Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit

Subject: Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit
From: "Tim Mantyla" <tim -dot- mantyla -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 19 May 2008 16:48:20 -0400

----Original Message-----

> From: Gene Kim-Eng

> I've never worked for a computer software company,

> so I haven't given this definition of "exempt" a close

> reading. I guess it explains why software technical

> writers complain so much about being treated like

> "glorified secretaries." Comparing this description to

> the other job types listed in section 5, they are.


> Gene Kim-Eng

<rant on>

Obviously few people other than CA labor lawyers know about section 5. It
isn't the reason why "software technical writers complain so much about
being treated like 'glorified secretaries.'"

I have to assume they complain because many company managers and owners who
are _not_ as skilled in communication believe themselves to be just because
they can speak and write a (sometimes convoluted) 10-word sentence, and
don't understand or appreciate the skill required to turn difficult ideas
into clear, simple words and images.

Also high programmer salaries exist because of the economics of the need for
software and the skills to create it, and demand for vs. supply of the
expertise of the programmers. On the other hand, if companies could pay
minimum wage to program their sofware, based on an oversupply of workers
with those skills, they would--regardless of skill level.

Since I'm not a computer programmer, I can't attest to whether that work
deserves much greater salaries than tech writing by dint of its difficulty
or level of skill, education, training, etc.

Richard C wrote:

"As for those of you who can't handle that much responsibility for your own
success and happiness, who need to be "protected" from "exploitation" by the
National Writers' Union or the Dept. of Labor, and who don't mind punching a
time clock and being viewed as clerical help:

Please call yourselves documentation specialists, documentalists, typers, or
some such, so that you don't drag us salaried professional technical writers
down to your level."

There is no need to equate professionalism with working over 40 hours. Each
of us deserves time to spend in our private lives and with our families.
Buying into mandatory overtime without or with extra pay, as a salaried
worker or hourly, simply makes us look like we're blaming the victim when
the culprit is corporate/management greed.

Professionalism has to do with adhering to high standards and doing quality
work, not the number of hours worked over 40 as some kind of false badge of
honor or prestige.

People in advanced European countries don't have this problem because most
Europeans recognize the need for people to work a limited 35-40 hour work
week and have decent time off (1-2 months there, vs. 1-3 weeks here.)

It's sad to see list members slam the needs or rights of workers to be
represented by unions. Your success is great for you...but what about the
average $44K salary in Utah? This is an argument by one individual who had
success and believes everyone, no matter their community's economic
conditions, can achieve the same.

What is it some smart person said? "Data is not the plural of anecdote."
What applies to you does not necessarily apply to others.

If the computer programmers salaries were as low as tech writers' average
salaries, they would likely turn to unions for help as well.

In a social climate in which those with power and money determine salaries,
trampling on those not in power, workers have to band together to gain
parity and be treated fairly.

I applaud the writers' success in protecting themselves against would-be
robber barons who use the economics of supply and demand to bring wages of
highly skilled people down to a level of "glorified secretaries," all the
while undervaluing their services. (I'm not saying profit is bad, but
unrestricted profiteering tramples on the rights of others. Responsible
profit-making while profit-sharing benefits all.)

Consider the economics of the U.S. in the past and present. Without decent
wages paid to union members--wages leaders had to fight for, and still fight
to maintain--our economic engine would not be as strong as it is. (Of course
we have to expect cyclical rising and falling.) The people who build cars
must be able to afford them to keep the production machine rolling. If you
pay your workers McDonald's wages, they can't afford Buicks and Lincolns--or
any new car, for that matter.

By the same token, off-shoring call centers and other work to save a company
money hurts our economy overall when many companies do it when U.S. workers
are available. If you put people them out of work, it takes away the number
of people able to buy your products. Duh!

If you make a product in the U.S., a combination of fairness and
supply/demand for your workers drives what you pay people. Some, but not
all, make a decent salary while the company owners often pig out at the
trough. (Think American Axle and its current problems.) The problems with
this: it helps create a two-tier, have/have-not society that drags itself
down with the crime, poor health, increase in substance abuse, need for
welfare and other ills unemployment creates.

This is part of the current state of interplay between government, private
business and nonprofits. Companies work to reduce costs and make money, but
often trample on the rights of people and the environment along the way.
Responsible, representative governments limit some or most of their
injustices and trampling. Unions and nonprofits work to eliminate or reduce
other problems companies create. Still we're working out these problems, and
our world will look a lot different 100 years from now as (I hope) companies
evolve to realize they must behave responsibly as members of communities.

Economic health and security for all of society's members is absolutely a
crucial pillar (of many) that supports the general health of society--which
is still broken in many areas. It's not only our legal framework of "freedom
and liberty" that many conservatives cite for "greatness" our nation has
achieved. One reason for America's success is the creation of fairly solvent
middle and lower socioeconomic classes--through paying fair wages with
decent working hours.

We will be _truly_ great when every member of society, especially its
weakest, has a chance at a life free of debt, homelessness, health and
economic security.

I predict that, if sanity and compassion ever break out worldwide--in a
future that takes human needs into consideration over money and power--that
this era of haves and have-nots will be seen as a somewhat milder extension
of the cruel past in which kings and queens, and later, robber barons and
monopoly-builders, ruled and hoarded riches like amoral, greedy children.

"I'm getting mine, Jack, so screw you" does not a great society or company
make. Given this attitude by many corporations and companies, America is NOT
even close to as great as common platitudes indicate--or should I call them
profiteer's slogans?

<rant off>


> ----- Original Message -----

> From: "Laura Lemay" <lemay -at- lauralemay -dot- com>

> > The important part of that section is 5e:

> >

> > e. The employee is a writer engaged in writing material, > including box
> > labels, product descriptions, documentation, promotional material, > >
setup and installation> > instructions, and other similar written
information, either > for print > > or for> > onscreen media or who writes
or provides content material > intended to > > be read by> > customers,
subscribers, or visitors to computer-related

> media such as > > the World> > Wide Web or CD-ROMS.

> >

> > This is the tech writer and web designer clause that the National

> > Writer's Union fought to add to the 2002 computer > professional section

> > of CA labor law. Tech writers are supposed to be explicitly > >
non-exempt in California. They almost never are.> >

> > This is the core of the the Hoenemier lawsuit.


-- Tim

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