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back to article Amazon workers in Delaware reject trade union membership

A small number of Amazon warehouse workers in Delaware have voted against joining a union, which claims that the employees were under pressure from the firm to stay away from third-party representation. In a vote administered by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), the Amazon staff voted 21 to six against joining the …

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

I hear the working standards in some amazon warehouses are deplorable.

Surely joining a Union gives the workers some muscle to get things improved?

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Meh

Re: Why?

Something in the Merkin psyche really distrusts anything vaguely socialist. Never understood it myself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Something in the Merkin psyche really distrusts anything vaguely socialist. Never understood it myself.

I understand it, and I'm a Brit, you only have to look into the kind of things union bosses do to see why no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them, and I never even mentioned the tactics they use union members to employ against the firms they work for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them

So the millions of union members world wide are ALL insane? And all the legislation that enshrines the right to be in a union comes from a mental institution?

My mum use to tell me that when her dad worked in the mines the boss would fire people if he didn't like the way they looked at him. I guess that kind of shit is ok if you're the boss. We can't all be bosses, there'd be no-one to actually do any work.

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Amazon is not Italy.

I hear the working standards in some amazon warehouses are deplorable.

Yep, I heard that people are actually being forced to WORK there. It's frankly horrific,

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Anonymous Coward

Re: no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them

So the millions of union members world wide are ALL insane? And all the legislation that enshrines the right to be in a union comes from a mental institution?

My mum use to tell me that when her dad worked in the mines the boss would fire people if he didn't like the way they looked at him. I guess that kind of shit is ok if you're the boss. We can't all be bosses, there'd be no-one to actually do any work.

No, but unfortunately many of them view unions through the eyes of their forebears, which isn't what unions are now. They once were great organisations who stood for something good, but that's not what they are nowadays. All those early pioneers who fought for the rights of the working man to be treated fairly achieved their goals so successfully that the unions became organisations looking for battles to fight. They ended up being taken over by people who wanted nothing more than to cause trouble, people who didn't have to care about the consequences of the trouble they caused. Militant individuals who jujst wanted the fight because they could. They were so intent on fighting they crippled Britain, and made us the laughing stock of the world.

I'll give you that things aren't that bad now, and that some of the unions have actually reformed are are fighting for things which need to be improved, but in general many of the unions are still run by militant individuals who are only really in it for the fight.

I must admit to finding it surprising that so many union members are only just (30 years after the fact) discovering the kind of scumbags who were running their organisations, to some of us outsiders it was always glaringly obvious.

I'm not standing up defending bosses, some of whom are just as bad as the militant tossers from unions, so your last point about bosses is not relevant.

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Re: no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them

@obnoxiousGit - I can't possibly imagine what you could be referring to...<cough>Scargill<cough>...

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Re: Why?

It's really simple. These days in the US, the only mode of operations Big Unions know is:

"Nice business ya got there. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it..."

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Re: no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them

Anyone remember the massive safety improvements Scargill and the NUM brought in - or do we only have the Daily Mail history of the 80s?

Unions were effectively banned off-shore in the 80s, every worker was officially an independent consultant and so there were no rules preventing anybody who mentioned safety breaches being NRBed (blacklisted). The HSE wasn't allowed any oversight of rigs because the DTI was in charge of both promoting the business and enforcing safety. After Piper Alpha we got unions, and the HSE, and safety and we haven't blown a rig up since.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Union have a place, however in the UK they are very heavily politicised. Take Len McClusky's Unite which has been placing candidates for Labour Party seats in the next general election.

Politicians are bad enough, but if a Union were to take over the running of the country I can only envisage a disaster.

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Anonymous Coward

UNIONS

Interestingly:

France, closure of a loss making tyre factory.

Union so entrenched that they refused to negotiate any changes to contract, especially productivity whereby in any one 8 hour day the average worker was productive for only 3 hours. The factory is now closing down. Union response, kidnap managers and refuse to let them leave the factory.

Scotland, loss making refinery, Unions asked to negotiate to bring costs down and make the plant more productive. Entrenched Union refused, Union official sacked from this loss making refinery for working on Union business when he should have been working which in turn resulted in a strike.

Owner of refinery stated, if they refuse to negotiate and cut costs he will close the factory. Union calls his bluff.

Owner states the refinery is loss making and he will now close it.

Union panics Scottish Government panics.

Factory stays open after Union backtrack and runs away tail between its legs.

Union would have been responsible for the loss of over 1000 purely on the grounds of intransigence and thinking the were more powerful than anyone.

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Re: Why?

Having willingly joined a union shop in my youth I found that with after each annual contract was negotiated my situation was worse between the theoretical raise, increased duties, shorter breaks and subsequent increase in dues that it was previously. After a few years, I left to find a similar job at a non-union business and feel I made more as over the years my job was essentially the same and I got an annual raise after my performance review without months of contentious contract negotiations. Fortunately, I lost that job when the employees decided they needed a union and I refused to join and it became a closed shop. I say fortunately because I was nearly 25 at the time and decided it was time to finish my studies and abandon the world of manual labor. Now I bump into the same problem with professional organizations and their own old-boy networks and thankfully even that seems to be changing for the better with globalization.

Granted, none of my early jobs were particularly dangerous if you paid attention but it wasn't exactly tea and scones either. In the long run, my experience with unions has taught me that monopolies and monopsonies are bad and it doesn't matter if your talking about products, services or labor. You may hear stories about the bad XYZ worker at ABC agency that is a lazy incompetent oaf but because of union contracts is nearly impossible to get rid of even if there is an available non-union XYZ worker who is unemployed, likely because they don't want to join the union.

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Re: no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them

It seems that al of the folk who down voted this post are happy for workers to be killed by unscrupulous bosses. It is funny how lots of peeps never find out the benefits of being in a union when the shit hits the fan as they will be on their own.

I seem to remember a big article on the reg a few weeks ago talking about TUPE and how it gave some level of protection when work and people get sold off to other companies...Do peeps think that they were introduced by those nice bosses who were just interested in the welfare of their workers?

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Re: Amazon is not Italy.

Yes, yes it is horrific. Mostly because of the working conditions. As is explained here. http://www.businessinsider.com/brutal-conditions-in-amazons-warehouses-2013-8

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Re: Amazon is not Italy.

I remember the retail workers union in St. Louis -- we always marveled at them, as with their "bargaining skills", they wound up making minimum wage, while non-union workers in other towns made double that. The problem is they forgot that once you take that step into collective bargaining, you have to bargain for everything all the time. Non-union towns had to keep up with the market.

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Re: no sane person would want anyone like that to have any claim to represent them

"Anyone remember the massive safety improvements Scargill and the NUM brought in - or do we only have the Daily Mail history of the 80s?"

.

Would that the same Scargill that tried to buy his flat, bought in under a Thatcher government, a scheme condemned by Labour, then got the NUM to pay for the flat for decades via some dodgy other "union".

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Anonymous Coward

Scargill

"<cough>Scargill<cough>..."

You may not like him, but he was actually right.... in 1984 the Thatcher government did have a plan to destroy the mining industry, can you really blame him for trying to prevent it happening ?

Just look at mining in Britain today, our dependence on imported fuel and our soaring energy prices, maybe Arthur's way would have been better, alas we'll never know.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25549596

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Anonymous Coward

Re: UNIONS

"Owner of refinery stated, if they refuse to negotiate and cut costs he will close the factory. Union calls his bluff.

Owner states the refinery is loss making and he will now close it.

Union panics Scottish Government panics."

In any other circumstance this would be called blackmail, that whole incident stunk of brinkmanship, however the Union and employees had more to loose, so had no option to back down, I didn't believe the management position for one second.

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Unhappy

Re: UNIONS

Unfortunately many of the posts on this forum are a perfect example of macrocosm in microcosm, with the entrenched almost extremist attitudes shown regarding Unions & Management.

There are (as usual) good and bad in both, like it or not.

For every bolshie, closet-marxist megalomaniac McCluskey there is a corresponding diametrically-opposed manager of the Goodwin or Murdoch persuasion. Neither are nice (or good) people.

There are many examples of good management and of bad or ineffectual management - similarly there are examples of good union pressure and also of disastrous union intransigence.

As reported by AC 16 Jan 19:29, in my home town of Wolverhampton, a major employer, Goodyear Tyres, attempted to bring in productivity agreements which were far from drastic, but intransigent union politico-neanderthals intervened with the result that the plant closed, with the jobs 'exported'. I also accept that the weak and corrupt (allegedly for the benefit of any of m'learned friends reading this) management at Leyland Cars contributed enormously to the company's demise.

The best answer is to overcome entrenched historical prejudices, to realise that working together rather than in opposition, is bound to produce mutual benefit to both sides: let's hope that sooner rather than later, common sense will emerge and perhaps our industries can once again become industrious.

Looking at our leaders, though;- I won't hold my breath...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

What I don't understand is how someone on minimum wage can be represented at a local level by a union official on 3-4 times that minimum wage- that is then represented by the union chief on 10-15 times their wage - and at a national political level by a party that has a multimillionaire leader whose private Oxbridge education means he will never have to Labour for a single day in his life. But then what do I know

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Anonymous Coward

I worked for a whole owned sub of a US company. We were told when a union started handing out leaflets that we had a legal right to join but when our contracts expired all the work would go to India. Capital has so much power now it's extremely difficult to fight effectively.

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So stop whining and become your own boss.

Capital has so much power

Derp.

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So stop whining and become your own boss.

No, you stop paying yourself so much and share it around a bit with the people who do the actual bloody work.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually I just went to another employer were the conditions are better but there's still a lot of people trapped back in the old place.

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Why strikes down't work.

I'm always amazed at how few people understand what happens to people in a strike.

If you take a shareholder, a manager, and a shop floor worker. The workers vote for strike against the wishes of management and investors.

If they do it often enough their pay increases to the point of becoming uncompetetive, or in the case of Ineos/miners/dockers/etc, they get closed down (with Ineos the union woke up after they realised they'd screwed the pooch).

The manager probably already has a job lined up as a result of all the networking they've been doing and a portable skillset to take to another industry. The shareholder loses probably about 1/100th of their assets, assuming a representative index tracker, which is less than a normal days volatility on a major index.

The worker has lost their job. And due to being unionised, they're likely being significantly over paid relative to their skills and geographic area, if they can find another job, its usually on significantly less money (Rover, miners, dockers etc etc)

Only the union can really claim it as a victory, because killing an otherwise viable firm every once in a while strengthens their hand when negotiating with weaker managers elsewhere.

Let the downvotes fly, but they won't change the facts.

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Re: Why strikes down't work.

Yeah, can't have the plebs being overpaid, that's a management perk.

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Re: Why strikes down't work.

Its not about over/under paid or how applicable it is to each entity. Its about who suffers the most long term harm for the acitvity - and it isn't whom most people think it is.

I'm a non-unionised worker, I don't manage people nor own the business, but I do buy exposure to shares through a tracker.

Its the worker for whom I have sympathy, not the managers or shareholders, as it is they that get misled by the unions and ultimately the workers pay the biggest price.

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Re: Why strikes down't work.

My maternal grandfather belonged to a union because he didn't have a choice. Every time the contract was up the union went on strike. It didn't matter what the offer was, a strike was called. The picket line went up for at least three weeks. During that time the union members drew strike pay which barely paid for groceries let alone the rest of the bills. Being from a impoverished family he went to work after he left the seventh grade. But he was able to calculate that the wages he lost in those three weeks were never made up in the extra raises they got over the life of the new contract. Mind you, this was during what is usually called the golden age of unions. They only people getting richer off those strikes were the union bosses who were lining their own pockets. Unions are and were every bit as corrupt as you accuse businesses of being.

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Holmes

Unions are generally devices to give jobs to union leaders

John Carr, an IAM spokesperson, said Amazon had worked hard to ensure that staff didn't go for unionisation, in a statement carried by Delaware Online, Reuters and others.

And this is bad how?

"The workers at Amazon faced intense pressure from managers and anti-union consultants hired to suppress this organising drive,”

It didn't go my way. It must be a conspiracy!!

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Re: It didn't go my way. It must be a conspiracy!!

Yeah, that's the only possible interpretation.

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Re: Unions are generally devices to give jobs to union leaders

They failed to mention the pressure from the unions to influence the vote. Threats and violence are common to those who openly go against the mob.

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Re: Unions are generally devices to give jobs to union leaders

Fear is always a good one for dissuading union membership.

There are cases queueing up in the American courts over union bosses for international(ie US) fizzy drink manufactures being assassinated south of the border.

Unions are shit - but a necessary evil for the workers in some companies.

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Re: Unions are generally devices to give jobs to union leaders

Good unions are a good thing to have. Bad unions are a waste of time and money. Too powerful unions are the equivalent of the mob:

From the real life experience of a co-student with a certain car manufacturer and the IG Metal:

"If you want a students job here you must FIRST join the IGM". Those who refused never got in.

Generally IG-M is, like all IGs, a good union. In the case of that car manufacturer they had allowed to get too powerful since it was easier to give in during the years where german buyers where to stupid to realize the crap the company produced was unsafe at any speed.

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Facepalm

It all boils down to Morality

Amazon is the perfect example of bad Capitalism. It takes it to the extremes of "soullessness".

It cares naught for worker or taxpayer. For them even the customer is counted, only because they effect the Shareholder.

C'mon they are highly profitable, pay zip tax and still treat their employees like POS.

IMHO natch

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Re: It all boils down to Morality

From my outside view of the situation, if conditions in Amazon were so bad then the staff would have been voting to unionise. The union picked the workers to ballot and you would hope they picked a set they thought they could win.

Now, you can conspiracy theory all you like, but if you gave those workers the chance to vote for the union, and the company put pressure on them to reject, you'd expect them to vote for the union who would then be in a position to protect them from the company.

History has shown that Unions have their place - without them rampant exploitation of the worker takes place. But give them too much power and stifle the business - just look at the thriving UK car industry. It's a balance.

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Re: It all boils down to Morality

That was the point - it wasn't the oppressed shop floor workers that were given the choice.

The presumably better paid and more secure sysadmins were asked if they wanted to join the union, they said no and this means that another union can't ask the regular workers for a vote for another year.

At that point Amazon ask the accountants if they want to join the accountants union, they say no and the warehouse workers are blocked for another year.

It's a common technique in the US, at least in states where you can't just automatically fire anyone who joins a union

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Re: It all boils down to Morality

I've worked for them. None of you have touched on what is happening in even more enlightened warehouses.

Think pig farms run by bastards.

Now think of Amazon as a nasty version of a pig farm run by horrible bastards.

And the pigs are cannibal.

Thinking about it now, it is a perfect Dosadi Experiment.

And proof that evolution is a baaad thing.

Someone tell me it got started in 1984.

That would cap it all.

As far as unions go, in the 1970's (not counting US dirty tricks and the like) large manufacturers when they reached a production peak and needed to scale back, used to look at the line and find faults that would go unnoticed when their product was selling well. They would find a snag and make the proles at that part of the line suffer.

This would bring the unions in trying to get it sorted out. But no dice, the bean counters wanted them all out on strike. You can find recollections of this from any large manufactury. They are ony anecdotes now but they happened. Globalisation only happened because the ploy was unsustainable. That and the fact that there was no health and safety for people in India (for example) where the garment industry fled after it was found out that the managers had been cooking the books about cotton worker mortality.

Yes unionisation can be unsustainable and corruption gets in everywhere as does incompetence. The alternative is the high turnover at Amazon. That only happens for a reason. Most people will work in atrocious conditions for basic pay if there is no alternative as long as they have hope.

That's what keeps Amazon going.

I don't have an answer. I have an opinion:

When they have screwed everyone enough times where they are, assuming the market remains the same, they will just move elsewhere when the workers unite or individually, just refuse to eat any more shit.

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Flame

Seems they're getting less and less popular

Unions used to be all about collective bargaining, giving the workers a single united voice for speaking to the owners.

Is it media bias or just me getting older that more and more I see unions as a bunch of self-serving regressive gits who are more concerned with maintaining a base of political power than the plight of the workers?

This change in attitude could also be to do with moving to London and the building desire to punch Bob Crow.

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Devil

Re: Seems they're getting less and less popular

Ah Bob Crow, on the other hand, is the perfect example of bad Unionisation.

He is Satan

IMHO natch

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Re: Seems they're getting less and less popular

Your attitude is fine, it is perfectly reasonable to want to hit someone who condemns the mayor for shutting down fire stations but has no issue forcing the same mayor to pay 6% pay rises for tube drivers whose salary is 3 times the starting salary of a fireman or constable.

And why do tube drivers get so much? In case someone throws themselves in front of a train. Which has to be a much worse experience than recovering the remains of someones family after a house fire.

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Re: Seems they're getting less and less popular

"And why do tube drivers get so much? In case someone throws themselves in front of a train. Which has to be a much worse experience than recovering the remains of someones family after a house fire."

The tube trains could drive themselves. At a time when driverless cars will soon be a practical reality, automating trains is technically relatively straightforward - something Bob Crow understands all too well.

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Re: Seems they're getting less and less popular

On some lines the tube trains already drive themselves but still have a driver. Bob Crow may be an odious throwback but as far as the members of the RMT are concerned he is excellent value for money.

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Re: Seems they're getting less and less popular

>And why do tube drivers get so much?

Because they have the most ability to shut down the city by striking for a day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seems they're getting less and less popular

"Is it media bias"

Yes it is

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Naive question...

.... but what's to stop those who want to join a union from doing so while those who don't, don't? I've worked in places where some of my colleagues were in one union or another and some were in none. That's in the UK - does the US have an "all or nothing" law?

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Re: does the US have an "all or nothing" law?

Depends. Delaware being a Blue state, I'd bet on all or nothing. Red states tend to have right to work laws. The theory behind force unionization is that non-union workers shouldn't benefit for the negotiations the unions take on. The bit that ignores is the unions engaging in non-negotiation activities that they charge to everyone and lie about it because of the SCOTUS Beck decision.

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Re: Naive question...

This puzzled me, too, so I wrote it off as the US being utterly terrified of anything that might be considered "socialist".

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Propaganda wins

I think IT would do well with a professional organization rather than a traditional union. How are American doctors' salaries maintained? The AMA controls the labor supply by controlling medical school admissions. Look at what happened with the Bar Association opening the field for law schools -- now new law grads can't get a job. In the case of the Amazon workers, a traditional union would be good to at least force management to provide something beyond the bare minimum OSHA requirements for the job. For IT, minimum training standards and the ability to push back on unreasonable requests for professional reasons would really improve things.

If you read any of the accounts of Amazon's warehouse working conditions, especially around holidays, you'd probably think they were crazy to not unionize. One thing I have noticed over the years is that the right wing has slowly bled over from the management to the labor side, and labor is now believing the anti-union propaganda. I think it might be a Fox News thing.

Any time I've heard a story about unions in the past few years, the following points keep getting hammered home:

- They're all corrupt/in bed with the mafia

- They promote mediocrity because of collective bargaining

- They only exist to serve their leadership

And of course, Joe Average Worker thinks he's 10x better than his peers and couldn't possibly need a union. "Why would I ever want to get lumped in with my colleagues?" he says -- then watches management outsource his job to the lowest-wage country that week with no retaliation. (No, being a Rust Belt kid and watching the city I live in disintegrate in the 80s has nothing to do with my feelings on this. :-) )

I've been very lucky and work for decent employers. When they eventually lose their marbles and stop being decent, I move on. But IMO it's a good idea to keep people (especially knowledge workers) working at a place for a long stretch. I also know that most employers are pretty evil, especially when the workers have zero leverage.

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Re: Propaganda wins

"I think IT would do well with a professional organization rather than a traditional union"

We do, its called the BCS

HA

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Re: Propaganda wins

Looking forward to the day when you can only sell a computer to an accredited member of the BCS ;-)

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