Microsoft Cuts Employee Benefits

Corporate America is so determined to keep its profits up at the expense of its workers that even the richest company in the world is making cuts in its benefits programs because its stock price dipped a little. Needless to say, this sign of overwhelming greed isn’t sitting well with its employees.

By TODD BISHOP
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

In announcing a series of benefit cuts last week, Microsoft Corp. asked its workers to consider the long-term value of the changes to the company and, by extension, to them, as employees and shareholders.

But many employees are having a tough time seeing it that way.

An informal poll conducted among employees on the Microsoft intranet, but not under the official auspices of the company, suggests a groundswell of opposition to the changes and an unusually strong wave of dissent in a place where employees are known for their allegiance to the corporate cause.

Although the results don’t reflect a scientific sample of the employee base, the poll had drawn nearly 3,000 responses as of yesterday, with more than 90 percent saying they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the company’s decision to alter the terms of a program through which employees buy Microsoft stock at a discount.

“This change will cost the company far more in lost morale than they could ever save,” one person wrote in response to the poll’s request for comments. Hundreds of employees left written responses on the poll, all but a few of them criticizing the changes.

“This is a very disheartening change for me,” wrote one. “I fear what may come next. It seems as if everyone is expecting a slower rate of revenue growth for MSFT. Are cuts like this going to be the norm in order for us to squeeze out profits? What gets cut next?”

(To read the rest, click the title)

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Garment Workers Force Changes

A group of garment workers and their teenage daughters forced the garment industry in Oakland, CA’s Chinatown to improve their working conditions.

By Lee Romney, LA Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — For nearly a decade, Kwei Fong Lin tolerated numbness in her forearms. Like a great many Chinese immigrants who work in this city’s cramped and poorly equipped garment factories, her neck and back ached from long days spent hunched over a sewing machine while perched on rickety folding chairs, stools or even crates.

“We just took the pain as it came,” the 52-year-old Hong Kong native said in Cantonese.

But an unlikely revolution has taken root here. Today, dozens of women work in relative comfort while seated on customized ergonomic chairs. Simple table extensions relieve their tired shoulders. Wooden footrests keep their legs from dangling. Padded sleeves cushion the metal rods they must press hundreds of times a day with their knees to clamp and release fabric.

A city grant will soon bring the ergonomic equipment to other garment shops that dot Oakland’s Chinatown and other commercial strips. And the project has spawned a much larger study now underway in Los Angeles County — the heart of California’s rag trade.

Most surprising in an industry synonymous with powerless and mistreated workers: The women made it happen. They did it with the help of a group of teenage girls tired of seeing their seamstress mothers suffer, and a team of medical professionals, ergonomics experts, state health officials and product designers.

(It’s an inspiring story and an example of what govt and industry can do together when they try.)