I live and work in Australia where the market for engineers is quite small and all of the medium to large companies almost have a revolving door in that I've worked for a company, left to work for a different 2 companies and then come back to the first then left and contracted to the first many times and now contract for dozens of different companies.
It's quite common now for a lot companies to work only with a core of permanent engineers and a lot of contractors that come and go.
Basically I don't think we are valued very highly but we're trusted to be ethical and do the right thing. This while having ups and downs is at least in line with capitalist ideals where as what's going on over yonder is criminal and very anticompetitive.
This whole thing reminds me of a line from Casablanca that went something like "I'm shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that there's actually gambling going on in this casino!" I remember hearing about these agreements back in the late '70's when I was working in the computer peripherals industry, I believe the organization that I was aware of promoting this was WEMA which I think became AEA, I then recall coming into a related company in the early 80's as a consultant and hearing myself the head of HR calling the other firms in the organization on a regular basis and going down through the list, how much are you paying for an assembler, tech, MTS etc. What makes this so hilarious that this FINALLY came to someone's attention and everyone's acting surprised, when it's the federal government ITSELF that withdrew "safe harbor" from the tax laws that apply to the tech industry and forced us through that section 1706 fiasco (which of course is STILL in effect), which basically says if you work in ANY industry you can of course "hang up your own shingle" and become a consultant, unless of course it's the COMPUTER industry, in which case you're singled out for "special audit" and potential recalculation of your tax status with ruinous penalties and fees as a "general employee" of your client if the IRS happens to "determine" you don't meet their criteria. And NOW there's suddenly CONCERN that the "technical class" is discriminated against?? You're kidding aren't you?
Sure, this does not just apply to EE alone. Employee in almost any sovereign intelligence-related, or defense related industries, or any securities related will have limited choices when it comes to moving to a different company - as "security risks" is always a factor involved. So, EE hold the secret knowledge of the propretary and technical knowledge, they are similarly treasured for the protection of these knowhow. Many of us may not like it, but it is (and always will be) a fact of life - that these anticompetitve measure exists, from both party: will you trust to employ someone technically capable in a previous company that he will not siphon away your current technical strength to his previous company, and vice versa?
I wonder how conservatives view this issue? I think most conservatives live in a Lake Wobegon fantasy world where they believe they are all above average and in an unfettered free market system will (like cream) just naturally rise to the top above everyone else who are just too lazy to work hard. But here you have a situation where an unfettered capitalist system is rigged against talented EEs and the only way to make the system fair is through government regulation in the form of laws against anti-competitive practices. I would like a conservative EE who is earning less because of these practices, explain to me how the government's involvement in this is only going to punish the success of the job creators who have had the freedom to innovate a way to reduce their costs and increase the profits of the corporation which in turn then trickled down to him. Explain to me how pure capitalism with no government regulation would self correct and produce a fair outcome in this situation.
That knife can cut both ways. These same employers also lobby for more generous work visa allotments. If we engineers wrap ourselves in the flag of unfettered capitalism then we must also accept increased competition from foreign labor. I'm not saying that either side in this is Right or Wrong. Each is trying to increase their leverage in the negotiation. Unfettered Capitalism is a vicious system.
The conservative "think tanks" in DC have spent literally MILLIONS of dollars lobbying in favor of outsourcing/offshoring/issuing more mountains of H1B visas to bring in foreign labor to compete (but you can't find even a SHRED of evidence this is going on in their policy statements on their public websites, talk about hypocrisy), there was even a guy on an EE Times blog who admitted he accepted his visa in order to work in the US on a line in an engineering capacity for Intel AT MINIMUM WAGE because even THAT deal was some multiples of pay better than what he was earning in his home country! You mention the "conservative EE", if you can still find one he's probably really working as a VC or already made his bundle. That's the rub, neither political party has a platform that offers ANYTHING for the working EE (since they're both "committed" to unfettered immigration amd damn the consequences), even the Tea Party doesn't seem to ackowledge this is even an issue, the domestic EE is completely a "missing person" as far as the political system is concerned. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone with even the most modest of capitalistic outlooks for his personal economy would stay in a technical field or how badly this will affect our country's ability to compete in a generation or two in the various fields of advanced technology given this and the atrophy of our aerospace and space exploration programs.
I wish you'd elaborate on this point a bit, Don, I'm not too sure what you're referring to. There are laws about government contracting (ie when your primary customer is the federal government) that prohibit activities that could be interpreted as acting to promote collusion or price-fixing but very few of them are applicable to the general labor market. There are also some regulations that apply in the case of organized labor but there are very few I'm aware of that have anything to do with hiring in normal commercial practice. Even if there had been anything like that which applied back then it would be entirely unlikely that members of commercial organizations would be found openly flouting such a law with total abandon!
It was a long time ago, probably somewhat before I began my engineering career in 1968, so I can't provide any significant detail. It involed the major aerospace companies of the day. just like Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel are the major companies of today. Given my knowledge of the similar aerospace collusion many years ago, I was especially surprised to see major companies of today apparently colluding. If one were to want details, other than an Internet search, I suspect that the union SPEEA might be able to provide details. That aerospace union has been around since the days of the aerospace collusion, although who knows if the SPEEA of today has much knowledge of the SPEEA of yesteryear.
The collusion is more indirect now. Industry publications, even IEEE, performs a salary survey of its readers, and then sells the results for a high price to the industries who employ the readers. The only way for the readers to see where they stand is to fill out the survey so they can get the results, but it also enables their employers to see that, no, they don't need to raise salaries. Plus, the publication profits from selling the reports, so they have an incentive to keep doing this.
Perhaps we employees need to start giving ourselves fictional 25% raises when taking these surveys, and employers would start getting worried they are underpaying their employees. But, it would probaby backfire, and they would just use those studies to lobby for more H1 visas.
tax reform act of 1985 wikipedia excerpt:
Introduced by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Section 1706 added a subsection(d) to Section 530 of theRevenue Act of 1978, which removed "safe harbor" exception for independent contractor classification (which at the time avoided payroll taxes) for workers such as engineers, designers, drafters, computer professionals, and "similarly skilled" workers.If the IRS determines that a third-party intermediary firm's worker previously treated as self-employed should have been classified as an employee, the IRS assesses substantial back taxes, penalties and interest on that third-party intermediary company (Joe Stack's company in the case below). Senator Moynihan's change was labeled as favor to ibm. Electronic and Computer Consultant Association or union is likely the way to be heard along with ieee / ieee computer society.
Think I mentioned this topic in my prior post, but it's a decent example of what the domestic EE is up against. And it's arguable that many of the pervasive concepts like "Moore's Law" have done quite a bit to reduce the total number of jobs available (by standardizing much of the work EEs produce and turning it all into just "licensable IP" that can be integrated into almost any SoC), even if you don't take into account that employers are aggressively moving them offshore. The operative question is what can be done to "empower" the EE politically even a little bit under these circumstances? It seems like BOTH mainstream parties have decided that it's in their best interests to go "pedal to the metal" on immigration (when we KNOW that some foreign EEs are being given visas to come over here and work as engineers at minimum wage, how are we going to compete with THAT if we have a mortgage and kids in school?), and the Tea Party is hardly even aware of our plight and it probably runs counter to their interests to take it up (we probably just look like "disorganized labor" to them), and the libertarians don't want big government to step in on our (or ANYONE'S) behalf, and they never wield much in the way of political power anyway. Sorry guys and gals, this all looks like it's making for a pretty bleak future for what the media in their absurd hype refers to as "STEM careers"...