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Weekly Alibi Intel Hell

Activists Attack Intel

By David O. Dabney

SEPTEMBER 8, 1997:  It comes as no surprise to this columnist that, aside from being a water-guzzling, tax-break-receiving megafactory, Intel also has some labor problems. Among its biggest gadflies is an organization called Former and Current Employees of Intel (FACEI). FACEI is a nonprofit that is dedicated to helping employees and former employees of Intel fight the company, both in court and in public opinion, for reasons ranging from various types of discrimination to wrongful termination.

Now, to be perhaps overly generous to Intel, a company their size is sure to have a certain amount of disgruntled current and former employees. But what is not so common is that these employees have organized and posted their grievances the one place where many of the employees have easy access: the World Wide Web. For a while, any Intel employee, many right from their desktop, could look up FACEI's site at www.igc.apc.org/faceintel/ and take a look at various charges made by FACEI against Intel, see how to order an Intel employee's survival guide, look up local court cases against Intel and get in touch with FACEI's organizers. Indeed, since going online in March, the site has logged over 100,000 hits! Unfortunately, this only lasted four days; after that, Intel decided that the information on the site shouldn't be seen by employees, at least through Intel's corporate networks. According to Intel spokeswoman Stacey Koon: "In our view it's defamatory. We have the right to control how our computer system is used, and we chose not to use it for this small group of people." But does that excuse really cover Intel's use of filtering programs in their cc:mail gateways? According to Ken Hamadi, the founder of FACE Intel, whenever they send e-mail to their member's Intel e-mail addresses, they are forced to disguise the identifying characteristics of their messages, like changing the term "FACE" to "FA-CE" so the filters don't recognize messages about the organization. Intel has also blocked any e-mail from FACEI's various e-mail addresses.

At first, FACEI tried changing Web site addresses, but first one Internet Service Provider (ISP) and then a second dropped them. Hamadi says that he suspects Intel pressured these ISPs into dropping FACEI. Now, FACEI has hooked up with the Communication Workers of America (www.cwa-union.org), which runs its own ISP, to provide access to the site, and eventually the CWA will also mirror the site on its main homepage. This should probably prevent Intel from blocking the site, since CWA has the money, the lawyers and probably the inclination to sue. CWA has long sought a foothold in the anti-union Silicon Valley and would love to tweak the nose of the nation's largest chip maker.

The FACEI site is also interesting not just for particular employees' grievances or even the various charges made against Intel Corp. as a whole--most interesting is their compilation of various publication's and organization's ratings of Intel. Click on "Is Intel a Great Place to Work?" and you'll see a ranking from Working Mother magazine that listed the top 100 "Family-Oriented Companies." Intel doesn't appear even though other technology giants like IBM, Motorola and Xerox do. Intel also doesn't even crack the top 100 places to work as ranked by Computer World, an industry trade magazine. Probably the most indicting example comes from the California Public Employees Retirement System, a progressive and powerful institutional investor. They gave Intel a grade of D, while other companies like IBM, Motorola and Xerox got ratings of A-plus, B and B respectively. Interestingly, none of this was ever mentioned by the local politicos who lobbied successfully for the local tax breaks Intel received to move here in the first place. Our tax dollars at work.

--David O. Dabney

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