Friday, April 15, 2011

The ACRA-id Air...

Witnesseth: if you are not so fortunate to subscribe to ACRA-L, the American Cultural Resource Association or some Oregon Listserv, you missed this exchange (slightly edited for brevity by myself). Topped off as of this moment by our favorite Motsi Mudslinger. It's a doozy of a read but oh so entertaining.

1. Email: It’s never too late to stay connected with SAA. As a student member, you can participate in your professional Society for less than 20 cents a day. Renew by logging in at We look forward to seeing you reconnect today.

2. No thanks!  The SAA is too conservative for me and costs too much.  I prefer more community based organizations that don't cost an arm and a leg and are more fun and productive.  Perhaps when you get some actual archaeologists on staff besides the fabulous Maureen Malloy I will reconsider.  David Lindsay's advocacy for archaeology has been abysmal, and former SAA president Dr. Kenneth M. Ames is an elitist hypocrite. I wish the organization all the best though, for the sake of the very valuable resources we have in archaeology that are being destroyed due to lack of leadership in our community. Cheers, Wendy Ann Wright p.s. I think I shall forward my response to the ACRA listserv and our Oregon archaeology listserv as well.

3. With due respect, Ms. Wright I do not feel that the OR Archaeology list (I'm not on acra-l) is an appropriate venue for personal attacks.  I trust I'm not the only one who feels that way. Sincerely, Pam

4. Dear Ms. Endzweig, Well I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback and accolades for my email.  So we can agree to disagree.  Sometimes the truth hurts. Sincerely, Wendy Ann Wright

5. Wendy,  I must second Pam's comments regarding your recent letter. I believe that your decision to join or not join the SAA is a private one and everyone should respect that choice. Your comments to the board on why you have made your decision is between you and them. Our Oregon's Archaeology list serve is meant to be a vehicle to promote a dialogue among the professional and avocational community regarding archaeological issues and concerns. It is not meant, nor should it be used, as an avenue for anyone to extend personal attacks on other members of our community. I see nothing positive coming from your letter and strongly urge you to work with anyone you may have a disagreement with to clarify what the problems may be in your situation rather than lashing out in such a public fashion \ Dennis /

6. Dennis, You already know they refuse to talk to me and I have civil rights case against Ken Ames.  This is a new era of transparency and while you have a right to state your opinion, but that's it.  I'm not even really an archaeologist anymore so why should I care you think.  It's not like you have had the best manners when approaching people about their responsibilities to the archaeological record.  It's a small community.  We all talk.  I've heard about some of the things you have done and it experienced it myself. Sincerely, Wendy Ann

7. Wendy, while I can understand that not everyone is pleased with the SAA for one reason or another, I too would rather that the Oregon Archaeology listserv remain a professional venue for disseminating information. Personal attacks for reasons real, imagined, or otherwise have no place here. Loren Davis

8. Loren, We can all sit around here and talk about whether I had the right to do this or we could take a look at what collective actions we could take to start protecting and promoting the archaeological record cuz the fact of the matter is writing journal articles and nerding out at the SAAs is not going to cut it.  Peace. Wendy Ann

9. And Dennis I am just an unemployed homeless were the state archaeologist when you were acting "unprofessionally".

10.  ENOUGH, Wendy!  I don't really need to hear about your personal issues with archaeologists in Oregon. Bill (in New Mexico)

11. Dear ACRA-L folks, Ok for those of you who care I have been kicked off the Oregon SHPO archaeology listserv for the emails I sent.  Now I realize some of you don't think I should have sent it, but I also received emails from a number of archaeologists who praised me for sending it.  I'm not concerned with whether you think I should have sent it.  I did what I did and I don't have any regrets.  My question is should someone be kicked off a state run listserv for calling out state employees (Department of Anthropology Chair, Portland State and State Archaeologist, Oregon SHPO)?  It seems entirely un-American to me, but that is just my opinion. Cheers, Wendy Ann

12. I think that in principle, it depends.  If you offered a reasoned allegation that state employees abused their government positions, it would seem pretty stinky (but probably not illegal) for them to kick you off the listserv.  If you engaged in petty personal attacks on their characters, morals, hair color, choice of TV sitcoms, etc., they'd probably be justified in seeing you as an irresponsible pest, and tossing you. Tom King.

13. From the perspective of someone who doesn't know any of the parties involved, I must say the emails you forwarded to this list earlier today made me uncomfortable. I felt that the comments you received were kindly phrased and that your replies were unnecessarily harsh, in some cases containing personal attacks and serious allegations. Now, I understand there may have been some personal history precipitating all of that, but those are things better discussed privately. By bringing it onto a public forum, you might as well be asking people to take sides, which isn't fair to them, to yourself, or to the people you've accused. Now you come here and flat out ask a different group of people to take sides, thereby dragging even more people into things. However, since you did ask, I admit I would have considered kicking you off the list as well for making serious accusations against other members of the group in such a public and humiliating way. That being said, I would have spoken  with you privately first and tried to work things out, but I can understand why they didn't. These lists only work well when all members are respectful toward one another even when they're disagreeing. Sincerely, Anna

14. Your points are taken...but I have to say with a grain of salt.  For the record, while I may be 33 years young and only have my B.A.  I have:

  • Chaired the Public Archaeology Interest Group (PAIG) for the SAAs for 2 years
  • Developed numerous community based archaeology programs including a pilot program for the National Park Service (NPS) last summer for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
  • Received a number of grants including from Portland State University (PSU), the Oregon SHPO, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and am a Ronald E. McNair Scholar
  • Been on numerous panels with leading experts for community based archaeology and local government policy at the SAAs and elsewhere
  • Coauthored a NPS document for helping local governments manage their cultural resources along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Outside of archaeology I have also:
  • Served 2 terms as PTA President at Boise Eliot Elementary
  • Was Senior/Youth Liaison for the Boise Neighborhood Association
  • Worked for Commissioner (now Mayor) Sam Adams in Portland, Oregon
  • Worked for the President of PSU in the Office of Diversity and Equity
  • Helped organize, served as Bargaining Unit Representative, and Grievance Committee Member for ILWU Local 5 at Powell's Bookstore (the largest bookstore in the United States) I am no spring chicken...and quite frankly I don't even know if I will continue in archaeology professionally because I am so fed up with the lack of involvement and advocacy by many archaeologists!  I love archaeology and hope I can continue, but if I have to move on than so be it.  Maybe I will end up going to law school. Cheers, Wendy Ann
15. Quite frankly Wendy, I don't think the primary issue is your original email. Yes, you had a lot of people who took issue with it, and you maybe shouldn't have gone about things the way that you did, but the real issue is how you've handled yourself in the aftermath.  It's easy to just delete a couple of emails and move on with life, which is what I think you should have done. The only person you damaged in your responses is yourself.  I read your first email and thought well, alright, whatever she wants to do.  When the responses started coming in and you became extraordinarily defensive to the point of firing off emails from the hip without any thought about what you were putting out there, you made yourself look like a troll trying to stir up trouble.  I think you would have been better off to either ignore all the responses or take a day to collect your thoughts, apologize for plugging up the listserv with your own agenda, and state your case leaving personal attacks out of it.  I also think at that point you should have let it die naturally. That's just my opinion, take it for what it's worth. Jennifer L. Harty 

16. The Bad News: ABC has announced they will cancel "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" after 40 years The Good News: ABC will begin airing "Listserv Oregon" in the fall. Please all try to be kind to each other.. and to put our troubles into perspective... Haiti. North Africa. Japan to name a few. Mitchell
17. Ha.  Nice one Mitchell.  So very true...and I do feel that my life is a soap opera these days.  Things will get better.  Hopefully the status of archaeology in this country will improve too. Wendy

18.  OMG, remove me form the list……….I can get this type of childish and behavior at my sons school yard. Bryan
19. To all ACRA-L users: We are aware that many (perhaps most) of you found Ms. Wendy Wright’s posts this week disturbing and unwarranted.  She has been removed from the ACRA-L mailing list.  This is the second time in the past few months that we have removed her.  Be aware that because of the way people sign up for ACRA-L (email only), she could reappear under a new email address.  If so, we will remove her again as soon as we identify her. As I said in my earlier email today, ACRA-L will not provide a forum for insulting other people or other organizations.  You will be removed as fast as we can do so.  We do not monitor postings prior to putting them up.  We will, however, respond promptly to improper and unacceptable postings. Lucy Wayne, ACRA President 
20. ACRA-lytes: Despite Wendy's undoubtedly boorish behavior she did obliquely raise one good point. How are we as CRM professionals going to improve the climate for CRM in this difficult economic time?
On a personal note, I was laid off early this week after 19 year's work as an architectural historian, and unfortunately, I am far from alone in that fate. Douglas

21. Please take me off the ACRA list now. This extent that this dialog has continued is painful. Sara

22. While I agree that discussions should be civil and non-libelous, and that the recent postings from Oregon have been out of line, I suggest that it's going a bit far to say that ACRA-L is "not a forum for airing your complaints about your colleagues or other organizations."  Do you propose that ACRA-L should join the various NPS publications in the relentless promulgation of largely irrelevant feel-good stories.  Are ACRAnyms to be prohibited from complaining about the status quo, or about how things are done?  I'm sure that's not what you mean, but this is, I think, the brink of a slippery slope. Tom King.
23. Binford was also a pretty rough-and-tumble debater, however, and Lucy was if anything even more so.  I worry about the chilling effect of tossing people off the list if they offend the self-appointed guardians of majority views. Tom King.

24. Hoo boy, so Wendy Ann is to be blacklisted in perpetuity?  It must be wonderful to be so sure of your moral superiority, Lucy. I believe that many of ACRA-L's member companies actively if more or less unintentionally conspire with their clients to circumvent the intent of the environmental and cultural resource laws.  There: I've now insulted a bunch of people.  Are you going to throw me off?  It would be a simple way to avoid being confronted with issues that people may find troubling. Tom King.
25. I don't understand, what's the big deal being made of this?  It's generated a lot of emails.  So what?  Ignore them.  The subject line clearly indicates "what's it all about, Alfie?"  So delete them.  To ban Wendy for life is not what the Mikado tries when he says to "make the punishment fit the crime."  Personal attacks on individuals has no place here, but archaeology as a whole needs to take a real long look at itself in the mirror before it throws any more stones at the observers. Martin.
26. I vaguely remember somebody else being booted off the list because he/she expressed opinions that weren’t appreciated. I asked on the list if it was a form of censorship and was told that it wasn’t. Although Ms. Wright may someday regret her posting professionally, she does have a right to express her opinion. Yes, she obviously upset a few folks – so what? Supposedly we are all educated adults and should be able to deal with such remarks as professionals.  Ginny

27. No matter what you think about Wendy Wright's post, she had a valid point. Currently there is no professional organization politically advocating for the preservation of cultural resources.  These resources can't advocate for themselves.  If we don't advocate for them, they don't have a chance.  I guarantee that there are many "development oriented" lobbying powers in Washington and locally that are pushing to eliminate protections for cultural resources.  There are even whole federal agencies that are unaware that the National Historic Preservation Act exists.  If the SAA and State Archaeological Societies can't do the necessary lobbying on behalf of the resources, then we need to develop a professional organization and network that can and will. John

28. Hi Folks, I have been a friend of Wendy's for several years.  I have also had the opportunity to interact with her in both academic and professional settings during this time.  I know Wendy to be an extraordinary individual with a passion for archaeology and social justice.  During the last few years she has begun to make meaningful contributions to archaeology on the local, regional and national level. Over the last year, many of us who have been her friends and colleagues have experienced a shift in her personality and professional interactions.  I cannot explain the reason for this shift in Wendy but it has resulted in a break in our friendship and professional relationship.  Wendy and myself share many common friends and professional colleagues and I know that virtually all of them have had similar disruptions in their relationship with her.  I simply want to communicate to the List/Community that there are circumstances in her personal life that are likely affecting her professional life. In my view, several of Wendy's posts to the Oregon List and the ACRA List in the last couple of days have been professionally inappropriate.  I too believe that Wendy should be allowed to rejoin the list at some point in time, although it seems appropriate to limit her access now.  I know this begs the question of who should be the arbitrator of when and how she should be allowed to participate.  I don't have that answer.Best, Roy
29. Dr. King: None of ACRA's (not ACRA-L's) member companies of which I know conspire with their clients to circumvent the intent of environmental and cultural resource laws.  Doing so would violate ACRA's standards of ethics, as I understand them.  I continue to believe that those spiders are yours alone and imaginary. Tom Motsinger

Friday, March 25, 2011

So, what's the state of the business????????

Well, take the graphic below, sent to me by a former employer:

Yup, that's 115 forest service projects! Remember when we use to bid $10k per project (he he, yeah, no change orders)? Well, that would make $1,150,000.00 (1.15 mil) in contracts.

Now, you know we went back for more bucks on a number of those...

Life's good. Paleowets has a new website! Check it out sometime.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ok muthaflippah's -- it's been a bit. Ol' Sherrif Joe had me on a "field project" over at tent city. But I'm out now, off the down-low, and ready to get back to work. Think Bootstrapper'll take me back now?

Anywho, check this shiz out. Some hoighty-toighty SAA-grad-school-stats-type made this here yootube video about shovelbum wages in the US of A. Watch it here:

Bottom line is US average pay for a field tech is $12.87/hour and $16.42 for a crew chief.

For the tech, that's less pay than teaching or social work. For the crew chieves, thas only slightly more at $32k/year

And, once again, AfuckingZ is towing the line. $12 for the tech. $15.50 for the CC. Other gran chichimeca states (that's the southwest bozos) pay at least a buck, if not three, above that.

Of course, this is only based on advertised pay rates...our friend(not) over at Wajinda or Vajinda or whatever his company name is pays a $hitload more. Then there's my boy Tommy who doesn't advertise.


        I hear Starbuck's is hiring at .... gulp .... $18/hr with BENNIES.

See ya dudes. Time to barrista the new trenta. peas-out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wow! $80 per diem! The recession must be over!

I just got this Ad to day from shovelbums:

"PaleoWest Archaeology is seeking to fill an immediate position for Field Technicians for a 3-4-week survey project, leaving from Phoenix at 7:00 am tomorrow morning (November 2).  Per diem is generous, about $80/day cash after lodging is paid out. Requires weekends away, with weekend lodging paid, but no additional per diem on non-work days."

Whoa. Whoa. Wait, $80 per day (sounds nice). How much is lodging? I wonder...lets say this here's a project way up yonder in the north country -- too cold to camp now -- and the nearest motel is $60/night. Single occupancy (lets say I'm the only woman) and I get $20 per diem....

And, why would I have to lodge on days off? Oh, I see, you wont pay for anything more than one trip there, on trip back, right? I have to fend for myself on the weekend. 

So, that's $80 x 5 work days = $400. Minus lodging for 7 days (right? lets assume dbl occupancy at $30/day each) = $210. Thats $190 per diem for 7 days, or $27 per day.

$27 per diem per day is not generous.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Creative alternative/optimal solution: how low can you go?????

A recent widely-distributed job ad:

"TRC, Inc., in Austin, Texas is offering a valuable opportunity to gain lab experience in the area of collections management, curational procedure, and deliverable preparation. This is an unpaid position, but will add indispensable skills for the successful candidate. In this time of economic instability and widespread layoffs, archaeological experience in the lab is an excellent way to improve your CV beyond the fieldwork stage. The position is relatively flexible and may be adapted to candidate's availability in both quantity and scheduling of hours.  We would like to fill this position as soon as possible."

Boys and Girls, this is how you make it in today's CRM climate. VOLUNFUCKINGTEERS??????!!!!!!! Are you shitting me??????
TRR - TRC Companies, Inc. (NYSE)
2.48 +0.02‎ (0.81%‎)  Oct 26 4:01pm ET
Open: 2.45
High: 2.48
Low: 2.44
Volume: 6,065
Avg Vol: 18,297,000
Mkt Cap: 48.75M

Yup, that's TRC, Inc.: according to their interwebs "A pioneer in groundbreaking scientific and engineering developments since the 1960s.... As one of the nation's leading cultural resource management firms, TRC has worked with a broad range of clients to identify and address vital cultural resource concerns, and has maintained long standing relationships with local, state and federal regulatory agencies....Our clients depend on TRC as a trusted adviser to design and implement solutions to their toughest challenges. Building upon our long history as expert problem-solvers, we excel in developing creative alternatives and implementing the optimal solution that meets or exceeds each client’s expectations."

But wait, there's more:
"Every day at TRC, we strive to solve the challenges of making the Earth a better place to live – community by community and project by project. As a member of the TRC family, you will be challenged, encouraged, and actively supported in your professional development [FOR FREE]. We work so hard to create a culture that develops the individual, encourages career progression, and rewards those
[FOR FREE] with a real determination to succeed."

"TRC seeks clear sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life. To achieve this goal, we rely on our associates, whom we value as partners with management and clients
[FOR FREE]. You will be encouraged to think outside the box and explore new technologies, ideas and business trends that contribute to their personal and professional development together with the Company’s goals and objectives."'s the good stuff....

"Every employee has an opportunity at TRC to grow and develop their career [WELL, NOT ALL OF THEM, CLEARLY]...Working at TRC Companies, Inc. is about more than just having a great job—it means you have the opportunity to flourish in an exciting, engaging environment. At the same time, we recognize that benefits play an important role in the lives of our employees and their families. That’s why our comprehensive benefits package is designed to give you peace of mind—providing important coverage for you and your family."

Need I mention TRC is responsible for that SHIT STAIN of a pipleine scar that crosses much of New Mexico and Arizona? Not to mention the rush-job that resulted in some DAMN FINE ARCHEOLOGY!!!!

Like it? Complaints here:

Key Contact:
Brian Thomas
Atlanta, GA
P: 770.270.1192

Key Contact:
Howard Higgins
Albuquerque, NM
P: 505.350.5217

Friday, October 15, 2010

ACRA survey rant and raves!

A few poignant comments (other wise known as the Rants and raves section) from members of the greater community of the American Cultural Resource Association. Great directions to start taking the profession:

Lobbying for revision of federal "best value" definitions. Best value encourages shoddy workmanship.

- who could have written that one?

Stress the importance of using stimulus money for planning level work, not just construction work. Planning work has a longer shelf life than an asphalt top coat!

- on the head!

Mid-size CRM firms were probably hit the hardest by the economic downturn (- yup! I agree! a few are probably going down).  ARRA funds were largely sole-sourced to large firms (- disagree, but perhaps), though there were significant opportunities that trickled down to smaller (-low-ball like yours truly) firms. ACRA needs to influence federal purchasers and procurement officers [that...] opportunities for small and mid-sized firms within this industry should not be limited to 8a or disadvantaged business set-asides.

- i guess they work a a mid-sized company with no federal work, huh?

Find a way to have ACRA members unite as professionals a la architects, CPA's etc. (- oh, la la!) - out in the West the low-ball bidding (- pretty sure I know who wrote this one) on federal contracts is a travesty - such behavior on the part of cultural resource consultants and the federal gov't is illegal and unethical if someone cared enough to look into the quality (lack of) of the consultant's work, the quality of the regulatory review, the adherence to federal guidelines for wage/hour/benefits and the use of hiring of field personnel as "sub-contractor's" instead of employees, etc.

- an american cultural resouce association of sorts? or perhaps, in AZ, and arizona archaeological council? Oh, wait, they already exist. Aint doing their jobs...

support republicans - democrats are obviously clueless

- ha ha! can't agree more. Except to say, support teabaggers instead.

Look at the issue of many Federal Agencies (and some state agencies too) going to Indefinite Delivery Contracts or IDIQs, where only one of two companies end up with all the work for 3 to 5 years. This cuts out work for all of the rest of the companies not successful in the bid process.

- yes, nothing like a fair market economy! Add on-calls to that list.

Standards for Field Technicians (BA minimum) along with appropriate salaries that reflect experience, education, and travel requirements. Right now, we are woefully behind the curve.

- Seriously. except, most tekkies have the BA (needed so firms can be service contrcat act exempt, of course), they're just paid like high school dropouts. Now, appropriate salaries and travel reimbursement are a must.

 we most directly benefited from ARRA in 2008 right around the time it was passed to get projects shovel ready. since then, the flood of ARRA money has slowed to a trickle, but is still helping keep us afloat because the state - AZ - has absolutely NO money for cultural resources.

- stupid Arizona. No, really, they're fucked over the border in the grand can state. i'm suprised this bloke manages to keep afloat. that'll dry up after this election cycle!

I am appalled at process for cell towers, which essentially produces a worthless document for our office to deal with.

- a SHPO is presume. we're all appalled. So, SHPO dude/ette, set some goddamn standards for submission.

And, finally, my favorite:

I don't know enough to answer this...

- neither do I. Douche.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

PaleoWage is hiring!

PaleoWage--with offices all over the fucking place--is up to our ears in shitloads of work. We need shovelbums and we need em bad.  Per diem is provided for project locations more than 50 miles from PaleoWest offices, which of course you wont get cause we got fuckin offices everywhere. Well, if you do get per diem, it's cause your workin on remote projects that will be operated out of field camps, so no lodging for you. Bachelors degrees or better, field school completion, and prior experience are preferred for all positions. Service Contract Act wages do not apply. Please email interest, locations of availability, and resumes to

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PaleoWage at it agin (NOT)

The boss man accidentally left an award notification breakdown on the mimeograph last week for a recent award on a survey job in the SW. Well, PaleoWage did not make the cut; it went to the next-lowest contractor -- EnviroMismanagment Inc. But, here's a few schnippets of what the agency had to say about PaleoWage. It's fitting, and about time a CO saw through the bullshit:

                                                           "Very Agressive Price"

                                    "Proposal provided little detail"

      "Price is so agressive as to seem dubious compared to other contractor's proposals"

                                                                                 "Price is by far the lowest of all vendors."

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Soluntion to Low-balling? Let's Get the Feds to shift CRM contrcats from Low-Bid (aka Best Value) to QBS

Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, congress anticipated that lowest cost isnt always best, that's why they created the Brooks Act of 1972. The act requires the feds to select based on a bidder's competency, qualifications and experience (Quality Based Selection). Price in negotiated only after qualified bidders are identified.

Read more about this at the wikipedia article, but here's the takeaway: "lowest cost is widely recognized as the poorest criterion for service selection when quality and professional creativity are sought. An apt analogy from outside of the construction arena often cited is in the area of medical care: Nobody willingly chooses a surgeon based upon a doctor's willingness to perform an operation most cheaply"

CRM contracts should be QBS, not low bid.

Now, how do we get the Feds to change?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Overhead, Fee, and Multipliers...

Ever hear the bosses discuss the "multiplier?" simply, its your base salary by hour multiplied by the overhead and fee rates. For instance, a 2.35 multiplier would be your wage (100%) with an additional overhead of 125% of your wage plus a fee (profit) of 10% of your wage.

How do they come up with that overhead multiplier anyway?


No, seriously, here are some things that can be considered overhead expenditures:

Fringe Benefits for employees, including payroll taxes, vacation, health insurance contribution, unemployment taxes, 401k contributions, oh and BONUSES and INCENTIVES (ever get those? corporate officers do, often it is their method of pay). Typically, these fringe benefits constitute 30-50% of overhead. Keep these low (like don't pay insurance or benefits) and your overhead will be really competitive.

The rest of overhead may include office administrative staff (oh, that includes salary for admin and often owners), rent, office supplies, motor pool and equipment, other capital purchases, company parties, client entertainment fees, consultant fees, memberships, professional organization fees, depreciation of assets, and other unreimbursed items like hotel rooms, miles driven, postage sent, etc. Keep these costs low and overhead can hover in the under-100% range. Keep the fringe and other overhead low? 50-60% overhead would not be out of the question.

Given today's lowballing environment (strike that...."best value"), an overhead of between 60% and 90% is the only way for a firm to be competitive.

Work for the lowballers? Then you know how they keep that overhead low. Like drive your own car or the dilapidated 1987 bronco? Ancient copiers? Work in an "old house" instead of a proper office? Or is the office falling apart? Shitty computers? No benefits? No sick time? No vacation?

shall I go on?

Paleowage Labs 2: How to pull of a $15/acre survey...

I heard recently that a large survey somewhere in the deserts of Southern Arizona was awarded to a firm for a cost of $15 per acre. Seems low to me...and fishy. Using the same fictitious company previously cited on the blog -- you know, the one with 90% overhead that pays service contract act wages and benefits -- here is a scenario where a company could actually pull off a $15/acre price, assuming a 2,000 acre survey with very low archaeological site density:

PI PD CC Tech Graphics Clerical
Hourly  $    29.00  $    21.00  $   17.00  $   15.00  $   21.00  $   12.00
Overhead 90.00% 90.00% 90.00% 90.00% 90.00% 90.00%
Fee 10.00% 10.00% 10.00% 10.00% 10.00% 10.00%
Billing Rate $60.61 $43.89 $35.53 $31.35 $43.89 $25.08

Administration (Permitting, Meetings) 2 4 0 0 0 0
Prefield Research 0 8 0 0 0 0
Fieldwork Travel 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fieldwork Survey 0 128 128 128 0 0
Fieldwork Recording 0 0 0 0 0 0
Document Preparation 4 128 0 0 0 0
Graphics 0 0 0 0 40 0
Compliance 0 0 40 0 0 0
Labor Hours 6 268 168 128 40 0
Labor Cost $23,863.62

Vehicle Mileage 1 vehicle 2000 miles at $0.55 per mile =  $1,100.00
Lodging 12 nights 3 rooms at $60.00 night = $2,160.00
Per Diem 16 days 3 crew at $30.00 day = $1,440.00
Research Fees $35.00 /sq.mi 8 miles =

Compliance Fees 16 days 3 crew at $20.00 day = $960.00
Reproduction 2000 pages at $0.10 per page =

Other Costs $6,140.00

Total Cost $30,003.62

Cost Per Acre $15.00

At first glance, seems to check out. Notice a few things missing?

Like travel time? I assumed for this model that the project is about 3 hours away from the office, but I couldn't afford to pay it and keep the $15/acre. So, the 3-person crew gets no pay to drive to and from the project area. Unless, I lowered wages but that would be against the intent of the Service Contract Act..

What else? Site recording you say? Well, I assumed that there would be FEW (IF ANY) SITES (of course, what else would I assume?), so the industry standard 40 acres per person per day was all that was used to derive field effort. Of course, if there were any more than just a few sites, we would be heading for MOD TOWN!!!! PARTAY!

Is that 128 hours adequate for report writing? Another industry "standard," most often used by the Feds in estimating effort is that field director and write-up time are one-to-one. Ok, so if few sites were found, maybe I could pull this off...

As PI and part owner of this company, my profit is built into the fee and probably overhead too, so I'm only mildly worried about losing money (or, more accurately not making enough profit). But what if? Well, if I find too many sites I have an open pass for a Mod, since I've clearly indicated my assumptions with the bid offer (I did remember to do that, didn't I?). Maybe I should play it safe...keep that hotel and per diem money? Why not, it's nice this time of year, they can camp (oh, I hate camping, but they love it, wont mind a bit). Oh, I don't have to pay those research fees, I'll just use the on-line GIS thingamajiggy. No need to read those prior reports.

Oh, I can always pay them less...and no benefits! The Feds have no way of checking. Lets see what that would do to the bottom line. Eliminating just those things brings the bottom line to $20,532.10 or $10.27/acre. NICE! That's almost an extra $10,000 in my pocket. Woo Hoo.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PaleoWage Labs #1 Dissection of a Contract

OK -- hypothetically speaking --a certain CRM firm actually pays Service Contract Act Wages previously reported on this blog. Here's how they may have arrived at their applicable GSA rates (taken from one contractor also previously reported):

          Wage      OH       Fee        Rate
        Salary       Profit         Overhead
$15.2189.00%10.00%$31.62   crew$30,420.00$5,749.38$27,073.80
$17.0090.00%10.00%$35.53   chief$34,000.00$6,460.00$30,600.00
$21.8296.00%10.00%$47.04    director$43,640.00$8,553.44$41,894.40
$29.0096.00%10.00%$62.52    PI$58,000.00$11,368.00$55,680.00

The OH is overhead -- the cost of doing business, paying for rent and equipment, benefits and insurance, oh, and corporate officer compensation. This firm checks out with an overhead rate hovering around 90%, so for every dollar paid in salary it costs 90 cents to keep the plant running. The fee is profit and 10% is a fairly standard expectation.

Think that PI actually only makes $58,000 a year? What if said PI was also an owner of the company? In that case, they would be entitled to officer compensations (a component of the overhead) as well as their cut of the profit. What would those numbers look like? Well, assuming a staff of 15 similar positions worked full time for one year, these would be the numbers:

Annual Billings : $5,301,585.30
Annual Overhead Billed: $2,328,723.00 (includes officer compensations, estimated here as 20% = $465,744.60 divided amongst 3 officers = $155,248.20 each)

Annual Profits Earned: $481,962.30 (again split amongst 3 officers = $160,654.10)

So, that PI/business partner earned an annual income of $373,902.30.

Not bad for Archaeology. Sad part is that this 6-figure salary was earned on the back of less-than-$50,000/year employees. This dissection doesn't take into account the quality of fieldwork...that's next time!

All about "BEST VALUE"

What the hell does "Best Value" mean and how is it different from "Low Bid?"

Well, the intention, when W changed the Feds focus from lowest cost to best value was to take quality into account. In other words, fed buyers (aka contracting officers) do not have to select the lowest price. It's also supposed to provide some assurance to the vendor that they can sell something without being low-balled.

According to FedMarket, the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs for short) give COs flexibility and considerable latitude in making a purchasing decision (they're some pretty powerful peeps). Under FAR, the term "best value" means the expected outcome of an acquisition provides the greatest overall benefit in response to the requirement. In short, the rules give contracting officers the latitude to go with a higher price based on best value considerations, with no restrictions on what best value considerations have to be. Anything can be considered a best value factor as long as it makes sense and has cost and performance implications. Of course, the government holds all of the cards and can do just about anything it wants in making an award as long as it appears to be cost effective and in the best interests of the taxpayer.

Best value procurements are supposed to announce that the technical evaluation factors, collectively, are more important than price. According to Michael Payne, the award to a higher priced proposal must balance cost against the best interest of the Government. “The perceived benefits of the higher priced proposal shall merit the additional cost" Sounds good? It's especially good for archeology, where shoddy work equals irrevocable loss of information. Not so fast...the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has held that price cannot be ignored simply because it is to be given less weight than the technical factors, and the Court has also stated an evaluation that fails to give price its due consideration is inconsistent with Federal contracting laws and cannot serve as a reasonable basis for an award. 

So much for "best value."

Instead, here's what we've wound up with:

"Best value will be determined by proposals that are deemed technically acceptable and present the lowest cost to the Government."

In action, what this means is the contracting officer sorts proposals by price, delivers the lowest priced one to the technical representative, and asks "is this proposal 'technically acceptable' or not." If it is, they get the award.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The more you know 3: The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act

You can read all about the Fed's perception of fair wages at: Short story -- the Dept of Labor generates a Register of Wage Determinations that are contract specific and list the minimum wage that a worker has to be paid for certain contracted positions including Archaeologist. In a recent wage determination for Greenlee County the archaeological wage determinations are:

Archaeological Technician I - $15.21/hour
Archaeological Technician II - $17.00/hour
Archaeological Technician III - $21.82/hour

If you are a tech or crew chief, do you get paid that much?

On top of that, these occupations are to receive additional benefits: $606.67/month for health and welfare and a minimum of 10 paid holidays per year. Oh yeah, and overtime over 40 hours of work too.

Get that too?

So, here's the catch, the loophole if you will....

The 1965 law intended to set living wages for a broad list of occupations. This act, as well as the Fair Labor Standards Act, both viewed as fundamentally anti-business, were significantly weakened in the 80s and 90s. The most damaging to field archaeologists was the definition of an exempt employee. Adapted from DOL's website:

Professionally exempt work means work which is predominantly intellectual, requires specialized education, and involves the exercise of discretion and judgment. Professionally exempt workers must have education beyond high school, and usually beyond college, in fields that are distinguished from (more "academic" than) the mechanical arts or skilled trades. Advanced degrees are the most common measure of this, but are not absolutely necessary if an employee has attained a similar level of advanced education through other means (and perform essentially the same kind of work as similar employees who do have advanced degrees).

When was the last time you saw a job ad that didn't ask that you have a Bachelor's in Anthropology or similar? Guess what - AS AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIELD TECH YOU ARE EXEMPT FROM FEDERAL LABOR RULES!!!!

So the recent round of stimulus has tried to enforce these (toothless) laws. Some companies even advertise that they pay these higher-than-industry-standard rates for field projects, just to convince the Feds they are playing along. But, since contracts are exclusively best value (aka low bid) and firm-fixed price, the Gov't never knows if you are getting paid what the boss says you are.

How much do you get paid? Get benefits? Overtime? Days off? Minimum of $15.21 per hour?

In future posts we'll try to dissect some published hourly GSA rates to find out how much companies pay you, how much they spend on overhead costs, and how much they put in the bank... stay tuned

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CRM Confidential: Published GSA Rates for Archaeological Contrcators in the Southwest

Ok, part 2 of the "more you know" series:

(Sorry y'all for the broken links. they should be fixed now)

Ever wonder what CRM companies charge the government for services? Ever wonder how much your company gets paid versus what they pay you? Some of this info is public information available for GSA registered contrcators at A few CRM firms and their rate catalogs:



Ecosystem Mgt:








Eco Plan:

Tierra RW:

Larger engineering-type corporations not included here. Peruse the GSA website and add your own to this list!

How much can you survey an acre of land for????

Ok Boys and Girls, about this time last year a bunch of Southwest Archaeology firms submitted proposals for an Indefinite Quality/Indefinite Quantity contract for Arch surveys throughout the Forest Service Region 3 -- AZ, NM, and a bunch of little schnippets of OK and TX. The 5 awards -- public info -- went to for the lowest prices:

PaleoWest: $19.33/acre
Northland Research: $26/acre
Envirosystems Research: $17.80/acre
4-Corners: $21.22/acre
and Dykeman-Roebuck: $23/acre

Can YOU survey anything for $17.80/acre? If so, do you get paid a living wage, travel time, per diem, lodging? Leave a comment...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Here at PaleoWage, the Great Recession is over. In fact, PaleoWage never even noticed, and is in the midst of its fourth consecutive year of strong growth since launching in 2006. In fact, our government contracting sector alone—once a minor part of our business—is threatening to exceed our entire revenues from last year.

It’s a testament to slave labor, low wages, "best value" philosophy, and a commission-based outside of the box business model that pushes coporate losses off onto the PaleoWage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that absorbes our losses and keeps balance sheets in the black. Our tagline remains our mission: Technically Acceptable. Lowest Cost. Bringing CRM back to the Stone Age. Stay tuned on this blog for more on our growth, shrinkage, travails, and candid approach to the cultural-resource management business.

Friday, August 20, 2010