Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Too Big to Poach: Anti-trust Probe or Trojan Horse?

-The Gallic "Race to the Bottom" Wars-
(Photo credits Wikipedia)

Silicon Valley, CA -- Veni, Vidi, Vici! Once upon a time, the Roman empire was hellbent upon buying off the Gauls with the cheap promise of Roman citizenship (or so they thought) -- not unlike the modern day practice of neo-frat boy, feudal lords in hot pursuit of cheap, foreign replacements via dirty H-1B visa and monopolistic hiring practices that begot an entertaining anti-trust probe.

Cecelia Kang of The Washington Post explores in this San Jose Mercury News article a few highlights into the Big Brother State’s monopolistic hiring policies, however carefully maneuvering around the wartime propaganda on American tech professionals known as “The Great Labor Shortage Myth”… One courageous commenter, “Justula” sums up the direct effects of how a few uncivil rulers are bringing down the empire:

“It confirms for me the whole job hunting system in the Valley is rigged to keep the club open only for a select few. I never bought into the Web 2.0 everybody's welcome philosophy when so many elitists run them.

I remember when Silicon Valley was a place anybody could make it. That's what it was like when I started here in the mid 80's. If a company asked for 5 things and you only knew 3, that was okay because they'd be more delighted to let you learn on the job. And they did that because their competitor across was doing it too.

Then came the MBA's in the dotcom era's and ruined it. Google accentuates the negative even more lately when in its Web site it proclaims to hire "only the best and brightest." Now we see this garbage beyond round manhole covers.

I used to feel tremendous depression when interviewing at Silicon Valley tech firms and having Simon Cowell's evil twin telling me I was technically incompetent despite programming since I was 8 years old just because I couldn't solve puzzles that weren't even about software. Then I started speaking to other people who also were being treated poorly by some of the very companies you name here in the South Bay.” --Justula

Competition for the tech industry’s legendary “best and brightest” has always been fierce and not always civilized. As high technology warriors and their families would profit from a constant patrolling of their noble talents by hungry competitors seeking to enrich their armies via recruiting them, there’s a long, predatory tradition in the tech industry of raiding each others philandering troops perceived to possess advanced war machines of cerebral supremacy.

But over time, growing tired, old and fat whilst sucking on the imperial tit of Joe Taxpayer to subsidize their own expanding military and political investment strongholds, several leaders of the Silicon Valley of Rome forged an ingenious pact called “Don’t Poach, Don’t Tell” to squelch the rampant swiping. Consequences of the clan’s pact, however, hastened the empire’s downfall, as the imperial plotsters never questioned terms like “anti-trust” or “unfair competition” or, Hail Caesar help them, “DOJ.”

Kang explains how these pacts or agreements amongst giants is said to be “industry-wide,” with a few names that have already surfaced, including Google, Yahoo, Apple and Genentech. The pact would underscore the empire’s survival by failing to conquer their competitive lust for top business and engineering talent at bargain basement prices:

“Google has long been known for its exhaustive recruiting process to find people who fit into its culture and create innovative Web technologies. In 2005, Microsoft sued Google for hiring away Kai-Fu Lee, Microsoft's vice president for Web Interactive services, to head Google's operations in China.”

As the Seventh Circle of Silicon Valley’s neo-frat boy, ruling tech factions could somehow be assured their competitors wouldn’t constantly be sniffing at each other’s armor, a mutual non-poaching pact made perfect sense -- as long as they could repel small groups of rebels who persisted in hurling insults and rocks at the periphery of their mighty columns.

In addition, The Deal Pipeline reports that the Department of Justice is investigating a possible pact between top U.S. tech companies not to poach each other's top executives. If true, it would be a violation of the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

But cutting out competitors, hurting consumers and rendering the “best and brightest” gladiators to vassal bargaining status inspired Obama's antitrust chief at the Justice Department, Christine Varney, to step in to ostensibly clean the clock or the “effects” of this otherwise fast-ticking feudal lord system that has the potential of dooming the tech nobility’s collusive pact to suppress the wages of the empire’s entire cavalry:

“Of course, such collusion would get a corporate officer into big trouble with the antitrust authorities — restraint of trade and all that — so that option is out. Or is it?”

But Emperor Obama’s cohorts know how to entertain the U.S. rabble. Victory for American professionals or the H-1B imported cheap labor lobby? What will the outcome of this anti-trust probe actually bring for native born troops seeking to advance their corporate rank? Will they continue to be sacked for cheap imported labor or would the ruling slow down the unnecessary recruitment for cheap workers from abroad? Will American workers benefit from a full bore anti-trust probe or is this the silver lining for the cheap import labor lobby?

In addition to Varney’s probe, would Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor be waiting in the trenches to potentially make veritable toast out of native born soldiers whose leaders have profited after years of sacking them to buy cheap labor with rewards of American citizenship? As the New York Times reports:

“Antitrust suits against companies for restraining the movement of skilled employees are by no means unprecedented. In 2001, for example, in a federal appeals court decision written by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court nominee, the court upheld a complaint by a group of oil geologists and petroleum engineers who sued Exxon and other oil companies for colluding in hiring decisions and thus suppressed wages.”

Moral of the story? In the end, the cheap labor lobby wars never ended and the once noble empire of Silicon Valley, established by law abiding, scholarly rulers and loyal, hubris-free armies with actual engineering degrees from top U.S. schools and not the insufferable and scheming, post-empire MBA asshats – was left to mark the site of its odious and historic Race to the Bottom Massacre, leaving behind its trademark piles of splintered, cyber skulls and bones.

R.I.P., Empire.



Red Oak said...

Fascinating. Sounds like they're still searching, searching, searching for that magic formula of totalitarian worker control whereby indentured drones (cloned and nurtured in vats from which they emerge pre-programmed in "specialized skills") can be made to possess the élan and creativity of free men.

Ah, for a post-modern Gilbert & Sullivan. "Why is innovation dying? Why is GDP declining? The twittering Valley sighing, sighing...three little MBAs are we, pert as post-imperial asshats well may be..."

Yeah, I know, that last line doesn't scan...but you know what I mean.

2Truthy said...

Pour, oh pour, the pirate sherry...;(

Someone is laughing. Out Loud. But it ain't Joe Plebe.

QUINCY said...