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Unions in the Tech Sector?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the stuff-to-think-about dept.

The Almighty Buck 217

nanogeek asks: "I've worked for a few years in the computing infrastructure/support department of a large university. In my time here, there have been organizational movements and/or strikes by many segments of the employee and student population (librarians walking out, grad-students seeking a fair wage for TA responsibilities, etc). However, none of this fervor for collective bargaining and fair treatment by the upitty-ups seems to have touched our department; and this seems to be rather endemic to geekjobs. In a year when commerce was brought to a halt on the west coast over a dispute about the change in the use of technology in the shipping industry, I have seen my department and my co-workers displaced, disrespected, displeased, and occasionally dismissed over the same kinds of technological shifts (in both my case and that of the longshoremen, the changes require retraining and reshuffling of workload, manpower, and payment). Common complaints have been that we were never consulted before these changes were enacted, and I wonder if a powerful union could be the answer. Is there room for such labor organization amongst geeks? Does the mutability of the technology involved preclude the kind of stasis brought about by unionization? Does the status of the economy currently make it so that any attempt at such broad-based organization could be circumvented by black-listing and purging members from the rolls? Or could a powerful geekunion bring about a sea-change after which a modicum of parity between the bosses and the drones could be established?"

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No Unions! (5, Insightful)

glenstar (569572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566006)

The main problem I see with unions is that while they theoretically exist for the benefit of all members, they tend to prop up the underachievers and demote the go-getters. In other words, they breed mediocrity.

Also, think of this: with an IT union, wages will most likely be capped for its members. Rather than the open market determining rates, it will be the union. I, personally, would much rather take my chances and go for the higher wage.

Re:No Unions! (2, Insightful)

Ummagumma (137757) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566128)

Someone needs to mod this up. He said it perfectly:

"they tend to prop up the underachievers and demote the go-getters. In other words, they breed mediocrity."

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have done very well in the tech sector on my own - last thing I want is a Union to 'represent' me, take part of my paycheck as 'dues', and make me follow thier rules and regulations.

No, I don't think so.

Re:No Unions! (3, Insightful)

glenstar (569572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566290)

Someone needs to mod this up. He said it perfectly:

Thanks! I have expressed that opinion before, but being from Seattle and surrounded by Boeing, dock workers, etc... it is generally not very appreciated. ;-)

don't know about the rest of you, but I have done very well in the tech sector on my own

To put this in perspective... I haven't worked more than 9 months out of the year for the last several years. I would take a 3 month or so contract, work like a dog and then take 3 or 4 months off to travel, and I would still bet that my average yearly take was larger than if I worked a full year in a "union tech job". Of course, doing things that way is truly risky (especially in this market!), but I like to roll the dice. ;-)

Re:No Unions! (5, Insightful)

wrax (570032) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566338)

really well said. I work for a university technology department and I have seen some pretty incompetent people have their jobs saved because of a thing called "seniority". "seniority" seems to mean that the old employee who has been there forever keeps his jobs when the cuts come down because of a thing called "bumping". "bumping" is when a less qualified but older union member kicks a younger person out of his job just because the managment cut his position. This has happened to a number of friends of mine who had no choice but to be fired from their positions so that the older person could keep working, even though they had better qualificaitons than the people who were bumping them. unions work in the mining business, for hospital workers and for factory workers for safty reasons only. educators don't need unions and neither do technology workers.

Re:No Unions! (2, Insightful)

neitzsche (520188) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566562)

I partially agree with you, but for nearly opposite reasons.

You say that unions "theoretically exist for the benefir of all members" but that is not true: they theoretically exist to combat abusive management.

What *really* scares me about unionizing the IT sector is that we would suddenly have more concrete/inflexible/mandated diploma and certificate requirements. Rarely does a BS in CS indicate that someone can program well. Experience is a much clearer indicator. If all IT were unionized, my job would require someone with a BS or MA (as it currently does) but the rules would not be able to bend to allow me to work!

Re:No Unions! (2, Insightful)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566640)


Nevermind that you should find the idea of inviting the mafia in to extort protection money repugnant.

Who would voluntarily pay %15 of their salary to an organization that demands it under penalty of loosing their job?

And ultimately, when it comes down to it, the union will always negotiate the best deal for the UNION.

Only you can negotiate the best deal for you.

Re:No Unions! (2, Interesting)

xyzzy-ladder (570782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567600)

"Only you can negotiate the best deal for you."

CEOs hire negotiators and lawyers when they are joining a new company. Why? To negotiate a good deal for themselves and to have a better bargaining position.

That's why they make the big bucks.

So Joe Geek goes to get a new job. It's Joe Geek on one side, and the manager, HR, and the legal department on the other side. Who's in a better position?

When you get a job, you sign whatever paperwork they tell you too. They have it printed in advance, you can read it (or not), but if you don't sign it, you don't get the job.

Now if Joe Geek had his own laywer (or a union rep), he can say, "Change this, add this, take out this."

A union evens the playing field. That's why someone with a union gets more pay, better benefits, greater job security, and more control over their work than people who don't

The Labor Movement - the People who brought you the weekend.

Re:No Unions! (3, Interesting)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566946)


Practically, those kinds of problems do exist with unionized workplaces.

It's too bad unions are that way, because they are a natural response to the kind of exploitation that can occur sometimes (cf 19th century industrial revolution) when very few labor purchasers swim in a very large market of individuals. Natural market forces will push wages down to levels where your serf society starts to look downright feudal and would make current poverty problems look mild by comparison.

The problem is that most unions are run for a blanket protection of the whole herd of sheep.

Scragly, mangy sheep get the same equitable protection as those bristly, wool-producing rams. The universal broad-based support needed to form a union seems to rely upon that kind of universal protection extended to everyon without regard to ability. In the same way, the United States Declaration of Independence got broad support by positing that "all men are created equal" and deserving of equal protection, when, really, many at the time probably figured that white, over 25, property-owning, non-enslaved males deserved more protection than other kinds of people. The framers just needed something general to garner broad support to fly against the much-hated system of ancestral rights based on family name of the nobility.

IMHO, it's symptomatic of the chicken-egg problems with teachers and teacher pay.

Teachers have to unionize to get paid anything decent, but once they have the union they resist merit initiatives that would differentiate and pay good teachers a lot more than bad teachers.

The justification for rejecting merit pay usually seems to be that deciding upon good and bad teachers is put into the hands of those no-good management lackeys working for a highly political school administration, whose sole aim in life is to destroy the union by firing the top organizers (I'm sure it does happen sometimes.)

But in reality, I suspect that the highest ranks of the union are populated by members who boast of seniority and good people-organizing skills, not necessarily good teaching skills, so there's a built-in conflict of interest.

If teacher's unions organized their own internal quality standards and ratings, perhaps they could get some sympathy from the administrations and voting tax base for higher pay. Otherwise, they could simply present data showing their good teachers were leaving for better-paying positions elsewhere and your Johnny and Sally are getting a 2nd-rate education.

I doubt geeks will organize in the same way for a while. There are barriers to entry to prevent the supply of knowledgeable and highly-trained geeks from increasing to where their salaries go down severely. Geeks can still get paid a lot better than your average high school graduate - certainly better than your average teacher.

Re:No Unions! (1)

xyzzy-ladder (570782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567493)

"The main problem I see with unions is that while they theoretically exist for the benefit of all members, they tend to prop up the underachievers and demote the go-getters. In other words, they breed mediocrity. "

Promotes mediocrity? Props up underachievers? It sounds like you are talking about management.

wah (2, Interesting)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566012)

I have seen my department and my co-workers displaced, disrespected, displeased, and occasionally dismissed over the same kinds of technological shifts

Oh yeah, poor you, forced to work there. Unions are the last refuge of the inept and the inflexible.

People whine about the RIAA being anti-free-market, protectionist, etc, then turn around and propose something like a union? Gimme a break.

Re:wah (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566326)

People whine about the RIAA being anti-free-market, protectionist, etc, then turn around and propose something like a union? Gimme a break.

huh? where in this askslash did "nanogeek" whine about the RIAA? nowhere, right? oh, so you just assumed that this person shares all views ever expressed by anyone posting on slashdot. you didn't even stop to think that nanogeek may not like the free market and may think protectionism is a valid way of doing business, because you're obsessed with the /. party line. get over yourself, ok?

fucking moron. worse than you, however, are the moderators that think you're "interesting".

Re:wah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566387)

Please mod parent down, poster either did not read or did not understand the post he is responding to.

Re:wah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566603)

Thanks for playing, but you're an idiot.

Re:wah (5, Interesting)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566523)

Too bad you can't think for yourself.

RIAA is the antithesis of free market. RIAA is an organization of media companies who band together to fix prices and shutout competition. RIAA is why you cannot find music published by smaller record labels in music shops.

A companies actions are not necessarily capitalist just because a company is a private enterprise. In the past, meat packers, oil companies and steel companies banded into trusts and exerted monopoly influence over the markets. Coalitions of organized labor and progressive reform movements defeated the trusts, who are now re-emerging today. A great example of this is ExxonMobil. When Rockeffeler's Standard Oil Trust was broken up, the two largest parts were Standard Oil of Pennsylvania (Exxon) and Standard Oil of New Jersey (Mobil).

Whine about the ineptitude of organized labor all you want. When you find yourself paying $4.00 a gallon for gasoline to a giant oil conglomorate, you will be doing so because there was no powerful force like organized labor to counterbalance the power of oil company campaign contributions.

Re:wah (0, Flamebait)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566687)

Whine about the ineptitude of organized labor all you want. When you find yourself paying $4.00 a gallon for gasoline to a giant oil conglomorate, you will be doing so because there was no powerful force like organized labor to counterbalance the power of oil company campaign contributions.


Uh, are you unaware that more than %50 of the cost of gas is state and federal taxes?

If you're paying $4.00 for gas, you can be assured that its because of taxes.

Of course, hiding these taxes in the price of gas is one way you get swindled by your government-- you probably support the liberals who want to increase it too, don't you?

All the while bitching about giant conglomerates as if they didn't compete on price, which they do.

Re:wah (2)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566840)

So you're a liberterian that want's something for nothing? Perhaps you wonder what pays for these roads?

A fixed tax is not going to work because roads cost vary depending on usage. Taxing roads based on gas usage is a legit practice.

Interesting that gas taxes generally go back into the roads (and various mass transit made to reduce load on the roads), but railroad fuel goes into the "pay back the debt fund". (do not get me wrong, there is plenty of corruption in how road work gets done)

I believe that the "invisible hand" of capitalism dosen't work unless workers are allowed to organize without restriction, and consumers are educated. No regulation means TRUELY no regulation. Unions can do what they want just like management can.

We have very little of labor organization or education of consumers in the USA and it's comming home to roost.

Re:wah (1, Flamebait)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567118)



No, I never said I wanted something for nothing. I just pointed out that gas isn't expensive because of corporate greed but because of government greed.

Here in the state of washingon, the road system is about %3 of the state total budget. THREE PERCENT.

But they can't be bothered to spend more than that and provided decent roads, so they are putting up an initiative to RAISE TAXES TO PAY FOR ROADS!

%3 of the current tax money is going to pay for it and %60 is going to pork-- people literally getting something for nothing like college and healthcare.

I can't tell you how much I wish I had to pay for my usage of state services-- cause if I did, I'd be paying only %10 of what I'm paying now. Cause %90 of what I'm paying is going to services I don't use.

And apparently none of that gas tax is getting into the roads-- since the state ran surplusses for 5 years (And spent all that money on stuff other than roads) and now wants to raise taxes to pay for roads.

Sure, unions can organize. I don't have a problem with that-- but the current situation is that unions are given special rights that violate the rights of the employees and the employers. And that is unacceptable.

The unions are TOO POWERFUL and have destroyed many industries in this country-- auto manufacturing and airlines being two big ones, but the steel industry is another.

The problem isn't that unions don't have rights in this country- they do, they have special rights.

Re:wah (2)

tswinzig (210999) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567585)

Whine about the ineptitude of organized labor all you want. When you find yourself paying $4.00 a gallon for gasoline to a giant oil conglomorate, you will be doing so because there was no powerful force like organized labor to counterbalance the power of oil company campaign contributions.

Trust me -- a free market could combat $4 per gallon gasoline, without the need of unions. Remember when gas prices skyrocketed in the 70's. What happened? The japanese came in and showed us how to create cars with better fuel mileage. Free market prevails. No union required.

The RIAA IS A UNION (1)

xyzzy-ladder (570782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567659)

The Recording Industry Association of America. It's a union, for management. An organization of companies, that hire lawyers, bribe politicians, and negotiates for their own interests.

Imagine if we had a "Music Buyers Association of America" - we could do the same thing.

Or, we can read Ayn Rand novels about the glorious free market system that doesn't exist in the real world. Your choice.

Learn some history (5, Insightful)

V. Mole (9567) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566578)

Unions are the last refuge of the inept and the inflexible

Before you make such an ignorant comment, I suggest you read a little history about what working class life was like before unions. Or what such life is like in non-unionized countries. Or what's been happening in the US as the power of the unions has been undermined by the plutocrats who run our country.

Sure, there are problems with specific unions, and specific situation. Guess what? There is no perfect system. But if you want to see a real refuge for "the inept and the inflexible", I suggest you look into the manager and low-level VP ranks of any significantly sized company. It sure isn't those folk who get laid off when the senior management fscks up.

Re:Learn some history (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567036)


Spoken like someone who has no clue what it takes to run a company.

Here's the clue you're lacking:
Just because some decision does not fit your agenda or make your life easier, does not mean the person who made it is inept and incompetent. It means that person had to take other factors into account.

The inability to do so is why you will never join his ranks.

Why not the wider geek community? (1, Troll)

PhysicsGenius (565228) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566029)

Why should we limit the benefits of unions to just programmers and IT drones? What about engineers and scientists as well?

Many's the time the other PhD's and I down at the lab have grumbled about how we get low wages despite the fact we are building the future. If only there was some way we could organize and demand some respect and acknowledgement. Forming a union sounds like a great idea. If we got enough backing we could even demand that the fat-cat politicians be kicked out of Washington and that the intelligentsia (by which I mean me and the people I work with) be put in charge.

Re:Why not the wider geek community? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566072)

I love it man! Very clever.

Lack of desire (4, Insightful)

ctr2sprt (574731) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566102)

I think that where there aren't unions, it's almost always because the workers don't want them. Part of that is because people feel they're making enough without a union, but I think a lot of it is that unions often have a really bad perception. This perception seems to be most common among the upper and upper-middle economic classes, which is where most IT types are. People like that tend to point to the dockworkers' strike (where the average salary was something ludicrous like $100k/yr) as an example of what unions are today.

That said, I tend to share that attitude. I think unions are a critical part of a modern post-industrialized society; but they all seem to think that they need to be doing things constantly. Frankly, right now in the IT market, a hypothetical union shouldn't be doing anything significant at all: pay is decent, benefits are decent, and so on. The reason it's not as good as it was two years ago is the economy, and you can't blame just one or two companies for that. And I just don't trust unions not to try to wring concessions out of an employer, and get half the union downsized out of jobs in the process to pay for the bennies of the half that got to stay on.

Tech center unions.... (2)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566133)

It's probably not going to happen. Unions tend to foster lower pay in exchange for job security and steady hours. Tech heads tend to want high pay in exchange for little job security and strange hours.

Re:Tech center unions.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566255)

Tell that to the guy who bolts tires to cars on an assembly line. The average UAW worker makes $65/hour before overtime.

Re:Tech center unions.... (2)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566358)

The average UAW worker makes $65/hour before overtime.

And they'd probably make even more if they weren't part of a union.

Re:Tech center unions.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566557)

Bullshit. Provide a link to back up your rediculous claim. Or are you just spouting more republican bullshit?

Unions are evil (4, Insightful)

GusherJizmac (80976) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566178)

Unions do not do anyone any good except those who will not work hard and achieve. Without a union, you are still free to demand higher wages and better conditions and quit if you don't like it. A Union constricts the employers and employees and allows slugs to subsist on the achievement of others. If you want job security, go work for the government. Tech jobs are probably among the best, most well-paid and have the most favorable environments, and saying that you need a union to improve upon that is just crap.

Re:Unions are evil (2)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567165)

Without a union, you are still free to demand higher wages and better conditions and quit if you don't like it. Are you smoking something? What do you call a worker who makes demands without a union to back him or her up? Fired. Tech jobs are probably among the best, most well-paid and have the most favorable environments, and saying that you need a union to improve upon that is just crap. "Probably" is a key word. You don't even work in the tech industry, do you? You don't know what you are talking about, and it shows.

Re:Unions are evil (3, Insightful)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567626)


Funny, I've never been fired for telling my boss that some aspect of the employment situation was problematic.

Sometimes I've left when they didn't rectify the issue- but even then they were promising they would (that one was a poorly managed company.)

No, when employees have an issue it almost always affects productivity one way or another (Why do you think health care is provided by employers? Its not because of unions!!!) and management tries to rectify it to keep productivity up. And that also keeps employees happy.

Where does the union fit in? It just sours this relationship, destroyes productivity and profitability.

A workforce unionizing is the death toll for the company-- you should just shut down now, or offer the employees whatever it takes to reject the union.

It will be cheaper in the long run.

Wow. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566274)

I would like to state, officially and on record, that the responses to this article thus far have ruled.

There is not ONE (nor more) namby-pamby socialist to be found.

Why the hell would I want to give up part of my salary in order to help out those who make my working life harder?

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566424)

Yeah, we got namby pamby libertarians.

No thought. Perhaps like most other social constructs unions have their good and bad sides?

Same with management, but we don't see people saying (seriously) we should get rid of managers do you?

These responses are a bunch of oversimplified bunk.

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566478)

Sorry, but the only reason today's unions exist is greed. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'd just as well do without the union's greed in order to further my own.

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4567179)

Starnge, I talked to the CEO of a (medium sized, 80-100 people)company, and this is why he says he votes republican.

"Republicans generally help the rich.
Democrats generally help the poor.

I believe that each vote selfishly, so i say I should too, to keep the balance."

You're saying that managemnet isn't selfish?
You're saying that a single worker can levarage more for himself against a managemnt team than a union can?

You're full of it.

Management needs unions to keep the balance that keeps the economy going. This is the invisble hand of capitalism at work.

Re:Wow. (3, Interesting)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567745)


The funny thing is that the republicans end up doing more for the poor by creating jobs than the democrats do by destroying them.

Helping the rich is helping the poor- we're all in the boat together and you guys are trying to drill a hole thru the bottom to get at the water.

Idiocy.

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4567604)

I agree that unions do have good and bad sides, but think the bad side tends to overwhelm the good side. I think the best use of is a union is as a threat: "Give us better working conditions or we'll form a union!" You get the best of both worlds this way...

University Union (4, Insightful)

jhughes (85890) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566310)

When I worked at a University I was a member of a union (I didnt want to be, but they took dues out of your check weither you wanted to be one or not). It wasn't just for tech heads, it was all campus workers.

There was a time when the union came in handy. Our boss (anti union) wished to put two union workers under a non union boss (demotion) and change work hours (for some reason you made more pay if you worked second shift/overnight shift) without changing pay rate. Also an increase in hours, on call times, yada yada, plenty more I wont go into . Overall the union did a fine job keeping a boss from abusing his employees.

However, the same union rules prevented us from accomplishing things as well (no unapproved overtime, so when a project ran long, we HAD to go home, even if we wanted to stay and fix the problem so that several hundred users would be operating okay).

They're sometimes useful, but more often then not, they're an annoying hassle.

Re:University Union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566855)


AND They stole a cut of your pay!

You should have reported them to the police.

Re:University Union (2)

gorillasoft (463718) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567360)

(for some reason you made more pay if you worked second shift/overnight shift)

It's not odd. It's usually called Shift Differential Pay, and it is very common in hourly jobs. Nurses, policemen, firemen, 911 operators, etc. all get the extra pay in order to compensate them for not being able to live a "regular" lifestyle because they are working in the middle of the night or other odd hours.

Rock stars don't need no union (5, Insightful)

legLess (127550) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566362)

Most geeks are arrogant. We're used to having complete control over our own domain (whether that's our personal box or a huge network) and we brook little interference. We each believe that we're the best, or that with a little more experience with X, we'll become the best. After all, we got where we are largely by teaching ourselves, right? What's so hard about learning a few more things?

There's something to be said for this attitude - most people have trouble with computers just because they're afraid of them - but there's much to be said against it.

Stastically speaking, most geeks are not high-end, in-demand, uber-geeks. Nor will we become such. We forget that other people learn at least as fast and well as we do, that the entire geek population is filled with people who basically get high on learning new ways to control their digital environment. It's like the Prarie Home Companion: "All the children are above average." It ain't so.

All the replies to this thread so far have echoed a common perception of unions: they exist to enforce mediocrity and prop up the lowest common denominator. Question for those who hold such a view: where did you get it? From the newspaper? From TV? From a series of reports on-line?

Hmmm ... imagine that ... the mainstream media, controlled by the same few large corporations, presents a largely negative view of unions to the U.S. public. It's occured to me that perhaps they have a bias.

My older sister is pretty high up in the USPS union, and she talks about it a fair amount, so I am informed. Being in the union is a little like being arrested by the cops - everyone, theoretically, has the same right to a defence. This [supposed] sniper guy - he's getting a public defender. Yeah he looks guilty, but that's not the point; the point is that it has to be proven - he has to be granted due process.

There's a large part of unionization for you: due process. Management knows that it can't capriciously fire someone for (e.g.) having the wrong political viewpoint because the union will take it to task.

Another part of unionization is collective bargaining. Those with valuable skills in a certain domain will band together and say to management, "If you want our skills, here's how we define 'fair treatment.'" There's nothing anti-capitalist about the idea of unions (implementation is another thing) - it's simply one group of people selling their services to another group.

People are stronger acting together. Unions, implemented correctly, start and end with that sentiment. This "rugged individualism" (rugged geekdom?) plays well on TV, but doesn't scale to real life. We've all seen that typical geek skills are becoming more common and less valuable.

Once upon a time being an auto worker was an arcane skill - only a handful of people could build cars, and no one thought it was possible to automate the process. In hindsight that was incorrect. Put down your cyberpunk novel for a minute and realize that the assembly-line was created by Henry Ford specifically to commoditize auto labor, to take as much skill as possible out of the profession. And it worked, while everyone else thought it was impossible. Who'll be the Henry Ford of geekdom? Want to bet your future that one will never appear?

Ask yourself why organized labor scares management so much. Is it because companies care about their workers, their products, or the people who buy them? If you believe that you haven't been reading the news for the last ... 250 years.

Having said all that, there are some very real problems with unions. But no more so than with any other group of people, with human faults and foibles. You're a cog in a machine. Maybe you're an especially large and influential cog, but you won't stay that way. Whether you organize with the other cogs is up to you.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566402)

A person is intelligent, people are stupid.

The above axiom is reason enough for unions to frighten any independent thinker.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566448)

Another part of unionization is collective bargaining. Those with valuable skills in a certain domain will band together and say to management, "If you want our skills, here's how we define 'fair treatment.'"

Sort of like all the companies in a certain market mergering or buying other companies until they are the only game in town, then they get to say "Here is how we define the Windows Update EULA"...

Oops, did that slip out?

Your ideas rely on the creation of labor monopolies. A monopoly is never compatible with real free market ideas.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566491)

Perhaps competition between unions wouldn't be a bad thing either? We could have skill patents, where companies can't hire from any other set of workers because a particular union is the only kind that can provide that work.

When the plight of management parallels the plight of labour, you will convince me that unions aren't necessary.

Till then...

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566825)


How absurd!

You want to keep companies form hiring workers that you don't approve?

Its none of your business.

Its a matter for the COMPANY and the potential EMPLOYEE.

This is why unions are bullshit-- they prevent you from going to work for a company unless you pay them a cut of your salary. Its protectionism and extortion.

Why else do unions make it such that every new employee HAS to join the union?

If they really cared about human rights, tehy would rely on their utility to the employee making the employee want to join.

But as the local union thug said "why should they benefit from our work without paying?"

Yeah, its extortion all right.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566977)

I believe I was being sarcastic. Using the absurdity of patents to show how unions don't have a monopoly on workers, but that management generally does have a monopoly on a type of labour.

Every employee has an interest in how much an employee is earning. Employees depend upon their corporate structure even MORE than stockholders do. When wages are unfarily biased, it hurts the company that all of these employees depend on.

So yes, every employee should be interested in what a new employee can/will do and how much they will be paid.

On the other hand, unions, like management can be corrupt. So, yes, some bad things happen.

It is true. A good company shouldn't require a union, but for the same reasons that unions are corrupt, managemnet is generally corrupt.

Show me any large corporation where this doesn't happen, and I'll admit a nick in my argument.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567149)



Management at most every company, large and small, is not corrupt.

The difference is that market forces cause management to be honest and to pay a fair wage-- if they don't, the employees leave.

Unions are parasitical. They do not respond to market forces, and thus they will always be corrupt. They will always try to force companies to only hire union member,s and force new employees to join the union.

If there were 5 unions and you could choose which one you joined, then the unions would be kept honest... but so many people join unions for purely political reasons they don't pay much attention to the leadership and swallow what the leadership tells them.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567340)

You say at the beginning "Management at most every company, large and small, is not corrupt."

I completely disagree with this argument.
(but neither of us have evidence we want to pull out right now, do we?)

You say "The difference is that market forces cause management to be honest and to pay a fair wage-- if they don't, the employees leave."

If this were true, unions themself wouldn't exist. Obviously people join unions for some reason. If there truely was no demand, they wouldn't exist, would they? The market forces MAKE unions exist.

You say "Unions are parasitical. They do not respond to market forces, and thus they will always be corrupt. They will always try to force companies to only hire union member,s and force new employees to join the union."

Any human organization has market forces. People are more popular than others. Items are scarce, so they become valuable. If unions were completely greedy and ran around bankrupting companies, they would quickly dissapear. If unions are parasitic, so are employees.

You say, "If there were 5 unions and you could choose which one you joined, then the unions would be kept honest... but so many people join unions for purely political reasons they don't pay much attention to the leadership and swallow what the leadership tells them."

I say for all the reasons above, unions are constructs of the market, not detractors from.

If managers really wanted to be rid of unions, they would play well with their employees. Unions would simply disappear at this point, due to lack of demand.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567710)



Nope. Once the union is htere, it has too much power and will never disappear.

All the employees hired have to be union members, so there is no "free market". The employees can't choose to not be union members.

Remember, a friend got fired by the UNION because he wouldn't join!

Now that is corrupt.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566616)

Sort of like all the companies in a certain market mergering or buying other companies until they are the only game in town, then they get to say "Here is how we define the Windows Update EULA"...

No, actually it's nothing like that at all. It's more like a whole bunch of stockholders getting together and letting the PR department choose who to hire and who not to hire.

Unions in general don't have a monopoly on labor, they only have a monopoly on labor within a single company. That isn't a bad thing, since the company also has a monopoly on hiring power within that single company.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (1)

biohazard99 (114288) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566669)

No, but the union will shut you up if you object to your "dues" being used to fund the next communist^Wliberal democrat that runs for president.

Not so quick, those of you at the University, your Student Activity fee is divided equally amongst whoever starts a student org typically, so the college democrats, amnesty international, the green party, NORML, and the college republicans split your dollar, when you should be able to fund whoever you damn well want.

A Chevy dealership doesn't have to pay for a Ford ad everytime they air one of their own ads do they? Yet the US CofA has allowed it to go on at universtiies all around this land

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566788)


Organized labor scares management because there is no class of individual more skilled at bleeding a company dry than the mafia.

Any business owner would be foolish to not be very concerned indeed, especially given the plentiful examples of companies that could be profitable but are never able to make a profit because the union is sucking them dry. For instance, almost every airline, car manufacturer, airplane manufacturer, etc.

And the counter examples are even more telling: Southwest airline is one of the few profitable airlines right now and they are that way because they DON'T have a strong union. They treat their employees right and the union stays out of it.

Any company that wants to fire me because of my religious beliefs is a company that I didn't want to work for anyway (but I'll be happy to take their stock due to this cause less firing).

Any company that allows its workforce to be orgnaized is foolish. And the laws that prevent it from firing employees that organize violate basic human rights (Right of free association)

If you have been reading the news, maybe you've noticed that unions are unreasonable (the demands of the dock workers-- the issue was over how many non-working stiffs would be kept on the payroll!) and that this country was unionized in a war of violence-- you didn't unionize, hoffa burned down your shop.

Unions have outlived their usefulness, been proven to be completely corrupt and not managed in the interests of the lawyers.

Only a fool or a sucker joins a union.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (1)

ndanger (589194) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567148)

Southwest airline is one of the few profitable airlines right now and they are that way because they DON'T have a strong union. They treat their employees right and the union stays out of it.
Organized labor isn't necessary when workers are properly treated. Unfortuately, sometimes the corporations hold more power than the individual and can use this power to extract unpaid labor (in the Marxist sense) from the worker. Unions--in theory--exist to combat exploitation and restore fair exchange.

Personally, I have worked for small companies that have treated me well. I never needed to fight for better working conditions. But I would never deny others the right to organize.
Only a fool or a sucker joins a union.
Or the disenfranchised.

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567688)


Don't get me wrong- I agree with the right to organize.

but you're much better off getting ten of you together and putting your needs before management that way than inviting the mafia in to extort from you and the company for the rest of time.

That's why I say suckers join unions. If you have a legitimate need, form your own among your coworkers and produce a memo (anonymous if need be).

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (1)

nicedream (4923) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567740)

So are you saying that a small union of 10 workers is acceptable?

If my co-worker asks me to join his 10 person union and I agree, am I still a sucker?

Re:Rock stars don't need no union (2)

tswinzig (210999) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567687)

All the replies to this thread so far have echoed a common perception of unions: they exist to enforce mediocrity and prop up the lowest common denominator. Question for those who hold such a view: where did you get it? From the newspaper? From TV? From a series of reports on-line?

No... from friends and family who have worked in unions, and around others who are in unions. Some of the biggest horror stories I've heard are from my cousin, who is a LAN manager at a large phone company in the northeast. The IT guys are not union. The rest of the company is.

Unions prop up the dregs. A free market economy does not require a union, in MOST cases.

Hmmm ... imagine that ... the mainstream media, controlled by the same few large corporations, presents a largely negative view of unions to the U.S. public. It's occured to me that perhaps they have a bias.

My older sister is pretty high up in the USPS union, and she talks about it a fair amount, so I am informed.


Ahhh, so you're getting your info from an equally biased source.

Unions - a different take (4, Interesting)

chriso11 (254041) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566367)

I don't know about you, but there are many reasons to consider unions for techs:
1) H1B visa abuses.
2) Exporting IT and programming jobs overseas.
3) Significant layoffs across the board in silicon valley (yeah - some might think that it's deserved, but ask no for whom the bell tolls...)

I am quite concerned about being able to work as an engineer for 20 more years (I've got 11 years already). I think that the corporations will find ways to reduce our salaries. What will you do when your $100K/yr job is gone and the only things around are $30K work at Frys?

Re:Unions - a different take (2)

glenstar (569572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566584)

I don't know about you, but there are many reasons to consider unions for techs:

While I am understanding and even sympathetic to your reasons, I hold that the reason that companies are utilizing H1B workers, overseas development shops, and laying off workers has everything to do with market demand. Since we have a free market for IT workers, we (collectively the IT industry) should have capped our rates ourselves, or at the very least made them reasonable. In other words... is it *really worth* 300/hr to pay someone to write code when the industry averages tell us that might only produce 6 lines of code? I don't think so. On the other end of the spectrum, we have people on places like eLance who are demeaning themselves by charging $3000 for a project that should cost $30,000.

So, what's the answer? Keep plugging away, I guess. Take a good long look at *your* value, and then take a long, hard look at what a client (or employer) is willing to pay, and somewhere in between is the rate you should be charging.

I am currently working on a project that will compete directly with offshore call centers, component manufacturing and the like. We have capped our rates to be more than fair to both our workers and our clients. The potential clients are tripping all over themselves to participate. Sure, it might cost a couple bucks an hour more per person than an Indian (or Russian, or whatever) shop, but American companies tend to prefer contributing directly to the American economy, given a prudent financial choice.

Re:Unions - a different take (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4566633)

What will you do when your $100K/yr job is gone and the only things around are $30K work at Frys?

Post on slashdot a lot more.

Re:Unions - a different take (3, Interesting)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566649)

There are two reasons why techies don't have a union. 1. We would have to create one from scratch, as there are no existing IT unions we could just join. 2. Management types and republicans have many of us believing unions are bad, even though nyone with half a brain can see management would have us working for free if they had their way. If we don't get organized, the few IT jobs left in the US will soon be paying minimum wage. People have already left the company I work for (Pomeroy)because assistant managing an Arbys pays more.

Re:Unions - a different take (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567225)



Think about what you just said-- they'd have us working for free if they could.

But they can't because we won't work for free.

That is what keeps our wages up.

A third party there to tell them that we won't work for free doesn't help us, and it costs us because we have to pay the third party. That's all a union is.

the idea that IT jobs will be minimum wage is down right silly. Just cause we're in a downturn you think that's the future of the industry?

they will never pay minimum wage because we would go do something that paid more than minimum wage-- after all, we can make minimum wage anywhere.

If arbys is offering a better deal than a tech job, then that company is in trouble. But somehow, I start to think you aren't really doing tech work.

Re:Unions - a different take (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566877)


Of course corporations will work to reduce our salaries, just as we work to raise them.

But you can't get blood from a turnip-- if the wages don't make sense economically, the union certainly can't get them for you.

As to the racist fear of foriegn workers, get over it. If somebody else can do your job better than you, then he deserves it-- whatever his ethnicity.

Basically, tech jobs are pretty secure-- we will continue to participate in job growth and income growth and we don't need unions-- they would only make matters worse.

The economy didn't go away.

Re:Unions - a different take (2, Funny)

moc.tfosorcimgllib (602636) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567117)

> What will you do when your $100K/yr job is gone and the only things around are $30K work at Frys?

Pray they have a good dental plan.
I couldn't agree more with the H1B Visa abuse. Unfortunately, I have seen people who have a dollar for every time they abuse an H1B, and they all drive Mercedes.
I know too many people that have lost their job, destroying the cohesiveness and effectiveness of a department, just so management could look good by showing they saved a few hundred dollars by outsourcing projects offshore (Getting undocumented crap).
The last one I don't agree with. There was a lot of fat in the industry that needed to be trimmed, and it is down to the bone.
There are a lot of problems with the tech sector (Engineering and IT, both of which are very different). Uniting in a union might solve problems, and Unions don't always prop up the "underachievers", people just like to see the worst-case scenarios.

Making an IT/Engineering Union just will not work, though. People must be willing to risk their entire livelihoods to start a union from scratch. Most Unions in the past were created to force management to make working conditions safer.
Unless computers become deadly-killing-machines soon, I don't think ENOUGH people will be willing to risk it all to start a union.

Work out of the basement? NOT ANYMORE!!!! (2)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566370)

Unions mean you work when you are told and under the conditions of the union. Entrepreneurs are going to constantly be presured to tow the line or leave town. No moonlighting. Competitive wages will be gone. You'll work for scale, and give a (large) percent of your income to the union.

In the case of United Auto Workers, unions costs have doubled the price of most cars. Expect IT to become more expensive and go overseas. The tech sector is already hurting. Unions could kill it.

Re:Work out of the basement? NOT ANYMORE!!!! (4, Informative)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566587)

You'll work for scale, and give a (large) percent of your income to the union

I know dozens of people in unions. Union dues are typically 0.5% of your base pay. That's hardly a 'large percent'.

Re:Work out of the basement? NOT ANYMORE!!!! (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566986)


Yeah, that's why my girlfriend paid %15 of her salary to her union. And after she got fired, she STILL owed the union money.

And she didn't have a choice-- they guy a father of three fired because he didn't join the union.

EXTORTION. And don't believe the lies about how little they extort. Even for unions that don't extort that much, its still extortion.

Arrogance (4, Interesting)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566431)

A large portion of the tech community consists of people who have an impaired ability to work with others and a distorted view of their own importance.

Plenty of IT types see themselves as the backbone of the company, since they "support" the systems that are the "backbone" of most organizations. They work long hours without overtime and are often on call. Programmers often have it even worse, having to deal with short deadlines and an always increasing demand for quality.

To make this more palatable, companies have infused workers with the idea that they are being "entrepreneurial" by working outragous hours and doing unreasonable work. The lure of stock options and advancement has convinced plenty of people to abandon their lives and families in favor of careers.

In reality, most IT workers are tiny cogs in a wheel. As time goes on, distributed systems and offshore labor will either automate or export their jobs out of the market.

No way (2, Insightful)

kelleher (29528) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566442)

Call me crazy, but I'd rather get paid for the quality of my work - not how long I've been the member of a union.

I don't even believe in tieing vacation to length of service. Give the cash and the bennies to the high performers and let the mediocre fight for the scraps.

Re:No way (2)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566654)

Call me crazy, but I'd rather get paid for the quality of my work - not how long I've been the member of a union.

So go into consulting.

Oh, you meant you'd rather get paid for how good your negotiation skills are.

Re:No way (1)

kelleher (29528) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567341)

So go into consulting.

Management has crippled me with too many buzzword babbling Powerpoint-jockeys for me to take consultants seriously. It's hard to get good work out of someone who only develops/implements a project and doesn't have to live with it 6 months down the line.

"Big Labor" would *love* high-tech money... (1)

gtwreck (74885) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566457)

Many others have already detailed the downside of unions. I would add that jobs that require higher intelligence and greater individual motivation to learn and better themselves (such as Engineering, IT, and other high-tech industries) do not lend themselves well to unionization. The members are simply too intelligent to put up with the expense, corruption, and BS of "Big Labor".

Todays labor unions are less about improving the fate of their members and more about increasing the funds in their pension accounts and gathering political power.

For instance, the largest teachers union may as well just be a fundraising wing of the DNC.

Re:"Big Labor" would *love* high-tech money... (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567007)



Not to mention they are essentially a front for the mob.

And look at what they have done for education?

You can't do squat in a school without the union getting in your case, and what we have as a result is poorly educated kids.

Every industry that unionizes goes down the tubes.

Wanted! (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566522)

Professional cat herder: Must be able to crack whip while groveling, talk out of both sides of ass and type with toes. Needed to design, implement and manage a geek union. Organisational skills a plus but not required.

I think this ComputerWorld article [computerworld.com] sums it up pretty well...

Unions can be very useful (5, Interesting)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566528)

Alot of the Slashdot Libertarians will post their negative views on unions (And I agree with some of those negative points), so I'll post a positive view.

I'm actually amazed that IT wokers don't organize. IT workers are willing to bend over backwards for their bosses: 15 hour work days, no weekends, cancelling vacations, endless workloads, changing goals. You would rarely see this in a union shop.

I used to work at one of the only unionized IT shops in the US: www.igc.org [igc.org] (Some of you may remember IGC from the early-web days. We provided usenet, web, and mailinglist services to nonprofits and NGOs). I served as a union rep for 1 year.

After 2.5 years in a union shop and 2 years at a non-union-shop, I prefer the Union. Here's why:

- At the union, we all worked 40 hours a week, sometimes more to meet the deadlines. I rarely worked weekends. We got more pay for pager duty.

- Most union members get Wage pay vs Salary (but this isn't specific to the union). More then 40 hours = overtime pay. This financial incentive encourages management to hire enough staff. With Salary pay, it doesn't matter if you work 70 hours vs 40 hours, you get paid the same. Management has a financial incentive to squeeze you for as much time as they can get

- At the dotcom, I worked 50-70 hours a week. Refusing the work was not an option. Even though I made 20% more money at the dotcom job, I made LESS PER HOUR then at the Union.

- Equitable pay rates. None of this "John and Jane both do the same job and have the same experience, but John makes $30K more then Jane because he was hired during the dotcom boom" bullshit.

- You can still get more pay with more experience

- You can still get bonuses based on merit and goals.

- You can have a Union rep on the board of directors/management team/leadership circle . None of this "Managment is switching all of your tasks. You need to have project Y done by next week! Now get going!" crap that I see in typical businesses.

- The union reps have special legal protections in most states. A union rep can go to the head of the company, and say that their plan is doomed to failure. In a typical business, you might get fired or disciplined for 'subordination'. That can't happen to you if you are a union rep (In most US States).

- We had monthly union meetings to make sure that our shop was on track

- Union reps were elected in a fair, anonymous, democratic process

Note: Most of the above points can occur in any business. But it's rare unless the workers organize.

At the same time, none of the above issues are mandatory to a union. It's your union, and your membership can decide what it wants to do. You can be as strict or as flexible as you want.

Re:Unions can be very useful (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566957)



Wow. Almost every one of those is a reason NOT to have unions!

Who wants a rep-- you go talk to your boss directly.

And the state giving union reps special rights and protections-- that's just wrong.

Plus, and in the end, I will never allow a third party to extort part of my paycheck.

My job is a relationship between me and my employer. If either of us don't like it, we can end the relationship. Unions make the country less productive, the workers LESS happy, and the employers more likely to go out of business.

Oh, and since I started reading this, you marked me as a foe-- I haven't even posted this response yet, so you marked me as a foe because of my opinion posted elsewhere in this thread? Cover your ears and close your eyes!

I've never seen a union that was democratically run, and every time I've had to deal with one or been a member, it was NOT in my best interest.

They are great in theory- and any 10 or so employees can collectively bargain, they don't need a union- but unions themselves are a bad answer to a problem more easily handled by ad-hock collective bargaining. and cheaper too!

Re:Unions can be very useful (2)

Dannon (142147) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567540)

I'm a bit conflicted on the whole issue of unions, myself. I've seen good ones, and I've seen bad.

Some of the best I've seen are probably the professional theater unions. I'm not a professional actor, but I have done some apprenticeships with professional theaters as a hobby, and I've learned a few things about these organizations. Three good things about these unions:
1) They don't let just anyone in, you have to show that you're a Professional, just as you have to have some qualifications to enter the IEEE or get a license to call yourself a Professional Engineer. They also provide training opportunities, similar to IEEE etc. In this, I consider them to be more Professional Trade Organizations than Organized Labor.
2) They provide members with benefits that non-actors might get through their employers (credit unions, health insurance, etc.) that actors have a tough time with due to the irregular nature of their employment, potentially having a different boss in a different city every performance season and so on.
3) The Law stays pretty much out of the employee/employer relationship.

This third point is important. There are certain signs, I think, of when a union goes bad. One is when you can't get a job in a certain field without being part of the union. When I worked at Kroger, I was told that I had the option to join the Local Grocery Workers' Union, but I decided not to, and all was fine. State law says the union can't stop the employer from hiring me. It's not so for all industries and all states.

Bad Thing #2 is when the unions go political. Combine this with mandated union membership, and if I want a job, then a portion of my money will be donated to whatever party the Union likes, whether I like that party or not. As you say, the unions are democratic in nature, but so is a lynch mob. Democracy alone does not guarantee individual rights.

Political power can lead straight into Bad Thing #3, when politicians and laws take away an employer's right to decide whether or not he will deal with a union. For example, out on the West Coast, it may be at some point cheaper for the shipping companies to hire and train a completely new workforce rather than give the union what they want. But the Federal Government has a law against this. Through the power of government, they have their employer and the economy of the nation at their mercy, and they know it. With this kind of power, they've got no reason to come to an agreement that's fair on both sides.

You talked of the problem of management squeezing the employers of all their worth. Well, that's because management has the power. Give the unions the power to squeeze beyond reason, and odds are they'll use it, too. And someone undeserving is likely to get hurt either way.

The best 'union gone bad' quote I've read is from Atlas Shrugged. I lent my copy to someone else, so I may not get it right, but it's from when Dagny Taggert tells the would-be union bosses, "You want to hold me hostage by my employees, and you want to hold my employees hostage by the jobs I give them."

Thomas Paine said that, if the dictates of conscience were strong enough, there would be no need for government, and government would not exist. Similarly, if all employers treated their employees fairly for fair work, as I have been treated at some but not all of the jobs I have held, there would be no need for unions. The fact that there is a shortage of unions in the IT field just indicates to me that the demand is not very great.

Incidentally, I am working in one of those 'regular overtime' places right now. It's a small company, though, and small companies generally don't unionize. Less of a distance between the top of the totem pole and the bottom, and fewer seats for the to fill should we all spontaneously decide to walk off. And according to the statistics, most of America's economic growth comes from small businesses. I think most unions are in long-established, labor-oriented industries, such as shipping, construction, and factory-working. If IT can still be considered a 'young' sector of the economy, I'm not all that surprised that things are the way they are.

Whew... didn't mean for this post to go that long. I'd better hit submit before I think of something else!

Someone please... (2)

noz (253073) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566590)

I've seen the acronym "TA" appear in a few articles recently - could someone please explain it for me. Ty.

Teacher's Assistant? (1)

alwayslurking (555708) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566762)

Grad students earning extra money running tutorials, marking work, that kind of thing... Storyline about their unionisation battles in Doonesbury, but the archive search isn't working right now.

Re:Someone please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4567062)

I've seen the acronym "TA" appear in a few articles recently - could someone please explain it for me.

TA - Teaching Associate/Aide (as opposed to an RA - Residential Associate/Aide).

Pledge of the Free Man. (3, Interesting)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566620)


I swear by my job, and my pride in it, that I will never join any union, brotherhood, or "workers association", nor will I allow, tolerate or associate with any such entity in any job I ever work at.

My skills are my own soverign property-- no union, guido, flim-flam man, or other parasite will ever profit from them, nor will they be allowed to undermine my value by negotiating in my behalf.

As a FREE MAN, I know my value, and will never submit to the tyranny of others.

I will never allow myself to be in a position where someone can extort money from me under penalty of losing my job if I don't pay it.

I am a free man. I will not give that up.

No unions.

Re:Pledge of the Free Man. (2)

jefflinwood (20955) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567651)

Do you work for yourself, or do you work for "the man"? I'm not a big union fan, but your employer is already profiting from your skills, that's why they hired you.

Whether or not the union takes a cut of your salary is irrelevant - you would end up working for (say) 50,000 - 2,000 = 48,000 dollars either way, as your employer would most likely keep the extra in profit. I think some of the possible advantages (health insurance, life insurance, and defined benefits for members) should be discussed.

Another snout in the trough (2)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566691)

You want unions? Do a little field trip. Visit a union office and talk to the president. Now try to decide if you want this guy to A) take a manditory deduction from your paycheck every month B) negotiate your pay raise C)tell you when you have to take breaks D) tell you what you can and cannot do at your job. I'd rather keep my money and negotiate myself.

Re:Another snout in the trough (1)

nicedream (4923) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566998)

Here's another idea. Take a field trip to your PHB's office and talk with him.

Now try to decide if you want this guy to
  • A) take a manditory deduction from your paycheck every month (in the form of pay cuts or the lack of regular raises over time)
  • B) negotiate your pay raise (or decide to not give you one at all, or cut your pay...see point A)
  • C)tell you when you have to take breaks (or if you can have breaks at all)
  • D) tell you what you can and cannot do at your job. (without anything other than the CEO, the company's bottom line, and his big fat "cost-cutting incentive" bonus to worry about)
I'll take the union president, thank you very much.

Re:Another snout in the trough (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567317)



Funny how my "PHB" have never done any of those things.

The last time I got laid off it was by a "PHB" who was making about what I was making (maybe less) and whom I have great respect for and would love to work for again.

This person also gave me a raise, while the economy was going down, let me take breaks whenever I wanted, installed a fooseball table and air hockey at the place of business, made a createive work environment and allowed me lots of freedom.

On the other hand, every union shop I've been in had a soured relationship between management and employees with everyone doing the minimum necessary and nobdy having any pride or joy in their work.

Funny how that is.

Re:Another snout in the trough (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567381)

My little iMac can encode MPEG4 video in realtime. Show me an x86 that can do that. Or, shut up about x86 performance.

How..inefficient. MPEG video is supposed to be encoder heavy; if you're not doing multiple passes to see where you can save bits, you know, that whole variable bit rate thing, you're winding up with a file that's much bigger than it needs to be.

Re:Another snout in the trough (1)

nicedream (4923) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567656)

I've been treated like total shit in the past by some employers (non-union).

I work in a unionized environment now, and I still take breaks when I want and work when I want (we have flex time). And of course we get regular raises and decent pay.

Funny how that is.

No we don't have foosball or any of that "fun" stuff, but find me many companies these days that do. The only places I've heard of that have that stuff are the .coms that are now long gone, and the fact that you were laid off may correlate in with this...although I can't know your situation for sure. For me personally, I would prefer to work at work, and save the foosball for my own time.

Anyway, my point was that all the things you originally said you wouldn't trust to a union rep will be decided by your employer if there is no union around. I'm glad that you've had good employers, but everyone is not so fortunate. There are some real assholes out there in management, and I see no harm in employees wanting to take a collective stand to prevent mistreatment of workers.

They already have a union. It's called upper management. I'd rather us vs. them instead of me vs. them.

Re:Another snout in the trough (2)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567394)

You seem to think that the union has the last word. What happens when the company decides it's cheaper to fire everyone and move the factory to texas/mexico/china. Everyone looses their job with no prospect of local work because of the large number of like-skilled unemployed in the area.

Proposal: Geek Union (1)

Boglin (517490) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566850)

IANAE (I am not an Economist), but I think that there is a way to implement unions for nerds that would be beneficial to the geek community. The main need for restructuring is having the union test it's members for their own competence. Similar to certification, except run by the nerds, as opposed to the marketing department. This should fix the following problems:
  1. Good nerds pulling the weight of the lazy nerds. Incompetent nerds are never allowed into the union. Less competent nerds are paid less than the better nerds. Nerds who slack will be kicked out of the union.
  2. The jobs being shipped to cheaper workers off shore. First off, if the off shore workers are willing to do the same work for less pay, then the jobs will be shipped there even if we don't unionize. However, the union can represent a body of workers with a skill level that they aren't guarnteed from random off shore workers.
  3. No ability to work overtime. This could be a major disadvantage. However, too many coorporation have been making it where only the lowest levels of employees are paid hourly, everyone else is salaried. So, which do you prefer, no option of overtime, or 80 hours of unpaid overtime.
  4. Ridiculuous union rules. True, there will be rules imposed by the union, which could very well be annoying. But wasn't there a recent Slashdot Article [slashdot.org] explaining that businesses will soon begin inforcing its rules upon the nerd community. The choices are the silly rules of the nerd union, or the silly rules of management.
The computer industry is different from the auto industry, so we can't just use the same rules. I know my system is far from perfect, but at least I tried to work on it, rather than saying that it can't be done.

Re:Proposal: Geek Union (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567390)


That you think you can tell the quality of an employee based on a standardized test tells me that this is no a union I would profit from joining.

Hey, anyway, I have no incentive because I negotiate good agreements where I go to work.

But the fundamental problem is that there's no one fit solution for everybody, and unions are trying to say that it is- that labor is something that can be aggregated and negotiated wholesale.

You see? Thanks for at least trying, though.

I think there is the possibility that there can be organizations that support workers, but any time someone gets involved in your negotiations (The definition of union) you are in a worse spot- they never know all your abilities and also have their own interests to look out for at the detriment of yours.

Some Links (1)

strudeau (96760) | more than 11 years ago | (#4566996)

These are both projects of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Some of the CWA leadership actually have a clue that if they tech workers are going to organize, their unions aren't going to look like the Teamsters or UAW.

Techs Unite [techsunite.org]
WashTech [washtech.org]

Re:Some Links (3, Interesting)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567469)


Had some altercatiosn with Washtech.

The suck.

First off, they are totally political. They are only interested in furthering the democratic socialist agenda. They have no interest in hearing from members who are libertarian or not interested in union dues being spent to further interests that have nothing to do with the union (like gun control, etc.)

Oh, and thier president thinks its ok to force new workers to join the union (though they don't do that currently) or they loose their jobs because the "union created the job". This is so absurd- the union doesn't create jobs, and to claim that you have a claim on my income because you lobbied the company in the past is wrong.

Washtech has done great at organizing no-skill tech workers like amazon box stuffers and MS receptionists, but they have not done well at getting programmers and other skilled people aboard-- this despite being in an area that is overwhelmingly liberal/socialist.

They look just like the teamsters to me-- promoting mediocrity, taking a cut of your pay, and undermining your ability to lobby for what you want. (not to mention spending your dues towards political positions that have nothing to do with the workplace.)

There is a time and a place for everything, (2)

n9hmg (548792) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567107)

and there is no place for a union in IT. We are professionals, as were public school teachers, before they were unionized.
Unions can be beneficial in jobs that can be filled by just anybody. If you can be replaced by somebody who can be fully trained to take over from you and produce just as well as you, the next day, your employer is unlikely to restrain himself from abusing his position of power. In cases like that, the only way for the workers to have sufficient influence over the job is to pool their influence.
It's unfortunate when they must do so, both for the employer, AND the employees. If management could have made work tolerable for the employees to where they didn't need to unionize, and management failed to take that action, they've just inserted massive inefficiencies and rigidity into their operation for no good reason. If management was unable to accomodate the employees demands because the business would not support it, there is now no way to save the business.
For the employees (as a whole, not the first ones in), they are now stuck in a situation where the only way to advance is to wait their turn in the rigid union heirarchy, or move into management.
Once you give up your right to negotiate for yourself, you are no longer a professional. It reminds me of the quote from Benjamin Franklin (often seen in .sigs), "Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither"(go ahead and correct me, I know I don't have it verbatim). However tempting it is, seeing the layoff axe swing closer and closer, minds strong and flexible enough to do what we do can't submit to chains.

One little (2, Insightful)

iago (4917) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567283)

Rather than reiterate what others have mentioned already, I'd like to add one little benefit about unions. Most, if not all, unions have lobbyists. A percentage of the money you spend to the union would go to having our own folks in Washington fighting to have politicians pass laws that are sane and beneficial to us. Having powerful people in politicking for us would do a lot more than sitting here on slashdot and whining about the abuses of the DMCA, the Patriot Act, etc.

Of course, this would mean that in elections, we would all have to vote the same way, and most "geeks" (I hate that word) are too damn stubburn, independent, and argumentative to vote a certain way because our union endorses a certain candidate.

Re:One little (1)

iago (4917) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567372)

That subject is supposed to read "One little thing you neglected to mention."

Re:One little (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567561)


Thats another detriment-- you're having your salary forcibly extracted from you to pay for lobbying for things you don't believe in, and you call that a benefit?

Union lobbying is solidly against human rights-- remember they make their money by having government protect their extortion racket so they can force employees to "join" in order to keep their jobs.

Well it's enevitable, so how about a Guild? (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567371)

Like it or not we are a growing sector of the labor business, you can see all the little tech colleges churning out the MCSE and Linuxdroids. Even now you will see them on TV making pitches about the high paying jobs in the tech sector,

"In just two years you can be well on your way to a life of wealth and fame. Blabalbal"

Not to mention the Big tech firms importing H1B visa slaves by the boatload and monster layoffs in Silicon Valley and it's little clones around North America. Shipping big but not complex programming projects off the Outer Mongolia and Elbonia

Tech firms pay big for good people, they always will, but case in point I worked at small tech firm a few years ago and the CTO used Taos, While they did have some clueful people they also had a practice of training losers to pass the Solaris and MS certs.

Sure they passed, but that's all they know. I expect newbies to be ignorant but eager. Certs are an instant sign marking them with a large L on their foreheads. These guys were just clowns.

I have proudly have no certs and a the height of the boom I was making $120k

If we are stuck with some form of Unions why not go back to the origins out situation is just like the days of Gutenberg, the printing press revolutionized the world, much like computers have now. There is still room to grow, but we need to cover are asses.

As a professional society we can have a voice and properly rank our members according to skill level. A tech manager who hires a guild journeyman would know that person is able to do certain things and have a resource of higher skilled people to call on.

If you can quantify how much your staff knows then you can make accurate plans. Beancounters hate it when you say

"Will it take long? - Hours? Days? Weeks? Who knows? Genius is mysterious." (Marcel Marceau as Professor Ping in Barbarella [1968] )

I doubt any of you haven't heard the referances to the "DUNE" Guilds about Third Stage Guild Navigators regarding Master Sysadmins and Coders. Why not make if formal?

The harm of Unions (4, Interesting)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567424)

In an free market, wages and working conditions are set by supply and demand.

The main objective of Unions is to force through salaries higher than the market rate. If they are successful, they will get these improvements at the expense of:

- Other employees (unionized or not) - Company profitability

In other words, at their best, unions are successful zero sum game players. Typically they do much more harm than this: - Cause unemployment, as few employees want to pay above market rate - Attract employees to old-fashioned parts of the economy. For example, people want to become port workers instead of IT nerds because the former pays better (which of course would not be the case if wages were set by the market) - Cause strikes and other obviously economcially harmful activities - Fight technological innovation (i.e., stop bar code technology in the port).

It is a fallacy to say that the long work of unions have caused today's high standard of living. It is not like Rockefeller et al sat with enough modern cars, computers and TV shows to supply the entire nation, and that the Unions managed to take these luxuries and distribute them. Rather, it is the fantastic improvements in productivity in all sectors that have given the masses a descent living.

One can also observe the development of real wages in industrial countries. It turns out that these have grown more in countries with weak unions (US, Switzerland) than in countries with strong ones (France, Sweden).

Vote NO for an IT union.

Tor

The Longshore Union Supports new technology (1)

xyzzy-ladder (570782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567467)

See for yourself: ILWU [ilwu.org]

The issue in the West Coast lockout (the workers did not strike) is about their contract, which the PMA wants to break.

The PMA is the Pacific Maritime Association. It's a union for the companies. What, are you surprised that business owners have their own union? Of course they do. They're not stupid.

Re:The Longshore Union Supports new technology (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567502)



No, the lockout is because the longshoreman were refusing to do their jobs but were still collecting pay.

Anyone who refuses to do his job but expects to be paid should be rewarded with being fired.

The contract is up, they aren't trying to "break" it... and the issue for the union is that tehy want to have more people on staff who do no work but collect money.

Tech Workers of the World Unite! (3, Insightful)

fooguy (237418) | more than 11 years ago | (#4567496)

It's ironic to me that the same people who hate unions are the people who miss "the old legal system". Our legal system is supposed to be adversarial because both sides are supposed to get a fair shake at making their point, these days it's more about technicalities and theatrics. Unions are adversarial in the same way: since labor is just as important as management, both should get a say in what decisions are made. Some people's selective memory only grab on to Hoffa, and forget about all the good unions have done since the Knight's of Labor formed in 1869.

Why did unions come into being? To protect the droves of workers who were just a number from their employer.

People argue that unions are outdated, that they're vestages of a time when employers did unspeakable things to their employees in the name of a few bucks. Can you really tell me it's any different now? How many employers are there that would work you 100+ hours a week in the name of a couple cent stock divided because they don't want to put a new piece of hardware on the balance sheet.

Once upon a time, I was a card carrying member of CWA (that's the Communication Workers of America) Local 1112 when I worked for the former Bell Atlantic (in the piece that was the former NYNEX, which was the piece that was the former New York telephone). I was hired right before the strike of 1998, so you could say my time there was interesting.

I've heard the argument that unions breed mediocrity, and to some extent it's true, but certainly no more than the military. Unions force the employer to create job descriptions, and they insure the employee meets the minimum qualifications for that job. That does not mean that you can't excel, that you can't live above the bar, but you don't put the guy who falls behind on every run on the front line next week.

The also prevent "crossing of trade". If you're a seasoned network admin, and your CCIE number is under 500, and you built the company's network from nothing (and *for* nothing), the Union is going to stop them from eliminating your job because "the DBA knows how networks work". Does that mean they have to keep redundant people on staff at the risk of the whole company? Certainly not, but the union gets a say in how positions get eliminated.

A union is also another set of eyes watching the books. I wonder if Worldcom would be in the position it's in if the had been a large union shop. Not that the union aspect would slow the mergers down, but they would have seen that Ebbers was pulling a "merge and hide" with their debt, making them look good on paper.

I can give you one real good example of a union-driven shop (though bloated) that has been infinately more successful that a comparably management-driven shop.

In 1984, the federal government ordered AT&T to divest itself of the Baby Bells, creating Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs). Fifteen minutes after the divestiture, AT&T began it's persuit to automate people out of jobs. Once the Telecommunication Act of 1996 passed, made their move to get into local telephone markets again, and eventually they were successful.

Along the way, AT&T changed market direction a little, bought TCI Cable (I might have screwed the name there) so they could provide broadband with AT&T Worldlink (their ISP), built AT&T Wireless, continued to automate, continuted to cut their bottom line, etc. At their peak, AT&T had their own security force (the Bell Boys), their own Navy (AT&T Longlines Fleet with 5 ships and 3 subs), and their own currency. Today, they're a shell of the former company they were.

At the same time, New York Telephone (one of the more...aggressively union RBOCS) merged with New England Telephone to form NYNEX. They later merged with the former Bell Atlantic to create the new Bell Atlantic, then merged with GTE to form Verizon. They also branched into wireless and Internet with DSL. They've been working on getting tariffs through to offer long distance in their region since the mid-1990s, and have been successful in several states.

Verizon is still a very union place to work, and has grown to be one of the largest telecom companies in the world. AT&T in the mean time is trying to scrape together cash to buy a piece of Bell Canada next year.

Having been inside before the long distance tariffs passed, I can tell you that the unions were all too happy to help management reach its goals for growth with training, overtime, etc. Yes, they got paid for it, but they didn't hold it back, and it's a second set of eyes looking at every merger.

Now, both AT&T and Verizon are souless vultures, but they practice the same tactics. The one that worked with their union has grown 10 times over, the one that worked against the union is on pretty shaky ground. It could be a coincidence, but almost 20 years of pattern makes me think otherwise.

So what about us? I would love a union. I would love someone to stand up to management with one voice and say "you're not downgrading our insurance because you can't meet your numbers", or to enforce work hours and pay equity. Unions and IT (in my opinion) would be a fantastic match. You don't want the bar lowered? I want people who can't meet the bar kicked out, and unions are all for that. They don't want unskilled labor sucking down a paycheck and giving them a bad name. I want minimum standards for what is a programmer, what is a dba, what is a network admin.

Some unions now have high tech training programs and cert programs they sponsor for their employees.

Don't you think the people who work at places like HP would like one voice to limit the number of layoffs they do in a merger? Would AOL-Timewaner exist as one unit without a union? I doubt it.

You get a lot for $6 a pay day in dues.

If your history is rough (or purposely forgotten), it might be worth a refresher to see what Americans went through to get the right to collective bargaining and representation:

http://www.wld.com/conbus/weal/wlaborun.htm

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