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Thursday News: Pixar & Lucasfilm started wage-fixing cartel, Apple tells on...

REVEALED: Court docs show role of Pixar and Dreamworks Animation in Silicon Valley wage-fixing cartel – Remember the revelations of artificial wage suppression by Google and Apple? Well, that, it turns out, was just the beginning of the conspiracy, and now, with a $324 million settlement at risk, revelations about Pixar and Lucasfilm as the apparent instigators of the so-called “wage fixing cartel.” Not surprisingly, both studios are now owned by Disney, which, again, not surprisingly, is attempting to bring more international workers into the US, claiming that will help salaries for all employees. Huh??

Seriously, folks, go read the story. There are some email exchanges that almost make Apple look tame. Almost.

For one thing, most of the previous attention in the case was focused on the behavior of executives at Apple and Google. What hasn’t been fully explored is the involvement of major and minor Hollywood studios that are alleged to have been party to the same illegal cartel. The wage-fixing cartel originated with Pixar and Lucasfilm, two northern California computer animation film studios now under Disney’s roof.

Disney, in particular, has received very little public scrutiny over its own role in the Techtopus, an oversight which is made all the more troubling by the fact that the company’s CEO, Robert Iger, is now heading a campaign to increase the number of foreign tech workers coming to America, using a dubious study to promote its cause. –Pando

Apple Tattled on Google to Draw FTC Attention to Similar Kids In-App Purchasing Issue – Speaking of Apple, apparently they were pretty cranky about having the FTC fine them for not providing stronger controls against children making autonomous in-app purchases. So with a nana nana boo boo, the tech giant stooped to conquer, pointing an accusatory stylus at Google.

As it turns out, while Apple was being targeted by the FTC for letting children make in-app purchases without parental consent, the company was attempting to get Google in trouble for doing the same thing. According to a report from Politico, head Apple lawyer Bruce Sewell sent the FTC a report highlighting the same in-app purchase issues in Google’s own Play store.

“I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it,” Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell wrote to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill, pointing to a report that criticized Google’s app store over the same issue of unauthorized purchases. The previously undisclosed email was obtained by POLITICO through a Freedom of Information Act request. –Mac Rumors

Samsung forecasts 25% drop in profit – On the strength of the Korean Won, as well as competition in the Chinese and European markets, profits at Samsung are falling for the third quarter in a row. Because Samsung exports so many of its products, a strong home currency can work against them, and combined with a slower smartphone market in general, their drop is particularly acute.

“Now it is all about high-volume and low-margin handsets. And on that front the competition is getting fiercer with each passing day.”

Various other smartphone makers including China’s Xiaomi, Huawei and ZTE have been increasing their market share steadily.

Mr Sunder said that given the slowing growth and increased competition in the smartphone market, Samsung needed to look at boosting its presence in other sectors if it wanted to sustain high growth rates.

“Its over-dependence on the mobile phone division needs to go,” he said. –BBC News

Shelving to Save a Book’s Life – An interesting article by novelist Susan Coll, who also serves as director of events and programs at an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. Coll talks about how a book can get lost on a bookstore shelf or can be featured. We all know that positioning is important, and I know there are some authors who practice self (or street team) help in this regard, either turning books so their covers face front or moving books to other areas of a bookstore. Just one more factor in a book’s performance at an individual venue. Do publishers still pay for special positioning and lay-down dates?

Save one life save the world, instructs the Talmud, a book we may or may not carry. You can’t save every life. You can’t save every book. But you can at least throw lifelines now and then. Turning a book face out is the micro version of Stephen Colbert bestowing likely bestsellerdom on a debut novel caught in the Hachette/Amazon crossfire. Collectively, bookstores can do quite a lot by getting behind certain titles, whether it be via the IndieNext list or the Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers program, but even those titles are among a chosen few. When a book lands on the shelf, it can be rescued from being smothered by the behemoths, but what about books that never make it onto our shelves in the first place? What about the books that end their journeys in our staff break room, where the less desirable bound galleys that precede the final version of a book wind up? –The Atlantic

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Isobel Carr
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 09:01:28

    It wasn’t just wage-fixing either. I have friends at Pixar and Lucas Arts (friends who have Oscars FFS!) who were let go, then hired back at the “same hourly rate” as contractors for specific projects. Only the as contractors, the “same hourly rate” doesn’t include any benefits. So yeah, much as I like some of Disney’s work, I don’t much care for how they treat their people.

  2. leslie
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 10:14:20

    It’s immoral and unethical what American corporations are doing to American’s ability to make a living wage. Even the California colleges recruit foreigners…….UCLA’s student body is over 40 percent foreign born. Native Californians with good academic qualities are turned away from the UC system, even those whose parents can foot the bill. It’s troubling to say the least. And jobs are hard to get after they graduate because those same foreign students are in competition and will take less of a salary.
    Another problem in our area is corporations who hire illegals knowing that they are working under fraudulent social security cards.
    Politically I am a liberal, but in terms of immigration reform it’s hard to be to be fair minded.

  3. Darlynne
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 10:20:37

    One of my favorite responsibilities at a small independent mystery bookstore was to straighten the shelves and turn out those I wanted to highlight. The time spent doing so was almost like therapy, but also a form of hand-selling. Thanks to the article, I now know that I was doing some good in the world of books. Boy, do I miss it.

  4. Isobel Carr
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 11:43:50

    @leslie: Per UCLA, less than 12% of their student body is made up of international students, a little less than the overall 13% for the UC system as a whole.

  5. Robin/Janet
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 12:44:14

    @leslie: Just a couple of points in addition to @Isobel Carr‘s. I don’t know where you got the statistic about UCLA, but there’s a difference between “foreign-born” and “foreign” (I prefer the term international, so that’s what I’m going to substitute). California public higher education isn’t concerned with where students were born, but with whether or not they’re California residents. No doubt many California residents were not born in CA or even the U.S., as California is the most diverse of the US states. Another problem in California is that the state, which heavily subsidizes each California resident student, continues to provide insufficient support to public colleges and universities, while in the meantime, no one wants to pay higher tuition to bridge the gap.

    As for international students, it used to be felt that it was only important to have international scholars at the graduate level (good research requires the brightest minds, regardless of national origin), but as we have become more globally interconnected, that wisdom has changed. And since education is supposed to prepare students for the future, many institutions – both public and private — have expanded their recruitment of qualified international undergraduate students, in part because diversity has been shown to increase learning outcomes. Public colleges and universities have an extra responsibility to serve the public interest, and in some cases (like California), the state constitution even mandates some of ways in which they have to do that. I haven’t seen anything showing that international students educated in US colleges and Universities will work for less money with the same degree as domestic students.

    It’s also true that there’s a lot of controversy around the recruitment of international employees to US-based companies, and labor unions, in particular, have historically held strong preferences for narrower and stricter immigration laws. Putting that debate aside, I think what’s problematic about what these studios are doing is that don’t seem to be internationalizing their workforce because they value diversity and global perspectives, but because they’re trying to keep wages low, which translates into exploitation regardless of national origin. And that is definitely not the fault of anyone or anything but the US corporate mentality, which is most definitely home-grown.

  6. Anna Richland
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 13:24:30

    Kerfluffle over int’l students is misplaced and diversionary from real problems.

    Most of those international students stay here and contribute to the vibrancy of our nation. They are a net economic good. Mr. Richland was an international student in the dark ages, and has paid US taxes for 23 years now and intends to continue doing so for as long as he can. He married an American and his children are Americans. He was as proud of my military service and deployment as any native-born American could have been. His house flies the stars and stripes alongside his native flag. His sibling is a doctor here – I’d really HATE to deny all the international students who want to come here and become doctors. And frankly, I want the best doctors – I could give a hoot what country they come from. I’m all for medical schools getting to pick from the world’s best, not merely the best in their state.

    And FYI – out-of-state students and international students pay full-freight tuition – sometimes int’l students even pay an additional supplement OVER what out of state students pay, which really helps state schools in budget cut times. Frankly, international students in the UC system aren’t displacing CA students – they’re displacing NY or NJ or MA students who would be paying out of state tuition. (I say this as a former out-of-state UC student, by the way).

    Corporate wage collusion has nothing to do with immigration – that cuts across all hires. When the tech industry does crap like firing workers to rehire as contractors at lower wages, it’s a horrible labor practice that has NOTHING to do with an employee’s immigration status. It has everything to do with the imbalance of power between corporate “people” and real people. Labor has so much less power – and it’s getting chipped away every day – to fight against these practices. Politicians set up a straw man like “oh, immigrants are the reason the companies can treat workers like this… scary immigrants.” Not so. Immigration is not the cause of tech companies trying to change employees to contractors. Profits and lax oversight are. The reason companies can do that is because of policies that favor corporations over people, the weakening of the role of labor (organized or not), the lack of respect of those in power to those who don’t have power, and the complete lack of consequences when corporations are caught in misbehavior.

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