Morning Ed: Labor {2016.07.27.W}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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100 Responses

  1. Avatar j r says:

    The two minimum wage articles are pretty typical of the discourse on this topic. They are both supported by the empirical literature on minimum wages. Neither should be a surprise to anyone. But people’s conversations about the minimum wage tend to ignore the literature and default to ideological characterizations, some simple empirical truths become faux-contrarian.Report

    • Avatar Mo in reply to j r says:

      Isn’t the problem that everyone can find empirical literature to support their POV?Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mo says:

        Sure, but not all empirical literature has equal value. I’m certain I can find a study that says echinacea is useful, but if everything links back to something sourced from Mercola…

        Authority matters.Report

        • Avatar Mo in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          The Card and Krueger study is hardly something sourced by Mercola. And there were subsequent stories that supported it (Dub, Lester and Reich) and those that contradicted it (Neumark and Wascher). The real world effects of small minimum wage increases are really messy and unclear.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mo says:

            Indeed, the Card-Krueger study is well-respected in the economics field. While the increase in employment was probably a fluke, the existence of a minimal net employment change from modest increases in the minimum wage is fairly robust, at least in the short term.

            However, this is not inconsistent with studies finding an increase in unemployment for certain subgroups. One of the proposed explanations for lack of a change in net employment is that the higher wage encourages some labor market non-participants to enter the labor market. If employment is unchanged and some people who previously weren’t on the market are getting jobs, then that means that some people who had jobs are losing them. For example, the higher wage might induce some college students to get part-time jobs, and employers may prefer them to candidates with a high school education or less. If you have to pay more anyway, you might as well trade up.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mo says:

        Not really. The literature is pretty consistent as to the trade-offs. People just like to highlight the part that supports their world view and ignore the parts that don’t.Report

        • Avatar Mo in reply to j r says:

          Se my response above to Oscar Gordon. There’s plenty of credible research that small minimum wage increase effects don’t necessarily have a disemployment effect.Report

    • Avatar Larry Hamelin in reply to j r says:


      There’s nothing wrong with ideological characterizations per se. The findings of the paper are empirical; the conclusion that we therefore should not raise the minimum wage are ideological.

      And the empirical “truths” of economics are very highly contingent: economies have a lot of moving parts.

      But I will grant that ignoring the empirical is at best foolish and at worst tempts disaster.Report

    • Avatar Francis in reply to j r says:

      Minimum wage analysis really depends on what problem you’re trying to solve. Yes, the lower the wages the more that capital will be willing to put into wages. But that’s a slippery slope right down to indentured servitude.

      It’s easy enough to create a hypothetical world in which the sole impact of increases in minimum wages is a decline in rent. If wages go up in an environment of perfect competition, the only cost that a business can reduce is its payments to its landlord.

      So, yes, I’ll concede for purposes of argument that minimum wage increases have a disemployment effect on poor minority teenagers. So? How is the rest of the economy doing? Have we effectively reduced poverty in min wage and working poor families?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Francis says:

        But that’s a slippery slope right down to indentured servitude.

        No it isn’t. I can’t give a counterargument, because there’s no argument to counter.

        If wages go up in an environment of perfect competition, the only cost that a business can reduce is its payments to its landlord.

        They can also raise prices, and empirical research confirms that this is usually what happens. They can do this even in a perfectly competitive environment, because all the competitors face the same price increase. The market-clearing price is a function of supply and demand, and supply is largely a function of costs of production. Of course, this means a reduction in the quantity demanded, so some marginal businesses may fold.

        Increases in wages can also make automation a more viable option, especially in the longer run. Lowering rents might happen a bit, but I think demand from businesses less dependent on low-wage labor would likely limit the extent to which that would happen.

        Have we effectively reduced poverty in min wage and working poor families?

        It’s generally acknowledged that the minimum wage is a poorly-targeted anti-poverty program, because a) most minimum-wage workers do not live in poor households, and b) the problem with most poor households isn’t so much low hourly wages as low number of hours worked. See here, for example. The minimum wage’s appeal comes more from its resonance with folk-Marxist narrative (employers are exploiting the workers, and we need to stop them!) than from its economic merits.Report

      • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Francis says:


        It’s easy enough to create a hypothetical world in which the sole impact of increases in minimum wages is a decline in rent. If wages go up in an environment of perfect competition, the only cost that a business can reduce is its payments to its landlord.

        How is that easy?

        Rent is a function of the payments agreed upon in a lease. That cost is fixed, and the landlords aren’t going to budge on it. In retail leases, the only way where there’s flexibility in the rent is when the rent is based on a percentage of sales, but that’s based on top-line revenue not net of expenses including wages.

        Also, rents are a function of what the market is willing to pay to lease the space so if a business has a lease that’s expiring and higher wages pushes down the amount of rent it can pay, depending on the market, the landlord will find another tenant.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    The programming article hits on what programmers need, a love of solving problems with a computer. Programming is just how you do that.Report

    • I suspect that the love of programming shows up in what somebody does when they’re faced with a problem. If the first thing they do is to write a program to solve it, that’s a pretty good sign that they love programming.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      This. As a process, programming has a lot in common with prose writing (and, interestingly, policing a la Sam Vimes) in that you’re in some sense doing it 24/7. And in some sense you aren’t always doing it even when you’re on the time clock – when your muse is somewhere else, TV Tropes or a “Left Behind” deconstruction at least keeps your brain working.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      The programming article hits on what programmers need, a love of solving problems with a computer.

      Not really.

      Programmers need to *be able to* solve a problem with a computer. (Or, rather, instruct a computer how to solve a problem.) They don’t need to love it. No one needs to *love* their job to be able to do it. In fact, talking about ‘love’ ignores the fact that most industry programming is an annoying hassle even to people who love to program. There’s some small fun part, maybe, but it’s a long way to get there.

      That article was all sorts of confused.

      Programming requires a special way of thinking that not all people can learn, or at least it’s *very hard* to learn after a certain point in life.

      And the industry has had, for a very long time, a problem with the people doing the hiring for that industry not understanding that. So you get programmers that are able to recite buzzword and whatnot, but cannot actually sit down and logically figure out the chain of events that need to happen to get the correct result from a computer. I.e., ones who fail at the very premise of programming. (A lot of the blame here can be laid at the feet of the educational system, which has been almost comically bad in understanding programming.)

      This is not the same as not knowing the language, or not recalling the exact function and having to look it up, or just plain forgetting things in the code. The article seems to want to call these ‘mediocre programmers’ and reassure them they’re fine…and the article is right to do so. That’s not ‘mediocre programming’ anyway, that’s just *median* programming. Seriously, almost all programmers are that way….it’s why we came up with IDEs with warnings, hinting, and documentation!

      So, people in the field, if you are unsure of yourself because you’re not one of those ‘genius programmers’, be aware that 90% of those guys are total fakes. A good portion of them are crappy programmers, and another portion of them are just *really hard workers*…and a tiny fraction really are geniuses, but genuising is what not is need most of the time anyway! You no more need to be those guys than all doctors need to be, or even should be, Dr. House! Let the geniuses figure out some new trick for the compiler or some new compression algorithm or something…you’re supposed to be writing a function following the specs you were given. That takes input and does something, and then returns something. Just do it, and stop worrying about geniuses. If it works, and isn’t completely horrible code, you did your job, and you are a programmer. If it doesn’t work, figure out why, and fix it.

      But that said…there actually is some level of native talent required, and I don’t know if it’s something people are born with, or a way of looking at the world they learn when really young. And there really are people out there, in the industry, calling themselves programmers, who are not programmers. I don’t mean ‘bad’ programmers, I mean not programmers at all, like I am not a musician or stand-up comic. Yes, I could attempt to do those things, but that does not make me those things.

      People have been trying to say that last paragraph for a while, though, and it’s sorta depressing to think that actual programmers are getting discouraged by it, while the incompetents aren’t. But, hey, Dunning–Kruger.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

        I think competent programmers need to find solving problems an enjoyable/interesting/stimulating exercise, or the work needed to learn a language won’t be worth it.

        And the mindset is what I call, “the troubleshooting mind”, someone who can keep a logical, ordered flowchart (for lack of a better word) in their head that describes a system & it’s workings, and a related set of failure modes. Without that, you can’t do the pseudo code needed to define the algorithm for anything more complex than a single function script.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Eh, I’d define a functional programmer as someone who can handle a few concepts well.

          First off, if you can grasp recursion you’re probably going to be okay no matter what. I mean well enough to use it and parse it, you don’t have to have a mind capable of thinking recursively, just grok it well enough to see when it’s useful and how it works.

          I honestly don’t use it that often myself, but it’s a pretty good benchmark for the ability to model programs in your head.

          Which is pretty much a key factor — you need to be able to see the big picture (how the bits go together) and keep that in your head, even when you drill down to the fiddly bits. You need to be able to hold a conceptual model of the program, so that when you’re modifying it you know if you’re jamming a stick into another important bit.

          The only difference between that and straight-up engineering is that it’s rather difficult to model visually. You can look at a model or blueprint of a gear-shaft or a bridge while you’re trying to figure out how to handle a problem or make an addition, but it’s rather hard to look at the entirety of the code.

          After that, you bluntly just need the basics of boolean algebra and some logic skills coupled with the ability to break down larger problems into smaller ones. “If A and B, but not C do this” is a lot of coding. A bunch of the rest is “What about not A and Not B and C? Or A and Not B and C? When do I care and when don’t I?”.

          Most programmers — probably the vast, vast bulk of them — are far closer to engineers than computer scientists (no matter what their degree says) or mathematicians. Because most programming is application, and what you’re doing is building something.

          The ability to conceptually model the software (not just the bit you’re working on now, but how it interfaces with other bits), the ability to use the tools, and the ability to analyze failures. That’s pretty much it.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    France. Thank god. Oh the stories I’ve heard about….

    Rieves: She signed a contract, knowing what her responsibilities/obligations were. She discussed this with her management and left after knowing her options. And she didn’t pay the money back. What you expect them to do? Keep it?

    Robot: Yeah, let’s see it go up and down the draws in eastern washington and oregon moving cattle.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Damon says:

      With friends like that, who needs enemies?

      I have a [French] friend who has been CEO of a few French start-ups… the labor laws are definitely…distortionary. Still, I can’t help but feel that given the trend of labor and capital that this alone is what is needed.

      I certainly recognize the value of job security (would that any of us really had it); my counter-intuitive thought for the day is whether unions ought not focus on job security (as important as it might be to their members) but rather on corporate governance and distribution of the collective revenues of the enterprise?Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Damon says:

      On Rieves I think there are sound public policy reasons not to enforce a contract like that. Imagine if every company required it. It would create arbitrary restrictons on the movement of human capital that could hurt economic growth and people’s ability to get ahead, earn more, and engage in economic activity. In many ways it’s the same as the type of regulations that the French have that lock up the labor market, it just favors the employer instead of the employee.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to InMD says:

        She knew EXACTLY what she was signing up for. Why is this so hard? She got the money up front. She agreed to pay it back. She knew it BEFORE she left. It was explained multiple times. She walked. She could have stayed on. She could have negotiated a deal. No, she walked.

        “Rieves concluded each option was unreasonable, and left in July 2012, unsure of what Buc-ee’s would do.” I see contracts like this often enough. She was paid 55K. This ain’t no stupid kid who didn’t know what he was signing. She signed this agreement TWICE.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Damon says:

          You’re too focused on the individual circumstances. Again, imagine this applied on a macro level where leaving one non-specialist job for a better non-specialist job is penalized (potentially ruinously). Would we be encouraging a mobile workforce that climbs or a sclerotic workforce where people are stuck where they are? Are we encouraging employer-employee litigation or minimizing it? Are we creating more bankrupt people or fewer? Are we encouraging productivity or discouraging it because people are trapped?

          This isn’t about whether or not she is sympathetic and it’s why there’s more to contract and employment law than ‘well the fool signed the dotted line so that’s that.’Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to InMD says:

            One thing enforcing this kind of contract definitely does encourage is training employees. If you’re going to say that this shouldn’t be enforced, you forfeit the right to complain about employers not training workers on the job.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              That’s not true unless the contract required the company to take some tangible action or pay for something. Maybe if there is a real quid pro quo (you don’t quit and we pay for your college/masters/certification) that might be the case but that’s a different discussion.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to InMD says:

                I said “encourages,” not “guarantees.” It’s pretty obvious that employers have a greater incentive to invest in training when they know that they’ll be able to capture a greater share of the value.

                Note that “training” doesn’t necessarily mean sending people to school, but can also include hiring people with little or no relevant experience and letting them learn on the job, rather than only interviewing candidates with x years of experience in a similar role. So you also forfeit the right to complain about a lack of entry-level jobs.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                It’s a good thing you’re not Saul, because those two of his favorite things to complain about.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to InMD says:

            I have no problems in general with employee contracts. I think in this case the term of employment was a bit high. On a society level, I have no problems with these types of contracts either. “We” are not “ncouraging a mobile workforce that climbs or a sclerotic workforce where people are stuck where they are? Are we encouraging employer-employee litigation or minimizing it? Are we creating more bankrupt people or fewer? Are we encouraging productivity or discouraging it because people are trapped”. As long as the terms and conditions are fully spelled out and clear to each party, I don’t think “society” should intervene. Period.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to Damon says:

              First no one is saying society should intervene. The question is should a court enforce it if asked. Second, if your opinion is that courts should prioritize enforcing non-compete agreements over all other considerations then fair enough but I’d say that’s pretty myopic both about the realities of the world and how the law works.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to InMD says:

                “First no one is saying society should intervene.” Asking wither the courts have better things to do or whether or not we are encouraging “a mobile workforce that climbs or a sclerotic workforce where people are stuck where they are” sure sounds like you’re setting up conditions for possible intervention by society.

                ” The question is should a court enforce it if asked. ” Yes, if the contract is legal.

                “Second, if your opinion is that courts should prioritize enforcing non-compete agreements over all other considerations then fair enough but I’d say that’s pretty myopic both about the realities of the world and how the law works.” My opinion is that the courts should rule on matters brought before them. How the courts prioritize their case load I lead to the Judiciary, but cases like this should not receive special treatment, favorable or unfavorable.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Damon says:

                Maybe we’re talking passed each other but courts reach holdings based on policy arguments all the time. There is a large body of case law on when non-compete agreements are and aren’t enforceable and different jurisdictions take different approaches. There’s nothing radical about taking the position that courts shouldn’t enforce non-compete agreements in circumstances like this which is all I’m arguing.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD says:

            The article said a third of her pay was subject to claw back… and that other article suggests that company pays a lot more than average. So… what if those two balance?

            Now maybe there are better ways to structure that, yearly bonus checks for example.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to InMD says:

        I am mixed on this. On the one hand, if we want employers to invest in their people, then we should give them the latitude to prevent employees from turning around and taking that investment elsewhere.

        On the other hand, I think the argument could be made that 4 years and $55k is so unduly excessive as to represent an unreasonable burden, but I don’t believe the arrangement itself necessarily is, even if relatively high dollar amounts or for extended periods. I also want to know if Buc-ee’s faced significant penalty if they’d terminated the contact on their end (without cause).Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Will Truman says:

          I think the investment stuff is a nice little piece of BS put together by the company’s legal and/or marketing office to avoid calling this what it is which is a non-compete. There are certain instances where a person provides a highly specialized skill or is in a position to poach personnel or a client base where thats reasonable but for the policy reasons stated above (as well as just plain old fairness in our economic system) I don’t think they ever are for run of the mill employees, middle management, etc.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to InMD says:

            I think the provision looks punitive, not compensatory.

            My sister went to nursing school for free on the condition that she work so many years at the hospital. I don’t remember the lengths of time involved, but this was when she learned she was very sensitive to the lack of sunlight and was constantly sick from the late shifts. Meanwhile, she met a doctor who recruited her to work at her clinic where all of the jobs were 9 to 5, at a higher salary and job flexibility and compensation to pursue nurse practitioner license.

            I looked at the contract, she was required to repay the tuition price at its market rate, but she essentially credited an installment each month she worked, so that by quitting early she just had to reimburse the remaining portion of the tuition price. I found that reasonable (though I believed the calculations were off — my sister didn’t want to burn any more bridges by objecting to this point).

            Here, I do see any training mentioned, just the culmination of experience, and the odd aspect that the longer she worked, the more she owed. I think a proper arrangement would have to have a better monetization of the value given by the company and a reasonable repayment structure.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

          Does anyone know how the taxes around this work? Can you go back and amend your previous tax returns to deduct the forfeited retention bonus for previous years and get refunds for taxes you paid on it, or do you just get a huge $67k deduction for the current year?Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            No idea really, but this might be something that can only be worked out over the course of a few years of tax returns. But her other problem is that she owes her former employer over $20,000 in legal fees.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

          A contract like this is something that should be pro-rated at the very least. When Boeing stopped offering educational benefits free & clear, it didn’t demand full repayment, just repayment of any classes completed within the last 2 years.Report

          • Did they grant exceptions? “My wife has a terrific opportunity at a hospital in Tampa, and Boeing doesn’t have facilities there, so I’m leaving my position.” Or was/is there an implied policy that the wife’s position had better be lucrative enough to repay Boeing for that class you took last year?Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

              IIRC they would grant exceptions, but it was on a case by case basis, and a situation you describe would be more likely to win an exception, provided that there was some manner of documented proof, coupled with an understanding that if Boeing ever found out you weren’t on the up & up with them (like failing to mention you had an offer as well from a competitor in the same city), they could come back for the costs.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            When Boeing stopped offering educational benefits free & clear, it didn’t demand full repayment, just repayment of any classes completed within the last 2 years.

            I don’t follow. It sounds like you’re saying that they agreed to pay for classes and then retroactively demanded that people refund the last two years’ worth, but I don’t see how that could possibly be legal.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Old policy: company pays tuition, no restrictions on classes, no repayment required except for failing grades.

              New policy: classes must have a relationship to the business, and repayment is only required if the employee leaves and it has been less than 2 years since the last tuition reimbursement. E.G. if you complete a four year degree program, and leave a year after graduation, you are on the hook for the last year of tuition payments.Report

          • If the payment reflected actual economics, the payment would be the difference between two curves: what they spent on your training vs. the value they got from it. So it would start by rising steadily, then the slope would decrease as you because more experienced, then it would start to fall as the training period ended, and fall more steeply until it reached the zero point. The fact that it remains the full amount until four years have elapsed means it’s about not letting people go, not about getting payment for their expenses.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Agree. Such arrangements have value gradients, and those gradients should at least try to be reflected in the contract.

              In the case here, I could see a clawback for the last 6 months, or year, as reasonable, but the whole amount that implies that the employer gets no value from the employee until the 4 years are up.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Frankly, it seems like we’d be a lot better off if this was structured as bonuses, with perhaps some sort of loan setup.

                Granted, I’m not sure about the *tax implications* of that, something might need fixing there, but that’s how it should work.

                I’m really not enamored of the idea that clawbacks should become standard operating procedure. Your salary should be your salary…and if there’s some sort of way you can be forced to pay some money to the company, that’s a *loan* from them, completely independent of your salary. If they later want you to keep the money, they give you some extra salary and that gets applied towards it.

                This makes it a lot more obvious what is going on, and somewhat harder to set up…because it’s the kind of thing that, frankly, *should* be hard to set up.

                ‘We are not going pay your way through school. We are going to *loan* you $X, an amount that be due over four years in payments of $X/4. Additionally, we are, completely coincidentally, offering you a four year contract with an added year end bonuses of $X/4, which, if you so choose, you can apply directly to your loan payment.’Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                Yes, agreed with all that. The problem with “claw backs” is most people spend the money when they have it.

                As far as Rieves goes… that contract is interesting. It’s built to prevent the 2+ year vets from leaving, so they want to train people and then have them work at that store, but it’s a highly paid/priced convenience store. I wouldn’t think retention/recruitment would be a big deal if you’re the highest paid employer on the block.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

                The problem with “claw backs” is most people spend the money when they have it.

                That, and it doesn’t seem to actually link up to time. It doesn’t seem to be pro-rated.

                Not that yearly bonuses do that exactly, but it’s a lot closer. And if it’s a loan, it can get paid off in advance, and it also has defined due-dates that don’t have anything to do with your job. Under the current setup, apparently, the second you quit your job you are supposed to pay it all back, despite the fact that, if you had kept working for them, they wouldn’t have gotten ‘fully paid’ (With your employment) until a few more years went by!

                I.e., with a loan, if you are loaned $100,000 for school, and when you get out you have to pay back four even installments of $30,000 (Because interest) with a yearly bonus of $30,000…you also could pay back $40,000 for two years, $30,000 for the third (Because less interest), and be done with it.

                Or, more likely, you can pay off $30,000 each year, and then the day you get your third-year bonus, you apply that to your loan, hand them another 10,000 you have saved up to reduce your balance, quit your job, and hope you can save up the ~$18,000 more you need by next year.

                I don’t think it’s reasonable to let corporations lock people into multi-year contracts with an exit penalty that is the *entire* cost of the whole thing. I mean, if it was something that had a very large up-front cost, perhaps. Like with satellite TV. What is *actually* happening there is you’re buying a dish and getting free service for X years, after which you have to pay for the service…and if you try to back out before paying for the dish, you…now have to pay for the dish. Fair enough, although it’s perhaps an interesting argument we’d be better off as a society if it was *phrased* that way.

                But this doesn’t seem to apply here. If this company is willing to pay $X for four years of a college trained employee, it seems entirely reasonable for them to pay $X/4 for *one* year of that employee. Yes, there is ‘training time’ and stuff associated with employment, the first few weeks the employee is somewhat useless, which is why I didn’t say ‘Or $X/48 for one month’…but that happens *everywhere*, I don’t know why this company gets a special exemption from having to deal with it. That’s what promotions and bonuses are for.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                That contract is ‘anti-prorated’, the longer you’re with them the more painful it is to quit.

                If you quit the first day then you pay back nothing. Quit at the end of the first year you owe about one third of a year’s pay. Quit at the end of 3 years and you owe three times one-third of a year’s pay (i.e. a full year’s pay), and so on.

                I suppose from some points of view this is aligned with the company’s needs. If you’re still working there after 2 years then they want to keep you… but I could argue the reverse as well. Having a pissed off worker who *can’t* leave there for years seems unlikely to lead to good things.

                Fundamentally I don’t see why they need this. In terms of pay, they’re top dog in their niche. You’d think they’d be attracting the best and brightest (by their niche’s standards).Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

          Many private schools will cover grad school costs in part or whole with some mechanism to keep the employee OR limit payments. I think the best system I saw said 50% tuition was covered but payments were capped at $6K. So a Masters might cost $45K and take 2 years to finish. If you finish and walk, you can get up to $12K (2x $6K), about half what you would be eligible for (50% x $45K = $22.5K); if you want it in full, you stay two more years minimum.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Will Truman says:

          I also want to know if Buc-ee’s faced significant penalty if they’d terminated the contact on their end (without cause).

          Her lawyer describes it as an at-will contract, so I would assume Buc-ee’s would not face any penalty for firing her. (With/ without cause is eye-of-the beholder anyway)

          I suspect the story is that Buc-ee’s needs a lot of assistant managers to oversee a lot of gas stations that are open 24/7. The jobs require responsibility, but not a lot of specialized skill or training. Inconvenient hours and environmental require higher compensation, but they’ve found that it doesn’t take too long for managers to quit to work for less at a 9-5 job in more pleasant surroundings. To lower job-search costs, they try to force managers to stay four years.

          I think it would be far less problematic if they cut salary by one-third and offered a $90,000 bonus in four years. But there would be far fewer takers either because the reduced salary wouldn’t be competitive or the bonus would seem too speculative.Report

  4. I was a programmer for 30 years. I was no superstar, but I was good at my job. And the article is correct: it’s just a job, a set of skills.

    Anyone can learn to program, but, like anything else, not everyone wants to learn how to program, and not all programmers want to learn to program well. Different people have different tastes, but there’s nothing magical about programming.

    I’m reminded of when my son, when he was 10-ish, complained that he couldn’t memorize the US state capitols. I noted that he had memorized every statistic of 300 pokemon; there was no problem with his memory, just his motivation. (And I had to agree with him: memorizing the state capitols was a gigantic waste of time.)Report

    • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Larry Hamelin says:

      I’m reminded of a baseball writer way back when who, when illustrating the hold that baseball had on the public imagination at the time, used as an example an accountant (or something like that) who fought with numbers all day long, but when he got home, and the numbers were on the back of a baseball card, he relaxed in a mutual caress with them.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    1. I admit to having a soft spot for France’s labor code and the ways that it protects a worker’s freetime. I generally think the no e-mail after hour X rule is pretty good. But I am sort of fascinated by toxic workplaces and how to end them. Not that a 2 a.m. e-mail means a workplace is toxic but it does indicate something. I’m also largely against attitudes on working long hours for the sake of long hours is good.

    2. Eh, I don’t know if young men are being taken out of the workforce by video games. But Derek Thompson wrote about how many unemployed young men are much happier than their working counterparts and said mainly they are playing video games and cheap entertainment is making their lives better. I would say for non-college educated people, the growth fields seem to be in areas that perceived as being for women: home-health aides and other service jobs.

    3. Raising wages. The issue you have to look at here is how much does a company rely on contracting. Does JP Morgan employ their own cleaners or hire a contractor? How about cafeteria workers? Etc. A lot of the lowest-paid people in Silicon Valley are contractors. There is still my concern that we are devolving into two economies. Track one is for people who go to the best of the best schools (undergrad and grad), they get brass ring jobs with high five or low six figure salaries right after graduation. These jobs also come with generous benefits, bonuses, and loan repayment programs. Everyone else (even people who went to good/great but not HYPS level schools) gets to fight it out for crumbs and a chance at climbing up.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I really do find more problematic the ethics of animals doing work than the ethics of eating them.

    If everything is done right, you can live carefree all your life, blissfully unaware that you’re about to graduate from Bovine University.

    If you’re faculty at Bovine University, though, you got to put in effort everyday. And what if you’re simply not cut out for the work?Report

  7. and in some cases likely can’t develop

    I see what you did there.

    Anyway, I’d say that programming requires patience, a high threshold for frustration, and the willingness to solve problems rather than try to argue them away.Report

    • The ability to maintain a mental image of an abstract construct in your head, and specify it formally. There are correspondences to music, even to different kinds of music and different kinds of programming. I’ve claimed that my fondness for baroque music is reflected in the kinds of programming that I always did best (or at least, believe that I did best): not too many parts, but all of them fit together in an intricate pattern, often embellished with a lot of needlessly frilly detail.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

        The ability to maintain a mental image of an abstract construct in your head, and specify it formally.

        Yes, exactly.

        Intro to Programming classes tend to describe it as the ability to break things into logical steps, but it’s actually sorta the inverse of that…it’s more the ability to keep track of a couple of different things and what you’re going to have to do to each of them.

        I.e., what programmers call ‘state’.

        If you can’t keep track of three or four pieces of state in your head, you can’t be a programmer. You…just can’t. (1)

        Now, most people have at least that many short-term memory slots (The standard is supposedly 7 +/- 2) …so the question isn’t how big their memory is, it’s probably more like ‘Can a person fit an *entire* piece of state in a single slot?’, which requires them being able to *build* a mental construct of the lifetime of that information.

        If you can’t simplify that down to a single ‘short term memory slot’ and keep it in the back of your mind while you deal with something else, you can’t be a programmer.

        1) In fact, a lot of structured programming is getting it *down* to those numbers, as opposed to previous type of programming, where you needed a lot more state information. The entire premise of structured programming is that you are not supposed to care what happens inside functions you call, just that they do what they should do. Not that you ‘don’t need to’ care, but you literally *shouldn’t* care, because caring takes up state. Do not think about the internals of those things! Assume they are magic things that do what they are supposed to do, at least when you’re working on something else.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

          Yeah, that’s why properly done OOD is so powerful. I have a genetic algorithm program I wrote. I once ripped out the ENTIRE data layer and replaced it.

          Really two layers — I yanked out the whole I/O layer and the internal storage, and radically overhauled the middle layer (a bunch of mathematical calculations of the data that were points of their own. Like the equivalent of moving averages for the stock market, etc).

          The rest of the program didn’t even notice. As far as it cared, it created chromosomes as normal, populated them as normal, and had them play the sex and death game as normal.

          I gutted a program of it’s two most core layers (I/O and internal data storage and manipulation) and because I’d written it OOD from the start, there was not even a problem with running the thing (well, once I’d ironed out any mistakes I made replacing those bottom layers).

          And of course another time I ripped out another layer to thread everything, and then there was the time I decided to massive modifications to the core calculation system that determines what’s a “fit” chromosome and what isn’t. — again, proper design meant that I could focus JUST on what I was changing. Everything else would continue to play nice.

          Even then there’s crossovers. If I’m futzing with how I define fitness (which often involves changes in the fitness calculations) I have to keep in mind how the software uses whatever fitness values I assign to rank chromosomes before roulette selection.

          I mean even simple stuff like, say, a bubble sort does require you to be able to model two arrays, two iterators, and then the swap mechanism. (And low, the biggest problem with nested loops is array[i][j] when you meant array[j][i] and why do people use i and j when they’re so similar in some fonts).

          Of course, the whole ‘state’ concept is why programmers are notoriously b*tchy if you interrupt them. “I’m sorry, I’m holding a complex model in my head and trying to make it do X when you poke it, and now I’ve lost my ENTIRE train of thought. Thank you SO much”.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

            I mean even simple stuff like, say, a bubble sort does require you to be able to model two arrays, two iterators, and then the swap mechanism. (And low, the biggest problem with nested loops is array[i][j] when you meant array[j][i] and why do people use i and j when they’re so similar in some fonts).

            I spent like two minutes trying to figure out what second iterator you were talking about (In addition to the obvious one), and finally had to mentally construct one in my head to realize it was ‘number of times through array/current ending element’. (And you need one more if you make it bidirectional.)

            That actually shows sorta what I mean. In programmer’s heads, I suspect ‘array with iterator over it that goes to a specific point, and decrements that point and run through the loop again, until there is nothing left to loop over’…basically counts as one short-term memory slot, despite how convoluted that description is, and the fact it has one array and two iterators in it. Looping over part of an array in an loop is just *a thing*, and reducing that part and going again is part of the same thing, or maybe it’s 1.5 of a thing total.Report

          • Why do people use i and j when they’re so similar in some fonts.

            FORTRAN lives!

            PDP-11’s live too, which is why older programmers tend to write –i and i++, instead of i– and ++i. (Younger ones write –i and ++i, because they know that preincrement and pre-decrementare can be more expensive for non-primitives.)Report

            • I’ve seen math texts from the turn of last century, and the i, j, k indexing was already in use (and while FORTRAN is old, it’s not that old). Almost always in italic serif fonts, where the distinction between lower-case i and j are much more pronounced.Report

  8. Decent wages are the opiate of the people.Report

  9. “The way I understood the wording is they had to be fair,” Rieves said. “If somebody left, and they had a contract, they had to call them on it.”

    I’ve told this story before. I used to work for a medium-sized software company that I liked a lit. It got bought by a very large software company that nobody liked at all. One of the things we disliked most was the non-compete clause in their employment contract. When one of their managers came by to try to persuade me to stick around for a while and see how I liked it, I said that the non-compete made that impossible: if I wanted to leave, they could make it difficult for me to take another job. But if they’d waive it, I’d give staying some thought. No, he said, that wouldn’t be fair to all the other employees.

    I wonder whether loan sharks say the same thing as they’re breaking your legs. ‘You know, it’s not dat I have anythin’ against you personally, but if I let you slide it wouldn’t be fair to de rest of de clientele.”Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:

    What is the economic inefficiency you experienced?Report

  11. Avatar Kazzy says:

    These loan forgiveness problems rub me the wrong way a bit. As a teacher, I’d have qualified for many of them but as they didn’t yet exist, I paid off my school debts immediately using my inheritance. Now, I don’t expect anyone to shed tears for me, but it does feel like I was penalized for being responsible with those debts.

    Does this make me a Republican?Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

      Ah, the story of my life. Every time they do something that would reduce taxes or forgive debt or anything like that, my opportunity to make use of it passed a few years before. When they get to the point of buying off the oldsters by making withdrawals from a traditional IRA tax free, I’ll go buy my cemetery plot — because Mike Cain won’t live long enough to actually make use of that.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Just wait. Indefinite life extension is coming.

        I’ve often joked that it’s just my luck that, given my family health history and the time I live, there’s a nonzero chance that I’ll be among the last cohort ever to die of old age.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

      Depends. Was your inheritance greater than or less than the tax exemption?Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    For the men not getting jobs but playing video games instead… if we don’t have jobs or prospects for them otherwise, why not? We just need better sexbots and better soma.

    Maybe VR will help with that.Report

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