WashTech makes a difference at Commerce forum

Norm Matloff matloff at cs.ucdavis.edu
Mon Aug 24 18:33:24 EST 1998

To: H-1B/age discrimination mailing list

The new Washington State high-tech workers' organization WashTech
(http://washtech.org), put together just a few months ago, has hit the
ground running.  They now have 1,200 people on their mailing list, have
paid full-time staff, have become a CWA affiliate and so on.  This is
quite a contrast to the stereotypical notion that programmers and
engineers as being unable to organize on labor issues.  My guess is
that they soon will be receiving national attention---including from
politicians.  One of their activities is described in the article

By the way, the same reporter wrote a piece a week earlier which
apparently was pure ITAA.  Among other things, he repeated the
outrageous claim that programmers in Washington in general are making
tons of money from stock options, when in fact it is only some at
Microsoft who were lucky to get in some years ago.  (Actually, the
article is even worse than the ITAA, by describing the compensation as
"wages.")  See my analysis of this, including a sharp criticism of the
ITAA claim by the state official whom ITAA had quoted originally, in the
Salaries section of my "Debunking the Myth..." paper, at


The article follows below.  Hopefully Sec. Daley will also hold town
meetings in other locations, in order to give the public a (rare) chance
to speak.


Commerce secretary hears about shortage of tech workers

by Roberto Sanchez
Seattle Times staff reporter

BELLEVUE - Secretary of Commerce William Daley came to town to discuss a
shortage of computer workers with local politicians, school and business

But he also got an earful from labor protesters who questioned whether
there really was a shortage and who resented being excluded from the
discussion panels at the meeting. 

Yesterday's meeting, the third of a national series sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, was on the campus of Bellevue Community College.
It included presentations by Gov. Gary Locke, Sen. Patty Murray and Bill
Gates Jr., the father of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. 

The focus of the meeting was the growing shortage of workers trained in
information technology, the term that loosely covers computer programmers,
scientists, engineers and systems analysts. 

But Mike Blain, a member of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers,
said industry organizations are exaggerating the numbers of job vacancies. 

Blain acknowledged there's a tight labor market. But companies could fill
some of the openings with older and laid-off workers, he said, if they'd
be willing to spend the money to retrain them. He also said business
groups are relying on figures about college graduates in computer science
and engineering to talk about a short supply of workers, when in fact,
many information-technology workers major in other fields. 

But business leaders such as Jeremy Jaech, president of Visio, a company
that makes graphics software for businesses, said finding good workers is
a long, difficult process these days. He estimated that it takes 35 to 71
days to find workers. 

Others said businesses are spending money to train smart people. Deetsy
Armstrong, chief information officer of Safeco, said her company is
reaching out to people who haven't been trained as computer scientists or
engineers. Such a program is in place to retrain qualified people to run
the company's many COBOL computer-programming language systems. 

Blain also complained that none of the panels included
information-technology workers or labor groups. Cheryl Mendonsa, director
of strategic planning with the office of technology policy, said the
exclusion was not intentional. She stressed the meeting was public and
that no one was excluded from asking questions. 

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