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

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 Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @12:55PM (#41882257)

    Most labor unions are led by communists and care for the wages of the bosses only. The run of the mill membe is only expected to provide dues so the bosses can give it to their political candidates.

    Unions? No way. I'd rather be jobless and homeless than to belong to a thug-run labor union.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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 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 crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:13PM (#41882617)

    A big problem that I see with white collar office workers is that, traditionally, unions have had to be willing to bust the heads of scabs and besiege workplaces with picket lines to survive (among other things). That's fine if you're Teamsters or other blue-collar workers not afraid to break out bricks and baseball bats when needed in a strike. It's not so easy when you're dealing with office drones who hesitate to say an unkind word.

    If your union is going to succeed, you have to be willing to go all the way. And I seriously doubt that you'll ever get than from any professional field. If your employers know that they can just replace you or outsource you with no repercussions (or, more accurately, with no concussions), then you will never have any real bargaining power.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:18PM (#41882717) Journal

    It's time for a tariff on foreign labor.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:25PM (#41882853) Journal

    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 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.

  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:35PM (#41883019) Homepage Journal

    That's why developers are typically hired in "at-will" jurisdictions. If California wasn't at-will, Silicon Valley would be elsewhere.

  • by ediron2 ( 246908 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:14PM (#41883787) Journal

    Because doing everything yourself is inherently inefficient. And it's contrary to the crux benefit of society: efficiencies of specialization.

    I **CAN** do all these things. I really don't want to, and it wastes time I could spend focusing on my strengths and enjoying my life outside of work.

    First, renegotiating my pay rarely (at best, once a year) puts me at a disadvantage to my employer who hires someone who focuses on negotiation nonstop. I'm also weakened because they can lie / leverage me against other employees or contractors. They know what everyone makes, I may not. They can be experts at the communication aspects of pay negotiation -- a colleague who is mildly autistic ends up getting screwed as a result.

    Making good healthcare decisions? Nice sideline, but I don't want to need an MD to dig into the deep nuances of whether my specific medical condition means I need a CAT scan or an MRI or just a few minutes with a doctor listening to me breathe. I want a regulated agent acting on my behalf.

    This whole thing is doublespeak: when people stand together, employees benefit at the expense of shareholders. There is no people vs. union dichotomy here, there's just intense value to winning the debate over splitting the profits among the interested parties: a company has a professional staff paid incredibly well to focus on profits to shareholders. Employees need the same, whether it is a guild, a union, or your hinted-at ideas on protections for individuals (who will hopefully get this information out of their employer so that their rights are better protected).

    I'm getting really tired of reading of how a social worker or teacher or factory employee is overpaid, but investment bankers make 1000x as much 'but it's earned'. Ditto on big bad union rants. I don't see it as coincidence that union-busting parallels the downturn in inflation-adjusted incomes in the USA.

  • 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 RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:27PM (#41884005)

    Because abusing an individual is easy?
    Because you cannot afford your own healthcare unless you support something like single-payer.

    People seem to forget that employer-provided healthcare is a product of the 20th Century. It works best when you have a large enough company to provide a distinct insurance pool and the employees are mostly there for the duration of their careers. Just like pensions, as a matter of fact.

    Circa 1985, however, that idea broke down. We went to "perma-temping" and other transient forms of employment and our former corporate health and retirement infrastructures don't work well in that environment. Pensions mostly got replaced by 401-Ks, but health care didn't switch over so well. Instead, it simply got more and more broken, because a political football, and generally became a mess.

    Ironically, one of the biggest arguments for employer-provided healthcare was that it was unfair to "steal" people's incomes to pay for a state-sponsored system. People seem to think that when the employer provides it that it's "free". The main difference, in fact, is where (and if) the "theft" prints on the paycheck.

  • by ediron2 ( 246908 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:38PM (#41884181) Journal

    Huh. I'm getting old, but the first and last time I had a chance to get a pension was decades ago. A retirement date with a pension is no longer offered at most companies. Given the whipsaw of the economy, I've seen people's lives upended by crashes of their ESOP or 401k's -- so defined-contribution hasn't panned out as promised, either.

    Banksters raided those funds with impunity; some got rich, nobody got prosecuted for screwing some old machinist out of his pension. The few remaining pension mechanisms are raided or underfunded until pensioners can go 20+ years without ever seeing a cost of living increase as big as inflation, meaning they're spiralling downward annually.

    Healthcare in the US is the number one bankrupter of people. Not so over there.

    Here, we obsess with saving our jobs. There, life balance is better whenever it's measured.

    We skip vacations, work thru lunch. They do neither. And get more holidays and vacation time. Some have shorter work weeks.

    How exactly do you measure that it sucks to be them, because from what I'm seeing, it's not too shabby.

  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:48PM (#41884379)

    While everyone would love to run their own business, there are profound inefficiencies associated with having a large numbers of small businesses, mainly losses caused by competition and misallocations of labor. Having a large proportion of small businesses is actually a symptom of a backward or developing economy; Egypt has more self-employed per capita than the US, for example.

  • 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?

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.