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DATE 2018-03-01


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Key: Value:

Key: Value:

DATE 2018-03-30
FROM Ruben Safir
SUBJECT Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Private sector discrimination enmasse

For nearly a half century, IBM came as close as any company to bearing
the torch for the American Dream.

As the world’s dominant technology firm, payrolls at International
Business Machines Corp. swelled to nearly a quarter-million U.S.
white-collar workers in the 1980s. Its profits helped underwrite a broad
agenda of racial equality, equal pay for women and an unbeatable offer
of great wages and something close to lifetime employment, all in return
for unswerving loyalty.
How the Crowd Led Us to Investigate IBM

But when high tech suddenly started shifting and companies went global,
IBM faced the changing landscape with a distinction most of its fiercest
competitors didn’t have: a large number of experienced and aging U.S.

The company reacted with a strategy that, in the words of one
confidential planning document, would “correct seniority mix.” It
slashed IBM’s U.S. workforce by as much as three-quarters from its 1980s
peak, replacing a substantial share with younger, less-experienced and
lower-paid workers and sending many positions overseas. ProPublica
estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more
than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its
estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years.

In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and
regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age
discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company
documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information
provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000
former IBM employees.

Among ProPublica’s findings, IBM:

Denied older workers information the law says they need in order to
decide whether they’ve been victims of age bias, and required them to
sign away the right to go to court or join with others to seek redress.
Targeted people for layoffs and firings with techniques that tilted
against older workers, even when the company rated them high performers.
In some instances, the money saved from the departures went toward
hiring young replacements.
Converted job cuts into retirements and took steps to boost
resignations and firings. The moves reduced the number of employees
counted as layoffs, where high numbers can trigger public disclosure
Encouraged employees targeted for layoff to apply for other IBM
positions, while quietly advising managers not to hire them and
requiring many of the workers to train their replacements.
Told some older employees being laid off that their skills were out
of date, but then brought them back as contract workers, often for the
same work at lower pay and fewer benefits.

IBM declined requests for the numbers or age breakdown of its job cuts.
ProPublica provided the company with a 10-page summary of its findings
and the evidence on which they were based. IBM spokesman Edward Barbini
said that to respond the company needed to see copies of all documents
cited in the story, a request ProPublica could not fulfill without
breaking faith with its sources. Instead, ProPublica provided IBM with
detailed descriptions of the paperwork. Barbini declined to address the
documents or answer specific questions about the firm’s policies and
practices, and instead issued the following statement:

“We are proud of our company and our employees’ ability to reinvent
themselves era after era, while always complying with the law. Our
ability to do this is why we are the only tech company that has not only
survived but thrived for more than 100 years.”

With nearly 400,000 people worldwide, and tens of thousands still in the
U.S., IBM remains a corporate giant. How it handles the shift from its
veteran baby-boom workforce to younger generations will likely influence
what other employers do. And the way it treats its experienced workers
will eventually affect younger IBM employees as they too age.

Fifty years ago, Congress made it illegal with the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act, or ADEA, to treat older workers differently than younger
ones with only a few exceptions, such as jobs that require special
physical qualifications. And for years, judges and policymakers treated
the law as essentially on a par with prohibitions against discrimination
on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and other categories.

In recent decades, however, the courts have responded to corporate pleas
for greater leeway to meet global competition and satisfy investor
demands for rising profits by expanding the exceptions and shrinking the
protections against age bias.

“Age discrimination is an open secret like sexual harassment was until
recently,” said Victoria Lipnic, the acting chair of the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, the independent federal
agency that administers the nation’s workplace anti-discrimination laws.

“Everybody knows it’s happening, but often these cases are difficult to
prove” because courts have weakened the law, Lipnic said. “The fact
remains it’s an unfair and illegal way to treat people that can be
economically devastating.”

Many companies have sought to take advantage of the court rulings. But
the story of IBM’s downsizing provides an unusually detailed portrait of
how a major American corporation systematically identified employees to
coax or force out of work in their 40s, 50s and 60s, a time when many
are still productive and need a paycheck, but face huge hurdles finding
anything like comparable jobs.

The dislocation caused by IBM’s cuts has been especially great because
until recently the company encouraged its employees to think of
themselves as “IBMers” and many operated under the assumption that they
had career-long employment.

When the ax suddenly fell, IBM provided almost no information about why
an employee was cut or who else was departing, leaving people to piece
together what had happened through websites, listservs and Facebook
groups such as “Watching IBM” or “Geographically Undesirable IBM
Marketers,” as well as informal support groups.

Marjorie Madfis, at the time 57, was a New York-based digital marketing
strategist and 17-year IBM employee when she and six other members of
her nine-person team — all women in their 40s and 50s — were laid off in
July 2013. The two who remained were younger men.

Since her specialty was one that IBM had said it was expanding, she
asked for a written explanation of why she was let go. The company
declined to provide it.
Marjorie Madfis was among seven women in their 40s and 50s laid off from
their IBM marketing team in White Plains, New York, in 2013. The two
members who remained were younger men. “The only explanation is our
age,” says Madfis. (Demetrius Freeman for ProPublica)

“They got rid of a group of highly skilled, highly effective, highly
respected women, including me, for a reason nobody knows,” Madfis said
in an interview. “The only explanation is our age.”

Brian Paulson, also 57, a senior manager with 18 years at IBM, had been
on the road for more than a year overseeing hundreds of workers across
two continents as well as hitting his sales targets for new services,
when he got a phone call in October 2015 telling him he was out. He said
the caller, an executive who was not among his immediate managers, cited
“performance” as the reason, but refused to explain what specific
aspects of his work might have fallen short.

It took Paulson two years to land another job, even though he was
equipped with an advanced degree, continuously employed at high-level
technical jobs for more than three decades and ready to move anywhere
from his Fairview, Texas, home.

“It’s tough when you’ve worked your whole life,” he said. “The company
doesn’t tell you anything. And once you get to a certain age, you don’t
hear a word from the places you apply.”

Paul Henry, a 61-year-old IBM sales and technical specialist who loved
being on the road, had just returned to his Columbus home from a
business trip in August 2016 when he learned he’d been let go. When he
asked why, he said an executive told him to “keep your mouth shut and go

Henry was jobless more than a year, ran through much of his savings to
cover the mortgage and health insurance and applied for more than 150
jobs before he found a temporary slot.

“If you’re over 55, forget about preparing for retirement,” he said in
an interview. “You have to prepare for losing your job and burning
through every cent you’ve saved just to get to retirement.”

IBM’s latest actions aren’t anything like what most ex-employees with
whom ProPublica talked expected from their years of service, or what
today’s young workers think awaits them — or are prepared to deal with —
later in their careers.

“In a fast-moving economy, employers are always going to be tempted to
replace older workers with younger ones, more expensive workers with
cheaper ones, those who’ve performed steadily with ones who seem to be
up on the latest thing,” said Joseph Seiner, an employment law professor
at the University of South Carolina and former appellate attorney for
the EEOC.

“But it’s not good for society,” he added. “We have rules to try to
maintain some fairness in our lives, our age-discrimination laws among
them. You can’t just disregard them.”
‘Old Heads’ Needn’t Apply

For much of its history, IBM viewed its fate and that of its
predominantly U.S. workforce as inseparable. By the late 1960s, the
company’s grip on the mainframe computer business had grown so great the
Justice Department sued it for monopolizing the industry, a case that
dragged on for years before being dropped as “without merit.” Such
dominance convinced executives they could deliver extraordinary
workplace stability in return for loyal service.

“When recessions occur or there is a major product shift, some companies
handle the resulting workforce imbalances by letting people go,”
explained an employee handbook of the 1980s. By contrast, IBM “retrains,
reassigns and even relocates employees.”

For their part, continued the handbook, employees must be “flexible,
willing to change, work overtime, and adapt to new situations quickly.”
The logic behind the bargain was that “people are a treasured resource.”
At IBM, “they are treated like one.”

But within a decade, IBM had stumbled not once but three times, in ways
that would come to cost both the company and its workers. First, it
failed to appreciate the “major product shift” behind a new chip
technology that first entered people’s lives as the guts of pocket
calculators and cheap digital watches and was making possible
increasingly powerful and networked personal computers that undercut the
company’s mainframe business. Second, it misjudged its employees’
reaction to switching to a kind of pension that no longer rewarded
older, long-service workers. IBM workers responded with a lawsuit that
forced the company to settle by paying more than $300 million and
reinstating expensive traditional pensions for more than 100,000 of them.

And by the early years of the new century, IBM was falling behind again
by failing to quickly devise innovative uses for the internet like its
new rivals, Google, Facebook and Amazon. As it slipped, the company
began having second thoughts about the price of unbending loyalty to its
long-serving workforce.
This excerpt from a 2006 IBM Business Consulting Services paper titled
“The Maturing Workforce” refers to baby-boomer employees as “gray hairs”
and “old heads.” Read the full report.

In a little-noticed paper issued in 2006 by the London office of one of
the company’s consulting arms, executives praised boomers’ experience,
but described them as “gray hairs” and “old heads.” While recognizing
that older workers were important to high-tech employers such as IBM, it
concluded that “successor generations … are generally much more
innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers.”

The paper was subsequently cited in an age discrimination lawsuit in
U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before the complaint was settled
last year, the plaintiffs alleged in a filing: “IBM’s Boomer employees —
being labeled by IBM’s own research as uncollaborative, skeptical of
leadership, technologically unsophisticated, less innovative and
generally out of touch with IBM’s brand, customers and objectives — were
shown the door in droves.”

By the time IBM’s current CEO, Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, took over in
2012, the company had shifted its personnel focus to millennials.

Rometty launched a major overhaul that aimed to make IBM a major player
in the emerging technologies of cloud services, big data analytics,
mobile, security and social media, or what came to be known inside as CAMS.

At the same time, she sought to sharply increase hiring of people born
after 1980.

“CAMS are driven by Millennial Traits,” declared a slide presentation
for an invitation-only IBM event in New York in December 2014. Not only
were millennials in sync with the new technologies, but they were also
attuned to the collaborative, consensus-driven modes of work these
technologies demanded, company researchers said they’d discovered.
Millennials “are not likely to make decisions in isolation,” the
presentation said, but instead “depend on analytic technologies to help

By contrast, people 50 or over are “more dubious” of analytics, “place
less stock in the advantages data offers,” and are less “motivated to
consult their colleagues or get their buy in … It’s Baby Boomers who are
the outliers.”

The message was clear. To succeed at the new technologies, the company
must, in the words of the presentation, “become one with the Millennial
mindset.” Similar language found its way into a variety of IBM
presentations in subsequent years.

Even before the New York conference, IBM had begun a major effort to
recruit millennial employees. It launched a blog, “The Millennial
Experience,” and a hashtag on Twitter, #IBMillennial.” It began an
online and print advertising campaign primarily featuring young people.
It established a “Millennial Corps,” a network of more than 5,000 young
IBMers whom Rometty and other top executives said they’d regularly
consult before making business decisions. And it sharply improved
benefits, like parental leave, especially important to younger employees.

Its initiatives won IBM plaudits from women’s groups; lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender organizations; human rights and disability
associations; indeed advocates for just about every class of people
protected under U.S. equal employment opportunity laws.

And the entire effort was guided by something that then-IBM brand
strategist Bill Grady told the 2014 conference: “What’s good for
Millennials is good for everyone.”
Exit Strategy

As IBM trained its sights on younger workers, it also took steps to
change the way it dealt with those who’d spent many years on the job. It
embraced a legal strategy that made it much easier for the company to
dismiss older workers, and to do so in ways that minimized legal
consequences and largely avoided public attention.

Until 2014, IBM had provided two lists to workers getting laid off. One
showed the positions and ages, but not the names, of all the people laid
off from their business units at the same time. The other showed the
positions and ages of all those staying on. For example, Madfis, the
digital marketing strategist, got a list when she was let go in July 2013.

Such lists are common in corporate layoffs, thanks to a disclosure
requirement added to the ADEA in 1990. The reason for the new rule was
that virtually all employers had begun making severance pay and other
parting benefits contingent on a laid-off worker signing away the right
to sue the company. Congress wanted to make sure that before employees
signed such waivers they understood enough to make “knowing and
voluntary” decisions about whether they might have been targeted because
of their age.

IBM complied with the disclosure requirement for more than two decades.
As a result, even when the company stopped disclosing its U.S.
employment totals — and thus its job cuts — the numbers still became
known as employees collected and tallied the number of layoffs from
lists provided to workers by various company units.
One Departure, Two Letters
Just a few months after receiving a layoff notice, the same employee
received a congratulatory letter about retiring.

So after it ran into political flak for its workforce reductions, IBM
decided to stop giving out the lists. When Diane Moos, 62, of Long
Beach, California, lost her job as a systems security specialist in May
2016, she had no way of knowing how many people had been laid off with
her, or their ages.

IBM spokesman Doug Shelton said at the time the company was acting out
of concern for its workers who had complained the disclosures “infringed
on employee privacy” — even though the lists contained no names.

How did IBM get around the legal requirement for the disclosures? With a
move that even critics acknowledge is ingenious.

The company’s pre-2014 layoff documents required employees receiving
severance to waive all bias claims based on “race, national origin,
ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy,
marital status, age … disability, medical condition, or veteran status.”
The new documents deleted “age” from the waiver list. In fact, they
specifically said employees were not waiving their right when it came to
age and could pursue age discrimination cases against the company.

But, the new documents added, employees had to waive the right to take
their age cases to court. Instead, they had to pursue them through
private arbitration. What’s more, they had to keep them confidential and
pursue them alone. They couldn’t join with other workers to make a case.

With the new documents in place, IBM was no longer asking laid-off
workers to sign away their right to complain about age bias so, the
company’s lawyers told the EEOC, the disclosure requirement in the 1990
amendments to the age act no longer applied.

Critics say the company’s argument is hard to square with the statute’s
clear requirements.

“You have a law that says older workers being laid off need this
information and employers are obligated to provide it. You have a
company that’s not providing it,” said David Lopez, the former general
counsel for the EEOC. “How can this not be undercutting the intent of
the law?”

In their relationships with both workers and customers, American
corporations are making increasingly heavy use of arbitration,
contending the process is fair and saves all parties time and legal
costs. The Supreme Court has repeatedly expanded the right of companies
to require that disputes be settled by arbitrators rather than judges.

When it comes to employment claims, studies have found that arbitrators
overwhelmingly favor employers. Research by Cornell University law and
labor relations specialist Alexander Colvin found that workers win only
19 percent of the time when their cases are arbitrated. By contrast,
they win 36 percent of the time when they go to federal court, and 57
percent in state courts. Average payouts when an employee wins follow a
similar pattern.

Given those odds, and having signed away their rights to go to court,
some laid-off IBM workers have chosen the one independent forum
companies can’t deny them: the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. That’s where Moos, the Long Beach systems security
specialist, and several of her colleagues, turned for help when they
were laid off. In their complaints to the agency, they said they’d
suffered age discrimination because of the company’s effort to
“drastically change the IBM employee age mix … to be seen as a startup.”

In its formal reply to the EEOC, IBM said that age couldn’t have been a
factor in their dismissals. Among the reasons it cited: The managers who
decided on the layoffs were in their 40s and therefore older too.
Tilting the Table

Whether IBM is staying within U.S. age laws as it cuts from and adds to
its workforce turns largely on how and why the company chooses
individuals to be eliminated. While executives say they never target
older workers, internal company documents and interviews suggest otherwise.

Consider, for example, a planning presentation that former IBM
executives said was drafted by heads of a business unit carved out of
IBM’s once-giant software group and charged with pursuing the “C,” or
cloud, portion of the company’s CAMS strategy.

The presentation laid out plans for substantially altering the unit’s
workforce. It was shown to company leaders including Diane Gherson, the
senior vice president for human resources, and James Kavanaugh, recently
elevated to chief financial officer. Its language was couched in the
argot of “resources,” IBM’s term for employees, and “EP’s,” its
shorthand for early professionals or recent college graduates.

Among the goals: “Shift headcount mix towards greater % of Early
Professional hires.”

Among the means: “[D]rive a more aggressive performance management
approach to enable us to hire and replace where needed, and fund an
influx of EPs to correct seniority mix.”

Among the expected results: “[A] significant reduction in our workforce
of 2,500 resources.”

A slide from a similar presentation prepared last spring for the same
leaders called for “re-profiling current talent” to “create room for new
talent.” Presentations for 2015 and 2016 for the 50,000-employee
software group also included plans for “aggressive performance
management” and emphasized the need to “maintain steady attrition to
offset hiring.”

IBM declined to answer questions about whether either presentation was
turned into company policy. The description of the planned moves matches
what hundreds of older ex-employees told ProPublica they believe
happened to them: They were ousted because of their age. The company
used their exits to hire replacements, many of them young; to ship their
work overseas; or to cut its overall headcount.

Ed Alpern, now 65, of Austin, started his 39-year run with IBM as a
Selectric typewriter repairman. He ended as a project manager in October
of 2016 when, he said, his manager told him he could either leave with
severance and other parting benefits or be given a bad job review —
something he said he’d never previously received — and risk being fired
without them.

Albert Poggi, now 70, was a three-decade IBM veteran and ran the
company’s Palisades, New York, technical center where clients can test
new products. When notified in November of 2016 he was losing his job to
layoff, he asked his bosses why, given what he said was a history of
high job ratings. “They told me,” he said, “they needed to fill it with
someone newer.”

The presentations from the software group, as well as the stories of
ex-employees like Alpern and Poggi, square with internal documents from
two other major IBM business units. The documents for all three cover
some or all of the years from 2013 through the beginning of 2018 and
deal with job assessments, hiring, firing and layoffs.

The documents detail practices that appear at odds with how IBM says it
treats its employees. In many instances, the practices in effect, if not
intent, tilt against the company’s older U.S. workers.

For example, IBM spokespeople and lawyers have said the company never
considers a worker’s age in making decisions about layoffs or firings.

But one 2014 document reviewed by ProPublica includes dates of birth. An
ex-IBM employee familiar with the process said executives from one
business unit used it to decide about layoffs or other job changes for
nearly a thousand workers, almost two-thirds of them over 50.

Documents from subsequent years show that young workers are protected
from cuts for at least a limited period of time. A 2016 slide
presentation prepared by the company’s global technology services unit,
titled “U.S. Resource Action Process” and used to guide managers in
layoff procedures, includes bullets for categories considered
“ineligible” for layoff. Among them: “early professional hires,” meaning
recent college graduates.
This slide, from an invitation-only IBM conference in New York in
December 2014, suggests that the company’s future success in marketing
emerging technologies depended on how well it understood and embraced
the generation born after 1980.

In responding to age-discrimination complaints that ex-employees file
with the EEOC, lawyers for IBM say that front-line managers make all
decisions about who gets laid off, and that their decisions are based
strictly on skills and job performance, not age.

But ProPublica reviewed spreadsheets that indicate front-line managers
hardly acted alone in making layoff calls. Former IBM managers said the
spreadsheets were prepared for upper-level executives and kept
continuously updated. They list hundreds of employees together with
codes like “lift and shift,” indicating that their jobs were to be
lifted from them and shifted overseas, and details such as whether IBM’s
clients had approved the change.

An examination of several of the spreadsheets suggests that, whatever
the criteria for assembling them, the resulting list of those marked for
layoff was skewed toward older workers. A 2016 spreadsheet listed more
than 400 full-time U.S. employees under the heading “REBAL,” which
refers to “rebalancing,” the process that can lead to laying off workers
and either replacing them or shifting the jobs overseas. Using the job
search site LinkedIn, ProPublica was able to locate about 100 of these
employees and then obtain their ages through public records. Ninety
percent of those found were 40 or older. Seventy percent were over 50.

IBM frequently cites its history of encouraging diversity in its
responses to EEOC complaints about age discrimination. “IBM has been a
leader in taking positive actions to ensure its business opportunities
are made available to individuals without regard to age, race, color,
gender, sexual orientation and other categories,” a lawyer for the
company wrote in a May 2017 letter. “This policy of non-discrimination
is reflected in all IBM business activities.”

But ProPublica found at least one company business unit using a point
system that disadvantaged older workers. The system awarded points for
attributes valued by the company. The more points a person garnered,
according to the former employee, the more protected she or he was from
layoff or other negative job change; the fewer points, the more vulnerable.

The arrangement appears on its face to favor younger newcomers over
older veterans. Employees were awarded points for being relatively new
at a job level or in a particular role. Those who worked for IBM for
fewer years got more points than those who’d been there a long time.

The ex-employee familiar with the process said a 2014 spreadsheet from
that business unit, labeled “IBM Confidential,” was assembled to assess
the job prospects of more than 600 high-level employees, two-thirds of
them from the U.S. It included employees’ years of service with IBM,
which the former employee said was used internally as a proxy for age.
Also listed was an assessment by their bosses of their career
trajectories as measured by the highest job level they were likely to
attain if they remained at the company, as well as their point scores.

The tilt against older workers is evident when employees’ years of
service are compared with their point scores. Those with no points and
therefore most vulnerable to layoff had worked at IBM an average of more
than 30 years; those with a high number of points averaged half that.

Perhaps even more striking is the comparison between employees’ service
years and point scores on the one hand and their superiors’ assessments
of their career trajectories on the other.

Along with many American employers, IBM has argued it needs to shed
older workers because they’re no longer at the top of their games or
lack “contemporary” skills.

But among those sized up in the confidential spreadsheet, fully 80
percent of older employees — those with the most years of service but no
points and therefore most vulnerable to layoff — were rated by superiors
as good enough to stay at their current job levels or be promoted. By
contrast, only a small percentage of younger employees with a high
number of points were similarly rated.

“No major company would use tools to conduct a layoff where a
disproportionate share of those let go were African Americans or women,”
said Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior attorney adviser with the EEOC and
former director of age litigation for the senior lobbying giant AARP.
“There’s no difference if the tools result in a disproportionate share
being older workers.”

In addition to the point system that disadvantaged older workers in
layoffs, other documents suggest that IBM has made increasingly
aggressive use of its job-rating machinery to pave the way for
straight-out firings, or what the company calls “management-initiated
separations.” Internal documents suggest that older workers were
especially targets.

Like in many companies, IBM employees sit down with their managers at
the start of each year and set goals for themselves. IBM graded on a
scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being top-ranked.
Eroding Protection Under the Law

Older Americans who face discrimination on the job can’t rely on the
courts as much as earlier generations did. Read more.

Those rated as 3 or 4 were given formal short-term goals known as
personal improvement plans, or PIPs. Historically many managers were
lenient, especially toward those with 3s whose ratings had dropped
because of forces beyond their control, such as a weakness in the
overall economy, ex-employees said.

But within the past couple of years, IBM appears to have decided the
time for leniency was over. For example, a software group planning
document for 2015 said that, over and above layoffs, the unit should
seek to fire about 3,000 of the unit’s 50,000-plus workers.

To make such deep cuts, the document said, executives should strike an
“aggressive performance management posture.” They needed to double the
share of employees given low 3 and 4 ratings to at least 6.6 percent of
the division’s workforce. And because layoffs cost the company more than
outright dismissals or resignations, the document said, executives
should make sure that more than 80 percent of those with low ratings get
fired or forced to quit.

Finally, the 2015 document said the division should work “to attract the
best and brightest early professionals” to replace up to two-thirds of
those sent packing. A more recent planning document — the presentation
to top executives Gherson and Kavanaugh for a business unit carved out
of the software group — recommended using similar techniques to free up
money by cutting current employees to fund an “influx” of young workers.

In a recent interview, Poggi said he was resigned to being laid off.
“Everybody at IBM has a bullet with their name on it,” he said. Alpern
wasn’t nearly as accepting of being threatened with a poor job rating
and then fired.

Alpern had a particular reason for wanting to stay on at IBM, at least
until the end of last year. His younger son, Justin, then a high school
senior, had been named a National Merit semifinalist. Alpern wanted him
to be able to apply for one of the company’s Watson scholarships. But
IBM had recently narrowed eligibility so only the children of current
employees could apply, not also retirees as it was until 2014.

Alpern had to make it through December for his son to be eligible.

But in August, he said, his manager ordered him to retire. He sought to
buy time by appealing to superiors. But he said the manager’s response
was to threaten him with a bad job review that, he was told, would land
him on a PIP, where his work would be scrutinized weekly. If he failed
to hit his targets — and his managers would be the judges of that — he’d
be fired and lose his benefits.

Alpern couldn’t risk it; he retired on Oct. 31. His son, now a freshman
on the dean’s list at Texas A&M University, didn’t get to apply.

“I can think of only a couple regrets or disappointments over my 39
years at IBM,”” he said, “and that’s one of them.”
’Congratulations on Your Retirement!’

Like any company in the U.S., IBM faces few legal constraints to
reducing the size of its workforce. And with its no-disclosure strategy,
it eliminated one of the last regular sources of information about its
employment practices and the changing size of its American workforce.

But there remained the question of whether recent cutbacks were big
enough to trigger state and federal requirements for disclosure of
layoffs. And internal documents, such as a slide in a 2016 presentation
titled “Transforming to Next Generation Digital Talent,” suggest
executives worried that “winning the talent war” for new young workers
required IBM to improve the “attractiveness of (its) culture and work
environment,” a tall order in the face of layoffs and firings.

So the company apparently has sought to put a softer face on its
cutbacks by recasting many as voluntary rather than the result of
decisions by the firm. One way it has done this is by converting many
layoffs to retirements.

Some ex-employees told ProPublica that, faced with a layoff notice, they
were just as happy to retire. Others said they felt forced to accept a
retirement package and leave. Several actively objected to the company
treating their ouster as a retirement. The company nevertheless
processed their exits as such.

Project manager Ed Alpern’s departure was treated in company paperwork
as a voluntary retirement. He didn’t see it that way, because the
alternative he said he was offered was being fired outright.

Lorilynn King, a 55-year-old IT specialist who worked from her home in
Loveland, Colorado, had been with IBM almost as long as Alpern by May
2016 when her manager called to tell her the company was conducting a
layoff and her name was on the list.

King said the manager told her to report to a meeting in Building 1 on
IBM’s Boulder campus the following day. There, she said, she found
herself in a group of other older employees being told by an IBM human
resources representative that they’d all be retiring. “I have NO
intention of retiring,” she remembers responding. “I’m being laid off.”

ProPublica has collected documents from 15 ex-IBM employees who got
layoff notices followed by a retirement package and has talked with many
others who said they received similar paperwork. Critics say the
sequence doesn’t square well with the law.

“This country has banned mandatory retirement,” said Seiner, the
University of South Carolina law professor and former EEOC appellate
lawyer. “The law says taking a retirement package has to be voluntary.
If you tell somebody ‘Retire or we’ll lay you off or fire you,’ that’s
not voluntary.”

Until recently, the company’s retirement paperwork included a letter
from Rometty, the CEO, that read, in part, “I wanted to take this
opportunity to wish you well on your retirement … While you may be
retiring to embark on the next phase of your personal journey, you will
always remain a valued and appreciated member of the IBM family.”
Ex-employees said IBM stopped sending the letter last year.

IBM has also embraced another practice that leads workers, especially
older ones, to quit on what appears to be a voluntary basis. It
substantially reversed its pioneering support for telecommuting, telling
people who’ve been working from home for years to begin reporting to
certain, often distant, offices. Their other choice: Resign.

David Harlan had worked as an IBM marketing strategist from his home in
Moscow, Idaho, for 15 years when a manager told him last year of orders
to reduce the performance ratings of everybody at his pay grade. Then in
February last year, when he was 50, came an internal video from IBM’s
new senior vice president, Michelle Peluso, which announced plans to
improve the work of marketing employees by ordering them to work
“shoulder to shoulder.” Those who wanted to stay on would need to
“co-locate” to offices in one of six cities.

Early last year, Harlan received an email congratulating him on “the
opportunity to join your team in Raleigh, North Carolina.” He had 30
days to decide on the 2,600-mile move. He resigned in June.
David Harlan worked for IBM for 15 years from his home in Moscow, Idaho,
where he also runs a drama company. Early last year, IBM offered him a
choice: Move 2,600 miles to Raleigh-Durham to begin working at an
office, or resign. He left in June. (Rajah Bose for ProPublica)

After the Peluso video was leaked to the press, an IBM spokeswoman told
the Wall Street Journal that the “vast majority” of people ordered to
change locations and begin reporting to offices did so. IBM Vice
President Ed Barbini said in an initial email exchange with ProPublica
in July that the new policy affected only about 2,000 U.S. employees and
that “most” of those had agreed to move.

But employees across a wide range of company operations, from the
systems and technology group to analytics, told ProPublica they’ve also
been ordered to co-locate in recent years. Many IBMers with long service
said that they quit rather than sell their homes, pull children from
school and desert aging parents. IBM declined to say how many older
employees were swept up in the co-location initiative.

“They basically knew older employees weren’t going to do it,” said
Eileen Maroney, a 63-year-old IBM product manager from Aiken, South
Carolina, who, like Harlan, was ordered to move to Raleigh or resign.
“Older people aren’t going to move. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Like Harlan, Maroney left IBM last June.

Having people quit rather than being laid off may help IBM avoid
disclosing how much it is shrinking its U.S. workforce and where the
reductions are occurring.

Under the federal WARN Act, adopted in the wake of huge job cuts and
factory shutdowns during the 1980s, companies laying off 50 or more
employees who constitute at least one-third of an employer’s workforce
at a site have to give advance notice of layoffs to the workers, public
agencies and local elected officials.

Similar laws in some states where IBM has a substantial presence are
even stricter. California, for example, requires advanced notice for
layoffs of 50 or more employees, no matter what the share of the
workforce. New York requires notice for 25 employees who make up a third.

Because the laws were drafted to deal with abrupt job cuts at individual
plants, they can miss reductions that occur over long periods among a
workforce like IBM’s that was, at least until recently, widely dispersed
because of the company’s work-from-home policy.

IBM’s training sessions to prepare managers for layoffs suggest the
company was aware of WARN thresholds, especially in states with strict
notification laws such as California. A 2016 document entitled “Employee
Separation Processing” and labeled “IBM Confidential” cautions managers
about the “unique steps that must be taken when processing separations
for California employees.”

A ProPublica review of five years of WARN disclosures for a dozen states
where the company had large facilities that shed workers found no
disclosures in nine. In the other three, the company alerted authorities
of just under 1,000 job cuts — 380 in California, 369 in New York and
200 in Minnesota. IBM’s reported figures are well below the actual
number of jobs the company eliminated in these states, where in recent
years it has shuttered, sold off or leveled plants that once employed
vast numbers.

By contrast, other employers in the same 12 states reported layoffs last
year alone totaling 215,000 people. They ranged from giant Walmart to
Ostrom’s Mushroom Farms in Washington state.

Whether IBM operated within the rules of the WARN act, which are
notoriously fungible, could not be determined because the company
declined to provide ProPublica with details on its layoffs.
A Second Act, But Poorer

With 35 years at IBM under his belt, Ed Miyoshi had plenty of experience
being pushed to take buyouts, or early retirement packages, and refusing
them. But he hadn’t expected to be pushed last fall.

Miyoshi, of Hopewell Junction, New York, had some years earlier launched
a pilot program to improve IBM’s technical troubleshooting. With the
blessing of an IBM vice president, he was busily interviewing applicants
in India and Brazil to staff teams to roll the program out to clients

The interviews may have been why IBM mistakenly assumed Miyoshi was a
manager, and so emailed him to eliminate the one U.S.-based employee
still left in his group.

“That was me,” Miyoshi realized.

In his sign-off email to colleagues shortly before Christmas 2016,
Miyoshi, then 57, wrote: “I am too young and too poor to stop working
yet, so while this is good-bye to my IBM career, I fully expect to cross
paths with some of you very near in the future.”

He did, and perhaps sooner than his colleagues had expected; he started
as a subcontractor to IBM about two weeks later, on Jan. 3.

Miyoshi is an example of older workers who’ve lost their regular IBM
jobs and been brought back as contractors. Some of them — not Miyoshi —
became contract workers after IBM told them their skills were out of
date and no longer needed.

Employment law experts said that hiring ex-employees as contractors can
be legally dicey. It raises the possibility that the layoff of the
employee was not for the stated reason but perhaps because they were
targeted for their age, race or gender.

IBM appears to recognize the problem. Ex-employees say the company has
repeatedly told managers — most recently earlier this year — not to
contract with former employees or sign on with third-party contracting
firms staffed by ex-IBMers. But ProPublica turned up dozens of instances
where the company did just that.
Only two weeks after IBM laid him off in December 2016, Ed Miyoshi of
Hopewell Junction, New York, started work as a subcontractor to the
company. But he took a $20,000-a-year pay cut. “I’m not a millionaire,
so that’s a lot of money to me,” he says. (Demetrius Freeman for ProPublica)

Responding to a question in a confidential questionnaire from
ProPublica, one 35-year company veteran from New York said he knew
exactly what happened to the job he left behind when he was laid off.
“I’M STILL DOING IT. I got a new gig eight days after departure, working
for a third-party company under contract to IBM doing the exact same thing.”

In many cases, of course, ex-employees are happy to have another job,
even if it is connected with the company that laid them off.

Henry, the Columbus-based sales and technical specialist who’d been with
IBM’s “resiliency services” unit, discovered that he’d lost his regular
IBM job because the company had purchased an Indian firm that provided
the same services. But after a year out of work, he wasn’t going to turn
down the offer of a temporary position as a subcontractor for IBM,
relocating data centers. It got money flowing back into his household
and got him back where he liked to be, on the road traveling for business.

The compensation most ex-IBM employees make as contractors isn’t
comparable. While Henry said he collected the same dollar amount, it
didn’t include health insurance, which cost him $1,325 a month. Miyoshi
said his paycheck is 20 percent less than what he made as an IBM regular.

“I took an over $20,000 hit by becoming a contractor. I’m not a
millionaire, so that’s a lot of money to me,” Miyoshi said.

And lower pay isn’t the only problem ex-IBM employees-now-subcontractors
face. This year, Miyoshi’s payable hours have been cut by an extra 10
“furlough days.” Internal documents show that IBM repeatedly furloughs
subcontractors without pay, often for two, three or more weeks a
quarter. In some instances, the furloughs occur with little advance
notice and at financially difficult moments. In one document, for
example, it appears IBM managers, trying to cope with a cost overrun
spotted in mid-November, planned to dump dozens of subcontractors
through the end of the year, the middle of the holiday season.

Former IBM employees now on contract said the company controls costs by
notifying contractors in the midst of projects they have to take pay
cuts or lose the work. Miyoshi said that he originally started working
for his third-party contracting firm for 10 percent less than at IBM,
but ended up with an additional 10 percent cut in the middle of 2017,
when IBM notified the contractor it was slashing what it would pay.

For many ex-employees, there are few ways out. Henry, for example,
sought to improve his chances of landing a new full-time job by seeking
assistance to finish a college degree through a federal program designed
to retrain workers hurt by offshoring of jobs.

But when he contacted the Ohio state agency that administers the Trade
Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, program, which provides assistance to
workers who lose their jobs for trade-related reasons, he was told IBM
hadn’t submitted necessary paperwork. State officials said Henry could
apply if he could find other IBM employees who were laid off with him,
information that the company doesn’t provide.

TAA is overseen by the Labor Department but is operated by states under
individual agreements with Washington, so the rules can vary from state
to state. But generally employers, unions, state agencies and groups of
employers can petition for training help and cash assistance. Labor
Department data compiled by the advocacy group Global Trade Watch shows
that employers apply in about 40 percent of cases. Some groups of IBM
workers have obtained retraining funds when they or their state have
applied, but records dating back to the early 1990s show IBM itself has
applied for and won taxpayer assistance only once, in 2008, for three
Chicago-area workers whose jobs were being moved to India.
Teasing New Jobs

As IBM eliminated thousands of jobs in 2016, David Carroll, a
52-year-old Austin software engineer, thought he was safe.

His job was in mobile development, the “M” in the company’s CAMS
strategy. And if that didn’t protect him, he figured he was only four
months shy of qualifying for a program that gives employees who leave
within a year of their three-decade mark access to retiree medical
coverage and other benefits.

But the layoff notice Carroll received March 2 gave him three months —
not four — to come up with another job. Having been a manager, he said
he knew the gantlet he’d have to run to land a new position inside IBM.

Still, he went at it hard, applying for more than 50 IBM jobs, including
one for a job he’d successfully done only a few years earlier. For his
effort, he got one offer — the week after he’d been forced to depart. He
got severance pay but lost access to what would have been more generous

Edward Kishkill, then 60, of Hillsdale, New Jersey, had made a similar

A senior systems engineer, Kishkill recognized the danger of layoffs,
but assumed he was immune because he was working in systems security,
the “S” in CAMS and another hot area at the company.

The precaution did him no more good than it had Carroll. Kishkill
received a layoff notice the same day, along with 17 of the 22 people on
his systems security team, including Diane Moos. The notice said that
Kishkill could look for other jobs internally. But if he hadn’t landed
anything by the end of May, he was out.

With a daughter who was a senior in high school headed to Boston
University, he scrambled to apply, but came up dry. His last day was May
31, 2016.

For many, the fruitless search for jobs within IBM is the last straw, a
final break with the values the company still says it embraces. Combined
with the company’s increasingly frequent request that departing
employees train their overseas replacements, it has left many people
bitter. Scores of ex-employees interviewed by ProPublica said that
managers with job openings told them they weren’t allowed to hire from
layoff lists without getting prior, high-level clearance, something
that’s almost never given.

ProPublica reviewed documents that show that a substantial share of
recent IBM layoffs have involved what the company calls “lift and
shift,“ lifting the work of specific U.S. employees and shifting it to
specific workers in countries such as India and Brazil. For example, a
document summarizing U.S. employment in part of the company’s global
technology services division for 2015 lists nearly a thousand people as
layoff candidates, with the jobs of almost half coded for lift and shift.

Ex-employees interviewed by ProPublica said the lift-and-shift process
required their extensive involvement. For example, shortly after being
notified she’d be laid off, Kishkill’s colleague, Moos, was told to help
prepare a “knowledge transfer” document and begin a round of conference
calls and email exchanges with two Indian IBM employees who’d be taking
over her work. Moos said the interactions consumed much of her last
three months at IBM.
Next Chapters

While IBM has managed to keep the scale and nature of its recent U.S.
employment cuts largely under the public’s radar, the company drew some
unwanted attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, when
then-candidate Donald Trump lambasted it for eliminating 500 jobs in
Minnesota, where the company has had a presence for a half century, and
shifting the work abroad.

The company also has caught flak — in places like Buffalo, New York;
Dubuque, Iowa; Columbia, Missouri, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana — for
promising jobs in return for state and local incentives, then failing to
deliver. In all, according to public officials in those and other
places, IBM promised to bring on 3,400 workers in exchange for as much
as $250 million in taxpayer financing but has hired only about half as many.

After Trump’s victory, Rometty, in a move at least partly aimed at
courting the president-elect, pledged to hire 25,000 new U.S. employees
by 2020. Spokesmen said the hiring would increase IBM’s U.S. employment
total, although, given its continuing job cuts, the addition is unlikely
to approach the promised hiring total.

When The New York Times ran a story last fall saying IBM now has more
employees in India than the U.S., Barbini, the corporate spokesman,
rushed to declare, “The U.S. has always been and remains IBM’s center of
gravity.” But his stream of accompanying tweets and graphics focused as
much on the company’s record for racking up patents as hiring people.

IBM has long been aware of the damage its job cuts can do to people. In
a series of internal training documents to prepare managers for layoffs
in recent years, the company has included this warning: “Loss of a job …
often triggers a grief reaction similar to what occurs after a death.”

Most, though not all, of the ex-IBM employees with whom ProPublica spoke
have weathered the loss and re-invented themselves.

Marjorie Madfis, the digital marketing strategist, couldn’t land another
tech job after her 2013 layoff, so she headed in a different direction.
She started a nonprofit called Yes She Can Inc. that provides job skills
development for young autistic women, including her 21-year-old daughter.

After almost two years of looking and desperate for useful work, Brian
Paulson, the widely traveled IBM senior manager, applied for and landed
a position as a part-time rural letter carrier in Plano, Texas. He now
works as a contract project manager for a Las Vegas gaming and lottery firm.

Ed Alpern, who started at IBM as a Selectric typewriter repairman,
watched his son go on to become a National Merit Scholar at Texas A&M
University, but not a Watson scholarship recipient.

Lori King, the IT specialist and 33-year IBM veteran who’s now 56, got
in a parting shot. She added an addendum to the retirement papers the
firm gave her that read in part: “It was never my plan to retire earlier
than at least age 60 and I am not committing to retire. I have been
informed that I am impacted by a resource action effective on
2016-08-22, which is my last day at IBM, but I am NOT retiring.”

King has aced more than a year of government-funded coding boot camps
and university computer courses, but has yet to land a new job.

David Harlan still lives in Moscow, Idaho, after refusing IBM’s
“invitation” to move to North Carolina, and is artistic director of the
Moscow Art Theatre (Too).

Ed Miyoshi is still a technical troubleshooter working as a
subcontractor for IBM.

Ed Kishkill, the senior systems engineer, works part time at a local
tech startup, but pays his bills as an associate at a suburban New
Jersey Staples store.

This year, Paul Henry was back on the road, working as an IBM
subcontractor in Detroit, about 200 miles from where he lived in
Columbus. On Jan. 8, he put in a 14-hour day and said he planned to call
home before turning in. He died in his sleep.

Correction, March 24, 2018: Eileen Maroney lives in Aiken, South
Carolina. The name of her city was incorrect in the original version of
this story.
Do you have information about age discrimination at IBM?

Let us know.

Peter Gosselin joined ProPublica as a contributing reporter in January
2017 to cover aging. He has covered the U.S. and global economies for,
among others, the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe, focusing on
the lived experiences of working people. He is the author of “High Wire:
The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families.”

Ariana Tobin is an engagement reporter at ProPublica, where she works to
cultivate communities to inform our coverage. She was previously at The
Guardian and WNYC. Ariana has also worked as digital producer for APM’s
Marketplace and contributed to outlets including The New Republic, On
Being, the St. Louis Beacon and Bustle.

So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998

DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002 - Leadership Development in Free Software - Unpublished Archive - coins!

Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
Hangout mailing list

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  34. 2018-03-07 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Look Ma, I invented the internet
  35. 2018-03-07 Ruben <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Best Scam
  36. 2018-03-08 James E Keenan <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] technical meeting: Wed Mar 28 at MongoDB
  37. 2018-03-08 James E Keenan <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Perl Conference 2018 in Salt Lake City:
  38. 2018-03-06 From: "[RSS/Feed] nixCraft: Linux Tips, Hacks, Tutorials, Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] nixCraft Linux / UNIX Newsletter
  39. 2018-03-06 From: "Linux Journal Subscription" <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] March 2018 issue to be released next week!
  40. 2018-03-08 From: "Canarsie Courier" <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Inside This Week's Edition of the Canarsie Courier
  41. 2018-03-10 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Jobs are Rockerfeller University
  42. 2018-03-10 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Jobs at Colombia
  43. 2018-03-10 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] jobs at robots
  44. 2018-03-12 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Your Tax Dollars at Work
  45. 2018-03-12 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] The must significant news this week that will
  46. 2018-03-12 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] UDF Skywalker
  47. 2018-03-14 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] predictability and AI on PBS Nova
  48. 2018-03-20 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Fwd: Re: LKCAMP - Linux Kernel study group -
  49. 2018-03-20 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Fwd: [mothur] Reproducible Research Tutorials
  50. 2018-03-20 From: "Pat Schloss" <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] [mothur] Reproducible Research Tutorials with
  51. 2018-03-20 Helen Fornazier <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] LKCAMP - Linux Kernel study group - volunteers
  52. 2018-03-20 Helen Fornazier <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] LKCAMP - Linux Kernel study group - volunteers
  53. 2018-03-18 Helen Fornazier <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] LKCAMP - Linux Kernel study group - volunteers
  54. 2018-03-12 Gabor Szabo <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] [Perlweekly] #346 - Conferences, Workshops,
  55. 2018-03-19 Gabor Szabo <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] [Perlweekly] #347 - Happy belated Pi day!
  56. 2018-03-19 James E Keenan <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Help get Perl 5.28 ready: test CPAN against dev
  57. 2018-03-21 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] urgent protest
  58. 2018-03-21 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] start the revolution
  59. 2018-03-21 From: "Georgia Young, FSF" <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] LibrePlanet 2018: Last update!
  60. 2018-03-21 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] hipsters don't have kids
  61. 2018-03-22 ruben <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] DNA as a computer
  62. 2018-03-23 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Movie of the Week
  63. 2018-03-23 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Kill the Kings Highway SBS
  64. 2018-03-23 From: "Deutsch, Chaim" <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] THE DEUTSCH REPORT: News From Councilmember Chaim
  65. 2018-03-26 Gabor Szabo <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] [Perlweekly] #348 - Submit a grant application
  66. 2018-03-25 James E Keenan <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Fwd: [Perl Conference NA Announce] The Perl
  67. 2018-03-26 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] check out this con artist on reddit
  68. 2018-03-26 From: "Mancini, Sabin (DFS)" <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] check out this con artist on reddit | | Need
  69. 2018-03-27 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] New GIMP release
  70. 2018-03-27 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] This is not the NYLXS I was looking for
  71. 2018-03-27 James E Keenan <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] technical meeting: Wed Mar 28 at MongoDB
  72. 2018-03-30 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] The Dream of a Free Phone ...
  73. 2018-03-30 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Happy Peasach and Holidays
  74. 2018-03-30 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Private sector discrimination enmasse
  75. 2018-03-30 FarSight Data Systems <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] Happy Peasach and Holidays
  76. 2018-03-09 Clive Holloway <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] technical meeting: Wed Mar 28 at MongoDB
  77. 2018-03-09 Clive Holloway <> Re: [Hangout - NYLXS] technical meeting: Wed Mar 28 at MongoDB

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