For older, unemployed engineers to work pro bono because some shareholders voted them "off the island" does not address the Noble Profession's current problem. Knitting sweaters for the poor would get our engineers off the street while filling the pro bono idea. No, the Noble Profession really needs to take this time to look into the mirror and either accept the status quo and knit Noble sweaters, or use their justifiable discomfort to stand up for reforms which will restore institutional respect for our profession. Currently we have the status "high tech migrant workers" (my construction) and exempt by law to be legally mandated to work 50 and 60 hours per week without overtime. What is Noble about that?
What if engineers were to request overtime? Although uncompensated OT was the original bargain, it was also implicit that OT was an occasional but necessary occurrence. All bargains are re-negotiable if both sides agree.
What if engineers en mass declined to sign the pro forma assignment of inventions as a condition for employment. What could happen? Suddenly engineers become the owners of their inventions which could reasonably be licensed back to their employers. If the employer later decides to lay him off, his IP leaves with him. That might generate a bit more management respect for engineers. Of course if an engineer decides to leave on his own, he would take his IP with him as well. Yes, yes, there are provisions for shop licenses on the books, but those could be waved if both sides agree. But why should management agree now? By lifting US engineering patents and IP and moving them to China, they have cut our throats (and jobs) with our own knife.
The above is engineering heresy, but playing nice is not working. How is the Noble Profession going to get respect? Knit a sweater or work to re-jigger the rules of the game? If the above suggestions are imperfect, make new ones. Without change, nothing changes.
Rich: I don't think this is realistic. Unemployed working for free??? Last time I was unemployed I did many things like writing a book and hiking the mountains but still spend most time looking for a new job. I did some volunteering to keep myself busy but it all ended the moment I landed a job, which like most high tech jobs, demanded high level of time commitment. For the idea to work you need employed people to work for free. Every company to follow Google to allow employees to use 10% of their time on whatever they feel like it? Kris