Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

BART Strike Provides Stark Contrast To Tech's Non-Union World

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the bofh-union-is-terrible-to-contemplate dept.

Businesses 467

dcblogs writes "The strike by San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers this week is a clear and naked display of union power, something that's probably completely alien to tech professionals. Tech workers aren't organized in any significant way except through professional associations. They don't strike. But the tech industry is highly organized, and getting more so. Industry lobbying spending has been steadily rising, reaching $135 million last year, almost as much as the oil and gas industry. But in just one day of striking, BART workers have cost the local economy about $73 million in lost productivity due to delays in traffic and commuting. Software developers aren't likely to unionize. As with a lot of professionals, they view themselves as people with special skills, capable of individually bargaining for themselves, and believe they have enough power in the industry to get what they want, said Victor Devinatz, a professor of management and quantitative methods at Illinois State University College of Business. For unions to get off the ground with software workers, Devinatz said, 'They have to believe that collective action would be possible vehicle to get the kinds of things that they want and that they deserve.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Cue anti-union rage (5, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44182557)

Unions seem to be blamed for everything wrong in the world of work on Slashdot but, even though I'm not a member because there isn't one at my company, I really appreciate the rights they have got for workers over the decades.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0, Troll)

jcr (53032) | about a year ago | (#44182613)

Yeah, like your right to pay for hookers and blow for mobsters and politicians, and your right to have one more massive blood-sucking operation slicing a chunk off your paycheck?

Give me a break.

-jcr

Re:Cue anti-union rage (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182759)

The grad student union at my university is responsible for me having health insurance. That was a while back, but not in the grand scheme of things. (I've actually never been able to find a date, but I get the sense it was a couple of decades ago.)

That's not a minor benefit even remotely.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (5, Funny)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | about a year ago | (#44182809)

I've actually never been able to find a date, [...]

What is this, slashdot punbaiting?

Re:Cue anti-union rage (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about a year ago | (#44182837)

The grad student union at my university is responsible for me having health insurance.

More like, they took credit for it. The people actually responsible for it are those who paid for it, which is some combination of yourself, your employer, and the students who pay tuition to the school.

-jcr

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182993)

he said labor unions, not banks

captcha: penitent

Re: Cue anti-union rage (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183091)

No, smartass, how about the 40-hour work week? Holiday pay? Vacations? Overtime pay? Unemployment insurance? Compensation for injuries sustained while on the job? And all of the other benefits that we have that we take for granted that exist because working people organized into unions, fought for those rights, were beaten, murdered, threatened and coerced, and still managed to pry those rights from the cancerous, blood-soaked claw of the wealthy and privileged.

Corruption can exist in _any_ organized group of human beings. With unions, at least their is some semblance of democracy. You vote for leadership, you vote on bargaining, you vote on dues. A union is democracy in the workplace.

The American dream is dead, long live the European dream.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182677)

I'm not a member because I'm a developer and employers practically will suck my dick to work for them. There should almost be a union to protect companies that are hiring tech workers.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (5, Interesting)

ebubna (765457) | about a year ago | (#44182815)

Yup. The amount of anti-union disinformation being spread here (I live in the East Bay) is insane. Blaming the unions while ignoring the boot of the upper class on your throat isn't going to help anything, folks.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#44182897)

Yup. The amount of anti-union disinformation being spread here (I live in the East Bay) is insane. Blaming the unions while ignoring the boot of the upper class on your throat isn't going to help anything, folks.

The thing is it's _so_ easy. There are countless examples of unions making the world a better place, and plenty of examples of union corruption making the world a worse place, so it's easy to back up any argument you care to make.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44183117)

Sort of, but ultimately overall you have to look at the big picture. Compare what things were like before and after unions and what things were like now as opposed to when unions were at their peak in the 60s and 70s.

You can always find individual anecdotes and examples, but the questions should be whether we're better off with or without unions and why is that the case.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44182987)

Yup. The amount of anti-union disinformation being spread here (I live in the East Bay) is insane. Blaming the unions while ignoring the boot of the upper class on your throat isn't going to help anything, folks.

Actually, it's going to help the upper class.

(I.e., the people who least need it.)

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183173)

The thing is, in this case, the union is pitted against a governmental organization, not a private corporation. So the concessions they're asking from are coming from taxpayers. And, in this case, BART workers are already among the highest paid in the country (see here [mercurynews.com] : notice station agents making close to $140k/yr) and BART is among the most expensive public transit systems in the country partly because of that...riding every day to work can easily run $300/mo.

So it's easy to see how the public would be very against this strike. It will result in higher taxes and fares for lots of people who make a lot less than the people striking. I'd actually like to hear what the argument is from those striking...they seem very fairly compensated to my mind.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44182843)

Sure, me too. My question is, what have they done for us lately? Answer, fuck-all. Let's see them, for example, push to increase the minimum wage, so that people can even afford their union goods and services. What, they don't want to do that, because they don't have to worry about the minimum wage? Except, as this particular conflict illustrates, they do. If the masses aren't receiving salary increases, why should union members? Why should anyone give one tenth of one shit about what union members are or aren't getting paid when the majority are getting paid far less and have no prospects for advancement to that level of pay?

Unions were a critical stage in worker's rights, after guilds. What comes next? Hopefully rights and protections for all workers which Union workers already receive. Because they were in a position to unionize (or, more commonly, because someone else unionized before they even considered a career in shit pipes or whatever union job they've got) they think that everyone else should solve their problems by unionizing. What a bullshit, agonizing, chucklefuck waste of time. How about we all fight for rights and protections for all workers, instead of just some people who work some jobs?

Re:Cue anti-union rage (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44183003)

So, any ideas other than do nothing? While do nothing is easy and doesn't suffer a lot of corruption, it doesn't have nearly as many accomplishments (such as workplace safety, 8 hour days and 40 hour weeks, etc) to it's name.

Wanna learn a bit about unions? Go lurk on message boards for people in various union jobs. You might learn something. For example, I have seen that more linemen die in non-union jobs than in union jobs because in non-union places they'll send under-qualified people up the pole where the distribution voltage is.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44183019)

Wanna learn a bit about unions? Go lurk on message boards for people in various union jobs. You might learn something.

What I know personally is that unions enshrine mediocrity. I would personally have been hired for specific jobs that were filled by lame union workers if they could have fired them.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183149)

Go lurk on message boards for people in various union jobs.

Sounds like an entirely neutral source of information -- NOT!

Re:Cue anti-union rage (5, Insightful)

bmarkovic (2676593) | about a year ago | (#44183197)

I know it's unpopular to say that, but if there weren't global-level pressures from socialist organizations you'd get fsckall of those 40-hour weeks and work safety. Unions solved (and still do) issues on trade by trade basis. Overall conditions of workers improved only when powers that were felt grass roots pressure from protesting and increasing number of people going the red route everywhere. The whole red scare thing was more-less designed to create a stigma over a whole concept of labour rights in the West, leaving trade Unions to become charades quite often. Tho, charming personalities like Stalin and Mao helped a lot. Nothing says an idea is broken better than pointing at a perverted, evil implementation of it.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (5, Informative)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44183011)

Sure, me too. My question is, what have they done for us lately? Answer, fuck-all. Let's see them, for example, push to increase the minimum wage, so that people can even afford their union goods and services. What, they don't want to do that, because they don't have to worry about the minimum wage?

Actually, unions have been among the strongest advocates of raising the minimum wage. Here [aflcio.org] , for example, is the AFL-CIO's position on this subject.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44183031)

Issuing a position paper? Wow, I am overwhelmed by the strength of their support. Guess what? Those workers won't ever be in the street protesting the minimum wage in any significant numbers. They'll be working their union jobs, at substantially above minimum wage.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (4, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44183147)

You denied that unions favored increasing the minimum wage. I pointed out that you were wrong. Incidentally, a quick Google search shows 2,140 documents containing the phrase "minimum wage" on aflcio.org – that hardly speaks to an issue of peripheral concern.

Unions take public positions in favor of a higher minimum wage, and support elected officials who want to increase it. What else, exactly, do you propose they should be doing?

Re:Cue anti-union rage (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44183177)

You do realize that unions are the main organizations lobbying for workers rights, don't you? Just because they're working on many different things and not out in force every single weekend picketing something, does not mean that they aren't doing anything.

What's more, union workers don't necessarily make that much more than non-union workers. I remember making $3 over minimum wage at the last union job I worked which is still a sub-living wage for anybody that isn't single. And I don't think that people who work for UFCW members make absurd amounts of money either. I just passed by one of their pickets this after noon.

What's more, has it ever occurred to you that things would be even worse if not for the union influence? Thanks to decades of union busting, they aren't exactly as strong as they used to be.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182971)

Unions seem to be blamed for everything wrong in the world...

Yup, agree 110%. I wish the tech industry was unionised. But we're too arrogant to realize we
need help sometimes. Just 'cause we's edumicated, we think we're better. Not true at all.
Many software professionals go through very hard times when they want to start a family
mainly because of the "artificial" pressure to produce by their jobs.

People, too, seem to forget the reason your kid goes to school instead of the mill is because
of unions which helped get child labour laws passed in this country.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183085)

Listen, I come from a union family and unions today are not the same unions of yesteryear. Even if they were the fact of the matter is that unions had (and probably still do have) a backhanded way of doing things. There was a lot of undemocratic, uncivilized stuff that went down within the unions, with their relations with business and their relations with governments. While they did progress a lot of worker rights for their first few decades they have become more of a scam than anything anymore. Except for some very powerful unions, they're not much much more than a tax on those that the represent. When I worked for a union over two decades ago my dues were equivalent to the amount that first year works made above minimum wage with the average number of hours that they worked. I know it hasn't gotten any better.

Re:Cue anti-union rage (4, Interesting)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about a year ago | (#44183167)

Unions seem to be blamed for everything wrong in the world of work on Slashdot but, even though I'm not a member because there isn't one at my company, I really appreciate the rights they have got for workers over the decades.

I appreciate the rights they earned for workers myself, but I'm not in an union because unlike the rail workers of the 19th century, a software developer's job is pretty damn nice. If your job earns you enough money that you can support your family and put a little bit away for retirement, you can individually negotiate for more, but figuratively putting a gun to your employers' head by saying, "either pay me what I think I deserve or not only will I stop working, but every one of your other employees will as well" is unethical.

I think unions do have a place in our modern society today, but not in professional circles. They should be reserved for professions where you have no bargaining position. If you have to take a job that doesn't pay enough for you to live on, but the employer is taking advantage of the fact you have to eat in order to cause you to accept his offer, you may need to strengthen your position with group bargaining. If you earn $50k a year, then either accept that this is what you're worth, negotiate for a raise, or find another job. You're not at a disadvantage at the bargaining table if you don't have to wonder how you're going to pay for your next meal.

Unions are for cunts. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182609)

Lazy cunts.

Past their time (2, Insightful)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about a year ago | (#44182617)

Unions were good in the 1920s and 1930s. Now, they've priced the American worker out of the global labor market.

There's a reason that union membership is down to historic lows: all they do is take money out of workers' pockets to line the bosses' nests and send money to Democrat politicians.

Re:Past their time (2)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about a year ago | (#44182695)

Source?

Re:Past their time (4, Informative)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about a year ago | (#44182783)

Not hard to find. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that private sector union membership was down to 6.6%, and overall membership was 11.3%, compared to 20.1% as recently as 1983. The 6.6% was the lowest since 1932.

There are plenty of sources cited all over the net. A good place to start is this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Past their time (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#44182829)

In general union membership rises when companies start rolling over workers. Which is what happened during the early 20th, things got progressively better. And we'll probably see an increase again in the next decade especially as companies push for "more work for less pay" that's becoming the norm. Unions themselves though especially public sector unions have a serious credibility gap though.

Re:Past their time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183077)

No one questions that labour enrolment is down. The ~source~ that is needed is the one for your bullshit claims that labour unions have taken America out of the global labour market, and that "all they do" is line pockets of the management and the Dems.

But nice attempt to dodge. Now piss off with your bullshit claims.

Re:Past their time (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about a year ago | (#44182745)

"Now, they've priced the American worker out of the global labor market."

The American worker isn't priced out of the market. For example, we export BMWs to mainland China. We don't need many meat puppets and nut turners to do that.

The American worker is less NECESSARY because efficient businesses need fewer workers. Workers are an expensive burden, which is why even Foxconn is turning to robotics.

Re:Past their time (1, Insightful)

roarkarchitect (2540406) | about a year ago | (#44182959)

The worker who made the BMW works in South Carolina and isn't unionized. He/She makes a very good wage and doesn't have to put up with all of the union garbage.

Re:Past their time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183109)

Super expensive low quality health insurance has priced the American worker out of the market, excessive inflation gas prices and 100 usd books have made Americans overpriced while living sub standard quality of life, whith low wages and high costs from healthcare to traffic tickets from the surveillance state of America

Re:Past their time (4, Interesting)

mirix (1649853) | about a year ago | (#44182811)

The American worker will always be 'priced out of the global labor market', unless you want to work for a dollar a day.

Luckily there are tools to correct for this, like tariffs. We just don't use them properly because business owns the govn't.

Re:Past their time (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44183039)

The American worker will always be 'priced out of the global labor market', unless you want to work for a dollar a day.

Luckily there are tools to correct for this, like tariffs. We just don't use them properly because business owns the govn't.

Best Post.

Re:Past their time (2)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44182899)

Now, they've priced the American worker out of the global labor market.

Don't be naive. Just about anything that can be feasibly offshored to low-cost jurisdictions already has been. Those jobs that are still in the U.S. are here for a reason, and marginal changes in the costs of labor won't affect that. And many jobs in modern America are service jobs, which can't be offshored. You can't have your plumbing fixed by a guy from India.

People like to blame the unions for the decline of the U.S. Big Three auto companies, but in Germany and Japan, not only do the manufacturing companies have unions, but they are considerably stronger than they ever were here. (German unions even have seats on corporate boards.) Yet these high-wage, high-skill nations haven't been "priced out of the global labor market". They just don't build cheap crap with low margins.

Re:Past their time (4, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44183001)

Now, they've priced the American worker out of the global labor market.

From what I read about Germany, I don't think unions are the problem.

Re:Past their time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183017)

Go fuck yourself, you right-wing pothead. Keep your fucking bias to yourself.

Re:Past their time (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44183047)

They have not priced Americans out of the global market. Much larger economic and political forces have done that. Unless, of course, you can explain how anyone in America could possibly afford to work for $5/day even if permitted to.

OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (3, Insightful)

adturner (6453) | about a year ago | (#44182631)

You want to destroy innovation in the tech sector? I guarantee you the fastest way to do that is unionize the tech field.

Not True (4, Interesting)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44182691)

One of the reasons the Unionized Uk telephone system was modernized (well ahead on the US i might add) with no labour disputes was that all the M&P grades who developed the new technology where union members.
The CEO of one of the smaller uk telcos was even an activist in his younger days and I know that a CTO of one of the global telecoms companys was a member of my branch :-)

Re:Not True (2)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year ago | (#44182947)

You mean when BT was privatized? What are "M&P grades" for those of us not from the UK?

Re:Not True (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44183005)

Sorry BT speak M&P managerial and professional ie all the technical staff other than the "engineers" or Linemen in US terms

Re:Not True (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year ago | (#44183067)

Managerial and Professional:
http://www.yale.edu/hronline/careers/salary_mp.html

ie. like salaried and not hourly in the US -most IT in the US being salaried

-I'm just sayin'

Re:Not True (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183161)

Was that a government-mandated monopoly? Or still surviving on remnants from same?

Re:OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182719)

Thanks to the internet/telecommuting, it is easiest for them to offshore/outsource/hire H1B the entire tech division and not deal with unions...
BART workers at least have to physically there, so replacing them with H1B etc is a bit more difficult.

Re:OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182819)

Actually the BART is pretty much completely computer controlled. The drivers have a button to hold the doors open if they see someone running for the train, and can make announcements. I'm pretty sure they could be outsourced and no one would notice.

they seem to be like runing the autopilot system (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44182961)

they seem to be like running the autopilot system in aircraft and they some needs to be there to cover stuff that the autopilot can't handle

Re:OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44183123)

It may or may not be legal to run the trains without an operator on-board.

Re:OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#44182773)

I dunno - unions can drive innovation. The primary reason AT&T funded the development of Unix was to break the hold the union had on applying firmware upgrades to telecom components. "Hey, all these boxes already connect to our network, maybe we could use that in some way". Ken claims Unix was "a weak pun on Multics", but it works just as well as Union-X, the union-busting OS.

Re:OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#44182941)

I dunno - unions can drive innovation. The primary reason AT&T funded the development of Unix was to break the hold the union had on applying firmware upgrades to telecom components. "Hey, all these boxes already connect to our network, maybe we could use that in some way". Ken claims Unix was "a weak pun on Multics", but it works just as well as Union-X, the union-busting OS.

So unions drive innovation by creating a situation where they are an obstacle that needs to be overcome? The sarcasm is strong with this one.

Re:OMG, no please god no unions in Tech (5, Insightful)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | about a year ago | (#44183007)

So, I'm a sysadmin in a union shop. The upside to being in a union is that it's harder to get fired for speaking out when management is doing something stupid. The downside is that people get complacent about their jobs. For example, when management wanted our VB programmers to learn VB.NET because we're phasing out VB6, they all said "no." In practical terms, that means that management is either going to have to find something else for them to do (such as application administration) or figure out how to let them go (which is going to be very painful indeed, for everyone).

US vs World (4, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about a year ago | (#44182641)

You know that this is pretty much US only? In Germany where I worked all of the engineers were unionized.

Granted the unions seem to be quite a bit different. The UAW is quite a bit different than most of the German unions I worked with.

OH RLY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182653)

> "capable of individually bargaining for themselves, and believe they have enough power in the industry to get what they want, "

How's that H1B situation treating you?

WTF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182699)

Lobbyists fight for the rights of companies.

Why shouldn't unions fight for the rights of employees?

Re:WTF? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44182817)

Lobbyists fight for the rights of companies.

Why shouldn't unions fight for the rights of employees?

'Cause God intended the haves to squeeze the have-nots. It's wicked for the have-nots to resist the natural order of things.

Individual, not collective (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44182705)

The problem with unions is they view a worker as a clone of every other worker.

For example, a young worker is unlikely to really need lots of health insurance when compared to an aging worker. Similarly an unmarried man most likely couldn't care less about maternity leave. But yet with collective bargaining, that young worker could get useless (for him) insurance in exchange for something that would be useful for him (vacation days, higher pay, etc.) and that unmarried man might get great maternity leave but at the expense of something that could be useful for him.

Instead, contracts should be dealt with at the individual level, allowing for the best for both the employer and the individual employee.

Re:Individual, not collective (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about a year ago | (#44182855)

Instead, contracts should be dealt with at the individual level, allowing for the best for both the employer and the individual employee.

Even better would be a contract that allowed each employee a certain amount of choice, rather like the menu in a Chinese restaurant: you can have maternity leave or extra vacation days, but not both and so on. Best of all would be if you were allowed, under certain circumstances, to change your selection, such as if/when you get married.

Re:Individual, not collective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182865)

Because workers and companies have the same bargaining power?

That is simply not the case in the vast majority of employment situations. If you think the is always the employees fault then I guess you got yours...

Re:Individual, not collective (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44182939)

Because I forgot how my boss holds me at gunpoint? How there's only one company in existence that I can work at?

My boss gives me an offer of what he's willing to give me in exchange for work (pay, working environment, benefits, etc.) I can either accept that, reject that or give him a counteroffer which he is free to accept or reject.

We are both on equal ground. If I don't like what he offers, I'm perfectly free not to work. If he doesn't like what I am willing to work for (or the quality of my work) he doesn't have to hire me. I have no right to demand anything more than what has been mutually agreed upon and neither does my boss.

Re:Individual, not collective (1)

MF4218 (1320441) | about a year ago | (#44183071)

All you need is one worker who lives at home with his parents, has no rent and shares health insurance with his family, to set the bar for everyone else to have to sink to to be 'competitive'. Sometimes the problem isn't just the company, it's the other workers.

Re:Individual, not collective (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44183111)

So? Do I have a right to high pay? Of course not. If people are willing to do the same job for less than me, why would my boss pay more for me? Instead, you've got to make sure that you produce better (or at least different) than them.

Its simple logic: why pay more for the same thing? Instead, you've got to be different. If you can't, well, you either need to adjust your level of living or find a field you're better at.

Re:Individual, not collective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182921)

The problem with unions is they view a worker as a clone of every other worker.

This is how tech is already treated, so I can't see a union making it worse.

Re:Individual, not collective (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44183023)

This does not work "personal" contracts have all the power with the employers

Re:Individual, not collective (3, Informative)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44183119)

The problem with unions is they view a worker as a clone of every other worker.

Well, obviously no one told the Major League Baseball Player's Association, or the Screen Actor's Guild.

Unions do not necessarily mean strict seniority pay or rigid and inflexible job descriptions. Many workers in manufacturing industries choose to push for these kind of terms in their contracts, because productivity from worker to worker isn't that different, and because having someone do a task they're not familiar with in an industrial setting can be very dangerous. But this isn't how things work in MLB or Hollywood; they certainly don't pay baseball stars or actors on strict seniority, and they don't have to get into a fight every time they want to shift someone from shortstop to third base or whatever.

Remember, union leaders are elected by the workers, and are supposed to represent what the workers want. Since IT workers generally don't like rigid job descriptions or inflexible pay scales, IT unions would not advocate for such things. Instead, as in the MLBPA and SAG, they would probably focus on setting minimum standards, to prevent people with less individual negotiating leverage from being exploited.

A union gig is great, if you can get one (1)

martin_swain (1687768) | about a year ago | (#44182707)

I am a developer in Canada, one of my workmates went to a job working for a local city. It's a union shop, so he gets; pay raises according to a fixed pay grid, advances according to seniority, all holidays off and so on. Not a bad gig if you can get it, IMO.

Would Require Too Many Union Reps (1)

Jhyrryl (208418) | about a year ago | (#44182721)

The problem that I see is that the vast majority of tech workers are not employed by large corporations; they work for small and medium-sized companies and often fill one-off positions. While it could be possible for the engineers at the big corporations to unionize, for the unions to have enough reps to negotiate with all of those small businesses on behalf of the tech workers, would probably be cost prohibitive.

Outlaw Government Employee Unions (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182735)

The state of CA has a debt of what? $127,000,000,000 was the last I heard. Much of the tax base is leaving the state. Govt. employee unions are largely responsible for the utterly unsustainable financial situation of the U.S. state which has the most natural economic advantages.

BART workers don't work in sweat shops and never have. They are overpaid and underworked like most govt. workers. Govt. employee unions should be illegal since they screw the taxpayer, the people who actually pay the bills.

Re:Outlaw Government Employee Unions (3, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44182797)

Govt. employee unions should be illegal since they screw the taxpayer, the people who actually pay the bills.

The worst of it is that when the screwing happens, those tax payers that get screwed werent even old enough to pay taxes (and many not even born yet.)

"Sure, we'll give you union guys a great pension 30 years from now when you retire -- no problem! hell, my constituents wont even feel it"

No Unions is why I have a Cali Tech Job (4, Informative)

Midnight_Falcon (2432802) | about a year ago | (#44182751)

First, let me say I don't take BART (I drive, living and working within San Francisco) and am not really affected by the strike. However, I do believe in unions and their ability, in certain industries, to force employers to maintain standards of living wages and decent working conditions. We'd all hate to return to the days of the Robber Barons and the photos of Jacob Riis -- an era that unions helped bring an end to.

However, in California tech jobs are not regulated very well by the state. Since salaries are so high, most tech workers are exempt from overtime -- and companies like Google, Zynga, Netflix etc are well-known to demand long hours from their employees without paying overtime (albeit paying decent salaries instead). One of the main reasons California and Silicon Valley is appealing to them is this, and also, at-will employment. Meaning, if an employee doesn't work out, it is very easy to fire them and replace them with someone else.

The talent you have at a start-up is critical -- when your core team is ten people, having one or two free-riders or non-stellar characters in the mix can be a big drain on productivity. So, California makes it relatively easy for these companies to replace their staff, and both hire and fire new workers.

If this wasn't the case, very likely the startup I work for wouldn't exist here, and would be located somewhere else. Dealing with union workers is the last thing a busy CEO wants for his start-up, they're busy drumming up business, promoting the product, getting funding, etc etc. My company rarely fires anyone -- but the talent is very good and stays motivated with little management. But if we do hire someone who needs to be managed all day, we do want to get rid of them without having to go through a union and a few HR lawyers. Startups simply don't have the resources for that, nor to spend money on someone's salary who is not ideal.

In conclusion, there's a reason why things are the way they are.

Re:No Unions is why I have a Cali Tech Job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183165)

Since salaries are so high, most tech workers are exempt from overtime -- and companies like Google, Zynga, Netflix etc are well-known to demand long hours from their employees without paying overtime (albeit paying decent salaries instead).

Employees are not exempt from overtime requirements because salaries are "high". While in the past 10 years or so laws have been updated to basically say that anyone who uses a computer for their work is exempt from overtime, it used to be that almost all salaried employees were actually legally entitled to overtime pay. The differentiating factor was the level of the employee's supervisory responsibilities: if you worked 80 hours because you boss made you then you were owed overtime but if you were the guy who decided people needed to work 80 hours then you were not owed overtime. The laws started changing after groups of salaried employees successfully sued for the back overtime they were owed.

Bad P/R (5, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#44182755)

Unions simply have a poor reputation and haven't worked very hard on improving it.

For one, they've failed the address the perception that unions protect lazy workers at the expense of the productive ones. They should actively encourage bonuses, for example, and allow some degree of "demerit" pay cuts. (They don't have to be biting cuts such that a worker has to suddenly sell their house, but allow small gradual demerits.)

Second, they've often negotiated contracts with local governments that end up appearing one-sided during downturns, making the unions look unwilling to scale back in hard times. The problem is that local governments often think short-term because of election cycles, and unions take advantage of this stance in negotiations. While not directly the union's "fault", it does damage their reputation. Unions should ensure they scale back a bit more during down-times to match everybody else's experience. Sharing the pain makes you more popular.

Third, they need to make their case in the media. Corporations trash unions left and right in the media, and unions have done a poor job of putting out their side of the story.

Re:Bad P/R (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44182835)

For one, they've failed the address the perception that unions protect lazy workers at the expense of the productive ones.

I wonder how many of the people blaming all the country's problems on unions have ever been in one.

Re:Bad P/R (1)

roarkarchitect (2540406) | about a year ago | (#44183107)

They didn't a great job for me in NYC - 8 workers 2 hours to tap (4) 1-1/2-6 holes in a 1/4" steel plate. Or sending a different electrician every day to the job site - so everyone in the union will have work. Or threatening to slice my photographs if I hung them in my trade show booth. Or cutting all of the wires at the fuse panel on a project my grandfather was running. (this is really nasty because you have to re-wire everything).

Re:Bad P/R (1)

Midnight_Falcon (2432802) | about a year ago | (#44182841)

The problem you describe about the election cycle is actually inherent not just in regards to unions -- but in democracies in general. It is difficult in a democratic system to make long term economic changes (such as ten-year plans, or raising taxes/lowering entitlements) that are unpopular or perceived as a step backwards. During an election cycle, politicians are decried for any budgetary cutbacks and blamed personally for their effects (e.g. Police department funding was cut, all the new crime is X politician's fault). Thus, democracies in general act in terms of short-term interest when it comes to economic policy. There is incredible pressure on politicians to overspend and borrow in order to increase their popularity and their chances at re-election and a higher office. Lobbyists, unions, etc are well-aware of and exploit this pressure to their advantage during election times.

Thus, in a democracy, it becomes very difficult to do things like tighten the belt for a few years during a poor economy. Instead, it is preferred to go into debt. And this has been the undoing of quite a number of democracies.

Re:Bad P/R (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182969)

Unions simply have a poor reputation

Unions simply have a well-deserved poor reputation FTFY

the perception that unions protect lazy workers at the expense of the productive ones

It's not just a perception; it's reality.

contracts with local governments that end up appearing one-sided during downturns, making the unions look unwilling to scale back

The contracts are one-sided. The unions are unwilling. State and national employee unions suffer from the same problems.

The problem is that local governments

The problem is the existence of govt. employee unions. The unions elect the politicians. Politicians give the unions cushy contracts as a payback. Taxpayers get screwed.

Corporations trash unions left and right in the media

When exactly does that happen? In the U.S., unions are unpopular because of their behavior. Most workers don't want to be forced into unions or even to belong to unions voluntarily. Taxpayers detest the fact that lazy, irresponsible, arrogant, corrupt and/or malfeasant govt. employees can't be gotten rid of. The violence, property destruction and intimidation tactics used by unions aren't terribly popular either.

Re:Bad P/R (1)

jlar (584848) | about a year ago | (#44183141)

"For one, they've failed the address the perception that unions protect lazy workers at the expense of the productive ones."

That is not a perception but a fact. And at least in my old union they did it openly. I was employed at a public institution where part of the salary was fixed (based on seniority) and a minor part was individual. The individual part is however not negotiated between the employee and the employer but between a union representative and the employer (also for employees not in a union - effectively forcing people into the union). One of the negotiation tactics that our union representative used was to deny productive employees that the institution wanted to reward any increase in wage supplements since the union wanted the money spent on the low productivity employees.

Fortunately I left that workplace for another workplace where the unions are much less influential.

Not organized ? (4, Interesting)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#44182761)

That may be true. Yet, recently, I got into a conflict with my employer over wages ( not getting what had been promised ). Not being an affiliate of any worker's union, I threatened with a one-man strike. Of course, I took care to also inform the client to whom I was dedicating most of my hours at that moment. The result was impressive: the client wanted an explanation from my employer about what was going on, and wanted assurance that they would further be able to count with my work. My employer gave in, prolly because of fear for losing his reputation. Divide et impera, said the Romans. I can assure you that it was one of the most entertaining episodes in my professional life hitherto.

That's how capitalism works... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182781)

That's how capitalism works. Surprise, surprise you don't need to pay union dues and have collective bargaining to negotiate.

Re:That's how capitalism works... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182889)

Unless you happen to work in one of the 95% of all jobs where the described situation ends up with the employee becoming unemployed.

Inefficiencies (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44182825)

Of course, the flip side is that the union can add inefficiencies to the business and prevent them from meeting changing market conditions. It becomes much harder (or nearly impossible) to remove underperforming employees, and leads to siloed skillsets "I can't change that lightbulb, you need an electrician for that job" or "I can't unload that truck, it's not in my job description, but once someone brings the box into the building, then they can't take it to the store room, I have to do that". And I imagine that developers would get like that too "Well, it would be trivial to take care of that with a bash script, it would take me 2 minutes to do it. But since I'm a classified as a J2EE developer, I would have to architect a 3 tier enterprise architecture to do it, the team and I could have it ready to go 6 weeks after the business analyst finishes the requirements analysis. Unless, of course, you want to post a job for a Bash developer (and leave it posted for internal-only applications for 16 weeks)" I'm only half way joking after some of the BS I've run into at union shops.

Which may be why my train can be 10 minutes late or even 10 minutes early yet BART still says "all trains are on time".

Re:Inefficiencies (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44182975)

Unions are about collective bargaining. There's nothing that forces the unions to bargain for rigid job descriptions or strict seniority pay. Since most IT workers don't want these things, why would they elect union leaders who favor them, or agree to a contract that included them?

I'm curious... (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about a year ago | (#44182851)

What problems could unionization of the tech industry solve?

Step 1: Unionize! Workers unite!
Step 2: Elect union overlords.
Step 3: Pay dues.
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Rejoice!

Do I need a union? (2)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year ago | (#44182867)

I work 40 hrs a week, get to work flex hours if I have to deviate from my regular schedule, work from home on Wednesdays, work in an air conditioned office kept between 74 and 76 degrees year-round, and the heaviest thing I've had to lift* in 5 years was a pot of coffee. My biggest occupational hazard is heart disease from lack of activity. I have enough business knowledge that it would take two years to train someone with a college degree for my job.
 
Contrast that with a dock worker or auto manufacturing job where OSHA compliance is something to worry about, on the job injuries, back and foot injuries, fire hazards etc etc. The most training many of these people get is how to drive a fork lift and can be replaced with a temp worker in a day or two. Unions do a great job of protecting mostly unskilled workers.
 
*not counting activities outside of work

Iron Law of Bureacracy (1)

kye4u (2686257) | about a year ago | (#44182881)

In [wikipedia.org] any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself.

Unions can be a victim of the Iron law. The people who put their energy into furthering the goals of the union are almost always politically out-muscled and displaced by the people who preserve the union itself. So at the end, only those who preserve the union are left.

Imagine person A is lobbying for things that will actually make a difference for fellow workers. While Person A is lobbying, person B is figuring out how get the union to grow and get stronger. Person B is making political connections and becoming more powerful while person A is in the trenches fighting for the workers causes. Its no surprise that it is Person B that ends up rising to the top.

So at the end of the day, unions can be a double edged sword. They have the potential to make meaningful changes, but as they grow in size, there is a potential to begin focusing on doing things that keep the union in existence/power instead of doing what is best for the workers.

Re:Iron Law of Bureacracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183043)

...So at the end of the day, unions can be a double edged sword. They have the potential to make meaningful changes, but as they grow in size, there is a potential to begin focusing on doing things that keep the union in existence/power instead of doing what is best for the workers.

In other words, we should eliminate the need for unions by passing legislation that guarantees substantial rights and protections for all workers.

Unions aren't for everybody. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#44182887)

I don't see why software developers, generally, would want to unionize. On the other hand it seems like I hear a lot of horror stories from video game developers, which makes sense since it's such a small market and so many developers want make games. So I could see why game developers might want to. Although it might be easier to just switch to a more profitable market like databases, since the real problem is a surplus of developers willing to take abuse to work in games.

Re:Unions aren't for everybody. (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44183063)

classically there are 3 reasons why professionals join unions Rights Representation and Reassurance

It's About Power & Developers Will Lose It (1)

reallocate (142797) | about a year ago | (#44182911)

It's all about power.

Our notions of right and wrong tend to adapt to fit our notions of what we want.

Someday, users will use software to create the software they want. When that happens, 95 percent of software developers will be redundant and they will belatedly learn that unions multiply their individual power.

Re:It's About Power & Developers Will Lose It (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44183027)

Someday, users will use software to create the software they want.

I'll believe that when I see it. People have been saying the same thing for over 20 years, that some kind of automated code generation or "expert system" would make programmers obsolete. Still hasn't happened.

Of course things will change once we have full-fledged sentient AI, but that changes everything – virtually all human workers become obsolete, and capitalism no longer functions.

union apprenticeship and hireing halls needed TECH (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44182935)

CS is collgle is very hit or miss and lot's of trades schools people get passed over even when they don't have the skills gaps. Also tech needs apprenticeships as well.

And an hiring hall system can be much better then all the clue less staffing firms.

Not that simple ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44182965)

It's not as simple as we needing "to believe that collective action would be possible vehicle to get the kinds of things that they want and that they deserve". We have to believe that the benefit that the union would provide would outweight the detriment. We have to believe that the union would truly have our best interests in mind. We have to believe that the "collective" would support what I want versus what it wants.

I think as people who have an education and pay attention, we see that we aren't likely to net out on the deal and therefore are better off the way we are since we can, individually, make some pretty good demands.

Not to mention that techies, pretty much by their nature, don't want to work harder to support their less talented union brothers. We generally set pretty high standards for ourselves and our colleagues. High standards that would make being part of a union turn disastrous pretty quickly.

Unions - viewed as evil but... (3, Informative)

Eristone (146133) | about a year ago | (#44182997)

My fellow slashdotters keep forgetting that Doctors, Lawyers, Writers (in Hollywood) and Actors are all members of unions as well. The Bar, the Medical Association, the Screen Actor's Guild - all are unions no matter the name given. There is a way to make it work so that it benefits all involved - but then again we as techies have no problems when the networks are good enough to where once something is plugged in an engineer in the Philippines can take care of the rest of it...

Lazy models (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183145)

"BART workers have cost the local economy about $73 million in lost productivity due to delays in traffic and commuting". The 3 in 73 reminds me of the joke: "Why do economists use a decimal point?"

Public vs Private Sector (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183159)

I think the what should really be under the microscope is the impact of public sector unions vs private sector unions rather than using a broad brush to paint unions in both positive and negative lights. The fact is that public sector unions that strike hold us (citizens/residents/taxpayers) hostage and impact many more people, which is probably the point. Then again, when private sectors strike, it's more about affecting their company's pocketbook and public sentiment. I can't say which of them is better or worse but it's a distinction that should be made when thinking of the tech sector and some of those high skilled/specialized fields and how they might be unionized.

Honestly speaking though, when public sector unions strike (teachers, prison guards, etc.) they do cause disruptions and limiting their ability to cause those disruptions should be somewhat limited, especially when their pay comes from the coffers filled by taxpayers whose lives they are disrupting.

"Tech Workers Unionize!" (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about a year ago | (#44183179)

"Tech jobs disappear from America and wind up in China and India."

And those two headlines will appear, separated by a few days, the day that tech workers unionize.

The inherent flaw with unions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44183183)

They only negotiate on your behalf if you pay them dues. Today's unions often point to the past, things like minimum wage, various safety laws, etc. The labor movement of old pushed for universal reforms, even if people weren't paying dues.

If you don't advocate for universal contract standards, then either the contract isn't really about justice, or you don't care about justice for non-dues payers. Either way, you don't care about justice and it's pretty obvious. You care about money. In the end, labor has become capital.

IMHO, the moral place for labor advocacy is in voluntary political organizations, as planks in party platforms, and in legislative reform. Unions, like the state, should "wither away" (hoisting of communist intellectuals by their own petard, fully intended).

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?