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Playing by the rules -- or not

It would be nice if everyone played by the same rules. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen on the playground, and it certainly doesn't happen in corporate America.

What do I tell my children when they're the victims of playmates who don't play nice? It's never easy when the answer is that they have to play by the rules, even if the others don't. They aren't allowed to break the laws or cheat.

I try very hard to teach my children right from wrong. But how do I explain why some people, usually those with money and power, don't get punished for not playing by the rules.

In this society, we have gone from "Don't do it because it's wrong" to "Don't get caught" to "Make sure they aren't going to prosecute you."

John Brandt

What about respect for the law? What about respect for another person's work and efforts or respect for their position? What about simply playing fair? Was IBM playing fair when they said all these years, "Yes, the AS/400 will be around for years to come, so make an investment in your future and stay with RPG," and then started pulling the carpet from beneath our feet? No.

IBM is slowly putting us all on the fast track to software that requires thousands of man hours in installation time, check out and certification time because they are now a company with a majority of employees who are "services" employees. Can we jump through those hoops? Probably. I would venture to say that most companies don't want to pay to train old dogs to do new tricks.

Over the past 15 years or so, the AS/400 community has been the most active in the history of IT. We demanded a stable hardware environment, a stable database and operating system with less need for operations staff. We have demanded our way into the back of the pack. If our platform weren't as self-sufficient as it is, we would be on TV every night of the week.

IBM isn't the only one who doesn't play fair. A slew of high-tech companies skirt laws or outright break them without fear of repercussions. John McHugh of Hewlett-Packard said the company could no longer find technically qualified people in Silicon Valley. I have one question for him: If you can't find qualified people, why don't you rehire some of the 16,800 you have laid off since the Compaq merger? Perhaps because that would be playing fair?

Not to be outdone, his boss and CEO Carly Fiorina was reported saying not long ago, "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore."

Well, you know what? She may be right. Why would I expect a company who can't find technical talent in Silicon Valley to even look at Americans for jobs when they can pay minimum wage or less in another country. This is the new HP.

Those who abuse the system to skirt the existing laws do so by simply changing the titles. The H-1B abusers do exactly the same thing when they file a Labor Condition Application for an "analyst" at $40,000 per year. They will then fire the 10- year veterans making $75,000 per year. Do they care if it's legal? No. Do they care if the job gets done? Not as long as they get their bonuses. The CEO and the CIO won't be around long enough for that. They will be playing a new theater next year.

We have laws in this country, but they are no longer enforced or actionable. My wife was involved in a "layoff" at Blockbuster's corporate offices a few years ago when she was a week away from Maternity leave. They made her sign a release that stated that she could never sue them. If she didn't sign, her insurance would be terminated immediately. My children all asked what we could do about it. Nothing. Not in a "right to work" state. The next week, her job showed up on a job site with a different title.

What am I telling the iSeries community? Make yourself heard, but do it with class. Call, write, e-mail and fax IBM. I was raised to dance with the one who brought you. IBM, take a hint. We may not have made you what you are today, but we deserve a little respect and fair play.

So, what should I tell my children? Why should I teach them to play fair even if the other team doesn't? Because it's the right thing to do.

Of course, I wouldn't know. I'm just a flunky programmer.

About the author: John Brandt is a site expert on and vice president of technical services at He welcomes your comments and feedback; send your e-mails to


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