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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 crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:50PM (#41882137)

    In my lifetime, I don't recall a single industry that that has started a successful union in the U.S. (not in ANY field). All the unions that still have any real power are the ones still around from the Roosevelt New Deal and postwar days (the Teamsters, UAW, etc.).

    So it's hardly fair to single out developers. There are very few fields that are significantly unionized anymore, and most of the ones that are are represented by older unions that go way back. When you look around and see that there are no unions with any real power that have been founded in your lifetime, it's pretty easy to be skeptical and pretty hard to volunteer to be the sacrificial lamb (by being the first voice in your field supporting a union) and endanger your career in the process.

    It probably also doesn't help that political support for unions, even among many Democrats, pretty much dried up a long time ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      Does government count? Because that's where all the union growth is coming from. I guess the government (local, state, and federal) is mistreating and abusing workers. Who knew.
      • Maybe, just maybe, you're confusing cause and effect there? Government workers aren't mistreated quite as much as, say, people working in an Amazon warehouse because they are unionised. Among other things, obviously: the government has a harder time mistreating people because there is some sort of political and democratic oversight. For the same reason, the government can't appear to be suppressing worker organisation. And of course government workers are usually more highly trained and less replaceable tha

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:00PM (#41883535)

          Government worker unions are the only sector where union membership has increased over the past 10 years. Witness the explosive growth of SEIU, now the largest union in the country. Unions couldn't grow in the private sector after their jobs were outsourced offshore, so the only place they could find any support was in the government, where they bought influence by using their member's dues to donate to political compaigns. They endorsed politicians who helped negotiate favorable contracts guaranteeing them lavish pension plans and health benefits paid by taxpayers. Until the economic crash of 2008, very few government workers had to pay any portion of their retirement benefits, and now they are fighting tooth and nail to keep that status quo.

          I can speak from a position of knowledge, since I am now an IT worker for a state government agency. The only reason I am in the union is because the union voided the contract under which I used to work, threatened me and told me I had to join the union or I would lose my job (this was in 2010, when the unemployment rate was well over 9% in my state). So rather than face unemployment, foreclosure and poverty, I accepted the union job and immediately took a $1,800/month pay cut. Now, the union takes $86 out of every paycheck for my dues and I enjoy NONE of the benefits I expected to get (I work overtime two weekends out of every month, but am not eligible for ovetime pay). They spend millions of dollars of my dues to bankroll political campaigns to maintain their power in the capitol, offer to bus me to carefully choreographed protest rallys wherever they are scheduled, and gave me a horrible tacky purple SEIU tee-shirt to wear to these staged rallies. On top of this, the president of the union is paid far more than any rank and file member (http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2011/09/seiu-local-1000-council-to-con.html).

          Labor unions had a purpose long ago during the industrial revolution, but have outlived their usefulness and have evolved into organized crime organizations plundering the nation's taxpayers and threatening them with bankruptcy to provide a lavish lifestyle for the "community organizers" at the top of the food chain.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:25PM (#41883977)

            Labor unions had a purpose long ago during the industrial revolution, but have outlived their usefulness and have evolved into organized crime organizations plundering the nation's taxpayers and threatening them with bankruptcy to provide a lavish lifestyle for the "community organizers" at the top of the food chain.

            Sorry, but this is absurd. Do you really think corporate power has diminished in any permanent way, "just because"? I've personally received health insurance, pensions, and other benefits because there existed a union in an industry where I can guarantee you, without the union I would have been screwed.

            To think that corporations are happy to give employees rights and benefits without being compelled to do so is insane. You can't have a situation where employers hold the purse strings and the power, and the workers are unable to answer them with the collective strength of all their members. The weakened unions in the past 30 years and the simultaneous decline of the middle class are no coincidence. You think getting rid of unions completely would be a good idea? Maybe, if you think the work standards of the 19th century were a good idea too.

            I'd love to get a detailed analysis of what union you' were 'forced' to join, what work you were doing before joining the union, what benefits you were getting from the union even though you weren't a part of it (were you getting paid a salary that just undercut the standard salaries that were negotiated by unions, for example? Were you guaranteed a safe working environment? Weekends off? Overtime? A minimum wage?) and what benefits you say you aren't receiving and why.

          • by JWW (79176) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:53PM (#41884479)

            So rather than face unemployment, foreclosure and poverty, I accepted the union job and immediately took a $1,800/month pay cut. Now, the union takes $86 out of every paycheck for my dues and I enjoy NONE of the benefits I expected to get

            This, this is why we don't have IT unions. Anyone making over the average income for their position will be facing a pay cut. Anyone new to the shop will face years of waiting behind those with seniority, as promotions will no longer be based on ability. Everyone will have a good chunk of their monthly wage taken to feed the union bosses.

            Senior staff would face large pay cuts, junior staff would face a future of waiting for those in front of them to retire before being promoted/advances. Who exactly would be left to vote FOR having a union?

            • 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 ediron2 (246908) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:23PM (#41883955) Journal

        No, union GROWTH isn't happening in government. They're just the big obvious target because SO MUCH OF EVERYTHING ELSE HAS BEEN GUTTED.

        By the way, SEIU is the fastest growing union. They're service workers: hotel housekeepers, commercial bldg janitors and etc. No, they're not governmental.

  • by ThomK (194273) on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:54PM (#41882235) Homepage Journal

    "because traditional workplace demands like higher pay are not important to us"

    Since when is higher pay simply "not important"?

  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdotNO@SPAMuberm00.net> on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:55PM (#41882255) Homepage Journal

    The second a union starts, the company closes the local shop and outsources all development to a place where unions are illegal.

    Manufacturers at least have a direct cost associated with moving a factory; most costs attributed to outsourcing are intangible in development and are thus usually ignored by PHBs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fustakrakich (1673220)

      It's time for a tariff on foreign labor.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Sure you can fire anybody anytime you like... but in some jurisdictions, you just either have to give them a certain amount of notice of such action (where I live, not counting a probationary period, the law requires one week's notice up until the end of their first year with the employer, two week's notice after the end of the first year, and after three years, one week's notice for every full year worked to a maximum of 8 weeks notice) or else the employer must pay them out in lieu of said notice. If you
    • by fermion (181285) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:28PM (#41882917) Homepage Journal
      And what do you think has happened?

      The fact that developers do not have unions has nothing to do with the idealized geek fantasy. It has to do with developers being able to change jobs as needed and increase salary over time. It has to do with so many on H1B visa programs that would be terminated if unions were to be an issue.

      Unions, like corporations, provide value through stability and well known brands and point of contact. For instance, if one needs a crane operator, a union can insure a business acquires a skilled person who will be accepted by the insurance company. The union provides predictability in budgeting. Some workers complain about paying fees, and some employers complain about paying living wages, but like Governor Christie, are appreciative of the service when disaster strikes.

      So I am not surprised that developers are looking at unions. More developers have families, so they want to be judged on efficiency rather than hours at the office. Many don't want the inefficiencies caused by frequent job moves, in which much of the costs are shifted to the employee, so want to know that job stability is a possibility. Many are getting to retirement age, and realize the party is over.

  • Unions are archaic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gavron (1300111) on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:55PM (#41882275)

    Before the Internet, and before the common man had access to rally others, communicate to the masses, and see others' opinions, unions had value.
    They kept child labor in the mines but made more money for the children's parents and for the union bosses.

    Today unions are obsolete. The only people who advocate unions are the unions themselves, and those who've already joined that now want to "haze" everyone else because "they got hazed."

    Sorry, jack. No unions.

    E

    • by MarkvW (1037596) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:04PM (#41882461)

      Unions are archaic because workers can trust employers to treat them decently.

      The video game industry is a perfect example.

      ORGANIZE!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's quite nice to have professionals negotiating on your behalf when the company you work for decides to sack a lot of people, or when a company decides to not follow the law. Strength in numbers is still valid.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:17PM (#41882703)

        If this is what unions did in practice, I'd agree. My (limited) experience with unions and my wife's much more extensive experience shows that they spend most of their energies defending the weakest people in their membership roles. People who, by any objective standard, should be fired. They shift the whole focus of the workforce from "are we achieving the goal?" to "are we following the rules?". Further, they tend to be run by long-time union members and not by people with a professional background in business, finance, etc. Finally, they poison our political atmosphere - we have very weak rules in the US about who can throw money around. Government unions are a total scam, and private unions often get public officials involved in what should be a private business matter. I won't get into physical intimidation, since I'm sure you'd agree that is a black eye that unions are notorious for. To be fair, employers were the ones who were notorious for this in the past.

        I think the concept of the union is sound and I think they should be commended for some of their past achievements. I just think we need serious reform of the current practice, which is self-defeating.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Q-Hack! (37846) *

        If you work for a company that treats its employees badly and or doesn't follow the law, then it's time to look for a new company to work for. Companies that don't do the right thing, don't last long. You have more power acting on your own behalf than you ever will following a union.

    • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@g m a i l.com> on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:17PM (#41882683)

      Facilitating communication is, at best, a secondary (if necessary) function of unions. Unions serve as collective bargaining platforms to somewhat level an otherwise inherently unbalanced power relationship. I don't know about the specific unions you're talking about, and I don't care. There are many kinds of unions, and they don't share many attributes regarding their internal structure. I do know that fundamentally nothing has changed regarding the imbalance of power.

      Unions may be archaic, but so is human society.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fustakrakich (1673220)

      Organized labor is the only way to ensure a balance of power. Unfortunately, its authority is just as corruptible as all other authority. No more, no less.

    • by Svippy (876087) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:26PM (#41882867) Homepage

      Unions may seem useless in the USA, but in Europe they actually matter, which is probably why my country has a union for developers. In Europe, unions represent employees when negotiating working rules.

      For instance, this means that very few European countries actually have minimum wage laws, because the minimum wag 'laws' are agreements between unions and employers. The idea is to keep government out of working rules (I am beginning to feel this is not the actual term in English), but rather let it remain between the employees (unions) and employers (corporations). However, unions have some rights (e.g. strikes) to protect their negotiation position. Employers too have rights.

      I do not see a problem with this system.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      They kept child labor in the mines but made more money for the children's parents and for the union bosses.

      Unions in the US started denouncing child labor as far back as 1832 and continued to push for banning of child labor until they got it banned nationally over a century later in 1938 (source [uiowa.edu]).

      The purpose of a union is that if pay and/or working conditions are intolerable, workers have something of value to bargain with. If 1 guy quits, the company is just a bit shorthanded until they can hire somebody else, while that employee starves. If 10,000 guys quit all at once, it's harder for the company to deal wit

  • Who wants one (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:55PM (#41882277)

    Why would you want a Union? My observation is that Unions drag everything to the mediocre. It drags down the top performers and brings up the dead wood. If i'm a top performer I can do better for myself on my own. I guess if I'm a bottom feeder I'm interested, but probably too lazy to to care.

  • by multicoregeneral (2618207) on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:56PM (#41882279) Homepage
    It would be a hard sell to the development community these days. Especially when we're facing overseas competition, and domestic competition from overseas labor. A union would make American developers un-competitive, and force businesses over the edge of insisting they can't afford american labor, even further. Sure, it would be nice if congress fixed that, but they haven't in the twelve years I've been watching. So, it's probably not feasible any time soon.
  • What about overtime, benefits, conditions for contractors and outsourcing concerns?

    Disclaimer: I am pro unions for services that are needed but cannot operate in the manner of a traditional capitalistic model like teaching and nursing. I am anti-union when it comes to goods and services that are not a critical need for society and should survive by their own objective merit and quality.

    As a software developer myself, wouldn't unions exacerbate outsourcing concerns? I mean the whole point of what a picket line and a scab was centered around the fact that unionized workers that went on strike would have to physically stop workers from accessing the factory floor to work for less than the unionized workers. I would think that if developers did this, the picket line would be virtual and foreign or even out of state developers would find it easy to work remotely to fulfill the customer's needs. So could someone explain to me how a union could address outsourcing concerns? I think a union would make a potential development house shy away from going local for fear that they would have to deal with a union and then once in that position would not be able to go elsewhere for development work.

  • Missed one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:58PM (#41882333)

    while traditional unions are incapable of advocating for what developers care about most while at work: autonomy and self-management

    They missed one other one: Unions are also incapable of supporting performance-based rewards and promotion, something tech sector workers appreciate. The notion that seniority trumps all else would not go over well in my workplace, nor former workplaces.

  • I can't think of a faster way to send more development jobs to China/India than to unionize. Globalization largely blocks the benefit of unionizing in our industry, whether you are for or against unions is beside the point.

    Companies that hire here value a level of service and language skill as a cost of doing business. You start reducing the cost-benefit of that relationship, and they will start shipping more jobs overseas.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unions have been attempted in the past for IT personel. There is a reason they always fail. That reason is the general Union mentality that a degree is required to do anything high level. Many high level people in IT currently have no degree, or got the degree while already in the workplace.

    That is just one reason. There are many others. Myself, yes I know I am posting anonymous, I do not support unions in IT. As the only degree I have is a G.E.D. and 21 years experience.

  • Union Programmers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bhlowe (1803290) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:01PM (#41882395)
    I know programmers who work for my county that are unionized. Imagine a process where seniority and not coding ability determines who works on a project.

    Imagine a union that helped get the best workers on a project and making the most. A union that helped weed out the lazy, the incompetent, and the criminals. That would be a union that most people would not oppose.. unfortunately the opposite is true: seniority rules, criminals are coddled, lawsuits are filed, work slowdowns are part of the union bag of tricks.

    Unions have no place for the programming industry.. except in government where we expect cost overruns and shoddy results. To start a programming union would be to hasten the outsourcing of your job. Besides, programming jobs are one of the most in-demand careers out there. If you can't make good money without a union, you should bone up on your skills.
  • I reject the idea of unions for IT professionals. I wholeheartedly agree with belonging to professional groups (they seem to be pretty rare) for sharing information and organizing informally. I don't see lawyer's unions or doctor's unions and don't see the need for IT unions.

  • by jejones (115979) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:01PM (#41882407) Journal

    In C, it's pretty simple, though of course if you want a discriminated union you'll probably end up stuffing it into a struct along with a field that tells you how to interpret the union.

  • by redemtionboy (890616) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:02PM (#41882409)

    Why would I want to belong to a union when the most of the power is on the developer's side? There's not enough developers to go around and thus plenty of job availability. Unions are meant to solidify workers rights in a situation where labor is plentiful, but that's nowhere near the case. Companies fight over us. I just made a decision between 3 offers this week to accept a new job. The power was in my hand.

  • Traditional manufacturing had huge barriers to entry. You needed to buy millions of dollars worth of equipment before your factory could actually produce anything. That meant the labor market was captive, creating a pressure for labor to unionize.

    Software development has almost no barriers to entry. You need a computer, some development tools, and network access. These are easily within reach of any developer (and in fact any developer who loves what they do will already own these for "recreational c
  • Think software has a larger block of Libertarians than most other office workers. /. had a poll last week [slashdot.org] showing Dems and Libertarians in a neck-and-neck race for the biggest political block. Libertarians and Unions don't line up terribly neatly. That's going to be a quick roadblock to any attempt to unionize.
  • by miltonw (892065) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:07PM (#41882513)

    Today, unions exist to protect jobs - meaning that a poorly performing worker is protected and cannot be fired.

    Technical people admire knowledge, ability and competence above anything else. And they are disgusted by incompetence, which makes everybody's work more difficult.

    The idea of actually protecting incompetence (via unions) goes against the whole technical culture. No, unions are not coming to the development community.

  • by curunir (98273) * on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:09PM (#41882547) Homepage Journal

    Unions exist in situations where management is negotiating from a place of power and replacement workers are easy to find. They allow the collective workforce to get a better deal than they would individually.

    Meanwhile, there is a shortage of capable developers and we have the power in most negotiations. Why do we need a union if we can just demand what we want and get it? In our industry, companies have even been caught uniting against workers [techcrunch.com].

    Unions are a tool and developers are taught to us the right tool for the job. When the situation demands a union, we'll unionize, but there's no point in doing that until there are a ton more capable developers to compete with for jobs.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:12PM (#41882615)

    Communism may have failed, but class warfare is alive and well. A worldwide depression, or even that of a few nations like the USA, India China or Europe would probably kick start a move to unions. I have no doubt that even if wages were to drop to Bangladesh levels, that prices on most items in these countries wouldn't budge downward very much. Price structure and wage structure are increasingly out of sync. At a certain point, when nobody in IT is making enough to live on, unionization will occur, along with a the sharpening of some makerbot printed guillotines. The speed with which "libertarians" become socialists will be quite amusing.

  • by cfulton (543949) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:23PM (#41882805)
    We need a better set of qualifications for the job. Engineers don't have a union but they won't let you design a bridge unless you are an engineer. The current "Computer Science" major does not make a qualified developer. Reading c++ or java in a weekend does not make a good developer. Yet companies hire these people and allow them to create big balls of mud that don't work. We need apprenticeships and a way to communicate what level a developer is to the "lay" community. Sr Developer and Web Guru are not the same thing to you and I, but from the outside it sounds like that Guru is the guy to go with. I'm not sure how we do this, but the profession really needs it. As a consultant I've worked with a number of companies that when I got there didn't even have reasonable source control, and the developers were didn't have any knowledge of "SOP" in the industry. We need a way to differentiate in the business community between professional programmer and somebody who can type into an IDE.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:24PM (#41882827) Journal

    Some baseball bats, ice picks, the occasional incendiary device.

    And it will be all for naught, because as soon as you unionize, you will be outsourced. And the people still doing the job who are still in this country will be the ones who have programming, organization, and communication skills not found in offshore development. And don't belong to a union. In the current business environment, unions only work for people who must be on-site, or are adequately politically connected. Or both.

  • by Wandering Voice (2267950) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:47PM (#41883271)

    In pursuing school and deciding on which direction to go, I had decided to choose accounting as it seems to provide a stable field, while still allowing me the personal time to follow my interests with technology. I've been reading here at /. for a few years, and with the many complaints I see about the way the software industry or field of systems administration are treated and abused, along with the non-industry related troubles, has been a big turn off from choosing either of those fields as my primary skill.

    However, I do love computers and networks and exploring code and programming and intend to follow with an education in one of the related fields. But whether or not I choose that for my employment is another issue. So during the day I shall be Justin the programmer-accountant and by night I shall defend the universe of light from the forces of darkness.

  • by nysus (162232) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:50PM (#41883329)

    This question about unions for IT people comes up about once a year on Slashdot. Every single time you see the same damn bullshit from people who have no fucking clue what a union is or how it works.

    1) The members (workers) have to vote on the contract. Don't like it? Don't vote for it. And you don't pay any dues until the first contract is negotiated.
    2) Think performance bonuses are a good idea? Fine. Keep 'em. It's your contract. You can make the contract read whatever you'd like.
    3) All the contract is is a legally binding document that spells out the work rules so management can't arbitrarily change them. If they do break the rules, you've got a legally binding contract to back you up. Imagine, you can keep all the same rules and procedures you have in place now except they could actually be enforced.

    Take deep breaths people. If unions get the support and input from their members, they can be one of the best ways to empower workers and and make the company a better and more profitable place.

  • by number17 (952777) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:17PM (#41883843)
    It seems there are two camps of people that are anti-union:
    1) Those who currently make a lot of money and have other jobs lined up for them
    2) Those who work for companies that would immediately outsource at the sign of unionization

    If I was working at workplace 2, I would defiantly be looking for a job offered to the people at workplace 1, because its only a matter of time before the job outsourced. Union wages aren't what's driving outsourcing, its American wages.
  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:20PM (#41883891)

    A hole in my head.

    Competent software developers are a rare commodity. Companies are the ones competing to attract the talent. We are not the dime-a-dozen crowd that can be treated poorly and compensated minimally. If we're not happy with our employer there are 50 waiting in the wings to snatch us up. If we leave our employer they lose the significant investment in both time and money that they made in us to be productive with their environment.

    In 2011 software developers ranked number one for having the "best" job in both 2011 [careercast.com] and 2012 [careercast.com]. Why the hell would any of us want to slap our employers in the face for treating us well? To suggest that we should form a union is about as stupid and counter productive as trying to suggest that every pub in Ireland should replace the Guinness taps with Bud Lite.

  • by Koreantoast (527520) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:40PM (#41884213)
    The Boeing Company's engineers, programmers and IT specialists in the Seattle region have been unionized since 1946 (SPEEA - IFPTE Local 2001). However, the notable difference is that this is a large engineering base (~22,000 members) dealing with a single employer; there's no way Boeing would be able to replace that many engineers in the event of a strike. So yes, unionization is possible for large companies where the sheer size and specialization prohibits easy replacement. However, if I'm understanding what the OP is arguing, it would be much harder to set something up in a geographical region like Silicon Valley; unlike a factory, a startup or small development shop could easily pick up and move to another area like Austin or RTP in North Carolina. You would also have to be extremely aggressive in breaking a lot of different parties that normally pride themselves on their independence to ensure that ONLY unionized developers are hired: new college hires, startup companies, venture capitalists, etc. I'm not sure if the tech industry is ready to turn on itself like that. You may be able to do it for highly specialized skillsets, say, a union of senior database administrators or something, but again, this would require a complete culture change that would essentially box out and even blacklist anyone who tries to take up a "union" job without being a member. Not sure if the tech world can handle that.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:43PM (#41884255) Homepage

    Check out The Animation Guild [animationguild.org], IATSE Local 839, AFL-CIO. The Animation Guild represents artists and computer graphics workers in Southern California. Computer graphics people at Cartoon Network, Dreamworks, Fox, Hasbro, Marvel, Nicolodeon, Sony, Disney, and Warner are all in that union local.

    What do they get for it? Here's a summary of current contracts. [animationguild.org] First, there's a union wage scale, but it's a minimum. Most workers are paid more than "scale". Second, hours worked and overtime pay are strictly enforced. More than 8 hours per day, overtime pay. More than 40 hours per week, overtime pay. More than 5 days per week, overtime pay. These multiply, so that if you work 14 hours on a Sunday, the hourly rate is huge. Movie projects have "crunches" too, and when they do, the employees get paid a lot of money. This is why production scheduling and budgeting are taken very seriously in Hollywood. So seriously that there are completion bond companies [filmfinances.com] which, if a project gets too far behind, have the authority to fire the director and producer and put in their own people.

    The Animation Guild also runs a pension fund. They point out that the Guild has been around longer than all but two animation studios. Hanna-Barbera (Flintstones, Jetsons, etc. and Walter Lanz (Woody Woodpecker), once big names in animation, are long gone; the Animation Guild is still there.

    I've run into an IATSE organizer at SIGGRAPH meetings. They've tried to organize the video game industry, but so far, without success. In Redwood City, Electronic Arts and Dreamworks have adjacent buildings. Dreamworks is union; EA is not. The working conditions at EA are much worse.

  • by danhaas (891773) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:54PM (#41884493)

    Petroleum Engineer here, working with research.

    I can tell for myself, engineers don't have much reason to strike. Why? Because it's usually pointless, there's no short-term damage to the employer. If an engineer doesn't show up, work simply goes on.

    An engineer on the field has to strike for a few weeks/months to even begin to be noticed. In my case, working with research, I would have to strike for at least one year to do some real harm to my employer.

    Engineers aren't useless; the most I know are well worth what they earn. But they influence mainly the future profits of the company, while blue-collar works have a direct influence on the daily profits, not to mention the quarter results.

    Striking just isn't a nice strategy for white-collar workers. Threatening to go to a competitor is.

    Now if people could threaten to move entire work groups to a competitor... that would be a negotiation I would like to see.

  • 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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