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Tech Workers of the World Unite? 1254

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

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  • by teshuvah ( 831969 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:39PM (#15311425)
    They were a necessary evil when the Industrial Revolution came about, but now they're just an unnecessary evil. The unions are nothign more than legal mafias. Just look at GM. I have 2 family members who work there. My brother-in-law is a toolmaker, and his job consists of playing cards, working out, watching TV, and taking naps. Oh, and for about an hour out of the day he actually has to do some actual work like reset a machine or something. Poor guy only makes $35/hour after being there for a year. He started at $28 an hour. He has no college degree either, so GM is paying for him to get his journeyman's card, and pays for him to attend school (pays for the school plus his hourly wage why he is there). Up until recently, he could take as much overtime as he wanted, including double and sometimes triple time on Sunday. Guess what he pays for family health insurance? $0.00 a month. I guess this is why GM is so financially sound, oh wait.......
  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <(wgrother) (at) (> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:52PM (#15311597) Journal

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

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

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

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

  • by LordKazan ( 558383 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:54PM (#15311623) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps you should look up the definition of communism. Labor unions don't fit it. Labor Unions are collective bargaining organizations that use the power of the collective to increase the leverage of the employees to be on a level playing field
  • You're not worth every penney- you're worth the $2.50/hr your job can be done in India for.

    Oh yes, and if all of us tech workers in America join a union, I'm sure it'll make those folks in India look that much less attractive! That's what we need in this country -- make us even more expensive to hire.

    So once all the good jobs get outsourced, which shift at Wal-Mart do you want to take? I assume you'll have to check with your manager down at Mickey D's first...
  • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @04:05PM (#15311774) Homepage
    Unions have good and bad aspects to them
    That being said, at one of my first tech jobs, I was the newest person in the office. After I had been there a year, they did a layoff. I survived, I wouldn't have in a union because they would have gone by seniority. The people they got rid of were mostly the unproductive people.
    But the real deal is this- if tech employees unionize, you will see tons and tons of jobs go overseas, and more tech places in right to work states.
    One funny story- I worked at a newspaper website right after college, and they would send the stories over at 430 am from the unionized production dept, and the guy who sent them would leave for home right after. I would get into work at 530, and look for the feed. If the guy had forgot to send the stories, or had messed it up, I had to call a manager at home and wake him up (I couldn't call the production dept because I am was nonunion, so I could only talk to management) The manager would have to call the union guy at home, he would have to drive back into work (making OT) and send the feed. No one else was allowed to do his job, even though it was very simple to send the stories. So the site wouldn't be populated with stories until around 830 am. I hear that the process is now completely automated (this was back in 1999), but how ridiculous is that? It screwed all the people who liked to read the paper online first thing in the AM when they got to work....
    Anyway, unions have clearly been great for GM and Ford!!!!
  • Re:Heck no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @04:22PM (#15311992) Homepage Journal
    that statment is laughable at best.

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

    As someone in a union, I can assure you people who don't do their jobs are removed.
  • I am in a union! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11, 2006 @04:27PM (#15312051)
    I work for a state government and my agency is unionized. It's no different than working in a non-union environment as far as I can tell except I get significantly better benefits and my employer is required to follow a specific procedure if they want to get rid of me - if they don't follow that procedure then the union has my back and will hire lawyers and go to battle for me. We get to re-negotiate our contract every few years and if I want to be a part of that I can run in an election to represent my area on the negotiating team from my agency. If I don't want to be that involved I can go talk to my represenative and tell them what I want to see happen. I get all of this in exchange for something like 1% of my income in union dues - to me it seems like a deal. I know that if my supervisor doesn't like me for whatever reason they can't just fuck me over. I know that if my agency decides to outsource IT like so many businesses in the area have been over the past three years they can't because it would violate their contract with the union. I know that if I want anything in the contract to change I can have a fair say in it. I know that if I ever see something shady going on I can bring it to the union.
      The only real draw backs I've found are that getting hired here took a lot longer than other places because the union requires a committee based process and that things like bonuses are out of the question.

      I was pretty skeptical about being in a union before I got the job - I bought into the whole "union=lazy" rhetoric, actually being in a union and seeing how it really works has changed my mind. We don't have any more lazy or incompetent people than anywhere else I've worked and not only are we unionized, we're "state workers" too so if you believe the hype we should be twice as lazy as all you poor suckers in non-unionized private industry. Guess what, we're not!
  • Slacker programmers (Score:3, Informative)

    by xeno-cat ( 147219 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @04:42PM (#15312239) Homepage
    I have worked in tech. for over 15 years and it is filled with lazy, ignorant, prima donnas that entrench themselves in cozy little positions and act like the company would come unglued if they ever left. I've seen these people quit over silly management disputes and the company moves on without a hitch. I doubt highly that unions could make things any worse.

    In fact it could potentialy make things better by working out a compensation package that is based on... _actual merrit_. Then your precious salary would be safe because clearly you will be in the top percental of valuable contributors and so take home most of the bacon.

    Unions can actually work out solutions to problems so as to benefit a company and the people in it. It's about having the leverage to negotiate.

    Yours and others line of opposition sounds firghteningly ignorant.

    Kind Regards
  • by timster ( 32400 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:09PM (#15312592)
    The point with GM, which you seem to have missed, is that it's an example of how unions cannot prevent jobs from moving overseas by preventing a single individual company from outsourcing. The individual company's customers can simply choose to buy from overseas producers.

    Also, I did not and do not claim as fact that unionization is what causes unionized businesses to fail at an increased rate; please read my statements more carefully. However, I would be interested in a counter to that point if you have one. Otherwise please look up "quidquid Latine dictum sit altum viditur".

    Mostly you haven't taken care to address my points, so I don't have much in the form of rebuttal. However, I must take issue with a factual error:

    No. We have low numbers of people collecting unemployment insurance. The "unemployment rate" does not and has not ever measured the true unemployment rate.

    This is a lie told by those who wish to portray a failing economy; it's surprising how many people believe it. Snopes has a decent article at [], and they link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • by General Fault ( 689426 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:11PM (#15312609)
    "As for "rotten economy": I have to call FUD on that one. The stock market is near an all time high, and unemployment is near an all time low."

    I have been debating this with myself and others for a couple of weeks now. Im not saying that you are wrong, but here are some things to consider.

    In my area house pices have doubled in the last 5 years. (I just bought a 1200 sq ft fixer upper home for 1/2 million and got "a good deal" by standards of the local market)
    Gold, Silver, Gas, the price of a stamp, and most other commodities have also doubled in the last 5-10 years.
    The stock market has finally reached the same point that it was at 5-7 years ago.

    So, if the price of most everything has doubled but the value of your portfolio is the same as it was 6 years ago, then you can take your expensive all time high stock and sell it to buy a sock or perhaps a spoon-full of gas.

    On your second point:
    If people are unemployed for a long period of time, they eventually tend not to report it (by law in many cases).
    There were at least 60000 layoffs in the auto industry this year alone. Additionally there were thousands of people put out of work by the major hurricanes of the year and a few thousand more people layed of in the airline industry. I have not heard of any major hiring trends this year. So, how can the job numbers be getting better? It just does not seem to add up.

  • by kevlar ( 13509 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:27PM (#15312791)
    It's called a housing bubble, my friend. It's when a large amount of people take out negative ammortization loans or interest only loans trying to build and flip the property quickly for a profit. The construction industry booms until interest rates climb and suddenly a couple of Joes in your neighborhood need to sell their house below market value because they can't afford their variable interest rate mortgage. All it takes is for a couple people in your neighborhood to do that to tank the value of every house over night and ruin everyones "on paper" equity in their homes. Once their equity depreciates, they won't move anywhere for a few years until their equity is in the black. If nobody sells their existing house, then nobody buys new construction and there go all those beautiful unionized construction jobs. In the 80's it took the housing market about 10 years to recover. In other words, someone who bought their house in '86 couldn't sell it for a profit until '96. This pertains roughly to the North East and obviously there are exceptions.

    The booming construction industry is entirely functioning on borrowed money and symbolic equity that doesn't entirely exist. There will be a correction soon (unfortunately). Every area is different so the magnitude of the adjustment will differ by geography.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:52PM (#15313019) Homepage Journal
    This is where I think you get into the false conclusions.

    Do you really think that the engineering teams at U.S. automakers are so inept they can't take apart a Toyota and see how it's made? They have whole labs just for doing that. (Coincidentally, so does Toyota, and every other manufacturer.) Trust me, they know exactly how one is built. There's no secrets. Outside of maybe a few computer chips that aren't documented, everything inside cars today -- foreign and domestic -- is well understood by all parties involved.

    But most of the big manufacturers don't have the flexibility to build new plants to take advantage of new manufacturing techniques, because they're tied into employment contracts that make retooling plants much tougher. Going from frame-on construction to stamped uni-bodies, or from bolted together parts to robotically spot-welded, isn't something you just decide to do over a weekend. If you can do it without building an entirely new plant, you're lucky.

    Plants can't be retooled because employees can't easily be laid off; old plants are expensive to close, and new plants are almost prohibitively expensive to open.

    It's naive of anyone to just say "Americans don't know how to make cars." That's stupid; there's no magic that the Germans and the Japanese have and we don't. There's no reason that the Ford engineers would want to make crappy cars (and in all fairness, I don't think they do); every car design is a result of lots of tradeoffs, including what can be manufactured at a certain price point at a particular time.

    The U.S. auto industry is a behemoth, always lagging behind the times and wandering ponderously off in wrong directions, because it's almost impossible to steer. While some of that can be attributed to poor leadership, the root cause of the problem is just that there's a whole lot of dead weight that the foreign auto industries (particularly the Asian ones) don't have to deal with. If Kia wants to shutter a plant for six months so it can implement the latest robotic welders, it does; GM can't, although I think the unions are slowly getting with the program, and realizing that when the U.S. auto industry finishes its wounded-dinosaur routine and collapses, they're going to be squarely underneath.
  • []!

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

  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:58PM (#15313079) Homepage Journal

    And when you lose that war, do we get to kill you, or will we have to settle for enslaving you?

    Here's the beauty of economics. If the Chinese and the Indians truly do have a comparative advantage at creating software then that means that everyone that uses software will benefit as more software production is moved overseas. Sure, you'll have to find something else to do, but everyone that buys software will benefit. No one is going to go to war to preserve your job because chances are good that they will actually benefit from the shift.

    Hooray for economics!

    You can try and fight economics if you want, but its not likely to help. Free markets are as old as mankind, and even in places like the former Soviet Union, where the government tried to limit the power of the market, markets still had a very powerful influence on the economy. So declare war on India and China if you wish, just don't be surprised when your army turns out to be pathetically small, and full of deranged lunatics.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @07:52PM (#15313860) Homepage Journal
    I'll try and find some citations for this so I can share them. It's really quite deliberate. The basic form of current American public education (I can only REALLY speak for this place, of course) was laid down when we needed factory workers. Also I think it's clear that the no child left behind shit is designed to cater to the lowest common denominator. Hell, I was in a GATE program in elementary school, and they told me I couldn't participate in their astronomy fiddling because I wasn't old enough. If programs explicitly for gifted students aren't encouraging our children to learn, where ARE we? Answer: In the higher-class private schools that kids from families with money get to attend. They're taught to be shepherds, and everyone else is taught to be sheep.

A quarrel is quickly settled when deserted by one party; there is no battle unless there be two. -- Seneca