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Tech Workers of the World Unite? 1254

Posted by Zonk
from the come-together-right-now dept.
okidokedork writes "Wired News reports on the lack of unions in the IT workplace. If you could join a union in your workplace, would you?" From the article: "The rich get richer, the shareholder is valued more than the employee, jobs are eliminated in the name of bottom-line efficiency (remember when they called firing people 'right-sizing'?) and the gulf between the rich and the working class grows wider every year. You see this libertarian ethos everywhere, but nowhere more clearly than in the technology sector, where the number of union jobs can be counted on one hand. Tech is the Wild West as far as the job market goes and the robber barons on top of the pile aim to keep it that way. They'll offshore your job to save a few bucks or lay you off at the first sign of a slump, but they're the first to scream, 'You're stifling innovation!' at any attempt to control the industry or provide job security for the people who do the actual work."
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Tech Workers of the World Unite?

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  • by RunFatBoy.net (960072) * on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:30PM (#15311319)
    I certainly do not want to belong to an organization where I can only be guaranteed a salary increase across the board next to the same slacker programmer who didn't contribute. You know how I fight the big companies? If the job sucks or I don't think I am being treated fairly, I quit, simple as that. Let your feet do the talking and get the hell out of there.

    The fact is, when the PHBs numbers aren't going to be favorable, then your job may be on the chopping block. But with the same sentiment, when it comes times for initial salary negotiations, take the gloves off, and _fight for every penny_. When the going gets tough, and your team may be part of the downsizing, be sure that you've accounted for such job insecurity/risk.

    Jim http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net] - A workout plan that doesn't feel like homework.
    • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:38PM (#15311415) Homepage Journal
      Here's a quote from the article that seems almost tailor written for you:
      Those weaned on an Ayn Rand kind of individualism aren't likely to appreciate the debt they owe to the American labor movement, or why restoring it to health is in their interests, too. Until the ax falls; then they understand. I've known talented people who have lost their jobs with little more than a shrug. The shrugging usually stops, however, when finding a comparable job proves more difficult than they ever imagined.
      • by Crashmarik (635988) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:46PM (#15311516)
        Oh yes I loved being in new york when the trains werent running. 60K a year retire at 55 and they wanted to retire at 50. No one owes you a job or a life you have to make your own.
        • "make your own"? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hackwrench (573697) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:11PM (#15311850) Homepage Journal
          No you don't make your own, you have to bargain for it, and that's where collective bargaining comes in.
        • Oh yes I loved being in new york when the trains werent running. 60K a year retire at 55 and they wanted to retire at 50. No one owes you a job or a life you have to make your own.

          Oh yeah, doing manual labor in a rail yard in summer's heat and winter's cold till you're 55 years old! Why don't you drop that rough programming job and sign up for the transit authority? Just because you can be outsourced at the drop of the hat doesn't mean that you should hate on folks that have real leverage cause they unioniz
        • Hm. So on the one hand you have people with no job security, working 12 hour days, and having their bosses yell at them if they don't produce code or fix machines fast enough, and on the other you have "60K a year retire at 55 and they wanted to retire at 50."

          And you see a *problem* with this? Unionization is getting them all that, and you're against it? Why? I'd love to have that job description.
      • by Colonel Angus (752172) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:56PM (#15311648)
        Oh how that statement rings true with me.

        Several years back I was employed as a webmaster (I hate that job title, too) at an ad agency here. I quit a decent job that paid an hourly wage for this new job that was salary and almost double the pay. It seemed a no-brainer.

        The company had been around for 20some years and had had contracts with some of Canada's biggest banks and agricultural companies.

        Well, about 3 months into my job I discovered that things weren't going so well for this company. To be honest, I'm not even sure why they hired for this position if that was the case, but that's neither here nor there.

        In a nutshell, 8 months later I was laid off (rightsized, downsized -- whatever they want to call it) and didn't really think much of it.

        Then a few months passed. Then it was half a year. Not a single reply from any of the resumes sent out. Then it was a year.

        It was three years before I was employed in the tech field again. I was unemployed for over a year at which point I went back to school and was lucky enough to snag a really nice job right out of the program.

        So just quitting the job might be great if you live in a large urban center where jobs are aplenty (even there it's tough to get work), but in anything short of that finding a job that remunerates at a level that you can continue your mortgage payments and kids' needs is damn hard.
    • by psyberjedi (650736) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:41PM (#15311451) Journal
      It may be easy for you to say quit and depending on where you live there may be a plethora of jobs available. However, where I live is rather rural and there are only so many tech jobs. After following the same line of thought that you expressed, I had a company disolve out from under me 3 months later and spent the next 9 months unemployed.

      I agree with your sentiment in that I do not want to be given a raise if, and only if, everyone gets one, but going home to my wife to tell her that "Oh, by the way sweetie, we are going to be tightening the old belt because the company sucks and I told them to stick it," is not my idea of fun.

      I am not sure that a union is necessarily the right choice, but clearly there must be some middle ground between the techs and the guys in the suits making all the money. My manager makes 3x what I do and he has the spine and decision making skills of a jellyfish. Like many managers, the only quick decisions he makes are those that make him look good. Good for the techs or good for the company comes 3rd or 4th on his list.

      If a union can toss my boss in the trash, where can I pay my dues?
      • by Jason Earl (1894) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @04:09PM (#15312593) Homepage Journal

        The question then becomes, would a union actually help you? The short stint that I did as a Teamster spoiled the idea of unions irreparably for me. From my own experience Unions are just one more layer above you and the management. Instead of just having an incompetent manager to deal with you also end up with an incompetent union representative that can make decisions that have a huge impact on your life. The primary difference between the management and the union reps is that at least some members of the management team will have taken a basic college course in economics. Layoffs are a way of life in union shops, the only difference between union shops and non-union ones is that in union shops you know who is going to get laid off, the folks with the least seniority. Never mind that the you are a more valuable worker than the folks with higher seniority, if you are the new guy, you are out of work.

        Never mind that the union actually charges you for its so-called "services." As far as I was concerned I paid union dues so that the union could guarantee that lazy idiots with more seniority than me were impossible to fire while I could be let go at any time.

    • Unions have good and bad aspects to them
      That being said, at one of my first tech jobs, I was the newest person in the office. After I had been there a year, they did a layoff. I survived, I wouldn't have in a union because they would have gone by seniority. The people they got rid of were mostly the unproductive people.
      But the real deal is this- if tech employees unionize, you will see tons and tons of jobs go overseas, and more tech places in right to work states.
      One funny story- I worked at a newspape
    • by sfjoe (470510) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:07PM (#15311806)
      I certainly do not want to belong to an organization where I can only be guaranteed a salary increase across the board next to the same slacker programmer who didn't contribute.

      The biggest battle that unions have to fight is the battle against the FUD that the corporations (including corporate-run media) has been putting out. Just read all this misinformation that various posters are spreading based on no actual, firsthand knowledge of what a union does or can do.
      • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:27PM (#15312041) Journal
        Unions fundamentally don't work when dealing with a highly heterogeneous, creativity-driven workplace. They are designed for labor forces with little to no specialization and little to no creativity. Yes, there's a good bit of difference between someone who welds the frame on cars and someone who snaps on trim, but the difference between someone who welds the frame and someone who welds some part of the exhaust system is minimal, and there are a large number of people doing each individual task, all managed by a relatively limited number of managers (foremen).

        In the technical world, at every company where I've worked, my pay is, to a large extent, determined by my immediate manager on an individual basis. To some extent, the lower level management is limited by upper management in terms of total expenditure, but pay raises are much more a small group decision than in... say a factory or even in a university. The problem is that collective bargaining doesn't buy you much in such an environment, and what it does buy you is likely to be overshadowed by the union dues.

        Add to this the fact that it costs a huge amount of money to relocate a plant and huge expenses to import, so there are reasons for a manufacturing firm to stay in the U.S. It is, by comparison, relatively easy to export tech jobs to other countries, making the power of strikes (which are the only bargaining chip a union really has) essentially a moot point in the tech sector.

        Finally, I've seen creative industries (not computing) that were union run. Not a pretty sight. They basically try to turn the creative shop into a factory floor in which each person does exactly their job and isn't allowed to have anything to do with anybody else's job. That's not the way tech companies work, that's not the way tech employees want to work, it doesn't allow the individuals to grow in their abilities, and it isn't conducive to producing products that require creativity in their creation. It is a design that is conducive to mass manufacturing. For tech, that closed box thinking is a real hindrance to creativity, and at least to me, a real turn-off. I won't work in a union shop. Period. I doubt I'm the only one.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:15PM (#15311908) Homepage Journal
      I am in an union.

      I am a software programmer, and until last year I had worked non-union corporations fore many years.

      The only across the board raise is a rate increase to help offset inflation.
      I worked for a place for 4 years, when you adjust for inflation I was making less then when I started.

      There are merit raises for people who are good at their job. Also, a bonus for the exceptional. No one I work with is 'lazy' or a 'slacker'. Dedicated, smart, hardworking people who want to go home at the end of the day and not worry that their job will be cut so the books will look nice for an aqusition.

      Another advantage of a union is your not going to get 'laid off' because you hold an unfavorable opinion, or point out things people don't want to hear.

      It prevents the 'Do this now, or your fired' mentality.

      It mean getting paid for coming in and working on the weekend.

      While itis more difficult to get rid of a slacker, it's not impossible by any stretch.
      It means managment is responsible as well as the programmer.

      I could accept an offer from a large non union corporation today, and make more money, but I don't want the job to be my life.

      "Let your feet do the talking and get the hell out of there."
      Easier said then done.
      Corporation are treating their IT employess worse and worse.
      Many communties don't ahve an unlimited amount of jobs.
      Changing jobs makes your resume less and less desirable.

    • by Carnildo (712617) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:40PM (#15312214) Homepage Journal
      Union? I suppose Jeff and I could form a union, and picket Mick's office for higher wages, but we'd feel rather silly doing it.
    • Slacker programmers (Score:3, Informative)

      by xeno-cat (147219)
      I have worked in tech. for over 15 years and it is filled with lazy, ignorant, prima donnas that entrench themselves in cozy little positions and act like the company would come unglued if they ever left. I've seen these people quit over silly management disputes and the company moves on without a hitch. I doubt highly that unions could make things any worse.

      In fact it could potentialy make things better by working out a compensation package that is based on... _actual merrit_. Then your precious salary
  • Guild model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:32PM (#15311337) Journal
    Might be more applicable. Getting royalties to work produced has served the information industry as it exists in Los Angeles well to date. Might be time for Northern California (and other parts) to investigate this model further.

    There used to be a Graphics guild back in the day, I wouldn't mind seeing that return either.
  • by bnet41 (591930) * on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:32PM (#15311340)
    IT people are too mobile to be in a union. IT people like to change job more so than other professions I've seen. Unions depend a lot on Brotherhood, and office people generally just aren't like that. I would have no interest in being in a union. The IT sector is too fast paced for unions who can really hamper a company's desire for change. Also, the seniority thing is what I think would drive most workers away, as most IT workers like to be rewarded for their work and not how long they have been there. I was in a Union when I worked at a grocery store, and sadly most of the things I had heard about unions I found to be true.
    Another thing is I love my job, and don't mind working 60 hours a week. Unions really like to supress that behavior. I work that much because computers are my hobby, and there are much better computers here at work just for testing than I could ever afford at home. Is it bad that I like to be here that much doing my hobby? I know others like me as well.
    • Sure, IT workers LOVE to change jobs, they dont WANT job security. They'd rather be the migrant workers of the middle class.
    • For the moment we are. And due to that, I wouldn't join an attempt to start one unless there was a lot of momentum behind it. And if I was being that mistreated that the movement was working, I'd probably switch jobs first.

      But I can definitely see it being different in 10 years. Outsourcing and the increase in health care and other costs without seeing an increase in general wages (especially for current employees- the only time I get raises tends to be when I switch jobs) may bring about a market where
    • You don't mind hacking for 60 hours a week?

      Great!

      Work 40 hours at your union programming job, and then spend the extra 20 hours contributing to free software!

      Seriously, just imagine -- for one second -- how good Firefox, GIMP, KDE, GNOME, etc. would be if everyone in the tech world were following that plan.

  • by boxlight (928484) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:32PM (#15311345)
    I know I'm going to sound like a totally insensitive capitalist pig, but I'm been a programmer for years and my experience is there are lots of challenging well-paying jobs for good, enthusiastic, productive programmers.

    Every once in a while someone in a group mentions the idea of unions and -- no joke -- it's *always* the laziest, whiniest, least productive member of the group that brings up the idea.

    So I vote no.

    boxlight
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:05PM (#15311766) Journal
      Coincidentally, the article was written by the whiniest, least productive member of the Wired Staff, the guy who writes the "Luddite" column, and who, on a site full of people who often make me grit my teeth, stands out as a clear leader in the spouting of irrational crap.

      I'm in an industry that is very heavily unionized, and all I see is crap coming out of it. It is a system that rewards inertia, inefficency, and placeholding. And I'm speaking as a guy with a wife and family, and as someone whose department has been hacked in half in the last year, so don't give me crap about me "not understanding the plight of the american IT worker".

      It's a cutthroat, high stress business, and we're competitive because we're cutthroat high stress people...Turn that into a system of sinecures and self-important jackasses who think they're entitled to excellent treatment just because their fat ass is already in the spot? The idea makes me sick.

      This isn't a business where you can just walk in off the street, pick up a hammer, and get to work. You have to study, you have to work, you have to be skilled. If you are those things, you may still not find a job...But at least it won't be because some less skilled, less dilligent, less educated person can't be fired because of his union connections.

      Talk socialism? Right now, today, in this business, we're actually in a position to create value from powerful, freely available tools. The workers control the means of production! It's the fricking socialist dream! You want that and free doughnuts too?
  • Counting (Score:5, Funny)

    by tktk (540564) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:32PM (#15311347)
    You see this libertarian ethos everywhere, but nowhere more clearly than in the technology sector, where the number of union jobs can be counted on one hand.

    Count in binary and you'll get a larger number.

  • Shhh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitalamish (449285) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:33PM (#15311351)
    Don't give the suits yet another reason why offshoring is a better alternative.
  • Simple Solution! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBraynard (653724) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:34PM (#15311359) Journal
    the shareholder is valued more than the employee

    Maybe the employee should buy some shares.

  • Join a union? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaHat (247651) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:34PM (#15311364) Homepage
    Never! The job I work is not mine... it is my employer's and they are free to can me at any time for any reason... just as I am able to leave at any time and for any reason.

    Now that... is true freedom!

    One of my major beefs with unions (and one of the biggest reasons that I would never join one) is that they provide the ability for... dead weight. People who either are unable or unwilling to contribute to the bottom line are able to be carried along on the shoulders of those who are capable and do do the work.

    Lets also not forget that in many unions, ones loyalties are to the union and the company you work for far behind.
  • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:35PM (#15311375) Homepage
    If you can somehow improve job security while maintaining the meritocracy that currently exists in technological fields, then it might be worth looking into. Clearly, companies have become too quick to lay off tech workers (and other types of workers as well) simply to bump up stock price. On the other hand, I don't want a system where seniority is the only (or the major) consideration when deciding raises and promotions.

    In short, I want a system where skilled employees are not let go just because the CEO wants to skim off the top 10% of wage earners in every department in order to improve his bottom line, but I also don't want a system where a company is forced to hang on to morons just because they're in the union.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:35PM (#15311376) Homepage Journal

    If so, then a labor union is a good idea. Otherwise, not. Unions help people get rights, yes. Then they start sucking the lifeblood out of everything they touch. You are guaranteed a job even if you don't do it, and that is bullshit.

    With that said, the BOFH union local 666 would rule the fucking world, so from that standpoint, it might be fun...

  • And seeing the truth about what management thinks of IT (basically that you're all a bunch of losers who failed to get your MBA and deserve to be treated like shit), I won't work for a non-union shop ever again. Keeping your job on merits is fine- until you find out that they reward your hard work by kicking you out with as few $$$ as possible, so that they can justify their million-dollar McMansions and pools and Mazda Miatas.
    • Laid off for three years.... that stinks. The longest I have been without a job since completing college was 2 months. Even through the bubble and through 4 layoffs. Perhaps it is because I don't go through life with the same chip on my shoulder. Perhaps it is because I am a hard worker that people enjoy being around. Truthfully, I think it is because I don't believe I have a right to a job and am thankful to come to work each day... and by you name and attitude, I bet that is foreign to you.

      Is you name r
  • Heck no. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by outZider (165286) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:37PM (#15311403) Homepage
    After seeing the joy of what unions have done to most major industries, no way would I want them invading IT. While working really sucks, I enjoy the fact that slacker developers that I've worked with have been culled, and that pay raises have been earned and not given because they have to.

    Unions foster mediocrity.
    • Re:Heck no. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by theodicey (662941)
      Unions, unlike corporations, are democratic. They foster whatever you want them to foster.

      If you end up with a lousy union that cripples your employer, you have only yourselves to blame.

      If your employer cripples itself through ineptitude, though, you're still SOL.

    • Re:Heck no. (Score:5, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:22PM (#15311992) Homepage Journal
      that statment is laughable at best.

      Coporations don't cull 'slackers' they cull people who have unfavorable opinions, were on 'the wrong project', friend of the 'wrong person', or was forced to play a political game.

      As someone in a union, I can assure you people who don't do their jobs are removed.
  • by teshuvah (831969) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:39PM (#15311425)
    They were a necessary evil when the Industrial Revolution came about, but now they're just an unnecessary evil. The unions are nothign more than legal mafias. Just look at GM. I have 2 family members who work there. My brother-in-law is a toolmaker, and his job consists of playing cards, working out, watching TV, and taking naps. Oh, and for about an hour out of the day he actually has to do some actual work like reset a machine or something. Poor guy only makes $35/hour after being there for a year. He started at $28 an hour. He has no college degree either, so GM is paying for him to get his journeyman's card, and pays for him to attend school (pays for the school plus his hourly wage why he is there). Up until recently, he could take as much overtime as he wanted, including double and sometimes triple time on Sunday. Guess what he pays for family health insurance? $0.00 a month. I guess this is why GM is so financially sound, oh wait.......
  • Union? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by isotope23 (210590) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:41PM (#15311454) Homepage Journal
    Did unions protect steel workers? Or textile workers or airline employees here in the US?

    Steel and textiles are pretty much gone from the US. Why do you think an IT union would
    stop offshoring?

    Unions don't matter in that respect. What does matter is a legal/tax structure which
    encourages corporations to ship work overseas. Not to mention a system that favors
    large corporations over smaller ones.

    If you want to protect jobs, then ban multi-national and even multi-state corporations.
    Then put back the limits that a corporation can only work in the one field it was originally incorporated for.

    • Sweet idea! Not. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tacokill (531275)
      Then put back the limits that a corporation can only work in the one field it was originally incorporated for.

      Great idea (not)! If we did that, then we could go after Apple Computer for getting into that pesky "music" business. And we could go after Berkshire Hathaway for not being in the textile industry. And after those two go down, we can go after WD-40 for being in the lubrication business instead of the oil production business.

      Forcing companies to "fit" into certain molds is not the way to
  • You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:41PM (#15311460) Journal
    It's not like unionization is necessarily contradictory to free markets, nor is it necessarily aligned with the statism the author seems to think it demands. In a free market, workers can come up with whatever individual or group demands they want, and employers can take or leave them.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:45PM (#15311509) Journal

    I don't know if I would join a union. I once belonged to one in a PPG glass factory -- we made Anderson Twindows (actually a pretty cool thing). But, the work wasn't too hard, and the pay (for that market) was pretty good.

    You could argue the salary and conditions were a result of the union. That is probably true. But, as power grows, so does (did, seemingly) abuse.

    We were up for new contract and the union came so close to putting us on the streets. They were demanding a cut back of the number of glass "lines" each worker ran per shift. As it was at the time, I was barely able to fill much more than four hours of real work in an 8-hour shift, and now I almost had to strike because the union wanted to bust balls with the company on this.

    I know sometimes it's about putting a stake in the ground way out to reach certain compromises, but this seemed off the scale.

    If IT wanted to unionize it would have to be with sanity. I'm not a big fan of seniority being the only yardstick for who stays and who goes when there are cutbacks (more on that in a moment). An IT union worth its salt would allow for hearings and maybe prevent arbitrary and massive layoffs.

    Which brings me to an abuse I only figured out 2 years after getting laid off from a major telcom:

    Part of my severance package was one months pay for every year I'd been there, with a maximum payout of 10 months. I'd been there for 21 years, so with my 60 day notice and severance, it might seem generous that I'd be getting one year of pay. But why would any employee with only ten years get the same benefit? That didn't seem fair.

    Turns out, part of the contract for getting and keeping the severance requires the employee to honor what amounts to a gag order... no bad mouthing the company, and no legal proceedings against the company or they would take all of the money back.

    Coincidentally it turns out that the statute of limitations for EEOC actions against a company is 300 days which conveniently happens to be 10 months. Aha! So, the company skates with what (IMO) amounts to hush money and looks generous at the same time. (for those who would claim these were generous terms, consider there are many hidden "costs" to the 20+ year employees, including but not limited to: health care coverage and costs, pension changes)

    If unions had the power to change that kind of treatment, I'd consider them.

    Empirical evidence in recent news suggests though (e.g., United Airlines, et al. where pensions have been handed over in default to the government) unions ultimately have little power to stem corporate abuse. The rich will continue to get richer, the poor will continue to have babies.

    Sigh.

  • by analog_line (465182) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:47PM (#15311530)
    Frankly, in order for an IT union to get any real traction, you would have to unionize just about everyone in the world that's qualified, because outsourcing is so easy. Quality may suffer for a short period of time, but knowing what the IT people I know would try to demand, it would be cheaper to pour money into training of foreign workers than to cave to an IT union's demand.

    Unions are organized and stay organized easier when the job cannot, at all, be exported. In-store workers, miners, hospitality workers, truck drivers, etc. I can't have someone in China clean my office in New York. I can employ a code monkey in China to code for my business in New York. In America, quality is job none, just look at the abysmal performance of our big car companies. Americans don't care about quality, they want cheap, and that's just what we'll be given. No IT union is going to be able to fight that.
  • by buhatkj (712163) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:47PM (#15311536) Homepage
    i had this idea years ago, but i realized it won't work, because there are so many kinds of IT work, it would be impossible to come up with standards, and it wouldn't have the results we want.
    the union would end up run my business guys anyway, then it would just be working for a company within a company. still all sorts of dumbass crap we'd be told to do.

    no, the answer is just to work for people who have a recent IT background in the first place. that way at least they might understand what's worth doing, and what isn't.

    we could form some form of labor organization, but the union style is not appropriate for us. coding anyway, is more like a production art discipline than anything else, maybe a guild? this was suggested before...more plausible than a union anyway.
  • by Churla (936633) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:51PM (#15311577)
    I have been working in the IT field since before the boom. From field work to tech support desks.

    The union idea comes up about every 2-3 years. Then it fades again. Most of the commentary here is from programmers who don't want to see some slacker next to them riding comfy while they work hard. Programming jobs should be contract for just that reason.

    Unions would help the rank and file workers who are far more at the support and field engineer/help desk end of the spectrum. I have seen companies let people leave and not hire replacements for 2 and a half years while praising themselves for "never having a layoff", and review processes where your actual performance seems to affect the outcome about as much as telling your cat to fetch.

    Just something to think about if you're only seeing this from the "leet coder" perspective.
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @02:52PM (#15311597) Journal

    My mother's father was a member of his local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He was an officer and I still have his union seal stamp he used to mark union documents. It's one of the few momentoes I have of him, that his sailor's hat from his time in the Navy during WWII.

    He grew up in a time when the unions were gaining power, forcing companies to make concessions, improve working conditions, and pay a decent wage to everybody. Unions served an important function in the early history of the industrialization of our nation. But their power is waning and frankly that's a good thing.

    It might seem seductive -- hordes of geeks, banded together for the common good, but honestly, would it accomplish anything? In this day and age, workers are disposable. My IT job can be shipped off to India or China in a heartbeat and then what? Is the union going to shut down Microsoft or Oracle for unfair labor practices? Is it right that some other guy in my department gets as much as I do when he can't write code for sh*t?

    Nope. I'm not for it, not in my industry, and not if it means I get dragged down by others who aren't interested in being competent programmers. I'm not walking a picket line for them and not striking when I know there's some guy in another country who makes one-third what I do and would be happy to punch keys for it.

  • IT Unions would fail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cartman (18204) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:05PM (#15311781)

    The power of a Union is directly proportional to how capital intensive its industry is. That's because capital-intensive firms suffer huge capital costs as a result of work stoppages, strikes, and disruptions at expensive factories.

    Software, however, isn't capital-intensive at all. The total investment in a software house is a few thousand dollars for PCs and servers. If you struck, then your employer could move your PCs out of the building, outsource your jobs to India, and fire you all on the spot, with very little cost to himself.

    Unions in IT would accomplish one thing only: an acceleration of the outsourcing trend.

  • by avi33 (116048) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:07PM (#15311803) Homepage
    Can I flag TFA as Troll?

    My family has always been pretty pro-union, mostly on account of my grandfather:

    -NOT being issued shop glasses (he was a drill press operator in automobile production)
    -NOT being allowed to bring his own
    -being injured on the job
    -being administered by a substandard alcoholic 'company doctor' who promptly removed one of his eyes and hacked up the other one
    -being fired without compensation
    -eventually being re-hired at an ornamental job and given a $10,000 payoff to drop the whole thing.

    In addition, there were stories of so-and-so's family having to buy the boss' groceries, or so-and-so's sister having to 'deliver' them, if you know what I mean. It was enough to make most of his kids go out and get their heads busted in fighting for the right to assemble a union.

    I'm not going to get into where that particular institution has gotten itself today, but for this knucklehead to equate that with today's tech workers is ridiculous. Where was he when a crop of English majors called themselves 'programmers' and 'project managers' and started making $50-60k right out of college? When the company soda was flowing, foozball was an HR necessity, and the break room had a couch and a Playstation?

    What exactly are the author's demands? That we be offered guaranteed jobs for life? That'll work, just ask GM and Delphi. With the possible exception of game developers, I don't think I've ever known a great programmer that felt 'exploited' for very long. Between my wife and I, we've been hit by one round of layoffs and dodged at least 6 others. If any of our past employers had been prevented from trimming the fat by union regulations, the entire operation would have folded up sooner.

    And besides, some of my best freelance jobs were put together with fellow layoff victims...does that mean that I turned from a proletariat to a robber baron overnight?

    There are plenty of problems with a handful of executives doing the insource/outsource swing every couple years, and playing games with people's careers in the process, but is a union going to fix that? Only if they break a bunch of other things in the process.

  • i vote yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pintomp3 (882811) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:12PM (#15311867)
    i know i may be the only yes vote here, but i see unions as a necassary evil. an evil to counter the greater evil of greedy management. yeah, there are side-effects like mediocrity and what not. but without unions, we would not have a middle class in this country. we would be stuck in the early days of the industrial revolution where workers were just rats to be killed off when the bottom line (or extra mansion) called for it. some argue that unions only protect the lazy, but they protect everyone. all you union haters should try working at a place like walmart. you will be thrilled by their anti-union stance.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:36PM (#15312165) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing libertarian about a disorganized labor sector. Unions are organizations among workers, not a government. Libertarians stand for freedom from government control - and corporate control, too, which unions can provide. Libertarians stand against unions which control people, but those are much less common than governments, corporation and other management that controls people. Especially in the absence of a union, disorganized laborers' liberty is defenseless in the world of corporate and government control.
  • http://www.washtech.org/ [washtech.org]!

    Please join. At least get their newsletter. It's VERY informative. You don't have to give them money.

  • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:28PM (#15313293) Journal
    I mean, the ones with families to feed? This Ann-Randian spewing is the sort to come from high school or Rush Limbaugh.

    I certainly do not want to belong to an organization where I can only be guaranteed a salary increase across the board next to the same slacker programmer who didn't contribute. [slashdot.org]

    Without a union, you have no say if the boss' lazy-assed nephew gets a raise while reading slashdot all day (ahem). With a union, you can vote any contract that allows this down. Nobody else wants to do a lazy man's work, either.

    If the union negotiates a contract that lets this happen, you can vote againt it. The "union boss" is a myth: he works for YOU, not the other way around.

    If the job sucks or I don't think I am being treated fairly, I quit, simple as that... But with the same sentiment, when it comes times for initial salary negotiations, take the gloves off, and _fight for every penny_.

    Fight? No, unless your skill is so unusual nobody else can do it, you mean beg.

    The company is organized, all the shareholders and board is against you, you all by yourself. A union evens the playing field. "United we bargain, divided we beg."

    There is no such thing as a permanent job, and you're naive if you believed that. [slashdot.org]

    Naive? Funny, most of the people I know from my elderly father's generation are retired, with a pension, after working at the same company all their lives. Why shouldn't you be able to as well?

    And as a country, the LAST thing we need to be doing right now is making ourselves less competitive with regards to the rest of the world.

    Where's my cluebat? There are no more American companies! At least, no publically traded ones. Crysler's profits don't help America a bit unless THEY HELP AMERICA'S WORKERS. I am an American, Sony and Disney and Crysler and Toyota aren't. I'm patriotic, a company cannot be.

    How Toyota treats the workers in its North American plants affects America. Welcome to your new foreign overlords (I for one...)

    If only we could make stupidity more painful...

    Are you some kind of masochist?;)

    "I've got a mortgage and a family to pay for." So? Your investment and choices in life are not your company's responsibility to deal with. [slashdot.org]

    Which is precisely why if that company mistreats its workers it needs a union. They have no reason to give two shits about you or your needs.

    It's better to loose *some* jobs than to have the entire company collapse like the auto industry is collapsing to foreign competition. [slashdot.org]

    The unions haven't killed the American auto industry, its incompetent management has. Japan sells more cars (made in unionized American plants) because they make what is percieved (probably rightly) as better cars. Note before the '70s a foreign car was rare on the highways. Then the oil crunch came, but Big American Auto continued to sell big, badly designed and built pieces of shit. It wasn't the unions that made the decision to ignore the Japanese.

    Why would I want the playing field artificially leveled? My playing field greatly favors me because I am better at my job than most people. [slashdot.org]

    So long as your employer treats you fairlly there is indeed no reason for a union. In the '80s, the head of the then non-union Eastern Airlines rightly stated that "any company that gets a union deserves one."

    Folks only unionize when management comes from a Dilbert cartoon.

    Oh yes I loved being in new york when the trains werent running. 60K a year retire at 55 and they wanted to retire at 50. [slashdot.org]

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