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38 posts categorized "Labor issues"

January 06, 2016

Alliance@IBM dissolves after 17 years

After almost 17 years, a group attempting to organize a union at IBM is closing up shop.

Lee Conrad announced the dissolution of Alliance@IBM on Tuesday. The Endicott, N.Y.-based organization was affiliated with Communications Workers of America. It has been an outspoken critic of IBM and its treatment of its employees since it formed in 1999.

Allianceibm-220x64"Years of job cuts and membership losses have taken their toll. IBM executive management steamrolled over employees and their families," wrote Conrad, Alliance@IBM's national coordinator. "We tried to push back when we could, but we didn't have enough people power to change the working conditions or stop the massive job cuts or offshoring at IBM."

He estimated the membership of the Alliance@IBM never topped 400 at any point. That number has been shrinking in recent years to below 200 members at the start of 2016.

"Most are now ex-IBMers. The constant job cuts, the fear inside the workplace and offshoring have had a devastating impact on organizing," he wrote in an email. "We felt we have done all we could."

The Alliance@IBM grew from the IBM Employee Benefits Action Coalition, which had its roots in Rochester. That group formed in protest of IBM reducing employee benefits.

Former Rochester IBM employee Janet Krueger was the national spokeswoman for the coalition. It filed lawsuits, lobbied politicians in response to the pension changes and hired planes to fly protest banners during the Olmsted County Fair.

In 1999, Alliance@IBM was given the Disgruntled Employees of the Year award by Disgruntled magazine.

In recent years, Alliance@IBM has been best known for informally tallying IBM job cuts and commenting on layoffs. IBM stopped discussing layoffs and employee numbers at each campus, such as Rochester, in 2008. 

The Armonk, N.Y.,-based computer giant opened in Rochester in 1956 and soon became the top employer for much of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1966, Mayo Clinic tied it, when each employed 3,600 workers. Mayo pulled ahead in 1967 with 3,850 employees compared to IBM's 3,800.

IBM's presence in Rochester, which topped out at more than 8,000 employees in the 1990s, has since been whittled down by layoffs and attrition to an estimated less than 3,000 today.

Insiders estimate that IBM has now slipped to the third spot on the list of top Rochester employers behind the Rochester Public Schools.


March 06, 2015

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post. Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my sixth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More  than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to businesPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11s in southeastern Minnesota.

It'syou, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years. 

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post.Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my siPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11xth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to business in southeastern Minnesota.

It's you, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years.  

December 04, 2014

Ex-Mayo exec resigns from Quest, but lawsuit continues

The doctor being sued by Mayo Clinic for allegedly stealing trade secrets has resigned from his job at Mayo competitor, Quest Diagnostics.

CockerillDr. Franklin R. Cockerill III, the former CEO of the for-profit Mayo Medical Labs, resigned from his position as vice president and chief laboratory officer with Quest on Wednesday, according to Nancy Brostrom Vollertsen, a Minneapolis attorney representing him.

His acceptance of that job on Oct. 1 spurred Mayo Clinic to file a lawsuit against Cockerill alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract. Cockerill officially worked at Quest only from Oct. 1 to Oct. 14. On Oct. 14, Olmsted County Judge Robert Birnbaum granted a temporary restraining order preventing him from working, because he could cause "irreparable harm" to Mayo Clinic.

Quest filed a motion to withdraw from the case on Tuesday, since it "…No longer has a 'substantial interest' in this litigation that justifies or requires its continued participation." Mayo Clinic issued a statement Thursday saying it had settled with Quest in the wake of Cockerill's resignation.

"Mayo is not pursuing any claims against Quest. We continue to pursue our remaining claims (against Cockerill) to protect our confidential trade secrets against improper disclosure," according to the statement released by Bryan Anderson.
08-18 Frank Cockerill 2 ols
While Quest is no longer a factor in the case, the Mayo Clinic's lawsuit again Cockerill continues to move forward. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22 in Olmsted County Court.

The lawsuit alleges that Cockerill covertly accepted the job in June, but he told Mayo Clinic that he was retiring at the end of September to help his 85-year-old mother run her fertilizer business in Nebraska. From June to September, he continued to work at Mayo Medical Labs, attending confidential meetings and negotiating contracts. The complaint filed by Mayo Clinic also claims that Cockerill was in communication with Quest throughout his final months and he left with clinic-owned memory sticks with data downloaded from his work station.

On Oct. 1, he stepped into the position of vice president and chief laboratory officer with New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics Inc., a multibillion-dollar public company.

Cockerill released a statement through his attorney in response to Mayo allegations that said, "He opted for early retirement at the Mayo Clinic's invitation and is not subject to any non-compete or other agreement that would limit his activities after leaving Mayo."

He filed an affidavit in November, which was later withdrawn, that stated that Cockerill was "confused and disappointed" by Mayo Clinic's legal action against him. It also stated that he did not tell Mayo Clinic leaders about his plans, because he "feared retribution against himself and his family."

Mayo Clinic responded that Cockerill's case was different than other executives who have left to work for competitors.

"… We understand that our staff members move to other organizations, and, when they do so in a transparent manner, we can manage any conflicts-of-interest during their transition, and we can protect our confidential information and trade secrets," stated Mayo's Anderson by email. "Dr. Cockerill was not transparent and did not report his conflict of interest."

December 06, 2012

Big Blue retirement plan changes has workers seeing red

Big Blue's change to their 401(k) retirement plans has some IBM employees seeing red.

IBM sent staff a notice this week that in 2013 it will cease paying into their 401(k) plans semi-monthly with every paycheck. Instead, the matching discretionary contributions will be made just once at the end of the year.

IBM buildinglogoWhile that on its own has a pro-union group organizing a petition of protest, IBM added the rule that workers must be employed on Dec. 15 to get the annual 401(k)matching payment.

That means, a employee laid off in November 2013 would not get their annual 401k payment from IBM.

"The problem is, that as everyone knows, IBM has job cuts all year long," says Lee Conrad, spokesman for the Alliance@IBM. "We're asking IBM to reverse this decision, because it financially compromises all IBM employees, even the ones who are not laid off."

For its part, IBM is saying that its 401(k) plans are still better than most companies and this change is necessary keep up with the increasingly stiff competition in the technology industry.

IBM lot"IBM’s 401k plans remain among the best in the industry – and the country," stated the company in a response release by spokesman Doug Shelton. "This change reflects our continuing commitment to invest in our employee 401(k) plans while maintaining business competitiveness in a challenging economic environment."

The plan, which is considered generous by most companies, gives employees hired prior to 2005 get a dollar-for-dollar match up to six percent of eligible pay. People hired since then get up to a 5 percent match.

If the employee is eligible, IBM will make automatic contributions to their plan, even if the employee doesn't participate. The amount of automatic contribution earned depends on the pension plan that an employee qualified as of December 2007.

No matter how generous the plan, this is not not positive change for employees who have counted on those semi-monthly payments throughout the year, says Conrad.

"This is IBM is just hanging onto the money as long as they can," he says.

The Alliance@IBM, which is pro-union group, expects to soon have a petition ready for employees and their families to sign. It is hard to say how much interest that will attract given IBM eIbm-logomployees' well known reluctance to publicly defy the company for fear of losing their jobs.

It is hard to say how this change could impact IBM's Rochester campus and its unknown number of employees. For many years, IBM has declined to say how many people it employs here or elsewhere. The last official IBM tally of its workers in Rochester was 4,200 way back at the end of 2008. There have been many layoffs euphemistically called "resource actions" by the technology giant.

While IBM is commonly believed to be Rochester's second-largest employer behind Mayo Clinic, there is no evidence to prove that is still true.

April 23, 2012

Will employees picket in IBM in Roch. Tues.?

Alliance@IBM members and supporters are calling for informational pickets at IBM sites Tuesday to call attention to job cuts and off-shoring.

Uniglobalunion_ohThis is sort of a real world version of the protests held a few years ago in Second Life.

Does anyone know if any pickets or protests are planned in Rochester on Tuesday?

Or are there any counter pro-IBM events planned in response to these?

6a00d83451cc8269e2010535c75537970b-piI'm interested in possibly covering if something on either side of this issue is happening here in Rochester.

Here's some the description from the pro-union Alliance@IBM group about the event:

IBM no longer releases headcount numbers by country because it is the evidence of massive job shifting.  The Alliance estimates that the IBM US employee population is now at 95,000 down from 132,000 in 2005. Meanwhile IBM employee numbers worldwide, especially in low-cost countries continue to increase.
The Alliance calls for:
• No tax breaks or incentives for companies that shift jobs off-shore and terminates US workers.

• Full disclosure of IBM job cuts and where the jobs are being shifted to.

• An end to shifting work offshore and firing US workers.

November 10, 2011

Urban legend - Bar to open in downtown Roch.

Here's some from my column in today's paper. It looks like the story that a new bar is sailing into the former Gilligan's space is not a tall tale.


The drinks stopped flowing back in September, but work is under way to open a new downtown Rochester bar in a legendary location.

ShowPhoto-2A new nightspot — Legends — is taking shape as construction rolls along at 11 Fourth St. S.E. in the AFL Labor Temple.

That's the spot where Gilligan's bobbed along for almost four years until Scott "Minnow" Fisher closed it two months ago.

While official details on Legends are sparse, the talk on the street is that the new bar will cater to a different crowd than Gilligan's did.
Legends is said to be lining up cooks to create a food menu, and even planning some live music performances.
There's no word yet on when Legend's might launch. Rochester building permits do show that the old bar will be or already has been replaced with a new one, so that seems like a good sign of something happening soon.

October 21, 2011

Roch. chamber bash 2011 wrapup - Priorities and awards

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's annual member celebration drew a big crowd Thursday as business leaders packed the Rochester International Event Center.

Outgoing Chamber board chair Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm handed over the reins of power to Alan De Keyrel of CWS.

Here's the story I scribbled out about the event.


The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's political priorities for the coming year were made clear at its annual member celebration Thursday night.

Get_photo"There is no political agenda item that we are more committed to as an organization than the passing of the extension of the local sales tax," chamber president John Wade told the crowd of business leaders filling the Rochester International Event  Center.

He said the renewal of the sales tax in November 2012 would fuel a boost to the local economy and benefit Rochester's schools, libraries, infrastructure and more.

The tens of millions of dollars generated by the tax will help leverage hundreds of millions in private sector investment, Wade said.

"Trust me, I can give you a whole list of taxes I don't like. This one is good for business," he said. "I believe in my core that this one is good for business."

To lead the drive toward the passage of the sales tax extension, the chamber is launching a new committee.

Former Rochester school superintendent Jerry Williams will be the chairman of the new group. He also was presented with the President's Award for community service.

Williams accepted both the job and the award.

"As I look out amongst the group here, there are so many of you who have given service of self to this marvelously amazing community," he said looking at the tables full of the local leaders. "To those of you who give so generously of your time, talents and efforts for this marvelous community, I share this with you. I am deeply, deeply appreciative."

While the sales tax extension tops the chamber's political wish list, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center remains a goal, but is not a pressing one, Wade said.

"Our hospitality industry knows how important the expansion of the civic center is," he said. "But it has to be done at the right time in the right way."

While the presentation to Williams was the most dramatic of the night, it was not the only award given out.

Business of the Year: Creative Cuisine, the company behind many popular Rochester restaurants that includes Newt's, City Cafe, City Market, 300 First and the recently revived Redwood Room.

Brothers Dave and Mark Currie accepted the award.

Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Jaimi Stejskal-Kent of Broadway Residence & Suites by Bridgestreet won the award for her work with the chamber.

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Wendy Shannon, superintendent of the Byron Public School system.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: After reciting her long list of accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Karen Hanson of Home Instead Senior Care.

October 10, 2011

Sunstone hotels, union agree on new contract

About 400 union members who work at Rochester hotels and a commercial laundry facility will get 2 percent raises in each year of a new three-year contract.

KahlerSunstone Hotel Properties, which owns five downtown hotels and the Textile Care facility, came to an agreement with the Unite Here Local 21 labor union, says union president Brian Brandt.

Sunstone owns the Kahler Grand Hotel, the International Hotel within the Kahler, Kahler Inn & Suites, the Marriott Mayo Clinic, Residence Inn Marriott and Textile Care, a related commercial laundry in south Rochester. Local 21 represents cooks, dishwashers, servers, maintenance workers and other hotel employees, as well as staff at Textile Care.

The contract includes a 2 percent increase for each year of the contract for all of the members except tipped employees.

It also changed requirements to earn vacation time. Now workers will qualify for three weeks of vacation after nine years of employment and four weeks after 15 years. Both are a year earlier that the last contract.

Local21building"Overall, it was a fair contract, especially for the economic times we're in," Brandt says. "Obviously, everybody would have liked more than 2 percent. But in times when people are getting wages cut or frozen, we were satisfied to get that."

  "Both parties took a very positive approach to the contract. We were all on the same page in understanding today's environment," said Bob LaCasse, Regional Director of Operations for Sunstone Hotel Properties.

This three-year deal is the first one since 2005. A five-year contract was signed in 2005 and it was extended for one year in 2010.

September 30, 2011

Mayo Clinic employees and pay

Here's an interesting little tidbit about the pay of Mayo Clinic employees.

In 1999, only 17 percent of Mayo Clinic's employees surveyed said they were satisfied with their pay.

In 2011, that number rocketed up to 82 percent.

Mayo Clinic says it was not paying more money that made the difference. It was communicating more that made everyone happier about their pay.

"We didn't suddenly start paying everybody more. It was a focus on communication… transparency," says Karmen Reid, Mayo's director of compensation in an interview with a group called World At Work. "You can never communicate too much."

The Compensation Café blog picked this up and wrote a little about it.

Here's the World At Work interview.