This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Many companies have fought legally against Microsoft including Apple Computer, Netscape, Opera, WordPerfect, and sun Microsystems, to name a few. Perspectives Labor practices While Microsoft's permanent workers enjoy some of the best services and working condition, a large mass of workers exist outside this class. This includes the use of employees employed for years as "temporary," and, therefore without medical benefits. Many cost-saving measures have been used, including cutting medical benefits and not providing towels in company locker rooms, for example. Microsoft has also been accused of overworking employees. The company is often referred to as a "Velvet Sweatshop," a term used to describe the company by some of Microsoft's own employees. The focus of the idea is that Microsoft provides nearly everything for its employees, but in turn overworks them to a point where it is considered dangerous for their long-term health. (Velvet Sweatshop is a job that offers good benefits but demands long hours.) Brief summary of allegations Microsoft is investigating reports that a factory making its products in China is forcing teenagers to work fifteen hour shifts in sweatshop conditions. An investigation by a US based labour committee found that workers at the factory producing products for Microsoft were being ill treated. The workers were forced to sleep fourteen to a room and wash in a bucket. They also had to work long shifts, high temperatures and under strict conditions with very little pay.
Originally published April 14, 2010 at 4:35 PM | Page modi ed April 15, 2010 at 2:55 PM Microsoft's vendor accused of using underpaid teen labor in China A U.S. labor group said this week that Microsoft has been contracting with a sweatshop in China that hires teenagers to make Microsoft mice for 65 cents an hour, 12 hours a day. By Sharon Pian Chan Seale Times technology reporter A U.S. labor group said this week that Microsoft has been contracting with a sweatshop in China that hires teenagers to make Microsoft mice for 65 cents an hour, 12 hours a day. The National Labor Commiee, based in Pisburgh, researched, wrote and released the report "China's Youth Meet Microsoft" on Tuesday. It says workers have been working under these conditions since 2007. Microsoft responded in a statement Wednesday that it is "commied to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors." The company said it was aware of the report and has started an investigation. "We take these claims seriously, and we will take appropriate remedial measures in regard to any ndings of vendor misconduct," the company said. Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the organization and author of the report, said of his group's ndings: "It sounded like torture. The frantic pace on the assembly line, same motion over and over for the 12 hours or more of work they did." Kernaghan estimated that as many as 5,000 people worked in the factory, located in Dongguan, and owned by Taiwanese company KYE. While the factory also has female workers between 18 and 25 years old, the factory also hired about 1,000 16- and 17-year-olds on summer work-study programs from high schools, the report said. The workers live in dormitories, and their meals are deducted from their wages, which brings their hourly wage to 52 cents, Kernaghan said. He estimated that the Microsoft mouse-ssembly line made 2,000 units a shift, with 20 to 30 workers on the line, and he calculated that each worker made 9 cents per mouse. In 2009, workers reported to the labor group that they were working 83 hours per week. The National Labor Commiee worked on the report for more than six months and cites interviews with anonymous factory workers. The report also has photos of Microsoft mice from a KYE assembly line. The report says workers estimate Microsoft accounts for 30 percent of the work in the factory. KYE also makes products for Hewle-Packard, Kernaghan said. Kernaghan said Microsoft has laws to enforce copyright and intellectual property of its software, but has not brought the same enforcement to international labor laws. "We have a system that is skewed where the product is protected but human being is not," he said. In its statement, Microsoft said noncompliance with the company's vendor requirements could lead to "corrective action plans, remedial training, certi cation requirements, cessation of further business awards until corrective actions are instituted, and termination of the business relationship." The National Labor Commiee is a nonpro t that works on human-rights and labor issues internationally. In the past, it has pressured companies such as Gap, Kathie Lee Giﬀord and Disney, Kernaghan said.
Inside Microsoft - A 'Velvet Sweatshop' or a High-Tech Heaven? Paul Andrews The Seale Times April 23, 1989 During last fall's United Way campaign at Microsoft, two vice presidents made a wager on whose division would generate the most contributions. The loser, it was agreed, would have to swim the length of “Lake Bill,” a small arti cial lake at the Redmond corporate campus named after Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of the world's No. 1 computer software company. When the campaign wrapped up, however, there was disagreement about who had won. One division had pulled in more money, but the other had a higher percentage of giving. Statistically, both were claiming victory. To sele the dispute, it was decided that both had “lost'' and would be forced to swim the lake. At noontime on the eventful day, employees crowded around the oversized pond to witness the proceedings. Pranksters, concerned that the lake might be too comfortable despite the 38-degree late-fall chill, threw in chunks of ice to lower its temperature. First up was the colorful Steve Ballmer, vice president for systems software, a great quipster who once called Intel's 80286 computer chip “brain-damaged'' (an injoke, folks). With dramatic air, Ballmer slowly stripped down to red bikini shorts, dived in and splashed his way to the other side. Following him was Mike Maples, vice president for applications who had come to Microsoft after 23 years with IBM and conducted a sweeping reorganization credited for improving eﬃciency and teamwork within the company. Maples removed his suit jacket, watch and shoes, emptied his pockets and, aired in a glistening wetsuit, jumped in amid the hoots, howls and cheers of onlookers. The incident, which immediately assumed a select place in the pantheon of Microsoft legendary, illustrates one side of the company's carefully fostered corporate culture. People who work there, from division managers to marketers to programmers to free lancers hired on a per-project basis, describe Microsoft as an exhilarating work environment fed by adrenaline, constant brainstorming and creative drive. Workers wear whatever they want to the oﬃce, set their own hours and, because of the corporate campus' innovative X-shaped buildings con guration, have windowed oﬃces of their own. In warm weather people dine outdoors and are entertained by the multiple talents of their fellow workers jugglers, unicyclists jousting with sticks and garbage-can lids and live music. If hunger should threaten to interrupt an important project, each wing is supplied with a fast-food “7-Eleven'' equipped with a variety of snacks and beverages, the laer provided free. For tness buﬀs, membership in a sports/health club just ve minutes away is a bennie. And no one wants for the latest techie toys: Nearly every oﬃce has at least two computers - an IBM or work-alike ``clone,'' and an Apple Macintosh - and many have more. It's not uncommon to see half a dozen or more video monitors siing on shelves and desktops in a single oﬃce. All of this is in addition to considerable rewards - professional and material - associated with employment at Microsoft. Many of those who guided the company through its formative years during the early '80s became instant millionaires when its stock went public in 1986. Even those who joined Microsoft as recently as two or three years ago now head entire divisions. Evidence of growth is everywhere, from bulldozers outdoors working on a new computer complex to workers asking for directions in one of eight sleek new buildings at the headquarters complex. The company, with $600 million in sales and $125 million in pro ts, nearly doubled in size last year to 2,000 workers at the corporate campus and 3,800 worldwide. Although Gates has cautioned that pro t margins will narrow because of greater focusing on research and development, which don't show immediate results on ledger sheets, few analysts see the company reaching a plateau for some time. Ask anyone who works there, and they'll tell you roughly the same thing. ``Microsoft is a great place to work,'' they will say, ``if you don't mind working a lot.'' It is the second part of the equation that casts the only shadow on Microsoft's corporate landscape. There is a diﬀerence between having fun and venting nervous energy, between riding an adrenaline high and running on empty, and insiders say the demanding pace and push of the high-tech fast lane eventually extract a heavy toll on workers' well-being. The company's awesome growth - it had just 200 employees as recently as 1983 - has produced an inevitable share of winners and losers, and competitiveness remains high as rising stars jockey for control of corporate efdoms. Stock options during the company's early growth produced numerous wealthy sub-30-year-olds, and for a while buons showed up on lapels bearing the inscription FYIFV, standing for ``F--- You, I'm Fully Vested.'' Many of those associated with Microsoft's early success, in fact, have left the company - partly to explore other opportunities, partly because they are nancially secure, but also because, they say, Microsoft simply expects too much in human terms from its employees. One former executive has even talked about forming a support group for ``recovering'' ex-Microsoft workers. ``They have a glamorous reputation and have done some innovative things involving partnerships,'' says Alene Moris, a Seale career consultant. ``But they also stretch people to unbelievable limits. It's always push, push, push, and the stakes are constantly being raised.'' A former Microsoft higher-up says derisively, ``If Microsoft is a great place to work for a corporation, that speaks prey badly for most corporations.'' And an editor who interviewed for a position there came away
with the impression that although Microsoft ``has a lot of nice qualities to it and the company does many things to create a pleasant environment, work de nitely comes rst. It's a velvet sweatshop.'' The delicate balance between work and human potential at Microsoft is an issue that extends well beyond one company and its employees. Computers are playing an ever-expanding role as the work force changes to a service- and information-based economy. The presence of video-display terminals in the workplace is expected to more than double - to some 70 million - by the turn of the century. The transition is proving to be a not altogether smooth one. Already the stresses of working at computers are taking a demanding physical toll, accounting for a third of all workers' compensation claims (expected to reach 50 percent by the year 2000) and losses of more than $27 billion annually to employers from lower back ailments, repetitive-strain injuries such as carpal-tunnel syndrome (a nerve disorder caused by keyboard work), eyestrain, headaches and other complaints. Less easily quanti able, but equally as prevalent, are the psychological ``burnout'' eﬀects associated with computers' ability to process vast and endless amounts of data. ``To survive in the workplace and even to function in society in general, we are forced to assimilate a body of knowledge that is expanding by the minute,'' writes author Richard Saul Wurman in his new book, ``Information Anxiety.'' ``We are growing apprehensive about our seeming inability to deal with, understand, manipulate or comprehend the epidemic of data.'' For the Paci c Northwest, long known as the laid-back quality-of-life capital of the U.S., the high-tech juggernaut holds additional cataclysmic implications. The Eastside's growing technology corridor has brought high-powered, single-minded new college graduates and industry wunderkinds here from California, New York and elsewhere for whom work is the elixir of life. Where that leaves the so-called Mount Rainier factor and the Northwest's other amenities is uncertain. ``There are programmers at Microsoft,'' says an editor there, ``who after two years have never even been to Seale.'' “Working evenings and weekends is just expected of you here,'' says one Microsoft supervisor. ``Everyone else does it, so you have to as well, just to keep up.'' Asked about hobbies or outside interests, the typical response of a Microsoft employee is to name a certain activity such as painting, mountain climbing, sailing or whatever, followed by: ``But I don't have much time for it anymore.'' Sixty-hour work weeks without overtime are common. “They tell you to take comp time, but hardly anyone does,'' says one worker. ``There's just too much to do.'' “There's something in the high-tech industry that forces you to work at a pace where you don't have another life,'' observes Posy Gering, manager of communications at nearby Microrim, a storybook success itself that produces the second-best-selling data base software in the world. ``I've known ex-Microsoft people here that were driven away by it, and the same people are driven away from here as well.'' The impact of this singular approach to life on the Northwest character is hard to quantify in absolute terms, but its presence is being felt in key socio-economic sectors. The fast lane is taking over: Cars are crowding the highways, housing prices are skyrocketing, production is booming. High-powered professionals are moving here from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, bringing with them the infrastructural stresses of an expanding population but also the problem-solving skills, high expectations and leadership potential needed to address growth problems. ``When these people discover there's more to life than debugging code,''cq one pundit puts it, ``you're going to see great things from them.'' Part of the high-tech work ethic stems from the ``Silicon Valley mentality,'' spawned by the birth of the Apple computer a lile more than a decade ago in a fabled San Jose, Calif., basement. From the start the slogan was, ``No Limits.'' If you thought big and pushed hard enough, you could turn a lile box of circuit boards and disk drives into a machine powerful enough to drive the very future of the human race. Not incidentally, you could become rich and famous along the way as well. Today there are virtually thousands of start-up companies around the U.S. and the world dreaming the same dream - including some 650 software ``oﬀspring'' of Microsoft in the Puget Sound area, making this region the third-largest in the country behind California's Silicon Valley and Massachuses, home of Microsoft's primary competitor, the Lotus Development Corp. But Microsoft's work ethic also is very much a product of its co-founder and CEO, Gates, a hands-on, proactive executive referred to as ``Chairman Bill'' in alternately respectful and irreverent terms. The youngest self-made billionaire in history, Gates, 33, keeps a tight rein on productivity by seing a manically driven example himself and intermiently cheerleading, cajoling and upbraiding his inner circle of managers to maximize performance. ``Bill almost always is there on weekends,'' says a Gates associate, ``and he keeps track of who's there and who isn't. If any of the 40 or 50 key people are missing, he'll call them up and ask, `What's the maer? Why haven't I seen you around?' '' Much of the corporate campus is lit up and bustling around the clock. Microsoft President Jon Shirley says that Gates ``will work till 9 or 10 at night, then go out for some dinner, and will be back on his computer at home answering electronic mail past midnight.'' It was Gates' idea to leave parking slots unassigned at Microsoft - a subtle but ingenious device to reward early comers. There are no wall clocks at Microsoft - a phenomenon the company denies has any signi cance, but one which discourages a punch-clock mentality. ``It's like time is irrelevant,'' observes a recent visitor from Silicon Valley. ``What beer way to get people to concentrate on their work?'' continued...
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.