were wronged by these people, bring suit under the Clayton Act and have at them.

      Unfortunately, if you're just a bystander, or the statute of limitations has run out, or you have accepted other settlement in the matter, you can't.

    • by eth1 (94901)

      Settlement? What settlement? This is a prima facie Clayton Act Anti-Trust violation. Multiple felonies, with jailtime due. Amazingly, this appearently exists on paper, so everyone who negotiated or signed it should go to jail.

      The Clayton Act makes organizing supplier boycotts a prohibited activity. And that's just what they have done -- organized a boycott not to hire an employee, times the collective number.

      That this has not gone to a Federal Grand Jury appears more like corruption than anything else.

      By that argument, everyone in a union belongs in jail, too.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        By that argument, everyone in a union belongs in jail, too.

        Strikes are not boycotts. You don't buy labor, you hire it. HTH, HAND.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by pitchpipe (708843)

      That this has not gone to a Federal Grand Jury appears more like corruption than anything else.

      You're just noticing that there is corruption that goes on in favor of big business with impunity in the US? What are you, a fucking Republican?

    • by Thruen (753567)
      While I completely agree and feel a handful of people should get locked up for this, I'm no longer shocked to see laws and punishments not being applied fairly to corporations. It wasn't long ago we saw a company get away with killing three hundred people. [nytimes.com]
  • by MonsterMasher (518641) <Steven.Work@uvm.edu> on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:37PM (#47635061)

    Damn right it's too low!
    .
    Those bastards need to spend time behind f.ing bars, when you consider the pain ans suffering, moving, family brake-ups and suicides this kind of shit ends up doing to people, mostly men.
    .
    F.ing Tech companies of this size .. just go through top admin, and ALL boards of Directors, and take a vote for each manager, and nail there testicles or pussylips to boards and hall them up in the air ..
    .
    and let those that suffered, or anyone in the tech industry a bottle of salt water they can use to clean these people's wounds as they hang.. and tell them how it made you feel, to live with too little money .. they will pay attention if you spray when their eye's move away..
    .
    Thank them one for me!

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday August 08, 2014 @09:06PM (#47635169)

    and now we just use H-1B they don't complain about there pay or hours they don't even want to rock the boat as if they get fired they have to get out of the usa right way.

    It's time for an union in IT RIGHT NOW.

    • There's a local shop that hires a mix of experienced developers, kids still in college, and H1Bs... they have horrendous turnover (average tenure 1 year is because the H1Bs stay put. The college kids bolt at first opportunity, and the experienced ones seems to find better things fairly often too...

  • The lawyers are going to make a yacht-load of money off of this. Will the actual plaintiffs get anything or will they get coupons for discounts on cellphone cases?

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