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Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but the article seems to slant in favor of FedEx using contractors. And then you look at the pros and cons.

  FedEx Ground Cons:

  - No benefits, no overtime pay, no sick time, no insurance

  - Drivers pay for vehicle, gas, supplies, insurance, and everything else

  - No company retirement, seemingly less stable environment

  - No Teamsters contract or collective bargaining

  - Drivers have only one client: FedEx
That's one step above glorified pizza delivery driver for a career. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. My wife has extended family, on the other hand, that have worked 40+ years at UPS and retired with benefits. Now, I'm not saying, "UPS rules, and FedEx sucks." But I'm hesitant to throw my support behind any business model that treats people like temporary commodities instead of long-term resources.

This reminds me of a story posted here not long ago

"To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now"


HN Comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15161445

I fully support upward mobility but it's a tough argument to make that it was culturally good for an organization to promote people in part because of seniority.

Kodak is dead. In no small part because they lost their ability innovate.

I think it's kinda interesting that the HN takeaway is that Eastman was killed by its unions: if it had just treated its employees as disposable it'd still be the juggernaut today that it was in the 20th century.

In fact our economy is littered with the detritus of collapsed or dying technology giants. To name just a few there's SGI, Sun, Thinking Machines, DEC and Yahoo.

With the possible exception of DEC none of these companies had any appreciable union penetration. In fact, some failed giants (Zynga and Groupon come to mind) were notorious for being vicious to their employees.

All of these companies are flashes in the pan compared to Eastman, which stayed at the top of the innovation game for generations.

If the salient difference between those companies and Eastman was Eastman's unions, that makes the unions look pretty darn good.

Tangentially, I wish the discussions about "innovation" would distinguish between, and contrast, technological innovation and business model innovation. Those are two completely different beasts, and I suspect they arise under different conditions.

In your examples, for instance, Zynga and Groupon are companies that - as far as I know - did absolutely zero technological innovation; they're known for their business model innovations.

> I think it's kinda interesting that the HN takeaway is that Eastman was killed by its unions: if it had just treated its employees as disposable it'd still be the juggernaut today that it was in the 20th century.

Is it possible the employees could be treated reasonably well without the unions? Is it possible that unions have downsides that might affect a company's health?

If either of those are true, it doesn't seem fair to frame "the HN takeaway" like this.

Can you really call Zynga a 'giant' after talking about DEC? That's a 140,000 person company and a 2,000 one

Kodak innovated just too late. They wanted to milk the profits from their film market as long as they could. That certainly wasn't a worker's decision.

Kodak innovated too early, too. They had the first digital cameras. They were producing digital cameras through the 1990s and the 2000s.

Their problem was that they were fundamentally a chemicals company. They weren't as good as consumer electronics as the Japanese consumer electronics companies, and they weren't as good at the web as Silicon Valley web companies.

And, ultimately, they wanted to milk the chemical film business as long as they could and perpetually overestimated the popularity of film cameras versus digital.

That reminds me of a passage from Robert Caro's Master of the Senate:

"Vote-counting" -- predicting legislators' votes in advance -- is one of the most vital of the political arts, but it is an art that few can master, for it is peculiarly subject to the distortions of sentiment and romantic preconceptions. A person psychologically for intellectually convinced of the arguments on one side of a controversial issue feels that arguments so convincing to him must be equally convincing to others. And therefore, as Harry McPherson puts it, "Most people tend to be much more optimistic in their counts than the situation deserves... True believers were always inclined to attribute more votes to their side than actually existed."

Kodak was a chemicals company that thought it was a camera/photo company. Fujifilm embraced being a chemical company and diversified into medical, cosmetics, materials etc and survive to this day.

The best piece I've read on that distinction was in The Economist. Along with clarifying what happened with those companies in that industry, I've carried with me to this day the lesson therein from Kodak—since its investment in digital photography paid off well in the short term—of how decisions can immediately look wise but ultimately be fatal.


Vote-counting is easy now; just count party members and make a very few exceptions. How things have changed since LBJ's day, and not for the better.

In fact, they had their first digital camera in 1975. They basically shelved it.

> it's a tough argument to make that it was culturally good for an organization to promote people in part because of seniority.

That wasn't the argument in the article. The Kodak employee in the article was given benefits such as education and opportunities for advancement, and Kodak ended up with a CTO - that's a great investment by Kodak.

How much talent is languishing as janitors at Apple (and the rest of SV)? In a market where talent is at an extreme premium, I truly wonder why employers don't cast a much wider net.

For example, exceptional coding talent is rare, and opportunity to become a developer is also rare - it requires access to education, computers, time to learn and to hack (not working at the grocery store so your family can feed itself), and people to work with (to encourage you, to learn from, to mentor you, etc.). At first glance, at least, it seems obvious that there are many very talented developers who just haven't had the opportunities.

Yet Fujifilm survived while seniority-itis is stronger at Japanese companies than anywhere else

Fujifilm had enough product diversity (in medical films, recording media, and digital, to name but a few) to survive the film camera downturn.

Kodak didn't.

They did try to innovate in their space, which they thought was camera tech, but their only real competency was in making film, and their only real focus was in making film cameras (despite some early forays into digital photography).

At a company like Google or Apple, janitors are all employees of contractors. They aren't regular employees like Kodak. Also, no Google or Apple janitor will become a high-level, respected employee at Google or Apple through promotion.

Kodak is dead because of the MBAs outsourcing to Japan for short-term film profits...

Outsourcing what exactly?

Sorry, did they use a janitor at Kodak as the example? The job market in Rochester was an anomaly in that time period.

This also doesn't include customer satisfaction.

I personally had more enjoyable experience with UPS than FedEx. It seems to be always on schedule and delivered as promised. FedEx is not terrible, but has some variation.

For years and years, packages shipped via FedEx would arrive at the house I grew up in beat to hell. Rarely to the point of damaging the goods inside, but not exactly confidence inspiring.

I imagine FedEx thinks of the drivers as partners rather than "temporary commodities". It's a franchise model or close enough. McDonald's calls their analogues, "owner/operators." That's no slur.

This is a naive comparison when taken out-of-context. Frankly, I don't really understand how you could be an independent contractor working 5 days a week on a single route contract for FedEx -- when would you have time to service your truck or how would unpaid sick days or vacation work -- but the retirement accounts are all commodities now, especially with the internet -- in fact, my CU offers better HSA than my former employer.

FedEx => Uber => FedUbX Delivery

FUBAR Delivery.

If it's not f*cked it's free!


Fubex Delivery

Can you explain why you look down on pizza delivery drivers so much? Why would a person delivering random crap you bought off Amazon deserve retirement benefits but a person delivering your dinner does not?

You really should look into your projection. I'm arguing for MORE benefits for workers, not less, but you couldn't see it because of your pre-built biases before you ever read my comment. You're looking for a moral battle to the point you're attacking allies.

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