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EA Spouse Posts Plans for Watchdog Organ 87

Posted by Zonk
from the anonymous-blog-for-social-change dept.
Jaero writes "The Spouse has a followup post to her "EA: The Human Story" from over a month ago. Not only was it nominated for a Best Software Essay of 2004, but she has revealed plans to start an independent industry watchdog organization called GameWatch.org, meant to monitor the quality of life in the game development world. Anyone will be able to post their story, as well as design the logo (a contest which lasts until January 15th)."
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EA Spouse Posts Plans for Watchdog Organ

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  • Union Now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fishdan (569872) * on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @01:31PM (#11093904) Homepage Journal
    As discussed elsewhere EA sports has an exclusive deal [sportsdot.org] with the NFL and the NFLPA. I expect them to allow more reasonable hours for their developers, because they will be able to turn out an inferior product without competition. Gamewatch, when it comes to pass, is a charming idea, but unions are coming [washtech.org] to the IT field. Regretably mean unscrupulous businessmen are taking advantage of nice developers with scruples. And most developers have listened to RMS at some point in time and have some of that altruism in them. Which means they need an organization to defend them. Union is the right thing to do. Can you imagine an organized strike of IT workers?
    • Re:Union Now (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bconway (63464) *
      Have fun being unemployed while non-union workers, like myself, are hired. Unions have no place in the modern workplace and are a breeding ground for mediocrity.
      • Re:Union Now (Score:2, Interesting)

        Agreed. I believe those developers who are not confident in their abilities would want such a safety net, but this will do nothing but make those in the union less and less competitive. The best developers don't want to be a part of the herd, they want to distinguish themselves from it through outstanding performance. The union mentality will act counter to this. As suggested in Graham's essay, "Hackers and Painters" we developers are makers. By turning our profession into more of an assembly line type
      • Re:Union Now (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @03:15PM (#11095341) Homepage Journal
        Unions have no place in the modern workplace and are a breeding ground for mediocrity.

        Spoken like someone who never had to work without benefit of a union's success.

        As you are randomly downsized and sold overseas, take comfort that you didn't give in and unionize when it could have saved your profession.

        (and don't try telling me that there are no unions for white-collar workers: what do you think bar associations and medical boards are?)
        • I don't agree. Unions may solve that problem in the short term, but all it does is encourage companies to not even set up shop in the US because they don't want to deal with unions. Plus, unions are as prone to corruption as a corporation. They encourage a separation between the worker and the company, promote ill-will and don't encourage quality work. In a union, it's all about how the company is screwing you over and that the union lets you get what you deserve. That's it. Doing a good job gets lost
          • All you are saying about union is simply gross over-generalization. There are productive unions, which are nothing less and nothing more than democratic entities representing the workers.

            Think of this: the only meager workers right you've got in the US got instituted thanks to unions. In most western countries workers have more rights than in the US (in particular more holidays), this does not stop workers from being actually as productive or more than US workers.

            There are abusive unions just as there are
      • Try telling that to:

        a) Anyone employed by Wal-Mart

        b) Anyone employed by EA

        etc

        Unions have no place in the "modern" workplace -so long as- the companies function as modern companies are expected to. Unfortunately for workers, the conditions that favored moving away from unions in the past has fostered companies that have intense power over their empoyees when those conditions faltered.

        Which would be better, a union or governmental regulation? In the end it will be one or the other. The argument that the
        • Why does Costco come to mind? They are in every respect considerably better off with employee relations than Wal-Mart. I don't believe they have many unions, but Costco's strategy is to save money by not retraining employees annually and they offer much better wages and benefits than other non-union retailers.
          • No, they don't have unions any more than Wal-Mart does.

            Unfortunately, they do have many of the same labor practices and earlier this year a class-action suit was filed against Costco that was literally the same as one brought against Wal-Mart with names and a few details changed.

            Details here [genderclas...costco.com] and here [epexperts.com].

            Costco is on a scale far smaller than Wal-Mart (and Sams) and have had far fewer lawsuits brought against them, but overall I think it highlights the problems when a company has to deal with margins on this
      • Have fun being unemployed while non-union workers, like myself, are hired

        Do you really want to scab in a field where those who would otherwise "only" beat you up a little, will instead ruin your credit rating and enroll you on every sex offender list in the country?

        Have fun stealing jobs, until "someone" tips off the police that you work within a mile of a school. ;-)
      • Unions have no place in the modern workplace and are a breeding ground for mediocrity.

        I've always looked at it like this: To get good deals in the marketplace you need a good agent (you can be the agent yourself, of course, but that's not your core competence, is it?).

        If you're in a market where there is real differentiation (your skill difference compared to the next guy is actually valuable to the buyer), like in the market for top football players, then you probably should have an agent that works on

      • That's not entirely true. Unions do have a place in the modern world just not in certain industry sectors. No...I'm not a union weenie and probably wouldn't belong to one if it existed in the software industry but the "blue collar" jobs do need somebody to make sure they aren't worked to the bone then left along the wayside.

        Personally I blame the lack of overtime on the Bush administration. The Republicans in Congress and the President pushed the bill through stopping overtime for "white collar" non-m
    • Re:Union Now (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fireduck (197000)
      so, when all the programmers go on strike, what's to stop the company from just up and moving its programming department overseas?
      • Re:Union Now (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Elwood P Dowd (16933)
        Business reality.
      • because overseas departaments produce memorable quotes like

        "all your base . . ."
      • "so, when all the programmers go on strike, what's to stop the company from just up and moving its programming department overseas?"

        Practicality? Disrupted deadlines?
      • so, when all the programmers go on strike, what's to stop the company from just up and moving its programming department overseas?

        More importantly, what is to stop the company from giving in 'for now'. Only to spend the next year or two slowly moving the jobs overseas so that next time, they can't be hijacked by the Union..

        If someone can and will do your job just as good as you, in the companies opinion for $5/hour, they you my friend are only worth $5/hour. The problem is that you live where $5/ho
    • I think that a union running as unions did in the last 40 years is a repugnant idea to most developers, who only want to work, and be paid fairly for an honest days work. Unions today have a stigma associated with them of people who want to become lazier and lazier and get paid more and more. I'm not saying this is a fair perception, but it is certainly wide-spread.

      If a union could be formed like the textile unions [imdb.com] which at least initially fixed horrendous working conditions, that would be a union that

      • I know my experience of unions has been that of a student, constantly facing the service groups I depend on (elementary school teachers, high school teachers, university professors, TAs, university support staff etc.) going on strike. So far, in my life, unions have been nothing but a disruption, stopping me from doing the things I need to do and causing undue stress (there's nothing quite like being a first year student in residence and wondering "If all the professors go on strike, what happens to that $2
        • Re:Union Now (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Something I find intersting is how this rather common attitude shifts the entire blame on the union. Agreed, they are the ones who finally went on strike, but usually this only occurs when negociation has failed over a significant period of time. Often, the dialogue looks something like this:

          Union: Give us our 1% cost of living increase.
          Management: no. and since you have no contract right now, lets change a few other things.
          Union: If we don't have a contract, then we stop working.
          Management: fine, see h
        • I know my experience of unions has been that of a student, constantly facing the service groups I depend on (elementary school teachers, high school teachers, university professors, TAs, university support staff etc.) going on strike. So far, in my life, unions have been nothing but a disruption, stopping me from doing the things I need to do and causing undue stress

          People don't strike for the fun of it, or to cause you stress. Striking is a lot more stressful on them than on you. They strike because th

    • Much better to be taken advantage of be unscrupulous organized crime members. Sign me up.
    • IT workers and programmers are not synonymous.

      If system administration and tech support went on strike, our business might freeze. If application development (me) went on strike... they'd fire all of us and hire someone else. And this is all different from programmers in a software company, which I know nothing about.
      • When you say "programmers in a software company" I am usally one of them(as Im assuming not a programmer in a fiancial consulting service or a bank or whatever). I think youre probably right about a business programmer. From my perspective the situation would depend mostly on the situation. Ive worked in a few different situations... from R&D, to developing apps for vertical markets to startups. The thing about working on a product, as opposed to punching out business code(and Ive done that also), is
    • by Xiaran (836924)
      We could picket IBMs headquarters armed with nerf weapons ! Scab workers wouldnt stand a chance ! Our striking song could be SF filk and instead of lighting those fires in bin things to keep warm in winter we'd just warm ourselves next to a small beowolf cluster. And of course our picket signs would actually be plasma screens ties to sticks... with nicely rendered 3d slogans.

      Im there... but only if I dont have to stand up for too long... and make sure there is plenty of coffee and snacks.
    • I think the word union is a bad idea. It bring to mind to many harmful images. Rather engineers, programmers and IT worker should perhaps consider a professional association. Doctors, accountants and lawyers have then. Rather than thinking of strikes and pickets and such we should be thinking of an information technology assocciation. One that could lobby governments and put the points of view that slashdot readers have(with a little more coherence tho). In time perhaps even considering things like being an
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @01:31PM (#11093911)
    Headline writers should be careful about creating needless and misleading abbreviations. Especially a headline that uses both "spouse" and "organ".
  • by 9mm Censor (705379) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @02:03PM (#11094313) Homepage
    It certainly would be organized, but geeks on strike? I think not, stikes are outside and picket signs are heavy.
    • Nah, I can see a geek strike.

      Picture this: in front of Evil Corporate Headquarters sit a bunch of geeks, some playing on GBAs, others with laptops, and a couple using cell phones to blog about their experience. A couple of LED signs [betabrite.com] scroll "... WHAT DO WE WANT? ... FAIR WORKING HOURS ... WHEN DO WE WANT IT? ... NOW ..." and "... BOYCOTT EVIL CORPORATION ..." on the ground next to them. Someone's hooked an iPod up to their car stereo and is looping the same thing repeatedly at max volume.

      I think it cou

  • by brucmack (572780) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @02:31PM (#11094704)
    This whole EA thing is really indicative of a larger problem... unions in North America.

    I grew up in Canada, with a father in management at a public utility. I heard endless complaints about the union workers at said utility... how they were overpaid and underworked, but there wasn't anything management could do about it, or there would be a strike.

    Then I went to work in Europe, and lo and behold, almost everyone is in a union. Furthermore, the union workers are not abusing their powers. Instead, the unions help their members get jobs and training, with contract negotiation basically a secondary function. It simply isn't needed, because companies tend to be fair in the first place. The unions publish wage statistics that companies are expected to follow, and they do.

    It seems that in North America, unionized workers are the ones that need it the least, while companies like Wal*Mart and EA do whatever they want to their employees. There's this attitude of management to care only about the bottom line and not about the workers, while at the same time, unions are all about grabbing more and more for their members (see the current labour situation in the NHL).

    I hope that at some point the system can change, but it's a long way off.
    • A study by UCLA showed that unionized companies are less profitable than those who are not unionized. However, unionized companies are more productive.

      Food for thought.
    • Clearly, then, everyone should be in a union. The market will even itself out once all parties have equal bargaining opportunities. This allows for the supposed wage inflation caused by unions to be evened out across the entire working class and induces a certain level of comraderie amongst employees and employers that otherwise isn't there due to the current adversarial nature of their relationship.

      Further, I think your implicit admonishment of Canadian Unionised labour is a rather reprehensible piece of
      • I should clarify my position a bit... I didn't mean to say that all unions are bad. In some situations, the workers need representation against an employer that doesn't treat them as well as it should.

        However, some unions really have run rampant here. I'm on a four-month co-op job right now, where all co-op students are required to be in a union. I also happen to be overpaid by about $5/hour, and I barely do any work, because the corporate mentality is so lazy. And this is a company that is flirting with b
    • by ahoehn (301327) * <andrew AT hoe DOT hn> on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @04:25PM (#11096277) Homepage
      Generally, unions only exist where they need to. For example; The other day I was getting gas at Costco, and the employee came over to help me fill my car. I thanked him, and he said, "Not at all; guess how much I'm getting paid to do this." Turns out he was making $19 an hour to pump gas, and that's a typical Costco employee wage.
      I'm related to one of the vice-presidents of Costco and asked him about this. He told me that apparently there have been only two costco warehouses with unionized workers and recently, one of them disbanded because the workers realized that they were paying union dues for no reasons. Costco treats its employees very well. The upshot of this is that Wall Street doesn't like Costco very much, because they spend too much money on their employees; but they nevertheless continue to be a very sucessful company.
      The moral is that while there are certainly bloated unions who only stifle industry; they're the exception. If businesses take good care of their workers, the workers won't feel the need to unionize. From the sound of things, parts of the game industry are in desperate need of unionization.
  • I'm behind a filtering proxy. #&$%@!!!!!!
    • Article Text (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Digital_Quartz (75366)
      Welcome, and thank you for visiting. If you are here in search of the original "EA_spouse" article, you can find that here. The following is my update as of 12/15/2004.

      So much has happened in the past month, I find it difficult to grasp. One essay written months ago set off a powderkeg of response, not just from the game industry but from the entire software development community. Truly, the power of the Internet is astounding, and all other things aside, we live in a positive age when so much information
  • by nege (263655)
    Does this not just fuel the executive business case to outsource? No threat of unions, no threat of high cost of labor, plenty of replacements. No more whining Americans... Granted, those things COULD happen in other countries, but the chances are arugably less, and the bottom line is that salary is WAY cheaper...
    • That will certainly be one of its effects. But in turn, the increased push towards outsourcing is going to generate a serious backlash against corporations who feel no obligations or loyalty towards anyone but their own shareholders.

      If the excesses of the last couple of decades have shown us anything, it's that corporations need to be reined in. Right now, the average CEO makes 500x the salary of his* company's average worker, many corporations can bypass billions in federal taxes simply by setting u
      • Really? People still shop at Wal-Mart and buy EA games. Where's the backlash?
        • God, I wish I knew. People can be such sheep.

          The vast majority of people will always be spectators in the political scene. Aside from voting every four years, they don't organize their lives in a way that promotes their political beliefs. Most people think sweatshops are a bad thing, but how many of us take the time to figure out which companies to support in order to improve the standards of living for laborers? Most of us are against corporate welfare, but few people have any ideas about which co
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @03:03PM (#11095145)
    And for what it is worth, Yes. I am a game programmer, so I have at the least, an informed opinion.

    I am fortunate enough to work at a company that is exactly what EA is not. So I dont feel particularly persecuted or exploited at the moment. Hell, I can post to slashdot while at work, it appears.

    There is something about Unions that are repulsive on some level to myself and the programmers I know. Mostly due to the negative connotations they have aquired.

    First, myself and my coworkers basically agree one one element though. A crunch is acceptible when needed. A death march is not. The goal then, is to prevent a death march.

    Second, the amount of hours that are needed for a project is directly dependant on how much time a project is given and how much money is offered for it. Both those variables are controlled by the publisher. The dev studios must work with what they can get in that regard.

    A death march happens when either the time frame for a project cannot be met using sane hours from the available programmers. The way to avoid a death march is to ensure that there are enough programmers on a project to complete in in the allotted time frame.

    Having a union for game programers at one developer studio means that a publisher will simply not give that studio any projects. To my thinking, there is just too much of a disconnect between the part of the industry that gets the lions share of the money and the part of the industry that creates the products.

    EA did not turn into a shit hole to work at until after they started to focus hard on the bottom line. Being a publisher AND develper, they should know better. But I bet that the guys in Decision Making positions do nothing more then dictate how a game will be made. They do not have to actually work under the conditions they mandate.

    My previous job, when we were in a crunch, I do not recall the decision makers actually being at the office. The lead programmers were the highest meatbags on the food chain, and they were just as slammed as anyone. But at my current job, I can honestly say that my boss puts in harder hours then anyone else, for the most part. The resulting difference in crunch policy is obvious to one who has seen both methods.

    The I think that the real solution is to make sure that the people who dictate schedules are also working under those schedules. But I dont know how to make that happen. All a union does is add another layer of people who do not work under the conditions they create (though I concede that the union types are closer to those conditions then management types).

    END COMMUNICATION
    • There is something about Unions that are repulsive on some level to myself and the programmers I know. Mostly due to the negative connotations they have aquired.

      But what about the negative connotations of workers competing against each other in a race to see who can work for the least amount of compensation? Bueller? Anyone?

      Having a union for game programers at one developer studio means that a publisher will simply not give that studio any projects.

      Until most programmers are unionized, of course.
      • Cannot say I have heard of Bueller. I dont see myself as in competition of any sort with my co-workers, but that could just be myself.

        The choice between Union and Not Union to me seems false, or at least flawed. I always like to go for Plan C. I think that Plan C is for game companies to become less dependent on publishers.

        Most game developers are started up by game programmers. I dont think that any one of them harbor dreams of becoming EA type programmer meat farms that pump out assembly line games
        • A Union can negotiate with your boss. It cannot negotate with the guy who hires your bosses company to do something.

          Nor can it negotiate with the electric company. So what? Nor can the electric company negotiate with the guy who hires your bosses company to do something. Again, so what? I don't see your point. If the boss has to abide by a contract with the union, then the union has indirectly influenced negotiations, just as the electric company has indirectly influenced negotiations by the brute fa
          • Or alternatively, game dev companies could be started up that are entirely employee owned, and the employees would have a more direct hand in negotiating the contract.

            Unions could potentially solve many problems with the labour abuses that exist in game development. However, they can also create an entirely new and different set of problems.

            And regardless of the pro's and con's of Unions, that solution will simply not work as long as the majority of game programmers mistrust the idea. Our mistrust may b
    • Anytime you want to hand back the gains that unions have made on your behalf in the last 100 years, please feel free to do so.
  • Excellent... Start a web site hire a bunch of people and have them work insane hours to keep it running. I think it should be more than just games companies that people are made aware of.
  • Not having worked in the gaming industry, I know nothing about it, except that it exists. Which is truer: working as a developer at a gaming company means you play games all day long; or you work and develop code like the rest of the developer world?

    Not knowing anything, I'd _guess_ the latter, while I'd _guess_ fresh graduates hope for the former. I remember studying engineering, and thinking we'd all go out and do super-cool design work. It's not quite like that.

  • You know, there's a huge blackmarket out there for organs...errr, wait.

  • Cut The Fat....... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bluesy21 (840772)
    OK, forget the game industry for a minute and look at all industries. All industries seem to be purely focused on the bottom line. Not that most of them take it to the extent that EA seems to have.
    Virtually everywhere we see people making less, their jobs getting outsourced, or employees be laid off. However, the income gap between the bottoms rungs of an organization and the top level has been skyrocketing across all industries. It's time for all workers to have a little more respect for themselves.
    • Boycott the financial markets. This is how it works. The irony of it is that everyone's 401(k) is so loaded on the market that you want companies to be so focused on the bottom line. This is capitalism, this is the way it will always be. Sad...but true...
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @04:07AM (#11101842) Homepage
    The obvious union for EA LA is The Animation Guild, local 839, IATSE [mpsc839.org], which represents most Hollywood animators and CGI artists. Local 839 is growing, bigger than it was ten years ago, because of the growth in CGI effects.

    For EA Redwood City, IATSE Local 16 has jurisdiction. Here's the union contract for Industrial Light and Magic [mpsc839.org], whose CGI employees are represented by IATSE Local 16, San Francisco. [local16.org]

    Some key clauses:

    • The basic five day workweek for this computer graphics unit is 45 hours (40 hours of straight time and 5 hours of (1.5 times rate) overtime. This workweek is a flexible one, allowing the employee to work as many as 12 hours in a day without additional pay as long as the aggregate hours worked in the five day period does not exceed 45. Hours worked in excess of 12 in one day or 45 in the five day workweek will be compensated at 1.5 times the hourly rate. All overtime beyond 9 hours in any day or 45 hours in any week must be expressly pre-approved by the employee's supervisor. Any employee who works more than five (5) days out of any seven (7) consecutive days shall be compensated (i) for time worked on the sixth day at a rate not less than one and one-half times the hourly rate for the classification of the employee and (ii) for time worked on the seventh day at a rate not less than two times the hourly rate for the classification of tfie employee.
    With a contract like that, "crunches" mean huge overtime pay. They still happen, but the paychecks go way up when they do. So employers don't understaff.

    IATSE also represents Dreamworks SKG employees, who work in the same building complex as EA Redwood City, doing very similar jobs.

    An IATSE organizer can be found at most Bay Area SIGGRAPH meetings. The links above will take you to the union web sites.

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