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[P]
Should developers unionize?

By rebelcool in Technology
Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:43:46 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

Software written today is quite buggy and poorly written. We have come to accept the fact of patches and updates as a necessary evil. Most software developers would agree that most of these problems don't come from incompetance on the programmers part, but rather insufficient time given to do the job right. Developers are constantly under heavy pressure from managers and marketing types to get their projects done as fast as possible, and are often being forced into working overtime and terribly long hours.

So I ask, should developers begin forming unions to get reasonable hours, and enough time to complete projects correctly the first time?


I'm a coder who writes back-end server software for websites. I work on a contractual basis (I suppose you could call me a consultant, but I hate that word).

I'm also a college student. Working in the .COM world has shown me something about development. Clueless managers do NOT give enough time to their coders to complete projects correctly.

Case in point: I started working for a company on Monday. I got their needs and began planning. They wanted to start with a webboard system on their site for members to discuss things together. I already had some code for this written previously, but they wanted extensive changes and alot of customizability. 8 hours later (a normal workday for the rest of the world), I had just begun coding some things down because I had spent most of the day trying to figure out EXACTLY what they wanted. One of the heads of the company came in and asked "So, can you have this all done by Wednesday?".

Fortunately, I am in the position where I can more or less dictate my needs to this company. I told him flat out "No. No possible way by then." Well I suppose it could've been possible if I skipped all my classes and worked 16 hours a day. However, school *is* important and I actually do have something resembling a social life. The company needs me so I'm in the position where I can refuse this kind of pressure.

Unfortunately though, many of my brethren do not have this luxury. They are forced to toil 16 hours a day to meet impossible deadlines. The result is shoddy, ill-conceived software. Is it developer incompetance? Usually not. Coders are human, they make mistakes when under tremendous unreasonable pressure. These horrible hours make for a wrecked social life and poor software. Something must be done about this.

Many companies try to "fix" this issue by paying high salaries, and yes, that is a good thing. But whats alot of money good for when you don't have time to enjoy it? How many of you would take a reasonable paycut if you had more time to spend with your friends and family, and reasonable deadlines that allowed you to write good software?

One developer cannot dictate to a company what they should change, but a union of developers could. So I ask this question:

Should developers unionize?

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Should developers unionize? | 81 comments (80 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Not just coders. (3.30 / 13) (#1)
by Seumas on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 12:46:09 PM EST

I strongly believe that techies of all walks of life should unionize -- and I'm someone who typically despises most of the existing unions.

Why? Well, people assume that because you make a nice salary, you don't have a right to complain and, thus, a union is superfluous. But I've seen enough people screwed-over by the "hey, lots of other people would love your salary" mindset of their companies. Also, with a union, it would be easier to enforce fair compensation for the insane hours many of us work.

I'm not sure why a union has not been formed before this point, considering most of us make enough money to make establishing a union a profitable venture (and, admit it, that's what the professional unionizers do it for).
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

heres what I think (3.75 / 8) (#2)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 12:50:12 PM EST

unions have the stigma of being a "blue-collar" organization for workers who do more manual types of labor, or labor that doesnt require much professional skill. However, ANY company can abuse its workers, no matter what class they are from.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

The answer is no (3.80 / 20) (#3)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 12:53:19 PM EST

And here's why:

First off, your problem is that you either don't have the experience and/or education to get a good job, or that you aren't willing to do the legwork - or maybe that you don't understand web application development - it IS a long-hours-short-deadlines-high-stress job, which is why it usually pays well. If you want more reasonable terms, move to the midwest and get a job doing real development instead of banging out Perl one-offs for some idiot's webpages. You don't need a union - you need a clue.

Second, unions don't do what the members want - they do what the leaders want. You may think it'd be nice to have reasonable deadlines and working hours - they probably think it'd be nice to have power, and whatever they can do to get it will get done. Look at the recent years of the Teamsters - the members want nothing more than to maintain what they have, but they're losing it slowly, because the leadership is busy having pissing contests with companies like UPS over things nobody else cares about. The Chumbawamba song that compares union leaders to Pontius Pilate is not entirely inaccurate. People like to think of unions as workers' tools, but in fact, they're just another powerbase for corrupt politicians.

Third, the demand for programmers is enormous, but so is the supply - just not in the US. If US programmers unionized, then over time, the good jobs would move to places like India. As it is, they may still do that, but at least the US programmers aren't begging for it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Good Pay. Whoo. (3.77 / 9) (#6)
by Seumas on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:25:04 PM EST

Being paid well doesn't compensate for becoming an indentured servant. Are we supposed to get on our knees and kiss the toes of the one that hired us and thank our boss every time we're asked to spend a weekend at work, or consistantly put in 80+ hour work weeks due to poor staffing/management because, gee, we're just damn happy to get a pay check?

I think that's rediculous. One should seek to better their environment and circumstances, and the answer isn't always to just "find another job". That isn't the answer to sexual harassment. It isn't the answer to companies that ignore labor laws and it isn't the answer to companies that want to exploit you to the fullest extent they can.

Thankfully, I am well-rewarded for my job and typically, when I put my foot down -- people listen. Not everyone is so fortunate though. The answer may not be unionization, but rolling over and letting the company do that to someone else isn't appropriate either.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Well, yes... (3.25 / 8) (#9)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:46:09 PM EST

The answer IS to get another job. Your arguments, such as they are, have serious problems. Here's a list:
Being paid well doesn't compensate for becoming an indentured servant.
You need to look up the meaning of "indentured servant." It does not apply to people who are free to leave their employers at any time.
Are we supposed to get on our knees and kiss the toes of the one that hired us and thank our boss every time we're asked to spend a weekend at work, or consistantly put in 80+ hour work weeks due to poor staffing/management because, gee, we're just damn happy to get a pay check?
What part of "free to leave" don't you get? I mean, there is NO argument here, because when you switch jobs in our present market, you generally get a damned raise as a side effect! I know for a fact that if I said I was leaving, my boss would be beside himself trying to find out why and whether he could stop me.
One should seek to better their environment and circumstances,
Certainly, but his suggestion won't do that, and yours, which seems to be some sort of regulation, will make things worse. Heavily regulated industries pay their employees for shit, and all they get in exchange is a few extra holidays a year. Do you really want to make financial industry style wages? I don't.
and the answer isn't always to just "find another job".
Why not? It isn't as though you have a god given right to work for x company making y salary for z hours a week. They're not there as a welfare department.
and it isn't the answer to companies that want to exploit you to the fullest extent they can.
You just compared working long hours to being sexually harassed. First off, leaving your job and finding a better one ISN'T always a bad answer to sexual harassment(it is a hell of a lot less disruptive to your life than a lawsuit, for starters...) and secondly, sexual harassment and working long hours have almost nothing in common except that both occur at the office. So does banter around the water cooler - so what? If you don't want to work long hours - DON'T DO IT!
Not everyone is so fortunate though.
This is the biggest problem I have here - everyone seems to think his job is ok, but he wants to "do something" for those "less fortunate." Let's first establish that these people exist, that they can't do anything to help themselves, and that there is some reasonable way of helping them without screwing over everyone else. THEN talk about your utopian dreams.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Unreasonable expectations (3.66 / 6) (#11)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:58:49 PM EST

I think sexual harassment was a good example. No one should have to put up with sexual harrassment at a work place. You shouldn't have to leave because somebody is treating you in an improper way. Thats why there are laws to protect against sexual harassment.

Being asked to work under unreasonable circumstances is unfair. Threatening someones job because they would rather be at their childs birthday party than work OT in the office is unreasonable. Statistics show that most people are 2-4 weeks away from poverty. If you leave your job suddenly how long would you have before you started to feel the pinch ? One week, two maybe three. If your family is living off your salary then you cannot afford to leave. You can't risk it, and then you are an indentured servant to your company. And I have seen managers who know this and use it against people.

When thinking about unionizing one must care enough for his/her co-workers and do whats best for all...not yourself.

Heavily regulated industries pay their employees for shit, and all they get in exchange is a few extra holidays a year.

I would be interested to see some statistics to back this claim up.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
wildly divergent (4.00 / 3) (#22)
by _peter on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:54:33 PM EST

Appealing to others to fix things that are "unfair" is the whine of a child. People who have matured realize that the world is not a fair place, and for all the tears in the world, they can't rely on anyone else to make it so.

People have the right of free association. This applies to employers just as well as to employees. The fact that you are two weeks away from poverty is not your employer's responsibility. If that's being lorded over you by your employer, the fact that you persist in that situation and don't even try to get a resume out is your own fault.

When thinking about unionizing one must care enough for his/her co-workers and do whats best for all...not yourself.
On whose authority do you declare this? I am not responsible for you or any other colleague. I haven't done anything that could remotely influence your life. Yet somehow you claim that I am morally bound by your state of affairs?

Sorry, I rather prefer personal responsibility. That other avenue is a road I will not go down; it disgusts me.

[ Parent ]

Responsibility (none / 0) (#61)
by retinaburn on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 12:01:41 PM EST

The fact that you are two weeks away from poverty is not your employer's responsibility. If that's being lorded over you by your employer, the fact that you persist in that situation and don't even try to get a resume out is your own fault.

This is not currently my situation, and I should try my damn best not to let it happen. I don't think I ever said that it was the employers resposbility, if you are in that situation then you are the one that got you there. I grew up in a middle class family (5-7 people depending on the year) with minor investments and moderate debt. If one of my parents had lost there job then yes we would feel the pinch within two weeks of unemployment. Is it anyones "fault" ? no. Is anyone to "blame" ? no. We lived a comfortable life but we spent nearly everything we made, two kids in university, 1 in high school, 1 in public school. Thats a lot of dough per day.

I am not responsible for you or any other colleague. I haven't done anything that could remotely influence your life. Yet somehow you claim that I am morally bound by your state of affairs?
Perhaps I should have used "should" instead of "must". I feel empathy for those I deal with on a regular basis. If someone needs help, I help. I don't tell them to FUCK OFF because I have my own problems to deal with. If I see an accident on the road then I pull over to help, I don't say FUCK OFF I gotta get home. But more and more I see that I am in the minority.


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
clarifications (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by _peter on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 01:45:25 PM EST

This is not currently my situation
I'm sorry if I implied that it was; I meant to use the generic sense of 'you', rather than refer to you yourself.
If one of my parents had lost there job then yes we would feel the pinch within two weeks of unemployment.
Now I feel we're comparing apples to oranges. Apart from the standard two weeks of severance pay that most stable jobs offer, if you're let off you can seek unemployment benefits on a short-term basis.

But this discussion was whether we, who are scarce and valuable workers, need unions to protect us from management pressure. Not whether being laid off is a frightening prospect for most people. When I speak about changing jobs to get out of a bad situation, that's entirely different than being laid off because you get to set the pace. You can coast along under the bad conditions until you get an offer from someone else, and avoid the stress of not knowing where your next check will come from.

I feel empathy for those I deal with on a regular basis.
There's nothing wrong with empathy on a personal level; I'm not really a bastard who would automatically leave someone to linger in a bad situation. But to imply that we have a responsibility to those people because they're worse off than us leaves my control of my life at the mercy of everyone worse off than me.

And, except for crisis situations, I do tend to tell people to fuck off. The kind of thing I find most dangerous is the sort of claim that we have to sacrifice for some imagined greater good on a regular basis. For one thing, in a crisis situation it's obvious what the need is, and who is to be helped.

But when you take the next step and institutionalize charity (whether in the form of welfare or unions), you're abdicating your responsibility to judge the situation and determine for yourself who needs -- and is worthy of -- help.

[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#68)
by retinaburn on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:43:49 PM EST

I was thinking of responsibility as a moral right not a legal one. Its been a loooong two weeks at work and as such I think my brain has suffered :)

I agreed with all that you said, we don't have a resposibilty to others (be it worse or better off that ourselves).

I don't think of unions as institutionalizing charity. I think unions (or professional associations) are a good form of giving the employee some power and allowing management and employees to level the playing field. Someone mentioned the MLB players agreement dealie somewhere else in this discussion and that sounded like a good idea. The players are given certain rights (above the /legal/ ones like Discrimination laws) and the management doesn't loose too much.


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
I don't need your protection (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by bnenning on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 12:27:39 AM EST

Being asked to work under unreasonable circumstances is unfair.

I agree. However, not everyone has the same definition of "unreasonable" as you. You might consider my schedule (6 days and 60-70 hours per week) unreasonable, but I don't, because I like my job and my coworkers and my compensation. The nice thing about acting as individuals is that we can each make our own decisions, without either of us forcing our views on the other.

Threatening someones job because they would rather be at their childs birthday party than work OT in the office is unreasonable.

I agree, and that's not a company either of us would work for.

Statistics show that most people are 2-4 weeks away from poverty.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, that's because most people are very stupid about managing their money. The profits that credit card companies make on interest payments attest to this. I would hope that IT workers, who should have a halfway decent grasp of arithmetic, would know better.

f you leave your job suddenly how long would you have before you started to feel the pinch ?

At least six months, and longer if the stock market recovers. It is not hard to save a substantial amount, especially for tech workers. Max out your 401k if you have one, put 10% or more of your salary into mutual or index funds (or money market funds if you're paranoid), and for God's sake pay your credit card balance every month. You might have to make sacrifices like having a 17" monitor instead of 21", but you will survive.

Contrary to what many are suggesting, we do have some control over our lives, and we are not exploited victims.

[ Parent ]

"Free to leave". (4.28 / 7) (#12)
by Seumas on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:59:39 PM EST

"Free to leave" is misleading. Yes, you are free to walk out if you don't like the circumstances, but resigning and finding a new job isn't as simple as changing your brand of underwear. You have benefits, future references to your employment terms on your resume, cost (money and time) to terminate employment and find new employment...

And the problem isn't with a couple businesses, but with a very large number of them which is why everyone is familiar with these "questionable practices". Try finding a company that doesn't want or even require you to put in the work of two, three or even four people -- it's not easy.

No, I don't think the definite solution is unionization (anyone with an objective view of the National Teachers Union probably realizes that). But neither is the solution to pack your things and walk away with your tail in between your legs.

People need to grow some testicles and work together to ensure that they get what they deserve from their employer. But try doing that -- just try it. In any given company, the majority of employees will complain and rant and threaten, but they won't say a word to management. Why? I think the greatest reason is that while you're complaining, everyone is complaining with you, but the moment you decide to do something about it, everyone takes a big step back, making you look like an insubordinate weenie who deserves to be canned.

The truth is that the most of this "hey, the market is strong -- go get another job" hype is just that -- hype. Some of us are in the position to do that; others are not. Because you're not in a position to have such great individual leverage does not mean that you are worthless and that you should not be able to push your view and needs, but it does mean that others in your shoes need to stand up with you. Not to the degree of unionization, but to a degree that tells your employer "Look, we're not digging this gig so much right now and if you don't compromise with us, you're going to be looking for a new staff very shortly".
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

A reply to you and also to retinaburn (4.00 / 4) (#20)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:41:51 PM EST

You're saying the same things, but you're saying it better, IMHO, so I'm responding to you.
"Free to leave" is misleading. Yes, you are free to walk out if you don't like the circumstances, but resigning and finding a new job isn't as simple as changing your brand of underwear. You have benefits, future references to your employment terms on your resume, cost (money and time) to terminate employment and find new employment...
I can have another job in less than a week, no problem, with a raise thrown in for good measure. My employer is well aware of this fact. If you're competent, you can do the same thing. If not, that's a personal problem. I don't subsidize incompetence willingly.
Try finding a company that doesn't want or even require you to put in the work of two, three or even four people
I work for one. I have friends who work for others. Get away from Silly Valley and NYC find a real job.
making you look like an insubordinate weenie who deserves to be canned.
If being canned is so horrible to you that you refuse to take that risk, then you have willingly made yourself a slave, and you will get what you deserve. Growing some testicles, as you so aptly put it, is about being willing to get in your boss's face when necessary and say "Hey, this is what I want, and I'm going to get it, one way or another." You can be more diplomatic about it, but that's the essence of the matter.
"Look, we're not digging this gig so much right now and if you don't compromise with us, you're going to be looking for a new staff very shortly".
You don't understand - if you're afraid to get canned, then you're afraid of leaving your job, and in that case, no employer is going to be afraid of your threats. If you aren't afraid of getting canned, then you don't need an army at your back - you just need gonads.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Similarities (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by Seumas on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:01:23 PM EST

It appears to me that you and I are arguing very similar points. You're saying that a person is responsible for their own circumstances and should leave, while I'm saying that a person is responsible for their own circumstances and should fight for what they want and deserve right where they already are.

The main difference is that it takes one person to leave, but to stay and make changes to your environment, requires many people to cooperate with you. This is an industry where people tend not to band together. Yes, there is cooperation when involving products or other work-related concerns, but not when it comes to issues of actual employment. So often, the only realistic option is resignation. This doesn't negate the fact that people should hold down their position, band-together and get what they believe they deserve from their eomployer. After all, the companies we work for band-together to achieve their goals. We are just less organized and tend to focus on our own issues as if we were an island.

And, in my mind, there is a major difference between a union and employees sticking together. A union is beauracracy, money, politics and often, exploitation contributing members. When employees stick together on their own accord, it can be an effective chip to bargain with. Solidarity can be a most rightous tool and does not give the impression to your employer that you're hiding behind mother's apron while she swats away the bullies.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

I don't understand (2.66 / 3) (#27)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:11:55 PM EST

Why would you want to continue working for someone who does things you don't like? Even if you can force him to do what you want sometimes, why would you do that when there are better opportunities out there? I'm not saying that you are necessarily wrong for doing so, but I cannot comprehend why anyone would want to.

People have this idea that their jobs are theirs by right or something, and that they should defend them. I don't like that idea - I'd rather deal with willing employers, and if they don't want to make good deals, someone else will. If nobody else will, then my skills aren't worth much, and I should get skills that are. That's the way the world works. As it happens, I doubt I'll have any problems with being not worth much anytime soon, but I've had the problem in the past.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Reasons (4.50 / 4) (#29)
by Seumas on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:34:42 PM EST

I'll speak from a somewhat personal standpoint.

I work for a huge company. I work for one of those companies that other people spend their career working toward being employed by. But even this company isn't perfect. In fact, it's sheer size makes it rather imperfect at times. Especially when it comes to staffing and human resources. With 40,000 employees, alliances, sub-companies and everything else, it's sometimes hard to even breathe, let alone comprehend your situation.

Most of my complaints have to do with the lack of orientation and organization and the lacking information that we so desperately need to competantly take on our projects. I hate the fact that it takes so long to hire people that by the time we replace people who have left, more people have left and we're back to half of a staffing level again. I hate the fact that because of this, I have to work insane hours sometimes (sure, your boss says you don't have to, but then when the work they want completed isn't done, they get upset!). I hate the fact that the more work I do, the more I am expected to do -- even if I'm already accomplishing the goals of multiple employees and even if it is documented daily in our statistics reports.

But, despite all of this -- I do enjoy my coworkers, I enjoy my boss (it isn't his fault that there are eight million levels of beauracracy above his head) and I enjoy what I do for a living. I get to have a cool pager, security fob, nifty laptop and Ultra10 and other fun machines and solve problems with and do QA for the mailserver software our company makes. I'm young, have no official education, work from my apartment and my salary is more than double that of any two teachers I've ever had in school. I get to be relatively close to the 'cutting-edge' and when I meet people and they ask about who I work for, I get to impress them and feel like someone important, even though I'm a nobody.

So there are a lot of great things that would keep me, personally, from leaving my company. There are a lot of things that, at times, have driven not only myself but some of my coworkers very close to calling it quits, too. It wouldn't make sense to leave something that is pretty good to go to another place where it would be fairly similar. Still, in a situation like this, staying requires some changes and it requires management to listen to us. I do know that my prior job sucked and I would have been close to walking out no matter what, if this company hadn't rescued me.

I'm not sure, but my insistance that it isn't so easy to just quit and find another gig for most people may have something to do with the fact that I'm surprised as hell to have the one I have now. Even if I was wiping the sweat out of a fat-guy's crack while he's coding, I would be afraid to leave because I might not find anyone out there willing to give me another shot (thankfully, I am the fat guy in this situation, and not the fat-guy-butt-sweat-wiper). After all, how many times does lightening strike you?
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Unions are pooh-pooh (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by tzanger on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:19:02 PM EST

"Free to leave" is misleading. Yes, you are free to walk out if you don't like the circumstances, but resigning and finding a new job isn't as simple as changing your brand of underwear. You have benefits, future references to your employment terms on your resume, cost (money and time) to terminate employment and find new employment...

I don't think there are too too many companies which give decent benefits and stock options and still work their employees like dogs. It's too costly to get rid of them!

People need to grow some testicles and work together to ensure that they get what they deserve from their employer. But try doing that -- just try it. In any

Exactly. Grow some fucking balls and stand up for yourself. You don't need a union to do that. As I've said many times in comments to this article: if you're worth your salt you will have no trouble either a) changing the workplace you're at or b) finding a more hospitable one. It seems that the only people who aren't able to affect some kind of change are those who aren't worth much to the employer.

you, but the moment you decide to do something about it, everyone takes a big step back, making you look like an insubordinate weenie who deserves to be canned.

You've got the shoe on the wrong foot. YOU are the one threatenning to leave, not the one being warned that they'll be fired.

The truth is that the most of this "hey, the market is strong -- go get another job" hype is just that -- hype. Some of us are in the position to do that; others are not.

I don't believe it's hype at all. I've threatened to leave where I'm at because they weren't giving me enough work. That was a year ago. I still get at least 6 different headhunter firms calling me a week about different postings all over the US and Canada. Thing is: you need to carry through. The company I work for changed for the better and I stuck with them. You can't cry wolf and, as you said, you need to have the balls to actually carry through.

And I do have more than the average level of cashflow and responsibilities: mortgage, car loans, various bills and four other mouths to feed. I'm not paid a zillion dollars but the company is one I'm willing to work for and the (local) management is second to none. Yeah I could have a job paying double the amount but the other factors amount to too much risk for me at this point in time.

Not to the degree of unionization, but to a degree that tells your employer "Look, we're not digging this gig so much right now and if you don't compromise with us, you're going to be looking for a new staff very shortly".

Agreed. It's always easier to be ballsy when others are there being ballsy too. It also leaves a bigger impression on the management.



[ Parent ]
Modern Unions VS Unions (4.00 / 7) (#7)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:41:02 PM EST

Modern unions (such as CAW, teachers) have given the idea of unions a bad rap. So I can forgive you when you say:

Second, unions don't do what the members want - they do what the leaders want.

What about the formation of the unions in the early 1900's to 1930's. People were working 60,80 hour weeks and above in unsafe working conditions for little pay and no job security. Children were forced to work so that a family would have enough to feed themselves. Unions were formed and people led these unions and now we have men and women working decent hours for decent wages.

The Unions are the reason for the 40 hour work week, not those Great Big Hearts of CEO's and Shareholders. If they could get away with slave labour they would, and still do (in some countries).

Are some modern unions corrupt ? Sure.
Are companies still taking advantage of those who are not in unions ? Sure.
But I don't see arguing that unions are the tool of the leaders and not of the public. Sometimes union leaders have to fight for what they know is the best for their members and not what the members want.


Third, the demand for programmers is enormous, but so is the supply - just not in the US. If US programmers unionized, then over time, the good jobs would move to places like India.

Don't you think people who worked in the Steel industry, the auto industry, the garment industry made these same arguments then their co-workers wanted to unionize. And yes some of the work went to other countries but the current trend in the auto industry (at least in Canada) is that some of the manufacturing is moving back here. Why ? Because the general education level of Canadians is higher than that of Mexico or other countries, which allows Canadian workers to do more multiple tasks.
So yes there may be a fear of jobs moving away from N.A. to other countries...but my guess is that it won't happen if computer-programming were to unionize.

And personally I wouldn't mind working 40 hours a week with OT if I took a cut in pay. 60-80 weeks to finish projects is an unreasonable demand for people with lives.



I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
You seem confused... (3.33 / 6) (#10)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:57:45 PM EST

Believe it or not, computer programmers in the US are not an oppressed working class. We're well paid, we're usually well treated, and when we're not, we can leave and find a better employer - probably with a raise in pay to boot. You are not going to succeed in comparing us to turn of the century factory workers, because we're nothing like them. Our circumstances are infinitely better. Perhaps you need to experience some real oppression so you can learn what it is like, because your boss asking you to work a weekend in your air conditioned office with a cushy chair is NOT it. And hey, if you don't like working weekends, get a better job and quit whining - it isn't as though they don't exist.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You are confused (2.83 / 6) (#13)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:07:46 PM EST

I'll assume you don't have a family, because if you did you would HATE being asked to work the weekends. I work to pay for housing and food and fun. The weeks are my bosses the weekends are mine. Being paid to work in a cushy office for missing family events, birthdays, holidays is not a good trade.

I have experienced REAL oppression, and suggesting that I haven't is insulting.

So i'll tell you what, you can be my coder. I'll pay you better than ever and in return you can work 90 hours a week in a cushy chair in air conditioning. Oh and by the way you don't get weekends off, holidays, nothing. You don't get breaks, meal times. And in return for my kindness you can kiss my ass because I pay you well


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
Well, no... (2.60 / 5) (#17)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:32:14 PM EST

I'll assume you don't have a family, because if you did you would HATE being asked to work the weekends. I work to pay for housing and food and fun. The weeks are my bosses the weekends are mine. Being paid to work in a cushy office for missing family events, birthdays, holidays is not a good trade.
Then don't do it. What part of that don't you understand?!
So i'll tell you what, you can be my coder. I'll pay you better than ever and in return you can work 90 hours a week in a cushy chair in air conditioning. Oh and by the way you don't get weekends off, holidays, nothing. You don't get breaks, meal times. And in return for my kindness you can kiss my ass because I pay you well
In an astounding feat of consistency and leading by example, I will say this to your offer: No. I can do better:)

By the way, I'd like to know what real oppression you've experienced. Don't get me wrong - maybe you have - but the US has a real victim culture going right now, and the vast majority of the so-called victims are oppressed in precisely the same way that I'm Santa Claus. For a look at some genuine oppression, stop by Afghanistan sometime.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Gosh... (2.50 / 4) (#21)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:49:26 PM EST

Then don't do it. What part of that don't you understand?!
I believe I answered WHY some people do not have a choice when I said this:
If your family is living off your salary then you cannot afford to leave. You can't risk it, and then you are an indentured servant to your company.
I am curious to know if your single, because in my experience having people counting on you for support (parents, children, friends) changes perceptions a whole lot.


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
So let me get this straight. (4.33 / 3) (#24)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:56:57 PM EST

What you're saying is, you've put yourself in a spot where, despite making more money than 99.9% of the human population, you can't afford to be without a job for a week or so? If that's the case, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Sure, I'm single. You know what? If I wasn't, I'd still be mobile, because I'm not a fool. I save money, and I actively maintain a network of friends and associates who can help me find another job. Right now, I know of at least three different jobs I could have for the asking. I fail to comprehend why you can't be responsible for your own actions, and I fail even more utterly to comprehend why your employer should be.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
First... (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:27:31 PM EST

90% of all the wealth in N.A. is held by 10% of the population (or so I hear...havent gotten around to counting it). So as far as I can tell there are alot of people (greater than .1%) that make more money than me. I love what I do, and my bosses are great. I am simply defending those that can't hear your ignorant remarks.

As far as "no one to blame but yourself"... Tell you what, print off this discussion thread and put it into a folder. Look at this folder 30 years down the road, or once you have had children for say 5 yrs. See what you feel about your comments.

You make sacrifices because you love those around you. You can become immobile despite your beliefs when your young.

Some people get screwed over in life and for you not to feel any compassion for them shows alot about your personality, and situation in life.

Of course youth does have its advantages :)


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
Hypothetical victims (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 05:11:48 PM EST

90% of all the wealth in N.A. is held by 10% of the population (or so I hear...havent gotten around to counting it).
Neither have the socialists who keep making the claim as though it were some kind of damning commentary on our life and times, but that doesn't stop them. In any case, I was talking about worldwide figures.
I am simply defending those that can't hear your ignorant remarks.
Please tell me where in the US these poor abused programmers are who cannot get better jobs and are forced to work overtime by their evil bosses. I mean, really. These unfortunate victims DO NOT EXIST. Computer people have it easier than almost any other profession on the planet.
As far as "no one to blame but yourself"... Tell you what, print off this discussion thread and put it into a folder. Look at this folder 30 years down the road, or once you have had children for say 5 yrs. See what you feel about your comments.
I imagine I'll be a lot like my father. He saves and invests almost compulsively. As a result, when he was without a job for two years, our family of five didn't even have to quit buying the expensive brands at the grocery store. He didn't have the advantages that I have(he started out doing shitwork, whereas I got out of college as a programmer,) so I'll probably have it even better. Like I said, no one to blame but yourself.
Some people get screwed over in life and for you not to feel any compassion for them shows alot about your personality, and situation in life
I have compassion for those who genuinely get screwed over. I even have compassion for those who screw themselves over - but that does not mean I think they have anyone to blame but themselves, or that they should be able to demand a remedy from anyone else. You are using compassion the way people use "the children." "Oh, but the children!" "Oh, you incompassionate jerk!" Blah, blah. Whenever anyone says that, you can find, behind all the talk, that he is trying to screw you over and wants you to agree to let him do it - by making you feel guilty.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
2 cents (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by TigerBaer on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 10:34:08 AM EST

P(rant);

You two are jumping in two far with only one of several issues that must be addressed. We (as programmers) are still a labour force, and once our numbers are no longer scarce (give it 5 years or so) and the job market is no longer so monstrous, employers will then be able to begin taking advantage of us.

Unions are not all corrupt mafia orgs.. rather, they are a method of empowering the majority. Union Leaders should be picked from the workers, and therefore know the concerns of the workers. And above all, unions are democratic. (when was the last time your boss decided to have a vote on whether or not to give everyone a raise?).

Sure, times are good right now. The better and less constrained coders will get the highest paid and most stressful job. There will still be enough jobs for the more constrained coders. But in a few years, when all the CS majors currently in school graduate, and all the kids learning QBASIC now pick up books on C++, the job market will quickly fill up, and excess will be filtered out of the profession. With a plentiful supply of coders, companies will hire selectively based on who will work the longest hours for the least. This means wages will go down for everybody. This is what unionizing will aid us in avoiding.

V(rant);

[ Parent ]
I disagree. (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by tzanger on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:25:26 PM EST

P(rant); ... V(rant);

Out of curiosity, what does that mean? I mean what do functions P() and V() do?

Unions are not all corrupt mafia orgs.. rather, they are a method of empowering the majority. Union Leaders should be picked from the workers, and therefore know the concerns of the workers.

I have yet to see a single modern large union which is not corrupt. They all start out with good intentions but that fades quickly as the leaders get dollar signs in their eyes. Even those leaders who are picked from the workers: power corrupts.

And above all, unions are democratic. (when was the last time your boss decided to have a vote on whether or not to give everyone a raise?).

When's the last time a union has had to compete in an open market? There are many reasons people don't get raises: most notably, they are either undeserving or the company cannot afford to. How many union shops have gone under because the unions have priced them completely out of the marketplace?

The better and less constrained coders will get the highest paid and most stressful job. There will still be enough jobs for the more constrained coders.

There's something wrong with this? I don't disagree with the guy next to me working 90 hour weeks and making double what I make at 45 hours a week.

But in a few years, when all the CS majors currently in school graduate, and all the kids learning QBASIC now pick up books on C++, the job market will quickly fill up, and excess will be filtered out of the profession. With a plentiful supply of coders, companies will hire selectively based on who will work the longest hours for the least.

I don't believe you. Sure any code monkey can hammer out VB or C++ code but how many have the experience and talent to write decent, correct and maintainable code? You're fighting for the wannabe coder and the lazy programmer. I'm fighting for myself. I don't want to have to prop up some cluless tool who's over at my desk every 10 minutes asking how to do something. And I won't work for a company who endorses such work habits.

This means wages will go down for everybody. This is what unionizing will aid us in avoiding.

Again, this is totally untrue. How many master craftsmen are paid poorly? That's right, none. How many embedded systems programmers who turn out good code are paid poorly? Again that's right, none. Now how many code monkeys and HTML chicken-scratchers make great money? Tons right now. It's these people which will feel the crunch and suddenly start crying "Union! Union!" when they can no longer make USD$90k to do something anyone with a Dummies book could do. Those of us who have genuine talent and who can actually work on our own and get the job done will have no trouble commanding the salaries we want. Why? Because after a few iterations of hire and fire companies tire very quickly of people who just can't get the job done while their competition is getting the product to market and kicking their ass. They'll ante up and pay the big bucks for someone with experience, just like every other industry on the planet.

Unions promote mediocrity. I fail to understand what is so hard to understand about this.



[ Parent ]
reply to both objections (none / 0) (#70)
by TigerBaer on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 03:26:30 PM EST

Unions promote mediocrity. I fail to understand what is so hard to understand about this.

I will half heartedly agree with this statement. The issue is far more complex than this tho. It is true that the union provides more benefits to the mediocre worker than the excellent worker, i am not questioning that. But seriously, do you consider yourself an 'excellent' coder, i.e. do you have a Phd from Berkley? do you mathematically prove all your algorithms? If you do, then i am immediately humbled in your present. .but either way.. chances are you dont. I am not saying you are a mediocre programmer, but chances are you arent someone worthy enough to not be benefitted by unionization.

As of right now, there is no problem. And i admit that i dont know the statistics of how many up & coming programmers there are, but if times are not so good for the field of programming (and there is a chance that will happen), Being organized will prevent employers from abusing the workers rights. Sure, if you want to work 90 hours of week.. by all means do so. But if you are threatened with your job security, and forced to do overtime, then that is unfair. It happens alot, even in the higher level proffessional fields!

Unions do not have to be always active and always fighting. Right now there is no need for a union, so if one was formed, it should remain dormant.

As to the P(rant), V(rant), that was notation representing the incrementing of a semaphore, and decrementing. Just in case, a semaphore is a method of providing synchronization between threads over critical regions in code. They are usually implemented in the OS.

[ Parent ]
I'm not perfect, but I'm good enough. (none / 0) (#76)
by tzanger on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 09:28:26 PM EST

But seriously, do you consider yourself an 'excellent' coder, i.e. do you have a Phd from Berkley? do you mathematically prove all your algorithms? If you do, then i am immediately humbled in your present. .but either way.. chances are you dont. I am not saying you are a mediocre programmer, but chances are you arent someone worthy enough to not be benefitted by unionization.

No, I do not consider myself an excellent programmer; more of a hacker actually. The code I write works well, it is well tested and I stand behind it. (in fact, in my contract work I often surprise my clients by charging $0.00/hr for bugfixes unless it was something they didn't communicate to me.) Code I write is (IMO) well thought out and implemented properly (right tool for the job, built for maintainability, etc.). I work damn hard at it and my designs tend to be a tad overdesigned but that's because I've become quite adept at anticipating the sales and marketing people. :-)

In the same vein, I honestly do not believe a union would benefit me with respect to making my work better. Union-based health and benefits and getting my foot into the door of union shops, sure. Having union papers may get me contacts and resources which would be difficult to find on my own but really that's just research. Rarely is anything only in one place.

My work, while not mathematically proven or even pedigreed (I find a university degree only shows that you know how to learn, not necessarily that you're any better at what you do), stands on its own and I base my prices on that. If a client does not like the proposal I give him, that is his perogative and he may then either walk away or negotiate. I don't need a union to hold my hand and get me jobs, nor do I need a union to help me beat on my employer / clients. As I mentioned earlier I have pretty decent skills in research and can usually dig up what I need within an hour or two online or in the library.

This is starting to sound elitist and perhaps that is what I'm getting at. I know my work is good and I have no trouble getting work because of this. A union won't change this for the better or for the worse. It will eat into my profits, though. I am currently employed full time and do contract work on the side; I know both sides of the "work for yourself / work for someone else" coin. I've also worked in union shops (different career) to know what that's line and how they work.

You allude to unions being able to help all but the very best; I disagree. I believe unions only help those on the left hand side of the bell curve. After you pass the midpoint, any help unions offer would be below the 3dB point of give and take. After the midpoint, unions are using your talent and experience to help those on the other side more than they're helping you. If I want to help a young pup earn his place in the pack I will do so. I won't do it because I'm told or because we share some secret handshake; I'll do it because that person or persons appeal to me in some way.

I'm not afraid of being replaced. There is always someone bigger and stronger. I see my position (my talents and personal collection of experiences) as a way to help others become more than what they could be on their own. That's how I got to where I am and I am more than happy to pass that on. Being #1 isn't all that great. After a while the constant challenges to remain there become extremely tedious and you just want to get your work done instead of be involved in pissing matches over who's g0d.

I don't consider myself #1 and perhaps I won't ever be, according to my own standards. It's all relative anyway; anyone who does become better than me I will have hopefully helped to attain that status and be happy as #2 relative to them. Just because you're no longer alpha wolf doesn't mean you're any less than you were just before.

But if you are threatened with your job security, and forced to do overtime, then that is unfair. It happens alot, even in the higher level proffessional fields!

I agree wholeheartedly. However a union won't stop the threats, it'll just put more muscle behind your "no." If you're worth anything to the company (i.e. if you have sufficient talent) you don't need that extra muscle. Why use a cannon to swat a fly?

Unions do not have to be always active and always fighting. Right now there is no need for a union, so if one was formed, it should remain dormant.

That is inevitably what doesn't happen. When unions are formed the people are happy and the rivers flow with wine. But after a while unions find themselves without need to exist so they create problems and stir the shit, so to speak. If the union isn't actively fighting then the (new) members wonder why there even is a union and start to complain of the dues. It doesn't matter what the old guys say; the new guys see no need to pay their dues because of something which happened in the past so the unions keep that need going. It is a favourite pet theory of mine that union members and union shops regularly meet to discuss how to try and keep the battle fresh.

As to the P(rant), V(rant), that was notation representing the incrementing of a semaphore, and decrementing.

Ahh... I don't deal much in this aspect of software design (most small embedded systems don't have enough resources to worry about this or do it a little differently.) -- nice way to enclose a rant. :-)



[ Parent ]
The statistics disagree (2.00 / 1) (#67)
by krlynch on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:38:22 PM EST

But in a few years, when all the CS majors currently in school graduate, and all the kids learning QBASIC now pick up books on C++, the job market will quickly fill up, and excess will be filtered out of the profession. This means wages will go down for everybody.

Your assertion here is patently untrue...I would suggest that you go take a look at the statistics at the US Commerce and Labor departments. The picture, for all conceivable timeframes, is exactly the opposite: trained people will continue to be produced at a slower pace than demand. Wages will not go down due to some sudden, overwhelming flood of talent fighting for scarce jobs. Nothing of the sort is going to occur on any reasonably predictable timeframe...and this is true across almost ALL engineering, technical, and scientific disciplines.

[ Parent ]

Not necessarily (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by tzanger on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:25:52 PM EST

I'll assume you don't have a family, because if you did you would HATE being asked to work the weekends. I work to pay for housing and food and fun. The weeks are my bosses the weekends are mine. Being paid to work in a cushy office for missing family events, birthdays, holidays is not a good trade.

I'll agree on the family functions et al, but as far as weekend work goes that is absolutely no problem for me; I just make up for it during the week and usually have more fun to boot. (malls/public places aren't crowded, kids enjoy a day off school now and again, etc.)

So i'll tell you what, you can be my coder. I'll pay you better than ever and in return you can work 90 hours a week in a cushy chair in air conditioning. Oh and by the way you don't get weekends off, holidays, nothing. You don't get breaks, meal times. And in return for my kindness you can kiss my ass because I pay you well

If you're paying me that well I'll hire a team below me for less, give them better work conditions and get your work done faster than you expect in fewer hours than you allocated. I'll look like a hero and will still have extra time to pick up other contracts too. :-)



[ Parent ]
Hey !!! (none / 0) (#60)
by retinaburn on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:39:16 AM EST

That was my plan :) ...my boss would be so impressed, that her projected plan was actually met for once :)


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
Woohoo! Amen brotha! (2.00 / 1) (#40)
by tzanger on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:06:13 PM EST

Preach it man!

Those who usually rant on about the glory of unions and how they need one are usually the ones who are too lazy or simply inept to make it themselves. This isn't the coal mines of the 20's and programming jobs are EVERYWHERE, especially in Silly Valley where you hear most of this uninformed "let's unionize!" tripe.

The fact of the matter is that if you don't like where you're at, LEAVE. It's not that hard and, as I said in a previous comment, if you're at all worth your salt, you'll have a new job before the ink dries on your resignation.



[ Parent ]
Nail on the head (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:02:06 AM EST

Third, the demand for programmers is enormous, but so is the supply - just not in the US. If US programmers unionized, then over time, the good jobs would move to places like India. As it is, they may still do that, but at least the US programmers aren't begging for it.

If you want better IT jobs in the US (or whatever your country of residence) spend time, energy and money unionizing the IT professionals in whatever country du jour is the best place for your management to possibly relocate your job to.

The faster other countries acheive the same pay scale for IT professionals that the US now enjoys, the more secure my job will be.

[ Parent ]

A union wouldn't help us... (4.00 / 12) (#5)
by daystar on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:07:45 PM EST

1) The rushed development and poor planning hurt the managers, not the programmers. Now, it does add stress to your life, but you're gonna have to learn to deal with stress anyhow. If managers want their products to make them a lot of money, they're gonna have to plan well. No union can make that happen.

2) Look at what unions DO. Now, granted, I have the bias that both of my parents were teachers, so the union that I know the most about is the teacher's union. One of the things that that union will fight to the DEATH is the idea of linking pay and performance. Now, think about the programmers you work with. There's brilliant ones and there are idiots. DO you really want your company to have to treat them equally? Do you really think that software design will improve if that happens?

--
There is no God, and I am his prophet.
Some developers are unionized (3.87 / 8) (#8)
by fossilcode on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:42:20 PM EST

Some shops have had unions representing their technical staff, including the developers, for a long time now. I've not worked in one, but I've known people who did, and the consensus was that developers would be better off without the union and the blue-collar, entitlement mentality that often accompanies it. You want a rigid, rule-driven workplace that stifles your creative process? Try being creative while "working to rules."
--
"...half the world blows and half the world sucks." Uh, which half were you again?
Of course we should (3.83 / 6) (#14)
by boxed on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:09:07 PM EST

As a swedish citizen I have a rather different view on unions than what is normal in the US. Unions have a LOT of power in sweden. In fact, they form one of the major power structures in our society along with the government and the big corporations. This has led to several rights as an employee such as laws against getting fired for no reason and such. This has created an enviorment that feels comfortable to work in and one where you do not have to fear getting fired at any time for any reason. In my mind this is a Good Thing.

Just my two cents.

Interesting comments, to follow up (3.28 / 7) (#15)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:28:02 PM EST

Alot of people are comparing the union i mention to the current state of unions, such as teachers unions, auto workers and the like.

There is absolutely no reason why a new union would be JUST LIKE those. We need to look at the current flaws in those, and see how we can correct them.

Writing software is not like other industries. In physical world industries (such as autos), there are 2 parts. Designing, and manufacturing. The designers come up with the unique bits. The manufacturers merely replicate thousands of copies of what the designers have. Copying cars is a long labor intensive process. This is why companies outsource their manufacturing to cheaper parts of the world. But where do car manufacturers DESIGN their cars? In their home countries. Volkswagen designs cars in america and europe. But they manufacture them in mexico. Does any design take place in mexico? No. Americans and european culture and education makes them better designers (not to get into a my-country-is-smarter-than-yours war here).

Software is a design-only industry. Replication is a matter of copying disks, if that. It is NOT in the best interests of a company to outsource their work to india. The president of the company i currently work for is Indian. He prefers american software designers because "american culture makes them better at challenging the status quo and coming up with new ideas" (those are his words).

The union would not be there to dictate rules to their members or stifle innovation if you didnt follow the old-style union. The union would be there to provide the voice of the workers to the management. "We will NOT have this project done in a month. For good quality it will take at least two." Like someone mentioned earlier, just try and get your coworkers to say something like that to management. This is why unions were invented in the first place.

Money isnt everything. I can buy a BMW..but when will I have the time to enjoy it?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Power corrupts. (none / 0) (#43)
by tzanger on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:31:25 PM EST

There is absolutely no reason why a new union would be JUST LIKE those. We need to look at the current flaws in those, and see how we can correct them.

I can see this exact comment being bandied about during the formation of the unions we now curse.

The trouble is that power corrupts. Everywhere and without exception. Those in power start making changes to benefit themselves more than their representatives. They do this subtley, to avoid facing their members balking the changes until it's too late. Kind of like how your rights in the U.S. are being taken away slowly and steadily. Those who speak up are labelled as deviants, people you don't want to be seen with. And sure enough the new "won't be a bad" union is just like the rest.



[ Parent ]
and then thats when we look.. (none / 0) (#44)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:47:38 PM EST

and see how it can be corrected or minimized. an excellent experiment in government on a smaller (but no less important) scale.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

That's fine then. (none / 0) (#64)
by tzanger on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:31:20 PM EST

and then that's when we look and see how it can be corrected or minimized. an excellent experiment in government on a smaller (but no less important) scale.

Fine. Do it with the IT industry then; I'll work my contract jobs, get paid more and enjoy more freedoms and on top of it all, laugh at all the unionized programmers who now have to tow whatever line it is their union reps are pushing.

It would be an interesting social experiment, I must admit. However you are dealing with the whole "power corrupts" part of humanity. You'll lay down the rules to avoid it and slowly but surely those rules will change, just like they are doing with the U.S. constitution. Just like big industry and their lawyers are doing with the U.S. government. It's a very dangerous game to get into.



[ Parent ]
No, no, no! (3.33 / 9) (#16)
by dze27 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:29:36 PM EST

Unions are for coal miners making 10 cents an hour, not for programmers making 6 figures!

If you don't like your job, WALK AWAY. There's always a better company to work for. There's no way unions should be needed to get better working conditions when the supply of good programmers is scarce.

I work as a consultant (not sure why the author doesn't like that term) and i work my 7.5 hours a day and that's it, that's all.

"Luck is the residue of design" -- Branch Rickey


attitudes like that are the problem (3.00 / 6) (#18)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:33:33 PM EST

"i'm white collar, leave unions for those silly uneducated blue collar people".

Any company can abuse its workers, no matter their profession.

Should we walk away from things for the rest of our lives, or work to change things? Ignoring and avoiding a problem is NO solution at all.

Why don't I like the term consultant? Because consultants have a reputation for charging exorbitant amounts for shitty undeserving work. "Yes, this 6 hours of work will cost your company a mere $2000! and when it breaks (no, i would NEVER intentionally put bugs in to fix!) i'll just charge you my standard rate to fix it!"

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

reply (4.40 / 5) (#23)
by dze27 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:55:14 PM EST

While there might be a little jealousy here when it comes to consultants' rates I don't think anyone here is making anything like 300 an hour. In my office consultants/contractors are well respected as people who fix problems and know what they're doing, almost all the time. I assure you there is no stigma here like there apparently is at your work.

As for the "silly uneducated blue collar" statement: I think unions can be beneficial to get people out of hopelessly bad conditions, but I see it as a relic of the past. They're anti-competitive and they reek of socialism. Unions protect their own such that it makes firing bad employees impossible and it gives them far too much power through striking.

I have a feeling this discussion may reduce to "Should all workers unionize?" All I can say is, I don't like unions, and I see even less of a reason than usual for well-paid, scarce developers to need one.

Walking away isn't "avoiding" the problem. It's making a very direct statement that you're unhappy with the company and that you dislike their practices. Over time this will have an effect.

"Luck is the residue of design" -- Branch Rickey


[ Parent ]
yet... (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:18:00 PM EST

at the same time walking away hurts YOU. It's much better to address mismanagement through a voice than ignoring them.

As for jealousy of consultant rates, i'd rather take low pay and do a good honest job. What i'm doing right now is undoing the work of more unscrupulous consultant.

As i said before, a union doesnt have to (and in no way would it..) fit the model of the old-style union. Worker protection will NEVER be obsolete.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

how? (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by _peter on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 03:07:17 AM EST

at the same time walking away hurts YOU.
In an industry where significant raises come with nearly ever job change? If you can't plan ahead and have a job ready to start as soon as you need it, then you probably shouldn't be programming in the first place.

You seem to be wedded to this idea that the company could be made better by sticking around and trying to fix things. No one here would advocate quitting at the first sign of trouble, but at the point that communication breaks down -- which is what unions are supposed to be for -- walking away is perfectly legitimate, doesn't mar your record in this industry, and more effective than unionizing.

Why?

  1. You can't unionize without an election. This takes time. Even if you do succeed in your campaign (which seems unlikely from the conversation around here), it's going to be months after the offense, if not longer.
  2. You're going to fail to unionize sometimes. Then what are you left with? If you walk out after you fail, then it's going to be seen as petty retribution.

It's better to communicate your reasons to your managers and co-workers, and then quit. It's (relatively) immediate, it will hurt them at a level commensurate to your importance to them, and you get to move on with your life.

You don't owe bad companies with bad management any more as an employee than you would owe them as a consumer.

[ Parent ]

Ahh but you aren't ignoring them. (none / 0) (#65)
by tzanger on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:33:46 PM EST

It's much better to address mismanagement through a voice than ignoring them.

Believe me, if you are worth anything your resignation will leave a much stronger mark than pissing around trying to get them to change.

At the same time, if you're worth anything then the voicing of your dissatisfaction will correct the situation. If not, then see paragraph #1.



[ Parent ]
Employee abuse (4.33 / 3) (#31)
by kagaku_ninja on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:10:12 PM EST

Any company can abuse its workers, no matter their profession

Ever see 90% of the developers walk out on their employeer? It isn't pretty. All that is left are the timid, the clueless, and the foreigners still waiting for their green cards.

Software companies have to keep their coders happy. That's why you see so many companies giving us free food, game centers, exercise rooms and the like. Not to mention the high salaries...

[ Parent ]
Nope. (none / 0) (#37)
by mrsam on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 07:56:40 PM EST

Any company can abuse its workers, no matter their profession.

No, there's at least one that can't. Legal & Compliance wanted me to sign a bunch of crap the other day. Because I'm doing some programming work for a brokerage shop, they wanted to force me to pre-clear any personal stock trades through them. Basically, any time I wanted to buy or sell any stock from my personal account, they wanted me to wait until some prick finishes taking a dump, and puts his stamp of approval on this. I told them to go and fuck themselves (in a somewhat more polite manner, but the meaning was essentially that). They didn't really have much choice...

[ Parent ]

We don't need unions (3.87 / 8) (#19)
by _peter on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:37:01 PM EST

And the reason why is in your article:
Fortunately, I am in the position where I can more or less dictate my needs to this company
You are still a college student, and already you are in such demand that you can tell a high-level manager something is unreasonable. It's not going to get harder for you to do this once you get your degree.

You say later in your article that "many of my brethren do not have this luxury" -- I don't think that's so. Most of us who work long days do it because it's worth it to us, not because we can't find a job that would be less stressful.

At least that's my impression. If this article had a poll, maybe we could find out if it's a representative one, of the k5 population at least.

Exactly (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by kagaku_ninja on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:02:41 PM EST

In my last job, one developer negotiated a deal where he only worked 2/3 of the year; he got 4 months unpaid leave every year. Another employee telecommutes from Massachusetts. Others came in as part time contractors. I eventually got pissed with all the bullshit and demanded 3 months leave (basically I was quitting, while leaving the door open in case they made it worth my while to stay).

If you have the skills, you can leave at anytime and negotiate suprising concessions from your new employer. Don't be afraid to make demands; you might get what you want...

[ Parent ]
Unions are outdated (3.33 / 6) (#26)
by Mantrid on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:05:11 PM EST

In my opinion unions are outdated. They are not necessary in this day and age. We are not in the same era as when unions were first born, at least in the US & Canada.

All that unions ever seem to do is take employee's hard earned cash and use it to create disruptions between employees and management. I've seen cases where management has been so sick and tired about unions complaining about every stupid little thing, that they start nitpicking as well; making issues out of things that they normally wouldn't have cared about. Such as bathroom breaks, etc.

These are my feelings about unions in general. Now, unions in IT...that's just plan ridiculous. There's a SHORTAGE of it workers, if you really don't like the company you're in, find another (hell you can probably get more money from the next guy anyways). The pay is good, there's signing bonuses to be had, and extra benefits. You have the option to leave if your employer starts jerking around, or if you're really nasty you can go to one of the government agencies (at least in Canada) and complain. I for one will never contribute my money to some union that isn't needed. We have enough governing bodies and such in this world- do we really need to add another level? Even if an IT union started up with good intentions, after awhile it would become bloated and self-serving just like every other level of administration.

computer organisations (4.33 / 6) (#28)
by jesterzog on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:20:58 PM EST

I don't think I'd ever join a union. My whole experience with them is that they tend to tell stray members what to think and try to force their way through everything. One of the most glaring examples for me is having been forced to join my university student union to attend university. Every month they've been marching complaining to the government about all sorts of things that I don't agree with, yet I still get claimed as a supporter of them.

It makes some sense in a profession where everyone's in a similar situation and has the same problem, but it doesn't make sense here. If I don't like what I'm getting, I'm in enough demand that I can walk away and work for someone else.

I've for a while been toying with the idea of joining an organisation like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), or maybe a more local society.

This is partly because of the stuff that comes out of it, but also because of things like the Code of Ethics that comes with membership.

Instead of having a union, this is more in line with something like an association of doctors or some other highly paid professional. It does something to set some standards in the profession, drawing a line between people who are genuine professionals and others who are pretending. Having said that I'm not sure if you have to prove you're competant before joining - you just have to live up to the code of ethics as a member, and part of that requires quality work.


jesterzog Fight the light


...or the IEEE (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by zephiros on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 12:43:45 AM EST

In addition to the ACM, technical professionals might want to take a peek at the IEEE. They provide a goodly swath of services, including a sizable online library of papers and proceedings, conferences, local meetings (populated by serious career technical folks, not dot-com johnny-come-lately php hackers), and some pretty handy financial/insurance services.

IME, a valid $100/yr career investment. YMMV.
 
Kuro5hin is full of mostly freaks and hostile lunatics - KTB
[ Parent ]

...or the ACCU (none / 0) (#51)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:23:27 AM EST

The ACCU (Association of C & C++ Users), while not in the same league as IEEE, does provide some usful support for programmers, particularly C / C++ / Java etc, participating in standardisation efforts, producing magazines, organizing conferences and seminars, and generally providing proffesional advice.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Union no...techs in management, yes (4.00 / 5) (#34)
by Rasvar on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:52:43 PM EST

I think one of the bigger problems is that many techies, understandably, do not wish to move up into management and most of the companies have to go outside and get a generic MBA or someone like that with no tech background.

One of the current management fads, IMHO, is that a manager does not need to know about the job folks are doing. I have been in the industry for 15 years and think this is one of the worst ideas that has come down the pike. It leads to more shoddy product development and marketing than any other item I can think of. If management has no window on how good coding and practices are done, they will come up with unreasonable time frames. Plus, in a lot of places, bonuses are tied to project completeion and milestones that are arbitrailly set at the beginning of a product development cycle and not adjusted very much.

Yes, its not all management. There are a lot of lazy/sloppy coders out there who would probably not be where they were if the people were available. However, I know in my shop, clueless management has led to clueless projects. I spend all day long fixiing problems that never should have happened because a manager said to send the programs out becuase we are at the deadline. Of course, he got his bonus and it has cost us about $500K in downtime when we could have delayed about four days and it only cost us $5K.

Until Techs, who have the managerial and people skills needed, decide to move up into management in a significant number, I think the trend of shoddy work will continue. Of course, with money being a big thing, as long as there is a shortage of good coders, this trend will continue. it is a hard cycle to break.

Managers without the job skills. (none / 0) (#66)
by bored on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:38:08 PM EST

To a certain extent managers don't need to know the job of their employees since its not usually the managers job really to set the schedule on their own. A good manager will get the opinions of his employees before arbitrarily setting a deadline. If there is a hard deadline handed down from the business group its the managers job to sync the requirements/expectations of the business group with the resources available in the development group. If upper management sets goals that are unreasonable its the job of the lower managers to point out that given the current development environment that the goals aren't realistic and quality, maintainability, etc are going to suffer in the end product if something isn't done about the large gap between expectations and what can realistically be done. Figuring out what realistic expectations are is the job of the manager after consulting his employees which should be considered the experts on the system. If on day one manager says the following project detailed in these documents is due on x date then that is just crappy management and nothing else. The procedure should go something like.

  1. Manager gives requirements to architects.
  2. Architects builds basic arch and calculates how long it will take to complete
  3. Arch gives a couple of high level sections to project leads who calculate how long they expect a particular section to take and hand the results back.
  4. Arch takes project leads estimates and makes sure that their estimates agree and pads end result by some amount based on past experience with the development groups estimates.
  5. Basic estimate is handed to manager who goes to business group and says I expect the project to take n man hours we have p people so it will take approx. y time to complete. Give me more people (this only works to some small percentage of the current development size), change the date, or change the requirements or we will have quality problems.
  6. Repeat 1 until numbers work out and everyone is happy


[ Parent ]
In theory, I agree... (none / 0) (#69)
by Rasvar on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 03:09:33 PM EST

I have yet to see this work in reality very well. Now maybe I'm jaded and biased because I work in a situation that doesn't work. Most of the lower level managers where I am are just interested in advancing. Therefore, they are more interested in impressing management rather then questioning.

I know of a project group that did a study of a project that management wanted implemented. the numbers they came up with showed that it was unwise and not financially feasable in the time frame requested. Did their direct management, who was brought over from an area with no IT/IS involvement, try to go higher and see if the goals could be adjusted? No! He more or less said that the project will be done on time and on budget as requested. If the people didn't want to do it, they could leave. Ten out of the twelve folks tendered their resignation. The manager went and brought in a group of folks who have never worked on the systems nor planned a project and now they are saying the project can be done on time and on budget. Mind you, every memo they have sent out has more errors in it than a third grader writting a book report on War and Peace. Its to the point where I have given up fighting the project. The project will be an internal diasaster, the manager and folks on the team will get big bounuses because they met their goals and I will have to spend two years listenening to people yell at me about a system that doesn't work. Assuming I am still here, which I doubt. [I should also point out that I have been here 15 years becuase it use to be a company that knew how to do things right]

I was denied a promotion becuase I spoke out against a project when asked my opinion. Management said I was not a team player. The project that I spoke out about was implemented and guess who they are coming to to try to fix the problems that I said would happen? Yet, I'm not a team player becuase I did not accept managements vision without question.

I wish I could say this is the exception; but it seems more and more like real world reality these days. Management by people who do not know what their people do is a theory that works in the land of hypothetical; but rarely makes the succesful transition into the real world.

[ Parent ]
How about: COMMUNICATION (4.00 / 6) (#35)
by lucas on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:54:13 PM EST

Unions are for people like iron workers or coal miners who risk their lives and need fair compensation. They are also for automobile workers because of the simplicity and mundaneness of their jobs -- they can easily be replaced.

In Massachusetts, where old-school unionizing still lives on to this day, even the people who bag groceries are unionized. No shit... and you have to join their union for the local supermarkets to employ you... and pay your "dues" to the union. It's corruption at its finest. I would just love for this to come into the tech world; that would be great. It's already bad enough that people have to pay money out of their own pockets for MCSE certification because employers value non-MSCE people less.

Programmers are white-collared; they are not mindless and they have great skill. However, they are shitty communicators. They don't like to talk or communicate their needs or expectations. Smart programmers play their cards right: they assertively negotiate... and they, of course, don't get screwed.

That being said, it sounds like you want union representation because you don't like management hassling you about unreasonable deadlines. Well, push BACK. Dictate the terms before you take the job or even while you're in the job. If they don't like it, tell them to build it themselves 'cause you're outta there.

The .com gold-rush era is over and people are already going back to normal hours. Building the latest an greatest website is not an end-all as it was.

Lastly, smart programmers stay away from the dot-com world. If you're participating in it, then you are asking to be screwed by frantic management who realizes they're drowning. Be smart.

How about SOLIDARITY? (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by winthrop on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:00:33 PM EST

Smart programmers play their cards right: they assertively negotiate... and they, of course, don't get screwed.

So you're saying that if someone get screwed, you don't care because it was their own fault for being stupid.

Why do you deserve to get screwed just because you're stupid? Is there some grand moral reason that if you're not very good at negotiating, you don't deserve to be paid well or work in a decent environment? Enlighten me here. If there's something we could do to make sure that all programmers (and people in general) get paid as well as they can regardless of their skills at communicating or negotiating, why shouldn't we do it?

That being said, it sounds like you want union representation because you don't like management hassling you about unreasonable deadlines. Well, push BACK. Dictate the terms before you take the job or even while you're in the job. If they don't like it, tell them to build it themselves 'cause you're outta there.

Exactly! If you don't like your job, fight back! Now, which is better, the leverage of one employee threatening to quit or all of them? Maybe in some shops it's the leverage of just one employee, because she's irreplacable. So if you're not that one, does that mean you don't deserve to work in a good environment? Get paid decent wages? Management wants to turn programmers against each other by saying, "If we treat you like shit, it just goes to show that you're not as good as the guys we treat right." Well, I don't think anybody deserves to be treated like shit.

I still don't know whether unionizing is the right thing; I don't know enough about the laws. But a little solidarity wouldn't hurt.

PS: Sorry to pick on you; I'm mainly pissed off after reading 20 straight "Unions suck" comments. But, also, how does your first paragraph fit into "Spindletop: Cooperative, Union, and Advocate for Free Software End-Users"?

[ Parent ]

question (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:13:06 AM EST

You wrote:
Is there some grand moral reason that if you're not very good at negotiating, you don't deserve to be paid well or work in a decent environment?

This sounds awfully close to:
Is there some grand moral reason that if you're not a very good programmer, you don't deserve to be paid well or work in a decent environment?

Where does it stop? Should we all be on the same money? How does the union decide how much you deserve to get paid? What if your good in practice, but crap at tests?

It sounds to me like the relationship between employeer and employee should be left that way, and not goverened by a third party.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

answer (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by winthrop on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:27:52 AM EST

Because I thought they were more broadly relevant, I answered your questions and some others in my other comment.

How does the union decide how much you deserve to get paid?

The union wouldn't decide how much you deserve to get paid; it would just set up the framework within which you negotiate. There are some things that do affect just about every single programmer, like right to privacy at work, right to another job (READ: no bad non-compete clauses), right to your own thoughts. These are the things a union should be negotiating. No, I'm not saying that anybody deserves to have a $100,000 job just because they call themselves a programmer. But everybody does deserve to have privacy. Everybody does deserve to be able to choose their next employer. These are things that the union could negotiate on.

It sounds to me like the relationship between employeer and employee should be left that way, and not goverened by a third party

I don't understand this attitude. A union is a second party. It's true that some unions aren't as democratic as they ought to be, but without them, there's no democracy at all. I'm not willing to speak up over every niggling thing and risk being labeled a troublemaker, but if we all speak together, management would have to listen to us.

[ Parent ]

No democracy at all? (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by Mantrid on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 04:40:16 PM EST

"It's true that some unions aren't as democratic as they ought to be, but without them, there's no democracy at all." Sorry but I don't get this connection. Are you saying that there'd be no democracy without unions? That doesn't make any sense to me. Either way, I am still unconvinced of the value of unions. (disclaimer: I'm from Canada and our situations may be different) There's already a ton of labour boards and requirements (worker safety and other such regulations), and adding the addtional government level of a union is not going to help matters. I think the biggest difficulties are with formalized, sustained unions; any body such as a union eventually will begin to protect itself as a body, and look after its own interests. Union leaders want to keep their power, even if they are no longer needed, and they want to keep any extra money they may receive as well. The problem here, perhaps is not unions or the idea of unions; it is human greed I suppose. It doesn't matter how good the intentions of a union are, eventually it too will become self serving and corrupt, and can even exert un due power over the employees it was originally created to protect.

[ Parent ]
At work (none / 0) (#73)
by winthrop on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 05:42:14 PM EST

Me: It's true that some unions aren't as democratic as they ought to be, but without them, there's no democracy at all.

You: Sorry but I don't get this connection. Are you saying that there'd be no democracy without unions?

Sorry, I wasn't being clear enough. Let me rephrase: It's true that some unions aren't as democratic as they ought to be, but without them, there's no democracy at all in the workplace. Employees cannot elect their bosses and they don't get a vote in most decisions. The only way that workers are guaranteed input is in their union: who the leaders of their local are, whether to accept a CBA, whether to strike, etc. Now, some programmers might already have some input into decisions, but wouldn't you rather get it in writing? Wouldn't you rather everyone get a little say?

Now you do make the point that many unions are not representative of their members and that power is concentrated near the top. This is similar to the way that democratically-elected governments don't always represent their people and power can rest on the top. But just because US (and Canadian) implementations of democracy are poor doesn't mean I prefer a dictatorship. And just because unions are flawed doesn't mean we should give up on them.

There's already a ton of labour boards and requirements (worker safety and other such regulations)

First of all, I think there's a lot more protections in Canada than there are in the US. (Well, they exist in the US, they just don't do anything.) Second of all, who do you think lobbied the government to get those labour (er, labor) boards in the first place? I'll give you a hint: unions.

[ Parent ]

Consumer's Union != Labor Union (none / 0) (#58)
by lucas on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:21:47 AM EST

>PS: Sorry to pick on you; I'm mainly pissed off after reading 20 straight
>"Unions suck" comments. But, also, how does your first paragraph fit into
>"Spindletop: Cooperative, Union, and Advocate for Free Software
>End-Users"?

That's okay. No, it's the same term, different meaning or contexts.

A consumer's union is a lot different than a labor union. Consumer unions are about the acquisition of things through negotiating for lower prices as a group or collective; labor unions are usually about the rights of the worker in an employment setting.

Likewise, I didn't say that unions suck because I don't believe they do. I just think they are not relevant to the tech industry.

Look, I have always said that .com employers are shitty and a lot of people were screwed... but people are reacting antithetically to it and promoting socialism bordering on communism. We forget that people are going to be people and that unions are just as bad as employers and just as bad as the government. Any entity will eventually corrupt itself as people want a piece of it.

[ Parent ]

Please clarify something: (none / 0) (#52)
by itsbruce on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:43:36 AM EST

Programmers are white-collared; they are not mindless and they have great skill.

Are you saying that blue collar workers are mindless and unskilled? If so, I have to say that it's the most ignorant comment I've ever read here.

However, they are shitty communicators. They don't like to talk or communicate their needs or expectations.

Speak for yourself. I'm a developer, working in a white-collar environment, also a Union member. Nobody forced me, there's no closed shop, I pay the dues gladly.

In a world where companies have started sacking people without even telling them, just locking their offices and clearing their desks and leaving them to find out the hard way, white collar workers have as much to gain from Union membership as anyone else.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
No, not against unions, I'm against human greed. (none / 0) (#57)
by lucas on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:20:05 AM EST


>>Programmers are white-collared; they are not mindless and they have
>>great skill.
>Are you saying that blue collar workers are mindless and unskilled? If so,
>I have to say that it's the most ignorant comment I've ever read here.

No, I wasn't saying this and it would be erroneous to assume so.

It's just that people have been talking about worker's rights as if they were oppressed from childhood and made to work in the coal mines of Karl Marx's day. Back in those days, you had no choice. You work or you starve and die. Pretty simple. There was one big employer in town and you didn't have enough food or money to travel to other places.

Today, Americans are fat and wealthy... particularly tech workers. You have a choice as to who you work for. Just because some employer, as you mention, fires you in an inappropriate manner is not enough to form a picket across the street.

As I said before, I chose not to participate in the dot-com crap because I knew what was going to happen. In Marx's terms (and I have read much of Marx's philosophy), I was preserving the intrinsic value of my work by not being relegated to a web-designing robot. This is a choice.

Are the people who are choosing to participate in this stuff victims? Hell no. They know what they're getting into by accepting a fat salary, benefits, etc. They have a choice. "Startup" does not mean "established firm with experienced management who know how to handle issues like firing". "Startup" does not mean, "You only have to work a few hours here and there".... and people used to be willing to do crazy stuff until the IPO of their startup. Now that the IPO market is flat, Americans are coming to their senses and realizing that money isn't the end-all to life.

I'm not against unions, but I don't believe in the inherent goodness of people as Marx did. I believe that humans are inherently bad and, as it becomes politicized, they will tend use unions for negative purposes. If you've ever heard a union rally where the leader is calling management "them" and saying "they're not one of us", this is the same propaganda technique that Nazis, Communists, and post WWII Americans (e.g., McCarthy "Committee on Un-American Activities") used to manipulate and control people's paradigms.

[ Parent ]

forced to work these hours? (4.00 / 8) (#39)
by tzanger on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 11:03:10 PM EST

Unfortunately though, many of my brethren do not have this luxury. They are forced to toil 16 hours a day to meet impossible deadlines.

Let's get one thing straight. In the day of "serious programmer shortages" and dot-com millions there is no such thing as being forced to work 16 hours a day in the software biz. At least not for the 16-25 crowd. Pack up and go elsewhere. Prove that there's a programmer shortage by giving the asshole who can't manage a shortage.

Now this comes off flippant but think about it a moment before rating me a 1. Exactly how many of these prople bitching about the problem work in Silicon Valley? How hard is it to (literally!) walk next door and get a job without blinking? We're not talking serious jobhunt here.

There are those, however (/me raises hand), who have a family and a house...er mortgage, car loans and other responsibilities which your average 16-25 demographic programmer simply does not have. And yes, we are a little more stuck than the rest because it is a lot riskier to just give your boss the finger and leave. But it's not impossible, especially if your talent is worth anything (i.e. you're not a wannabe). Put your mettle to the test. Unions are bad, mm'kay?



Not unions, but 'professional association'-ism (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by Robby on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:22:36 AM EST

Ok guys, unions typically work in a situation where workers do similar work, under similar employers, with large structures being the employers. Teachers, Miners, Machinists, Auto workers, and so on.

Unionism tends to work in these industries somewhat (they're not at all perfect, but they work in some ways) here because of the fact that there are few employers and many emplyees. Whenever there are any demands or negotiations, they're typically in a large environment, and thus, easier for the union to handle.

The IT industry isn't like this - you get employers of all sizes, types, and people don't at all do work that is similar to each other. The bloke working in the bank probably does nothing at all similar to the guy working at Intel.

Anyway, what is my comment heading towards?

Take a look at two other fields of well educated professionals: Lawyers and Doctors. These two groups have very strong professional associations. So much so, that (at least in Australia) you can't work as either without being a member of these private organisations (which are governmentally 'intertwined'). Why can't Computing Professionals have a similarly strong association guarding both consumers (against crap developers) and developers (against crap work conditions).

sure, we don't have lives in our hands like doctors, or do we? Some developers working in the biomedical field most certainly do. And Lawyers, well, they just have the good understanding of the law to enforce a strong Association for them :)

Of course, the difficulty is enforcing any sort of rules. But wouldn't it be great if for a change, companies/people hired 'firms' of Developers for a task, much like they hire lawyers? Think about it. Lots of people work as individual contractors, but I don't know of many 'firms' that work together. This of course, applies to the 'back-end' software business, and is a generalisation, but I for one would love to have $LASTNAME & Sons plastered outside my office door, and have a secretary answering my phones :)

Cheers, and sorry for the ambiguity.

re: professional association-ism (none / 0) (#81)
by neillm on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 03:22:15 PM EST

> Think about it. Lots of people work as individual contractors ...

An interesting idea - but isn't that basically the same thing as a small consulting company? (i.e. a "dot com" offering specific services rather than products)

[ Parent ]
The IWW (4.00 / 2) (#48)
by thePositron on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 02:55:35 AM EST

The IWW is a union without the hierarchy and bureaucracy that many of the modern unions employ. At the turn of the century they fought and died for things like the 40 hour work week, the banning of child labor and our much cherished idea of weekends or days off in the work week. They are now growing again and unionizing all over the world in all trades and occupations. A union does not have to be a constrictive entity and they can be formed to serve your associations particularly needs. Like all social constructs they can be useful or a bane but on the whole I believe that they have been very beneficial for ALL working people and they can be useful technical workers and developers as well.



Industrial Democracy (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by mdavids on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 08:51:14 AM EST

A fellow Wobbly on K5! I'm an IWW delegate from Sydney Australia. You should email me.

What I've found interesting about this discussion is that the people who've vehemently rejected the suggestion of unionising have missed the point of the article entirely. They've been saying in essence, that if you don't like your wages and conditions, there's no need to join a union, there are other ways of dealing with the problem,

Now it may be the case that they are right, unfortunately that's not the problem the article is concerned with: "Clueless managers do NOT give enough time to their coders to complete projects correctly."

It's odd that whenever some people see the word "union", they become blind to the context in which it's used and start moaning about "union greed", the "handout mentality", and so on. What's at issue here is a worker's freedom to produce work of a standard that one can be proud of.

Now I disagree that the difficulty in producing good work is a result of "clueless managers," rather it's a consequense of managers that are doing their job extremely well. It is the sole function of a corporation is to produce the maximum possible return on investment for shareholders. To do otherwise is illegal as far as I know in most countries. So you have to make your product as cheaply as possible and sell it as expensively as possible. Selling crap isn't cluelessness, it's "good corporate governance". And the consequence for workers, no matter how well paid, is dehumanisation and often burnout.

So what can you do about it? Quitting your job and going elsewhere isn't going to help, because everywhere runs under the same principle. The answer lies in making industy answerable to the people who do the work, and the communities in which they operate. How do you do it? You get together with other people to democratise the workplace. The Industrial Workers of the World is the only organisation I've seen that is seriously committed to transforming society in this way, not just making tyrrany "fairer", as other unions aim to do.



[ Parent ]
Yes, of course!! (3.00 / 4) (#53)
by cryon on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:47:47 AM EST

I am amazed at the incredible naviete of Americans. This life is all about competition. THos who best align themselves with others are best able to compete by manipukating the rules of the game. Lawyers and doctors do this best. Their professional associations are among the most powerful non-state entities in the world. THat is why they can have careers well into middle age and even older.
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Wrong Model (4.50 / 4) (#56)
by winthrop on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:07:33 AM EST

Most of the comments here say programmers shouldn't have a union because we're not blue collar workers. But a union of programmers doesn't have to look like a union of blue-collar workers. The existing unions I think it would look most similar to are unions of sports players. Let me go over the (United States) Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and how it could be similar to a Programmers' Union (PU) CBA.

Things the CBA doesn't/wouldn't do that people are concerned about.

  • Require parity/prevent individuals from negotiating.

    The highest-paid baseball players can earn 100s of times more than the lowest-paid ones. Every player is free to negotiate based on their skill and value to the team.

  • Prevent management from managing.

    For everybody who's worried that if you sign a CBA, management and employees won't be able to talk without an arbitrator, that clause is only there for industries where employees regularly get abused. In baseball, managers can talk to their players whenever and even fine them for missing curfew. Managers could have plenty of leeway under a PU CBA.

  • Prevent management from firing incompetents

    Baseball players who suck can be fired. So could programmers who suck.

Things that the MLBPA CBA does that a PU could use:

  • Set minimum salaries.

    For those just starting out or without much leverage, this can be a gigantic boost.

  • Set standard clauses for contracts

    In baseball, there's a standard clause that if management wants the players to work more than seventeen nights in a row, it must go to a vote of the players on the team. In the programming world, there might be a clause that, say, every hour over forty hours a week is paid overtime (even for salaried workers) and no programmer could be required to work more than 50 hours (although they can if they want to).

    Other clauses the union could have say over are non-competes, rights to thoughts while you're not on the job, and rights to privacy. These are all issues that are regularly negotiated at contract time, but right now only those with a lot of leverage or those who can afford to lose some money from their contract can afford to negotiate these well.

  • Help out those who are fired.

    We've all heard stories of people being fired wrongly because the company decided they couldn't afford them anymore. The programmers' union could negotiate a severance package (that could be added to by the company if they want) based on how long you've worked there.

But the most important element of all of this is the solidarity. Wouldn't it be nice if next time a company screwed you or a friend of yours, if the response was a little more substantive than just trying to give them a bad name? Over and over, we hear complaints that "We don't have a voice" (usually regarding politics). Well, around the world, existing unions vary in their quality, but they are still the most consistent and powerful voice on behalf of the workers.

Professional sports is a BAD example! (2.00 / 1) (#71)
by Mantrid on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 04:27:33 PM EST

I'm still not clear on why the hell NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL players need unions...what they don't make enough money to play games already? Yeah I'm over simplifying things but really how badly do these guys need a union? At most they might want an organization of players to help the new players stay out of contractual trouble, but what does the union do for them?

[ Parent ]
Professional sports is the PERFECT example... (5.00 / 2) (#74)
by winthrop on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:52:58 PM EST

...and you just proved why: because nobody understands how important a union is.

Some rights sports players have secured through their unions:

  • Right not to be transferred. Any baseball player who has been in the league for 10+ years and with one team 5+ years has the right to veto a transfer to another city (or "trade" in the sports parlance).
  • Greater guarantees on contracts. All sports unions have fought very hard to guarantee contracts for people who can't perform due to injuries sustained on the job.
  • Right to free agency. That is, the right to work for a competitor when you've finished your contract with your current employer.
  • Right to off-time. As I said above, baseball players have the right to veto a scheduled game if management schedules games on more than x (I think it's 17) days in a row.
  • Minimum Salaries. Young ballplayers who are eager just to get their foot in the door used to be really easily taken advantage of. Now, clubs are forced to pay them a reasonable minimum salary.

That's just off the top of my head. The kicker is, every single one of these is an area programmers struggle in: anybody remember old www.sorehands.com from Slashdot? Anybody here signed a non-compete clause? Anybody here work 60-hour weeks? Anybody know a kid who could easily be making twice his salary but is afraid to ask? (Okay, I don't know about the transfers, but I could imagine that being an issue...)

what they don't make enough money to play games already?

Let me answer that two ways.

YES! Sports are a heavily subsidized industry (at least here in the US) and I very much resent my tax dollars going to pay $20m/yr for a guy to hit a baseball. And I resent even more that on top of that, they have the nerve to charge $14 for a bleacher seat. But also,

NO! Given that governments are keeping these sports teams on the dole and given the rapacious prices the teams charge, I don't think the players are getting enough. As long as the owners are making money off of these guys, they deserve a bigger cut. And as long as management is making money off of us, we deserve a bigger cut.

[ Parent ]

Stop making me think! (none / 0) (#77)
by Mantrid on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:55:40 AM EST

I see where you are coming from, but I'm still unconvinced. Sports is perhaps complicated by the huge discontinuity in salaries, from multi-millions per year down to a few hundred thousand- these super high priced players really throw the system out of whack; endangering the ability for some teams to even exist (this is especially true for some NHL teams in Canada; Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are big - but Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa have a much harder time). I guess I have a hard time separating the union argument from the general professional atheletes are overpaid argument. Anyways you make some good points; but you're making me think and that's really annoying---stop it! heheh. Now I'm not quite sure how these sports unions work, but I'm sure there are ways to address the issues without adding the extra administrative layer of a union. I think the basic point with unions that I still can't get past is the fact that you may not want their help and services, but would still be forced to join one to get a job somewhere, whether you agree with them or not. What if the union goes on strike for something you don't believe in? Then you're stuck without work or pay until whatever the issue is, is settled, where you may have been perfectly happen working away, and may not even have wanted to join the union to start with. I also think that there's enough jobs around in many cases, especially I.T. that you can find the conditions you want somewhere, without a union.

[ Parent ]
CNET's take (2.50 / 2) (#75)
by Malicose on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:31:30 PM EST

"Will high-tech chaos finally give birth to unions?"

Oh ok. (4.00 / 1) (#78)
by Mantrid on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 03:48:40 PM EST

I kind of thought that you didn't mean it that way. I see your point. I thought of one thing though: is a democracy the best thing for a business? Provided that workers are treated reasonably well and all, just how much pull should they have? For example a local industry where I live had its workers go on strike mainly because the company was planning to lay people off. This strike seemed to go on for quite awhile and guess what happened? I now drive by a vacant plant on my way to work every day!

Other less serious instances is when our (non-unionized plant) started having 'cell group' meetings to address employee concerns. Admittedly some helpful suggestions came out of these meetings; even some safety related stuff that maybe should've been reported to the JHSC (a government required employee run group). But the sheer amout of stupid ideas that came out was amazing - management at least commented on every issue raised, but really there was a lot of time wasted. The worst part is that after awhile the individual cell groups seemed to take on a more controlling attitude - it slowly began to slip from a service offered by managment to help employees out and make things better, to the point where people were starting to think that they deserved every single thing they asked for. I think this is not so much a union-speciifc problem as a humanity-wide one!

Blue-collar only? What? (5.00 / 4) (#80)
by eann on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 03:40:07 PM EST

It's both amazing and disheartening to me to see how many people don't even understand what unions do, much less who they're for. I wonder how many of these people grew up as children of corporate executives.

I'm a tech worker, and I'm a union member. Service Employees International Union, Local 509, which serves several thousand health care, education, and public safety workers in Massachusetts. Some excerpts from my Local's mission:

  • To work as Union members in the establishment and maintenance of fair wages, hours, working conditions, and professional standards.
  • To seek, organize, and unite all workers, eligible for membership herein, for their mutual advancement, both social and economic.
  • To eradicate discriminatory practices by the employer and society at large.
  • To seek ways to improve the quality of service we provide.
My union-mates are programmers, sysadmins, nurses, physical therapists, teachers, day-care workers, physical therapists, etc. We're all professionals who provide services to people, in the context of both state and private agencies. And none of us are abused by our employers.

What do I get out of my $7 or so per week? An equitable and well-documented process for "merit" raises--random kissing up and favoritism is so passé these days. The knowledge that if I ever have a job-threatening disagreement with my boss, that it can be worked out--in a high-stress environment, that actually makes things flow a little smoother for everyone. And some little things, like guaranteed cost-of-living and seniority raises; dental and optical insurance; "professional development' money; release time for training, seeing speakers, and even grad school; and influence, as a group, with bosses 5 and 6 levels above me in the hierarchy.

I work for a fairly large organization. The 5000 or so employees at my site (one of six) are actually members of half a dozen different unions, depending on their job functions. And the union presence is so strong that there's a separate "non-union bargaining unit" of people who, for whatever reason, aren't a member of any of the other unions. They don't get some of the nice bonuses specifically negotiated by the unions (the extra insurance, detailed merit process, etc.), but because there is the threat that they could be in a union, they're generally treated the same as far as raises and vacation time and such.

Oh yeah, and I can go home at 5:00 if I want (or if I stay late for some special project, I can get comp time later). And stay home on weekends. It really hasn't been that long since neither of those was the standard. Thank a union.

To be fair, I don't often feel like the SEIU represents my needs all the time. During the boom of the last few years, my salary grew only a little faster than inflation. But on the whole, I think it's been a reasonable deal.

Unions don't set out to cause trouble. That's not what they're for. They're for making the best, fairest working conditions. They're to protect people who can be mistreated by their employers. Those people may work in unsafe conditions, or be required to work long hours, or simply have no way to address grievances. While it's true some of those ideas are more important if there's not a shortage of workers, shortages have their own problems, too. Coal workers didn't unionize when they weren't in demand (in fact, I could argue that a union can't form without that kind of demand). It's the union's job to step in and speak collectively for the disgruntled, and to keep doing so louder and more forcefully until the problems can be fixed.

Hopefully, none of you are so shortsighted to believe that the good times will continue forever. Look around. It ain't happening. When the glut is over, and you're looking for a job so you can pay your bills, send me your résumé. Maybe I'll help you join the union.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Should developers unionize? | 81 comments (80 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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