Silicon Valley’s Low Down, Dirty Shame

As cogs, we pride ourselves upon how our hard work betters the machine. We hope to stand out in the company, so when the time comes available for advancement, be it by recommendation, brute force, or somewhere in between, we are recognized by our current company… or a competitor that’s willing to pay a little more for our services.

The thought of poaching is fleeting as most of us must be proactive if we seek forward advancement, but in the rare event that we are suddenly in demand, the headhunters come calling with promises to swoop us off to a land of greater pay, better benefits, and more respect. If you find yourself in this situation, please pause for pinching because such examples in our current economic state are only popular in REM and Silicon Valley.

Culturally, we’ve dropped to such a base level of petty professional infighting that we somehow manage to overlook another worker’s plight during massive collusion with one simple response, “You think you have it bad?”

With our growing emphasis on the suck (see also: blue bird of joblessness and/or lack of middle-class American jobs), we need a bit more of a rally behind wronged professions other than a simple, “Welcome to the club.”

The furor stems from news out of a federal court in San Jose, which states that senior executives at Google, Intel, Adobe Systems, Intuit, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Apple are accused of reaching a gentleman’s agreement to not poach one-another’s best programmers. Collectively, we sigh. It’s hard enough to blast through the glass ceiling, let alone blast through it when the strongest of the technological powerhouses are reinforcing the beams supporting it.

According to the lawsuit, the companies were able to keep wages artificially low by preventing rivals from flashing fistfuls of sweaty cash in front of each other’s best employees. We have yet to hear about any collusive actions against the incompetent.

For workers in merit-based pay structures, the competitor is one of few options remaining if compensation is dubbed less than satisfactory. By adhering to this agreement, programmers were frozen out of potential opportunities, and left to wade around within their current company’s pay structure. Quick, someone start shouting about capitalist America and the oppressed worker’s duty to go out on a limb, create a startup, and prove his/her competency.

Attorneys for the companies argue that the plaintiffs show no evidence of conspiracy, even though the plaintiffs produced an email thread (one of many) that shows Google’s Eric Schmidt preventing the recruitment of Apple employees at the behest of Steve Jobs. According to the thread, the Apple poacher was to be fired within the hour.

The many cited emails, however entertaining they may be, are reprehensible.

Perhaps an uproar isn’t warranted. I understand how it can be difficult to argue for mid-level tech workers who earn $110,000 annual salaries. But at a base level, isn’t total earnings why we continue to self-improve? Don’t we put ourselves through ongoing education, 60-hour workweeks, and the many other manners of professional improvement so that we can reap the benefits of professional advancement? Money talks.

If your current position isn’t in such high demand, I feel for you. I wouldn’t be surprised if “business-to-business editor headhunter” popped the oxymoron definition after a simple Google search, but this cannot prevent us from fighting against the unjust treatment of the currently employed.

What’s your take? Email or comment below.