Simplification of skilled work

And here’s the corollary: over here, Ford, GM, Boeing, Caterpillar, and others want us to be lower skilled. Wait, they prefer low-skilled workers? Yes. Now that’s contrary to what you and I are told; it’s contrary to what President Obama, the pundits, and even the companies are saying. It’s the world turned upside down. I know it’s hard to believe. After all, if it’s true that corporations don’t want us to be higher skilled, then it’s pretty demoralizing for those of us who would like to push for more education, more job training. What’s the point, right?

But before you dismiss the claim, listen to what David has to say about how things have changed over time at Ford. “They have a system there,” he said. “I like to call it ‘Simplicity.’ It’s to break everything down into the simplest possible tasks.” Indeed, he claims that both the hourly and the salaried positions are being simplified. By that David means that there used to be skill sets, or different levels of work. In the old labor contracts these skill sets had names, “classifications.” It might be General Utility or Repair. The newbies would say, “Hey, I see that guy over there. How can I do what he’s doing?” It used to mean more pay. One went to Ford to move up and develop higher skills in order to get more pay.

Well, that’s gone.

The “classifications” in general may soon disappear. Or let’s put it this way: entry level will be the classification, and people will stay there. Even if people learn higher skills, which used to lead to more money, they will stay at the entry level, at entry-level pay. And here I’d add that in nonunion places it is even harder to move up. People start at welder at $17 an hour, and they stay at welder at $17 an hour.

There is a puzzle about welder pay,
which lately has received comment in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. The puzzle is that there is a shortage of welders, and employers moan about it. But the pay is stuck at $17 an hour, where it’s been for years. That means the real inflation-adjusted wage is dropping. Even with a shortage of labor, the wage drops. But worse, after the welder starts and gains experience, the pay does not go up.

Geoghegan, Thomas. Only One Thing Can Save Us
Amazon

Is labor’s day over or is labor the only real answer for our time? In this new book, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan argues that even as organized labor seems to be crumbling, a revived—but different—labor movement is now more relevant than ever in our increasingly unequal society.

Gig economy – on demand restaurant work

Gig workers are nothing new in the restaurant world. Every day, contractors on bikes and scooters deliver food for Uber Eats and DoorDash. But in a growing number of kitchens, contract workers now make the food, too.

With the restaurant industry facing its worst labor shortage in decades, Pared and a rival app, Instawork, are filling a growing void, as managers who have struggled to recruit permanent employees turn to the on-demand services for workers trained as dishwashers, servers, line cooks and even oyster shuckers.

Among them is Mr. Mortenson, who said he could not imagine going back to a full-time restaurant job. “I’m making more money than I have ever made in this industry,” he said. “This is crazy.”

Part of the appeal, he said, is that the app exposes him to new experiences, whether icing gingerbread cookies at Bouchon Bakery or cooking short ribs for Twitter employees at the cafe in the company’s New York office.

“It doesn’t make me a better cook,” he said. “But it’s so amazing to go into a new restaurant every day.”

Cooking Eggs in the Morning and Shucking Oysters at Night, Thanks to an App

Gig – What I do is

AUTOMOBILE PARTS SPECIALIST
What I do is I sit behind a counter and I sell parts, just Honda parts for Honda cars. I get a salary and a little commission for each sale.

COMPUTER CHIP LAYOUT DESIGNER
What I do is translate this technical information into the way the chip will actually look – how all this information will be contained in this tiny space. I draw it out using a computer program.

A&R EXECUTIVE
What I do is go out and see bands or listen to their tapes, and if I like them enough, I sign them, and then as long as they’re with the company, I kind of work with them on all aspects of their career.

PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY SALES REPRESENTATIVE
What I do is visit practices and try to influence the physicians’ prescribing habits versus other products they might use. So I talk about Eli Lilly’s product versus Pfizer’s product, versus SmithKline Beecham, versus, you know, all our various competitors’ products— and I try to explain how our medication has better features and advantages over theirs.

from Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs

How to write unmaintainable code

In the interests of creating employment opportunities in the Java programming field, I am passing on these tips from the masters on how to write code that is so difficult to maintain, that the people who come after you will take years to make even the simplest changes. Further, if you follow all these rules religiously, you will even guarantee yourself a lifetime of employment, since no one but you has a hope in hell of maintaining the code. Then again, if you followed all these rules religiously, even you wouldn’t be able to maintain the code!

To foil the maintenance programmer, you have to understand how he thinks. He has your giant program. He has no time to read it all, much less understand it. He wants to rapidly find the place to make his change, make it and get out and have no unexpected side effects from the change.

He views your code through a toilet paper tube. He can only see a tiny piece of your program at a time. You want to make sure he can never get at the big picture from doing that. You want to make it as hard as possible for him to find the code he is looking for. But even more important, you want to make it as awkward as possible for him to safely ignore anything.

Programmers are lulled into complacency by conventions. But every once in a while, by subtly violating convention, you force him to read every line of your code with a magnifying glass.

You might get the idea that every language feature makes code unmaintainable — not so, only if properly misused.

Roedy Green, Canadian Mind Products
@ github

Fast Food labor market

NY TIMES article on the need for employees in the food service industry.

From the article:

Mr. Kaplow has tried everything he can think of to find workers, placing Craigslist ads, asking other franchisees for referrals, seeking to hire people from Subways that have closed.

From the comments:

I’m 65 and would like to work part-time because I don’t want to fully retire yet. I have applied at a few places that clearly hire older workers, but they want to pay me ten dollars an hour or less. I don’t expect to be paid what I was paid on my last job, but my first job out of college in 1977 paid about ten dollars an hour.

I’ll do volunteer work before accepting ten dollars an hour. Employers are insulting my intelligence and a lifetime of experience by offering such low wages. They are also insulting the young people who, unfortunately, need vast amounts of money to go to college now. My tuition and fees (not including room and board) at a very respectable New Jersey university were $235 a semester from 1973 to 1977. Yes, $235 a semester — thats all. Today, that same university charges about $14,000 for tuition and fees, plus another $12,000 or so for room and board.