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Apple, Google Go On Trial For Wage Fixing On May 27 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-tickets-now dept.
theodp writes: "PandoDaily's Mark Ames reports that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has denied the final attempt by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the class action lawsuit over hiring collusion practices tossed. The wage fixing trial is slated to begin on May 27. 'It's clearly in the defendants' interests to have this case shut down before more damaging revelations come out,' writes Ames. (Pixar, Intuit and LucasFilm have already settled.) The wage fixing cartel, which allegedly involved dozens of companies and affected one million employees, also reportedly affected innovation. 'One the most interesting misconceptions I've heard about the "Techtopus" conspiracy,' writes Ames of Google's agreement to cancel plans for an engineering center in Paris after Jobs expressed disapproval, 'is that, while these secret deals to fix recruiting were bad (and illegal), they were also needed to protect innovation by keeping teams together while avoiding spiraling costs.' Ames adds, 'In a field as critical and competitive as smartphones, Google's R&D strategy was being dictated, not by the company's board, or by its shareholders, but by a desire not to anger the CEO of a rival company.'"
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Apple, Google Go On Trial For Wage Fixing On May 27

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  • I am just simple. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:11PM (#46612301)
    But is it really worth the virtually inevitable lawsuit for a company as successful as the defendants in this case to cheat the backbone of their operations out of a fair wage (because a fare wage is what the Carnies make) betting on the statistically improbable scenario that no law firm nowhere will pick the cause up for three quarters of the pie?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:18PM (#46612335)

      Obviously, they thought they were above the law.

      They might be right. Judge Koh has declined to dismiss the case, but there will still be a trial, and after that, two rounds of appeals. They might get away with it.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by LordLimecat (1103839)

        Obviously, they thought they were above the law.

        Yes, thats exactly what they ruled in court.

        Wait, this hasnt gone to trial yet? Maybe they should have just asked you whether the parties are guilty or not, since you seem to have it figured out.

        After such nonsense as the Duke Lacrosse trial or the various "hes a rapist oh wait nevermind" cases where someone's life is ruined by a false accusation, you'd think people would learn to wait until AFTER the trial to break out the pitchforks. But then again you cant ever estimate just how knee-jerk internet post

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Wait, so what was http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/press_releases/2010/262648.htm ?

          Go away, corporatist shill.

          • You're EXACTLY right. Im simultaneously shilling for Apple, Microsoft, and Google.

            Or maybe, not knowing all the facts, not knowing whether anti-poaching agreements are legal, and not knowing whether the emails referenced in the article are legit, Id rather wait to see if this is complete BS (no stranger to slashdot) or whether theres any substance here. If you want to blindly trust every headline you come across on slashdot, go right ahead, just dont be surprised when you end up with a remarkably wacky wo

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Obviously, they thought they were above the law.

        They are above the law. If you are just an average citizen, and you do something illegal, the militarized police will come and break down your door, shoot your pets, and throw you in jail. After selling everything you own worth anything to try and save your sorry ass, you'll be found guilty, then sent to prison, where you will very likely be raped and beaten. In the process, you will lose your job, you will lose your home, most likely any material possessions

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @11:11PM (#46612961)

        Have you ever seen the penalty for something like this cost a company more than they saved by breaking the law in the first place? They've already won.

        • In terms of dollars? Sure.

          In terms of talent? Nope.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Not a company but Birmingham Council ended up paying out a lot more than they saved by paying women less than men for decades. I'm pretty sure that even in the US they would have to pay out what they saved to the employees who were affected, although calculating that amount would be very difficult.

          Or do you mean that they won't even have to make the legally mandated restitution?

      • Exactly. The only way something like this will stop is if a large punitive damage is awarded or the executive who came up with this policy is tried in criminal court.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. This has been going on for almost 2 decades. They have already reaped the reward of being able to keep their employees together without having to pay them lots of $ or stock. What they end up paying now will be small compared to what they have already benefitted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) *

      But is it really worth the virtually inevitable lawsuit for a company as successful as the defendants in this case to cheat the backbone of their operations out of a fair wage...

      It's not about "fair wage" in most cases, it's about opportunity to work on projects these talented engineers want to work on.

      In most cases, the money is something but not the big draw.

      These folks bail from Google to Apple, Apple to Google, to work on stuff they want to work on.

      Google and Apple (and Intel) are not in a wage fight, they all pay very well.

  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:11PM (#46612305)

    Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe, working together at last!

    Oh wait...

  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:15PM (#46612319)

    After Google CEO Eric Schmidt informed Steve Jobs that a Google recruiter had been terminated for not-getting-with-the-do-not-poach-program, Jobs responded by e-mailing only an evil 'smiley' [pando.com] to Apple's head of HR.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Jobs is dead :)

  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:39PM (#46612431) Homepage

    This is just the tip of the iceberg in Silicon Valley wage fixing, discriminatory hiring, and age/gender discrimination. I would like to see the tech workers walk away with some big bags of cash since most of these companies are paying federal/state taxes in the USA. At least when the employees get paid it will benefit their local countries, states, and communities by re-patrioting some cash through taxation.

    To me this is just further proof that large companies can do whatever they want, ignore any laws they want, not pay taxes/wages, and ignore the "invisible hand of the market" [wikipedia.org] any time they wish. The lawsuit will probably be dismissed on Tuesday when the court opens, I am sure someone is writing the check as you read this.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      They're not ignoring the 'invisible hand'. The entire idea of the invisible hand is that absolutely nothing should be forbidden, and everything will work out in the end. Doing whatever they want is exactly in line with people who tout the all-powerful, magical market say they want.
      • No, that was not the idea of the invisible hand. It's a nice straw man but it has nothing to do with what Adam Smith wrote.

        The invisible hand is just a facile metaphor for how prices are set by supply and demand. Nothing more. It has nothing to do with regulated vs. unregulated markets. Moreover, nowhere in The Wealth of Nations does Smith ever say that the invisible hand will make everything work out for the best.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:41PM (#46612449)

    Of course they have to "work together" to fix wages.
    If one decided to start paying their employees twice as much as the other, the other would lose all their employees to them. There need to be limits to that kind of thing, otherwise they will start fighting over wages, always increasing them to retain their employees until the day they can no longer compete and just decide to close up shop in the US and go for the cheaper Chinese labor.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      ...always increasing them to retain their employees until the day they ... import loads of cheap 3rd world workers under the H1B program.....

      oh wait!

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      So subtle I wasn't sure if it was a joke or note. Well played, sir.

      In fact that is how some companies seem to think. They see employees as commodity items. "We need an engineer with X qualifications/experience to do Y, and it doesn't matter if he is in India or our US office."

  • Neccesary? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:47PM (#46612477) Homepage

    Necessary to keep teams together? I don't think so. How about, maybe, paying well enough that people people aren't tempted to jump ship in the middle of a project? Or putting people under contract instead of having them be at-will employees? Sure you can't just fire them any time you want (unless you've got good cause, like failure to do their jobs), but you don't have to worry about losing them at any time either.

    These hiring collusions aren't necessary to keep employees. They're only necessary to keep employees without the company doing anything to actually keep employees.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > without the company doing anything to actually keep employees.

      Well, no. A bit of board member or vice president back scratching, insider trading, and violating non-disclosure agreements about competitors of your "friends" is just the sort of day to day "entrepreneurial spirit" that corporate boards are known for. But none of that goes to the people who do the actual design or construction work. It goes to the board members and holders of voting stock, not the suckers with "stock options" that are alway

    • by Moof123 (1292134)

      Agreed, there are so many ways to retain employees without flagrantly breaking the law. I am amazed that more people in HR didn't speak up, they surely knew their marching orders were illegal.

      Contracts, retention bonuses, stock options, and more could have all been employed to keep teams together. Arrogantly treating people as property was not necessary in the slightest.

    • by Rakarra (112805)

      Necessary to keep teams together? I don't think so. How about, maybe, paying well enough that people people aren't tempted to jump ship in the middle of a project?

      Eh....
      The salaries and benefits they get are almost certainly out of proportion with the work they do. They are very well paid at Apple, Good, et all. All the tech sector is.

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:57PM (#46612517)

    while these secret deals to fix recruiting were bad (and illegal), they were also needed to protect innovation by keeping teams together while avoiding spiraling costs

    Yes, needing to offer competitive wages to creative team members would have increased the cost of the individual project, but that need not affect the company's bottom line if it finds cost savings elsewhere, like in executive compensation.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Both Apple and Google make billions in profit every year. They don't need to make cost savings, they are just being mean. Corporate profit motive and answering to shareholders corrupts people.

  • cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @09:01PM (#46612531) Journal

    'is that, while these secret deals to fix recruiting were bad (and illegal), they were also needed to protect innovation by keeping teams together while avoiding spiraling costs.'

    If you want to protect innovation, pay your programmers enough. If your product can't cover costs of paying a competitive salary, it doesn't deserve to be a product. Welcome to capitalism.

    • by Sentrion (964745)

      But Americans want to be paid too much. We need more H1B Visa professionals who are willing to work for reasonable wages. The future of innovation is at stake, and we cannot let it be shackled to spoiled code monkeys who aren't willing to accept the same prevailing wages that are offered in China and India. If they want more money than that then they should climb further up the corporate ladder where compensation is more closely matched to the manager's contribution to the company.

      • H1Bs are not paid "the same prevailing wages that are offered in China and India", since they actually work in US.

  • So, let's see: Jobs is behaving like an a**hole, taking revenge on people leaving Apple and preventing them from getting new jobs. To do so, he threatens a smaller startup, which is what Google was at the time. Seems to me the culprit here is Jobs and Apple, and the victims are both his employees and Google.

    • In 2006 Google wasn't exactly "a smaller startup".

      They were part of this agreement because they got something out of it - same as Apple.

    • Google may well have been bigger than Apple in 2006.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      In 2006 google had a market value of over 100 billion while Apple was worth between 50-70 billion. Apple was NOT the big player threatening the little startup.
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Google had a high valuation, but it was much smaller in terms of employees and had few products. Apple was flying high, Jobs was highly respected and had a lot of power because Apple controlled several major platforms that were important to Google's success.

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          In comparison at the time it was google that could do no wrong and was the high flyer, Apple was doing well but still had a very limited market and product set and were heavily reliant on the music market with nothing else at the time.
          • by stenvar (2789879)

            So you're saying that the Google manager were obsequious and accommodating because... why exactly?

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @09:14PM (#46612571)

    May I say that we all miss Groklaw's insightful analysis, and very open access to, the core documents and analyses of these cases? If anyone on Slashdot knows PJ personally and can encourage her to accept the problem of email monitoring and return to her legal soapbox, she'd be welcomed. Groklaw's analyses of these cases, and PJ's careful attention to detail were welcome and instructive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I second that.

      And I'm sure a LOT of others do too.

  • These same companies went to Congress many, many times to get more H1B visas when even technical call center wages were being pressured up to median income levels. It was fine to intervene in market forces when politicians were getting checks, but not if they were left out of the "negotiations".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I assume this will reach class action status and settle, with a payout fifteen years from now of $15 (after lawyer's fees) per software engineer who worked in the Silicon Valley area during that time period.

    • by Sentrion (964745)

      Punishing the businesses now will just make it harder for these companies to pay proper wages going forward, and it will cause greater economic harm to the rest of the country. The best thing workers can do now is to just put this whole mess behind them, show up to work, and do their jobs. Our nation depends on the success of these businesses to create jobs that would not exist otherwise. We should be thankful that Apple and Google made the difficult decisions that were necessary to keep good paying jobs

      • Not sure if you're serious...

        I'll just point out that Google and Apple cannot possibly have difficulty paying wages to their employees, even if their salaries rose a fair bit and both companies were forced to pay incremental back-salaries to employees current and former and punitive damages. Unless you're imagining that these agreements cut their salaries to a quarter of the "natural" rate or something like that. These aren't companies living on the edge. Their cash reserves alone are measured in billion

      • by gig (78408)

        > Punishing the businesses now will just make it harder for these companies to pay proper wages going forward

        Possibly the stupidest comment I've ever read on Slashdot and that is saying something.

        > The best thing workers can do now is to just put this whole mess behind them, show up to work, and do their
        > jobs. Our nation depends on the success of these businesses

        Tell you what, from now on, take 25% of every paycheck you get, and send it to Apple and Google. If you don't do that, you are a hypocrit

        • by Sentrion (964745)

          Sorry, forget to end with a smiley :-). I was just parroting something I heard at a TEA Party rally.

  • by gig (78408) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:19AM (#46613957)

    > while these secret deals to fix recruiting were bad (and illegal), they were also
    > needed to protect innovation by keeping teams together while avoiding
    > spiraling costs.

    That is bullshit. If an Apple employee has a job offer from Google for $20,000 more, then give the Apple employee a $25,000 raise if you need to keep the team together. Apple has $160 billion or something like that in the bank. They are giving dividends to shareholders whose stock holdings have gone up exponentially over the course of just a few years.

    Wages have been flat for 30 years while productivity and corporate profits soared. There's no excuse at all for not paying employees.

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