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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For Developers To Start Their Own Union? 761

Posted by samzenpus
from the coders-unite dept.
juicegg writes "TechCrunch contributor Klint Finley writes that developers have shunned unions because traditional workplace demands like higher pay are not important to us while traditional unions are incapable of advocating for what developers care about most while at work: autonomy and self-management. Is this how most developers feel? What about overtime, benefits, conditions for contractors and outsourcing concerns? Are there any issues big enough to get developers and techies to make collective demands or is it not worth the risk? Do existing unions offer advantages or is it better to start from scratch?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For Developers To Start Their Own Union?

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  • by Cid Highwind (9258) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:21PM (#41882775) Homepage

    Disclaimer: I'm live and work in Europe

    ...where you already have 4+ weeks vacation, sane working hours, protection from dismissal without cause, guaranteed health care if you do lose your job, and so on and so forth. Understandable that you don't see the appeal of a better contract.

  • by starworks5 (139327) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:27PM (#41882885) Homepage

    The company controls the collective capital and labor of the business, and a few companies can control the collective capital and labor of an entire market, how would you think that individuals will be able to bargain against such asymmetrical power structures?

    Somehow, I think you misunderstood why collective bargaining began, and need to read up on the history late 19th century early 20th century.

  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:29PM (#41884035) Homepage

    Since when is higher pay simply "not important"?

    Tech workers, engineers, etc. usually negotiate salary on a one-on-one basis. Based on skills, commitments, etc.
    Traditional unions (the ones with red flags) would crack down hard on performance based bonus systems.

    However, I'm a student member of a union in Denmark, for engineers, etc. They are not like traditional unions but are mostly here to help, if you need guidance, or want to sue your employer for wrongful conduct, discrimination or whatever...
    Futhermore, they also offer a fairly good unemployment insurance :)

    But mostly, it's benefits, job training, networking, etc. and not so much salary negotiations, although they can help with that.

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:49PM (#41886099)

    I keep hearing this "with unions everyone will get the same salary" thing from Americans and I've been getting the impression that there's a lot of irrational hatred of unions based on this misconception.

    This is not some fundamental consequence of unions, it's simply a side-effect of some of the American unions. Here in Sweden, where we have a lot of strong unions in all sorts of industries, most just demand that there's a reasonable minimum salary, that you can't be forced to work as a "temporary" employee for years on end, that when layoffs happen they do so in a fair way, that local labor laws regarding overtime pay and things like that.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Monday November 05, 2012 @05:43PM (#41886653) Homepage Journal

    The whole point of a union is that you have more economic power when you negotiate with your boss together with the other workers than you do when you negotiate as an individual.

  • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Monday November 05, 2012 @05:55PM (#41886765)

    Unions are for supporting interchangeable employees. Devlopers have very specific skill sets. Generally speaking, most high end professions don't have unions: doctors, lawyers, engineers.

    Except for AMA, ABA, and NSPE, you're exactly right.

    And those totally interchangeable cogs, like screenwriters, actors, and professional athletes all have unions as well.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Monday November 05, 2012 @07:18PM (#41887755) Homepage Journal

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2011/12/21/germany-builds-twice-as-many-cars-as-the-u-s-while-paying-its-auto-workers-twice-as-much/ [forbes.com]
    Frederick E. Allen
    12/21/2011 @ 5:42PM |60,178 views
    How Germany Builds Twice as Many Cars as the U.S. While Paying Its Workers Twice as Much

    In 2010, Germany produced more than 5.5 million automobiles; the U.S produced 2.7 million. At the same time, the average auto worker in Germany made $67.14 per hour in salary in benefits; the average one in the U.S. made $33.77 per hour. Yet Germany’s big three car companies—BMW, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), and Volkswagen—are very profitable.

    How can that be? The question is explored in a new article from Remapping Debate, a public policy e-journal. Its author, Kevin C. Brown, writes that “the salient difference is that, in Germany, the automakers operate within an environment that precludes a race to the bottom; in the U.S., they operate within an environment that encourages such a race.”

    There are “two overlapping sets of institutions” in Germany that guarantee high wages and good working conditions for autoworkers. The first is IG Metall, the country’s equivalent of the United Automobile Workers. Virtually all Germany’s car workers are members, and though they have the right to strike, they “hardly use it, because there is an elaborate system of conflict resolution that regularly is used to come to some sort of compromise that is acceptable to all parties,” according to Horst Mund, an IG Metall executive. The second institution is the German constitution, which allows for “works councils” in every factory, where management and employees work together on matters like shop floor conditions and work life. Mund says this guarantees cooperation, “where you don’t always wear your management pin or your union pin.”

    Mund points out that this goes
            against all mainstream wisdom of the neo-liberals. We have strong unions, we have strong social security systems, we have high wages. So, if I believed what the neo-liberals are arguing, we would have to be bankrupt, but apparently this is not the case. Despite high wages . . . despite our possibility to influence companies, the economy is working well in Germany.

    At Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, the nonunionized new employees get $14.50 an hour, which rises to $19.50 after three years.

    http://www.remappingdebate.org/article/tale-two-systems [remappingdebate.org]
    A tale of two systems
    By Kevin C. Brown
    Remapping Debate
    Dec. 21, 2011

    American autoworkers are constantly told that high-wage work is an unsustainable relic in the face of a hyper-competitive, globalized marketplace. Apostles of neo-liberal economic theory — both in the public and private sectors — have stressed the message that worker adaptation is necessary to survive....

    But the case of German automakers — BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen — tells a different story. Each company produces vehicles not only in Germany, but also in “transplant” factories in the U.S. The former are characterized by high wages and high union membership; the U.S. plants pay lower wages and are located in so-called “right-to-work” (anti-union) states.

    ... the UAW has made significant concessions on wages, especially through the creation of a permanent “Tier 2” level for all new employees. Whereas incumbent “Tier 1” workers earn about $28 an hour, all new UAW hires at the GM, Ford, and Chrysler earn around $15 per hour.

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