Re: ethical consulting practices? (Long--but with a possible solution)

Subject: Re: ethical consulting practices? (Long--but with a possible solution)
From: "William Lewis" <wmlewis -at- attictech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 5 Dec 1999 10:46:57 -0600

Hello everyone, this is my first post so my apologies if I've done anything
incorrectly--besides being way too long!

The topic of recruiters, agencies, and the issues surrounding working with
them is one that we writers need to discuss openly and form some solidarity
on. To my knowledge, this subject was last visited in 1997, but then the
focus was narrowed to the cut that agencies take. With contract agencies and
contracting an increasingly ubiquitous presence on the employment landscape,
we should welcome this broader discussion.

Some, like myself, may prefer to put the issue in a labor-management
perspective, with all the concomitant historical meaning thereof. When we
are employed by an agency, the recruiter >is management<. If we have learned
anything from the last 100 years of labor-management relations, the power
relationship is NEVER equal and management WILL ALWAYS use that inequality
to its advantage.

So here we are, so secure in our skills and college degrees that we think we
have the world by the tail. We make good wages and salaries, but being the
kind of people we generally are, we don't like to ask for more than we think
we are <worth>. This is all fine and good, but our employers don't think so
much in terms of worth! It's what you can negotiate. Management ALWAYS gives
the worker as little as it is allowed to get away with. Sometimes, for the
exceptional writer with a hot skill, the writer can do better than OK. But
that is the exception! The reality is that contractors are relatively
powerless and our compensation is commensurate. It's our national religion
called "capitalism" and "free trade," and the priests and priestesses are
not beneficent with the laity! Contrary to what our religious leaders have
so convincingly been telling us, capitalism DOES NOT improve the lives of
people; people demanding a piece of the action improve their own lives!

[Digression: What's fair? Ask yourself these questions: Who is behind the
recent incredible gains in productivity? (You are.) Who is celebrating the
fact that, at the same time, worker incomes are hardly rising? (upper
management) Whose compensations HAVE risen ten and twenty-fold? (upper

If we want to discuss agency-recruiter practices in terms of ethics, we have
to realize that THE ETHICS ARE RELATIVE. Clearly, by the comments posted in
this recent thread, recruiter ethics are DIFFERENT than ours. Generally
speaking, business people DO have <different> ethics. I'm not saying this is
evil or bad, it's a reality we have to be prepared to acknowledge and maybe
understand. Know thine enemy.

Jo Francis Byrd wrote "There is a contracting firm here in Dallas notorious
among contractors..." Jo, if the firm is so notorious, why don't you help us
out and tell us who it is? Who and what are you protecting and why?

Thank you Lisa Miller for informing us about "multiple-resume submissions,"
how these are problematic for client companies and agencies. I've contracted
on and off since 1991, and I wonder why, if this is such a big issue, that
no recruiter has found a way to explain this to me. Perhaps it's THEIR
culture of secrecy and competition that keeps recruiters from talking to us.

Finally (if anyone has bothered with my tirade this far), what I wish for is
a kind of New Deal--where we don't have this antagonistic, competitive
contracting environment. It is possible. Something close exists with two
agencies in my area. If the writer takes charge of FINDING their OWN work
(should be easy these days, and we can probably do it quicker than waiting
on the sidelines while the recruiters run around town like Keystone Kops!),
the agency handles the W-2 paperwork, never takes more than $5 per billable
hour, and all three parties, particularly the writer, come out ahead.
Perhaps best of all, you don't have to sign over your rights to do business
with the client company (YOUR client!). Nothing is done in
secret--everyone's cards are on the table. This works for the agency because
it doesn't invest in a big sales overhead. One or two people run the office
and their primary expense--payroll accounting--is outsourced!

Here are the agency contacts. (Maybe there are outfits in your area that
will provide this kind of service. They won't be high-profile.)

Michele Barker, President
American Software Consulting Inc. (ASCI)
Apple Valley, MN
asciincor -at- aol -dot- com

Tony Williamson, CEO
AJASA Technologies
Golden Valley, MN

I have met with these individuals personally and can attest to their
respectability. They are hands-on small-business owners who hold to the
concept of keeping overhead low so they can fairly and openly broker
employment opportunities. I cannot provide a first-hand report on how it is
to work for them, but I've talked to two technical writers currently with
AJASA who are quite pleased with the arrangement.

Neither firm has specialized in placing technical writers, so current
opportunities may be limited. However, I believe that if there is a fairer
version of the typical worker-client-agency relationship, we should help
publicize them to potential client companies and other technical writers.

Disclaimer: I stand to gain nothing in telling you about ASCI and AJASA. I
have no business ties or agreements with them. I have worked for contract
agencies for years and do currently, and have always appreciated the service
they provide.

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