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The Almighty Buck

Dial U for Union 319

An Anonymous Coward sent in this story about a communications union trying to expand into the Internet age. Any Slashdot readers with Internet/programming-type jobs in a union?
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Dial U for Union

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't that some kind of SQL command?

    This was modded up? Have we really reached the point that when kids these days hear the word "union" they think of SQL? (relational databases, the spawn of the mainframe priesthood!)

    For shame! This is what a union looks like:

    union foo {
    float bell;
    int bie;
    };

    And this is how you use it, dammit!

    union foo bar;
    bar.bell=123.4;
    i = bar.bie;

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @02:54AM (#141850)
    Why exactly do people join unions? With the state of communications being what it is I can't imagine a need for them. No employer could treat their employees terribly and get away with it, the media would be more than happy to do a story that got the company a lot of bad PR. There are also a lot of jobs out there so people could easily just leave to work for a competitor.

    Unions just increase costs for the company and decrease freedom for the employee. The idea that they are there to work for your (the employee) best intrests is also a bit off the mark, all they really want to do is guarantee themselves a steady income from your paycheck. Coupled with the inevitable violence that accompanies a strike I just don't get it.

    It seems to me that you accept your working conditions when you accept the job, pay, benefits, etc. You shouldn't be complaining about them after you are hired.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:03AM (#141851)
    Union membership in the United States has continued to drop steadily over the past several decades. As a programmer for a community hospital, I don't see how a union would enrich my position, since it would discourage management from negotiating with me, as well as putting them into a position where they are more likely to keep on under/nonperformers.

    If you think unions are so good, why can't they keep manufacturing and other industrial jobs from going to Mexico and overseas?

    I do not see union participation has particularly attractive, nor do I think that unions always work in the best interest of the greater good.

    I think that in certain situations, unions are warranted, but even with the slowdown, unions wouldn't have been in a position to stop the tide of pink slips for technology workers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:34AM (#141852)
    If your boss wants you to work that 80 hour week, for no overtime pay and you say no, he/she can simply go out and hire one of the MANY other people out there willing to take on that many hours.

    Read up on the FLSA, fair labour standards act of 1938. This is the law that provides for the 40 hour work week and overtime pay. You will find that if you are paid on a salary basis (i.e. you don't have to clock in, and you are not docked for missing less than one day) in the computer industry you have no right to expect overtime pay.

    If you are in fact paid on an hourly basis, and you are refused overtime pay, call the department of labour. regardless of whether the employer says that the overtime was 'optional', 'unsolicited', or if they claim you are repaid with 'comp time', you have a good case for getting your time and a half.

  • I thought it was the Millwrights union who insisted that they move anything that can't be carried under one arm, not the UAW.

    Still, I find it more amusing than anything else - I just find it funny to watch someone pushing a huge cart on which is a single Sun workstation.

    The thing that I am really amused by, is that apparently you need a union electrician if you want to hook a monitor to a system. I'm not sure if they have to do it, or if they just have to watch to make sure you don't plug it in wrong...

    -Pathwalker (over at the TPC)
    --
  • _What_ tight labor market? O_O
  • Q: How many Teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: 15, you got a problem wid dat?

  • We are paid inflated wages because of a tight labor market. Once the market adjusts, 100k java programmers will be a thing of the past.

    That is as it should be.

    If someone becomes less valuable in a given role, then they must improve or move to a role in which their skills are more useful. Unions are being described in this thread as a mechanism for fixing a wage independently of the value of work. ("I want to be able to stop working hard and learning new stuff and still have a paycheck forever.") I think that's just wrong. I don't want to pay a cut of my paycheck to feed the guy who doesn't give a rats ass about his contribution.

  • by CaseyB ( 1105 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @04:46AM (#141857)
    Unless you are a "superstar" who sacrifices his social life to keep completely up-to-date on the hottest tech fads, it is impossible to negotiate a good deal with a large corporation or government agency.

    Minus the hyperbole, what you're saying is that unions are great if you have no talent or ambition, are incapable of learning new skills, and are content to merely punch the clock and write another 100 lines of COBOL.

    If unions indeed reward the adequate at the expense of the adept, then they are a Bad Thing.

  • Ehhh... No. I work for the employer, but it's the employer and the unions that negotiates. Of course, on top of that I can negotiate for benefits and salary on top of that if I'm considered a key employee.

    To make it a bit more confusing, I'm also a part owner of a small company, which makes me an employer (or would, if we had any emplyees but ourselves), which doesn't stop me from being unionized anyway...

    Told you, it's different.

    /Janne
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @02:54AM (#141865) Homepage
    ...But that's in Sweden, not the US. Unions and their relationships with the employers seems to work somewhat differently here; often, the employers prefer to have a union to negotiate with rather than having to do it individually with everybody. Also, since unions have a right to give input to cutbacks and other workplace matters, the decisions tend to be better grounded among the employees. Not that everything is peachy, but it seems to work...

    As recently as two eyars ago, IT workers tended not to unionize, now, however, there seems to be a renewed interest :)

    /Janne
  • My hunch is that they actually are keeping salaries down by not allowing school districts to evaluate teachers and introduce competition.


    Not in my old school district. 5-10 years ago, the local paper did a major expose that revealed what the teachers in all the local schools were making (by average salary for each level of senoirity, not by person). God, that article should have won the Pulitzer.

    It turned out that 5 years ago, the average salary for a teacher in my old school district was in the middle 50's. With the whole summer off, and way more vacation during the school year too.

    I was stunned, I thought the average salary was in the 30's from the way the union carried on.

    I'll never forget it.

    Jon Acheson
  • by Lando ( 9348 ) <lando2+slash.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @05:18AM (#141871) Homepage Journal
    Interestingly enought I was a member of the CWA during my employment at ATT. I also was a tech employee working basically as a systems administrator.

    So I am sitting here and thinking back over the time and asking myself if I benefited from the CWA's envolvement with ATT overall I think that I did.

    When I went to work for ATT my salary was better than I would have expected, part of this was because of Union oversite of the hiring process, basically making the company have fair hiring practices which in turn allowed me to get my foot in the door.

    I had medical/dental benefits which have been fought for by the union and made my life a lot easier.

    When there was a disagreement with my boss, the union got involved and was willing to offer advice and council.

    I had a minimum of 15-20 days of training per year which was a great incubator and helped me learn a lot. So that when my position did start to "evaporate" I had the skills to leave and find a new position quickly.

    So it sounds pretty rosy, ehhh... Well, there definately were downsides.

    ATT, in my opinion, has been trying to bust the union for the last 10 years, the problem being that other phone companies have to a certain degree limited union envolvement and thus ATT has higher costs, which hurts ATT in the market place.

    One of the methods that ATT has used to bust the union is to give union representatives perks, they are buying off the reps with high paying jobs. It's a lot of power and ATT is attacking at the power center. Since CWA@ATT represents a lot of the non-technical positions as well as a small technical group, the techs a lot of times had their rights and positions traded away to get concessions for non-technical workers.

    We also had the people that were incapable of doing their jobs, several times I saw these people promoted, because the company could not get rid of them, ie the union protection maintained them in their positions. So in order to protect company interests, they would be promoted, the old line being promoted because of incompetence is/was alive.

    When I left, management did not have union representation and a lot of union positions were slowly moved into management in order to reduce the union's control on technical jobs. Seeing how most of my managers made less that 60% of what I made, I would guess that there were advantages being in the union.

    I did at times see people promoted to management and then fired within 2 weeks of having lost union protection.

    One of the reasons the ATT center that I worked at is located in Georgia, is because it is a right to work state, the union cannot have a closed shop. There is no doubt in my mind, that I would never have gotten the position that I did at ATT if it were a closed shop.

    So good and bad:
    Pro:
    Manditory Training
    Medical/Dental
    Good/reasonable salary
    Protection from abuses from management
    Third party oversight of hiring practices

    Con:
    Incompetence rewarded with promotions
    Power concentrated and easier to corrupt
    Made less than people who had more tenure and less skill.

    Overall, I would say that the union was good for me. I was able to take advantage of education opportunities. I received medical and dental care. I wasn't expected to work 80 hour weeks without compensation.

    I'm currently split as to my opinion of the union, it did give a lot of protection that I would not have otherwise had, there was corruption and I wasn't able to advance due to low tenure.

    My major problem with the union was the corruption of union officials and union practices, I have my doubts as to whether or not the union stuffed ballets... Most people when asked their opinion of one of the union votes said that they had voted negative, yet once the ballets were received by the national level interestly our area had a 80% approval rating.

    Shrug, I look back on my ATT experience fondly, it was a major step up for me and I was able to learn a lot about not just technology, but how the system works. I can't say that I am 100% in favor of the union, but I do see that there were major benefits working for the union.

    Lando
  • I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the obvious alternative: professional bodies. Programming and other IT related careers are considered professions, and have related standards setting bodies that do have significant power - often at a far higher level than Unions.

    While many people see instutions like the IEEE and the ACM or the BCS as academic organisations, they're often as not actually working at a policy level with governments and large companies. They write legislation, and manage its implementation, set professional standards exams that mean something - and give technologists a workable career path that doesn't involve management.

    So get involved with the relevant professional bodies, get a real certification, and see what that does to your job security and conditions...

    S. (currently pushing for his C.Eng)
  • What the IT community needs is a professional organization like the ABA or AMA. There are several more specialized organizations, like the ACM, but not yet one that encompases all the various career flavors of the IT world.

    So, if we're already voluntarily organized as professionals, why should we listen to these screaming socialists who want to unionize IT? The benefits we would receive in return for that are slim to none at this point; so the only reason to unionize seems to be the dark scowls and continual litany of "It may not always be like this..."

    You know what? When it starts getting bad, and it looks like a union might help the situation, that's when IT workers will unionize. That's more or less the situation that's described in the article. Until such point, founding a union just is not worth the time, money, and effort to anyone except the union organizers.

    Folks, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • I think the problematic area of the quote comes in the implied subject of the second half.

    When I give food to the poor I am called a saint, when I ask why [you let them] go hungry I am called a communist

    It's a marvelous quote. And I'm sure the good Bishop would never approve of the rewrite, but the orginal quote implies -- and I think is meant to imply -- that you, the well-fed, are the reason they go hungry, and that you could change it.

    Hunger on this planet is shameful: there is too much wealth, too much that could be done. But people don't like to be challenged in this way.

  • Companies do anything they can to MAXIMIZE PROFIT.

    If they are a publicly traded company, then they are legally obligated to maximize profit. Yes, even at the expense of your wife and children.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @04:18AM (#141883) Homepage

    Unions have a place. If working conditions are bad (for whatever definition of "bad"), organizing the workers can help get things changed. This is a Good Thing.

    On the other hand, the big unions are also corporations in and of themselves. And, as such, they exist to propagate themselves. Have you ever seen a union voluntarily disband itself after the workers' needs are met? On the other hand, I've seen unions try to enter a shop where they're clearly unwanted by both the management and Joe-line-worker.

    In an ideal world you'd have ad-hoc unions form when the workers collectively feel screwed. And that would dissolve again after an agreement was reached! There's really very little need for a strong-arm union in any industry in the USA these days.


    Chelloveck
  • I lost all respect for unions the day the first union member shot someone for working. The concept is morally bankrupt; modern unions exist to provide jobs for modern union organizers, not to protect the needs of workers. Over time, union dues go up, and the benefits provided go down.

    I am good at what I do, what I do is likely to remain in demand, and I am willing to invest substantially in having a variety of useful skills, and could switch careers if I had to. I don't need a union to "protect" me, and I'd rather have my own choices about how to spend my money. I'm good at what I do; I'd rather have the chance of getting a raise based on my *personal* achievements, than depend on the average performance of a whole lot of people.

    My mom is a union worker. Not by choice, but by force; her paper has to run all jobs that way. She gets the same raise as everyone else, no matter how hard she works. No chance to shine, no chance to exceed. That's not what I want.
  • I know my voice is going to get lost in the cacophony of voices here but I'll try anyway.

    I'm a unionist here in Australia, althought the Astralian Services Union - Clerical Division claims to cover IT workers I have seen no evidence of this. The closest thing I have to a unian is EPESMA.

    I truly believe the IT industry need a union, this industry is not just the high paid programmers from IBM or any large other company. There are alot of unscrupulous people out there running small ISP's or consulting firms that take young kids with skills but no industry experience or quals and exploit them, I know I've been there. These people need to be represented, they need someone who can tell them what they deserve under the award or legislation that covers them and who can stand up to the employer on their behalf (negotiating for things you should be given under law is intimidating). The only way to do this is with a union and people in the high paying jobs should show some solidarity with their fellow techs and join the union so that it can afford to provide services to those who need them most.

    And to those of you who say "the unions have never done anything for me" ot "the unions have passed their used by date" I say this: did you enjoy that weekend? or the paid vacation? or getting home after only 8 hours of work? what about your the health and saftey in your workplace? theses are all things that the union won for the workers of the world, so show some respect or give up everythign that the union has done for you and work 6 and a half days a week, 12-16 hours a day for ten thousand dollars a year with no holidays, apalling working conditions and no recourse against unfair treatment by an employer.
  • Interesting. I have almost the exact same thing except that I don't pay the $30.00 a month and my tuition reimbursement doesn't have a limit as long as it's approved by management.

    I would disagree about the inability to negotiate with a large corporation and you don't need to be a "superstar" to do it. I've always found that if you are professional, show pride in your work, work well with others, and can do good problem solving and design methods you can do very well in business. A good manager will almost always reward someone he doesn't need to manage. If you make a manager's life easier they will want you to stay.
  • I am also in Sweden and am also not a member of a union, although union rules still affect me.

    At my last job, a dotcom that is currently in freefall, they decided to lose a percentage of the development workforce in order to cut costs (probably hanging on for a buyout). Union rules dictate that when laying off employees, the company must operate with a last in, first out policy. Thus, even though I was not a union member I got burned by this and lost my job, no matter how good I was.

    My point? I am going to join the union now that I have a new job. If I am going to be burnt by the bad side of being in a union I may as well pay the fees and enjoy the good side as well
  • I doubt most of you have worked in a union shop at any point in your lives.

    Huh? I work in a union shop now, although I'm not union. :)

    There are lots of UAW workers here at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, MI.

    Let me tell you...union rules sometimes just defy logic.

    I understand that unions may be a necessary evil in order to protect workers' rights to some extent. However, some of the ways the portend to do it are ridiculousness.

    For example: you cannot move a computer in your cube, not even to the cube next to you. It's against union rules. A union worker must move any computer equipment that you cannot carry under one arm. So a laptop is ok, but a desktop or tower machine? No way. Supposedly this prevents people from losing their job. Ridiculous.

  • If a bunch of tech workers want to unionize, I may disagree with them, but that's their perogative.

    On the other hand, when an existing union comes along and starts 'recruiting' new sectors into the flock.. THAT is wrong.

    It's not workers saying 'let's unionize and stick up for each other to get what we want'. It's a union spending it's other members dues to say 'You guys should unionize!'
  • The difference is in both age and size? A shop that unionizes, and all the workers who basically know each other (I use the term loseley), that unionizes, there WILL be good things happening. You get what you want out of it.

    OTOH, shops where there has been a union for a long, long time, the union is a political force unto itself, and you can't get rid of it./
  • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @06:44AM (#141898) Homepage
    • Work is in a city which has air brown enough to see as I descend into the valley in the morning. I watch the brown crud rise several hundred feet during the day, just before I escape back home.
    • If the air doesn't get you, the traffic probably will. Some of the most dense traffic in the country.

    And I'm sure have plenty of time to wonder exactly where all that pollution and traffic comes from as you SPEND 2 HOURS COMMUTING EACH DAY.

  • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:13AM (#141901)
    Unions have traditionally been very important to make sure that employee rights are not neglected.
    In bad times when some employers could pay people obscenely small amounts of money for hard work, because people seriously couldn't afford loosing that income either, unions played a pretty important role, at least in some countries.

    Just because things are generally better now, doesn't mean that it will always be that way.

    I know plenty of people that work in professions where the employer have all the power, that are very glad for the added security that union-membership gives you.

    Unions (as long as they operate within the current system, instead of trying to destroy the system), isn't necessarily a foe of the free market, it is actually part of the free market. Just as coorporations make alliances and merges, so must employees be able to.
    If me being a Union-member can get me some benefits, I see nothing wrong with it.

    Of course, the norwegian law sucks in the way that in some professions you are automatically a union-member, and the union provides funds for the election-campaign of the Labour-party in Norway. This means that some people are forced to support the Labour-party with their union-fees.

    Well, just my 2 cents...
  • IT is a talent based industry.
    There is a better term. "Skill". IT is a skill-based industry, similar to journalism, civil engineering, or facilities maintenance. There's no reason to seek you in particular over anyone else in the industry who can do the same work.

    Talent, on the other hand, implies that you have an artistic flair and that only your performance could possibly do. Anyone with a password is equivalent, as far as the computer is concerned.

    If working conditions become harsh you may leave and get work somewhere else, usually pretty easily.
    Unless your company decides to subcontract your job out to some substandard Java conslutancy in India that uses == to compare Strings. Or hires someone from abroad on a work visa because they're cheaper than you are.
    As an IT worker I want to be paid based on my talent.
    Well, that's tough shit, boy, you're paid based on supply and demand. You don't have talent, you have skill. You'll be paid exactly what you're worth in the market at any given time. As soon as someone finds a way to pipe your job to someplace else for cheaper, your rate will also drop, if you want to stay employed. Did you see the comment a few days back in another article where investors only wanted to pay $45k for a CCIE certified network admin? (For those of you oriented against certification, a CCIE certification is temporary, competitive, and not least expensive. By the time you've gotten it, though, you know Cisco routers cold.) Serious blood, sweat and cash spent on a serious certification, and some sucka VC says he shouldn't make the going rate for college graduates? That in and of itself is an excellent example of where unions could help.

    Naturally, the good comes from unions and governments only if the people who comprise them do their "eternal vigilance" homework and make sure the leaders aren't running off with the bag. Force is, unfortunately, not an attractive option against either sort of conglomerate.

    Seniority means nothing if the person does not retain their edge and continually keep updated.
    Why not? Keeping up-to-date with the latest tools only feeds the marketing hype machine. In hiring a sysadmin, for example, knowing the minutiae of Red Hat 9.3's particular flavor of init scripts is probably far less important than having the problem-solving skills to dig into them and find the needed information.

    I suspect your fixation on staying "hip" has to do with your own position being dependent on the upgrade treadmill? Problem solving is not a purchasable skill.

    I also want to negotiate my contract. I do not want to share a contract with every other IT person in the company.
    Then why are you not a consultant? You want the entrepreneurial endorphin buzz, you start the consultancy or the startup and stop ruining the industry for those of us who like to go home before the stars come out.

    (Oh, and ahem. Screen Actors Guild?)

    Unions support the collective, IT is based around individuals and individual talent. They are mutually exclusive in my opinion.
    Then why all the emphasis on "team play" in this industry? Why are cowboys so frowned upon? Why does your supposed "talent" never get recognized as individually your contribution? Because it isn't talent. If you want to exercise your bloody talents, drag your PHB grandstanding "mememememe" ass into sales and leave us scientists alone.

    -jhp

  • >Unions take away your right to individually bargain with your employer.

    So you've never worked for a large company have you.

    Large companies impose terms and conditions on its workers, if for no other reason then 100,000 people all individually negotiating contracts would be a nightmare to administer (and hugely expensive). If you dont like them, well you can either quit (not an option for most workers who need the money ) or try to renegotiate the contract for all workers at once, in which case a group that represents all of those workers has rather more moral authority (and thus chance of being listened to) then you by yourself.

    So, work for who you want to, try to agree terms with your employer, but dont be suprised if they nod, agree, impose the conditions they want on you, and then laugh and show you the door when you threaten to quit...

    bil

  • ... because I was concerned about the unilateral changes IBM made to its promised retirement benefits (changes which have resulted in paper profits), but also because I was concerned about the impact a union would have on my job. I left in disgust three months later, because the "alliance" wasn't interested in holding meetings in Austin (a city with several thousand IBM employees), and the communications I received consisted of the CWA trying to tell me how I should think and vote, rather than showing any interest in adressing the concerns of any employees beyond the cabal in Endicott. I still support the stated mission of providing employees with a voice in changes to retirement and benefits packages, but if/when there is a vote to make Alliance@IBM our union, I'll be voting against it.
  • It was the STE not CWU (STE represented most of the managers/programmers, CWU the engineers). 10,000 was just the manager/professional grades, the company employed 120,000 - that ought to give it away. Its true though, neither union could really help temps and agency employees. There are a number of reasons for this -

    - most employee rights kick in after 2 years, agents dont usually stay that long
    - agents may not technically be employees of the telco. This is often intended to de-unionize the workforce and introduce personal contracts so there can be no collective wage bargaining (and before we get the arguments on collective bargaining meaning the good get paid the same as the bad, it doesnt - its supposed to help the employees get a clear understanding of how their pay will progress if they perform, while hopefully getting everyone more cash)

    In the end companies close units as and when they want to; and with agents, usually with little or no redundancy payments. Its only if they are actually trying to realign the workforce that the unions can help mitigate the problem.

    On a personal note, I came from a design area - may or may not be the bit you're referring to - and I left like everyone else I knew because the company was imploding on itself, descending into empire building and reorganisations instead of anyone caring about the work. The contractors, outsourcing etc happened there because we left en-masse.

    -Baz
  • by Bazzargh ( 39195 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @04:00AM (#141917)
    You seem to have had a particularly bad experience. Up until recently I was the union rep for a bunch of programmers in a telco, and I can tell you straight people did need the union.

    Yes, everyone has rights, but the management are often clueless or deliberately lax in applying the rules. Far from promoting by merit when left to themselves, management promoted cronies, and almost exclusively male cronies at that. Managers in some projects had told their team that if they applied for their time off in lieu (the alternative to overtime) it would count against them at appraisals; and so on. I was personally involved in discovering some duplicity in company pay negotiations - as a result of which 10,000 people did not get their pay cut by £150 pa.

    Asking the union for help in the UK at least is not like the Teamster example earlier in this thread where we smash up cars. In disputes workers here have a right to be accompanied by someone else in any meeting with management, and 9 times out of 10 they chose a union rep rather than a friend because we'd been through these meetings before, had been through courses on employment law, and could make sure the employee got a fair deal.

    If the company wanted to sack a lazy, theiving or stupid employee as characterized by you they had procedures they had agreed to follow to make sure it was fair and not the product of a local grudge. If the company gave the worker a fair hearing and they should be sacked, they were sacked. We didnt stand in their way.

    On the politics angle, our union (given its white collar background) was fairly apolitical, and under UK law the union members voted to stop political contributions. I personally knew members who stood for elected office for each of the 3 main parties in this country - hardly evidence of losing your political views.
  • That's right -- I forgot about this particular point. Unions are the crutch of the left wing here in the US, and I sure as heck don't want a dime of my paycheck going to prop them up.

    Luckily for you, there's pretty good odds that the company that you work for chooses to use its money to prop up a right wing party :-). Sort of evens out.

  • If they were only competition for management that would be one thing, but they aren't. If they were just competition, management could just fire any union employees (if they wanted to) and hire non-union employees (if they wanted to). Companies can't do that because of laws that help unions control a company. Unions make it so that a company can't hire the best employees (assuming the best employee doesn't want anything to do with a union) and can't fire the worst ones.

    I also think you made a huge jump from "job, pay, benefits" to "OSHA, Americans with Disabilities Act, and all sexual harassment laws." The first three aren't basic human rights guaranteed by the govt, while the three you mentioned are things every employee should have whether they are a good employee or a bad one. Also, unions don't enforce the three you mentioned (usually), the govt does (or should).

    Unions MIGHT be needed in un-skilled labor jobs where the company can just hire highschool dropouts for min wage and then never give them a raise (and since all similar companies would be doing the same, there is nowhere for them to go). If they left the company, oh well, there is never a shortage of unemployed, un-skilled people. Highly skilled jobs need highly skilled and trained employees, of which there IS a shortage. If I don't like my pay and benefits at this engineering firm, I can go somewhere else and do (possibly) better. If I can't do better, why should I expect the company to pay more than any of their competitors?

  • by brianvan ( 42539 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:47AM (#141920)
    You're right, this is an example of a bad apple of a union.

    The solution to this isn't to disregard unions entirely, but to consider the benefits of a union that's run by more honest and less shady people.

    (FYI I'm neither for nor against them in IT, but I am unionized in one of my current jobs and there are some benefits to that, even if it isn't worth what they take out of my pay).
  • And I'm sure have plenty of time to wonder exactly where all that pollution and traffic comes from as you SPEND 2 HOURS COMMUTING EACH DAY.

    You have to admit, he's trying to fix that by telecommuting. Live close to work? How much closer can you get than working at home?

  • Every Union's different. Personally, rather than a Union, I'd prefer to see a Board of Licensure such as there is for Engineers, to ensure that people truly are qualified to do their jobs.

    [This is most important with contractors, as you'd have a place to check with to see if there were complaints against someone].

    I do, however, take offense to a few of your comments:

    What will your union provide you with? Medical benefits? Job security? Work safety regulations? Don't make me laugh. You have all that and more, and it's NOT worth giving up a meritocratic system of advancement, peace of mind and your political views over.

    Unions tend to be for hourly employees, and not salaried. You claim that we make 2-3 times the gross national average, but there's a cost to that. How many hours a week do you work?

    I don't know about the rest of you, but it's not unheard of for us to work 100 hr weeks when deadlines come near. I made the mistake of only getting a verbal commitment to being given compensory time for my overtime. After 2 weeks of working through 2 weekends and a holiday, for 12-16hrs a day [12 hrs on Saturdays, so I could catch my cartoons], going home every other day to keep from losing the 2hrs in commute, my boss told me that I got 5 days of comp time.

    I asked him how he came up with 5 days. He said it was from the 5 extra days I worked, the two weekends, and the holiday. Naturally, I was pissed. In the end, I did the math, and found that at a bare minumum, I had worked 120hrs overtime. My boss agreed to give me 10 days in comp time.

    Had this been a union, I most likely would have gotten time and half for the time. My brother gets that, and 2x when he passes 80hrs for a week. He gets an additional amount for working holidays. Even assuming time and a half, I'd have gotten 180hrs [4.5 weeks] off for the work I did. I was asking for 3 [even hours for the work I did], and I got 2.

    Chances are, a union would have protected me from that. It would have protected me from the time when I was planning on going to the PA Renaisance Festival with friends one weekend, but was told on Friday morning, that there had been an oversight by the contractors and I wasn't told that I could have started my part of the project 3 weeks before. As such, it had to be done by monday, so I was going to have to work the weekend, and come in on Monday [a day I had off for my DSL install].

    In the end, I worked a 70hrs by Wednesday [as well, I had to get info back from the contractors, which I didn't have for the meeting on Monday, and I didn't get 'till Tuesday, and it took 'till Wednesday for me to figure out what had gone wrong, and that it was the contractors who had lied to me about the last upgrade we had done, which resulted in my doing all this work.] At that point, late wednesday night/thursday morning, I went home, as I didn't care what the project wasn't finished.

    While I understand there being a need to protect employees from exploitation, do you think a programmer earning at least 2-3 times the gross national average needs protection?
    You said it, but you glazed over it. I had to make sure that I included it, so I'm not taking your other comment completely out of context.
    You have all that and more, and it's NOT worth giving up a meritocratic system of advancement, peace of mind and your political views over

    I do NOT have peace of mind when I'm driving home at 4am, thinking 'I can end it all if I cross over the median right now'. Medical benefits are useless after a few marathon weeks when I'm so sick I can't get out of bed, and have such a headache, I can't see straight, as my body tries to recover from it.

    That's not to say that I'd like a corrupt union, like so many are, but my roomie's union [local 602 -- pipefitters] is good to him -- in exchange for his money, he gets guaranteed raises, training, overtime pay, etc. Yes, I get benefits that he doesn't get, but he's not expected to work 12 hr days s a daily thing and not get compensated for it.

  • At my University I have to pay $140 fucking bucks a semester - compulsary union fee (for 'services' - lesbian councilling and condoms for faggits) or your enrolment get cancelled! Hmmm.. Nice 'democracy'.

    In my country, I have to pay thousands of fucking bucks a year - compulsary tax fee - (for 'services' - soldiers going all over the globe to kick the shit out of people for no good reasons, cops locking up junkies, corporate welfare payments, and don't forget debt interest) or your freedom gets cancelled!

    BTW, do you mean that they only give out condoms to gay men? Or that there are special condoms made just for them?

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • > A union worker must move any computer equipment that you cannot carry under one arm.

    If I worked there, just for spite, I'd case mod my full-tower with a handle, and walk off with it under my arm. Ditto my monitor - maybe a strap from a backpack and some clever use of D-rings.

    If they gave me static, I'd disassemble the full-tower and move it, component by component, to the new cube.

    Fsck 'em if they can't take a joke.

    (Of course, I'd also make sure I had a low vandalism deductible on my car...)

  • > Last time this topic came up, 6 months ago or so, I recall large numbers of heavily anti-Union comments. I wonder if, given the dramatic change in the jobs market over the last 6 months in the US especially, [ ... ] whether attitudes today will be more pro-union than they were?

    Perhaps those of us who oppose unions on the (ideological) basis that a free[er] market is a Good Thing, will merely stick to our principles.

    That's what principles are about.

    I hold to the principle that capitalism, through the mechanism of "creative destruction", is a Good Thing that leads to higher standards of living for large numbers of people over long periods of time.

    When (not "if" - when) my skills become obsolete, I will either live off my accumulated savings, acquire new skills that aren't obsolete, or starve. (Possibly all three at once ;-)

    What I won't be doing is deciding that welfare rates suddenly ought to be doubled, income taxes on anyone making more than me tripled, and wishing that I'd had a union to protect my obsolete hide before I got canned.

    I decided a long time ago - as a matter of principle - that I was willing to live by the sword; I must (on pain of logical inconsistency) be willing to die by the sword.

    (Well, Adam Smith's invisible hand that wields the sword, at any rate ;)

  • by tentac1e ( 62936 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @05:19AM (#141934) Journal
    I've already this story before, but I find it necessary to bring up when people bring up the issue of Unions.

    My father owned an HVAC Company. His workers were not unionized, and his company did not make enough revenue to pay them at what unions would force him to. Of course, his workers decided that they wanted more money and benefits, so they tried to unionize.

    My father didn't want them to unionize. The Union wanted them to. The decision boiled down to him allowing them to unionize, or the Union driving his business into the ground. As a matter of principle and simple economics, he chose not to unionize.

    As a result, the union took him to court for several years. They made his life a living hell, both legally and illegally. Some of his trucks were vandalized, with their tires slashed or windows broken.

    In the end, his business became no longer profitable. He sold it, after having seen it driven into the ground.

    You can tell me that he was a greedy bastard for having not unionized. Me, my brother, and my mother hardly thought of ourselves as filthy rich. My father built that business himself, and it was driven into the ground by selfish, lazy people.

    Yes, works have a right to form unions, but it unconstitutional and immoral to tell any business owner how to run his business through the strongarm of the law.

  • Of course, the norwegian law sucks in the way that in some professions you are automatically a union-member, and the union provides funds for the election-campaign of the Labour-party in Norway.

    That's right -- I forgot about this particular point. Unions are the crutch of the left wing here in the US, and I sure as heck don't want a dime of my paycheck going to prop them up. (It already does, through weird subsidies paid through taxes, but I am continually trying to get that changed.)

  • So perhaps the conclusion we should draw is that the union has little bearing on this?

    Of course, since there is no behemoth union covering the tech sector, they do not have this effect. They'd have to exist first. What the existence of said union would do is exacerbate the problem.

    And yes, poor management is also responsible for the promotion of incompetents. If management does too much of this, the company will suffer, and the market will take care of it. With a union's seniority rules in place, however, you can have the best or the worst management in place and it won't matter; you'll still promote idiots.

    Basically, you are arguing that since these problems already exist, you might as well throw a union in there. That's a silly argument to mine that says a union will make these problems worse.

  • by Zigg ( 64962 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:18AM (#141938)

    A union is the last thing tech workers need. The sector is already swamped with substandard workers who command ridiculous salaries and benefits for the work they do. Unions will just make it so that employers can't fire those who don't do their work, and have to promote the clueless because of seniority. No thanks; I prefer to work in a world where I get rewards based on my performance.

  • by Zigg ( 64962 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:32AM (#141939)

    I don't want to say that unions are meant for unskilled people only, because you have teacher's unions, etc.

    Teachers' unions (and I'm speaking of the NEA, the behemoth here in the US) can be the worst. First of all, they certainly aren't getting done what they supposedly exist to do -- getting teachers paid more. My hunch is that they actually are keeping salaries down by not allowing school districts to evaluate teachers and introduce competition. Really, all the NEA does is work to maintain the public education monopoly, claiming they're fighting "for the children".

    Teachers are professionals, should be treated as such, and should not be forced to be unionized to get a job. Perhaps then we can start paying the good ones what they're worth.

  • The day I'm required to join a union to get a programming job is the day I stop programming. Programmers are individuals. We are proud of our individualism. I don't belong to any groups. I don't affiliate myself with anything. I am productive because I choose to be. I don't need handouts, and I don't want any. Live Free or Die. Keep America free or I'll find somewhere else to live.
  • I didn't suggest that I lock myself up in a cave somewhere. I merely am trying to convey the idea that I, like many engineers, am an individualist and don't want to be classified and pigeonholed into a particular employement agreement that the "greater good" feel is appropriate. When ever possible, I'd rather fend for myself.

    Actually, part of growing up requires personal responsibility and responsibility for others including my family. I have provided for them (not thanks to any union) and have both health and life insurance. I am quick to judge unions because nothing sickens me more than going into a job interview and being told, okay here is the standard deal. I don't want the standard deal. I want the deal that works best for me and my family and I don't trust an union to make that decision for me. "I don't need handouts, and I don't want any," is exactly how I was raised and is a fundemental part of my beliefs. The problem with the world today is people have lost that basic sense of pride that comes from taking personal responsibility in there lives. Personal responisibility for themselves and their lives. You might be perfectly happy letting a union negotiate your job for you. You probably also would enjoy for the union to take care of your retirement, educate your children, take care of your health needs, wash your car, and do your laundry. Hell, why not have the union do the work for you. Why bother working at all. You might need a union on your side when management has you against the wall. Personally, I have faith that my commitment, pride and discipline are better bargining chips than some charter.

    As for my maturity and idealism, you are the one who's suggesting that the security of you and your family be left to a union. Perhaps I am guilty of being an idealist myself. However, I am also a realist, and I wouldn't trust my family's safe keeping with a union no sooner than I would trust social security for my retirement or the government for my health care.

  • by Neuronix ( 86458 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @04:48AM (#141948) Homepage
    Twelve years ago my father was diagnosed with a rare genetic liver disease called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. While he had problems with his liver all of his life, they had not been able to diagnose and treat this new disease until recently.

    When my father's symptoms got worse and worse, it was clear that there was only one cure for his disease. Liver transplantation was the only way to save his life. Because this treatment was "experimental" 11 years ago when it was performed, the insurance company flatly refused to cover it. The doctor told my father (quoting here)... "If you do not come up with $250,000 for the transplant, you will die". Did I mention I come from a fairly poor family? There was no WAY we could afford that.

    The person who saved my father was a union manager. My father was a truck driver, a car hauler, who had been in the teamsters union for many years. After making the right calls and talking to the right people, the union stepped in and provided the money needed to save him.

    After waiting a long time on the waiting list and with an estimated 2 weeks left to live, my father got his transplant. They gave him a 50/50 chance to survive the surgery at this point, and much less to even survive for the next 5 years. It has been 11 years and my father is still alive and enjoys a quality of life that's better than it ever has been.

    Now I know this is slightly off-topic, but I saw many anti-union posts and I knew I had to say something. I'm always for expanding unions wherever possible, because I've seen in my jobs and in my life that sometimes the only ones who will stand up for you, is a union.
  • Well, why would you want to pay to be in something that cant represent you. On my campus, we have quite a few members who are in unrepresented units, but I totally understand why many of their unrepresented co-workers don't join (since they wont get a contract till they're recognized). You would think any workplace where the majority of the workers want a union should be able to have one, but the laws in our country and the ways our corporations act often make it VERY difficult to bring a union in, even if the people want it very much.

    Employers use very sneaky tactics and they have a definate advantage (they pay the workers and can threaten them, of course this is illegal, but when was the last time our country seriously went after a corporation that was fucking with people...).

    I think that the reason there are a lot of dissatisfied union members in america is that you can't expect it to just come in and do stuff for you (which is actually what I hear in the complaints from the former members in this discussion "I was in a union and they didn't do anything for me", well if you're gonna complain about no local control and you aren't going to work for anything, you can't expect anyhting good. The fact is, good unions get good results.) Corporate america has so fucked up the system (unions should be completely protected under the first amendment freedom of association) that of course there is a lot of anti-union sentiment here. You'll find a MUCH different opinion in Europe I assume.

    Oh yeah, I can't speak for all unions, but it's not in the union's advantage to run the company out of business. They want to keep the jobs. Think of Big K and K-Mart. K-Mart has a union, so the K-Mart corporation makes BigK as a different corp, builds it next door to their K-Marts and one by one runs themselves out of business. Then the workers store closes, they all are jobless, but hey there are those GREAT non-union jobs at BigK. I am sure they get treated a lot better there! You wanna tell me that the union asked for SO much money that the store was gonna close down and it had to close itself down? That's fucking ridiculous, it's 100% greed and malice. (keep in mind, I'm sure the average k-mart worker didn't make very much, a lot less than a lot of programmers who work for companies with no profits, kmarts owners are getting richer and richer while the people get poorer and poorer) So don't tell me that unions make people lose their jobs by asking for too much, UC won't even tell us how much money they get from the state (this is a PUBLIC institution) so we can make educated guesses as to what is a reasonable raise. Unions, in general, just want reasonable wages, and in most places you'd want to live in america, you can't live great for 11 bux an hour (let alone the minimum wage).

    Tony

  • by twjordan ( 88132 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @07:21AM (#141950)
    Unions are diverse I don?t think that there is anyone on /. who believes that these so-called independent Unions are not all tied together by one common organization, know which one I mean Tony?

    I assume you're talking about the AFL-CIO... sure their tied together, just like most the corporations in this country are members of chambers of commerce, political organizations, and the like. Unions are about people working together so it is natural you'd have a national alliance. If you're insinuating that the AFL-CIO controls all these unions, then you have your head in your ass... as I said, sure some unions might be under outside control, I know that my union (which wasn't part of AFL-CIO untila couple years ago anyway) is locally controlled.

    Unions can better bad policy Do you like workers who have no motivation to do quality work? Do you like workers who have little or know fear of being fired? Do you like having to kiss the ass of every low-life Union supervisor just to get his people to do their job. Come on. Everyone has had experience with the wonderful work ethics of Union workers.

    Once again, quite a generalization... 13% of the workforce is unionized, 48% would be if they could (stats courtesy National Labor Board) All these people are bad workers? Just because you're in a union doesn't mean you wont get fired. And I don't quite know what you mean when you say "Union supervisor?" Supervisors aren't in the union, that's kind of how it works. Furthermore, you are using the same argument here as you do later on... Maybe you've had a bad experience with a couple folks, I know a LOT of IT people that are total fucks too...

    Unions give you a voice Yes, let?s just remove any reward for being better at your job than the schlub next to you. We?re all equal in the IT industry and should all be treated the same. While we?re at it lets remove any competition completely and give everyone the same wages irregardless of their abilities.

    First of all, you're not addressing the points I made in any arguement, instead you're railing on about the myths of medeocrity. I said specificly that unions don't require the same wages across the board... maybe you should learn to read.

    Unions don't support mediocrity AHH, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA!!!! You?re killing me Tony. As soon as you pull your head out of the sand you let me know. AHH, HA, HA, HA!

    uh-huh, maybe one day you'll realize that nearly every benefit you enjoy as a worker here in America is the result of union activity... you think before unions we had a 40 hour work week? You think we had widespread benefits and healthcare? Retirement? Safety standards? Don't think so.

    Unions start with you Sure, I like your mentioning those ?stupid management decisions? because we all know that management are just a bunch of idiots who don?t know what their doing. You really need to wake up Tony. Management got to be management because they know how to get things done, something that the Unions seem to be very much against.

    I am sure many managers are competent employees etc. And there are a lot that aren't, all up and down the line. I can't believe that you're saying, especially in IT, that most managers know more than their employees. That isn't the case. And when the decision-making power lies in the hands of those who don't know what's up... you get stupid decisions.

    Not-Tony

    Yeah, just a fucking coward.

  • by twjordan ( 88132 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @05:13AM (#141951)
    It's pretty sad. Reading the comments on this story I've seen about 90% FUD. For a readership that seems to hate megacorps and dislike misinformation, slashdot seems to have such a narrow band of knowledge that's sometimes scary. I work for a union. I'm an organizer for UPTE - CWA Local 9119 [upte.org] at UCSC [upte.org]. UPTE represents professional and technical employees statewide within the University of California system (all told about 11-12K represented employees). I've met a lot of people so far with a lot of the same ideas that I hear here and it's my job to convince them otherwise, so let me try here as well.

    Unions are diverse I'm gonna talk about something most people on /. don't have in whatever subject they are writing about... personal experience. When I say a union can do something, that doesn't mean every union will. There are hundreds, if not thousands of unions in this country and each one is different. There are really bad ones, there are really good ones, and there are a lot in between. Employee's vote in the union that they belong to (often against very steep odds considering the tactics and "natural" advantage the employer has against its employees) and they can vote to decertify a union as well (which, when it happens is most often a switch to a different union rather than choosing to go unrepresented). In my opinion, the best unions are the ones with the most member participation. This means that people need to be active in their unions for them to serve their needs. More on that in a bit, to get back to the bold, the point I am trying to make here is that your mileage may vary, just like some employers are better than others, some grocery stores are better, some parents are better. It's not realistic to assume that every union could be perfect and like with so many other things, you're not going to hear as much about the success stories than the failures (for every Jimmy Hoffa there are hundreds of "good" organizers like myself, who are really committed to building a better workplace).

    Unions can better bad policy People think that it's all about wages or seniority. It's not. There are a lot of things that come standard in your average tech job you might not like. Do you like anti-drug flyers they make you sign saying that you wont do things the company doesn't like outside of its walls (13th amendment violation anyone?)? Do you like illegal non-competition clauses in your contract? Do you enjoy that your supervisor often has the power to enact pointless and ill-planned workplace rules that you have to follow and might have very little luck in changing? Those are all the type of things that a union, if its membership is motivated to do so, can change or work to change. The university has to notify my union when they change a workplace rule (so we can fight it if there is a complaint) and they are prohibited from enacting workplace rules that they can't prove are necessary or even beneficial.

    Unions give you a voice I have a lot of friends that work for a certain LARGE corporation that hires a lot of programmers. One of them told me that at their company, you only matter if you're a vice-president or above. In fact, when you call tech support internally there, if you're a vp you go to the special pool of techs to help you, if you're just a worker, who knows when you'll get help. This point is to illustrate that no matter how important you think you are, no matter how much you think your boss loves you, it all comes down to the bottom line and quite often you're not on it. Unions give workers with common interests a common voice to negotiate as "equals" with their employers. If you're in a good union, it might be you that does the negotiations, or someone you know and respect. Working as a group you can get a lot more done that working locally, and I know, a lot of you might be thinking that you are doing fine on your own, well, there's probably a lot of people where you work that aren't getting the sweet deal that you're getting and that probably doesn't make your job easier.

    Unions don't support mediocrity I should have made this point #1 cause it's often the #1 argument I hear. First of all, most union contracts don't prevent anyone from making more than anyone else. If you're hot shit and you're employer wants you, there's most likely nothing the union would do to tell the employer that they can't hire you at a higher rate than anyone else (however, on the flip side, if you're the boss' nephew and you're getting the big raise because of that, the union might, rightly so, have something to say about that). They also aren't entirely based on seniority (although they can be) but what is wrong with that anyway? The reason unions often choose seniority as the marker is because it's pretty objective. It makes sense that the longer you work for a company you should make more money. It also doesn't seem too horrible to me that if i work hard for my employer for 30 years, I'll have a little protection for myself. Most of us are real young here, when you're pushing 55-60 and looking a little less attractive, we'll see what tune you're singing then. It is true that unions work to benefit the majority of their workers. This might leave some of the very very best a little in the cold and bring the very very worst up a little bit more than they deserve, but for the majority of us (since we can't all be the very very best) it's much better (and the fact that the very very best can be expected to get their own additional increases since they are so awesome).

    Unions start with you There is this idea that a union comes from the outside and does things to its members. This may be how a bad union works, but it's not how the one I work for works. In UPTE its almost all rank and file run. This means that the members make all the decisions and it's very locally based. There's not some guy in a limo calling strikes or making all the decisions here, it's the guy in the cube next to you, or hopefully you yourself.

    Well, that's about all the rant I can handle right now. It's not everything I could say, but it's better than nothing. But even if it didn't convince you, try this. For the next month, anytime there's something stupid that happens at your job, some stupid rule or management decision that makes your job not-so-fun, think about if it's the kind of thing you might be able to change if you had the organized support of all your fellow co-workers.

    Tony

  • Do you have some evidence to back up these claims ? Didn't think so, because they don't even maintain consistency, this reads more like the script to a bad TV film, than real life.

    The Company railroad the shop steward and you blame the union.

    The Company railroad the shop steward (or any employee) and you claim they are not evil or mean.

    The shop steward is properly dealing with his responsibilities, and you claim they are still evil not or mean.

    The union quickly appoint a replacement shop steward to protect their member rights and you claim this is a bad thing.

    The perspective of your whole post (and posting history) is anti-union, I believe you are probably the devious management who caused these problems in the first place and not an ex-teamster as you claim.

    The give away of this fact is that employee's do have a choice, employee empowerment is the whole point of a union. It's the management that don't.

    And finally you history of anti-union rant't.

    +5 insightfull, overated, vastly over rated!

  • by WarSpiteX ( 98591 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:11AM (#141954) Homepage
    I doubt most of you have worked in a union shop at any point in your lives.

    Imagine the most incestuos, concentrated group of incompetents on charge of your job, your welfare and your career, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. The people who survive 30 years in a union shop to get the highest union positions are not the skilled, not the caring and not the intelligent - they are the stubborn, backstabbing, self-righteous oafs who push everyone out. They are encouraged to do so by management, which of course wants to break up a union and how else to do so but by making the union turn upon itself?

    Unlike (I assume) most people who read slashdot, I've worked in "real" jobs that involve intense physical labor, and two of them were complete union shops. While I understand there being a need to protect employees from exploitation, do you think a programmer earning at least 2-3 times the gross national average needs protection? Even in extreme situations (coal mines, heavy labor factories), the union is a necessary evil, not a righter of wrongs.

    With unions come politics, internal, external, and "fringe", as in Jimmy Hoffa "fringe". Blue collar workers have learned how to deal with the downsides of the union over the past century, they know how to prolong its usefulness. White collar workers have no such experience, they will have their unions manipulated and twisted into the personal tools of whoever happens to have the most influence in the union.

    What will your union provide you with? Medical benefits? Job security? Work safety regulations? Don't make me laugh. You have all that and more, and it's NOT worth giving up a meritocratic system of advancement, peace of mind and your political views over.

  • Ehhnt, thank you for playing. Software is "assembled" by machine, copied from disk to disk. Maybe some data entry clerks put the stuff into the machine, but software engineers are designers - and heck yes I want my car to have been designed by someone willing to try the latest improvements, rather than, say, sticking with a design that leaves out seat belts and air bags because the old design worked. (Just so long as the car does work, but that's why we have QA.)
  • It's not just the tech sector! If anyone gets a chance they should go see "Live Nude Girls Unite" it's this awesome documentary about how a grad student working striptease organized the dancers against unfair and _dangerous_ practices.

    If it plays in your area (art houses, schools) GO SEE IT!
  • I was part of a support workers union at a College and I left because the union made it uneasy to expand. You weren't allowed to do anything outside your job description. If you were a sys admin you weren't allowed to touch networking etc. It had some upsides but not many.

    Unions are famous for getting you to the top of your payband quite quickly but after that there's nothing!

    Do you really want to get a raise based on how long you're there rather than based on how well you do your job? Unions support those who don't do thier job and shrug responsibility. They'll fight for those dead sticks to the bitter end.

    Trevor.
  • Wish we had that at my last job. IT was drafted to do any manual labor that cropped up.
    --
  • Now that's just ridiculous. Unions were formed to improve working conditions; having hundreds of your coworkers die because of overcrowding doesn't justify unionizing?

    because PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS ARE NOT EVIL, management included

    Reading a little too much Ayn Rand?

    What about people who do EVIL THINGS? Aren't they evil? How about CEOs who fire thousands of workers without a thought, then accept million dollar bonuses for it? What about managers who decide that ignoring environmental regulations to save a few bucks is worth the health problems it causes in the community?

    It has taken 60 years to climb out of that insanity and some industies will never recover. Just look at US automobile and tire companies.

    The automobile companies suffered because they made overpriced, low-quality cars. Guess what; the cost-cutting takes place in boardrooms, not the line. When the car companies improved their quality they started getting market share back from the Japanese.
    --
  • I realise that union bashing appears to be a national sport among the US readers on slashdot. I never understood it myself. Even in the US the union movement has had an important role to play in many industries.

    Just remember that the majority of slashdot readers from the US seem to represent a right-wing libertarian ideology that very few Americans support. It's just that those who do support it are so scarce they have to go online to meet each other.
    --
  • Mind telling me which agency? Sounds pretty good, maybe they're hiring...
    --
  • by ellem ( 147712 ) <ellem52@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:22AM (#141977) Homepage Journal
    The IT community has done this too themselves (I am guilty too.) We have worked ridiculously long hours and carried beepers b/c our expertise has done two things for us:

    1 -- Paid us well. Very well. How many IT workers came from a crappy job at a supermarket? How many IT workers have another *really* saleable skill. Being the world's best camper in UT is not a useful skill. To get the necessary skills to be IT gurus many other skills have been forsaken. Like social interation. A skill that is being heavily sought now that the IT herd is being thinned via the "new economy"

    2 -- Validated an otherwise reclusive existence. As the IT guru at your shop you've spent years alone networking computers, hacking games, writing webpages about Gillian Anderson, and the like while your bones have become brittle from lack of sun. Now all of a sudden you're not weird. You're a God. You know how to print excel spreadsheets in landscape. You are *loved*, *feared* and *needed*. You're very willing to answer every phone call, respond to every beep. You're a star.

    So now you realize that this is wrong. That 75K is really all that much money, or whatever pushed you over the edge. A union now is too late.
    ---
  • --As an ex-Teamster from NY I can tell you that although there were imagined benefits of being in a Union none were realized. Union representitives never came to the aid of any of the employees in my ex-company. The shop steward was railroaded out of his $17US an hour job and the Union's response was to immediately appoint another steward. This wasn't a guy who was likely to make very much more than $17US bucks an hour. He lost his livelyhood trying to protect his fellow workers. The company wasn't evil or mean, but simply trying to save money by asking people to go home early. Most people jumped at the opprotunity.

    --For $20US a paycheck ($40 US a month + $250 to join) we got nothing. The employees recently voted the Union out of their building. The Union sued the company and the company agreed to allow the Union to stay for 2 more years.

    --Parking lot vandalism has markedly gone up. On 06.04.01 a Union Representitive was arrested for smashing windshields in the parking lot.

    --Certainly this individual is not the whole of the Unions of America but one of the bad apples. However if the employees of a company decide they do not want a union protecting them they should be allowed to be rid of them.

    --Imagine if you were at an ISP that was unionized and you were unable to get rid of them. Be carful what you wish for.
    ---
  • You are arguing from a particular case and
    applying it to a general case.

    Just because you had a bad experience with
    a local teamsters shop, doesn't

    1) Mean that that shop was bad. Others
    you worked with could have had a positive
    experience with that shop.

    2) Mean that the teamsters are bad. There
    can be a bad shop within the teamsters, while
    the majority of teamsters shops are good.

    3) Mean that unions are bad. The teamsters
    are just one example of a union. There can
    be other worker's organizations besides the
    teamsters. A union dedicated to lobbying
    Washington comes to mind.

    Have a good day,

  • > Imagine the most incestuos, concentrated group
    > of incompetents on charge of your job, your
    > welfare and your career, and that's only the
    > tip of the iceberg

    Who would that be? Management?

    =)
  • by partingshot ( 156813 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @07:18AM (#141986)
    You say the sector is swamped with substandard
    workers who command ridiculous salries & benefits.

    Then you say that you prefer to work in a world
    where you get rewarded based on your performance.

    Which world is it? One that pays substandard
    people high salaries? One that pays based on
    performance?

  • Perhaps you are right. Maybe unions should be something you join based on your hometown or your gender or alma mater or something. That way you'd be associated with a union before you enter into a contract with a business. All slashdotters in Seattle could be part of Slashdotters Local 102 and refuse to work for Microsoft unless Microsoft agrees to a minimum contract and promises to port Age of Empires to Linux.

    Also, there is no doubt that the government can f-up the free marketplace. For example, if a company is going to break strikes with axe handles, I don't like the fact that the union can't hire these guys [sofmag.com] to take out a couple of recacitrant management types. And, don't even start on the second ammendment issues... if the supply wasn't kept artificially low due to those anti-2nd amendment laws, then maybe unions could afford to buy a few Stingers to make the CEO's LearJet a less attractive option for commuting to his new 3rd world sweatshop. ;)

    On the other hand, perhaps a better solution is to have an independent entity to establish some ground rules that benefit both the union and the company. If you think that independent entity unfairly favors business then vote Democrat, if you think that independent entity unfairly favors unions then vote Republican, if you want to retreat from the real world vote Libertarian.

    Having said all this, I don't necessarily support unions and, in particular, I have real trouble seeing the need for a union in a real high-tech shop. In other words, I'd happily argue the opposite of the argument I'm trying to make here. However, one point stands, capitalism only works when there is a rough equality among the parties engaging in the market (9/10ths of the reason the SEC exists to to insure all investors have an equal access to the information that affects the stock market {essay question: good for capitalism or bad. discuss. 20pts.}) and I happen to believe that the government can, occasionally, help maintain this equality.

  • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @06:35AM (#142004)
    It seems to me that you accept your working conditions when you accept the job, pay, benefits, etc.. You shouldn't be complaining about them after you are hired.

    Wow! That takes care of the OSHA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and all sexual harassment laws. What the fuck, you probably could get rid of murder and rape laws if an asshole lawyer could convince a jury that these crimes were part of the "working conditions" of the job.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't entirely trust unions any more than I entire trust the upper management of the company I work for. But any good capitalist has to believe in competition and that's all that unions are... competition with management.

  • Except that when I feed the poor, I am, in fact, a saint.

    When I demand that you be forced to feed the poor, I am, in fact, a communist.

    So really, the bishop had nothing to complain about. He was being described correctly in both cases.

  • by RobertAG ( 176761 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:35AM (#142006)
    ... when I was employed by a State University. It was an interesting place. On one hand you have job security and benefits.

    On the other hand, since EVERYONE is considered equal, EVERYONE gets the same 3% (or less) annual pay raise. Luckily, I worked for a manager who fought for double digit pay raises for me, since I possessed a valuable skill set and was willing to work hard. I've seen people who in management positions, who were promoted simply because all the talented people had moved to better jobs. During one six month period during the time I was employed, almost the entire LAN systems staff quit.

    I've seen people get shuffled off to meaningless jobs because they do the absolute minimum to stay employed. Firing someone for incompetence almost takes an act of God.

    In the end, I realized if I wanted to something more than a 35 hour a week job with limited professional prospects - don't get me wrong, the pay and benefits taken together were a decent package - I needed to find a place where people are valued for what they contribute, not for longevity of service.

    Now I know this shift entails taking on a lot of risk and uncertainty, but this is the way I want it. With greater risk and uncertainty, the rewards can be had. I shouldn't have to have a set lifestyle forced down my throat, which is what a union would do to me. In my opinion, life is by definition uncertain. There are pitfalls and hazards everywhere. It's up to us to navigate our way through it.
  • My environment is alot different. The management is ok, but the people I work with, both contractors and employees are competent and enjoy their work.

    Also, I'm not trying to brag at all. I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to illustrate that my job isn't anything like being in some pipefitters or auto worker union. The only union influence i see is during salary negotiation and via benefits.

  • Thank you for reading my post, I think you are the only one to do so.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @05:42AM (#142011)
    No, I'm not.

    Due to the nature of my appointment, I am not allowed to strike by law.

    If I decide I want alot more money, I'll start consulting, and increase my salary to around 120k.

    Apparently YOU have been paying WAY too much attention to the right-wing propaganda and Alger Hiss road to riches stories to. It's also very cool that you have managed to be successful and raise start a family already. I consider that quite an accomplishment.

    I haven't bought into the whole philosophy at all, but I've worked at a couple of tech companies and noticed alot of differenes. At my last job, my time was their time. I was compensated well and was in a responsible and interesting job. But I was responsible for things at 2am on saturday or during thanksgiving dinner without compensation. I am still responsible for things now, but get paid when i have to sacrifice my time. And now that it costs money, alot of 'mission critical' things are no longer 'mission critical' at 3am.

    If you were put on this earth to toil and sweat to make others rich, god bless you. My 401k needs more people like you. But my loyalties lie with my familiy, myself and my friends, not my employer.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @06:56AM (#142012)
    Please. Tell that to the 20,000+ people laid off from Intel in the last ten years in order to avoid having to pay for benefits & pensions.

    The biggest problem in the technology industry is that 3733t techies like yourself do not realize that your jobs will be obsoleted by computers, new technology & cheap foreign labor in another 10 years. We are paid inflated wages because of a tight labor market. Once the market adjusts, 100k java programmers will be a thing of the past.

    And don't tell me I have no ambition. I have gone very far very fast in this agency and will go farther.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:33AM (#142013)
    I'm a Programmer/Network Specialist for a state government agency, and required to join a Union.

    I pay like $30/month but that includes good dental and vision benefits. I also get up to $2000 a year for tuition reimbursement through the union.

    It's a great deal; I'm getting paid a good salary for interesting work, I'm not a slave, have a great pension plan (which is guaranteed by the state constitution) and 401k-like plan and am getting a free master's degree.

    The union isn't a be-all end-all, but it serves a purpose. Unless you are a "superstar" who sacrifices his social life to keep completely up-to-date on the hottest tech fads, it is impossible to negotiate a good deal with a large corporation or government agency.

  • How many IT workers have another *really* saleable skill.

    Very true, although you could have one of those guys who is (likely) a rocket scientist or a heart surgeon, along with being a expert classical musician (violin and piano), who then decided to have a computerized research center running the proverbial Beowulf cluster in an "out" building separate from the main house.

    Sort of a modern day Doctor Frankenstein, I guess.

    ;-)

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • Yeah, and you really think a union could correct your superiors' design decisions?! What are you smoking? A union would bring you a seniority-based promotion structure, perhaps better wages but also required dues, strike threats over issues that may not affect you, and endless politics that would get in the way of doing good work. Precisely the opposite of the "merely competent" workers' paradise you describe!

    Your other suggestion, setting up shop on your own, makes more sense. If (as I suspect) there are smart people willing to buy your services, you'll do much better!

  • This is a good point. A professional association (of "nerds that matter" ?) could set standards of quality work that members would uphold and be a mark of quality - and could also include standards on working conditions that would be useful for tech workers who feel exploited by those who, for example, demand excessive overtime.
  • by MadMaximus ( 200549 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @02:53AM (#142022)
    ...are unionized and are going on strike

    http://atlantic.globaltv.com/mar/news/stories/ne ws -82312620010616-080643.html
  • Yes I am in a union. I have been in the past and intend to be so in the future.

    Unions are not perfect and never have been, but it does not take a lot of looking at history to see how many things I have are as a result of union activity. Health and Safety at work, sick pay, various pension rights, industrial tribunals, and so on. It does not take much looking at recent history to see how much we are loosing as the result of the weakening of union power over the last 15 years.

    I realise that union bashing appears to be a national sport among the US readers on slashdot. I never understood it myself. Even in the US the union movement has had an important role to play in many industries.

    Phil

  • "Medical benefits? Job security? Work safety regulations? Don't make me laugh. "

    I don't know about the US but in the UK the health and safety executive was pushed through due to support from the union movement, in the teeth of opposition from many who said it would cost business too much.

    The reality has been a large drop in the rate of industrial accidents, and compensation awards for those who have been injured as the result of company negligence.

    So yes the unions have bought me work safety regulations.

    Medical benefits. Here the union movement has also had its role. Certainly it was the risk of severe communal action following world war ii which resulted in the national health service. So yes medical benefits.

    And Job Security. The union movement also helped set up independant arbitration, and job tribunals, meaning that those suffering discrimination or unfair dismissal have a right to appeal. So yes job security as well.

    Unions are not perfect. Of course there is internal politics within the union. As there is within a political party, or a board of directors, of even on a shop floor. Unions could be better, and we should strive to improve them. But without them even as they are, things would be a hell of a lot worse.

    And I have worked in real jobs also. I got payed shit, and had one day contracts. At least nowadays the pay would have been better as the UK now has a minimum wage. Put in place as a result of campaigning by the unions....

    Phil

  • I'm a Programmer/Network Specialist for a state government agency, and required to join a Union. ... I'm not a slave

    Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. You're not a slave? You're required to join a union, yet you're not a slave? What happens when:

    * You decide to get married/have a kid/make a big purchase like a house, and you want to negotiate a raise?
    * You decide that your health benefits don't cut it, and you'd like more?
    * Your union decides to go on strike, and the company (God bless their souls -- the very company that's employing you, in your case it's the taxpayers) decides they don't like your demands. You'll get strike pay and be forced to not work.

    And you're not a slave ?

    The union isn't a be-all end-all, but it serves a purpose

    I'd like to know EXACTLY what purpuse you feel it serves. I think we at Slashdot could all use an education. Apparently, I'm missing the boat here -- after all you're getting a higher purpose for only $30 a month.

    Unless you are a "superstar" who sacrifices his social life to keep completely up-to-date on the hottest tech fads, it is impossible to negotiate a good deal with a large corporation or government agency.

    Apparently, you've been paying way too much attention to that propaganda they've been sending you. I'm a 26 year old. I'm married, and I have 2 beautiful kids. I've been in the 'building good software' business for 8 years. I didn't graduate from college [bbspot.com], and I ain't no 'superstar' as you put it. Apparently, I was put on this earth to prove you wrong... just to be the 'monkey in the wrench' as it were... because I've earned every penny through hard work, sweat, and determination. I didn't have anyone negotiate for me, and nobody told me what to do. After all, isn't that what this country was founded on [britannica.com]?

  • Thanks for a thoughtful and lucid comment. I think you made a lot of good points.

    I have to disagree with your comment about seniority, however. You wrote: It makes sense that the longer you work for a company you should make more money.

    I don't see that as a given. The two primary factors that logically influence someone's pay are (a) how much they are contributing to the company and (b) supply and demand with regard to the position. If someone's contribution to the company indeed increases over time, then yes, it makes sense for him to make more as he gains more seniority. But I'm sure lots of folks here have seen how this can backfire -- working for companies where people who have been around for a long time are the ones on cruise control, drawing fat salaries and contributing little of real value. It's very important to distringuish between, on the one hand, seniority that leads to more experience, better decisions, better understanding of the company and its customers, and so on, and on the other hand, seniority that simply means time served.

    One other thing: You mentioned the mistaken "idea that a union comes from the outside and does things to its members." In some cases things can happen this way. For example, right now some TAs at the University of Washington are unionized, and the union is demanding the right to negotiate on behalf of all the TAs. I recognize the right of the union to organize some employees, but I dispute the premise that an employee should be put under the union umbrella if he doesn't want to be. Personally I prefer to negotiate for myself.

  • In IT, you have a too few workers. Last I heard there weren't enough programmers or elec. engineers to meet the demand of growing technology idustries.
    Tell that to all the engineers here at Intel who are getting laid off left and right. Even the college grads who thought they had a job lined up here are getting a bonus to not come to work. And now it seems they're planning for even more layoffs than previously expected.

    Electrical/Computer engineering is a really unstable career field. Your employability is directly related to the current economic conditions, much more so than most other jobs. It's been like this for years. Back in the early 90's, you couldn't get a job anywhere as an engineer. People thought I was crazy when I told them I was majoring in EE, and said I'd be working in fast food with my EE degree. By the time I got out, the economy was doing great so of course there was no problem finding jobs, but suddenly it's reverted back to the way it was in the early 90's. What really pisses me off is how, during the late 90's, all the employers were pissing and moaning about how there weren't enough qualified tech workers, and that they needed to lift immigration caps to import more people from India, but just a few years earlier they refused to hire anyone with a tech degree. Why would people go into a field like that if they're not going to be employed?
  • Moving closer to work would cost about $600 more, per month in rent.

    I live 2 blocks off the ocean and get fresh air, ran 5 miles last night, and usually bike 30-35 miles in the mountains each Sunday. The city I work in was 90 degrees yestertay, expected hotter today, it was a very comfortable 65 degrees at home.

    Work is in a city which has air brown enough to see as I descend into the valley in the morning. I watch the brown crud rise several hundred feet during the day, just before I escape back home.

    If the air doesn't get you, the traffic probably will. Some of the most dense traffic in the country.

    The only public transit would take about 2 hours each way, taking away my time for a workout which doesn't require a club membership.

    If I could telecommute then I could eat during breaks and run or bike during lunch.

    If I could telecommute then I could save ~$160 per month in gas and contribute less to greenhouse gases and air pollution.

    2 months ago I bought a used Dodge Dakota with a 4 cyl, 5sp. I get about 25 mpg on 87 octane. Much better than the 20 mpg/92 octane car which is now semi-permanently parked (tho the old car did the hills in 5th gear and the truck sometimes needs to dip into 3rd)

    The answer really is for employers to understand that employees make a commitment to more than just their 8 hours (as per the subject, anything over is time and a half), they commit to a commute, long or short. Mine happens to be long, many of my coworkers have a longer commute. One flies in each week.

    Management and Labor need to move beyond 1920's thinking. Particularly for those whose work could be done at home a few days a week. From organized labor's point of view, the worker is getting a better deal. From management's point of view, if they don't do the work then take away the carrot or fire 'em and hire someone who does.

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:04AM (#142053) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I'm in a union. Came with the job, as all positions non-admin are in this public institution. It's got pros and cons. One con, atm, is trying to get telecommuting approved. Rather than treat us as professionals it's more of an US vs. THEM deal where each side seems to expect the other will exploit the workers. Unreal and a real pain, since I spend 2 Hrs and $8 in gas commuting each day.

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • I've seen the good the band and the ugly of unions. I've known a number of people who were members of the UMW. At least one of them is still alive because of safety rules put in place because of the union. On the other hand I've seen a Union voted out of a company after management was able to keep a plant operating with a tenth of the staff during a strike. Of course they staffed the plant with Engineers, but 1 engineer costs a lot less than 10 Union technicians. (Putting the engineers on the line had one other unintended consequence, over the next year, based on their experience on the line, the engineers were able to redesign processes and add automation that dramatically reduced staffing in the plant and improve production rates and quality. Engineers NEED to spend time on the line.)

    On the other hand, I'm pushing fifty. Five years ago after 3 months of coding 14+ hours a day 6+ days a week I wound up in the hospital at 3:00 a.m. with chest pains. Turned out to be a panic attack, not a heart attack. The cardiologist identified my as a programmer near a deadline from the symptoms. Turns out he sees 2 or 3 programmers a week having sever physical symptoms as the result of the stress of to many hours spent coding, too much caffeine, and to little sleep.

    When I told my manager that I was under doctors orders to cut back my work hours to something near normal (40 hours a week) I was fired.

    I am not a fan of Unions. But, I know that programmers are being exploited. So what if we make 2 or 3 times the average salary in the US. What good is that if you work 2 or 3 times as many hours to get it? What good is it if you can't keep working as a programmer when you are 40+ years old? What good is it if you burn out, freak out, or simply die?

    The problem is that good programmers program because they love it. And that love is being exploited.

    Now, when I interview for a job I tell people up front that if they are looking for someone to spend 60+ hours a week coding then don't hire me 'cause I won't do it. It makes it a lot harder to find jobs... But, I've managed. In some ways it seems to make me more valuable in the eyes of management.

    Some days I still program for 12+ hours a day. But, when I do no more than 8 of those hours are for someone else. The rest is for me.

    StoneWolf

  • I am an independent IT consultant and I will do everything I can and spend everything I have to in order to ensure that unions don't make it into IT.

    The reason is very simple. Unions and their employees don't like non-union competition. If a company unionizes, they will not hire consultants. They won't be able to for fear of their union employees striking/walking out/whatever you want to call it.

    For those companies that do hire consultants, the unionized workers will be hostile towards the consultants. This is due to the "Remember the Union Label" team-based, all-else-is-heresy mentality that goes along with unions. I've worked in them (before I went into IT), so I know.

    Here's another problem with unions--they tend to be specialized. No sooner after the IT union is formed, will we see the DBA union, the UI Interface Union, the Tech Writer's Union... You think it's hard enough to get things done now? You can forget it with several different factions.

    And don't even think of prototyping your application against MySql or Access or some other stand-alone database. You're in the Application Developer's Union, and the database boys are gonna get pissed.

    That's not an unreasonable scenario--just ask anyone who works in construction or similar industry where multiple unions all work on the same project. It's a mess, it slows development/work down, and it needlessly drives up costs.

    It's simple. Unions are bad for IT.
  • With a brand new baby I found it nearly impossible to keep up with the demanding schedule of my last job. As is the case in most programming jobs, tight deadlines resulted in many unexpected overtime hours. (ie: can you stay an extra couple of hours?) This unpredictability and lack of compensation for extra time worked added way too much stress to my already busy life. I began searching for another job in the area and eventually landed a unionized programming job with the provincial government. (Ontario) I can honestly say I love my new job! Compensated overtime, a fair salary (48k CDN for 1.5 years experience, PowerBuilder and Java), 3 weeks vacation, training and a large team of experienced (contract employees) programers to work with. I have more time with my family, more take home pay and a slue of benefits. I still work hard, but my level of stress is way down and as a result I'm much happier. As far as I'm concerned, for a family man or woman a unionized IT job is a great option.

  • >it sucks the way some IT workers are expected
    >to give up their lives for some company.

    It sucks the way that *most* people in *most* jobs or professions, especially corporate drones, are expected to subsume their entire existence into The Company... unlike most others, tech workers have much greater opportunities to say "stuff that for a game of soldiers" and up and and leave for somewhere employees are treated as human beings... many other people don;t seem to have that choice (except those blue-collar workers who are expected to work strictly the hours they're paid for, with no real expectation of loyalty on either side - both know that the other is only there for them until a better job | the next recession comes along. The middle classes, despite what Scott Adams hoped, seems not to have learnt that lesson.
    --
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"


  • >Of course, the norwegian law sucks in the way that in some professions you
    >are automatically a union-member, and the union provides funds for the
    >election-campaign of the Labour-party in Norway. This means that
    >some people are forced to support the Labour-party with their union-fees.

    Yeah, that sucks alright, but isn't it contrary to EU law? Oh, wait a second - Norway voted 'no', didn't they...
    --
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"

  • Oh, sure, I just object to listening to PMs who wouldn't no recursion if it bit them on the arse talking down the phone databases that will "ping an email to the client" (true story!!) Let the PHBs hav their little empires, but include me out.
    --
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"
  • by imipak ( 254310 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:45AM (#142075) Journal
    Someone suggested the other day (in the 'dot-commers in homeless shelters [slashdot.org] story) that

    I completely agree. We, the computer literate - geeks, nerds, hackers, whatever you want to call yourself - I'd say the /merely competent/ for modern living -- should rise up, overthrow the clueless PHBs, the cookbook programmers in it for the money, the middle managers who choose our tools based on marketing hype and FUD, and (presumably) institute the First Republic of Hackers (something like the Republic of Perl?)

    I've been hearing whispers that my employer is looking at a wholesale switchover to Java from mod_perl, entirely for marketing-driven reasons. Our intranet runs on ASPs and of course is a pile of shit - yet is touted as a "leading edge project management tool" in our PR guff. It goes on, and on, and on... putting massive investment into mobile data and WAP when any idiot could have seen months ago that it was dead in the water... drenching everything in Flash, unreadble arty fonts, blandest-of-the-bland 'Design'... and all the other signifiers of lameness [demon.co.uk].

    It makes me sick - not just that it happens here, in what is supposed to be a nimble, aggressive young startup, but that it's seen as the norm, as something every company must aspire towards. Sadly, it seems that they're right to believe that our potential customers (blue-chip corporates) won't take us seriously without a sufficiently stinky pile of marketing bullshit in the pitch.

    The hell with it, I say. I'm sick of explaining to these people why security is a Good Thing, or why it's Bad to have webpages that only work in IE 5 and above. Think I'm going to go work for myself in a bit, but (to get back on topic) a union of tech workers should stand up for those values. (Those SORT OF values, that is, rather than the things which just flew off the top of my head just then!) That's the sort of union I'd join, not one that threatens a nationwide PHP-monkey strike if their demands for at least two free soft drinks a day are not met... ("It'll hoit, buster, it'll hoit!" -HHGttG)
    --
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"

  • You will find that if you are paid on a salary basis (i.e. you don't have to clock in, and you are not docked for missing less than one day) in the computer industry you have no right to expect overtime pay.

    Actually I think that the salaried exemption is only for "certain salaried managers." Unfortunately, most companies find some legal loophole to classify their salaried employees as managers, regardless of whether they truly are or not. Fortunately, my company pays straight-time for OT to salaried workers (and 1.5 times for hourly workers), so it all works out fine.
  • "seniority tends to get be emphasized over ability."

    So people keep on saying, and backing up with little evidence.


    Having been in a union before, I can vouch for this statement. Promotions and transfers were always based solely upon 2 considerations:

    1. Is the applicant for the promotion/transfer physically able to do the job?

    2. Which of the applicants for the promotion/transfer has the most seniority.

    I've only worked in one union, but from my dealings with other people who have been union members I get the rather strong impression that this is the norm for unions.

    Unions reward loyalty, not ability. Unions exist to ensure that all employees are treated as equally as possible. In order to do this, everybody must be compensated equally. So there is a scale devised that compensates workers at a greater rate as their length of service increases. There is no such thing as the smart, young hotshot who can "do-it-all" in a union shop.

    Another common union provision is "job security." If you are a produce worker in a union grocery store, the store can't have one of the cashiers cover for you while you are at lunch. It's forbidden by union rules. So the job goes unfulfilled unless you are there to do it. In the technical community there is typically a fair amount of overlap in ability between departments. But with the union notion of job security, a desktop technician couldn't troubleshoot a networking issue related to a desktop PC. A web developer would need to have the DBAs create all the queries for the web front-end that they were designing.

    Unions are breeding grounds for inefficiency.
  • The right of free association is too precious to allow it to be trampled on by out of control multinationals.

    I generally agree with you. Free association is very important. But I don't think that trying to unionize a plant or other business location falls under the category of free association. You are certainly free to meet with union people, talk with them, and even discuss joining. But when a shop goes union, everybody in the shop is usually forced to go union, even those who wish to choose not to associate with union folks. So why is it that your freedom of association can infringe on my freedom of association?

    Furthermore, how is closing down a site and moving it to another city infringing on your freedom to associate with whoever you choose? You can still meet with your union buddies all you want, you just can't do it in my shop.
  • by 9sPhere ( 366435 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:15AM (#142107) Homepage
    My wife is a "line worker" at Delphi Automotive (formerly a division of GM). They used to be UAW, then Electronic Workers, now their CWA. Would someone please explain what welding and webmaster have in common (besides the w)? Their union "representation" keeps bankrupting its own strike funds, and squandering union dues on personal expenses, then merging with another union only to go through their money as well.

    Unions are like locusts, and thats not the kind of problem I need at my job, thanks.

  • by DuncanMurray ( 448670 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @03:04AM (#142121) Homepage
    Quick question for the midnight coders out there - how many years till you retire? Can you keep up this pace when your 30.. 40.. 50.. I'm not a great fan of Unions at the best of times, but it sucks the way some IT workers are expected to give up their lives for some company. If I'm going to burnout - I'll do it making ME rich, not my boss.
  • by cyberlync ( 450786 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @04:31AM (#142123)

    Unions are built on the premise that workers rights need to be protected, and workers need to be compensated fairly. These are very laudable ideals and, in many industries, are still needed. IT, however, is not one of those industries.

    For lack of a better term, IT is a talent based industry. You move ahead by knowing more or doing better then those others around you. You negotiate contracts that are individual to you and that compensates you for your skill level. If working conditions become harsh you may leave and get work somewhere else, usually pretty easily.

    This concept of an individual worker being responsible for himself is the antithesis of what the unions are about. Unions are about the collective, about everyone being treated the same, about making it difficult to fire people, about contract negotiations en mass. These are concepts that are foreign to IT, and rightfully so.

    As an IT worker I want to be paid based on my talent. If there is someone that has been with a company for 30 years and is mediocre at his job then I want to be promoted passed him and compensated better. Seniority means nothing if the person does not retain their edge and continually keep updated.

    I also want to negotiate my contract. I do not want to share a contract with every other IT person in the company. Then the contract is based on the lowest common denominator. So if I was in a union I might get a 3% or 4% raise where if I negotiated myself I would probably get between 8% and 12%.

    Unions support the collective, IT is based around individuals and individual talent. They are mutually exclusive in my opinion.

  • by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2001 @02:54AM (#142126) Homepage
    Isn't that some kind of SQL command?

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