December 11, 2008

Let’s take a look at different ways of getting through to management.

From 1999 to early 2002, I was the head of information technology for a doomed startup company. I didn’t take vacation time, and I stupidly believed management when they said that I’d be paid later. As they went into crisis mode, all the worker’s salaries got cut drastically. I also stupidly believed them when they said that, since I had accepted the pay cut, I could reduce my hours to full time (you read that right), and that anything over would be paid at a time and a half equivalent of the corresponding hourly rate. As the company’s financial situation continued to slide, I started asking for the money that was owed to me.

You can imagine how well that went.

Finally, push came to shove. Someone in the accounting department (who also doubled as the HR person) told me to go to the California Department of Industrial Relations and tell my story to them. She said that this would do more to compel the crooks than if someone firebombed the building. I said that I had a better idea…

I packed up my stuff and left a short letter on my keyboard, along with a floppy disk and the Pelican case which held all of the removable backup drives.

The letter said something like this:

I resign, effective immediately.

[Company Name Deleted] owes me $8320 for vacation time worked and overtime. After repeated requests, I have not been paid.

The passwords required to access the administrative level accounts are contained on this floppy disk. They are encrypted with a very strong encryption algorithm. If [Company Name Deleted] ever wants to have administrative access to its critical systems (servers, firewalls, routers, etc.), for a one time consulting fee of $8320 (cleared funds) I could provide [Company Name Deleted] with the passphrase required to access this information.

About fifteen hours later, I got a call from that person in the accounting department. She was laughing.

“I have your check. You can pick it up anytime, but they don’t want you to come inside the building.” HAHA

“That’s fine. Tell them I couldn’t stand the stench for even a minute longer anyway.”

I went over there, sat in the parking lot and called the girl from accounting. She came down with the check and handed it to me. We both laughed at how stupid and evil these pricks were.

The people in charge of that company all had doctorates or law degrees from Ivy League schools. It’s too bad that their own opinions about how smart they were and their lists of publications didn’t translate into any viable products or revenue streams. I’m sure it didn’t dawn on them that the hired-help-outsider computer guy, with just a lowly undergraduate degree *gasp*, would ever think of actually trying get what the company owed him for work already completed.

I felt really bad for the graduate students who got caught up with this swindle. As regular employees quit or got fired, members of the board, some of whom were professors, took graduate students and pressed them into service, doing the work that we had been doing. Why pay someone thousands of dollars per month to do something that you can get graduate students—who are paid mostly with government grant money—to do? Better yet, undergrads. They’ll work for letters of recommendation. All of this, and much, much more was in direct contravention of easily a dozen University of California—woops, I let a bit of detail slip—guidlines established to guard against this nonsense. Remember, this was a private, for profit company that had a few too many tentacles still attached to the University of California at _____ (fill in the blank, my guess is that all of the UCs are the same in this regard).

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

I’ll give you another hint about where this was. The lab (but not the company in question) was written up in a series articles in a large regional publication that neglected to mention the Main Prick’s rabid alcoholism and psychotic tendencies. He is one of the Big Deal names in neuroscience.

Well, I deposited the check and it cleared. I gave them the password. That was it.

The hilarity actually continued because their operation went on to self destruct in a spectacular manner. You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you what happened.

The point is: If you find yourself working for a pack of psychopaths, expect the very worst. Psychopaths will look right at you and lie. And never, ever expect them to deliver on their promises. Having the terms in writing may help. Having the executives by the nuts is better.

I was at a point in my life where I literally didn’t care what those bastards said or did. I was just sick of being fucked with and lied to. Part of me expected to wind up in some kind of trouble, but it’s amazing what not giving a rat’s ass can do for you when you’re backed into a corner. Instead of cowering and just taking it, one more time, I simply refused to yield.

I told my dad about this. He doesn’t understand computers or startup companies at all, but he was savagely beaten as part of his strict Catholic upbringing.

“By the time I was 14, the beatings stopped.”

“How did you get them to stop beating you?” I asked.

“I let Mother Superior know that someone was going to die if she hit me with that stick again, and it wasn’t going to be me.”

Well, that ultimatum to Mother Superior went a bit further than strong encryption on a password file or taking over a factory, but these are things that even any psychopath can understand.

And people sometimes wonder how I came to be milking my own cow in a remote part of New Zealand… HA

Via: Dow Jones / CNN:

Union employees who have staged sit-in protests at an Illinois door-and- window factory will receive the compensation required under state law, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

Under the agreement reached late Wednesday afternoon, more than 200 unionized employees of Republic Windows & Doors will receive pay for an additional 60 days. They also will receive vacation pay.

Last week, the factory notified its nearly 300 employees, of which about 80% are unionized, that it would close by Friday because Bank of America Corp. (BAC) had told the company it would be cutting off all financing.

On Tuesday, Bank Of America said it would provide a “limited amount” of additional loans to Republic, a day after the protests escalated into an intense labor-relations fight that threatened to have financial ramifications for the banking giant.

On Monday, one day before being arrested on unrelated corruption charges, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich called on state agencies to suspend business with the bank.

The agreement announced Wednesday is the result of negotiations under way since Monday between local, state and federal officials; the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America; Bank of America; JPMorgan; and Operation PUSH.

Madigan said she remains concerned about consumers who may have paid deposits toward the purchase of windows and may need assistance communicating with the company to obtain refunds of their deposits. Consumers having difficulty reaching Republic regarding their deposits should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline at (800) 386-5438.

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