Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit

Subject: Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: John Hedtke <john -at- hedtke -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 21 May 2008 23:29:31 -0700

John Hedtke wrote:


> Labor law is a rather sophisticated area of the
> law these days. It is not "simple" as some seem
> to believe on the list. This case, regardless of
> its merits or basis in law, is not "easy." In the
> last year , the STC has been doing things at the
> US Federal level to improve the definition of
> technical communicators in job descriptions,
> which hasn't been updated since before most of us
> had even started in this field.

Hi John--

This makes me wonder. I expect it is a reference to Sharon Burton's
efforts to change the Department of Labor definition.

But in my wildest dreams, I hope it is about fixing the Fair Labor
Standards Act, which is where California and Washington's muddled
definitions of exempt and non-exempt Software workers flows from, if I'm
not mistaken (IINM).

You were around the industry and STC in 1990, and so was I, but you had
achieved star status and access to a lot of back rooms. I wonder if I
could pick your brain about what was happening then that provoked the
other Washington establishment to set up the original definitions of
exempt etc. for software workers? I think it must have been an industry
initiative to help staunch the flow of money out to programmers working
40+hr/week of overtime. Is that your recollection?

Later, maybe '97, when the law reached WA, I saw an interview with one
of the founders, who believed it was WSA (Washington
Software Alliance, a coalition of Microsoft, IBM, and other industry
players) who brought these disruptively written laws into existence and
onto the books. WSA was rich and had access to State and US Congress.

Do you know the real story? Care to share? Anyone besides John?
[Remember, the sysop here can remail your post anonymously, if anyone
wants to dish without incurring liabilities).

I don't mean to ask you for something that crosses the line, so to
speak. I'm just defiantly curious to know the etiology of this problem,
Reading FLSA, I fall all over myself when I hit the line where they
exempt all the big jobs of system analysts and programmers and the deep
techie people who routinely worked massive OT. But then they blithely
threw in the words about 'documentation' among the deep software skills.
That's where I stumble in my understanding. Who wrote that anyway?

Sure, lots of deep techie skills and roles need to have tech writing
skills too, and their job descriptions contain the words even now. But
we (the techwriters who do it full time without the deep functions) seem
to get read into there when convenient. That is where California's box
label writers become highly skilled exempt professionals along with the
programmers and analysts. It came from FSLA. That's where the state
laws flowed from.

So I'm looking for the history, and a clear idea of the players at the
time. Are you my SME, John?

BTW, do you remember coming to my house in Crown Hill/Ballard to see my
Missus (Jane), and you coincidentally brought along a cardboard box full
of compilers, which you sold me at firesale prices? It was circa
'92-'94, a pretty long time ago,

With best regards,

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

as if the law's authors (presumably a Congressional Representative or
two to sponsor it, and WSA's leading Labor Law and software development
thinkers). what middle managers and and Congressmans were involved who
did not foresee the issues. poses us all the problems down on us with
laws. language flows from. The FLSA became law in _1990_, and pecolated
out to the states. I'm sure you remember when it landed in Washington?

you're talking about

> That, I think
> everyone will agree, is a good use of the STC's
> energy. The Board is very open to similar ideas
> that promote the value of technical communication
> and technical communicators. At the level of
> specific cases, however, where the merits are
> unclear, the facts are unknown, and the outcomes
> are impossible to predict, it would be madness
> for the STC to leap into the fray just for the
> dubious payoff of expressing an uninformed opinion.
> As such, the STC is choosing not to express any opinion on the Sun lawsuit.


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