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Tech Firms Oppose Union Organizing 715

Posted by kdawson
from the fears-of-a-40-hour-week dept.
cedarhillbilly passes along a piece from TheHill.com on the chilly reception that tech firms and lobbying groups are giving to a bill promoting union formation, which has a chance of passing in a more strongly Democratic congress and with a Democratic president. "Up to now, large tech groups have been on the sidelines in what is likely to be one of the roughest fights in Congress next year. A few, however, are preparing to weigh in. That makes other tech lobbyists nervous that, by doing so, the industry could sacrifice relatively good relationships with Democrats and, therefore, jeopardize some of their other legislative priorities."
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Tech Firms Oppose Union Organizing

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  • heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:04AM (#26143975) Homepage Journal

    It's interesting that every single person in the article is against it except for a dnc congressman. The end of the article says he bemoans the lack of union growth. Why would he be concerned about union growth? Why would he be so concerned about union growth that he would try and take steps to lower the bar on organizing groups of people who probably don't even want it? Oh yeah - money. This is why I hate politics. This has nothing to do with serving people it is all about finding revenue streams to fund their next election. Maybe they can get the rest of the country to be like the state of Washington and force people into unions, fire the ones that wont join and rack up plenty of contributions that way.
     
    I was a union member for a number of years. (UFCW) Fortunately it was in a right to work state and it was my choice. And fortunately it was possible to relatively private about joining or not joining. None of this harassment that can come in other environments. Unions are just like employers - they are good to keep in check against one another but I think it is a mistake to think they are purely for the employee. They quickly fall to Pournelle's Iron Law [jerrypournelle.com]. This whole affair is a marked reminder of that fact.
     
    I don't think the Republicans are any better for what it is worth - but I think at least the discussion on what this is all about out to be frank rather than draped in a bunch of spin. Being cautious about unions is not being anti employee.

    • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by canUbeleiveIT (787307) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:19AM (#26144067)
      I too was in the UFCW and came away from the experience with the opinion that bad employees need unions more than good employees. Good employees are so hard to come by at the wage level of UFCW members that employers are loathe to lose them for almost any reason.

      Unions tend to put companies at a competitive disadvantage--auto industry, steel, etc. IMO, this isn't because they necessarily pay a higher wage, but also because it costs so much to have to keep a crappy employee. Higher admin costs, workplace morale, etc suffer. If you look into Trader Joe's, a non-union shop that pays the highest wages in the industry, you will see how well a company can do if they 1) pay a livable wage, 2) choose employees wisely, and 3) have a company culture that rewards effort and efficiency.

      One of the most ridiculous things that I have ever seen was the UFCW paying people minimum wage to picket a non-union store that was paying a higher starting wage than the union store.
      • Re:heh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:25AM (#26144107) Homepage Journal

        I had some run ins with store managers that had napoleon complexes and the union got my back. I could never have worked for the union though because they had to spend a lot of time trying to help people who deserved to get fired keep their jobs.
         
        But it was a time and place when the employers really didn't care if they kept you or not and didn't want to give us decent insurance and the union helped that to happen - so I felt they provided more pros than cons. But it's easy for it to tip the other way.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by canUbeleiveIT (787307) *
          But it was a time and place when the employers really didn't care if they kept you or not and didn't want to give us decent insurance and the union helped that to happen - so I felt they provided more pros than cons. But it's easy for it to tip the other way.

          I understand that. I guess that I was less than clear. When I started in the late '70s, the grocery store business was a regional industry for the most part and the company I worked for paid one of the highest wages of any employer in the area. In
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jbolden (176878)

        The problems in tech have mainly been caused by short term thinking of employers. Unions by tieing employers and employees more closely can cure short term thinking problems.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by DurendalMac (736637)

        One of the most ridiculous things that I have ever seen was the UFCW paying people minimum wage to picket a non-union store that was paying a higher starting wage than the union store.

        Of course they paid them minimum wage. Do you know how much it would have cost for them to hire union labor to picket the store?!?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        .... with the opinion that bad employees need unions more than good employees.

        I TOTALLY agree. I have worked at very large and somewhat small companies. In all of these jobs, I have seen good and bad techies. But the absolute worst I ever saw was when I worked for a large telco equipment manufacturer doing Solaris admin work. A good number of the "original" admins used to be in a union before outsourcing and reorganization. To a person, these were the dumbest, laziest, least educated admins around. One of these, crowned with the title of "Senior UNIX Administrator" did not kn

    • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by elevtro (1012599) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:22AM (#26144075) Homepage
      I couldn't agree more with what you've said. I was a member of the IBEW and while entry level wages were higher, top end wages were lower. Not to mention the dues and other contributions that were expected. Then the near pointless meetings. In every other labor job I held they were non-union and the starting wages were lower, but the overall environment was more friendly, and we got a lot more work done. In the end that lower starting wage when you compare the take home, was about the same. So basically in the union you made more to give it to the greedy people running the union. Now working as a sys admin, I would hate it I were somehow forced to be in a union. I might have to climb the management ladder just to stay out of one.
    • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:22AM (#26144079)

      And this is why I'm for a Constitutional Amendment adding "2 term" term limits for all electable positions. We all know the old saying about power corrupting. Let's not give ANY politician of ANY stripe the amount of time in office needed to consolidate his or her power into anything approaching "absolute". We all know what happens then.

      Far too many of our politicians have been in office far too long. Political office was SUPPOSED to be a "volunteer" short-term position. Now our "Imperial" senators and house members have platinum-plated health care, platinum-plated private schooling for their kids, and SOLID PLATINUM retirement plans. It's GOT to stop. Our senators have already proven time and again that they don't feel beholden to us as they should. It's time to remove them all and START OVER. This time with term limits and minimal pay.

      Return power to where it belongs: The states and the People.

      • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:29AM (#26144133) Homepage Journal

        I tend to agree with you about term limits, if for no other reason the fact that politicians almost universally oppose them. How bad can they be if that is the case?

      • Re:heh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:30AM (#26144139) Journal

        Term limits have their own set of problems. California did this back in the 1990s, and I was an enthusiastic supporter of the concept. The problem is that it tends to bring in ideologues who have to run on their professed beliefs rather than their track record. I would gladly scrap term limits to get back politicians that can actually compromise with each other instead of walk the party line.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by josecanuc (91) *

          Just thinking here... What about the limit being only 2 consecutive terms, but either no upper limit on number of terms or a high limit like 6 or 8 terms?

          That might allow a chance to see something different, but allow the opportunity to bring back a good person if change didn't work out.

          • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:58AM (#26144435) Journal

            I suspect that you'll end up with professional place-holders, or you'll end up with politicians working in circles in places like California where the legislative bodies use the same term lengths and election cycles. The Assembly becomes the Senate and vice versa every eight years. It adds complexity where it doesn't really need to be.

            • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

              by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:23AM (#26144711)

              Indeed. This is why I'm for straight-up term limits. 2 terms for Senate, 4 for House (keeping in mind, a House term is only 2 years). That way a Senator can serve a maximum of 12 years, a House member, 8. I suppose you could up the limit to 6 for a House member if you want to keep the "maximum years to serve" even, I'm open to debate on that one.

              As far as "Only electing ideologues" issue, I'd say that we don't have ENOUGH of them at the federal level beyond the "big spender" type, which I don't find terribly exciting or desirable. I would WELCOME some ACTUAL ideologues to the ring. People who wish to serve as a politicians because they have a PASSION for their country and a PASSION for an idea. Even if I disagreed with the idea, AT LEAST I would be able to respect their passion. (Of course, I would oppose them just as passionately, but I would still respect them.) Instead we get the Blagojevich's of the world who could care LESS about ideas and good government, and are only there to line their pockets.

              • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @11:02AM (#26145205) Journal

                When I mention ideologues, I mean those that adhere to every plank, nail, and splinter of the party platform. It's one of the things that's gotten California in so much trouble. Democrats will not cut any spending (unless it's for something Republicans want), and Republicans will not raise any taxes. It's a deadlock on something where there cannot be a deadlock. I'm generally against raising taxes, but the state has a projected deficit over the next 18 months of $42 billion. Both sides have to give ground, whether or not people and business will be taking a hit. The current crop of ideologues simply figures that they can out-wait the other.

                This is the worst situation we've faced, but it's not the first where this has happened, nor will it be the last.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by johnsonav (1098915)

        ... and START OVER. This time with term limits and minimal pay.

        I'm with you on the term limits. But as to decreasing their pay, there's no better way to assure that congress stays the realm of the already rich. Congressmen make $169,300 dollars per year. If you go much lower than that, many people who would make excellent representatives would not be able to afford it. The rich already have the advantage of spending their personal wealth on their campaigns. I don't see how giving them one more advantage over the rest of us is a good idea.

        I think a good congressman is

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Temkin (112574)

        There was some discussion weeks ago that Obama's biggest problem was the "old men" in Congress. The old line 60's liberals are running out of time, and they know it. When Clinton came into office after 12 years of Republican presidents, they essentially wrecked his presidency by causing the 94 backlash. Now they're in the twilight of their careers. This is their last chance.

        Term limits have a down side. Just ask anyone that was living in California back around 2000. The state legislature was full of p

    • by digitig (1056110)

      It's interesting that every single person in the article is against it except for a dnc congressman.

      What you need to ask at that point is "Is that the actual spread of opinion, or is it evidence that the article is so biased as to be laughable"? I'm not saying which way I think it is with the referenced article, just that you seem to have forgotten that the second possibility is even possible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      many IT shops treat their It people badly. They get paid less than the building maintenance people and are expected to perform tasks that are an order of magnitude more complex.

      These same shops charge Customers $90-$120.00 an hour for IT work, and then pay the IT guy $19.00 an hour POCKETING The huge profits. Unionizing would require the company to pay a decent wage, not allow them to work them 60-80 hours a week without overtime, etc....

      If companies would treat the IT guys honestly, there would not be a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Martin Blank (154261)

        I know people in IT all over the US, and I never hear whispers of unionizing. Most IT people seem to be against unionizing.

        Where I work, I know what I make and I know the billing rate on the contract, and between my pay and the benefits that I get, about half of the billing rate is going to me. The client's management has some serious issues that need to get worked out, but a union isn't going to fix that.

        • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @11:03AM (#26145227) Homepage

          A lot of the anti-union sentiment has to do with attitudes towards fellow techies: a vast majority of drivers consider themselves to be better-than-average drivers, and in a similar vein a vast majority of programmers and admins think that they're better-than-average at what they do. That illusion means that they think that they can get better salary and benefits on their own.

          Another issue is that most people see unions as part of a blue-collar system, and programmers as white-collar employees.

          They may be right, they may not be. But there's definitely a lot of BS that goes around.

        • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@da[ ]et ['l.n' in gap]> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @11:08AM (#26145301)

          Thats because Unions work well for labor industries, not white-collar industries.

          I know some people in a union locally, in a labor industry. Even they hate it - people fly through to better jobs and better pay based on seniority and not ability. If you want to be measured based on seniority and education purely instead of ability and skill, by all means, unionize.

          I can not imagine the tech industry unionizing. It would be like saying 'anyone can do this job, it takes no skill'.

          I have no formal education, but I consider myself fairly good at what I do. Unions would have crushed my ability to move up.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by iluvcapra (782887)

            Just throwing this out there...

            I'm a white collar worker, a sound designer, (I'm on a deadline this morning so I'll be brief) and the entire film industry is unionized, at least everywhere in the US that matters w/r/t film production, LA, NY and Chicago. I think that a union can be a very good thing for white collar workers given a certain configuration of the benefits, and I think our industry is a pretty good example of how it can work.

            Some points

            • My union is IATSE [iatse-intl.org], and my particular classification is un
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nabsltd (1313397)

        These same shops charge Customers $90-$120.00 an hour for IT work, and then pay the IT guy $19.00 an hour POCKETING The huge profits.

        Although I'm sure that some companies have this much disparity between their billing rate and the employee pay, it's got to be the execption rather than the rule.

        My company bills me out for between $100-120/hour, and my salary is about $50/hour. Add in the benefits they pay (between $10-15/hour), my share of rent and utilities for the building, the hardware they provide for me to do the work, etc., and although they certainly are making a profit, it's not nearly as much as you might think.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by guruevi (827432)

        I don't know what IT shop you work at, but the only place I worked like that was my first work experience which was a helpdesk center. Those type of jobs don't expect you to stay (like working as an oil jockey in a local car shop) and are more a starter job to get you to know what jobs are like after you come out of school and as a jumping board to better jobs: second level support, junior sysadmins (just like you're not expected to keep being an oil jockey, you eventually get to be a mechanic).

        I am in IT a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LordNimon (85072)
      Maybe he honestly believes that unions are a good thing for the American people, and he bemoans the fact that few people agree with him. Maybe he thinks that if this bill passes, more people will agree with him that unions are good, and they'll thank him later for passing this bill.

      Just because something is unpopular, doesn't mean it's wrong.
    • by jorghis (1000092) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @11:10AM (#26145337)

      The reason people are so against it is that its primary purpose is to take away the secret ballot from workers considering joining a union.

      Currently if union wants to move in it has to get a certain number of workers to sign a petition and then a secret ballot is held. If the union wins, bam the company is unionized.

      What the unions want to do is just collect 50% of the signatures and skip the secret ballot step. This is called the "Card Check" provision, because the workers just sign cards and hand them to the union boss. Why? Because there are an awful lot of people who are willing to sign when the union boss is at their door leaning on them but when the secret ballot comes around the union routinely doesnt get anywhere near the number of votes the thought they had.

      This is all about pushing unions into workplaces where the union cant win a secret ballot. The country tilted too far right in the past few years and now we are about to see what kind of legislation gets enacted when the left controls things and wants to push their own agenda on people whether they like it or not. Virtually every democrat supports this because it was made a litmus test on getting the big union campaign funds during the election.

    • Re:heh (Score:5, Informative)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @11:56AM (#26146067) Homepage Journal

      Why would he be concerned about union growth?

      bad employees need unions more than good employees

      I'm guessing the people writing these comments are well under the age of 45. They were born and have lived in an age when corporate marketing has been the very air they breathe. It's no wonder that they think it's a bad thing that employees of a company should want to organize. It's also a very sad commentary on their ability to think beyond today and their own circumstances.

      There was a time in this country when ownership ruled, management ruled to the extent that people were hurt and died on a regular basis on the job. The ones that didn't die, lived in absolute penury. If the ownership and top management of corporations, and wall street, have their way, these days will return.

      We have learned by recent events that modern corporate ownership is so short sighted that they would destroy their own market, say, the middle class, in order to obtain short term profits. They would even destroy their chances to exist five years from now (without a bailout) to show profits this quarter.

      There was a time, and I lived during it, when hiring people was a sign of corporate success. Today, a company's success is measured by how many people they can lay off, how many plants they can close. It doesn't take a genius (which means the above commenters have a chance here) to see that this is a recipe for a very bad situation.

      Without organized labor, there would have been no middle class in the United States. There would have been craftsman and a mercantile class which would have occupied a similar position, but that's a very small number of people. Without unions, there would be no "two weeks vacation" or "Sundays off" or even all those little perks that people in the tech industry like to love. You do not have to work in a union company to enjoy the benefits that unions have won.

      I'm sad that so many of the newly minted adult workers of today are ignorant of 20th century history of labor and why organized labor is so absolutely critical to the existence of a prosperous people.

      There are places on earth you can go if you want to see what it's like to work in a place that has no tradition of collective bargaining. I would suggest that "stoolpigeon" and "canUbelieveIT" might benefit from seeing what it's like to work in these places.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wonko the Sane (25252) *

        Unions did a lot of great things for this country

        in the past.

        Times change, economic realities change and we now have institutions like OSHA. If all unions were to disappear tomorrow, we will not return to The Jungle [wikipedia.org].

        Current events notwithstanding, in most businesses there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them. As long as employers must compete for employees then working conditions will naturally remain good.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Martin Blank (154261)

        Speaking for many of those under-45s, we're largely grateful for what the unions did for us in getting laws enacted to protect us. We're also largely in favor of allowing collective bargaining and unionization where the employees want it. We just aren't necessarily in favor of it where we work, or under the conditions that many unions want for organizing.

        There are some unions for which I have a great deal of respect, such as those backing nurses because they have the patients in mind just as much as they

  • UAW (Score:2, Funny)

    by Gothmolly (148874)

    Unions worked so well for factories and the car industry, why not extend them to a completely different TYPE of work, 60 years later in a completely different economic landscape? DUH.

    Unions = FAIL.

    • Re:UAW (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:17AM (#26144037)

      Funny how Unions are also the reason that we have safe working conditions and a reasonable minimum wage in the UK.

      I'm not denying that unionisation can bring downsides - strikes, unreasonable pay demands, political grandstanding etc - but without it we wouldn't have a lot of the benefits of collective bargaining that we have now.

      I also find it odd that so many americans find the very idea (of workers gathering together to form a stronger position for bargaining with employers) somehow offensive. It seems in the US that the party with more power (the employer) should be allowed to tread all over the weaker individuals in society (employees) because every last one of you is going to be that guy next.

      You aren't. You're turkeys voting for christmas. Just to bring a seasonal theme in :)

      • Re:UAW (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the_womble (580291) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:26AM (#26144109) Homepage Journal

        I also find it odd that so many americans find the very idea (of workers gathering together to form a stronger position for bargaining with employers) somehow offensive.

        Because:

        Good for employees at a cost to employers ==
        socialism == evil

        Flawless reasoning!

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jabster (198058)

          You know, if you guys are so sure that all employees really want unions, explain how eliminating the secret ballot is a good thing?

          The big problem with that bill is that it essentially creates a union if 50%+1 people sign a "yes to the union" card. Currently, it just means that there then has to be a vote, again by secret ballot.

          How many people are really going to NOT sign that card when Vinny, surrounded by his two goons, "asks" them to sign it. After all, that's a nice car you have there. It'd be a real s

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MightyYar (622222)

            Why should the vote be binding at all? Let workers bargain collectively - but don't force it on them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        That unions were the mechanism that helped bring about safe working conditions and better wages doesn't mean that they were the only possible mechanism, just that they were the mechanism that became part of history. They deserve credit for this, but it doesn't necessarily make them relevant going forward.

        At this point (in the U.S., I don't know about the UK), many of the worker protections are codified as law, and there is much greater recognition from employers that employees are an expensive resource, and

        • Re:UAW (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:35AM (#26144217)

          "I don't find unions offensive, but I am arrogant enough to believe that tying myself to Jim-Bob is going to weaken my negotiating position, not strengthen it, so I don't like it when people start talking about unions as a panacea."

          Oh, absolutely agreed, I'm not a member of a union myself, don't see the advantage to me personally. I just don't like it when people start saying they're useless/abusive/evil, as they've done good in the past and continue to help people. Usually people in low paid and less skilled jobs, who need help more than me and my software engineer buddies.

        • Re:UAW (Score:5, Insightful)

          by famebait (450028) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:49AM (#26144331)

          That unions were the mechanism that helped bring about safe working conditions and better wages doesn't mean that they were the only possible mechanism, just that they were the mechanism that became part of history.

          Yeah, well, if they're the only mechanism in recorded history to achieve that in any significant way, that might be a good reason to take some note. Wouldn't it at least be a good idea to work out in very clear terms what other mechanisms are to take over and how and why they are likely to work, before kicking out the only thing we know works?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by d3ac0n (715594)

            Ok, a couple things that need clearing up here;

            There is a popular myth (promoted BY union-types) that Unions are the SOLE reason that we aren't all minimum wage slaves serving our evil corporate masters as they sit atop thrones made from the bones of our fathers. Obviously, that's an exaggeration, but the way some union people talk, you would be hard-pressed to think they believe anything different.

            The truth is that labor relations and labor LAWS had been changing for a good 50 years by the time unions arr

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Abcd1234 (188840)

              The truth is that labor relations and labor LAWS had been changing for a good 50 years by the time unions arrived on the scene. Indeed, there is ample evidence to show that, rather than speed the adoption of improved safety and labor laws, the unions, and the backlash they produced, actually SLOWED the advancement of labor and safety laws in the United States.

              Excellent! I suppose you can provide this evidence, then? It's an interesting topic, and I haven't heard this claim before, so I'd be interested to

        • Re:UAW (Score:5, Insightful)

          by famebait (450028) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:56AM (#26144407)

          At this point (in the U.S., I don't know about the UK), many of the worker protections are codified as law,

          How did that come to be? How long do you think those laws would last under conservative government if the unions were gone?

          and there is much greater recognition from employers that employees are an expensive resource, and that safety is often cheaper than training someone new.

          Are you joking? This is supposed to be the sole drive for safety? What if somehow that equation changes? What if you're in a line of business where it does not work that way?

          I don't consider unions a panacea either, but I do think a lot more people would be better off as members than currently are.

          There will always be people who, as you say, are better off on their own. But most of the people who think they are in that group only think so because they haven't chanced to find out yet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gmack (197796)

        The problem is that under the current rules unions now have the upper hand in bargaining and union management tends to have their own agenda that often doesn't take the financial health of the employer into account.

        Facing a choice of either losing gobs of money now due to a strike or sacrificing long term profitability is not an enviable position to be in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Arthur B. (806360)

        Oh yeah. Good minimum wage definitely protects the insiders, that is union workers. The rest of the people can go unemployed heh ? Screw them.

        An employer can't even refuse to do business with them, it's illegal. Union are thug gangs.

        • by Nursie (632944)

          Perhaps in the US the unions have gone too far, we don't have that legal requirement to "do business with them", nor does anyone have to join. In the UK you join if you want to, the only legal concession being that employers shouldn't discriminate against you if you are a member of a union.

          I take it the situation went too far in the union's favour at saome point in the last 50/60 years?

      • by Chrisq (894406)
        That's one of the problems with unions, some of them don't know where to stop. Unions did a lot of good getting working conditions, etc. and then went on to make unrealistic demands that would leave employers uncompetitive and eventually bankrupt.

        I don't think this is so much of a problem in high tech industries because the members understand the way things work. I belong to a staff association (high tech union) and I have seen it be useful to individuals with genuine grievances. They also negotiate a "base

      • by Arthur B. (806360)

        I also find it odd that so many americans find the very idea (of workers gathering together to form a stronger position for bargaining with employers) somehow offensive.

        This is not what unions are about. Unions negociate political privileges that force (and I mean force, as in policeman with a gun) employers to use union labor, that prevent employer for legitimately firing an employee based on union membership, etc.

        Unions are not natural labor cartel, they're politically protected, coercive labor cartels.

      • by NorbrookC (674063)

        Exactly, and it's the same in the U.S. Most of the things employees take for granted - "it's my right" - are there because of unions. Wage and job protections. Workman's compensation. Health and safety regulations. Unions fought for all of those things. I've seem some stating that good employees don't need a union, it's amazing how often someone's perception of their capabilities doesn't always match their employer's perception.

        That isn't to say that unions are perfect, either. Like any successful

      • by knewter (62953)

        I'm not against the concept of workers banding together for collective bargaining. First, an anecdote, then my point.

        My dad is a robotics engineer. When I was 1 or 2 years old, he was doing a job for four or six months in Boston. He was away from his family for weeks at a time and he didn't like it. So he would work after hours to try and get home faster - he's a workaholic, so this is normal. One night, a gang of union guys came in and told him if he did one of their jobs again, tightened one more nut

      • Re:UAW (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:07AM (#26144531)

        I also find it odd that so many americans find the very idea (of workers gathering together to form a stronger position for bargaining with employers) somehow offensive. It seems in the US that the party with more power (the employer) should be allowed to tread all over the weaker individuals in society (employees) because every last one of you is going to be that guy next.

        I don't believe that's true. First, organized labor has far more power than employers (see below). Also, I think that America, by and large, dislikes the state of organized labor as a practical matter, not a theoretical one. There are a few good reasons why many Americans - myself included - dislike the unions that exist in this country. That doesn't mean we dislike the notion of unions. Those are two very distinct points that you lump together.

        Here's why I dislike the major US unions I'm familiar with:

        *Many unions were run by organized crime for decades. Some still seem to embrace that legacy.

        *The balance of power is tipped very heavily toward organized labor and against employers due to the US's labor laws - companies are legally required to negotiate with striking unions, whereas union members can get jobs during a strike. That (and other) imbalances basically give unions a license to print money, bleeding companies dry until they go under or leave the US.

        *American unions are the antithesis of a meritocracy - they make it absolutely impossible to fire incompetent employees, and negotiate for pay based on time served as opposed to skill. Both tend to rankle Americans (such as myself) who believe in working hard to make something of yourself.

        *Lastly and probably most important, very often unions don't represent the wishes of their employees. Especially with big unions, they're very lucrative for the leadership which is very often out of touch with the rank and file. It's easy to rip off the workers (which is one reason the mob got involved with unions early on). Now, the unions are pushing for rules that eliminate secret ballots in union elections, the most fundamental tenet of any democratic process. There is no possible reason for that except to intimidate workers and prevent them from keeping the union accountable.

        I'm not against unions in theory, I'm against the ones that exist in the US in practice.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by chrb (1083577)

        More unrecognised benefits:

        • In Britain, Unions campaigned against indirectly supporting the slave trade [revealingh...ies.org.uk] elsewhere in the world through the use of slave-grown cotton etc. in factories.
        • Also, when Child Labour was outlawed in Britain, the Unions backed it. as well as some employers. There were still many employers who argued that it was the child's choice to work in their factory, that making it illegal would deprive their families of an income, and make business uncompetitive - arguments that are much the
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by chrb (1083577)

          when Child Labour was outlawed in Britain, the Unions backed it.

          Somewhat ambiguous wording - the Unions were obviously against Child Labour.

          Another benefit of Unions - the development of a standard eight hour working day [wikipedia.org]. In Britain, the chronic abuse of child workers resulted in the Unions demanding a maximum of 8 hours per day (or 40 hours per week) for child workers. This standard eventually became the norm for most adult workers as well.

    • Re:UAW (Score:4, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:18AM (#26144053)

      They worked extremely well for the people who have been members for the last 40 years. And the government is either going to make their pensions whole or loan the auto companies the money to do it, so pretty much, they (the 40 year members) don't have any downside at all.

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      Unions worked pretty well for America's car corps. What worked badly was the owners, who fought government health insurance that their foreign competitors get until those costs broke their backs.

      Who got government tax rebates for SUVs, and government funding for loans for those SUVs, and government deregulation to lend to subprime borrowers to buy SUVs, cannibalizing their future sales in favor of people who didn't pay back their loans, until high gas prices (and realization of climate change) killed the SU

  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:12AM (#26144017) Homepage

    What we need instead is a professional guild association, much as the legal and medical professions have. Unions are more appropriate for low skilled industrial professions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JBMcB (73720)

      Skilled trades unions are similar to guilds and seem to work quite well. Membership is optional, you can still be a freelancer if you want, and there is enough competition that rates stay competitive and there is plenty of work for everybody.

      What you don't want is a behemoth like the UAW or teamsters barging into your business and telling you how to run it.

      I have some friends in IT that are unionized under the UAW and it's a joke. They get paid less than average, they don't have much more job security than

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        What you don't want is a behemoth like the UAW or teamsters barging into your business and telling you how to run it.

        I was in the Temamsters at one point in my life. Their problem isn't that they're a union, or big, but that the leadership is composed of mafia gangsters. Witness Jimmy Hoffa, who was undoubtedly dissolved in acid and poured down a sewer.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      A wizard guild? Can I bring my robe and hat?
    • by tritonman (998572)
      The last thing that I want is to be in a union with all of these stupid morons that I work with. They couldn't code themselves out of a wet paper bag. I end up doing all of their work for them, please don't make me unionize with them so that I will be paid the same as them. They don't deserve the wages they make already. Unions may fit in a job that monkeys can do, such as assembling cars, but it doesn't fit in a job where you are required to think and reason.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      In fact, there are many things that a union-like/guild-like would bring to the profession. We need those, and we'll invent a name for what it is later (preferably a recursive acronym) :
      - An ethical code of conduct (yes, it is a benefit to be able to refuse unethical orders)
      - A lobbying power (because EFF could do with a little help, having professional explain why forbidding crypto or wireshark is a bad idea)
      - A guaranteed standard in job contracts.
      - A measurable political and economical weight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SydShamino (547793)

      As a member of my "professional guild association" - the IEEE - let me tell you that it wouldn't help you remotely. They'll advocate positions that you agree with barely 50% of the time, be mostly useless in helping you advance your career, and not really offer any other viable services for rank-and-file members besides socialization and a glossy magazine.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:16AM (#26144035)
    What are "professional bodies" if not unions? Do you really want a world in which anybody can call themselves a teacher,physician, an accountant, a lawyer, an airline pilot, or a civil or electrical engineer? What are these but unions? My wife, like most such people, cannot legally work in her profession without regular compliance assessment by her professional body. I can...but it has still been worth my while in terms of establishing credibility to add a few more postnominal letters after my Masters.

    Manufacturer certification (MCSE cough cough) is not a substitute for an organisation that takes care over assessing credentials. Here in the UK we have the BCS and the IAP, and perhaps others. My own feeling is that the main opposition to proper regulation of the software and IT industry comes from (a) managers who are unqualified and would not be able to get certification, (b) managements who want to cut corners on the job and (c) contractors who hop from one job to another without ever picking up a serious core competence.

    • The AMA, bar associations and other "guilds" have their own serious problems. Mainly they restrict the supply of the professionals to the market, to keep prices propped up. Their certifications are designed to screen out numbers of people, and screen in the greediest. The process of getting certified is also marked by lots of hazing that breeds contempt for people outside, and callousness towards exploiting people inside, all for profit, and not for quality.

      Besides, AMA doesn't certify "MD", bar association

  • Management vs Labor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:24AM (#26144091) Homepage Journal

    Of course the owners of the corporations are against their labor organizing. The purpose of a union is to spend more of the corporation's profits on labor, leaving less for the owners.

    What's interesting is how often the union's improved terms for labor increases labor's productivity. Which means a larger total profit, so even a smaller share of it to the owners can be a larger total amount than before the union, when worse working conditions produced less profit for everyone.

    Which shows that sometimes, the owners are not maximizing profit, but just maximizing their power.

    • I know - just look at the UAW! That's what the entire US economy needs right now.

    • I've seen it go both ways. I've seen unions keep out of control employers in check and I've seen unions become a parasite on the employee and employer even sometimes ultimately killing off the employer and then the jobs it was created to protect.

      I think it gets especially nasty (in my US based work experience) when government gets involved and forces people to be in unions and gives the unions too much power. I think there is some truth to this being a part of the problem with American auto manufa

    • by gmack (197796)

      It's interesting to me how often I've seen it work the other way. In many union work places I've been to there is an attitude of "I'm entitled to my wages so I can just do enough to keep my job" The other problem is that the union will add an extra layer of bureaucracy to the work so now I can't just go to my boss with an issue and have it fixed this week instead I'll have to go file papers with my union so they can talk to my boss about it.

      I think the problem is that you can't force someone to not be an

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:24AM (#26144097) Journal

    The article speaks about people possibly being intimidated into signing a petition to unionize.

    Let's see how many people already feel intimidated to the point where they have to post as AC if they want to say anything good about this idea.

    And for all those that blame GMs' problems on the unions, wake up - GM makes crap cars nobody wants - THAT is the problem with GM.

    Have I ever been a member of a union? Yes - the Steelworkers (they don't just organize steel plants, you know :-)

    Would I ever again join a union? Sure, depending on the circumstances.

    Do I think unions are practical for IT? Yes. The image of the code-worker who is "too independent-thinking" to join a union is a self-defeating myth. Get over yourselves already. If nurses and bus drivers can have unions, why not IT workers?

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      As long as I have the right to NOT join a union I am fine with them. When it is mandatory that I must join a union to work someplace then you are taking away my rights.

    • by hal2814 (725639)

      "And for all those that blame GMs' problems on the unions, wake up - GM makes crap cars nobody wants - THAT is the problem with GM."

      That's why Toyota and Honda are beating GM in domestic sales. Oh, wait a minute... They're not. Nobody sells as many cars in the US as GM and that's been the case for a very long time. It was only in the past year or so that GM lost it's world-wide #1 spot to Toyota. Gm is still #2 in that arena. I fail to see how any company selling that many vehicles "makes crap cars nob

  • You know, you don't have to be a rabid Republican to say "hey wait a second..." when something like card check comes up. Eliminate the secret ballot? Are you nuts?

  • Is it 1988 again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:32AM (#26144167) Homepage Journal

    Jeez I've been listening to this for 20 years. IT workers resist unionization. Why? I don't know but I suspect it has something to do with believing that each of you is more capable and special than anyone else. Even in companies like IBM who in the early 90's laid off a quarter million people, still, the remaining workers resist unionization.

    • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:54AM (#26144391)

      Even in companies like IBM who in the early 90's laid off a quarter million people, still, the remaining workers resist unionization.

      Good call. Lay off a few workers when the clone makers got away with reverse engineering the BIOS. IBM is still in business and doing reasonably well. With a Union "protecting" the workers, IBM may have failed much like the auto industry without a bailout.

      The auto industry has been under strain of a huge retired population and unable to shed the load as the demand for large high profit vehicles has dwindled. They are unable to compete in the Honda, Toyota, VW, etc market at the margins they need to carry the weight. They imploded under the need to downsize, but unable to shed obligations negotiated with the Unions. The golden goose is cooked unless bailed out.

      Are you ready to be next? Is your company ready to learn from history, or are they condemmed to repeat it.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @10:12AM (#26144583)

      "I don't know but I suspect it has something to do with believing that each of you is more capable and special than anyone else. "

      I don't know about the rest of you fuckers, but _I'M_ a unique and special snowflake, indispensible to my workplace.

      Has anyone seen my stapler?

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:33AM (#26144185) Homepage Journal

    I can tell you it's not but a racket. The only ones who benefit are the union hierarchy, not the members.

    I've mentioned before I work for state government. In my state, PA, anyone who works for the state and is not classified as management level MUST pay union dues though they are euphemistically called "fair share fees" because they represent your fair share of all the privileges and benefits the union supposedly bargains for you. Here's how well that system works.

    Years ago when I initially worked for the state, I was in the temporary clerical pool. My sole benefit was I got paid. No vacation, no health insurance, no nothing else BUT, I still got the privilege of paying the union for all those benefits I got for working at the state.

    I eventually got a permanent job in the state, based on my skills and the people around me wanting to keep me, so then I got those other benefits. Then governor Tom Ridge, who you remember from such classic films as, "We need a color-coded threat level to paralyze the nation into fear!", decided to eliminate the one state agency which was recognized as a leader in efficiency and responsiveness. In fact, the place I worked for instructed agencies from other states on how to become better.

    What did the union do? Shrugged their shoulders and said, "Oh well. We're not going to fight it."

    I left for the private industry rather than being shoved out the door.

    Now, back with the state after several years, it appears for the second time in six years the contract the union negotiated with the state as far as COLAs and raises are concerned is being thrown out the window. But, I still get to pay the union for all those benefits.

    If the union wants to unilaterally renegotiate the terms of the contract for which I'm supposedly paying them, then I should do the same. Why should I have to pay the union for all these benefits if they're not going to honor the contract?

    Unions are bad news. They cause more troubles than they solve and yes, I have and do work with people who should have been fired long ago for not doing their job but because of the hoops that one has to jump through to fire someone, it's easier to just keep them and let them retire.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:47AM (#26144313) Homepage Journal

    When your workers have good pay and benefits, that takes away from profits, and in a plutocracy such as ours the profits always outstrip any consideration for human beings and their needs.

    If WalMart was unionized, you wouldn't have to pay those taxes that go to food stamps. The poor are REQUIRED to work in the US under TANF (which ended AFDC welfare in 1996), so those food stamps are another government giveaway to the rich, like that 700 billion that went to the banks who still aren't making loans.

    Unions are good for everyone except the corporates.

    The head of a major non-union airline in the early 80s (I think it was Eastern, whatever company it was has since become union) said wisely "any company that gets a union deserves one". Your workers create your profits and your wealth. Bargain unfairly and they will come to bargain collectively.

    You owe your workers, the generators of your wealth, a living. If your business is sound you owe them a decent living.

    Want crime rates down? Raise wages. You'll find that most poor people are far more generous and honest than most rich people (not to say that many rich aren't honest or that all poor folks are).

    I've been re-reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol [literature.org], the story of a Republican who wakes up and finds that he's turned into a Democrat overnight.

    Humbug to you too, Mr. Bush.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've been re-reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol [literature.org], the story of a Republican who wakes up and finds that he's turned into a Democrat overnight.

      Humbug to you too, Mr. Bush.

      I'm sorry, but Scrooge is a Democrat who wakes up as a conservative.
      "At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir." "Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge. "Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @12:19PM (#26146537) Homepage

    What's being proposed for the US is similar to what Canada already has. About 25% of Canadian workers belong to a union, compared to about 12% for the US. The US and Canada had about an equal percentage of unionized workers in the 1950s, when changes in US law made it harder for workers to unionize.

    There are successful unions for professionals. Check out The Animation Guild [animationguild.org], which is part of IATSE. If it came from Hollywood and was animated, an Animation Guild member probably did it. In Redwood City, Dreamworks and EA have facilities in the same building complex, with many people doing similar jobs. Dreamworks is unionized, but EA is not. The Dreamworks people have reasonable hours, unlike the EA peons.

    Here's the Animation Guild [animationguild.org] standard contract. A few key points:

    • Everything in the contract is a minimum from the employee side. Individual employees can negotiate for raises and bonuses beyond the minimums. This differs from, say, UAW contracts, which have specific pay scales.
    • The working week is five days, with two consecutive days off. ("Unions: the people who brought you the weekend".) Beyond five days, pay rises to 150% of the base rate. Beyond 6 days, 200%. There may still be "crunches", but you get paid well for them. This discourages employers from managing in a way that leads to "crunches".
    • More than 8 hours per day, pay rises to 150% of the base rate. More than 14 hours per day, 200%. And yes, those multiply by the day overtime rates. This really discourages "crunches".
    • "On call" employment is at least 4 hours. So if you have to come in on a weekend to deal with a crisis, you get paid for 4 hours minimum. This discourages unnecessary "crises".
    • There's an industrywide pension plan, and pensions are portable across the industry. As the Animation Guild points out, only two animation studios that were active when they were founded in the 1940s are still active.

    Unionization is about being jerked around less.

  • Why I Am Pro-Union (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srobert (4099) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:27PM (#26148673)

    As you can see from my four-digit ID, I've been hanging out on Slashdot for a long time. Whenever the union issue comes up here, I notice that there are an awful lot of negative comments against unions, more than there are favoring them. Since I'm firmly on the pro-union side, it's incumbent on me to chime in.
    First, regarding the Employee Free Choice Act, there is a lot of misinformation about this that is being unchallenged by the mainstream media. One myth is that this act will eliminate the secret ballot for union organizing. That is NOT true. The employees will still be able to request that a secret ballot election be held. It will eliminate the employer's right to demand a secret ballot for the purpose of delaying union certification, and in the interim, intimidate employees to reject the union.
    Now regarding the attitude generally displayed here toward organized labor, anecdotes prove nothing. Tired old tales about your uncle's friend's co-worker who showed up to work drunk, and caused your uncle's friend to lose his thumb, but couldn't be fired because of his union, may convince lots of people that unions are a bad thing, but they are largely apocryphal. Even where they are true in isolated cases, it is an indicator of incompetent management, not a necessary impact of the union. If you are managing a unionized work-force, and you are too lazy to even read their contract (which would tell you how to dismiss such an employee), then you are the problem, not the union.
    Fair analysis of data (e.g. http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/datazone_rtw_index [epi.org]) indicates that unions have a positive impact upon the distribution of wealth, and general level of prosperity. Moreover, as unions decline in influence nationally, living standards decline both in the unionized and non-unionized sectors. Median real wages among those of you who live in so-called "right to work" states are lower than for those who live in states that don't interfere in the membership requirement that is written into union contracts. Yes, I'm sure that you may have read some report from the Heritage Foundation, or Cato Institute that said otherwise. But if you believe those sources of information, you may as well watch Fox news. If you must rely so heavily on anecdotes, talk to older members of your family, and ask them about whether or not there was ever such a thing as a "stay-at-home" mom. Ask them how could anyone afford to live that way.
    I was raised in the '60s and '70s. When I was a kid, my father went to work in a factory every weekday. My mother did not work outside the home. This was typical among most of the families that I knew. Forty man-hours a week, for a family of four (six in our case), performed by a man without a college education, (in fact my dad didn't even have a high school diploma), was sufficient to maintain middle class living standards in typical American families at that time. We had health insurance, owned our homes, had leisure time, vacations, and typically, a full time mother. When my dad's company laid off workers temporarily during a lull, my father's seniority was honored. He felt bad for dismissed coworkers, but he didn't cut back spending, or miss any house payments. My father retired with a pension that kept him from falling into abject poverty for the rest of his days. That pension was bargained for by his union. It was not provided by his employer out of the goodness of their hearts.
    As for myself, as a young man, I joined a trade union, served an apprenticeship and became a journeyman. But recognizing the direction of the political viability of unions, I decided to go to college part time later in life, and become an engineer. I paid my own way, and graduated nine years ago without the debt of a college loan. That was one of the benefits of a union wage. Today, though, working as a college educated professional, I barely approach the living standards that my family had in my childhood.

    • My father did the same (as did all my uncles) without ever being in a union, he was a high school grad who did a stint in the Army before settling down to raise a family. Mom never worked, hell she doesn't even have a driver's license. As you say yourself, anecdotes prove nothing, mine or yours.

      The fact is that it IS a different world. Who do you honestly know that can expect (or even WANT to) spend 35 years with the same company these days?

      I don't know what the big underlaying thing is that changed it all,

      • Ward Cleaver (Score:4, Insightful)

        by srobert (4099) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:31PM (#26151165)

        "...but back then you could DEFINATELY live the "Leave it to Beaver" life without having a union job."

        Absolutely true. But the only reason that the Ward Cleavers, who didn't join unions, got decent paychecks was because the unions had raised expectations for everyone. Ward would only become a professional, if professionals made significantly better money than carpenters. And carpenters, both union and non-union, were doing well because of unions, thus Ward was able to command upper middle class living standards as a professional.

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