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BART Strike Provides Stark Contrast To Tech's Non-Union World 467

Posted by Soulskill
from the bofh-union-is-terrible-to-contemplate dept.
dcblogs writes "The strike by San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers this week is a clear and naked display of union power, something that's probably completely alien to tech professionals. Tech workers aren't organized in any significant way except through professional associations. They don't strike. But the tech industry is highly organized, and getting more so. Industry lobbying spending has been steadily rising, reaching $135 million last year, almost as much as the oil and gas industry. But in just one day of striking, BART workers have cost the local economy about $73 million in lost productivity due to delays in traffic and commuting. Software developers aren't likely to unionize. As with a lot of professionals, they view themselves as people with special skills, capable of individually bargaining for themselves, and believe they have enough power in the industry to get what they want, said Victor Devinatz, a professor of management and quantitative methods at Illinois State University College of Business. For unions to get off the ground with software workers, Devinatz said, 'They have to believe that collective action would be possible vehicle to get the kinds of things that they want and that they deserve.'"
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BART Strike Provides Stark Contrast To Tech's Non-Union World

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  • Not True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mjwalshe (1680392) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:11PM (#44182691)
    One of the reasons the Unionized Uk telephone system was modernized (well ahead on the US i might add) with no labour disputes was that all the M&P grades who developed the new technology where union members.
    The CEO of one of the smaller uk telcos was even an activist in his younger days and I know that a CTO of one of the global telecoms companys was a member of my branch :-)
  • Not organized ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:16PM (#44182761) Homepage Journal
    That may be true. Yet, recently, I got into a conflict with my employer over wages ( not getting what had been promised ). Not being an affiliate of any worker's union, I threatened with a one-man strike. Of course, I took care to also inform the client to whom I was dedicating most of my hours at that moment. The result was impressive: the client wanted an explanation from my employer about what was going on, and wanted assurance that they would further be able to count with my work. My employer gave in, prolly because of fear for losing his reputation. Divide et impera, said the Romans. I can assure you that it was one of the most entertaining episodes in my professional life hitherto.
  • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:17PM (#44182773) Journal

    I dunno - unions can drive innovation. The primary reason AT&T funded the development of Unix was to break the hold the union had on applying firmware upgrades to telecom components. "Hey, all these boxes already connect to our network, maybe we could use that in some way". Ken claims Unix was "a weak pun on Multics", but it works just as well as Union-X, the union-busting OS.

  • Re:Past their time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:21PM (#44182811)

    The American worker will always be 'priced out of the global labor market', unless you want to work for a dollar a day.

    Luckily there are tools to correct for this, like tariffs. We just don't use them properly because business owns the govn't.

  • by ebubna (765457) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:21PM (#44182815)
    Yup. The amount of anti-union disinformation being spread here (I live in the East Bay) is insane. Blaming the unions while ignoring the boot of the upper class on your throat isn't going to help anything, folks.
  • Inefficiencies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:21PM (#44182825)

    Of course, the flip side is that the union can add inefficiencies to the business and prevent them from meeting changing market conditions. It becomes much harder (or nearly impossible) to remove underperforming employees, and leads to siloed skillsets "I can't change that lightbulb, you need an electrician for that job" or "I can't unload that truck, it's not in my job description, but once someone brings the box into the building, then they can't take it to the store room, I have to do that". And I imagine that developers would get like that too "Well, it would be trivial to take care of that with a bash script, it would take me 2 minutes to do it. But since I'm a classified as a J2EE developer, I would have to architect a 3 tier enterprise architecture to do it, the team and I could have it ready to go 6 weeks after the business analyst finishes the requirements analysis. Unless, of course, you want to post a job for a Bash developer (and leave it posted for internal-only applications for 16 weeks)" I'm only half way joking after some of the BS I've run into at union shops.

    Which may be why my train can be 10 minutes late or even 10 minutes early yet BART still says "all trains are on time".

  • by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:29PM (#44182897)

    Yup. The amount of anti-union disinformation being spread here (I live in the East Bay) is insane. Blaming the unions while ignoring the boot of the upper class on your throat isn't going to help anything, folks.

    The thing is it's _so_ easy. There are countless examples of unions making the world a better place, and plenty of examples of union corruption making the world a worse place, so it's easy to back up any argument you care to make.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:32PM (#44182941)

    I dunno - unions can drive innovation. The primary reason AT&T funded the development of Unix was to break the hold the union had on applying firmware upgrades to telecom components. "Hey, all these boxes already connect to our network, maybe we could use that in some way". Ken claims Unix was "a weak pun on Multics", but it works just as well as Union-X, the union-busting OS.

    So unions drive innovation by creating a situation where they are an obstacle that needs to be overcome? The sarcasm is strong with this one.

  • Re:Past their time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:38PM (#44183001)

    Now, they've priced the American worker out of the global labor market.

    From what I read about Germany, I don't think unions are the problem.

  • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:52PM (#44183167) Homepage Journal

    Unions seem to be blamed for everything wrong in the world of work on Slashdot but, even though I'm not a member because there isn't one at my company, I really appreciate the rights they have got for workers over the decades.

    I appreciate the rights they earned for workers myself, but I'm not in an union because unlike the rail workers of the 19th century, a software developer's job is pretty damn nice. If your job earns you enough money that you can support your family and put a little bit away for retirement, you can individually negotiate for more, but figuratively putting a gun to your employers' head by saying, "either pay me what I think I deserve or not only will I stop working, but every one of your other employees will as well" is unethical.

    I think unions do have a place in our modern society today, but not in professional circles. They should be reserved for professions where you have no bargaining position. If you have to take a job that doesn't pay enough for you to live on, but the employer is taking advantage of the fact you have to eat in order to cause you to accept his offer, you may need to strengthen your position with group bargaining. If you earn $50k a year, then either accept that this is what you're worth, negotiate for a raise, or find another job. You're not at a disadvantage at the bargaining table if you don't have to wonder how you're going to pay for your next meal.

  • by painandgreed (692585) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @07:41PM (#44183657)

    I work 40 hrs a week, get to work flex hours if I have to deviate from my regular schedule, work from home on Wednesdays, work in an air conditioned office kept between 74 and 76 degrees year-round, and the heaviest thing I've had to lift* in 5 years was a pot of coffee. My biggest occupational hazard is heart disease from lack of activity. I have enough business knowledge that it would take two years to train someone with a college degree for my job.

    Wait till you get a manager that kills your flex time and working from home because they doesn't like it. Then starts demanding extra hours to be put in with no compensation (even if it goes against state law). Then he decides you can just not go on your planned and approved vacation at the last minute because of some fire he wants fixed. Then you get to take call a another week after getting off call because their pet employee has decided to take a surprise vacation. All this while not only micromanaging you but being really bad at it. This at a job you've had for years before he was hired and planned to be there for a good long time. That happened here and it took about three months to have our IT group march down to our businesses union rep's office and ask what the process was to join the union. Sure, we'd lose some pay, but it would have been worth it to have some standard rules in place to keep from having to jump whenever he said jump when the HR is nothing but a spying organization for management.

    I have a friend that used to work for the unions. No group goes and tries to unionize because they want more pay or better health care these days. They come in because of crappy management jerking them around at a job and business they like and want to keep.

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:10PM (#44183903) Homepage
    The only reason they wan to raise the minimum wage is so that they can push for even higher wages for the union, because we all know the unions would never accept minimum wage. even if their job entails pushing a button so the gate opens and closes they feel they deserve more
  • by nbauman (624611) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:35PM (#44184105) Homepage Journal

    All that is true. Put it together and unions have one fundamental benefit: You have a much better negotiating position when you negotiate with your boss together as a union than you do when you negotiate with your boss as an individual.

    That should be obvious to anyone who understands economics, or even mathematics. If you go to the hospital as an individual with a sprained ankle, they'll charge you $2,000. If you go as a member of an insurance plan, they'll charge you $500. That's because the insurance company has a stronger negotiating position than you do as an individual. It seems that union wages are about $10 an hour more for the same job as non-union wages.

    TALKING UNION

    If you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do;
    You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you;
    You got to build you a union, got to make it strong,
    But if you all stick together, now, ‘twont he long.
    You'll get shorter hours,
    Better working conditions.
    Vacations with pay,
    Take your kids to the seashore.

    It ain’t quite this simple, so I better explain
    Just why you got to ride on the union train;
    ‘Cause if you wait for the boss to raise your pay,
    We’ll all be waiting till Judgment Day;
    We’ll all he buried - gone to Heaven -
    Saint Peter’ll be the straw boss then.

    Now, you know you’re underpaid, hut the boss says you ain’t;
    He speeds up the work till you’re ‘bout to faint,
    You may he down and out, but you ain’t beaten,
    Pass out a leaflet and call a meetin’
    Talk it over - speak your mind -
    Decide to do something about it.

    ‘Course, the boss may persuade some poor damn fool
    To go to your meeting and act like a stool;
    But you can always tell a stool, though - that’s a fact;
    He’s got a yellow streak running down his back;
    He doesn’t have to stool - he'll always make a good living
    On what he takes out of blind men’s cups.

    You got a union now; you’re sitting pretty;
    Put some of the boys on the steering committee.
    The boss won’t listen when one man squawks.
    But he’s got to listen when the union talks.
    He better -
    He’ll be mighty lonely one of these days.

    Suppose they’re working you so hard it’s just outrageous,
    They’re paying you all starvation wages;
    You go to the boss, and the boss would yell,
    "Before I'd raise your pay I’d see you all in Hell."
    Well, he’s puffing a big see-gar and feeling mighty slick,
    He thinks he’s got your union licked.
    He looks out the window, and what does he see
    But a thousand pickets, and they all agree
    He’s a bastard - unfair - slave driver -
    Bet he beats his own wife.

    Now, boy, you’ve come to the hardest time;
    The boss will try to bust your picket line.
    He’ll call out the police, the National Guard;
    They’ll tell you it’s a crime to have a union card.
    They’ll raid your meeting, hit you on the head.
    Call every one of you a goddamn Red -
    Unpatriotic - Moscow agents -
    Bomb throwers, even the kids.

    But out in Detroit here’s what they found,
    And out in Frisco here’s what they found,
    And out in Pittsburgh here’s what they found,
    And down in Bethlehem here’s what they found,
    That if you don’t let Red-baiting break you up,
    If you don’t let stool pigeons break you up,
    If you don’t let vigilantes break you up,
    And if you don’t let race hatred break you up -
    You’ll win. What I mean,
    Take it easy - but take it!

    Words by Millard Lampell, Lee Hays and Pete Seeger (1941)

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