SPUG: Living in Seattle

Ken Meyer kmeyer at blarg.net
Tue Aug 9 21:22:10 PDT 2005

See comment in [...] below.

Ken Meyer

-----Original Message-----

From: spug-list-bounces at pm.org [mailto:spug-list-bounces at pm.org]
On Behalf Of Duane Blanchard
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 12:06 PM
To: jerry gay
Cc: spug-list at pm.org

Subject: Re: SPUG: Living in Seattle

I came to Seattle from southern China (originally from Utah, USA) for
graduate school and am coding in Perl at Boeing, which is turning out
really well for me. My wife and I love it here and are glad we are
able to stay after finishing school.


> > If we were to go over there we'd be doing programming work for a big,
> > company.  I suspect that our current 30 hour weeks would go back to
being 60
> > hours or more.  In Australia a lot of jobs are heavily unionised and
> > laws ensure things like minimum holiday leave: 20 days/year etc.  What
kind of
> > things are granted by law in Seattle?  What would you suggest we make
sure gets
> > added to our contract?

Few tech jobs here are unionized. Boeing has huge unions, but only for
labor. Two weeks' vacation is common, but does not include holidays,
some of which are paid and some are not. Generally, any federal
holiday is paid, and some companies pay a couple others like
Thanksgiving day. I've read a lot about negotiating for new jobs and
everything indicates that especially if you have been enjoying more
vacation than they are offering, you should ask for more.

[All of the above, including the original text that is snipped, is IMHO,
either factual or a reasonable opinion, except the business about unions at
Boeing.  In addition to the machinists, the engineers and "technical"
employees are well unionized (unless they are included in "labor").  For
many years, the engineers were the epitome of wussies, union-wise, believing
that hard work would be rewarded and not that they are viewed as a commodity
not unlike aluminum.  But when the company over-played its hand with
"take-backs" during a negotiation occurring midway through the design of the
new 737's, the enginears startlingly grew a backbone (I think it especially
surprised management).  They went on strike for 30+ days, and I have heard
it was 80% to 90% strong.  Then what had been a local organization joined an
affiliate of the AFL-CIO, the major umbrella union in this country, even
after a couple of its major units defecting recently.

[The effectiveness of any Boeing union, even more than in general, is
completely contingent on whether its contract comes up when the aircraft
cycle is booming, when the company has a lot of commitments to fill and
materials in stock that they want to turn into money, or whether it is
during a downturn when everyone is just holding onto their jobs by the skin
of their teeth.  The company does have a contingent of employees who are not
unionized, and it may be that programmers fall into that category.

[Boeing's vacation policy is pretty stingy; you probably still start with 10
days and it's awhile until that goes up to 14.  But long-timers get more
than they can use without people forgetting who they are, and being able to
do their jobs adequately, so the total amount is somewhat moot.  Boeing
gives only the very major holidays "in place", but wads the others together
to shut down the plant between Christmas and New Years, which one may or may
not favor.  I don't think that there is ANY government requirement, either
federal or state, that requires any vacation at all; the union contract will
cover that -- or you hope that the employment market is hot, so competitive
inducements are offered.

[If you expect socialistic enforcement of any sort of requirements for
benefits, medical, retirement, etc. you'd probably not be really happy with
the US, where "socialist" is, in many quarters including the ones that run
most things, an epithet expectorated with curled lip.  But since you have
your own business, you are probably used to working your butts off with no
guarantees.  There are a lot of laws that govern how the benefits may be
administered, if they are offered, but not that they MUST be offered.

[Now, many of the "high-tech" companies gave extraordinary perks during the
dot-com heyday, free lunch, etc.; but I'm not sure whether these things
persist on momentum now following the bust, though they do for some
"professional employees" in other corporate environments. At M$, pop and
other drinks are still free for the taking.  On the other hand, the largesse
is often a calculated ploy to keep people around work longer, and M$ is
famous for hiring bright young things and burning them out.  My son-in-law
works there, and he's spent many an night sleeping on the floor of his
office as a release date looms -- but he does have an office, and there
aren't that many businesses that don't care whether you've finished college
or not, so long as you can write DOS batch files (a common interview
inquisition approach, I am told).]

> > Thank you for your help.

Let me know if you have any more questions, or if you would like to
know some addresses of friends at any 'big well-known companies' in
the area who might be able to answer other questions.

Good luck,


> >         Jacinta
> >
> > --
> >    ("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._          |  Jacinta Richardson         |
> >     `6_ 6  )   `-.  (     ).`-.__.`)  |  Perl Training Australia    |
> >     (_Y_.)'  ._   )  `._ `. ``-..-'   |      +61 3 9354 6001        |
> >   _..`--'_..-_/  /--'_.' ,'           | contact at perltraining.com.au |
> >  (il),-''  (li),'  ((!.-'             |   www.perltraining.com.au   |

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