Re: "Are technical writers the unsung heroes of document generation?"

Subject: Re: "Are technical writers the unsung heroes of document generation?"
From: "William Sherman" <bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L Writing" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 21 Jun 2015 22:53:24 -0400

What many of you are missing is that a good contractor is a contractor first and writer second. He (she) will know the rules of the game and apply them to his best benefit. You have me on a job where I find I am getting $2400 and prevented from making more, and the guy next to me is making $4800 and can make more if he wants, I'm gone.

It's called voting with your feet. At that point the company is going to be facing several things. If we are working that much, there is a deadline that is critical. Lose 40 hours a week (mine) and the deadline is lost.

There is the new hire price. You don't get people for free, there is time spent looking, interviewing, and bringing onboard. Time to ramp up to speed and so on can really make that expensive.

Word spreads quickly, and word will get out, don't work for Monolith. And Monolith will end up with the less desirable writers and their production and quality will show, so that eventually Monolith won't be able to beg a contract from a client.

And if you don't think it happens, contractors, the old ones anyway, not the new gen newbs who are conned into it as a way to get their foot in the door to be a "real employee", are a hardy breed. I was on one job where the checks didn't arrive that morning. Ten guys went to see the boss. His answer wasn't very good, and they headed for the door. He stopped them with a promise the checks would be there by noon. He was on the phone every 15 minutes until 12 to get those checks there because at two minutes before 12, they were at the door ready to leave when the courier stepped through.

So regardless of the law, a good contractor will ensure his contract provides him all the benefits he wants, or is willing to accept. And if he finds the company isn't treating him right, he will be gone. If smart, he will give a two-week notice, and say he is leaving because he is being short changed. And if the company is smart, they will know this is going to be expensive and they need to renegotiate.

----- Original Message ----- From: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
To: "Robert Lauriston" <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>; "TECHWR-L Writing" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Sunday, June 21, 2015 6:46 PM
Subject: RE: "Are technical writers the unsung heroes of document generation?"

Great thread you guys are running. Awesome info.

I have a better understanding of the quandary I was referring to. It seems it's not all the fault of "dimwitted California legislators," although they may be dimwitted for other reasons, and maybe even partly for this one too.

Here's the problem I was talking about: Remember that Writer B was in Boston and Writer A in LA. (So B could be anywhere other than California and A could be anywhere in California.) And Gene, I was only joking about the $100/hr rate -- let's say it's a more reasonable (but attractive) $60/hr.

So because Writer B, under the federal FLSA, is exempt from overtime pay (and these are both full-time contractors, remember, not full-time regular employees), and because, under FLSA and Massachusetts' support of that law, Writer B has no restrictions on his work -- subject only to the limits of his health and how much work Monolith has for him in the given week, Writer B can work as many hours as he physically can -- let's say in one week, 80 hours, or even 100 hours, possibly more. And he gets paid $60/hr by Monolith for every one of those hours. And they might not even have to write this arrangement into the agency contract, because it's allowed by the FLSA and Mass. law.

Writer A, however, because he (or she) lives in California and is subject to the Â515.5(b)(5) exclusion, *cannot* make such an arrangement with Monolith: Monolith would be enjoined by the law to pay Writer A time-and-a-half or double-time, as appropriate, for any overtime hours worked -- $90/hr or $120/hr, and Gene as you said, no company will pay a writer $100/hr. And because Monolith does NOT want to pay this exorbitant rate, it specifies in the contract (which it is legally allowed to do) that a condition for Writer A's acceptance of this contract position is that Writer A agrees NOT to work more than 8 hours in any 24-hour period or more than 40 hours in any seven-consecutive-days period (with a couple of other nuances). And Writer A says, well it's a good job, and it's a good rate, and at least I'll be able to work 40 hours a week. So Writer A is capped at 40 hours a week on this job, even though he/she is ready, willing, and able -- and eager -- to put in 80 hours a week because it's a good rate.

So Writer B has all the benefits of capitalism: no restrictions on his productivity other than the normal ones of physical health and available work. He/she can make $4800 a week, or $6000 a week, give or take. Writer A, however, has serious restrictions on his/her productivity, regardless of ability, health, or desire, and can only make, at most, $2400 a week. Basically half of what Writer B can make if Writer B is ambitious enough. Even at 60 hours a week, Writer B can make $3600 for the week, but Writer A is still capped at 40 hours or $2400.

So the person who wants to help their family and themselves, pay the mortgage, put the kids through college, sock away for retirement, even enable themselves to take an early retirement, cannot do so, no matter how ambitious, because of this law.

Socialist, indeed. The NWU might have had good intentions, but it screwed the contract worker in this position. I'm sure they thought, "Hey, you're a *writer*. By crackee, you're going to get OVERTIME rates! Writers will settle for nothing less!"

But Monolith can flip the bird at that because it's got 49 other states to choose from.

Put this in the context of telecommuting and you can see how this problem will grow in coming years. The average Fortune 500 or Global 500 has the pick of the litter, and this will cripple California writers in the future, as it does today.

You might think the solution is to get a second contract, if you want to work 80 hours a week. Probably not so easy for the average California contract writer (working in the computer industry, software, whatever you guys decided the law applied to).

Anyway, the bottom line is that this socialist agenda has led to a situation that is no different from offshoring or the "Made in China" vs. "Made in America" debate. If it's cheaper to tap the other states in the union, Monolith, as any savvy company would do, will do it.

This law hurts more people than it helps.


PS - I can think of no clearer example, to me, of the benefits of capitalism and the liabilities of socialism. "Work hard and you can get ahead" should be the motto. This is a personal opinion, of course. "We don't want you working hard or getting ahead" seems to be the motto of this law, maybe not by intention, but that's the outcome. Socialism is a scary agenda. And by the way, Writer B pays taxes -- both federal and state (in most states). So he/she is contributing to the public welfare. Yet, he is allowed to prosper by his own ambition. Writer A is not given that freedom, even if the desire to do so is there.

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