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Dot-Coms Say 'Unions Not Welcome!' 405

Posted by timothy
from the no-comment-from-timothy dept.
subbiecho writes: "Automotive related e-biz software company, The Cobalt Group, has spoken out against unions forming within their ranks, in this article. Cobalt Group CEO, John Holt sent an un-prompted e-mail to workers, alluding to Amazon.Com and other companies undergoing organizing drives, saying he preferred a "direct dialogue" with employees. This adds more fuel to the fire of pro-union supporters in their attempt to build a cohesive technology workers union."
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Dot-Coms Say 'Unions Not Welcome!'

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  • by IronChef (164482) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:03PM (#480376) Homepage

    I have a friend who works at a California university. There is some kind of union present on campus. He has a tech job, and is not a union member, yet is forced to pay several hundred clams per month in union dues. The reason is that it "isn't fair for him to receive the benefits of union representation without paying."

    He has constant disputes with the pointy-haired management, has a hostile workplace and a pack of other problems. Naturally the union does nothing for him, but he can't say, "don't represent me, I want nothing from you, and I don't want to give you any money."

    It should be illegal to extort money from non-union members in this way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:06PM (#480377)
    It's unfortunate that so many of the people who are responding to this issue are completely ignorant of any history prior to the times of their own lives. The mere fact that we have weekends, vacations, child labor laws, minimum wages, basic safety standards in the workplace etc, etc all stem from the labor movement over the last century.

    The notion that a skilled person can always go out and get a different job or create one not usually true. Before the "Great Depression" most skilled craftmen, which is what software engineers are today, were treated very poorly. So were academics.

    It's stange to read postings by mostly technically trained people who are so attached simple minded notions like free markets and corporatism! I wonder how many such folks are born again Christians or how many could distinguish between the Vietnam War and the Peloponnesian War.

    The pleasant conditions the most software engineers enjoy today are not necessarily going to last forever. The quality of software is generally poor even though we are well paid and engineers have little control over either the quality or purpose of the software they create. I suggest something like a Union of Concerned Programmers, at least for a start.
  • by onepoint (301486) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:09PM (#480378) Homepage Journal
    Many good points mentioned above. But my history with unions is awful.. case in point.

    I got a job at a medical manufacturing plant from a buddy of my dad. They put me on a machine that was producing 720 units per shift and i was told that's all it could do from the foreman. So what did I do, I spent that night reading the instruction book for that machine. The next day I had the sucker producing 2700 units in half of my shift time. The foreman patted me on the back and my car window was smashed. My dad's friend told me to slow it down. So what did I do, I got the sucker down to 900 units per shift, got yeld at by the foreman, got my locker broken into ( lost one hell of great book), and had a wiper blade broken. All in 3 days.

    So the end of that week I deciede to take my revenge on the entire union. I got the manuels for most of the plants presses and machinery ( plant was closed on sundays ) and wrote a 27 page memo to the president of the company. Come tuesday, I hit my machine and have it running at full speed, the next machine at full speed and 3 other machines running at almost there top speed. Total production I was told was about 13 days worth of output. I was smart enough to leave 1 hour before the shift change. All the while the president, and plant manager watched me behide a glass window.

    I was told that most of the employees of the union were required to retrain and they would have to hit my production within 1 month. There were some layoffs from that plant within 2 weeks.

    My fathers buddy never spoke to me again and we moved out of the area.

    I think unions are good if the union understands that they have to produce at the maximum levels of skills they have and that they also have a good employer that will offer consistant training to improve the knowledge of the union. Better educated workers bring better productions with less stress and long term benifits to the firm.


    above email is spam bait so look at my bio.
  • by llywrch (9023) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:03PM (#480384) Homepage Journal
    > Although I am clearly biased on this point, I just dont see any other need for a tech-union, perhaps someone else can enlighten me on
    > this issue.

    Simple. Consider for a moment that having ``elite" status means that you are one of the top 5% or 10% in your work bracket. Employers fall all over themselves to give you want you want.

    But what if you just don't make that bracket. You're in the 10% bracket right below yours. Or you look funny. Or you decide you want to only work 40 hours a week.

    Or say you lose out on a raise because your PHB decides to give it instead to one of those slackers who just happens to offer something on the side that the PHB likes. (And it's not always nookie.)

    Sure, if that happened to you right now, you could walk off the job & get a better-paying one tomorrow. But recessions happen, & all of the clued bosses who would hire you in a heartbeat have hiring freezes. Or you get into a car accident, sure it's the other guy's fault but he's a deadbeat & your insurance doesn't cover it, AND you are out for six months. Can't code, can't work, can't do anything but count the holes in the ceiling thru a medication haze. And you find your employer laid you off while you were out, & no one wants to hire you.

    Don't say this couldn't happen to you. For generations people have been giving loyalty & their strong backs to employers, then something happens & you discover how your boss repays all that loyalty. All it takes is one PHB, one bad break, & your career can get toasted.

    And that's why unions get started. Because you can't always trust your boss.

    And be glad that there's an interest in unionizing high tech. You'll never see a union at a place like McDonald's or 7-11 (which need unions worse than the high tech industry) because you need some kind of stable workforce that'll be around for at least a couple months at the job. You need jobs that are worth fighting for, that are worth having.

    Geoff

  • by Restil (31903) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:21PM (#480385) Homepage
    What I've noticed about the union where I work, and I'd imagine its similar elsewhere, is that the aim of the union is to "protect" the "average" employee. This is good for the mediocre employee as they are pretty safe from getting fired for doing mediocre work as long as they meet the minimum acceptable standards. Even if they're below those standards, the union will cry a river for them in their defense and they'll be able to hold onto their job for that much longer.

    The bad news is, in their bargaining for better money for the lowest common denominator, they eliminated the possibility for anyone to get a raise based on any factor other than senority. It doesn't matter that one employee works twice as hard as another. He will get paid the exact same amount as the other employee. The raises are also fixed. Its gonna be 50 cents per year. Thats it. No more until the contract is renewed, and even then its not likely to get any better.

    Of course, the employees aren't hopeless, but its ironic that the only way they can be truely appreciated for their performance is to move up into management, and therefore OUT of the "protection" of the union.

    -Restil
  • Dude, the only thing my union did for me when I part-timed at A&P supermarket in high school was collect my dues -- and they were huge! It was something ridiculous like $5-15 a month.

    Considering my wages were below the lowest tax bracket, this was a ton.

  • because unions do prevent those people
    from squeezing the most of their workforce...


    You're right, why should a company expect to get the most out of their employees? Naw, the more lazy and surly, the better.
  • What you are saying is that because you have voluntarily made certain life choices, everyone must change to accomodate you.

    That is pretty far from what I'm saying.

    What I'm saying is that a 40-hour work week isn't too much to ask of an employer. I'd be happy with a 50-hour week, but that's out of the question as well.

    Here's a wacky concept: maybe you shouldn't buy a house or cars if you can't afford them, and maybe you shouldn't have kids if you can't afford to raise them.

    I can afford them quite well, actually, but I don't see the need to work 12 hour days 7 days a week to pay for them. I don't drive an expensive car, I don't live in a mansion, and I spend very little money, putting over 40% of my income in the bank. I don't live paycheck to paycheck, and I haven't since I was in college, which I will also be paying for for the next 30 years.

    But buying a house is expensive, ongoing bills are expensive, and really, none of this has anything to do with what is reasonable to expect from your employees.
  • Write back to us when you have kids.
  • It amazes me that all anyone got out of my post was the economic aspect. In all honesty, it's the least important, and has the most bearing on your married\single status.

    I haven't had a chance to sit down to a meal with my wife for weeks now. My cats look at me like I'm the most evil person on the planet. I haven't spoken to my brother, my mother, my sister, or anyone outside of the office and my wife when I wake up in the morning in weeks.

    Time is far more important than money. Money is fluid, it can always be found. Time isn't, and it goes by WAY too fast.

    I think that employers should have reasonable expectations toward how much of their employees' time they can require. I don't think that this is too much to ask.

    I am single, and too work in the tech industry, but understand a very simple principle that most don't ever think of. Look for a new job, get offer, accept offer, and then quit. Not so complicated now is it?

    Let's see... I don't have time to spend at home, or to call my family, or to talk to my wife, but somehow I have time to job hunt, interview, second interview, etc.

  • Gee, management of a company doesn't think they need a union? Gosh, that's suprising!

    *End Sarcasm Mode*

    It seems a lot of the posts have been critical of unions, but please remember that they have been absolutely critical in the development of many nations. There may yet come a day when the number of programmers/admins/technicians in the job market outweighs the number of available jobs. If that day ever comes, unions are going to start looking a lot more attractive to a lot of us.

    What's that? Your highly trained, and have a unique skill set? That's what IronWorker Dan thought at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Then one day he looked around, and all his friends were trained as iron workers as well. Now, maybe Dan's company recognizes his true skill and value, or maybe they just see 100 other guys who will do Dan's job for half the price.

    The phrase, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it" seems relevant right about now...
  • by chuqui (264912)
    so dot-com companies don't like unions.

    Name me the five companies in "traditional" companies that said "unions? gee, we love unions. you don't even have to vote! Just come in and have a chair, we'll talk".

    Why is it news that these companies don't want unions around? Basically, NO company wants unions around. this is news?

  • The mere fact that we have weekends, vacations, child labor laws, minimum wages, basic safety standards in the workplace etc, etc all stem from the labor movement over the last century.

    Damn - now I go an do this contracting/consulting thing and find that weekends are for working, vacations are a figment of my deranged imagination, my pre-school child is helping me code (and doing a better job of it - little bugger!) not to mention the fact that my desk doesn't sit right and I'm sure the lighting is out of whack.

    Still, the $500k per year I'm pulling in more than pays my medical, loss of income protection and other such things.

    I figure that when I retire in a couple of years, I might just buy me one of them union things...

    *cough cough*

    Most of the above is a joke - I'll leave it to you guys to figure which bits are jokes and for what reason(s) :)

  • OK, so back in the past, unions did a lot of good stuff and fought for the right of the worker to not be stomped by nasty employers. Given the situation 100 years ago, I can agree that was a good thing.

    However, times change and I'm not going to rely on the situation of 100 years ago to justify what I see around me in unions today. Afterall, I'm driving a shit-hot car with great features and flying ace aircraft now - 100 years ago, we didn't have all that. Should I accept shoddy driving/flying environments because a group fought to get them 100 years ago? :)

    Here are some notes from my experience many years ago:

    1. Working as a casual hours shop assistant in a KMart (working for pocketmoney while at school) - I was *forced* to take a 15 minute break in the middle of my four hour shift because the union demanded it. They never asked me if I liked having to sit for 15 minutes in the smokey staff area wondering how long it would take to get back into the swing of my work when I returned to the floor.

    2. Despite Australia's "voluntary union" status, I was forced to pay union dues (deal between unions & mega-store chain to reduce disruptions).

    3. The union supported government parties/delegates that I did not.

    4. Votes were conducted as a "show of hands," not a secret ballot. Guess what kind of experience you would have if you voted against the desires of the union/delegate....

    Now some current experience from a union that is a client of mine (I do IT/management consulting for them)

    1. Fewer people joining the union has resulted in less income which is placing a strain on their out-dated management concepts (little empires, massive duplication of effort, obsolete equipment, etc).

    2. Senior union management are realising that they may have to downsize and undergo process review/re-engineering to survive (all the things they complained about when fighting employers :)

    3. One union here is in the middle of a strike with its own admin staff - they are part of a different union and are striking over work conditions at the union's offices. Poetic justice? :)

    Unions once were great, have gone through a period where they got "too big for their boots" and are now being dragged back to reality. Where I see a union excelling is:

    1. Where people cannot job-hop to other employers for better conditions, etc (hotshot tech/management staff can get away with it - call centre staff often cannot :( The classic example mentioned here was the car manufacturers "colluding" on payrates and preventing skilled staff job-hopping.

    2. Where "free" legal advice/service is not available - either contract reviews or fighting for rights - such as the firebrigade staff who were terminated for speaking out. Unions can offer a centralised service to members for free/cheap due to economies of scale.

    Reviewing the above two points, isn't this what groups like the IEEE and Australian Computer Society attempt to offer?

    One person has noted previously in this discussion that they wouldn't join the IEEE due to their political machinations. Perhaps if sufficient people were to note their disagreement with this direction, the IEEE could:

    a) stop their machinations

    b) have an "opt-in" political contribution as part of membership - those who agree pay, those who don't do not (nifty way of checking if they really do represent the desires of their members :)

    Organisations such as unions have their benefits, provided they create and maintain a system which is agreed to by their members. One problem here is in the method by which member agreement is obtained. Another problem is getting a large group of people to agree on anything :)

    There is a need for some sort of representation for those in IT who do not have cutting edge skills (eg: those who haven't reinvented themselves every couple of years). Whether a union is the answer or not will be decided by the industry itself over the coming years.


  • Okay. Whoever moderated this down is an idiot. You don't moderate a posting up or down based on whether or not you agree with the point made: you moderate based on the quality of the facts and method in which they're presented.

    Yes, read your moderator guidelines.

    Regardless, I still have more karma than you do.

  • by RandomPeon (230002) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @10:37PM (#480426) Journal
    Wow, a comment worth reply. :)

    I guess if you take my argument to its logical extreme it is Functionalism (which is distinct from Marxism, but now I'm using that philosophy minor to split hairs). But it's really more of a free-market Functionalism - techies are the critical irreplaceable segment of an IT company. They're skills are unique and a finite number of people can do their job at all, therefore, like executives, they should be generously compensated (obviously less so than senior managment - but the point is that both groups are critical). Support departments tend to be a different story. However, techies, like blue-collar folk, tend to be isolated from management and most likely to be subjected to unfair treatment (I don't know any Marketdroids who worked 70 hrs/wk for two weeks to meet a deadline only to get laid off the next morning when the project got done on time). This is where some form of representation comes in.

    This sounds racist to me.

    There's plenty of documented cases of employers abusing the H1-B system. It has no checks and balances - these people often get fucked. You can read other comments here or the original stories for examples. (I wish to plead laziness for not supplying links.) There was absolutely no attempt by tech workers to lobby Congress on these issues, so suprise, we got shitty, one-sided legistlation. Until we live in a world with absolute free trade with a truly global market (never) restrictions on outsourcing employment are justified.

    If they screw you, you leave.

    That gets hard if everyone is colluding to screw you. It's true that some software isn't made by a couple oligopolies like cars are - yet. Despite this fact, anti-consumer initiatives like SDMI, CSS, etc. have managed to get universal support. It may only be a matter of time before everybody's management gets their act together to suppress developer wages. I'm not saying they would be wrong in trying to do so - that's their job, minimize expenses. The purpose of a union is to provide a counterbalancing institution - at least in theory. Someone needs to be looking out for your interests.

    I'm not gonna play long-term predictor, but the dotcom shakeout indicates we might be seeing a world with relatively few software/networking/whatever companies. Most industries tend to consolidate as they mature, and there's no reason software would be an exception. If and when all software is made by Apple-Microsoft-Intel-NBC or IBM-Redhat-Sun-AOL-TimeWarner and three other companies, leverage would shift substantially away from the workforce to the employers. If you think this is absurd, bear in mind we once had dozens of automakers in America, we now have exactly two (Chrysler doesn't count). Troll-preempt: This an exagerrated example, please don't tell me Apple belongs in the second megacorp or something like that. (Somewhat OT, while I'm not a Marxist, he did predict consolidation decades before it happened. Rest assured, I hate communism as much as you, just should give credit where it's due.)

    Three of the five groups you mentioned have recently pulled or are pulling strikes about bullshit issues and making ridiculous demands.
    It cuts both ways. Counterexample: Pepsi workers where I live had shitty wages, pension plans, disability pay, etc. The union came up with a proposal that would have compensated Pepsi workers slightly less than local Coke workers with equivalent jobs. The company made a ridiculously low offer and then refused to negotiate "on principle." Who's the idiot here? All a strike indicates is an inability to reach an agreement - it isn't automatically the union's fault.

    I may be going out on a limb by suggesting that we trust a system with a rather shady history. But we may have the solution to the problem of advocates who don't advocate well - the Internet. Rank and file union members have set up websites criticizing bad union leadership and company management alike. The NWA flight attendant contract (big issue when you have one airline like we do in Minneapolis) was scuttled by an independent website which claimed it didn't really benefit members.

    In the olden days, all organizations had to be hierarchial - you had to have literal "bosses" even in unions. Today, you can set up a discussion site where anyone with a stake in the issues can voice their opinion. If flight attendants can use the net to prevent abuses of the union system tech workers should have no difficulty. It's awfully difficul to bullshit a large group of people who have the ability to communicate on a discussion system. I just can't see a traditional crooked union popping up when all the members can post comments.

    It's a basic truth of economics that increased prices will result in decreased demand.

    It is also a basic truth of physics that bodies move in accordance with Newton's laws and relations derived from these laws. Any so-called "basic truth" or "law" is valid only under a finite set of circumstances. Just as the laws of classical mechanics only accurately describes the world at relatively low speeds, the law of supply and demand only accurately describes the world in markets where all information is available to all actors, the number of actors is large, all actors meet the formal defition of efficiency, and the barriers to entry and exit approach zero.

    Just as Newton's laws stop working well as we approach .1 * c, the law of supply and demand stops working well when we move away from ideal free market conditions. Good and bad results that the free market system couldn't predict happen. Somehow, unionized industries are able to have real wage increases without massive layoffs. Somehow, Microsoft has been able to retain control of entire markets with substandard products in the face of substantial competition. Examples of results opposite what supply and demand would predict abound.

    These so-called "laws" become become less useful in describing behavior as we move away from the hard sciences to the soft ones, like economics and political science - even the Iron Law of Political Science has two exceptions (1930 and 1998) and social scientists still call it the "Iron Law" because relative to their other laws it's done an awfully good job.
  • I was at my local library recently and I browsed the computer section for entertainment. It had a 1990 book entitled "The Decline and Fall of the American Programmer" and it claimed that by 2000 all the programmers in America would be unemployed, having been replaced by harder-working Indians. American programmers were supposedly 1)lazy, 2)overpaid, 3)inefficient, 4)overeducated, 5)stupid.

    Strangely, US programmers are doing quite well, even though their salaries have been jacked through the roof (albeit not by unions). It appears #4 turned out to be a real benefit - US folk have shown a better ability to adapt to new technology. It looks like the sky has been falling for a while.

  • First off, my knowledge and expertise on labor unions themselves is very much limited and I do not claim to be an expert or even to know what I'm talking about. But since this is an open forum, I'd like to add my perspective.

    I think it can be agreed that unions exist for the protection of the workers against their employers. I do believe (but am not certain) that unions as we know them today started with the auto industry. Henry Ford, while being the innovator he was, pretty gave not a flying shit about his employees. Working conditions were pretty bad and so the workers fought back and went on strike. A union was created somewhere along the lines and workplace quality went up.

    But the coin can be flipped. A union can become strong enough that suddenly the employer is the one in the stranglehold. This is when people starts saying that unions are evil, etc.

    Right now, I'd say that the IT industry needs no unions. AFAIK, the good programmers are practically babied and so are some of the bad ones. In general, I would guess that IT workers have it made. Until we start approaching a world something like that in Neal Stephenson's _Snow Crash_, an IT union is a bad idea. We don't want our employers to hate us this early in the game. :P
  • Hear hear. Tech workers are not like skilled workers doing manual work ... you can only weld so fast, or lay so many bricks/hour, or fix an engine so fast etc.

    OTOH, a tech worker with the right skills can sometimes do a job 1000%-10000% faster/better than someone lacking those skills. And you can't expect training and a bumper sticker to magically teach someone to be the kind of creative problem solver that is valuable in the tech biz.

    Maybe the majority of /.ers are heartless technocrats, but we just don't want our highly specialized and arcane jobs lumped in with someone who inserts Windows-2K CD's in a drive all day and clicks Ok. (no offense to the humble MSCE :) )
  • Actually, my skill in the workplace is what lets me ask for a raise and not get fired.

    I don't need somebody else to ask for me. Thanks anyway.
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:23PM (#480439)
    ...and I have 6 more to go.

    There's only been one day that was less than 12 hours, and I fought like mad to get that one day.

    Everywhere you go, you hear "that's how tech is."

    Tech burnout, IT madness, whatever you want to call it, it's pervasive and for some unknown reason we're expected to be available 24/7 7 days a week. Beepers, cell phones, etc. totally invade our privacy.

    It's got to stop before the tech industry eats itself. The business owners aren't going to do it, as we've seen lately with Amazon and Cobalt, they're going to do whatever they can to keep things as they are.
  • I see many postings citing the differiation in skill level in the tech industry as a reason not to unionize. The assumption is that either pay will be based on seniority or all workers will be paid the same. I do not see why this must be the case. My parents are both professors with Ph.D's (also high skill level) and belong to the university's faculty union. My Dad however makes a lot more than my Mom because he publishes more and gets promoted more. By the university's standards he is a better professor so he is paid more. Also the pay in different fields for professors history vs. chemistry varies a great deal.

    I imagine a union of programmers would negotiate to get standards for minimum pay-level (no HB-1 visa underpaying) and working hours (no 7 days of 14 hours in a row). Beyond this different programmers could be paid different amounts. Why couldn't individuals negotiate their own salaries and still be in the union? I have known some professors at my parents' university that have negotiated special raises.
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:26PM (#480455) Homepage Journal
    What I really don't like about unions is that if you happen to have a job in a unionized industry in most U.S. states, you are forced to either be a member of the union, or if you don't want to be a member you have to pay their dues anyway. And if you don't want to be a member, the union will be working 100% of the time to have you "bumped" from your job, which the law allows them to do and they usually succeed.

    I it just doesn't seem fair.

    About 25 years ago I worked in retail, selling home electronics. I was given the choice of joining the retail clerks union or quitting. I told my boss that I'd rather quit. He didn't want to lose me, so he promoted me to store manager. All the time I worked there, the union employees were making very close to minimum wage and were working in horrible conditions, and the union manager was driving a very expensive car and wearing suits more expensive than any worker could afford. There were no strikes. I'm sure there was lots of corruption.

    Thanks

    Bruce

  • My mother lead a union at a hospital and she never endorsed this crap.

    I for one would agree to all five conditions. Plus let me add:
    6) My union would not stand for people habitually coming in late or not at all.
    7) My union would not get involved in issues like abortion or military action in Bosnia, etc.

    However, what my union would do, is follow in the tradition of union forefathers/mothers who made the workplace a safer place, outlawed child labor, and established the 8 hour work day/40 hour work week.
    My union will be the one that saves your tail from being fired and blacklisted for not putting in 80 hours constantly, against your will.

    And if you think you can just LEAVE for another job, think again. The dotcoms have fallen. The party is over.

    Oh and I also predicted unions would get a big boost in the IT industry if the dotcoms happened to fall and an employer's market situation came about. Well, that time is coming. We'll soon see.
    ========================
    63,000 bugs in the code, 63,000 bugs,
    ya get 1 whacked with a service pack,
  • They're skills are unique and a finite number of people can do their job at all, therefore, like executives, they should be generously compensated (obviously less so than senior managment - but the point is that both groups are critical).[snip] However, techies, like blue-collar folk, tend to be isolated from management and most likely to be subjected to unfair treatment (I don't know any Marketdroids who worked 70 hrs/wk for two weeks to meet a deadline only to get laid off the next morning when the project got done on time). This is where some form of representation comes in.

    This is sorting itself out on its own, without union help. All the dot-coms that try to get by through slave-driving without a plan are going under. The companies that don't reward their workers are begging on the streets for more VC, and they're not getting it. The companies that do get it will weather this downswing, and come out doing just fine.

    There's plenty of documented cases of employers abusing the H1-B system.

    I agree with you that the H1-B system is screwed up. The problem lies in its implementation, not the fundamental concept of encouraging immigrant tech workers, though (which is what you had originally seemed to be saying). Once again, I'll make a blatant plug for Canada and point out that our immigration system is generally less screwed up than yours. We don't ship people back after 5 years or any of that crap.

    If and when all software is made by Apple-Microsoft-Intel-NBC or IBM-Redhat-Sun-AOL-TimeWarner and three other companies, leverage would shift substantially away from the workforce to the employers.

    If that came to pass, yes, it would be time for unions. I don't see it happening any time soon, though. Until it does, I think unions would be more a burden than a benefit.

    That gets hard if everyone is colluding to screw you. It's true that some software isn't made by a couple oligopolies like cars are - yet. Despite this fact, anti-consumer initiatives like SDMI, CSS, etc. have managed to get universal support.

    These examples are quite different from employee treatment. Employees are generally a lot more informed about their companies than consumers are, for one...

    Counterexample: Pepsi workers where I live had shitty wages, pension plans, disability pay, etc. The union came up with a proposal that would have compensated Pepsi workers slightly less than local Coke workers with equivalent jobs. The company made a ridiculously low offer and then refused to negotiate "on principle."

    If it was the tech industry, all the Pepsi people could have just left for the nearest Coke plant. Then Pepsi would have been up shit creek without a paddle when they discovered nobody had been commenting their code...

    Rank and file union members have set up websites criticizing bad union leadership and company management alike

    For now, I think that level of organization is all that's needed--no formal unions necessary. The company I was working at this summer did some nasty bullshit to employees, mainly because of two idiot executives. If we had wanted to, we could have simply told the general manager that X had to change or all his developers would walk. That would have destroyed the company completely, since it would take 6 months for anyone else to figure out our flagship products. I nearly organized such a coup, but, as a lowly co-op student, I didn't quite have the pull needed. All that was really needed was a desire to change things on the part of employees--a union was simply unnecessary.

    Just as Newton's laws stop working well as we approach .1 * c, the law of supply and demand stops working well when we move away from ideal free market conditions.

    Yes, but, at least right now, the computer industry is very close to an ideal free market. There are many "sellers" (employees) and many "buyers" (employers), and no one entity or small group has excessive market power. If that were to change, there might be a need for unions... Until then, they're just dead weight.

  • by Weezul (52464) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @09:03PM (#480463)
    First, do you think that a union would really fix the H1 Visa problem? I'd assume that a union would just try to decrease the number of H1 Visas. I suppose it might force companies to pay H1 Visa recipiants more since this would make them less attractive, but this just means that only the companies without unionized labor would have lots of H1 Visa holders. I think federal legislation to force fair treatment of H1 Visa holders wopuld be much more effective.

    Second, do you think that unions would really do anything to fix the problems with unfair co compeat contracts and NDAs? These issues are much to subtile for your average union and they only effect a minority of emploies (the more intelegent ones). Now, I suppose that a tech union might be a bit smarter then other unions, but I still think that it would ignore it's smarter most importent members in favor of the mass of dues paing html typing idiots.

    I think the tech industry would be much better served by having a "tech workers loby" which did not deal with companies, but dealt with congress and the courts instead, i.e. it would try to help show that bad contracts and H1 Visa abuse should be illegal.

    Alternativly, one could make an argument that unions would be ineffective since there are many many tech companies, i.e. unions are designed to deal with companies which have "monopolies on work." Now, the solution to this problem would be a more "distributed union" where the workers just discussed the problems they were having at work. It would be possible to look up people's opinions on companies to get a realistic view before joining a company and it would be possible to get help organizing "one time strikes." Actually, maybe we are closer to having such a place then we realize.. maybe a weblog like slashdot or kuro5hin could do this job.
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:28PM (#480465)
    It is true that technology companies expect un-sustainable levels of work, but in the vast majority of cases, these companies are fairly compensating their employees.

    This is SUCH bullshit.

    How do you compensate someone who is totally lost to their family because they're stuck in the office 7 days a week?

    How do you compensate someone for the entire months lost due to crunch time, forced by the people who a) have the money to invest in realistic scheduling and b) aren't there with you the whole time?
  • by tbo (35008) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @09:03PM (#480466) Journal
    I think it's interesting that your description of extortion, "either you give me this, or we [sic] wont work," is in fact a description of a market economy, which can be summarized as "either you give me a better price or I won't buy your gizmo."

    You wouldn't know a market economy if it bit you in the ass. Markets work best when you have many sellers and many buyers, all operating independently. The tech industry has tens of thousands of competing companies and millions of employees, which is just the way things should be. The tech industry is damn close to an ideal free market.

    Adam Smith, the idol of capitalists, would in fact have approved of unions, in my opinion

    Do you know anything about Adam Smith? He would have viewed labour unions as market collusion, an evil that distorts prices and creates market inefficiencies. Your statement is about as ridiculous as claiming that Karl Marx would have favoured the AOL-Time Warner merger. Please, take an economics course.

    With reasonable labour laws (such as those in Canada), there's really no need for unions in the tech industry. If you don't like your job, get another. When you leave a tech job, the company loses huge amounts of accumulated knowledge, and, whether the company knows it or not (the good ones do), it costs them big-time. This is more true in the tech industry than any other industry I can think of.

    Nobody wants to pay you $75,000 for 8 hours a day with 6 weeks vacation? Maybe it's because you're not worth it. Ideal markets do a very good job of paying people what they're worth. Sometimes the truth hurts. If nobody wants to pay you $X, upgrade your skills, look around, and you'll probably get what you want.

    Don't try to tell me it's hard to find a new job--it's easy if you don't suck. I'm only a co-op student, and I have no trouble. First co-op term, I had to turn down interviews because I was getting so many, and I got exactly the job I wanted. This time, I only applied to one place, and got the job without even an interview.

    Yes, companies pull occasional bullshit like firing people without telling them, but that just means your labour laws need a bit of tweaking. If that happened here in Canada, you could sue their asses for wrongful dismissal.

    Sure, unions increase wages in the short-run, but they ultimately harm workers by decreasing the supply of jobs or putting employers out of business or by taking huge chunks of your paycheck. It's simple economics--if you increase the price of something (higher wages), demand will fall (==less jobs). There's a few details (price elasticity of demand increases with time, etc.) that tell you that the reaction won't be immediate, but it will happen.

    Historically, unions have been corrupt, anti-democratic organizations. I know this because, during the Cold War, my grandfather was an active member of the Communist Party in the US. He was ordered to infiltrate the UAW, which he successfully did. Maybe it's no longer the Communist party that has their fingers in the union pie--it could be the Mob--but they're not really about protecting workers. Corporations don't have a monopoly on evil...

    I know what you're going to say "Aha! Those labour laws are there because of unions! So there!". Yes, very true. Unions did have a useful place in society. They're not needed in today's highly-educated, highly-skilled labour market, though.

    Maybe you're thinking "but I deserve to be paid $XXX,000, and I should get 72 weeks of paid vacation a year". Why do you think you are somehow entitled to any of this? You're entitled to what you can negotiate in good faith with your employer, and you're entitled to have your employer honour your employment contract. Nowhere in the Consitution is flex-time, sick leave, or overtime pay guaranteed.

    I'm not saying people don't have the right to organize unions--they do (and should) have that right. I'm just saying it would be stupid to do so in the tech industry.
  • by tbo (35008) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @11:49PM (#480468) Journal
    Money is power. Employers have it, you don't. Unless you're an employer.

    Maybe at McDonalds, that's true, but things are very different in the tech industry. What developers are selling (knowledge and skills) is extremely valuable, and good companies know this.

    At the place I was working this summer, if the two most senior developers had walked, the company would have folded. Management could come and go, the market could change, but these developers were the company. The knowledge in their heads was irreplaceable, and management knew it.

    That's power.

    An intelligent employer will pay employees what they're worth and do everything possible to keep the good ones around. Unions make that harder, because now Joe Slacker has to be paid as much as Jane Ubercoder, just because he's been around as long. When you fuck with the free market, things almost always get worse.
  • c) accept that collective bargaining can fit very neatly within a free market. If a company can't deal with workers organizing, then it's the company's fault. Nobody forces companies to accept unions, it's sometimes just the best business decision to make.

    This is clearly wrong. Companies are forced to accept unions all the times. That is what the NRLB is all about. They force elections for the union and then require that the employer accept the union as the representative of all the workers. Even workers that vote against the union are coerced into accepting union representation.

    The current labor laws are incompatible with a free market.
  • by cthugha (185672) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @05:52PM (#480481)
    In a world where communication is quick and valid, the market can move at a fast enough pace that companies with poor management practices will quickly wither on the vine.

    Yes, and that would explain why bad management practices and lousy working conditions are so prevalent in the tech industry today, wouldn't it. There have been numerous stories on /. about bad treatment of tech workers, particularly in shit-kicker positions like tech support, simply because no workforce has ever united against bad management. Sure, an individual can take a stand or walk out of a job he/she doesn't like, but what are isolated individuals going to achieve in the greater scheme of things?

    It's time that tech workers united, be it as a union or at workplace level, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of the clients/customers who put up with bad products as the result of bad management.

  • by Peter H.S. (38077) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:23AM (#480488) Homepage
    Yes. This is something that a lot of people miss about unions; the legal protectection against abuse.
    Here i Denmark, the IT-workers has a rather good union called PROSA. When you have to sign a new contract, NDA or noncompete, you just take it to the unions lawyers first, so they can look it over. Since these lawyers are experts on their field, they can give you good advice,like; "this is standard stuff, you can sign it." or "take the contract back, and make them change this line, because..." or "This is a lousy contract, but you can sign it anyway, because if they try to enforce it, we will take it to court, and win."
    Especially noncompetes, can be really, really bad for your career. Why learn that the hard way?

    I know, smart US IT workers take their contracts to a lawyer too. But if push comes to shove, it is really nice to have a union behind you. It seems that a lot of US citizens, often prefer to drop to take any action against really unfair work treatment, even though they have a really good winning case, simply because, the thought of a long, legal struggle, would grind people down, or that the slight chance of losing the case, would mean personal ruin. So people swallow their defeat, and humiliation.

    But if the union is behind you, the picture might change; The corperation can't play the "we grind you down in a long lasting legal struggle" card, since they now deal with an organization.
    The employer can't intimidate the worker, with a bunch of lawyers, telling him lies, since the union got lawyers who knows the law.
    And the union cover the legal cost too.

    Most cases are standard stuff, but if a case is really unjust, the union can throw all its weight behind it. Something you can't get, when it is just you and your lawyer, against a perhaps large company.
  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @05:54PM (#480492)
    Most intelegent programmers laugh at the thought of a "tech union"... demand is so high that for most of us we could easily walk and get another job. I recently did just that, much more frendly co-workers and much higher pay. Tho I noticed that there are a great many out there in the tech world that couldn't quite make it into the "elite" status. In fact I see so many freeloaders in my workplace, it makes me sick. The last thing we need is a union to protect these people. There are so many tech jobs out there right now that if you need a union to protect you from management, it means you just arn't smart enough to be in that line of work.

    Although I am clearly biased on this point, I just dont see any other need for a tech-union, perhaps someone else can enlighten me on this issue.

    -nite
  • by jmv (93421)
    We need unions. That is why its the united states of america.

    I'm sorry, but I have to comment on that piece of patriotism... it's just that there are also unions outside of the united states. And AFAIK, US didn't invent it (UK, I think), nor is it the country with the most unions.
  • by Paradise_Pete (95412) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @05:55PM (#480498)
    All these companies suffering from this problem ought to organize. Their collective bargaining power would be able squash any of this pesky "union" noise.

  • by mindstrm (20013) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:53AM (#480499)
    1) If all programmers, as a union demanded that, tehre would be less programing jobs.

    2) Tech companies screw employees usually only because the employees are young (or rather, if they were a little wiser, it wouldn't have happened).

    3) Of course. Companies can always screw their employees. But I want to see big companies first. If MS Employees unionize, I can understand that. But I don't want to be labelled badly as 'non-union labor' just because I don't want to play in your club.

    You know.. all too often, all the pro-union stuff sounds great at first. I mean, it does. Fairness across the board, benefits, etc.

    I watched a supermarket go union. The promoters came in, and over a year and a bit, took a place where everyoen *liked* the boss, adn everyone was treated fairly, pretty much all would agree... and different people had different non-official benefits.. like the lady with her crazy sister who had to go take care of her all the time.. bos cut her LOTS of slack, gladly.. she was part of his community. Boss kept some peopel in who could only work a couple hours a week, because they tried, and needed the money. Boss did LOTS of things, like giving people extra days off, rewarding good work....
    Once the union came in.. sure.. everyone got a little raise... the boss no longer had say in seniority, could no longer decide who or what should be in charge of what (not to the same degree anyway)... and.. no longe rhad the freedom to be generous with certain employees. Sorry... lady, yuo can't work enough hours. No job for you anymore...
    Sorry billy.. you can't spend extra hours after work stocknig shelves.. you're a service clerk.. your contract says you can't do that unless I promote you adn give you a raise.. they say if I need shelves stocked, I should bring in a higher paid shelf stocker. I know you really simply want to work a few extra hours so you can save up to go to college.. but I'm sorry. The Union says no.

    And now, everyone just bitches abou ttheir 'contract' instead of liking going to work every day, knowing that the owner of the shop, who is *responsible for the fact that everyone has a job there*, is their friend and respected community member. Now he is just 'management'.

    Tech union? no thanks.
  • by perdida (251676) <thethreatproject@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday January 25, 2001 @05:56PM (#480502) Homepage Journal
    Labor history is the history of new technologies coming up, corporations racing to take advantage of them, and claiming that they want to have a direct relationship with their employees.

    Railroad trusts operated camps of Chinese workers who came to the United States to do the jobs that there were not nearly enough Americans in that region to do.

    Why deny dot-com employees the right to organize? Management organizes its institution as it sees fit, often ignoring the technical knowledge of their employees, to the detriment of the employees and the company.

    Customer service employees-tech support staff, sales staff, and even web designers and sysadmins get overworked and underpaid.

    Furthermore, the fact that real wages have been declining for decades has finally borne fruit in a growing group of disgruntled, disaffected people in many industries.

    I feel that this peremptory statement dot-coms make about unions, which presumes to know the attitude of employees, misses the point: Dot-coms have good reason to be afraid of their employees!

    IT employees realize that their skills are crucial to the operation of these businesses. What was once a tiny, specialized field has become the marketplace for more and more people. Unlike the drivers of a fleet of trucks, if IT workers go on strike, all they have to do is make a few keystrokes to disable a system. Only a lack of coordinated effort among these employees prevents them from having this kind of bargaining power.

  • Collective bargaining helps the workers at low and average skill level at the expense of the exceptional. Labor unions base pay on minimums and seniority. Many studies (see DeMarco and Lister) have shown that an exceptional developer can be as much as 20 times more productive than an average developer. Unless the pay scales negotiated by the union reflected that (and good luck getting the majority to go for it) exceptional developers would find themselves having a difficult time negotiating the double to triple average salaries they can find now.
    --
  • And there is _always_ someone who will do your job for half the price.

    No, let me rephrase that:

    There is always someone who will convince your PHB that he can do your job for half the price.

    All you merry little libertarians- you're awfully confident in how smart your _boss_ is *g* it's one thing if _you_ are genuinely so smart and brilliant and productive that you can outwork any six cheap MCSEs, but how much confidence do you really have that you won't be replaced by someone who sucks because your boss is having a bad brain day?

    Sorry: you're replaceable. (Maybe that will lead to the death of the company and you know it: one word- 'oops') The more you fight and sweat and bleed to do six times the work at half the price, the more people will be out there bullshitting that they can do what you do at a _quarter_ the price. This is not logical, it's a load of rubbish. Now convince the pointy-haired one of that...

  • One year you can be bleeding edge, but if you sit on your butt, you'll very quickly become a useless freeloader.

    Security must be the most wicked example of this. Six months out of date means you're useless until you catch up.

    If tech workers were unionized, a prized worker five years ago, given a guaranteed senior position through "seniority", allowed to remain stagnant would be a bafoon. Imagine taking direction from somebody who thinks of Java as some new experimental thing, UML does not exist, and fat clients are the norm.

    Pilots, teachers and the like don't have these problems. They have different problems.

    As for the "idiot construction worker" comment... Most tech people I've known fully respect trade workers. Who in their right mind would call a gainfully employed individual in a job with plenty of free time an idiot?!

    That combined with the "you deserve more" comment has me wondering why you're trying to manipulate your audience.

  • That goes absolutely both ways my friend...
    Unions cross the line too.. you better believe it.

  • Also note there's a parallel- Japan's 'economic miracle', which was very much driven off the same sort of energy. Unfortunately Japan's economic miracle fizzled and they ended up having to suck down serious economic 'readjustment' and settle for having an economy like a normal country- we're next.

    It's possible that unions serve as a vital part of the economy, in the manner of a governor, holding back periods of economic overexcitement and limiting the inevitable corrections after the excitement runs out of steam. Naturally you don't want the union holding _all_ power, that'd be like shutting off the engine entirely and there are plenty of cases of unions that ended up this powerful and totally out of balance. But throwing away the 'governor' is a good recipe for revving until you blow up your engine, and that's no better.

  • I'd assume that a union would just try to decrease the number of H1 Visas. I suppose it might force companies to pay H1 Visa recipiants more since this would make them less attractive, but this just means that only the companies without unionized labor would have lots of H1 Visa holders. I think federal legislation to force fair treatment of H1 Visa holders wopuld be much more effective.
    I think H1B visas should eliminated as common practice in any field -- for very skilled people in very specific situations, it kind of makes sense. But that's not the way it's being used.

    I'm really entirely in support of immigration, I'd just like the immigrants to get Green Cards. It hurts all workers when some workers are disempowered. The entire concept of the H1B Visa is that it ties an employee to their employer -- it's indentured labor. It has no place in the work place.

    I'm really not even worried about the competition -- this isn't a zero-sum game, and people deserve an opportunity regardless of what country they come from.

    Second, do you think that unions would really do anything to fix the problems with unfair co compeat contracts and NDAs?
    First, Unions are groups of workers -- they will be at least as knowledgable as the individual workers. And unions deal with contracts in all fields of work. That's what they do. They most certainly would understand the subtleties of the contracts.
    I think the tech industry would be much better served by having a "tech workers loby" which did not deal with companies, but dealt with congress and the courts instead
    That's just a union that doesn't actually have any base of real strength. Unions are lobbies. And more than that.
    Alternativly, one could make an argument that unions would be ineffective since there are many many tech companies, i.e. unions are designed to deal with companies which have "monopolies on work."
    The technology industry isn't that much harder than many other areas. Admittedly, it would be harder to get techies in non-technology companies unionized, but it is certainly possible. It is important that unions have the ability to collectively bargain, and to have contracts that ensure that all applicable employees at a union company are union. These are endangered rights.

    However, the field of technology is actually very much suited to unionizing in other ways. Replacing workers is quite difficult -- even if the worker market wasn't tight. It's a skilled profession. There are also very significant benefits that a union can bring to employers. It's in the union's interest to be representing people of quality and value. Both by being somewhat exclusive (as many professional unions are), and by helping to provide training (as is common for unions), a union can increase the standard of skill.

  • I'm anti-union, or at least, that's my stance. I've seen the crap they pull... but of course, I don't know everything.

    Folks, Unionization in some trades is different than in others. In some trades, it can have a huge effect on the economy, in others, it doesn't.

    For instance.... I would hate to be viewed as 'non-union' labour, just for offering my services. I don't want some union to turn into a monster that dictates (for the good of it's members) how and when and what those people are permitted to do for a living. I'm sorry.. that's not what it's supposed to be about.

    Now.. if I look more at something like the union that, say, supermarket employees for a chain of supermarkets belong to, it makes more sense. The employees organize so they can have some muscle with the equally-organized company employing them.

    If you work for a megacorp.. maybe this is what you want.

    If you work for a dot-com startup with only a hundred or so employees, get real. You can organize your own revolt if you really want to.
  • by jCaT (1320) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:06AM (#480517)
    This sounds racist to me. If other people are willing to do your job for less, and they're just as capable as you, why shouldn't they get the job? Because their skin is a different colour?

    You obviously know jack shit about H1 visas. Because of the fact that the ONLY reason someone on an H1 visa is here is because of their employer, they are AT THE MERCY of the employer. Everyone here is talking about how they can just change jobs if the work conditions suck- not so with an H1B. They are with that company for the long haul, no matter how shitty the wages are or how terrible the hours are. Ever heard of those stories of people who pay their life savings to be smuggled to freedom, only to be put in to indentured servitude when they get here? Guess what, H1B's are government-sponsored indentured servitude. Who loses? Guys like you and me, who don't get jobs because some poor schmuck from india is getting paid a pittance to work 80 hours a week.

    Call me racist or whatever, but I don't give a rat's ass whether someone here on an H1 visa is fluroescent green, they're being exploited by the companies they work for, at the expense of people who live here. That's not racist, that's pragmatic.
  • by The_Messenger (110966) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @09:26PM (#480519) Homepage Journal
    Unions are a basic part of ANSI C. If dot-coms outlaw unions, are they going to review millions of lines of code, changing unions into structs, arrays, or macros?

    :-)

    Okay, seriously now...

    I think I'm probably anti-union. I understand how important they are in a market where employers literally decide whether workers starve to death, but in the 21st Century tech sector, such a thing is uncessesary. I'm an individualist, and I would hate to be denied a job because don't want to be part of a union. This happens because unions make companies sign agreements not to hire non-union employees, and if the company breaks this agreement, the union members leave and the company is "blacklisted" in the same fashion that companies blacklisted union members a hundred years ago.

    And this is largely a matter of perspective, but I also think that unions encourage laziness and a lack of personal development. That may be fine for some beer-swillin', gun-totin', wife-beatin' blue-collar white-trash steelworker (not to encourage stereotypes, heh heh) in rural Kentucky, but I'm a tea-drinkin', C++/Java-codin', pasty-white East-coast boy who puts his personal interests and the interests of his employer (after all, I am part of the company too!) ahead of the interests of some amorphous coagulation of power-hungery socialists whose only common thread is their current occupation. (Yes, unions and Socialism have a long, torrid history of pleasing each other orally. Just look at how much union supported Al "I went to China and all I got was this lousy failed political model" Gore.)

    I mean, come on! In an era where any technology worker can turn a great idea into millions in stock options and become a bourgeois CEO overnight, why would anyone in this industry want to encourage such Mafiaesque organizations of groupthink drones who squeeze their employers' balls so they can do poor work and get paid [relatively] big bucks? (Heh, If you need proof of what this, look at the American automobile industry. Unions are the reason American cars have such a [rightfully] poor reputation)

    I'm not discouraging all groups of workers. I am an admirer, for instance, of certain German labor groups who have strict requirements in terms of knowledge and training for their members. When you hire a member of one of these guilds, you are assured a certain level of expertise and quality of work. These workers feel a sense of duty to both their guild and their employer to do good work.

    I am an adherant to what I understand is a typical Japanese business philosophy, where the workers feel they are representatives of their organizations, and work hard to bring the company, and therefore themselves, honor and fortune. In contrast, union members see themselves as their employers' enemies, and work for themselves and their power-hungry union leaders. Much like typical communist systems, the leaders end up becoming militant despots, and the workers, their unknowing robot slaves who think they're benfitting.

    I enjoy my job. I know that I am a part of the same group as my boss, his boss, and the CEO. I know that by doing good work I bring acclaim to the entire company, and therefore, myself. I am not my own enemy.

    Unions can suck my capitalist cock!

    (This as really some wonderfully craffed flamebait, don't you think?)

    All generalizations are false.

  • A more democratic structure, perhaps? I don't know what the situation is in the US, but in Oz, unions are typically organized around a somewhat authoritarian model, on the pretext that worker solidarity is needed to achieve their goals.

    As with virtually anything in politics, it's up to the people to make sure that unions don't become corrupt. We should be skeptical of our union leaders just as we should be skeptical of our government.

  • Unions will fail in tech, because "scabs" will laugh and cross pickup lines, and we're as a rule not imposing enough to scare them.
    Like most highly-skilled professions, employees potentially have a lot of power. You can't replace a good employee easily. And unlike other professions, the top 10% of the workers are 10 times as productive as the rest. (well, okay, maybe not quite that much... but it's still pretty extreme)

    What it takes is for some of that top 10% to decided that they value power over their employement (beyond do-this-or-I'll-quit), some degree of safety in their employement, due process in their fate, and benefits beyond simply money. Heck, they might get more money too.

    In an informal way, this has already kind of happened. A large portion of the highly talented programmers et. al. have shown that they don't value money over everything. They aren't executive, they aren't "professional" in the anything-to-benefit-the-company fashion. They actually have moral conviction and will act on it. So things aren't that bad. At the same time, it's not a big step to unionize from here.

  • What gives you the idea that they are run by "thugs"? Unions give you a chance to be able to ask for a raise and not just get fired for the sole reason that you asked for one. They allow you to have a say in what your contract will be, if a majority of the workers don't like it, it's out. What does ego have to do with this? An elected board representing the union will allow the union to stay (for the most part) without corruption. The members of the union can just vote out the people they think are ripping them off.
  • by Ian Bicking (980) <ianb AT colorstudy DOT com> on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:22AM (#480527) Homepage
    If a company is willing to screw consumers with "content protection" do you really trust it not to screw its own employees?
    You can also see a model in some more activist unions of the union opposing things that aren't directly related to employment, but represent the beliefs of their employees. The National Education Association is probably the most notable such union -- much of their lobbying in education isn't related one way or the other to employment, but simply reflects what teachers believe are the best ways for schools to operate -- as opposed to what pundits, principles, school boards, and sound-bit-searching politicians think is best.

    It would be nice to see something like this for technology.

  • What you are interested in this case is passage of immigration laws which would punish companies abusing H1B employees.

    And who will lobby Congress to pass such laws?

    Well, there's Unions. And ... Nope, that's pretty much it.

    Problem is the Unions currently have no stake in the technology sector so aren't really all that interested in using their considerable clout to clear up the H1B situation. If parts of tech work (lets say operations type stuff) would start getting union representation, the H1B abuse that we've seen wouldn't last long.
    --
  • by tbo (35008) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @09:29PM (#480532) Journal
    The problem is that right now we're settling for less than what we should expect. There are some fabulously profitable companies out there. But all of that money was made by coders, who got a generous amount of money, but in all honesty deserve more.

    This sounds suspiciously like communism and the labour theory of value. Just because somebody didn't type a line of code doesn't mean they didn't contribute. As much as I hate sales and marketing, I know that they are also essential to most companies. Companies live and die by their management--just compare a well-managed company to a poorly-managed one, and you'll realize how valuable management really is.

    Maybe you don't think CEOs deserve their multi-million dollar salaries. The truth is that the good ones easily earn their paychecks and more. For instance, Apple would be dead and buried without Steve Jobs. In that light, no matter how much they're paying him, he's clearly been a net contributor to the company.

    2. Tech companies haven't been above screwing employees. People get let go a couple weeks before their options come due, often for fabricated reasons. H1-B visas get rammed through Congress to drive down IT salaries. Imagine if the Big Three automakers tried to import tens of thousands of foreign workers and then pay them substandard wages!! It can only happen in IT.


    This sounds racist to me. If other people are willing to do your job for less, and they're just as capable as you, why shouldn't they get the job? Because their skin is a different colour?

    Marketing practices of today may become labor practices of tommorrow. If a company is willing to screw consumers with "content protection" do you really trust it not to screw its own employees?

    If they screw you, you leave. With sites like F*ckedcompany.com around, it's not too hard to find out which companies suck before you apply. If it's true that marketing behaviour is indicative of employee treatment, then it should be really easy to avoid loser companies. You have nobody to blame but yourself if you don't do your research.

    A lot of anti-union people scream "I'm too good for a union - unions are for idiot construction workers." But many industry that depend on highly skilled labor are highly - pilots, aviation mechanics, teachers, athletes, actors. It obviously works for other "knowledge industries".

    Three of the five groups you mentioned have recently pulled or are pulling strikes about bullshit issues and making ridiculous demands. I'll focus on teachers' unions:the teachers' union in BC used parent volunteers as an issue in a recent strike. They told teachers, "Remember, parent volunteers are here to take your jobs." The union actually wanted to keep parents out of schools. This had absolutely nothing to do with helping kids, and would have destroyed many sports teams and other extracirricular activities. These unions force job advancement to be dependent on seniority instead of performance. That harms kids, and removes any incentive for teachers to do a good job. The good teachers ultimately become bitter and frustrated with the system as they watch bad teachers climb up the ranks because of their seniority. The result is the mess that the public school systems have become today.

    Technology unions probably would be different than old-school unions...


    Oh, sure, at first they would be. They'd be all dressed up as something new and shiny, and they'd try to make us think they'd reformed. Gradually, they would reveal themselves, taking larger and larger bites out of our paychecks so they could donate money to political candidates we didn't support. They'd misinform employees to make them hate management, so they would have a stronger hold over us (I've seen this very trick happen before). Unions are corrupt--don't kid yourself. Unlike corporations, they have nothing to gain from good employer-employee relations.

    I know of *no* industry where unionization has decreased wages or really adversely affected employees.

    It's a basic truth of economics that increased prices will result in decreased demand. In other words, if unions artificially jack up wages, the result will be lost jobs and an inefficient economy. It's not a coincidence that the computer industry is ununionized and has experienced so much growth.
  • Ok, I've just gotta let loose on this one.

    Money is power. Employers have it, you don't. Unless you're an employer.

    Power doesn't like to compromise. Of course employers don't want Unions, it compromises their authority. "You don't need a union, we have a direct dialogue that we value". Fucking whatever. Let me translate for the dense:

    You don't need a union. Unions increase your negotiating power which makes wages rise and firing people more difficult. We like to pay what we feel like paying and fire who we feel like firing.

    Employers who respect their employers would encourage their employees to form Unions. Employees who work for employers who share their interests have no motivation to join a Union.

    If money is power and businesses are not democracies, where does the power in our society lie? Wake the fuck up!

    Bryguy

  • This is nuts.
    Look at pilots - they're less bright than coders by a lot, (I speak from USAF experience), but they're highly skilled and unionized - most airline pilots bring in $100,000+ for doing a job that's substantially less challenging than writing complex code. Did I mention they have unions?
    Yes, and only experienced pilots with the majors get that kind of money. You think Maj. Greenears fresh out of his three-years-and-out stint in the Air Force is gonna make that kind of money flying cargo for TNT or DHL? Uh, no. That is to say, unions are a great deal for those guys in them, but a lousy deal for those not involved. You think they're gonna let some hotshot 18-year-old in the treehouse once they've established a union? You gotta be kidding me. He's gonna have to go through all kinds of hazing before he's allowed in the club.

    2. Tech companies haven't been above screwing employees. People get let go a couple weeks before their options come due, often for fabricated reasons. H1-B visas get rammed through Congress to drive down IT salaries. Imagine if the Big Three automakers tried to import tens of thousands of foreign workers and then pay them substandard wages!! It can only happen in IT.
    I have yet to hear a shred of evidence that foreign IT workers have actually driven down the wages. If anything, they tend to come up to industry norms once they can no longer be legally exploited because of their H-1B status.
    If a company is willing to screw consumers with "content protection" do you really trust it not to screw its own employees?
    Here you are talking about Hollywood. This is a heavily unionized business, and one that is about to have a 32 oz. can of whoopass delivered unto them. There, unions are on the verge of shooting themselves in the foot again [newtimesla.com] as the Screenwriter's Guild has created a setup that may bust that union altogether: by announcing with near certainty that a strike will occur this summer, studios are stockpiling scripts, ensuring no work will get done -- and nobody will get paid. But simultaneously, their heavily counted-upon co-unionists, the Actors' Guild, are still licking their wounds from last year's strike, so there's no guarantee that the actors will honor the WGA's "picket line". This on top of stupid laws, rising real estate prices, stupid union demands (Internet rights? Don't they know there's no money to be made on the Internet?), and idiots in charge of production have seen the heavy attrition of union jobs from showbiz.
    4. A lot of anti-union people scream "I'm too good for a union - unions are for idiot construction workers." But many industry that depend on highly skilled labor are highly [unionized] - pilots, aviation mechanics, teachers, athletes, actors. It obviously works for other "knowledge industries".
    Pilots are expensive albeit hypercompetent bus drivers. Teachers are to education what the jackhammer operator is to the construction industry, that is to say, teachers are in the business of indoctrination rather than education. Athletes and actors are idiots. Aviation mechanics are probably the only group you mentioned that has a semblance of being a "knowledge worker".
    5. Technology unions probably would be different than old-school unions - it would have to be easier to get rid of people, since it's easier to freeload than it is in manufacturing. Contracts would probably be shorter term, grievance procedures would be streamlined/scaled back, working condition issues would be much less important, etc.
    Mmm, no. See, back in the 60's, my dad used to work for what was then called North American Aviation, which was subsequently swallowed by Rockwell. He was a frontline manager at the metrology lab, which meant that he managed the guys who maintained and calibrated all the ohmmeters, oscilloscopes, waveform generators, etc. It being that North American was a "closed shop" (i.e., the union could extract dues from all employees, regardless of whether they wanted union representation or not), my dad ended up getting exactly zero benefits from this arrangement. The union, for all its bluster, got the front line employees exactly zilch as far as increased wages (at that time in the late 60's, raises were impossible to come by), but they sure weren't gonna let go of those weekly dues!

    Engineering unions do exist, but only at large companies. These are not the kind of companies geeks generally enjoy working for anyway -- they tend to be bureaucratic and defensive.

    An anecdote on unions generally: when I used to work for the industrial-defense complex, I worked at a fairly small group within a very, very large company (Hughes Aircraft, if you must know) with about 200 people, of whom the programming staff was about 40 or so. (Yes, you saw that correctly -- 80% overhead. And I think we were one of the leaner organizations!) Somehow, we had inherited a lone union guy, perhaps a Teamster, perhaps a UAW man -- I don't recall. His job, apparently, was to show up for work every day perfectly soused. He was redfaced all the time and reeked of scotch. Most of the time he spent in the warehouse in back. Nobody could say what he did, but we all made damn sure that we didn't try to move computers during the day when he might stumble out from his warren. No matter how incompetent he may have been, he could still issue a grievance against us geeks for taking his (or a co-unionist's) job by moving a Wyse terminal. Ugh.

    I know of *no* industry where unionization has decreased wages or really adversely affected employees.
    That's because you're not looking hard enough. Airline traffic controllers. Eastern Airlines, where the unions badly miscalculated and drove a foundering airline into the ground, leaving all their members without jobs. The auto industry, where they drove down quality, pushing American car buyers into the waiting arms of the Japanese. Unions make stupid decisions all the time that result in a net loss of unionized jobs.

    In the end, unions are about solidarity, not intelligence. If history is any guide, and I think it absolutely is, a programmers' union would rapidly dissolve into pissing matches about who gets to write "if" statements, and who gets to write "where" clauses. Nothing would get done, and the fun (and there is a lot of it) in our field would rapidly drain out of it, to the exact extent that the business is unionized. As one of my friends who works as an animator for a major studio observed once he got his union card, the union heirarchy is dominated by people who can't draw worth a damn.

  • How can you say this? Every industry is different. Is it me or are IP rights the MOST likely area for collective bargaining to force some improvements in conditions? Do you really, really think the primary concerns of tech IT workers are pizzas and getting to sit around and not code and still get paid? I really don't think the collective concerns of _IT_ _workers_ would add up to that. IP rights are consistently part of IT worker concerns, along with privacy and the ability to pick a technically superior solution rather than *coughMSFTahem* the PHB-oriented concern that is a nightmare but for political reasons you have to use it...

    If you're part of a union and it's NOT backing you on issues as important to a tech as IP is, then YOU ARE USING IT WRONG. What, you figure the idea is to import some grizzled old Teamsters or UAW guys who will make everybody be little slaves to two bosses instead of just one? You've got some funny ideas about who is running the hypothetical tech union show. YOU ARE. Unless you're going to make it work like you describe, in which case who needs you?

  • by Ryano (2112) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:26AM (#480536) Homepage

    "If you have a vested interest in the well being of your dot-com, are you going to organize an antagonistic force within it?"

    It is a mistake to see unions of employees as necessarily antagonistic to the well-being of the company. Sensible unions look out for the well-being of their members, which means they have a vested interest in keeping the businesses which employ them healthy, and indeed the industry sector generally.

    The well-being of a company is not synonymous with the well-being of its management. What unions in the tech industry could do is essentially ensure a fairer distribution of the company's success between management and staff.

    It's worth noting that in the case of the Cobalt Group the antagonistic note is being struck by management: I read this as a fairly thinly veiled threat.

  • Tech workers don't need a union. We need a Guild. With the breakoff of SAGE from USENIX, I'm hoping (and trying to scream enough) that SAGE will actively become what we need.

    Both Unions and Guilds can provide very important benefits for their industry (not just their membership):

    1. Standard grievance procedures. Got a serious problem with your employer (or another employee) that's not being handled properly? Don't try for the new-fangled arbitration deal - that's a real easy way to come up with the short end of the stick. Talk to a lawyer? yeah, well, maybe you get it settled, maybe you just lose a couple of thou in fees. But if your Union/Guild has a standard grievance resolution setup, well, you're far better off.
    2. Minimum Work Conditions. Yeah, OK, we don't have forced labor. But wouldn't it be nice if you got compensated for carrying that beeper? Being on call? Have a known overtime rate for hours above 50? Get comp time for those 12-hour days?
    3. Professional Standards that Mean Something. If I say I'm a Programmer IV in Java, or a UNIX Admin III, wouldn't your employer love to trust that you really were? Having a reasonable standard rocks. It helps everyone, and gets rid of alot of the slackers.
    4. Professional Responsibility. If we can get collective power, we get power in the organization. No more hanging the poor tech guy out to dry when the impossible-to-do-but-mandated project crashes and burns. In fact, we might even get to nix silly ideas in the bud. Look at professional Engineers. They have to sign off on projects - if they don't, the project doesn't go. Period.

    The big things most of us don't like about unions are things I think we can avoid by having a guild:

    1. Inability to hire/fire and quit/start at will. Businesses need to be able to get rid of people; conversely, I want to be able to quit when I have (or want) to. As long as we can get a good grievance proceedure to stop retaliatory and personal firings, I think we make out here.
    2. Stratified and Standardized wages. This is the big one. While we desperately need a experience standard (see above), the industry is far to varied to try to force a wage schedule on it. We want to be able to negotiate what we can get on a case-by-case basis. Guilds are more focused on maintaining/promoting the standards of the profession, which I think is what we really want.
    3. Massive Beauracracy. I think we're better off with a reasonable national Guild (which probably would have, what, maybe 50 or 100 total people administratively), rather than hundreds of little unions, each with a couple of beauracrats. Take a look at the major unions nowdays (Auto, Airline, etc.). Do we want to run things that way? Keeping ourselves to a minimal central organization lets us (the membership) keep an eye on things, and avoid many of the power abuse problems.

    I want a Guild. I want someone to back me up as a professional, to help me get my job done better and more efficiently (both for myself and my employer), and help insure that I'm not being abused. What I don't want is someone telling me how I have to work, for how much, and what I can't do.

    Guilds, NOT Unions.

    -Erik

  • Strangely, US programmers are doing quite well, even though their salaries have been jacked through the roof (albeit not by unions).
    I'm afraid I don't have a quote, but I have seen note that people with CS degrees today are earning less than they were in the 80s. Certainly not the end-all and be-all of statistics, but I wouldn't simply assume that salaries have gone up.
  • by MikeFM (12491) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:02PM (#480544) Homepage Journal
    Unions are horrible things. They only make sense for people to stupid and unimaginative to know they can walk away from a job and join a competing company or start their own company if they don't like where they are. I remember my father working years going to night school after work so that he could progress in the world. Finally after a decade or more of special school and training he got a promotion to a job that was much better and paid better. The union sued him and the company and won. He was forced to train someone (without extra pay for doing so) else at the job when they had no prior experience in that field and honestly really couldn't do the job. That person got to take the job while my father was forced to go back to being a grunt worker. The company still arranged so he ended up doing most the work for that position but he couldn't get the promotion or the raise because the union always complained whenever he tried. To top it off the union often strikes forcing him and others who just want to make a living from being able to so that some idiots can fight over if they get 7 or 8 vacation days a year. Luckily now that his kids are moved out and he doesn't have so many responsibilities he is looking for a better job but it was enough to teach me my lesson. I've quit jobs before for organizing and I'd do it again. If I don't like where I'm at I can easily find a new job.
  • Dude,

    Leaving aside your pop economics, the "Scabs will replace you" argument is only true of unskilled labor. In tech, getting up to speed on coding projects takes time and effort, and usually is accomplished best by the sort of informal training that happens when you interact with experienced coworkers. Scabs will have a hard time adjusting. Hence, employers will find it cheaper to negotiate than to fight, not to mention better PR. Go preach your management propoganda elsewhere.

  • I'd recomment A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It isn't exclusively about unions, but it talks about them quite a bit, and places them in context as well. I found it quite enjoyable to read as well, and I'm not that much of a history buff.
  • I have worked in the travel industry and have been on both sides, so here is my 2cents.

    In some cases Unions are required due to employers taking advantage of uneducated people. But in most cases the unions hinder the progress/salarie of the dedicated individual. All employees are grouped into classes/departments and perfomance is no longer considered. ie. NOT IN MY JOB DESCRIPTION. Imagine a software house where we have debuggers and programes. If a programer finds a bug he will no longer be allowed to follow it through and fix it. It will have to be transfered to the debugging department to document it and research it. Example: I have seen a hotel maid pass by a news paper in the hallway and call a houseman in order for the paper to be picked up two hours latter the houseman finally has time to pick it up. If a manager would have picked up this paper a greivance would be filled. So a 2 second job took more than two hours.

    As for:

    * Tech companies will lay-off people without a second thought if it helps the bottom line.

    No collective agreement will prevent this. Lay-off's are a part of business, they allow a company to recover when they are unable to make ends meet. If lay-off's are not permitted then you are headed into bankruptcy.

  • The current labor laws are incompatible with a free market.
    The fact that people have to eat isn't compatible with a free market. But they do. The worker/employer relationship is not an exchange of goods among peers. It is fraught with manipulation and coersion, usually to the detrement of the worker.
  • And of course people never get unfairly promoted in IT now do they?
  • Here's a link [cnn.com] to a CNN [cnn.com] story that I found particularly apt.

    Enjoy!

    --
  • He asked for a *balanced* viewpoint in a book, not that of a card carrying socialist.


  • Union Rep: Just give us 20% of your wages and we'll provide you with monthly brochures filled with an in depth analysis of where your money is going after we masquerade the illegal activities we will actually use your contributions for.

    Dot-Com-Guy: Well according to Slashdot these contributions will not help the Linux movement to overthrow the evil Gates empire

    Union Rep: You see by contributing you assist other dot com'ers who are ending up on FuckedCompany.com

    dot-com-guy: How much will this affect my stock options?

    Union Rep: Well we currently have Sammy the Bull Gravano who has made great strides in the Ecstasy game to invest your money in the hot new pharmaceutical sectors in Amsterdam

    dot-com-guy: Is he a Slashdot moderator?

    Real news you can use [antioffline.com]
  • If you work at a company that's abusing you, it isn't their fault for doing it, it's your fault for letting them.

    That's what they used to say to rape victims.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Friday January 26, 2001 @02:06AM (#480559) Homepage Journal
    That is hsortsightness: you and many here think that their talents are very special and will remain like that for ever. There was a time when differential calculus was mastered only by Newton, or when only Chopin or Lizst could play their own music. Now any high school or first year-college guy *has* to understand calculus, and in any music school you can find a dozen people that can play the piano as well as it could be expected in Chopin's time.

    Lets say that the IT wrokers are better off *now* without unions, but that will not last forever because those skills we thing are so precious now will be common currency sooner than we expect.

    God bless M$ that keeps moving the posts without reason. I loathe Linux that makes the skills I acuired 5 years ago be equaly relevant today ;-)
  • Those conditions all sounds perfectly normal. But then i'm (currently) a Union worker in the UK.

    I don't know what sort of weird idea the US Unions seem to have, but they sound like a bunch of idiots with no idea where they are going, or what they're supposed to be doing. If the Unions in the US really are as bad as people are making out, then I a can understand the hostility the Americans show towards them.

    In the UK, if you want to join a Union, you can. If you don't want to join, thats fine too. No one will force you, or bully you, or think any less of you. If the Union workers go out on strike, non Union workers are (usually) able to cross any picket lines without hassle. I know for a fact that during the industrial action that was taken by my Union last year (One day strikes), that non Unions members, and even essential Union members, were able to cross the picket lines and go to work. Hell, they even came out and had a chat on their break times with the Union reps. I guess we know how to be civilised about it.

    Unions are there to support you in your job. They are there to handle pay negotiations, secure fair deals for workers, and to handle grevencies for employees who are unable to talk to managment for whatever reason (Bullying or uninterested managers for example). They are not there to think for you, or to tell you what to do.

    I pity all these people in the US who don't know what a proper Union is all about. They really do make life a lot easier, and the monthly sub for (my Union) is less than i'd spend on beer on a single night out. Good value for money, i'd say.
  • Good programmers know that they can crank out thousands of lines of code in a day if the requirements are well defined. The industry average for lines of code per year dropped to 6500 from 9000 per programmer. Is this because the requirements aren't there? Probably in large measure, but in any case, the average productivity stinks. You elite programmers out there: doesn't the average year of output sound like a slow month?

    Sort of off topic, but this is a bogus statistic. Especially in OO languages, lines of code mean nothing in terms of productivity. Some of my most productive days at have been spent refactoring a bunch of nasty code into more clear and maintainable pieces, often in the process reducing the number of lines substantially. If two programs do the same thing, but one has 30000 lines of code and the other 10000, which do you think will have fewer bugs?

  • Really. What happens if the new place is just as crappy as the old place? Change jobs every three months and see how willing another employer will be to take you on. What happens if you have a family? Do you move them around all the time? Not everyone is 24 and unmarried in the tech industry. I've worked at just as many bad companies as good ones and it is difficult to tell whether the management is any good, not to mention the fact that it could change for the worse in 9 months time. Unions are a way for workers to have a say in how a corporation is run. Why shouldn't tech workers have that right? It certainly would have curbed the excessive behaviour of some of the companies I've worked for.
  • Let me guess, you're the same type of person that judges the US's poverty level at anyone getting (approx) $17,000 usd/year. If you think you can comfortably support a family on that kind of income in the US, you've got to be insane. This is what the unions fight against, they let people come together to make their lives better. Read your history a bit, understand what it was like in the industrial era without unions. Workman's Compensation was a joke, if you got sick, you could loose your, job and in some cases, your home, due to the fact that a lot of factory workers' homes were owned by the company's they worked for.
  • It's not FUD, it's true. I was in a very similar situation when I worked as a bagboy at a grocery store. I made barely above minimum wage, and was forced to pay union dues. It was ridiculous and annoying. If the union had struck, I would've crossed the picket line in an instant, and I suspect most people working there would've too.

    Also, $42/mo is astronomical, IMHO. And I care a lot more about a healthy relationship with management than pay or vacation time anyway.

    I actually kind of favor a tech union because I think management tends to treat their employees very badly (in terms of forced overtime without pay (for salaried) and job stress) and don't listen to them. I don't know if a union could change this, but I don't know of anything that would have a better chance. But if it ever became like any of the major labor unions I'd want to see it wither away and die.

    The worst unions protect mediocre or poor workers, are corrupt, and force you to be a member. They really do. I've heard too many detailed first-hand stories of actual incidents from too many different unconnected people for it to be a made up hoax.

  • Hear Here!

    I'm very suspicious of unions. About as suspicious as I am of large corporations. But, they have their uses. I'm all for mandatory open shops. If workers at a company don't see the need to join a union, maybe it doesn't need one. If the company changes its tune, people will learn, and join the union.

  • All the talk seems to be about either a union or non at all. We're smarter than the average button pusher/machine watcher over at the steel mill. Why can't we find a better solution to our problems using the technology we love so much?

    The biggest problems I've heard expressed here as a reason why tech needs unions are:

    1) unrealistic hours
    2) pay that is not as high as it should be

    The main reason not to unionize is that a tech worker can walk next door to get a job at any time. This argument is quickly countered with the idea that individuals don't make enough of a difference to force a change.

    The problem boils down to that the individuals do not work in concert to sway management. Unions fix this, but impose their own overbearing 'management' in the process. I pose this question: Would tech workers work in concert if the had the same expectations of their workplace?

    For instance, many here report being 'expected' to work 12/7 for weeks on end. I find this appalling, as do many others, but yet this poor slob is told, "that's tech work." But what if there is a way for the poor slob to show his manager that 12/7 is not normal in any way, and that professional workers do not find those requirements 'professional' in any way?

    There has been some moves to form a programmer's guild. If one of these guilds posted sample contracts that listed what are reasonable pay and expectations for workers, would it produce change? Specifically, could the poor slob show that to his manager, say," Hell, no!" to his manager when asked to work ridiculous hours, and resonably expect that no other poor slob would step in to take his position after being fired? Could the existance of such a standard of conduct and expectations reasonably be expected to convince the manager that he won't be able to find anyone to fill a position with unreasonable requirements?

    My take on the situation is that tech workers are being taken advantage of because they are young, inexperienced and just don't know any better. I think the situation could easily be rectified if we informally banded together to agree on broad expectations of pay and working conditions. Then the college grad could look at the "What to expect from work" website before the job hunt, and not settle for third world sweatshop working conditions.
  • by noahbagels (177540) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:12PM (#480584)
    Please read this before flaming ;)

    I have seen several friends on H1 Visas abused in the workplace. I would happily join a union that would address this - and other issues.

    Now, the above two lines were only an example.

    The Real Meat of the matter:
    * Tech companies expect un-sustainable levels of work from their employees.
    * Tech companies will lay-off people without a second thought if it helps the bottom line.
    * Tech companies will require unfair, new contracts to be signed by all employees, without any form of negotiation at all! (This is taken from real life experience - where a consulting firm completely revamped all employees stock option contract, without protection for wrongful termination / layoffs, and gave us no option but to sign or resign!)

    For too long, people have been of the opinion that: Techies are overpaid, and thus should be mistreated.

    I believe that Technical people are highly paid, for doing very challenging work, that most of the people (even educated well...) would not be able to or want to do.

    Here's my support for Tech Unions and organizing. What does the industry have to fear, if everything is really A-OK already?
    Might we actually get more than a week of severance when the filthy-rich board of our dot-com decides to lay-off half of the company?

    Might people working here, away from their families abroad, actually be able to take reasonable time-off to visit their relatives, and return to work?

    Please be reasonable folks... add the influence of the slashdot readers to the Unions organizing. Listen to their goals if you personally meet those organizing, and if you agree with them, support them.
  • by zkiwi (34518) on Friday January 26, 2001 @02:52AM (#480585)
    If this is the case then the union won't last very long. This is because the company that employs it's members will probably wither and die.

    My experience with unions has been from the point of view of a relatively new industry (electronics)and an incompetent and hostile management. This is where unions excell IMO.
    However for people of a programmers or similar ilk I think that a guild or society (eg Lawyer)
    would probably be more applicable. This would
    probably fix the mediocrity tendencies of unions
    (which are sometimes needed in non-skilled shops!)
    but provide a protection mechanism for members by ensuring that only the Guild( or Society) supporting companies will get the best people.

    Well it works for lawyers and engineers.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:12PM (#480586) Homepage
    The anti-union sentiment on slashdot always manages to surprise me. Here's a couple of ideas for all you laissez-faire ideologues. Why don't you:

    a) read a history book on the labor movement, rather than accept what's force-fed you by corporate media outlets and stand-up comics.

    b) think a while about what's going to happen when the next big recession hits. Just because your skills are in demand now doesn't mean they always will be; or do you think PHP scripting and network programming are skills so integral to western civilization that you'll always have a job?

    c) accept that collective bargaining can fit very neatly within a free market. If a company can't deal with workers organizing, then it's the company's fault. Nobody forces companies to accept unions, it's sometimes just the best business decision to make.
    --
  • It's important to recognize that some unions are doubleplusungood and some are doubleplusgood. Unions related to highly technical skills like plumbing, carpentry, etc etc tend to emphasize skills for all members, and most cities encourage this sort of guild structure by requiring licensed (which often more easily achieved by being a union member) workers for critical works projects.

    Unions related to things like housekeeping are there to feed off lower-class workers who are no good at defending themselves against either the management or the union.
  • It's at the same time simple and complex but it will get you results. How to do it:
    • When asked to give estimates for something you hadn't had time to check, say you MUST have time to analyse it.
    • Check the task and try to divide it into component parts.
    • For each part that you feel you had enough experience doing it before, come up with a duration value and add 10% for problems (they always happen). If that part depends on something else (ex: having certain data from the costumer) the state it very clearly (and put it down on a note, you might need it if the other part doesn't deliver on time)
    • For each part that you do not feel you had enough experience doing it before, say so and refuse to give estimates. Never forget the argument that it's the manager's responsibility to come up with project times not yours (they get the money, they get the laurels so they should also get the blame).
    • If pressed from management with irrealistic estimates say they ABSOLUTLY WILL NOT BE ACHIEVED. Don't forget to tell your manager that you will reafirm the IMPOSSIBILITY OF DELIVERING ON TIME AND THAT YOU SAID SO TO YOUR MANAGER to anyone that asks you (or not), including the costumer and your manager's manager
    • If the management still decides to go ahead with impossible schedules no matter what then flattly refuse to work extra ours. If you usually work 10 hours/day immediatly reduce it to 8 hours/day so that they get the message. You might also consider VISIBLY looking for a new job (at the start of a new project that will make them go crazy).
    • Beware of working extra hour for any shitty-shit problems - if you are SEEN as willing to got the extra mile for small things you will be COUNTED UPPPON to always go that extra mile to finish irrealisticly scheduled projects on time. It WILL NOT STOP - for every project you manage to pull out against incredible odds you will be "rewarded" with at least one other project like that
    • Never forget that THEY need YOU more than YOU need THEM. When you leave the company might not go bankrupt but the project you just left might very well go belly-up (or have an incredible delay), and that will surely have a negative impact on the preson(s) responsible by that project
    The beter you are at what you do the beter it works!!!
  • You need to worry about your experienced engineers, not your low level programmers (assuming that you have enough programmers that a union would touch you). If your technical team strikes, you'll replace them damned fast. In technology, you don't have weeks to deal with union whining (most strikes that get covered are usually over minute details, although some are caused by genuine issues).

    Besides, in tech, the union wouldn't really be able to strike. If they went on strike, the company would likely go under, so there is nothing to negotiate.

    Besides, given stock options, most employees are owners, so striking seems counter productive for all but the lowliest employee.

    Alex
  • > Although I am clearly biased on this point, I just dont see any other need for a tech-union, perhaps someone else can enlighten me on this issue.

    Just answer those simple/not-so-simple questions:

    1/ How old are you ?
    2/ How many hours a week do you work ?
    3/ How much holidays a year do you have ?
    4/ Do you have children or a familly ?
    5/ What do you want to do with your life ?

    Cheers,

    --fred
  • WTF? I have never heard of a union forcing someone from not being promoted out of the union ranks.
    details please.
  • "Unions do nothing but promote mediocrity. They dont reward for being a better worker and they DO reward for being "just good enough" (Which in a union shop, is usually pretty bad)."

    You have a great point about this. Unions also are allowed to dip into your paycheck practically at will and they use this money soley to promote ONE political party that over 40% of union members do not support.

    Which is a stupid way to buy influence, the reason why the corpers contribute to BOTH parties is so that they have influence no matter WHO wins...

    Also, unions have had a lot to do with the de-industrialization of the USA. Back in the 70's and early 80's, virtually EVERY factory where I'm from (Ashland, Ky) ended up shutting down, mostly after the unions comitted job suicide by strike after strike during bad economic times.

    Now don't get me wrong, unions DO have their place, and at one time, in the early 20th Century did a LOT of good in getting reforms in workplace safety, the 40 hour work week, etc. But I think they have long outlived their usefulness in the places where they are still prevalent (heavy industry and government). Workers apparently realize this as well, as union workers are now a small minority of the total workforce.

    Will unions come to the tech professions? Sadly, YES. Why? Because of operators like the place I used to work for. The management treated the tech department like dogs, paid us nothing (and refused to give me a raise at mu annual review despite the review being near perfect). They took full advantage of West Virginia's "Chineese overtime" system (as it is called) and paid us far less than our hourly rate for overtime that at times we were FORCED to work.

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that the tech staff turned over 100% from the time I was hired until the time I left.

    So yes, I DO think unions will come to technicians, and other service workers. But it will be the beginning of the end of the tech industry as we know it.

    I just hope we are a lot smarter about it and keep control with ourselves, and not create a political self-serving bureaucratic machine like the AFL-CIO or the Teamsters (who had a president, Ron Carey who stole an election, called the UPS strike solely to try to save his own ass, and ended up settling for pay increases that would take the average UPS worker 5 YEARS to recoup the pay they missed during the strike.).

    We as a profession do NOT want to go down that road.

  • How is it good for the economy? Because it's good for workers. The economy is not purely measured in the size of the GNP, the Dow and the NASDAQ. It's also measured in quality of life.
    I think it's interesting that your description of extortion, "either you give me this, or we [sic] wont work," is in fact a description of a market economy, which can be summarized as "either you give me a better price or I won't buy your gizmo." Unions are not extortionist. What's extortionist is when an employer says, "We're employing you for $2 a day with no health benefits and no recourse if you get injured. You'd better keep working here because if you don't, we'll fire you and be deprived even that $2. And if you try to unionize, we'll fire you, also."
    Adam Smith, the idol of capitalists, would in fact have approved of unions, in my opinion. He believed in unfettered bargaining for goods and services, in a free marketplace. It's disingenuous at best to assert that a nonunionized job is equivalent to a marketplace. The employer has control over everything, and the worker only has control over whether he works there or not. If he decides to go somewhere else, he is unlikely to find anything better if employers are left to their own devices. Only with collective bargaining can labor be put on an equal footing with management. I could cite lots of cases of employee exploitation, but I'm sure you're aware of them, too.
    The tech world is no different from other industries. Simply because there arent's any knives or swinging cattle carcasses doesn't mean that there aren't hazards, or that employers don't exploit their (often easily-replaced) employees.
  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:20PM (#480618)
    Unions normally exist in a market with one employer or a few employers acting as one. The goal of a union is to stop monopsony power.

    The reason for this? The "menial" tasks that the anti-union people talk about in the auto-industry are actually considered skilled labor. They have valuable skills. However, if the "Big Three" decided that they would only pay $12/hr, these people would have nowhere to sell their skills, because there is only one employer. A union (monopoly of labor) and employer (monopsony of labor) negotiate, and you can something similar to a competitive market, but less efficient. However, it is more efficient than union/competitive industry or monopsony/exploited people.

    If you have a competetive marketplace like in tech, (there are 10s of thousands of employers, and even in areas with sparse tech, there are probably 15-25) with lots of potential employees.

    Unions will fail in tech, because "scabs" will laugh and cross pickup lines, and we're as a rule not imposing enough to scare them. Unlike the teamsters, I can't see tech unions working with the mob to kill scabs, but that's just me.

    Alex
  • You can also see a model in some more activist unions of the union opposing things that aren't directly related to employment, but represent the beliefs of their employees. The National Education Association is probably the most notable such union -- much of their lobbying in education isn't related one way or the other to employment, but simply reflects what teachers believe are the best ways for schools to operate -- as opposed to what pundits, principles, school boards, and sound-bit-searching politicians think is best.

    As someone who will be entering the teaching profession in the near future, I can speak with some authority on this. The NEA is NOT a labor union. Consult their website, read their literature. In none of those materials will you find the NEA refer to itself as a union, or be affilicated with other unions.

    The AFT, American Federation of Teachers, is a union however. They are affilicated with the AFL-CIO, advocate strikes if conditions deteroriate to the point where they become necessary. The NEA does not advocate strikes on any level.

    Yes, the NEA lobbies all levels of government on a variety of issues not overtly releated to teaching, but in the view of the NEA, all issues relate to teaching. The NEA has an official position on gun control (less guns in schools=good) and nuclear weapons (they kill people) for example.

    The only national teachers' union, AFT, does not lobby for any issue not overtly releated to teaching. They have an official position on national testing, but leave gun control to others.

    The NEA is a teacher ONLY organization. If you are not a teacher, you cannot join. The AFT, on the other hand, says that any school employee from the counselors to the bus drivers can join. The philosophy being that everyone who works for a school has a vested interest in it being the best possible. However, management of the school (administrators and principals) are not allowed to join. The NEA leaves that decision up to the local level. If local branches of the NEA wish to permit administrators to join, then that's kosher. Most local chapters will allow administrators to join, so long as they were members of NEA as teachers, before moving into the management position.

    Calling the NEA a union is simply incorrect, despite them having a number of features which most unions have.
  • Well I may not be the original poster you were replying to, but your reply really 'bothers me'...

    Now he's said he's nto all that young, so the first thing I'll mention is that he probably started in this industry before people made alot of money on it & probably didn't have the same chance to save money the way you will.

    Then you say that he in effect should have known better than to have a family & aka 'live a normal life' like anyone else because it may in effect interfere with your future employment options... Are you on crack or something? Do you really think we should all wait til we almost can't have kids anymore just because we need to save up all the money ever needed to take care of them? Should we skip marrying the woman we fall in love with (or guy for those women reading this comment) just because we aren't financially capable of saving money for some time after that happens? (ever seen how much a wedding costs, even the most simple types?)

    Oh one last thing... Not ever IT worker makes enough money they can save it up... Where I live I make almost nothing (I make ~30k/yr). I'm required to own a car ($200 a month used vehicle), required to have insurance (~$166 a month or $2000/yr), have an apartment (~$800/month), it would also be nice to have food (~$200/month), I'm required to eat out several times a week as I can't make the trip home on my lunch hour (btw which I'm not paid for) which adds another $100-200 a month... This is still leaving out alot but when you figure I make almost $2500/month I've now used $1600... & I don't really make $2500/month I make closer to $2100 after taxes (I have near $200 in taxes each check at 2 checks month)... That doesn't give me a whole lot for savings... In fact I used up my whole savings recently when I was in a car accident & got screwed over by the insurance company... They kept me waiting for ages on how much I was going to get for my car (it was totaled btw) & that whole time I had to have a rental vehicle, then they told me how much I'd get for my car & told me my car was worthless as it had been in lots of accidents & had previous frame damage (which was untrue btw, but I didn't have full-tort so I could not sue them to change the amount to a more accurate sum). I spent almost $1500 on a rental car, & another $2500 on a down payment for my new used car... Which was all my savings I'd built up... & was it my fault that I'm paid shit because of where I live (& I don't want to move due to family/friends/significant others who live here)? All the tech jobs around here make about as much or less without years of past experience (10+ & having worked with computers that long don't count, only real years on the job)...

    I pitty you. You seem completely focused only on having money & if you do have a wife & kids later I pitty them... Because you'll be a real bastard of a father & husband with the way your goals are.
  • I have seen several friends on H1 Visas abused in the workplace. I would happily join a union that would address this - and other issues.

    You don't need a union to fix that. This is a problem for the government to fix. The solution is to completely get rid of visas and instead, open the borders, so that anyone anywhere can work whereever the hell they want to. That way, your friends employers wouldn't have any special leverage or threats to hang over their heads.

    Tech companies will lay-off people without a second thought if it helps the bottom line.

    What's wrong with that?

    Tech companies will require unfair, new contracts to be signed by all employees, without any form of negotiation at all! (This is taken from real life experience - where a consulting firm completely revamped all employees stock option contract, without protection for wrongful termination / layoffs, and gave us no option but to sign or resign!)

    But sign or resign is a perfectly valid option! If the employer doesn't offer a good deal, then don't take it. I don't get it, what's the problem here?


    ---
  • by The G (7787) on Friday January 26, 2001 @03:42AM (#480633)
    Tech companies will require unfair, new contracts to be signed by all employees, without any form of negotiation at all!

    Well, you know, after the company I was with was acquired and the new company gave us all new employment agreements to sign with all sorts of impossibly constraining terms... a bunch of us didn't sign it.

    And they changed it.

    If you try standing up to the corporate bullshit, you will frequently get what you want. They're throwing those contracts at you because they think you have valuable skills and information that they don't want others to have. But the other side of that coin is that you have valuable skills and information that they aren't going to want to lose over a dispute over five words in a contract. Get out of this "they can do whatever they want, workers just have to sit back and take it" attitude and you can make a difference.

    As for unions, well, maybe they could help with that. But more likely they will take your money, add a whole new "for your protection" bureaucracy, make it harder to communicate with management, spend your dues trying to keep smart folks out of the labor pool (The IEEE is a good model for what a tech union might look like politically, and its position of H1B visas is the reason I won't join. Those child labor laws taht were such a pain to get around when I was a kid? Those laws have a distinct union label on them too).

    The best bet is to have a frank, face-to-face dialogue with you managers. A union is a pretty sorry second to that. And if you can't have a frank, face-to-face dialogue with your managers, it's a safe bet that your company is already on the well-paved road to doom.

    Me, I'll applaud if techies unionize... because that means born scabs like me can write our own tickets.
    --G
  • by fornix (30268) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:22PM (#480636) Homepage
    When it comes time to strike, what's that going to do to your stock & options?

    If you have a vested interest in the well being of your dot-com, are you going to organize an antagonistic force within it?
  • Folks, higher skilled workers earn more than lower skilled workers in this industry. Even when the lower skilled workers have more seniority. The reason is that we don't have collective barganing and each worker is free to negotiate their own wage.

    Moreover, we don't have a couple of hundred dollars a month sucked out of our paychecks to fund the organizer's pockets.

    The net result of all this is that those of us who are in the top percentiles skills wise get to make a shitload more money than if we where in a "union" shop.

    In the world of unions, every worker gets the same wage, regardless of differences in talent. They get the same raises based on years of experience. They have no power to bargain on their own behalf - no matter how much better they might be than their coworkers.

    And folks, there's a hell of a lot of difference between a top-end coder or data analyst and a mediocre one.

    Unionization will be a loose-loose proposition. Top talent will loose wages if they stay in union shops and union shops will loose top talent since they won't pay them what they deserve.

    Bad idea, folks. Really.

  • ...machining brake pistons... $35/hr+ - for minimum wage work! I don't know. Can you build a car?

    Of course. I've built several of them. There's most of a 1974 Plymouth Valiant in thousands of individual Zip-Lock baggies in my living room at the moment. The clerk at Wal-Mart asked me if I was dealing drugs because I buy so many baggies.

    Building a car isn't easy, and anyone with sufficient knowledge of all the parts of a car that they can relatively successfully assemble one, will be paid more than minimum wage as a simple law of supply and demand.

    As for machining brake pistons, as an example, it's very easy. With ten minutes of training, anyone could do it. It makes mopping floors look like ir would need a PhD. I would suggest that $35/hr for such a job is rather excessive.

    I should ask, what does it take to have a good life in Toronto? What is the cost of living? How many hours would it take to earn at mininum wage to pay for an house? Apartment? Food? Bills?

    A lot. But you obviously don't know anything about supply and demand.

    Let's say that affordable housing for minimum wage brainiacs is a two hour commute away.

    If Taco Bell can't get people to mop the floors in downtown Toronto because all their minimum wage employee base is, by virtue of real estate costs, too far away from work, then Taco Bell is going to have to pay more money. Either to entice people who can live in the more expensive parts of the city to work there, or to offset the high costs of the commute.

    I think unions have a way to go to improve their image and their fuctions in a high-tech world, but they fought the good fight back in the 1800s for everyone to which I'm grateful.

    Great! Yeah, the 1800s were a time with no labor laws. The industrial revolution was in its infancy, and as society shifted from an agrigarian existance to an industrial workforce, yeah, unions had their place.

    But today? Nah. If you don't like your job, get another one. Can't find a better job? Read a book, then try again.

  • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:40PM (#480671) Homepage
    Unlike the teamsters, I can't see tech unions working with the mob to kill scabs, but that's just me.

    Dude, you'd better be careful. I crossed a picket line once at a major ISP, and before I went on lunch, my name had been legally changed to Whee Ownjew, my medical history had been emailed to my girlfriend, and my picture was in every post office in the country, over a caption that said "WANTED! For Axe Murder!" By the time I got home, my bank account had a balance of 1.7 quadrillion dollars, and the bank's logfiles showed access to their mainframe from my IP address at work.

    I am now living in Sumatra, trying to make a living troubleshooting thin ethernet cable plants.
    Please remember, just because geeks won't kill you doesn't mean they can't take your life.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:45PM (#480706) Journal

    Manager Says Union Not Needed

    This just in. In an important new development in labor relations, managers at leading firms have determined that unions are not needed. Despite widespead speculation by management that this was the case, positive proof was lacking until recently. An executive at a leading technology firm, Cobalt, was quoated as saying:

    "Because clarity on issues like this is important, we have updated the Employee Handbook expressly stating Cobalt's position that a union is not needed here,"

    When asked about safety regulations, taxes, reports to stockholders, and equal rights; management had no specific comment other than that they were "cautiously optimistic".

  • by CritterNYC (190163) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:39PM (#480738) Homepage
    One of the biggest problems the unions have had in breaking into the tech sector is most tech workers (rather correct) assumption that unions protect workers regardless of ability and productivity. They rely on seniority and other nonsense. These things don't fly in the tech industry. More ability and productivity = more pay. It should always work this way. Unions have never been structured to handle this.

    This applies in tech and just about every other industry. The perfect example is my grandfather. He worked for Stanley (the US company that makes tools) way back before they were a union shop. He was a tool and die maker, dealing with 1/1000ths of an inch daily. He had good steady hands and a keen eye and could fix just about everything in the shop. He was a higher level tool and die maker because of his abilities. Then the shop unionized. He and the other high-level makers got pay-cuts, so that the lower-level (and lower-skilled) tool and die makers could get a raise and make the SAME money that he now did. Gone were raises, promotions and perks based on ability. Now things like seniority mattered. The work suffered, the tools suffered, and it was never the same through the rest of the time he worked there. But it was considered *OK* because now everyone made the same money and even the unskilled tool and die makers were now *protected* from the evil company that only wanted to make a buck.

    You had to see his face while he told this story to fully comprehend it. He used to love his work, before he was in a union.
  • by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:40PM (#480741) Journal
    After viewing the wide array of "Unions suck/Unions are for the lazy" posts here, I figured I should throw in my Cdn$0.02.

    A couple years ago, my dad and another firefighter were suspended for speaking out at a town council meeting. The volunteer department found out through a 1-inch town newspaper item that their ladder truck was being farmed out to a nearby large city for a while, despite being told four weeks before the truck was staying in town. The firefighters had serious concerns about farming out the truck; the town has several tall buildings on the south end, and the ladder would have been moved to a department a good ten minutes away from where they normally were. The chief, who was involved in the decision to transfer the truck, said nothing about the decision to the crew.

    At the next town council meeting, most of the department showed up. One firefighter, a lawyer, spoke for the group in front of the council about their concerns, both about the transfer of the truck and the secrecy in which the deal was shrouded. Despite being very civil and calm, the council ripped him, then called the chief up to back them up. After he was done speaking, he nearly ran out of the chamber. My dad followed and had a somewhat heated conversation with him. After the council meeting, my dad spoke with media that were on hand.

    A couple days later, letters were delivered to my dad and the other firefighter. Indefinite suspensions! For speaking! My dad might have been suspendable for arguing with the chief, but the lawyer/firefighter was clean; there was no reason to suspend him. After a month, both firefighters were brought back on board. Soon after, some of the firefighters started looking into organizing. Despite several attempts to avert the organizing by the chief, the fire became a member of the Teamsters, and the first organized volunteer department in Canada.

    The union wasn't brought in to increase wages, or let the firefighters be lazy; on the contrary, lazy people don't risk their lives around open flames on a regular basis for fun. They were brought in to preserve job security, to ensure fairness in disciplinary situations, and to ensure the firefighters have a group to defend them should the town try something stupid like that again.

    So, yes, unions are still sometimes necessary in this age. If nothing else, tech workers might find them useful in making sure they aren't overworked by fly-by-night dot.coms that are likely to end up on FuckedCompany.com in the near future.

    Much like big corporations, unions aren't all bad.
  • by RandomPeon (230002) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @06:56PM (#480765) Journal
    Although I am clearly biased on this point, I just dont see any other need for a tech-union, perhaps someone else can enlighten me on this issue.

    1. Any group has more power acting cohesively. Imagine how much money we could pull in if we had real bargaining power with all the companies in the industry. Imagine if all the programmers in the US refused to work for less than, say $55,000. Free-loaders wouldn't be justifiable anymore, and anyone who was good enough/hard-working enough would be even better. Look at pilots - they're less bright than coders by a lot, (I speak from USAF experience), but they're highly skilled and unionized - most airline pilots bring in $100,000+ for doing a job that's substantially less challenging than writing complex code. Did I mention they have unions?

    The problem is that right now we're settling for less than what we should expect. There are some fabulously profitable companies out there. But all of that money was made by coders, who got a generous amount of money, but in all honesty deserve more.

    2. Tech companies haven't been above screwing employees. People get let go a couple weeks before their options come due, often for fabricated reasons. H1-B visas get rammed through Congress to drive down IT salaries. Imagine if the Big Three automakers tried to import tens of thousands of foreign workers and then pay them substandard wages!! It can only happen in IT.

    3. Marketing practices of today may become labor practices of tommorrow. If a company is willing to screw consumers with "content protection" do you really trust it not to screw its own employees?

    4. A lot of anti-union people scream "I'm too good for a union - unions are for idiot construction workers." But many industry that depend on highly skilled labor are highly - pilots, aviation mechanics, teachers, athletes, actors. It obviously works for other "knowledge industries".

    5. Technology unions probably would be different than old-school unions - it would have to be easier to get rid of people, since it's easier to freeload than it is in manufacturing. Contracts would probably be shorter term, grievance procedures would be streamlined/scaled back, working condition issues would be much less important, etc.

    I know of *no* industry where unionization has decreased wages or really adversely affected employees.
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:01PM (#480771)
    If you work at a company that's abusing you, it isn't their fault for doing it, it's your fault for letting them.

    My company isn't always like this, and hasn't been for the couple of years I've been here. The company has changed drastically over the last couple of months, and I'm in a position where even a couple of weeks out of work would be unacceptable.

    We're not all young and single and without commitments. We're not all in full control of our work situations.

    The company took on VC money and a new CTO. He's of the mind that we weren't hired, we were purchased. This isn't a unique situation, either, and I'm stuck with it for a couple more months.

    Once you have a family and a mortgage, cars and educations to pay for, the whole "you can get another job" thing isn't quite as simple.

    This is the same sort of argument that drives me nuts when police and firefighters bitch about how dangerous their work is. If you don't like the job or the pay or the hours, quit.

    That's genius. Sheer genius. Ever hear of a sense of duty? Ever had your house catch fire, or robbed?

Consultants are mystical people who ask a company for a number and then give it back to them.

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