For those people doing the driving that's pretty great news. I hope they also took care of those working conditions issues too. Split shifts etc...
Or did you just always want to discard these people regardless, paying them the minimum required for their entire working lives?
I understand the skepticism but I hope HN posters can make stronger arguments in the future.
I'm fine with skepticism, but these types of unfounded claims drive me crazy. If you want to argue the companies aren't really moving the tech as fast as they claim, post actual evidence, not some nonsense about speech recognition in the 90s.
But it isn't going to put hundreds of drivers out of work.
Tech workers are not unionizing -and I can't imagine they would, given their pay compared to other sectors. I could see an AMA type organization perhaps.
On the other hand, unfortunately, companies no longer staff vertically. When they can outsource their non core competencies they do. They don't want to be the IBMs and Xeroxes of yore. They want to remain nimble.
A famous example was MS's front line IT staff managing Windows clients being contractors. So they hired contractors to manage their own core product internally!!
Also a tech union could push for perks like developer offices, remote work, better work equipment, etc. If nothing else, they could communicate with the business on how to make developers happy and comfortable; something the business might be willing to do, but don't know how to do.
Now is the time to do it too, US businesses are pulling back on offshore labor and bringing work back to the US.
By what mechanism? Either they engage in collective bargaining, which is filled with problems, or artificially constrict the supply of labor by requiring additional licensing. Considering there is already a shortage of software engineers, constricting it further is unlikely to be net positive.
From where I'm standing, the current system works very well and is about as free as a labor market can be. I just accepted a new job and the process of getting there involved talking to about two dozen companies, narrowing those down to 6 or 7 offers and having each company submit a bid (initial offer). I pruned off the bottom half and had the top 2-3 companies submit revised bids based on competitor info and ultimately chose a company which offered a great mix of compensation and role/culture.
At no point in the process do I think having someone else do negotiation for me would have increased my pay. In fact, I'm convinced that any collective bargaining arrangement would mean a significant reduction in my compensation—for one thing, every "open salary" calculator I've seen proposes a salary about half of what I make. Formulaic salaries help low performers and hurt high performers.
> If nothing else, they could communicate with the business on how to make developers happy and comfortable; something the business might be willing to do, but don't know how to do.
I don't need a union to do that. I certainly don't need a union with collective bargaining to do that.
Tech "unions" might make sense to enshrine certain ethical principles, but I would not expect a union to increase my pay—and would vote against any one which promised that.
"Shortage of software engineers": The myth that just won't die. If this were true, salaries would be skyrocketing, companies wouldn't have the luxury of being as picky as they are, and open reqs wouldn't attract hundreds of applicants.
> I just accepted a new job and the process of getting there involved talking to about two dozen companies, narrowing those down to 6 or 7 offers and having each company submit a bid (initial offer). I pruned off the bottom half and had the top 2-3 companies submit revised bids based on competitor info and ultimately chose a company which offered a great mix of compensation and role/culture.
Congratulations. While I don't doubt your story, you must realize your experience is an extreme outlier. Most people I know consider themselves lucky to get one offer after talking to two dozen companies, if that. With no alternatives, you have little power to negotiate: you take it or leave it. And once you're hired, it's no different than any other job--you are employed at the will of your employer. Any day can be your last.
In my corner of the world, they definitely are.
I think a lot of these discussions are complicated by the fact that there are essentially two developer job markets: prime and sub-prime. The prime developer market is for top-tier developers who work at top tech companies and startups, primarily in SV & NYC. The sub-prime developer market is all the developers working on companies whose primary product isn't software.
The hiring market for both markets looks very different, especially since people don't really recognize that as such. A hiring manager in the prime market might legitimately perceive there as being a shortage, even when receiving dozens or hundreds of resumes because the vast majority of those resumes are simply not qualified. When I was last hiring, we received plenty of resumes—but many of those resumes were from people who exclusively had Microsoft experience or simply maintained WordPress installations. They didn't meet my standard for a senior developer, and once we found someone who did meet that standard after months of searching we did whatever it took to hire them.
I don't feel like an outlier, since I'm looking at the market from the prime sector where it's normal and expected to have multiple competing offers.
There can be a shortage of senior developers while still having hundreds of applications for every open position because most of those applications won't pass the bar. If you're capable of passing that bar, you have your pick of positions.
I was unemployed last winter into spring. I had job experience on my resume, as an embedded firmware developer. No company doing embedded wanted to hire me, because I'd worked on a small variety of fairly specific boards. No company doing non-embedded wanted to hire me, because I lacked substantial web-dev experience. I thus went from a six-figure year to depressingly continual unemployment.
I have a job now, but at a reduced salary because, well, I have to be the junior to do webdev (a friend helped me out).
Really seems to me like there's no shortage, and salaries are not skyrocketing. Nothing's gotten expensive enough that anyone's considered hiring people without exact skill combinations, but who otherwise have solid records.
> There are plenty of talented people, even in these "top" tech companies, who do not have 6-7 offers thrown at them
That doesn't match my experience at all. Every Google/Facebook/Amazon employee I know constantly has interview requests and people trying to recruit them.
That would be true only if you assumed around a huge number of top tech company hires were those prime developers. I've worked at all kinds of companies, including one you would undoubtedly consider "top." They all employ the full distribution. The mean will be higher in the top companies, but that's it.
> That doesn't match my experience at all. Every Google/Facebook/Amazon employee I know constantly has interview requests and people trying to recruit them.
Obviously it doesn't match your personal experience--we've already established that you're one of those "prime" developers. Likely your co-worker/acquaintance bubble is full of them too. Our perception of normal is often clouded by what we encounter every day. You see this all the time here on HN, where commenters tend to be smarter than the average bear. In that respect, I am open to applying that same reasoning to myself: I see talented people underemployed, struggling to get recognized, and at the mercy of their employer; and therefore I am potentially extrapolating this as normal. I think the numbers bear me out, but I admit I have not done more than casual Internet-research.
I do assume that. Yes, there is a distribution of abilities at top tech companies—but virtually everyone I've worked with at a good company could easily get other offers.
If you actually worked at a top tech company, your bubble should be similar to mine—I have a hard time imaging that many of your FANG colleagues are having trouble getting good employment offers.
I'm pointing this out because it's important for developers to know at least their (adjusted) market value. The taboo about salaries only stands to help employers. Also, it's a negotiating tactic to have the other person throw out the first number, that's why job listings rarely list salaries.
For me, the only way I would gain is to collect a large (adjusted) salary for a few years, keeping my expenses as low as possible (not that easy in SV), then moving back to a lower cost of living area. That doesn't seem to be worth the trouble though.
FWIW, I would expect a prime developer working for one of the big five to make at least double that based on what they contribute to the bottom line. That's not going to happen with the way the negotiation is stacked against an individual.
You seem to put far too much stock in cost of living adjustments (a very common fallacy on HN). Such adjustments should be applied to expenses, not income, and neglects the fact that many expenses don't multiplicatively scale with location. It's very possible to live a good life even in SV/NYC on $60k/yr in expenses, leaving tons of room for aggressive savings.
Instead of talking about bogus adjusted salaries, give me hard numbers on why you think $300k is a low salary. At the very least, tell me what bogus adjustment number you're using.
> The taboo about salaries only stands to help employers.
It also helps highly-paid workers who only have to justify their salary to managers instead of to all their peers as well.
> Also, it's a negotiating tactic to have the other person throw out the first number
It's a tactic but not a very good one. I've conducted my own split tests and anchoring with a high number tends to lead to much better results while not wasting your time on people who think paying a senior developer $120k is reasonable.
Only the big ones, housing, food, transportation.
>It's very possible to live a good life even in SV/NYC on $60k/yr in expenses, leaving tons of room for aggressive savings.
>At the very least, tell me what bogus adjustment number you're using.
Pick any calculator. Here's one of many linked by the US Department of State.
>It's a tactic but not a very good one. I've conducted my own split tests and anchoring with a high number tends to lead to much better results while not wasting your time on people who think paying a senior developer $120k is reasonable.
If it was between you and some other guy just like you and I asked each of you what you expected the salary to be without throwing out a number and you were $10K higher, I sure ain't hiring you. That's how it works.
Don't tell me my own life is bullshit, that's ridiculously patronizing. You'll trust a calculator over my own personal direct experience?
Not to mention that the very forum you linked says $60k is very possible.
> Pick any calculator. Here's one of many linked by the US Department of State.
All of those calculators make the ridiculous mistake of adjusting income instead of expenses. Income should only be adjusted if you're living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Even if you assume all expenses scale by that factor, you're much better off saving $100k/yr in SV than $50k/yr in the midwest. Not to mention that tons of expenses (cable subscriptions, vacations, e-commerce) don't scale with location.
I'm tired of fighting this fight on HN. Believe CoL calculators all you want—meanwhile, SV engineers can save enough to retire to the midwest by the time they're 35.
> That's how it works.
It is extremely rare that two equally qualified candidates are both negotiating offers for a single position at the same time. Your scenario is contrived and I have literally never seen it happen despite negotiating dozens of job offers.
But it's not your life is it? You're a top tier developer in SV making $200-300K+, not some guy living the good life and saving aggressively making $60K.
>Not to mention that the very forum you linked says $60k is very possible.
This is what you said that was bullshit.
Nowhere on that forum does anyone say they can live a good life in SV for $60K a year leaving tons of room for aggressive savings. It's a bunch of single people living in 1-2 bedroom shoeboxes with two roommates and $200 to spare a month. Maybe we just have large difference in our definition of good life and aggressive savings.
>Even if you assume all expenses scale by that factor, you're much better off saving $100k/yr in SV than $50k/yr in the midwest.
Yes, I agree with that. That was something I pointed out, one of the only benefits of living and working in SV. It's still no place to plant roots, even on that salary. It just doesn't pay enough. That goes back to my original point. Developers are underpaid regardless of location, particularly for a field in such high demand.
Here's some listings on Realtor.com for SF.
A house the same size as mine (minus the yard) is 8x as expensive, yet a developer in SV only makes 2x more. I mean even if you buy a small little 1000 sq foot house, you're still paying 3-4x more than I am and you get less than half of the house. If you live in an apartment, you're just throwing your money away by not building any equity.
>Not to mention that tons of expenses (cable subscriptions, vacations, e-commerce) don't scale with location.
So ya, that's true but who cares? That's such a small percentage of your expenses. Like I said before, housing, transportation and food do scale with location and that's the majority of monthly expenditures, and also necessities.
Also I'm sorry to tell you but $1 million after 10 years isn't enough to retire on at 35, even in the midwest. You'll have to invest wisely or take another job or start a profitable business. Once you have a family and get older, things get expensive, even in the midwest. You still have 50 years left to live with inflation, college, etc.
>It is extremely rare that two equally qualified candidates are both negotiating offers for a single position at the same time. Your scenario is contrived and I have literally never seen it happen despite negotiating dozens of job offers.
From the hiring side?
Maybe read up on investments and personal finance when you get a chance. You seem to have a very shaky grasp of fundamentals like opportunity cost or safe withdrawal rates. There are entire forums of people who retired on $1M or less in assets: https://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/
I don't know whether to think it is real, or that it is a myth. It's true that tech companies are picky, it's true that salaries are not skyrocketing. Open reqs attract hundreds of unqualified applicants, at least, that was my impression.
> With no alternatives, you have little power to negotiate: you take it or leave it.
I just wanted to add, this is inline with my experience. It is difficult to get multiple offers to align in the manner suggested.
In that case, what you can do is train your underqualified candidates. Create a system which allows you to train candidates for training and get them up to speed.
Kind of like manufacturing used to do.
Then you should probably hurry up and skyrocket your salaries.
The world would be a better place if people just paid people what they were worth. If we could start having more honest conversations about salary (e.g., talking about salary, and comparing salaries should not be taboo…), I think it'd go a long ways.
Matches my experience on the hiring side. Even after we filter heavily long before they get to me, within the last month, had a candidate for a senior software position who literally asked "What is AWS?"
I can only presume that guy files loads of applications and goes on every interview he's offered.
Fresh college hires are making 6-figures and it goes up from there, quickly. We use an HR market data firm to inform our hiring managers, but if you spend enough time in the market, you get to learn when you're never losing a candidate over comp or when you're frequently losing them over comp or getting strong counter proposals. I trust the intel we get from the candidates and market over what we get from the HR research company. (Boston market.)
Since there is a short supply of software engineers, why do you think wages haven't risen?
>every "open salary" calculator I've seen proposes a salary about half of what I make. Formulaic salaries help low performers and hurt high performers.
I suspect that's because businesses manipulate that so they can hire offshore workers cheaper. H1B mandates that they pay at least industry wages (or something like that). If the business declares the industry wages artificially low, they can hire cheap tech workers. Unions would prevent that.
>At no point in the process do I think having someone else do negotiation for me would have increased my pay.
Maybe, maybe not. It sure works well for NFL players. I seriously doubt you are getting a tenth of what you make for the company. There's only so far you can go by yourself.
>I don't need a union to do that. I certainly don't need a union with collective bargaining to do that.
You can ask until your are blue in the face, but you will probably be ignored at most places. Also, you wouldn't have to fight for 6 months to get a decent monitor, it will just be there.
>but I would not expect a union to increase my pay—and would vote against any one which promised that.
That's not very good business sense. You should at least ask them to prove it before you flatly deny it.
Let me ask you this, say you owned your own company and you partnered with another company on a joint venture. Do you think it would be a good negotiation if your company only got 1/100th of the profits of the joint venture? That's probably what you are getting now. Sounds like you've sold yourself short and you either don't realize it, or you want to believe you are a good negotiator. You may be a good negotiator as an individual, but you just don't have the power of a group. Why do you think political parties exist? Group power always trumps individual power.
They definitely have, at least for the high end of the market. For example, Hired shows a 3.28% increase in salaries for SF engineers this year. 
> I suspect that's because businesses manipulate that so they can hire offshore workers cheaper.
I'm positive that open salary initiatives are not an attempt to hire H1B workers. I'm talking about things like this: https://stackoverflow.com/company/salary/calculator
I bet Stack Overflow doesn't even have H1B workers.
> I seriously doubt you are getting a tenth of what you make for the company. There's only so far you can go by yourself.
I know how much my new employer makes per employee, and I make well more than a tenth of that. I'd suspect I capture around 30-40% of my value.
> Also, you wouldn't have to fight for 6 months to get a decent monitor, it will just be there.
You and I seem to occupy very different segments of the tech industry. Every single employer I've ever worked for has given me carte blanche to request whatever equipment I need on my first day of work. Only stupid or nearsighted employers quibble over <$5k in equipment expenses for an employee they pay hundreds of thousands per year.
> Do you think it would be a good negotiation if your company only got 1/100th of the profits of the joint venture? That's probably what you are getting now.
Why would I accept 1/100th of the profits of the join venture? I negotiate very aggressively—in fact, I'd argue that I once captured more than my value from a previous startup which ended up failing. I don't expect to capture 100% of the value, since the company is also providing resources which allow that value to be created (ex. significant existing scale).
If I negotiate in a group, I have to accept the outcome of the outcome of the group. I have no interest in making what the average programmer makes.
So if you really look at those numbers, you left out a bunch of them that don't back up your assertion that salaries are skyrocketing like they should in an ultra-high demand field:
SF Bay Area | 3.28%
Seattle | 2.14%
Austin | 0.96%
Chicago | 0.57%
New York | 0.25%
Boston | 0.24%
LA | -0.13%
London | -1.7%
Denver | -2.63%
Washington D.C | -2.85%
San Diego | -4.92%
Toronto | -6.29%
2. Anything under the 2% inflation target is considered a decrease in income.
3. After subtracting 2% for inflation, add the cost of living increase in SF which was 78% between 2000 and 2015, and you are probably decreasing wages.
4. A union negotiator would know that. The hiring managers sure do (or at least the CFOs).
So let me ask the question a third time. If demand for tech workers is so high, why are wages flat? Do you think Apple/MS/Amazon/Google's EBITDA was that flat as well?
We don't need a union to solve those companies. Just don't work for them.
That's a pretty unrealistic solution, especially considering most companies are trying to reduce costs and don't understand the economics of good equipment.
If you don't like hurricanes, just move away from the coast. Simple. /s
Everyone on HN is a performer, but the reality is that most people benefit, and most high performers will work for a lot less.
In short, I have zero confidence tech unions wouldn't be owned by the big tech industry companies.
Unions do things like engage in age discrimination by favoring senior members over all else.
They do things like throw up oppressive barriers to entry, and limited licenses, in order to F over everyone who is not already in the club.
Unions are only a good idea for exceptional 1 size fits all situations.
For example, there are only a couple major airlines in the industry, and if you get fired or leave, your career is permanently messed up, even though you spent a decade training to be a pilot and getting the necessary flight hours.
In this kind of situation, where an airline has excessive bargaining power, and workers have no other option, a pilots union makes sense. Even though a pilot job is a high skilled position.
But for tech? No way. Engaging in collective bargaining to get the small amount of negotiation power just isn't worth the drawbacks of a 1 size fits all solution.
I think you mean unions negotiate for relatively higher pay for people who have been with the company longer, or with more experience, but it would also negotiate higher pay for new hires relative to a non-union shop.
You're also thinking of manufacturing unions. I suspect a tech union would be a little different. Things like The Writer's Guild are also unions.
I'd certainly be willing to try it. I suspect pay would at least double. I mean right now you hear about high demand for tech people, but wages don't reflect that. Unions would help that problem. Unions would also prevent offshoring which drives down wages.
By what metric? Software developers can make $250k+ in SV.
I have a hard time imagining pay doubling broadly. Only a small cohort of employers could sustain paying engineers $500k+, though I suppose it is possible.
So I'll ask again, since developers are in such high demand, why do you think wages haven't increased?
Sure, you probably won't be purchasing a family home on a single (entry level) income, but that's true in pretty much any suburban or urban area.
If a company wants to hire someone, they deserve that job, and it is ridiculous that an uninvolved group would be able to stop that hire from happen.
Them have different color skin, because they were born in an "off shore" country is no excuse to discriminate against them.
You mean like pointless tech quizzes on minutia that only a young college graduate with zero experience (and cheaper) would remember?
>it is ridiculous that an uninvolved group would be able to stop that hire from happen.
I don't believe unions prevent companies from hiring people.
>Them have different color skin,
Looking at tech companies, they don't seem to be bothered by skin tone.
>because they were born in an "off shore" country is no excuse to discriminate against them.
If they aren't citizens, there is absolutely an excuse to discriminate agains them, just like their "offshore" home country discriminates against foreign workers trying to work there. There have been countless articles about TATA and their ilk not only discriminating for positions in their home countries but for positions they've won the US.
I will not ever support an organization that is outright discriminatory like that, whether it is based on skin color or citizenship.
Also, unions DO indeed prevent people from being hired. That's why right to work laws exist.
Right to work is the idea that if a company hires you, it is illegal for a union to force you to join.
There are companies where you are forced to join the union.
Ex, the screen writers and actors guild require people who work at certain companies to join them.
Lol. No it isn't, it's called nationalism. Racism is about the race of a person regardless of citizenship, nationalism is about citizenship regardless of race. You probably should look up words before you throw them around.
>I will not ever support an organization that is outright discriminatory like that, whether it is based on skin color or citizenship.
That's a straw man. No one said anything about discriminating based on skin color except you.
>Also, unions DO indeed prevent people from being hired. That's why right to work laws exist. Right to work is the idea that if a company hires you, it is illegal for a union to force you to join.
So where in that sentence do you explain that a union can force a company not to hire you?
>There are companies where you are forced to join the union.
Ex, the screen writers and actors guild require people who work at certain companies to join them.
Yes, the logic being is the union is the reason people get higher wages, so they should pay union dues to support the people (fellow employees) that earned those higher wages. Many states have done away with that though as a direct attempt to weaken unions.
Here's a decent breakdown of the pros and cons:
IE, if you make a law banning hiring anyone with an African citizenship, that is still racist, even though technically it still effects people from South Africa.
If you make a law that "coincidently" only effects countries that are majority not white, guess what, that's racist.
Any offshoring law would mostly effect non white countries, and wouldn't do much to effect European countries.
If your proposal 90% effects people who are of a different skin color, thats still racist, even if the net is a little wider, and still 10% effects white people.
I don't care what word you use for it. Discrimination is discrimination.
"So where in that sentence do you explain that a union can force a company not to hire you?"
The literal next sentence of your post.
If you don't join the union, you are fired. There is literally a word for this. It is called being a union shop. And it is what right to work laws protect against.
I don't care what justification is used to force people to join them. I do not want them to negotiate for me.
And I will fight all attempts that try to force me to join them.
Fortunately for me, most other people in tech oppose them.
Is your argument that since the majority of the world population is not white, anything except wide open free trade with no borders are racist? Give me a break. There is plenty of offshoring to eastern bloc European countries.
Research some of this stuff. It sounds like you read a hugely biased article as the sole source of your information on this topic.
The Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, and the Writers Guild don't work like that. Pro athlete unions don't work like that. Why would you think that tech would have to?
It is also about forcing people into their collective bargaining process. I do not want anyone else to ever negotiate for me. I will negotiate for myself, because I am the one person who is most incentived to look out for myself.
Furthermore, once a union is established, it is very difficult to opt out. The screen actors, writers, ect guild have contracts with companies that FORCE you to join their group if you want to accept the job.
I oppose that wholeheartedly. I will never support groups that either put put barriers to entry, force me to have them negotiate for me, or that attempt to force people into joining them on condition of employment.
No. Instead of ever being put into a position where joining the union is a precondition for employment, I will just oppose unions in my industry before they can even get a foothold.
No, it's not.
But yes, I do agree that it would significantly raise the wages if we were able to collectively bargain.
It's never how people get paid, at least not on the open market. You get paid based on what the market will bear for your skills, based on supply and demand. If you have the unique skill to create exceptional Renaissance Italian stained glass then you may be paid a mint if there is demand, or you may he waiting tables if not. Same thing if you are an expert in Vax machines.
Unions were/are a huge drag on them.
In order to 'protect' workers, unions define job functions. This prevents an engineer from being moved over to bathroom cleaner. However, it also locks people into job descriptions that may have made sense at one time, but no longer do. It also makes the business unable to respond flexibly to new conditions.
A friend of mine worked at Kodak. It took months to get a photocopier installed because the movers were unionized, and they wouldn't move the old one because it was plugged in. Only the unionized electricians were allowed to unplug it.
BTW, unions didn't kill Kodak. Executives love to blame unions for their own ineptitude.
If the company cared about that being a huge drag on productivity, it would bring it up with the unions. Pathological management is around everywhere.
This goes back to my favorite adage:
1. Be good at your job
2. Don't be an asshole
But anyways, Apple makes 600k in profit a year per employee, meaning they can increase the salary of every employee in the company by 400k (ignoring tax issues) and still turn a crazy large profit. Companies such as Google and Facebook have a revenue per employee that is well over 1 billion dollars, and in turn could theoretically return that money to their employees rather than putting it towards some of the other expenses that they do. However, due to stock compensation, it is for the benefit of existing employees that these companies do focus on continuing to monopolize.
Apple is listed at $2.1 mil/employee, Google at $1.2 mil, FB at $1 .4 mil.
You know, the big pay-fixing scandal with Google and Apple didn't happen that long ago.
(Regardless, I'm extremely pleased that tech workers are lending their support to getting the lower paid workers at their companies organized and able to negotiate better conditions.)
I'd want my union to crush open plan workplaces, especially the ones that stick software development next to sales. Please put 4.5" of solid wall, and at least one closeable door, between me and all that incessant yapping on the raprod.
Also, it would be nice to ban cargo-culting. Like daily all-hands "stand-up meetings" that last 45 minutes. Don't let management make us take personality quizzes that pigeonhole us into cute alliterative categories.
And if I could manage my insurance and retirement plan through the union instead of my company, that would be great. I have to deal with new accounts and fill out new forms every time I switch companies, and also every time my company gets acquired or merged. And don't think I haven't noticed them gradually turning my healthcare insurance to garbage, and increasing my share of the premiums every time.
Currently, the only way for me to counter some moves is by job-hopping. That doesn't help if employers are all secretly running the same playbook.
Unions vs Agile?
A union rule could limit the number of people that can participate in a "stand-up meeting" to seven, and limit the duration to twenty minutes.
That way, when management tries to pack 20+ people around the walls of a corner office to waste 45 minutes every day, I could complain to my union rep instead of telling said management "I have some concerns about the daily stand-up meeting" and getting fired for it.
Unions needn’t be only for the middle class. See professional sports players unions for example.
Not to say that obviates the need, or delegitimizes the idea, but rather the pressure for it isn't as mounting.
This is one of those rare times where "populism" is actually the right word to describe something.
The inequalities one can see in the Bay Area are quite flagrant, but this type of mentality is not going to help.
Good for these people. They are essentially moving our society forward.
To me, in that light, neither the "depredations" of owners and investors nor the "coercion" of labor unions is really a problem; it's just the natural give and take of the market at work.
The real problem is the late 20th century stigma labor organization has acquired. Without labor organization, the market system doesn't work.
Giving a generous maternity leave is "leaving value on the table". Evading taxes via the double-irish or contractor/employee loopholes is "creating shareholder value".
It's like Gordon Gekko and George Orwell collaborated.
I think the stigma is well-deserved. Indeed they are rife with corruption and often create very odd incentives.
Unfortunately unions suffer the same fate as other "invisible" benefits: everyone takes them for granted and doesn't recognize their value. People focus on the drawbacks and it's much easier to convince them that we're all better off without unions.
Unions - the folks who brought you the weekend. (That's a button and bumper sticker.) Also the 8-hour day and the 40-hour week, which the US somehow lost.
Republicans call themselves The party of Lincoln, Bell labs reminding people they invented the semiconductor, etc. Hearkening back to something you did a long time ago seems like a purposeful hand wave away from the present or recent history.
Unions are constantly fighting to make sure that the pilots of commercial planes are allowed to get enough sleep and not be totally exhausted while flying. And to make sure that flight attendants are only half-zombies...
If a pilot needs so much sleep that they can only safely work 18 hours per week, I'd hate to think how compromised a passenger's safety is when being shuttled around by a Taxi/Uber driver working 40-80 hours per week.
Do you have a source for any of those facts? Are you picking on 737 pilots for a reason, or do you really mean to imply this is the average for an Australian pilot?
It all seems unlikely to be true, given that their competitors in the US are limited to 290 working hours and 100 flight hours per month, though those are maximums and are typically reduced by things like flying in the early/late hours, flight connection times, etc. If this were true, it would be very hard for any Australian international airline to compete on long haul flights, and Qantas is doing quite well.
A summary: http://work.chron.com/duty-limitations-faa-pilot-17646.html
And from the FAA (US air transport regulator): https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=1...
As much as I would have liked these numbers to be false, they are sadly reality.
"Unions - the folks who bought you immigration quotas" would be equally accurate, but I guess they don't want to remind people of that.
Unless you're arguing for the elimination of the market system, "this structure in a market economy is prone to corruption" isn't a dispositive argument, or really an argument at all.
If we aren't discouraging the first, why the second?
Why slash their tires when you can have the police arrest them, the local prosecutor press charges, etc.?
Similarly, lots of professions use police power to prevent outsiders from competing with them. Even hairstylists!
There are a lot more unions in the US than people realize. For some reason (I can think of many), high-status workers in the US are captivated by the drama of a few particular unions, and have extrapolated wildly from it.
(Happy to concede there are unions people like, but if that's your best effort at naming two good ones, I think the problem is worse than you're acknowledging.)
If your argument is that people have negative opinions about unions, well, respectfully, no shit. My point is that those opinions are not well-founded.
"Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen." -- Woody Guthrie "Pretty Boy Floyd"
Similarly, ownership and capital has a tendency to view labor as a black-box machine. If the machine, when operated in Indonesia, produces comparable financial results, what's the point in running the machine in the US? And so pretty much ever job that can be outsourced is outsourced.
Management can have the worst of both worlds. Most managers are hired guns. A ten-year stint at the helm of a company is a respectable tenure, but it's a short period of time compared to the life of some firms. Management in large firms routinely harms both employees and the long-term prospects of the firm by optimizing for short-term metric gains that boost their own compensation.
There's no part of the system that works flawlessly, or isn't freighted with obvious problems. It's kind of a miracle that things work at all. Nevertheless, they often do. And they work better for everyone when all the stakeholders are organized and engaged.
There're always issues of misaligned or perverse incentives. Although I have no illusions about union leaders having a particular interest in company success, it's not worse than company management having no particular interest in company success. And, since they have less power, they have less of a negative impact on the company and society in general.
Because his fact-free attack is demonstrably wrong. The majority of unions are invested in the companies they provide labor for. By way of example, Germany has unions that are evidently committed to the company's existence - to the extent that labor being represented at board level is not unusual. That is the kind of, ahem, synergy that should exist between capital and labor, but is anathema in the US.
In contrast, some executives are effectively mercenaries with no interest in the long-term survival of companies, they work on very short horizons, but I never hear anyone demanding that management is toxic and shouldn't exist.
The problem is when the company is a monopoly, which should be carefully monitored.
Whenever you think about some corrupt rent-seeking union bureaucrat being a drain on an efficient system, just think about Mayer's compensation package relative to the value she created. Unionized workers just want basic needs like health care and a chance to not retire in poverty. As a taxpayer who gets the bill for the externalized costs of labor extraction by executives, you probably also want this.
This is a very broad statement, which could just as easily be applied to management/capital.
Are you asserting that unions are significantly more corrupt than the average corporation, government or charity or just that human institutions in general have a problem with corruption?
So, no the problem with US manufacturing is mostly a question of MBA's not factory workers. The core issue is companies are not run based on Labor or Capital but a middle layer focused into very short term thinking.
EX: Pensions look great for management as they can jump ship long before the bill is due.
You forgot the real reason anyone is paid more than nothing: because they could go somewhere else or do something else.
Also pay in different countries differs by productivity level much more than by any measure of unionization.
Capitalism is an inherently unstable system and only works with good regulation. I think a capitalist system only works as well as its regulation.
However, I think it is important for regulations to generally (not always) be structured on a sliding scale that is directly related to company size, i.e. the bigger the business, the more regulations it becomes subject to. Otherwise, regulations become a cudgel with which small businesses are beaten down because only the big established players can afford to comply. In today's age of regulatory capture in the USA, we are seeing this play out. Industries have been consolidating, and the productivity gains therefrom are not being passed onto the consumer via price cuts.
And I'm sure there are restaurant owners out there who aren't complete assholes.
Alternately, we could institute worker protections and support unions (which are necessary to develop the political will to institute worker protections) so they all have to treat you decently and everyone who works hard for a living can have a humane reasonable life.
And even if that isn't okay for you, there are plenty of ways to do this without even curtailing anyone's "freedoms" to be abusive: we can provide government jobs to all workers if they want them and require managers at government run institutions behave decently, for example, as we did in the New Deal.
Government is always going to be an ongoing, adaptive process with back-and-forth struggles and adjudication between interested parties. Maybe we'll evolve into a more inherently cooperative species in the future, but you're definitely right about what the first business response is. :)
The trick is to add regulation without adding unnecessary friction, and finding an approximate solution to the free rider problem.
When your factory is producing noise pollution around it, is that a volutary transaction you have entered into with your neighbours? What about when it pollutes the air, or the water? What about transactions where both sides don't have perfect information? How can you voluntarily agree to a transaction in which you don't know what you're getting, but your counterparty does? What about the fact that most revealed preferences are largely fiction?
Voluntary transactions are pure fiction. Nothing actually operates on that principle. You can't construct a functioning society from them, without requiring an orgy of arbitrary logical and ethical gymnastics.
> Capitalism is by no means a perfectly well defined system that you can deduce from a set of axioms. You can have a discussion about which property rights the government should enforce, such as whether it should enforce intellectual property. But certain systems are clearly fall outside of the bounds of what constitutes a free market, such as systems in which I am allowed to put a gun to your head to make you give me your wallet.
In order for language to be useful we have to assign a reasonable range of meaning to a word. The word "voluntary" becomes completely useless with the meaning you describe. You can do the same to any word, even words such as "apple". If you let an apple rot it eventually becomes compost. Somewhere in between it stops being an apple. By the same type of reasoning you can conclude that "apples are pure fiction". These kind of language games are not very useful.
It's just too convenient to define the range to what amounts to a modern version of the divine rights of kings. Where certain meanings - voluntary and property rights in particular - become some sorts of theological constants in which the privileges of the king (or property owner in the libertarian case), which have no bearing in justice, are explained.
It's basically ad-hoc law in benefit of the privileged. Bottom-up resistance is violence. Top-down violence/exploitation is a voluntary exchange.
The problem in the age of kings was that kings enjoyed special rights and the populace did not have property rights. The king could, and often did, take whatever he wanted without consent. We see the conflict between aristocracy and private property even in modern times. Consider how the aristocracy in the UK reacted to Thatcher's selling off government entities to the people who worked in those entities. The aristocracy reacted in horror when they saw ordinary "peasants" getting control of what were previously government entities controlled by the aristocracy. They desperately attempted to throw her out of the conservative party, and eventually succeeded.
I would also point out that the places on earth where the poor have relatively good lives are precisely the places with property rights, and that the places where the poor aren't even able to get a loaf of bread (e.g. north korea, venezuela, several countries in sub-saharan africa) are precisely the places without property rights.
I'm surprised by the extent to which the recent rise of socialism has even penetrated HN. I fear we need another 100 million cold bodies to relearn that lesson.
You do realize that even if the common people would have property rights during the age of kings it wouldn't matter? Neither will it in a modern version of it. The concentration of capital/property, and thus kings, would be inevitable. I'm sure this is a feature and not a bug given the demographics of libertarians.
Also you could've spared me the inevitable "Let's compare the idea I oppose by a measurement than I'm not willing to judge my own idea". I'm sure we could compile an equal body count of regimes calling themselves free market/market economy/capitalist or similar. But people using this body count rhetoric seldom accept such comparisons.
What libertarians believe is not relevant. I am not a libertarian and do not speak for them. I do not share their dogmatic understanding of the word voluntary. I agree that the meaning is not perfectly well defined and that there is a discussion to be had, but there are limits to which you can stretch its meaning. What of my description of voluntary is not widely accepted?
> You do realize that even if the common people would have property rights during the age of kings it wouldn't matter? Neither will it in a modern version of it.
Except for the fact that it has. Almost all aristocratic families in my country have gone all but bankrupt. They have had to transform their castles into hotels and museums in order to barely break even on the cost of the upkeep. In fact, many of these castles are receiving government help as monuments.
> I'm sure we could compile an equal body count of regimes calling themselves free market/market economy/capitalist or similar.
No, you cannot. There are a few, like the Pinochet regime, but the death toll is orders of magnitude off. In fact, although authoritarian politically, Chile did transform from the poorest country in Latin America into the richest. And it transitioned to democracy with very little violence.
However, I'll give you a starting point for compiling a list by the same yard stick; there was recently news coverage of an Indian politician accusing Churchill of genocide. It has been barely contested, and for good historical reason. And that's the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
You have also not pointed out what is ahistorical about my view, let alone provided evidence that it is in fact ahistorical.
has never existed in the history of modern civilization for more than 5 minutes. Ironically for your statement, the most unregulated markets are the most violent as they only occur after one government falls before institutions create themselves to deal with the chaotic state of unorganized and fearful humans.
It will be interesting to see if the digital economy brings with it any self-created software companies (purely software companies created and administered by self-writing software) which tries to avoid any attempts to shut it down.
Capitalism is by no means a perfectly well defined system that you can deduce from a set of axioms. You can have a discussion about which property rights the government should enforce, such as whether it should enforce intellectual property. But certain systems are clearly fall outside of the bounds of what constitutes a free market, such as systems in which I am allowed to put a gun to your head to make you give me your wallet.
Only in the most extreme interpretation of the word.
"No person forced you to work for me. "
Maybe not, but the idea that I will be fired if I don't do what you say means that it's not entirely voluntary.
"I can only "force" you to work 20 hours a day if all your other options are even worse, and I am the one who improves your options the most."
Again, that's not voluntary. That's exploitation.
"If however I put a gun to your head and tell you to work 20 hours a day I actively make your options worse by force."
Guns are not the only way to exercise force. Company towns were full of force. Just not physical.
"such as systems in which I am allowed to put a gun to your head."
Guns are not the only expression of force. Failure to see that is a huge fallacy.
> Maybe not, but the idea that I will be fired if I don't do what you say means that it's not entirely voluntary.
Being fired is simply no longer engaging in the transaction where one party trades their money for the labour of the other party.
> Guns are not the only expression of force. Failure to see that is a huge fallacy.
I did not say that they were.
That won't make it any better. You're still hand waving away a lot of exploitation.
"Being fired is simply no longer engaging in the transaction where one party trades their money for the labour of the other party."
Which is a threat of force often used when the employer wants the employee to do something that may be unethical, or simply wrong (like making someone work 20 hours a day).
"I did not say that they were."
But the way you're phrasing things, and focusing on them, indicates that you believe that physical force is the only force that matters.
I'm not hand waving away any exploitation. I did not pass any moral judgement, for or against. I described what an unregulated market is. To do so I used the word "voluntary", and I explained what I meant by that word in that context. In particular, it does not include the use of a gun to make somebody give you their wallet.
I'm seriously amazed that we are having a whole discussion as a result of me saying that "unregulated market" doesn't mean that you can shoot people.
> Which is a threat of force often used when the employer wants the employee to do something that may be unethical, or simply wrong (like making someone work 20 hours a day).
Only if your definition of "threat of force" is so broad as to include not giving you money. Is it also a threat of force if an employee says that they will quit their job if they don't get a raise? It may be a threat, but a threat of _force_?
> But the way you're phrasing things, and focusing on them, indicates that you believe that physical force is the only force that matters.
That is not what you said. You said "_Guns_ are not the only expression of force. Failure to see that is a huge fallacy."
This inhumane treatment inevitably ends up with physical violence, because it is the only resort left when the dominant's autnority is questioned.
You don't need to trust me, just look at the events of labour-related violence in the US at the turn of 20th century. Observe what happened before the situation became violent, and you will realize that in dozens of examples, the mechanisms that led to violence are the same: a class of workers that were dispossessed of so many rights that physically removing them did not look despicable as a business option.
Here are a few examples to start with:
Holding people captive is the opposite of voluntary.
> Here are a few examples to start with
First example: Colorado National Guard massacres workers who refuse to work.
Second example: a company, working together with the sheriff, kidnaps and kills people who refuse to work.
These examples do not show that the dispossessed have to resort to physical violence because that's their only resort left. The physical violence was initiated by the companies working together with the government.
Just read the description on Wikipedia:
> Those who went on strike were promptly evicted from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages prepared by the union. The tents were built on wood platforms and furnished with cast iron stoves on land leased by the union in preparation for a strike.
So far so good.
> Baldwin–Felts had a reputation for aggressive strike breaking. Agents shone searchlights on the tent villages at night and fired bullets into the tents at random, occasionally killing and maiming people. They used an improvised armored car, mounted with a machine gun the union called the "Death Special" to patrol the camp's perimeters. The steel-covered car was built in the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company plant in Pueblo, Colorado from the chassis of a large touring sedan. Frequent sniper attacks on the tent colonies drove the miners to dig pits beneath the tents where they and their families could be better protected.
The workers were using their right to refuse to work! What the workers needed was precisely government enforcement of the law that you can't just go around shooting people. This is the exact opposite of what you implied it was.
In that context, claiming that a choice is possible for miners is an illusion. And as many examples illustrate, physical violence is merely one more step which can not perceived as fundamentally different from the previous ones.
This is why this violence was the natural next move whenever miners tried to unionize.
Once you've piled up all these kinds of domination schemes, it becomes hard for the owner to actually discern the difference between all of this and physical violence ; it is also a process of dehumanization that makes it much harder to consider the workers deserve safety. Therefore, violence that goes as far as deportation, mutilation or death becomes acceptable.
My point being, there is no instance of unfettered relations of power that don't end up like that.
I believe there's a large corpus of work on the various areas involved here, if you want a specific precision, I can try to find relevant infos.
The whole point of what I said was that in a free market the transactions have to be voluntary. Whatever your definition of voluntary, the precise meaning of which can be debated, it does not include opening sniper fire on people in order to make them work.
Yet, you were saying that compelling me to work 20 hours a day, which would effectively give me no time at all to find another job, was perfectly fine and still voluntary.
Exploitation is an incoherent doctrine. A moral crime, where the victim is strictly better off for having been victimized! A crime where each successful enforcement action makes all parties strictly worse off, but where the person who suffers most from enforcement is the "victim."
In a just world, someone who supports this doctrine would be made to suffer in proportion to the suffering they willfully and violently inflict on the most vulnerable by removing their access to "exploitative" situations.
Wanting people to enjoy a high standard of living is noble. Wanting to get there by banning all labor transactions that don't confer an uppper-class lifestyle is lunacy. Redistribute the income. Make direct provision for services. Whatever. Don't pat yourself on the back for removing the best option of someone with no options. That's about the vilest and most evil thing a human being can do. Give them better ones.
Property rights don't exist without some form of regulation.
> Property rights don't exist without some form of regulation.
If by regulation you mean any law whatsoever, certainly. That's not what people usually mean by unregulated market. When people say "unregulated car market" they don't mean a market in which I can steal your car. They could mean a market in which you can sell me a car without safety belts.
Another example is the minimum wage. Let's say that I want to offer to work for you for $5 an hour and you want to accept this offer. This is a transaction that we would both voluntarily engage in, but it is not allowed by the minimum wage law.
If we include stealing and unrestricted use of guns in the meaning of "unregulated market", then the word becomes all but useless. We have other words to describe those situations.
The concept of an unregulated market that includes land ownership is already nonsense because the system of land ownership is inherently non-voluntary. I never opted into the system where people can exclude me from certain parts of the earth; it was imposed on me with the threat of violence.
It comes from exactly that, and the system in which that occurred was not a free market.
> it was imposed on me with the threat of violence.
Absolutely, _the system_ is imposed with the threat of violence. I said that transactions within the system must be voluntary.
That's a regulation, and for that to be binding, it needs to be backed up by coercion and violence.
In an unregulated market, whether or not one can shoot people, or whether or not transactions should be voluntary, would be decided like everything else by success or failure through competition in the marketplace.
You can't have free market except for this one little rule... that's just a very weakly regulated market.
> You can't have free market except for this one little rule... that's just a very weakly regulated market.
In what sense is that a market at all? Market implies that the transactions are voluntary. Unregulated market implies that all voluntary transactions are legal. A regulated market is a market in which some transactions are disallowed even if they are voluntary. Minimum wage, for example, makes it illegal for you to offer your services for $5 per hour.
That doesn't have to be true for all parties. Referring to your earlier comment, that "an unregulated market doesn't mean that you can shoot people," I would claim that, yes it does - all that's needed is for someone to pay you to shoot people. Murder for hire, extortion, blackmail, piracy and slavery are all examples of valid markets with non-voluntary participation. Morally reprehensible, but still valid.
In the long run, the reduced profit margins caused by wages that are artificially high (above the rate that would be established by the free market) results in less investment (profits == compensation for investors), which means a slower rate of economic and wage growth.
>>If there is one thing I've learned from two decades of reading about labor history,
I encourage you to read a diverse set of perspectives. I'd argue that unions have more power than employers in being able to shape the historical narrative.
In fact, corporate profits are record-high, and wages have been stagnant for decades, suggesting very strongly that the "unnatural" market power that is keeping wages at
"artificial" levels is in fact that of employers.
Very few firms can engage in such behavior. A pact like this can only be maintained by a small number of very large firms, and only the firms party to the pact will abide by it, leaving the entire rest of the employer market in a competitive state.
Even had the antitrust action not stopped this behavior, it's questionable how much of an impact this behavior had in restraining wage growth in Silicon Valley's tech sector, and how long the pact would have lasted given its informal nature, and the temptation to cheat due to the intense completion between those party to it.
If wages being below the natural, market rate, due to collusion between large firms is your concern, then the right solution is antitrust action. Unionisation in the current legal environment (where unions can affectively hold their firm hostage, and thus reduce labour market freedom) creates numerous unintended consequences that adversely affect industries.
>>In fact, corporate profits are record-high, and wages have been stagnant for decades, suggesting very strongly that the "unnatural" market power
Corporate earning growth is at historically low rates. Wages have stagnated because economic output growth has stagnated. See this comment:
And the same can't be said about the market power of unions?
> Corporate earning growth is at historically low rates.
Cherry picked statistic. Corporate earnings as a percent of GDP are record high. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1Pik And your linked chart shows exactly my point, wages relative to productivity have been decreasing.
Obviously with anything like this you have a hard time showing a direct causation, which is why I am confused that you are claiming that you can prove a clear causation in the exact opposite direction that the economy has been moving.
Your argument surely requires a mythical perfect market without externalities?
Also low wages are not an externality:
The point of letting the market modulate supply and demand is that it encourages an economically optimal allocation of resources.
If you'd like to have a more in depth discussion on this, perhaps you could post a thread in a more appropriate forum like Reddit and we can discuss it there.
The social cost of poverty is surely an externality. If you don't pay people enough to cover their healthcare, to give them the ability to provide a stable family environment or have a reasonable housing situation then the cost will have to be paid somewhere else in the system. And it probably will cost the economy more the further down the line it finally bubble up.
> The point of letting the market modulate supply and demand is that it encourages an economically optimal allocation of resources.
Only assuming a perfect market. Which is about as plausible a concept as a socialist paradise. The real world is messy and imperfect. People aren't rational actors. Laws are imperfect. Regulators are corrupt. Information doesn't flow everywhere equally. Monopolies and cartels exist.
There may be some externalities associated by poverty, but the same could extend to taxing corporations more. You don't reduce poverty by moving private wealth around by government fiat anyway.
>Only assuming a perfect market.
Free markets are an ideal to strive toward. The unattainability of the ideal isn't a reason to abandon its pursuit. Economies work better when the ideal is pursued and artificial barriers to contracting and private property rights aren't hoisted on people via legislation.
But I digress, if you'd like to discuss this in more detail, please post a thread in a more appropriate forum.
Also, I recommend rereading your post with "labour" as "proletariat" and "investor" as "bourgeoisie". Hopefully you'll discover class consciousness.
If that were true we ought to make all income flat. Private property rights allows those who are the smartest investors of capital to generally control more of it. This leads to better capital allocation, which leads to more growth of wealth. Wealth has broad societal benefits through positive externalities so it's in our interest to see it expand, regardless of how it's distributed.
>Hopefully you'll discover class consciousness.
Marxist tribalism. There is a reason all Marxist economies fail to keep up with market economies.
If you meant competitiveness of businesses, sure, it probably does that. But the logical conclusion for that line of reasoning ends up with us working in a Gulag.
I'm not going to compare their power to employers' power, but it is definitely true that unions have been able to write their preferred version of history with labor law.
Notice how we never talk about the historical ties between labor unions and white supremacy. It's all right there in the public record - there's no denying that it happened - but it's always ignored in the public narrative.
what about the part where a single person can now add enough utility to the world and capture the entirety of sales and ownership of it without needing to own anything?
1. Isn't that a gain?
2. Who has taken it?
Or doesn't it count as "labor" anymore if you work for yourself? Isn't owning your own work in full, the ultimate triumph of the proletariat?
Piketty has nothing to say on this subject but I'm curious if after "two decades of reading about labor history" and given your participation here on HN (a forum of YCombinator, which enables anyone to become an entrepreneur) you have anything to say about whether this is a genuine gain. I also see you're C-level at upsolve.org - which helps low-income Americans.
Isn't the fact that in my estimation at least 80% of those Americans could theoretically learn to code within 6 months (for the remaining 20% it may be too difficult) and with minimal (or no) financial backing capture some part of some output on the Internet, a source of victory for labor?
If any of those "low-income Americans" build a web startup without funding (through perseverance and learning) then are they now 'evil', and taking from someone else? Who are they taking from in that case?
I am sure you agree that wealth is not a zero-sum gain, and I am sure you see it is difficult to apply theories of exploitation of the working class, to one-person startups.
What do you think about the movement toward a knowledge economy, and a lowering of the barriers to creating value and startups?
I am particularly interested in this because I did not receive satisfying answers from experts in this field. Thanks for any thoughts. (Genuinely interested.)
Your estimations and assumptions are pretty flawed here, IMHO. Here's why:
1) 80% of Americans can't learn to code, unless you start training them at a relatively young age. Older people are not good at learning (they _can_ be taught to learn better, but that is separate problem).
2) Even if 80% could, 6 months is not enough time without full-time investment therein.
3) How many Americans can spend 6 months coding full-time for no pay? The majority of Americans don't even have $1,000 in the bank. This is out of their reach.
4) Even if you had 6 months full-time, you'd need to be on a pretty directed schedule, probably set by some sort of mentor. This costs money.
None of this is to say that we couldn't create conditions, via government policies, to foster conditions more suited for enabling the sort of labor mobility you describe. I actually think that is what these unionized workers are doing via higher wages and more structured time off. They have taken more for themselves and thus expanded their range of opportunities.
> If any of those "low-income Americans" build a web startup without funding (through perseverance and learning) then are they now 'evil', and taking from someone else? Who are they taking from in that case?
Not many people can build a company. Like, it is fun to act like everyone in America is a potential entrepreneur, but, in reality, the vast majority of people don't want to start a startup. Period. Let's not deny these people a full stake in society and the economy just because they don't want to go for the jugular.
But this is a much higher standard than being able to put a web site up. It's the difference between learning accounting well enough to do accounting for someone - and learning Excel well enough to add your own business's costs up.
The former has much higher requirements.
So what I was really asking for is your perspective about someone starting an online business by themselves. Without learning any skill well enough to work as an employee for someone else, doing the same thing.
Basically I think that you summarize the difference here:
>Not many people can build a company. Like, it is fun to act like everyone in America is a potential entrepreneur,
I consider that point of view kind of patronizing. I think that yes, everyone (100% of people) can build a company. And, everyone in America is a potential entrepreneur. That's my perspective.
So, what is interesting is that you attack the premise, but have nothing to say about what happens to people who successfully "go for the jugular". For example, I asked if they are "bad" people if they make a successful online business; if they are then "taking" from someone. You don't answer, but essentially say it is a silly question.
Maybe so, but that reply does not offer a moral perspective on entrepreneurship.
I have a decent amount of experience. I actually think something like 90% of Americans could figure out how to code if they really wanted to. If we taught it in schools starting at age ~5, we could probably get to that number. It's not just that it's hard, it is that it costs money to learn to code. The cost is directly proportional to age.
> I consider that point of view kind of patronizing.
I realized it sounded patronizing when I wrote it, but I didn't want to get distracted explaining why I didn't feel patronizing when I wrote it, so I will explain here:
I agree that virtually 100% of people build a company. But you have to want to. My point was: The overwhelming majority of people don't actually want to. So I think any discussion of policies needs to take that fact into consideration. I'm not going to try to make policy based on the world I wish I lived in rather than the world I actually live in. I'm not going to punish people for not wanting to be entrepreneurs. The world needs its worker bees. Honor the working bee.
> have nothing to say about what happens to people who successfully "go for the jugular". For example, I asked if they are "bad" people if they make a successful online business; if they are then "taking" from someone. You don't answer, but essentially say it is a silly question.
I also honor entrepreneurship (I am ~5 startups in myself). I do not believe wealth is a zero-sum game.
Of course you are not a bad person if you build a successful business. Morality is about how you conduct yourself in the pursuit of success and what you do with the power you acquire.
Also thanks for the work you put into greater equality and fairness of outcomes. Entrepreneurship is probably a separate, different axis. (Even though it's the one I asked about.)
Also, as the article put it, in the short term, I think Google is putting themselves in a very weak position by making their expansion in San Jose. They could've picked a number of different tech hubs in the rest of the US, but instead chose San Jose. They'll be paying a much higher cost of labor for both engineering talent, plus the countless payoffs they'll need to make to local governments. But, I guess, it must all be worth it, otherwise they wouldn't have done.
If the tech giants paid even more than they do already, wouldn't that hurt everyone else even more than they already because of the competition over housing?
Unfortunately, At this point, the only politically feasible option is to escape the bay area.
In the absence of organizing, wages and conditions can get bid up if there is a shortage of workers for the jobs available. Maybe not so much for the US working class recently but SV programmers, Chinese factory workers and the like have seen their wages go up a lot.
By balanced I mean if everyone on earth had the same amount of money then the worlds' wealth would be perfectly balanced. I am not talking about fairness or whether or not the wealth was deserved.
At two ends of the spectrum we have wealth inequality and communism. The ideal sweet spot is somewhere in between the two extremes, right now the United States is leaning towards wealth inequality.
"In San Francisco the coalition persuaded the city transit authority to make it easier to deny permits to companies facing labor strife."
If your negotiations rely on the monopoly that the state provides, is it really a negotiation?
The Taft-Hartley act also bans secondary strikes, so unions are further restricted (this restriction was increased more with the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act in 1959).
The Taft-Hartley act also allowed the president to ban strikes in the case of a "national emergency". Of course, national emergencies were seen all over the place since then, including in 2002 on the west coast docks with the ILWU.
There are the people doing all the work and creating all the wealth, then there are the heirs and such who feed off their expropriation of the surplus labor time of those doing all the work. The idle class relies on the monopoly that the state provides.
In fact, if you look to history and the creation of the first states in Sumeria thousands of years ago, the raison d'etre of those states were to use violence and propaganda so that an idle class could expropriate surplus labor time from their slaves doing all the work.
I've not encountered Sumerian revisionist libertarianism before ...
No arguments here. I don't support either side. It's clear who will always be able to exploit the government most which is why it should be obviated.
Patents, copyright, law enforcement. All provided by the state and used by tech giants in their interactions with others who use tech they've produced.
I think any relevant theory of negotiation will include government mediated points of leverage.
Good question. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_union_busting_in_th...
Your complaint seems to reduce to the existence of the modern state.
 Black markets obviously have their own mechanisms.
Unlike the developers, the drivers tend to be financially insecure. In this economy, they're eminently replaceable. What they do is outside the core competency of their employers. You'd think they'd have almost no leverage. And yet, in the space of just a few years, they've managed to secure higher wages and health benefits --- in a market where non-technical employees are 1099'd specifically to avoid benefits obligations!
Like a lot of other occupations in the US market, tech workers have been bamboozled into believing that labor organization is something lower-status workers do. But, no: most of the classic professions, from doctors to lawyers, belong to professional associations. They may not call themselves "unions", but that's a distinction without a difference.
Tech workers blow off labor organizing because they feel themselves to be well-compensated. And they're right. So are the doctors and the lawyers. There are things to bargain for besides higher salaries. If you're wondering what they are, look no further than Hacker News, a ranked inventory of tech worker grievances. Can't see organizing a walk-off over pay raises? Well then, how about:
* The right to work from home when the team agrees that doing so has no negative impact on performance.
* The right to hire team members outside of SFBA when the development team decides it's appropriate to do so.
* The right to work on side projects alone and with your own resources without your employer claiming the fruits of your own free time.
* The right to work in an office with walls between you and salespeople on the phone all day.
* The right to hold on to your vested options for 10 years after you leave, rather than being forced to exercise at your own expense within 90 days.
* The right to visibility into the terms of your employer's financing, including the liquidations preferences and perks of investor preferred shares.
I could go on and on and on, but then, so can you, because we share this site.
Here's a thing that a lot of people on Hacker News don't know --- and I think this is a genuine case of something that the ownership class in the American economy doesn't want you to know:
Federal law rigorously protects your rights to organize in the workplace. We talk about "at-will employment" and "protected classes" (race, religion, gender) on HN quite a bit. We rarely talk about the other broad exemption in American law to at-will termination: labor organization. Not only can you not be fired for trying to organize a labor union (itself something that surprises a lot of people), but you can't be fired for protesting. You'll want to talk to a labor lawyer before you try this move, but: federal law prohibits the termination of an employee for engaging in "protected concerted action" to improve workplace conditions. You can, if you do it right, walk off your job and refuse to come back, and if you're disciplined for doing so, sue your employer.
It is crazy to me that we're not taking better advantage of this situation. The market power of software developers has never been higher. It may very well be at its zenith. For that matter, the labor laws of the US might not stay this way either. Now is the time to put it to use to secure the best, most productive conditions for technology work, not 20 years from now, when it might be just as hard for us as it was for the Facebook shuttle drivers.
An employee's recourse for illegal retaliation is even easier than you say. You file a charge with the NLRB (which you don't need a lawyer for) and let the federal government investigate and litigate.
> Here's a thing that a lot of people on Hacker News don't know --- and I think this is a genuine case of something that the ownership class in the American economy doesn't want you to know: [snipped remaining]
I couldn't agree more. Thank you for this post and your constant efforts to inform workers of their federally-protected rights under the NLRA.
When a workplace gets "upgraded" to open plan, if two or more workers refuse to come in out of protest, they cannot be fired. Sounds like a great way to work from home for as long as open plan lasts. (IANAL)
Remember this, HNers!
The law we enforce gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions, with or without a union.
Is the activity concerted?
Generally, this requires two or more employees acting together to improve wages or working conditions, but the action of a single employee may be considered concerted if he or she involves co-workers before acting, or acts on behalf of others.
Does it seek to benefit other employees?
Will the improvements sought – whether in pay, hours, safety, workload, or other terms of employment – benefit more than just the employee taking action? Or is the action more along the lines of a personal gripe, which is not protected?
I don't know much about labor organizing but I think the base of tech workers is fractured, with the labor-minded in the minority, and centrists and radical libertarians making up huge swaths of junior developers (For example the user that reflexively brought up union thugs slashing tires, as if no corporation has ever conspired to commit crimes in response to competition). Labor organizing, or however you want to phrase it, has a bad "politics smell" to so many.
The only way organization will happen is if it's done for the benefit of the median tech employee. That employee might not be totally apolitical, but they are more worried about the practical realities of their career than they are about tech's place among the great labor unions of US history.
My point is just, it's pretty clear that there are plenty of industry-wide grievances that not only could be fixed, but could be fixed to the betterment of the entire industry, making companies stronger, more efficient, and more survivable.
Given the opportunity tech workers have now with market power and large employers presenting clear targets to organize against, I'd argue that conditions are pretty good for organizing today.
Under the NLRA --- and you'll want to talk to a labor lawyer about this, but come on, that's a $200 expense tops --- it just takes two of you to start one at your company and enjoy legal protection.
I dont think any developer believes they will stay a developer and retire after 30 yrs from the company they now work. Whereas a laborer does believe they have a lifelong right to stay and retire.
But there is a solution (from the prospective of employers) for this "problem": every time you hear someone talk about "teaching everyone to code" or "the STEM shortage" (which absolutely does not exist -- there is a shortage of qualified programmers willing to work for $12/hr, a shortage of hard science PhDs willing to do menial lab work for 10$/hr) this is coded language for "let's make millions more programmers so that they become so commonplace they become a commodity and may be treated as such". As it turns out, programming is not that hard, anyone could do it if they learned. And they are learning.
Programmers would be smart to unionize before this strategy succeeds, not after, it will be much easier while they still have power. But this requires social and political intelligence, and for programmers (who lean Libertarian up until the moment they get laid off or abused by their boss) to put their egos aside and disabuse themselves of the notion that they succeeded only because they are so much more brilliant than everyone else.
The people who don't want a union aren't resisting it because they want to live in some libertarian wet dream, they are resisting it because they see their profession as something that can't be reduced to common labor and they don't see a labor union as able to provide any benefits, as indeed they don't when you are dealing with a profession. The push to get people to unionize is not about workers rights its about putting technology professionals in the place business owners want them in. No one likes the idea that software is eating the world and there is a limited group of people , who are not the traditional power brokers, who are very well positioned to capitalize on that. They would much rather that software development become a commodity so they can continue their model of capital vs labor.
But that's a fallacy. Most of the classic professions are organized. They're usually organized around professional associations and not "labor unions", and their collective bargaining concerns things other than their wages. But those are distinctions without differences.
Yes, tech workers aren't going to create the Tech Teamsters. That's an easy question to put to rest. But that doesn't dispose of the issue. Tech workers should organize, now, when their market power is at its zenith. There's a good discussion to have about what the resulting organizations look like.
But there's less of a tenable argument about whether they should try at all. Clearly, it seems to me, they should.
You mentioned AMA in another comment; will our tech union require eight years of university and one year of residency at IniTech to "practice programming"? Will it require a minimum hourly wage? At what rate? My first programming job at 17 wasn't super well paid, but better than working at the gas station. Will there be an ethics committee that might get high-jacked by activists and "disbar" programmers working for sites with objectionable content? Or the NSA or ICE? And if it can't do any of those things, what teeth will it actually have?
Most organisations meaningfully described as unions has a non-trivial element of excluding people from the trade in one way or another. I will never be a part of any organisation that will prevent any person from (trying to) make a living as a programmer in whatever way.
Don't assume that a disorganized workforce will keep that from happening. Look at pretty much all cybersecurity regulation from the last 10 years to see what could happen if labor rolls over and lets it: professional certification, run by commercial firms that specialize in selling themselves as efficient authorities.
The problem is that, once an industry unionizes, you don't really have a choice.
The process of decertification is basically a catch-22: unions are actually allowed to terminate membership of employees who advocate decertification, which makes it impossible to organize enough support for decertification from current members without risking losing your membership.
And that's all assuming that you actually hold the majority view. It's quite possible that the majority of your coworkers want to (for example) ban Asian workers from obtaining work visas. If that's the case, you can't really do anything to stop your union from supporting it either.
That example isn't hypothetical, by the way. Banning immigration from Asia was one of the first major victories of the American Federation of Labor.
That's entirely false, and intellectually dishonest.
Technically, by the letter of the law? Okay. But in practice? No, it's completely true. Your only "choice" is to find a non-unionized job (if one even exists in your field). Decertifying a union is borderline impossible in practice. And if you're in the minority opinion among your coworkers, you're completely out-of-luck, because there's nothing you can do, legally or practically.
> and intellectually dishonest.
You keep saying this phrase a lot, but there's nothing "intellectually dishonest" about explaining the practical problems associated with OP's statement ("I will never be a part of any organisation..."). You can't just use that phrase to dismiss fact-based critiques that you don't like. If you disagree, actually engage with the argument.
It's farcical to expect a majority of union members to put ideology above self-interest and vote to depress their own wages by permitting new entrants to follow in their footsteps (except in proportion to existing members leaving the field, maybe).
People who are inside an advantageous position (employed in a desirable field, living in a desirable city) very reliably kick the ladder down once they've climbed.
Society at large is nearly always better off when these people are disenfranchised and disempowered. You don't even need a tyrant to do this either; simply expand the voter pool to include would-be entrants as well as current members.
If a tech association just wants to get vesting schedules fixed, great, I ha e no problem with that.
But the moment someone even SUGGESTS putting up barriers to entry is the moment I oppose that organization with all of my might.
It is just too risky to allow an organization to get entrenched and ruin the tech industry for newbies.
Why? It was what was there and what was accessible. There wasn't a particular plan or direction, just the excitement of getting the computer to do what I wanted it to do.
Alternatively, find a niche that needs fixing with a CRUD web app, then build and sell it.
A couple of years of doing that, always making sure you're educating yourself (educating doesn't have to equal scrambling to keep up to date with every fad or sitting in a classroom, it means making sure that you're adding skills and increasing your proficiency in ways that adds value to your work. Read a few CS textbooks, it's good to know the jargon, and understanding the theory behind what I knew to work was very helpful for me), a lot of good firms will take a good hard look at you. Just always keep in mind that you're "invisible" to recruiters, so you'll probably have to hustle a bit/network a lot.
Anyway, that was roughly my path, combined with moving to London somewhere between paragraphs one and three (employers here care much less about my missing degree than they do in Denmark). YMMV.
> Alternatively, find a niche that needs fixing with a CRUD web app, then build and sell it.
Would you care to expand on that a bit please? Thanks!
I can recommend reading the early stuff on kalzumeus.com, about the bingo card creator. Same guy is also a prolific contributor here, as patio11.
I agree with you that academic gatekeeping is a bad fit for tech workers (coincidentally, I have just one semester of college).
I think we need to be careful not to let ourselves, as a community of people sharing an occupation in this market, get derailed by the connotations of the word "union".
I've joked before that, in order for a tech union drive to work, it would have to be recast as some sort of medieval-guild-style exploitation of secret knowledge power-play/conspiracy to get the libertarians on board.
Do you consider them a common laborer, like a delivery driver, or a profession that doesn't require a deep understanding of the subject matter?
No. The captains with a 10+ years seniority flying international routes might make that. The average is closer to $59/hour. The average is lower than people think because many budget airliners pay only $20k for 1st year pilots. The waves of downsizing also cut salaries. That's for USA pilots. I don't know about UK.
Many programmers with barely a few years experience can get salaries beyond $59/hour without union representation which is partly why unionization is not an urgent need in the profession.
As in other fields, the pilots' union creates a two-tiered system where the haves (major airline pilots) enjoy great wages and conditions off the backs of the have-nots (regional airline pilots) who are miserable.
While unions are meant to extract value from capitalists and management, they often seem to end up extracting it from prospective and early-career workers who haven't yet made it to union membership.
 Experience working/consulting for various labs
I think one thing that keeps tech engineers from unionizing is the "professional" label. Unions are iron workers, not professionals like me. I have two responses: (1) look at other professionals. Lawyers, doctors and accountants have unions, they just aren't call that. Think about it. (2) If you think your "professional" status is sticky without doing anything, take a look at programmer work conditions at overseas outsourcers. That is the future of the job if you don't do anything.
Those are not in the same category as the IEEE.
They are still labor unions with government-recognized powers, and they carefully look after their members' interests.
 Stricken, struck, striked?
As an alternative, anyone can start a company that puts into practice some of the employee friendly ideas you have, and use that to compete for workers, and try to move the market towards that ideal. I did that, and I really enjoyed the experience. I think my co-workers did too.
As far as where I'm coming from, I used to be more libertarian-ish. I guess I've come to a view that as population density and interconnectedness increases, maintaining societal stability requires ideologically impure and economically suboptimal compromises. Call it pragmatic socio-nihilism.
There's a massive difference between a professional association and an NLRB-governed union.
The NLRA protects any concerted effort among employees to improve workplace conditions. You don't have to be an "NLRB-governed union" to organize.
I understand that the NLRA contains provisions which protect employee activity in a non-unionized workplace, but this entire thread beings with the question "do you think tech-workers will begin to unionize?", not "do you think tech-workers will begin to make an organized effort to improve workplace conditions".
In that context, saying "Most professionals also belong to labor unions... called professional associations" implies a conflation of the two. And that's an important distinction, because most professional associations' activities don't even fall under the purview of the NLRA at all.
I'm aware - but again, that wasn't the original question of this thread.
That's not the important question. The important question is, will tech workers organize, and, when they do, what will that organization look like? That's a question we can speculate productively about.
Any union that derives its authority from the NLRA and is overseen by the NLRB will eventually end up looking like the AFL-CIO, SEIU, etc. We have decades of experimentation done by other unions with other organizational structures - all of which have failed - testifying to that.
Most professional organizations do not derive their authority or power from the NLRA at all. The activities that they take, as organizations, are outside the scope of the NLRA. Put another way: if the NLRA vanished overnight, they would still operate in the same way, as evidenced by the fact that many of the largest and most successful professional organizations predate the NLRA by decades. The same is not true of most labor unions which derive their power from the NLRA - even the few surviving ones that predated the NLRA restructured in its wake.
The fact that the NLRA protects some employee activity in non-unionized workforces is true, but it isn't particularly relevant to answering the question "do you think tech-workers will begin to unionize?", because the professional organizations that you introduced to the discussion do not require the NLRA to function as they do today.
That's not what I said.
What I said: It's misleading to suggest that professional associations require the NLRA to operate.
I've done my best to explain why the NLRA and "labor unions" (as asked in the original question) are completely orthogonal to professional associations (which you mentioned in your reply). I've explained why the rights that the NLRA grants are relevant to labor unions, but are different from the ones that professional associations require and use in their operations. I've explained why bringing up professional associations in a thread specifically about labor unions is a red herring. I've mentioned some of the history, and I've proposed a thought experiment to try and illustrate this difference better.
If after all of that, you really, genuinely think the best summary of what I've said is "it would be better for tech workers if they could be fired for organizing," then I don't know what to say. That's an unbelievably uncharitable way to twist the things I've said in good faith.
So when you cite the NLRA as a bad thing, you are literally making the argument I just suggested you were.
I never once cited the NLRA as "a bad thing".
Without the NLRA, employees can simply be fired for attempting to organize.
Sorry, I should have been clearer earlier.
Sort of, but not really. The NLRA does prevent the right to organize, which is mostly (though not exclusively) used in the context of labor unions. The NLRA was passed with the expectation that organization would generally take the form of labor unions. The ability to organize outside of a unionized workplace was specified largely to solve the "chicken and egg" problem of forming a union in the first place.
That said, the NLRA isn't the only thing (or even the primary thing) that prevents employees from being fired for joining a professional association. Which is what I've been saying all along: professional associations are notably different from labor unions which draw their power largely from the NLRA and are overseen by the NLRB.
You'll have to provide some backing examples for this. And also an explanation for why you believe the Screen Actors Guild, for one, has failed.
SAG-AFTRA largely does operate this way, but aside from that, it also has received a number of special exemptions enshrined in law (both at the state and the federal level).
What will it look like? I think the first big issue that most could get behind would be nationally organizing against non-compete agreements.
Professional labor is a subset of labor, and unions representing (exclusively or alongside other) labor exist. (Of course, tech workers don't have much professional organization outside of the labor union kind, either.)
> I think the great battle to be fought by tech workers is to stop having them treated as common laborers that perform some kind of rote process.
“rote process” or not has nothing to do with the reasons for or against having a union; it has a lot to do with what you'd want a union to negotiate for in terms of working conditions.
> Some times we call software development engineering
Only because management discovered that labels are good way to distract from substantive issues, because developers eat up the empty status markers.
First, SAG-AFTRA is a part of AFL-CIO.
Second, over the years, SAG received a number of special exemptions in law that no other union today has received (and after 2012, that's very unlikely to change). So SAG-AFTRA is not really a realistic model for any hypothetically newly-unionized industry.
Why aren't they?
Because of this, seniority-based benefits and insulating bad apples from termination are traits that almost always show up in every union through convergent evolution.
But to a pretty good first approximation every technology firm in the industry is a "power structure" --- a rigid and overt one, at that --- run by financiers and owners. So it's hard to see what rank-and-file professionals would have to lose from exercising their own market power, at least in your analysis.
Thus Eric Garner wasn't a constituent of NYC, he was a constituent of his representatives, who may or may not have done a good job advocating for the safety of those interviewed or detained by the police. I don't see how constituency doesn't help here, because now we can hold reps responsible for advocating for better protection, whereas if no representative power structures existed in the US, what happened to Garner would happen all the time and we would still belong to Great Britain
New York politics (both city and state) are structured in a way that is unbelievably stable (to the status quo) and therefore all-but-impossible to use as a vehicle to effect meaningful change, even to a degree that's possible in other cities and states.
In the case of Eric Garner, yes, it's true that (for example) the judge that ruled against releasing the records surrounding his death (effectively killing any chance at a lawsuit to force change) was up for re-election last year. However, because he has the support of the party machine in his district, the party chose not to run any other candidates against him. Party affiliation laws make it all-but-impossible for more than one party to compete in any given district, and actually impossible for a third party to compete. As a result, there was no reasonable way he could be unseated, even if literally every other person in the county (had refused to support him.
Changing any of these laws to allow more influence from constituents requires the unanimous approval of the three ranking members of the government, who are also the leaders of the party, which means that they'd essentially have to actively give up their own power. Unsurprisingly, that hasn't happened.
If you want to demonstrate that a democracy causes those in power to listen to their constituents, there is hardly a worse example than New York.
 In New York, this is actually a prerogative of the party, believe it or not.
 Technically, they ran eight candidates against him, but there were nine positions available, so all were guaranteed victory.
 Think of it like Comcast and Time Warner - they "compete" with each other by divvying up territory that they each have a monopoly over. That's how New York state operates - the Republican and Democratic parties each "own" territory and have a gentleman's agreement not to compete too seriously in the others' turf.
 The only way third parties can gain influence in New York is to cross-endorse a candidate from one of the major party lines. For example, the Working Families Party usually cross-endorses the Democratic candidate.
No. New York already publicly funds elections. The problem is that the parties have constructed a system that allows them to bypass voters' wishes entirely, and that system is beyond voters' control.
On top of this, New York voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering is actually way worse than pretty much any other state that you usually hear about in the news. The difference is that it has bipartisan support in New York - since both parties benefit from it equally (at the state level), there isn't any political benefit (to those in power) to drawing attention to it and fixing it.
This system also affects the state courts, so no state court case will ever overturn it. So, short of a federal court case like what happened in North Carolina, there's no way to fix it. And I doubt that it's ever going to happen, because neither left-wing nor right-wing groups actually want to fix it.
The left in the US doesn't want focus on boring things like election law because it is currently addicted to feeding its project of hearsay-ridden alarmist identity politics, the kind that would inspire someone to for example endorse the violence at Speaker's Corner despite the existing video of the incident. Election law will not appeal to young leftists for reasons obvious to those who have been through the throes of Tumblr and now Twitter politics, where the incentives to control others through social status and guilt creates a fractal prison of power structures, and have managed to grow out of it.
Individual thinkers in the Anglosphere who would rather see progressive activist resources directed toward concrete issues like corruption or housing, and actually talk plainly about the reality of the current directionless Internet dark age on the Left that siphons away these resources into nothingness, like Angela Nagle, Jesse Singal, Freddie DeBoer, and L.H. Fang suffer accusations of holding every sort of oppressive mindset from more popular leftist figures.
Unions have all converged on operating the same way because the NLRA is very rigid, and over the decades, they've found a stable way of operating. Other operating structures have been tried over the last century, and all have failed except the current one.
If anybody believes that a tech union under the NLRA would break this trend, especially while presumably still being affiliated with other traditional unions, then the burden would be on them to explain why the forces that drive other unions would somehow not apply to tech.
SAG-AFTRA has been specially exempted from key provisions in labor law.
There is no reason why a union has to do anything in particular at all if you don't want it to.
I'm not trying to tell you to join a union or not, just saying that a union as a legal structure does not require any of the tactics or goals as 20th century manufacturing or public sector unions.
Yes there it. If a union takes over the workforce of your company, now you have to follow the union rules.
If unions were just opt in, them yes you'd be right. But unions are NOT opt in for many states. One you are a union shop, you are screwed if you disagree with the union.
A workplace is not democratically run, so if you disagree with it, you are also screwed, only this time you have no recourse.
Voting and democracy doesn't help anything. I am just 1 vote. I'd rather have things negotiated between me, and only me and the other party.
Yes. Which they, as the union, would decide on.
What if instead, I want to negotiate my own work contract?
If a union comes in, I have no option. I do not want other people voting on my contract.
This is why I will always fight the establishment of a union in the tech industry. I do not want to be governed by the union rules, so I am not going to allow this stuff to be established in the first place.
Same as if you don't want to follow any other rules laid down by your job.
"What if instead, I want to negotiate my own work contract?"
Nobody's saying you can't do that.
"If a union comes in, I have no option. I do not want other people voting on my contract."
You don't have any evidence of that.
"This is why I will always fight the establishment of a union in the tech industry. I do not want to be governed by the union rules, so I am not going to allow this stuff to be established in the first place."
So because you think you're a snowflake, you don't want things to improve for other people.
Instead of doing that, I will just prevent the rules form being implemented in the first place.
The real world situation that we live in is that if I do not want to follow these rules, there is a perfectly easy way for them to be stopped. And the way for them to be stopped is to prevent the union from forming before they get any power over ms.
As most people in tech oppose unions, I do not just have to "deal with it". I can stop unions from having any power over my life at all by preventing their existence in the first place.
"So because you think you're a snowflake, you don't want things to improve for other people"
No, I'd be perfectly happy with people engaging in voluntary association if they didn't always inevitably end up trying to force me to join their special club.
As long as these people won't drop the whole "force everyone to join us" clause, I will continue to oppose them.
Fortunately, the pro union people are in the vast minority in tech, though, so there is not much to worry about yet.
People get hung up on this because most developers feel like their profession is well-compensated. And, they are. But so are doctors and lawyers, who also belong to professional associations.
There's much more to bargain for than just wages.
There are plenty of things a professional organization could excel at that don't require full-blown unionization.
Pushing for better conditions/pay for you as part of improving them for everyone where you work.
Also, why on earth do you think we'd have to? If no one wants them, why would we have them?
So why would a group that believes that put organizations in place that force businesses to treat and pay employees equally? Why would that group start to accept that years of service is a proxy for useful experience and ability? Fear of lawsuits mean that it's already too difficult to get rid of disruptive elements in an engineering team...are we really willing to make that process harder? Will the actual 10x programmers--the ones that have the data and recommendations on their CV to prove it--be willing to cede their individual negotiating power?
Incidentally, this is exactly what labor unions have spent their time doing for much of their history as incorporated organizations. Labor unions fought (successfully) to exclude immigrants from certain regions from immigrating, and even fought to retroactively strip them of citizenship, so that members could seize their property after they were deported. Labor unions fought to relocate Japanese-Americans during World War II, to create jobs for members, and then fought to prevent them from returning home.
The current quota system for visas and immigration that tech people frequently complain about? That was the result of legislation that the AFL lobbied for decades ago.
People don't like to talk about this, because it's an ugly chapter of labor history, but especially in this day and age, it's important to remember.
Every time the topic of immigration and visas come up, the comments are flooded with racist comments and talk about how we need to make it harder for companies to hire people on H1Bs from Asia. The more overtly racist comments get flagged and removed, but the rest still stay.
If anything, it's intellectually dishonest of you to suggest that these same people wouldn't actually fight to do that, given that's literally what they say they want to do.
The difference is that professionals bargain individually, because the jobs we do are specialized. Common laborers need unions for collective bargaining; because their work isn't specialized.
So think of it more like: A tech company would only hire a licensed software engineer. The licensing process is mostly the tedium part of determining competency, so that the job interview is about mutual interest and personality fit. It then opens up more room for individual negotiation, because there is less of a competency risk when hiring.
Unions and collective bargaining is for when there is very little competency risk when hiring.
They absolutely do prevent lots of people from being hired the theater and film industry in the first place, which is a widespread complaint against them. Obviously the lucky few who do gain membership (which is intentionally difficult) make more money as a result of the constricted supply.
You're gonna have to provide evidence of that. And don't just quote a dollar amount, because that needs to be taken in context. That context being the amount of money the company makes, the value that the employee brings, the cost of living in the area, and other factors.
"A similar job elsewhere pays 50%-75% what I make here."
So what? It costs less in those areas. But that, to me, sounds like a bunch of people who haven't asked for what they're worth.
"If you try to unionize to force wages higher, all this does is causes the exodus of companies from Silicon Valley even faster."
Given the cost of living there, doubtful. And there are far more things to organize around besides wages.
I'd say your intuition is basically correct. If we use average programmer's salary of $84k, that places the income in the top 30%. If we extend the statistics further to include Silicon Valley salaries of $200k+, that places them in the top 5%.
I can't think of any unionization in labor history that originated with members in the top 5% of salaries. That includes unions in manufacturing, arts (film/tv), sports, transportation, etc.
Yes, NFL & MLB players make a lot today but their unions happened before the advent of TV and playing pro sports was not a highly paid endeavor. (Early MLB players had to have 2nd jobs and share hotel rooms on the road.) As a thought experiment... one might argue that if the NFL were to restart today after the invention of TV, there would not be a players union. Instead the roster of 53 football players would be 53 independent contractors. Indeed, modern players in "sports" teams like eSports are mostly independent contractors. The technology of tv magnifies individuality (Tom Brady's face also sells cars & watches for endorsement deals). Today's marketability of the individual instead of the team would make it harder to convince 50%+ of players to elect union representation. (NASCAR drivers and UFC MMA fighters had/have grumblings about union representation that have gone nowhere so far. Also, they first have to switch to from independent contractors to employees -- which is another set of hurdles.)
Some airline pilots (with seniority) are 5% salary but in the 1930s they weren't when the union formed.
So, when would 50%+ programmers willing want to pay union dues -- say 1.5% (SAG) or 1.4% (UAW) of their salary?!? When the economic conditions of programmers match the poor conditions of the previous successful unionization efforts. We're obviously nowhere near that situation with software devs (even ones without college degrees) earning good salaries.
Some other commenters recommend that now is the best time to unionize because the current times are good for programmers. My question to that is... has that ever happened in history?
Basically, the main driver for unionization is economic conditions instead of ideological stance. If one believes more in the the ideology rather than economics, then yes it seems realistic to think that top-5% salary earners will vote themselves into a union. Since I emphasize economic conditions, I predict they won't -- at least not within the next 10 years. If a breakthrough AI happens to make programmers a commodity equal to burger flippers, the economics stresses on the profession changes which makes unionization more realistic.
Well, not a union as such, but if you look at other professional degrees, almost all of them have powerful trade groups that represent the workers -- doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc.
I think it speaks more to political ineptitude and the newness of the field that programming doesn't even have the same support structures in place that engineers do.
There's no "professional degree" to become a programmer and I'd like to keep it that way.
I'm sorry if that was unclear, it was early.
The AMA tries to restrict the number of doctors in the US and creates crises instead of letting people study to become doctors. Because they're incompetent at the goal of keeping the public healthy, and exceptionally competent at keeping doctor salaries high, you get something indistinguishable from regulatory capture.
No, thank you.
I suppose everyone has to learn the hard way (again) during the next downturn.
The speed at which this field moved is almost entirely due to the lack of encumbrances. That includes having to pay a state licensing group to say you are professionally certified in Java, risking losing your job if you fail to renew on time, having the state lock out anybody from the profession who does not meet these requirements, having unions require these certifications and pressure companies to only hire based on them.
It's a long, inefficient and useless money grab who's costs far outweigh the benefits.
It's not. Union members earn more than their non-union counterparts in nearly all instances. Source: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/04/art2full.pdf
But I'd go further and say what constitutes "high" is subjective.
If you look at it in terms of median household/income distribution then yes, you could certainly make the case it's high.
But, when you consider the amount of value a developer creates compared to their salary, their pay may seem quite low. Facebook, for example, returns $188,000 profit per employee (https://www.recode.net/2017/8/4/16090758/facebook-google-pro...).
How much innovation happens in unionized fields?
How much work did Uber have to do to essentially go full on rogue to get around the system built up by taxi unions?
How much union work ends up getting either automated or outsourced to countries without union workers?
Do lost jobs count against that average pay stat?
Look at the hoops that Tesla has had to jump through just to sell cars to you directly? Those local car dealers...that's a sales union.
I mean, the National Labor Relations Board gets called in when Boeing wants to open a plant in the south east. We're not even talking off-shoring or cutting jobs.
Unions, like anything, have cyclical benefits. There are times when they make sense. There are others when they don't.
Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Perhaps some people want the worker protections other industrialized countries have? And if those people are the majority, they can get it.
> The speed at which this field moved is almost entirely due to the lack of encumbrances.
Maybe this field needs some encumbrances and its time its no longer the wild wild west. Credentials aren't bad, peer-review isn't bad. Maybe I want my software built like my bridges? To standards and reliable.
I agree. But more developers should know those standards. Don't call yourself an engineer if you're not willing to follow how legitimate engineers operate.
Collective bargaining is OK and not usually conflictual outside down cycles or downsizing legacy industries. The conflict narratives appeal far more to general consumers. Working class hero is huge in American history for both good and ill.
Where many unions go bad is running interference on liability, incompetency or even criminality. That is not unique to unions but suffers embarrassing large scale instances (cops? teachers? auto workers who stole tools).
These are tough things to get right. The battles for enough and fair (predictable is a giant issue for service workers) overlap with battles that should never be waged and mostly lose.
Perhaps the problem is not unions, but monopolization of an industry's workers by a single union.
That overlooks the whole point of unions, which is to give people power over their work lives and prevent situations like the one you describe. Perhaps the union won't succeed, but they have far more negotiating power when they are organized than when they are not.
> I have never seen a union that could actually compete with non-union shops unless there was a legal force preventing the competition.
That's a powerful claim, but do you have evidence? Particular expertise?
Everyone is not equal in value despite being equal in seniority or experience.
A first year teacher might be amazing, but thanks to unions her wage is codified based on her position in the pecking order and not her merits.
The reality is that you are a widget, you probably make less several people whom you consider a less able and "ambitious" than you, and your salary is only loosely associated with your value, if at all.
He is not a widget. A workforce is made up people with diverse and varying skills.
It's in the interest of society to incentivise individual skills development and promotion of people with more skill into positions of greater authority and responsibility, by allowing employers to base compensation and promotion offers on skills.
All business is about repeatable process. Domain experts build a process. The operations people execute. Lather, rinse, repeat.
People are nurtured/developed/promoted because it is cheaper to do that than to go back to the market. But, every single individual is expendable and replacable. There may be pain or cost associated with someone leaving, but a viable business will survive.
If you think you are essential to your employer, film a little video explaining why, post or save it somewhere and set a calendar entry to visit it again in 5 years. You'll have a good laugh in 5 years.
They are democratically organized, and as such, are structured to reflect the will of their members.
Don't want seniority-based pay? Don't set up your union contract that way.
Unions are ripe to be used as instruments for abuse.
This was a requirement having to do with the location, I am not sure about the specifics (if it was a city thing or if the building owner had entered into such an agreement) but I'd like to have a better understanding. On the face of it, it does seem absurd.
The future will hasten the demise of human labor, it's economic inevitability.
It does require the union to have the upper hand in the first place in order to get a company management to sign a union contract with restrictions like that.
However, for this particular story, it makes no sense, because the union only has leverage with their employer, not with the big name companies that have chosen their employer as the provider of the service. The big name companies would just switch to a new provider if they didn't like what was happening.
You say "compete", but I'll bet these people would say "earn a living wage."
If the labor you are selling to somebody isn't priced high enough to pay your bills, you need to ask yourself:
1) Is someone else willing to pay me more for this labor?
2) If yes, go work for them. If no, then the market has spoken, and the price for your form of labor is too low and you should find a new skill or move to a location where your labor's price point is more in line with the cost of living.
3) Paying people more than their labor is worth means that the difference has to be taken from others.
4) The energy being wasted on bitching and complaining and picketing would be better spent finding a new trade. There is a shortage of people in this country that can fix physical things with their hands. There is a surplus of people who can spoon food onto plates, because ANYBODY can do it.
I have empathy and compassion for people scraping by, but I also know that handouts undermine people's self-confidence and pride. Paying these folks more than they are worth just hastens the automation of their jobs.
Collective bargaining has a "tragedy of the commons" problem:
Each worker's wage is negotiated as part of a bulk package, therefore the worst performers get a higher wage than they otherwise would, and the best performers get a lower wage than they otherwise would.
Other side effects of collective bargaining:
The union has to have tight control over new workers, otherwise their bargaining position is undermined. All new workers are required to be part of the union, who now controls hiring. In every unionized entity I've ever seen, this leads to nepotistic hiring practices. This is why NYC's fire department remained dominated by Irish Americans for decades after the demographics of NYC had completely changed.
We live in an age where education has been made available enough to a large enough % of the population that the majority of the public has been able to acquire skills that allow them to earn above a living wage. The minute that % drops low enough, you will see unions getting their power back, along with a boost in public support.
This is exactly the kind of abuse Unions seek to end. Workers cannot simply be fired.
The collective bargaining contract signed between the tech companies and Unions defines grounds for termination.
Are you trying to suggest that there is something inherently abusive about contracting? What if I don't want a full time gig?
2. Without the freedom to choose employees as an employer, corporations cannot exist, or at least are substiantally less efficient, and in such case all of society is worse off. This is where aggressive unions can be bad for employees.
I dont understand your point.
The skillsets we're talking about here (Cafeteria Workers and Bus Drivers) are not conducive to "self-employment".
The Workers cannot set their own hours or rates; both requirements defined by the IRS to qualify as "Independent Contractor".
I still don't understand what you're getting at. These people are free to work wherever they wish, and you've yet to demonstrate that there's something wrong with contracting in principle, when done legally.
People shouldn't be unionizing, they should be talking to lawyers.
The Workers are told where to work, what time shifts to work, how to do their job, provided tools and equipment, and their pay is limited to minimum wage (or just marginally higher).
That's just straight up abusive and illegal. They are treated like Employees and therefore deserve the benefits of Employees; including healthcare and paid vacation.
If contractors willingly sign on for the micromanagement that you mention, and are free to quit at any time, why exactly is this a problem that needs solving? No one is forcing foreign nationals to work for American companies. Clearly this "abusive" relationship is favorable to both parties, otherwise the outsourced employees would leave.
When someone has freedom of association, and is made aware of working conditions prior to making major life changes to start a new job, or the job is explicitly billed as temporary contract work, who are you to decide on someone's behalf what is and is not abusive, so long as payment is made as agreed?