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A Year of Tech Solidarity (civichall.org)
122 points by stablemap 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 203 comments



I feel like tech workers are already highly engaged, just very selectively with the causes that matter to the tech world. A good example of this is EFF. EFF has a huge presence both in the community and at every industry event I've ever been to. Most tech people I know donate to them.

There is also the FSF, numerous hacker camps and conferences aimed at women (Grace Hopper Celebration, etc).

I'm very skeptical on the need for a broad coalition of tech professionals.


If you're skeptical, I recommend looking into the earnings and lifestyles of professions with associations. Particularly law.

Meanwhile more and more tech workers are crammed into open office sweat shops while labor laws in multiple jurisdictions are getting changes and exceptions to our detriment.

I think we're idealistic. Perhaps we think protectionist associations shouldn't need to exist. A few of us do extremely well and we think that somehow if we can play our cards right we can have it too. Unions have lost both their power and respect. We're generally less social.

Unfortunately, we don't live in the Star Trek universe. We live in a capitalist environment. We've seen from models like scrum that communication and collaboration create better outcomes, so it shouldn't surprise us that professions that collaborate generally do better for their members.

Capitalism drives pressures to find the cheapest way to develop. Outsourcing to 3rd world countries has turned out to be difficult, and now we are trying to see how much real estate expense we can avoid by cramming people together. Luckily, this appears to damage both mental health and productivity.

This isn't just about us, but also about children and future tech workers. Will we leave them lawyer's offices or sweat shops?

Here's a great open office design https://i.pinimg.com/originals/52/d4/e0/52d4e0dca05a63f42516...


Have you worked with professional engineers? They're probably the profession most similar to software development. Yet, pay is comparable and working environment is similar.

The comparison to sweat shops rubs me the wrong way. When I was saving money for university, I worked 40 hour weeks in fast food. It was grueling, it paid minimum wage and I fell asleep exhausted each day. I saw people work 60 hour weeks in that job to try to live off it. But, that job still pales in comparison to a real sweat shop.

I'm an EE. I have all the qualifications needed to go into a field with a professional association guarding the entrance. I even worked summers in engineering departments. But, I chose software because it was better.

I feel like you're making comparisons to jobs you have no direct experience with.


The term "sweat shop" is certainly provocative and, to be fair, evokes subtext that isn't applicable to this debate. For instance, in most cases, sweat shops are illegal and famous for abusing their employees (i.e. forced labor).

I think an assembly line (as pictured in the post) is a much better comparison. Assembly lines are legal and popular, their goal is to lower costs for the company as much as possible. In most cases, the comfort of the employee isn't a big consideration as the goal is to lower costs. They are noisy and they aren't great work environments. I do not want to work on an assembly line.

The open floor plan office, in my opinion, is very similar to an assembly line. Employees are in close proximity to one another and lack personal space or any kind of privacy. If you need to make a call, you need to leave your desk and go into the hall, bathroom, etc. Unlike the cubes of the past (which were not well loved) there's no place to put pictures of loved ones or to safely store reference material (manuals not available online, etc.) They are noisy and, as has been pointed out, they are harmful to the employees physical and mental well being. I do not want to work in an open floorplan office.

http://vanessaauditore.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/privac...


EFF and FSF aren't politically neutral in the broader sense. EFF is broadly libertarian, and FSF is, from what I can tell, generally leftist. Neither of those are bad things in and of themselves, but you should be aware before deciding to collaborate with them.


Also the EFF is aimed at protecting the rights of people who communicate electronically, and the FSF is aimed at protecting the rights of people who use software. Neither is aimed at protecting tech workers.


Are you trying to contrast the EFF and FSF with some other politically neutral cause or organization? If so, what or who? Why do you think they are politically neutral?


Also, even many leftists dont share FSF goals and opinions or dont care about them. FSF have few very specific goals they work towards.


The power that EFF and FSF are able to wield is miniscule in comparison to what is possible with a broad, industry wide union of tech workers.


Getting involved in only narrowly technical issues won't do.

What if your boss asks you to build a database to help the government track Muslims/illegal immigrants etc and you're uncomfortable with that?

If you supported the FSF, that might improve your chances of being able to build the database using free software.

Whereas if you unionized, that might improve your chances of being able to refuse to build the database in the first place.

And what if you're uncomfortable with much of the revenue you generate for your company going to the idle shareholders rather than your fellow workers?

Unionizing can help there too. Imagine if software companies were owned by workers themselves. That could be a reality if more of us unionized.


The implication being that the existing organizations don't worry about these things?

The EFF's focus is 'technical' only in the sense that it's restricted to topics which involve some kind of electronics. They've been campaigning against digital surveillance and mass profiling since before most politicians have been aware the issue mattered.

(The FSF isn't especially relevant here, but neither is the Sierra Club; you simply picked an issue they don't work on.)

It's true that the EFF won't save your job if you refuse to build a tracking database, but frankly I'm a bit confused what you think unions would do here. Unionization has a great track record on labor rights, but that looks more like "only spending 40 hours per week building the database". Union status isn't usually relevant to employees outright refusing assignments because of their conscience. And the EFFs focus here makes sense; as long as someone is willing to build the database (say, the sort of people who write malware for the government), opposing the plan overall is more important than opposing some specific contracting deal for it.

The move to revenue is a non sequitur which kind of looks like your real reason for focusing on unions, but I'm still not exactly sold. Software companies already distribute stock more than other companies, and have salaries as an unusually high portion of overall costs.

Meanwhile, "worker owned" and "unionized" are fundamentally different things, and I see no evidence that one leads to the other. Unionization usually happens as a response to not owning the company, and having no way to become owners. Software companies are vastly more likely to be some form of worker-owned (e.g. startup, co-op, stock-granting employer) than most business, which has historically been one reason they don't unionize.


Yeah unionizing can help: instead of making problems solvable with technology, in which compared to the average person we all excel, we can replace them with social interactions, where we will be eaten alive: and rather than have the ability to work in a different environment if we don't like our current one, we will be forced to work union rules whether we like them or not.

Somehow I also don't think that union will be political neutral, so I won't be building the muslim database, but I will be building the "who has a gun license" database.


I think you have really deeply bought into stereotypes of unions that, to the extent any of them are applicable, are only applicable to a subset of unions uncertain fields and only because of the market conditions in those fields.

And, on top of that, fail to recognize that some problems are inherently social, and ignoring that and failing to address them as such doesn't make them solvable by other means, it makes them nonsolvable.


Are you equating a firearm registration system with a fascist database of a minority religion?


Both will be used to deprive people of their rights.


The tech solidarity is at odds with the progressive causes. I would probably join a solidarity group, but I would not join one that pushed causes other than 'tech worker interests'


Yeah, same here. I'm not willing to stick my neck out for putting tech money into progressive causes (or conservative causes, for that matter). I'm willing to stick my neck out for better working conditions, retirement plans, professionalism standards, and fairness in equity compensation.


And do you think that you can really do that without working with other people?

I'm not the biggest fan of Tech Solidarity, but they understand, at least, that we (folks who work, as opposed to folks who own) are more in it together than we're not. Labor history bears this out; they can read a map.


Of course not. I simply recognize that pushing political agendas both alienates natural economic allies, and opens the door to co-opting the organization for things of no benefit to tech workers as a class.

Like, I don't give a fuck if people understand broad overarching concepts of solidarity and togetherness. Maybe I'm just a huge sperg, but what I want is concrete work on making tech work better. Make a flyer explaining stock compensation and how shady employers will structure things to screw you over, and publicize the shit out of it so that employers can't claim ignorance. Name-and-shame employers for having equity compensation terms so bad that they grants are effectively worthless. Something.


> I'm willing to stick my neck out for better working conditions, retirement plans, professionalism standards, and fairness in equity compensation.

That is a progressive cause, no?


Progressives like to think they're the only ones who care about that when, in reality, everyone except the strictest libertarian wants all of those things.

What frustrates me personally is the inability of many progressives to rationalize anything other than Marxist/socialist means for those ends and then act as if everyone who doesn't believe in those means doesn't share those end goals.


Even the "strictest libertarian" might want those things. As you say, the difference can be in the means, not the ends.


"Progressives" (whatever you think that label means) aren't the only people who support those causes. It seems like you're getting caught up on some private subtext assigned to the word "progressive."

Just curious, do you consider progressives the identity politics fanatics and staunch neoliberals? I'd spend some time arguing they're not progressively oriented at all.


> rationalize anything other than Marxist/socialist means

What does this actually mean?


Throwing around 'Marxist' seems extreme here, but I think I recognize the sentiment. There are a lot of ways to improve the position of workers, and historically progressivism has been interested in some and opposed to others.

Two examples:

If you want to improve salaries, you can do that via unionization and lobbying for guaranteed raises. That's a popular leftist approach. You can also do that by advocating for bonuses based on personal achievement or corporate profit. The left has generally been disinterested in that, and has indirectly opposed it by advocating for higher taxes on bonuses.

If you want to expand worker influence on how companies are run, you can found co-ops, establish worker's councils, and so on; these are popular leftist programs. You can also give meaningfully-large stock grants to large numbers of employees - equity-granting startups are worker-owned every bit as much as co-ops. This isn't a leftist initiative at all, and has been indirectly opposed by calls to heavily tax options and capital gains even when they're being given in lieu of salary.

I don't especially want to debate any of those as policies; it's just a demonstration of what some leftist and non-leftist roads to labor power look like.


Considering some of the loudest voices on the strong to far left today are self avowed Marxists, especially in labor movements, I don't think it's even a stretch or "throwing around terms". In fact, 'social justice' is a term directly attributed to the philosophies of Karl Marx.

I'm not an extremest on the other end, but it is not disingenuous to state that much of the left's visions are directly "Marxist". What would you call the idea of a "base livable wage" or "equity over equality"?


> Considering some of the loudest voices on the strong to far left today are self avowed Marxists, especially in labor movements, I don't think it's even a stretch or "throwing around terms".

The most historically important labor union of our time, Solidarność, was the largest player in driving the Communists out of Poland and bringing back capitalism. It doesn't seem to me that you're throwing around terms, it's more like you're just sort of wandering around accidentally dropping them on the floor.

Which is possibly rude to say, but the first person to use the word "postmodernism" in a conversation earns some demerits. (edit: that wasn't you. My bad!)

Another poster pointed out that a labor union is a bunch of laborers standing in solidarity for something they want. Acting as if that is always the same... well, have fun with that.


> The most historically important labor union of our time, Solidarność, was the largest player in driving the Communists out of Poland

You're confusing a labor union in a communist country versus those in a capitalist country. There is a long history of American labor unions being the main infiltration point of communist movements. The AFL CIO had to specifically write a bylaw in the 1950s to expel them.

Here's a really interesting interview of Thaddeus Russel, someone who was raised by two communists in Berkeley, whose main goal was infiltrating labor movements: https://youtu.be/x4YxSGFqOH8?t=3m50s


> You're confusing a labor union in a communist country versus those in a capitalist country.

It's not on me to intuit that your misuse of terms is limited to the United States. Your statement is funny, though, and would seem to imply that labor unions opposed to Marxism during Communist regimes would embrace Marxism once those governments adopted capitalism, for some reason. I wonder if there are any examples of that happening.

> someone who was raised by two communists in Berkeley, whose main goal was infiltrating labor movements

I think you've taken the notion that all Marxists like labor unions and taken it to imply that all labor unions like Marxism, which is obviously not true. You should be able to see the logical problem there, even if you're not interested in the historical specifics, which are interesting.

If you're limiting yourself to the American left-right political spectrum, which tends to lobotomize a political discussion, you can probably sort of justify calling unionization a "leftist" tactic. That's not about ideas at all, it is simply because what we call our "right" has defined itself as being opposed to unionization. Marxism has nothing to do with that, and calling unionization "Marxist/socialist" is really a bridge too far.


Stop being disingenuous. The article this comment thread is over is about someone specifically attempting to organize labor in the US.


> Perhaps you need to be more careful in the comments you make when you're addressing an international group of people whose interest goes a little deeper than talk-radio talking points.

Says the person who took an article about American labor organization and tried to make it about Europe.

> And in case it wasn't obvious: "progressives" often find being labelled Marxists irritating.

Except the term "progressives" was coined by Marxists and socialists in the 1930s to separate themselves from liberals.


> Says the person who took an article about American labor organization and tried to make it about Europe.

That is not what I did. What I did was find the most historically important counterexample to an unselfconsciously silly thing you said. If I had realized that we are pretending the rest of the world doesn't exist, I could have chosen the anti-Communist leadership of the Teamsters during the red scare or something.

Equating unionism with Marxism is goofy. I mean, honestly, go to the local pipefitter's union hall or something and poll a few people on their feelings regarding Karl Marx or worldwide worker's solidarity or control of the means of production. Please just be honest: do you really think you are going to find a lot of real Marxists?

> Except the term "progressives" was coined by Marxists and socialists in the 1930s to separate themselves from liberals.

Not to downplay the importance of etymology, which dang reminded me recently is quite important, but I think that if we project the values of today's "progressives" onto the depression era, it is obvious that they identify quite a bit more with the New Deal than with the progressive movement. Today, it is just a poorly thought out label. I think you can see why someone might view "Marxist" as a bit more than that.

It's a tangential point, but "progressivism" as a political term in the US dates back all the way to the 1890s. It meant something different in the 20s and 30s, which sort of illustrates the point I'm making.


> Except the term "progressives" was coined by Marxists and socialists in the 1930s

Its a simple and easily verifiable historical fact that that's not when or by whom “progressive” as a political label (or even one used in the US) was coined. In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt—who was neither a Marxist nor any other variety of socialist—ran for President under the banner of the “Progressive Party”.

And what you suggest is also not the origin of the modern use, which was from early 1990s liberals in the Democratic Party adopting the term largely in response to decades of Republican media efforts to make “liberal” a toxic term, but also as a distinguishing marker against the rising center-right neoliberal faction of the party.


> Except the term "progressives" was coined by Marxists and socialists in the 1930s to separate themselves from liberals.

In the US, the term "progressive" is much older than that. The party you're referring to is the third "progressive" party, started by Wallace in 1948. The first was in 1912, and the usage of the term goes back to the 19th century: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_(United_Stat...

The three parties had distinct platforms and motivations, and each used the term in ways that would be inconsistent with contemporary usage of the word. OP is clearly referring to contemporary usage of the word, so there's no reason to bring up the mid-20th century version of the party in that context.


Nothing I've written is disingenuous. Perhaps you need to be more careful in the comments you make when you're addressing an international group of people whose interest goes a little deeper than talk-radio talking points.

And in case it wasn't obvious: "progressives" often find being labelled Marxists irritating. It's one of the dumber things that happens in our political dialog, and if you do it in mixed company you'll sometimes be called out on it.


>If you want to improve salaries, you can do that via unionization and lobbying for guaranteed raises. That's a popular leftist approach. You can also do that by advocating for bonuses based on personal achievement or corporate profit. The left has generally been disinterested in that, and has indirectly opposed it by advocating for higher taxes on bonuses.

The reason they are disinterested in bonuses based upon personal achievement is because it is guaranteed to be used as a tool for favoritism and divide and rule, which ultimately just lowers worker compensation.

It will only work if the measure is objective, which is almost always impossible.


The counterexample to both these points is a union like the Screen Actors Guild, which allows superstars to be compensated accordingly and does not depend on something like objective measures of achievement. If I were a tech worker in a union I'd want it to go in that direction, as opposed to something like the traditional UAW.


Absolutely agree. They also run a multiemployer defined benefit plan, which might be worthwhile to set up. That, alongside defining and pushing for developer-friendly working conditions.


> The reason they are disinterested in bonuses based upon personal achievement is because it is guaranteed to be used as a tool for favoritism and divide and rule, which ultimately just lowers worker compensation.

And this doesn't happen in unions? The only difference is in who's getting bribed, management or the union boss.


Using tech industry working conditions as an example, progressives, on average, see the solution in unionizing (more bureaucracy, and the key breeding grounds for Bolshevik-like movements).

They tend to dismiss the more incentive-based approach of ending the abuse of the H1-B system, which is the key market driver for artificially low wages and poorer working conditions. This is because doing so is at odds with the post-modernist ideal of a borderless society.


> This is because doing so is at odds with the post-modernist ideal of a borderless society.

nit: "a borderless society" is compatible with postmodernist framing, but it is not the necessary outcome of one. Postmodernism is a category of schools of though, not a single one, and so some schools of postmodernism advocate a borderless society, but others are opposed to it.


It means some people use the words "Marxist" and "socialist" without any care as to what they actually mean.


See my other comments for how your allegation is baseless. From my perspective, so many "progressives" don't know the history of their own adopted philosophies (or previously attempted applications of them) to be able to properly categorize their origins in Marxism.


> That is a progressive cause, no?

Differing opinions are welcome but the last time I felt worker welfare was truly a core cause of the progressive mainstream was around the 1970s. It certainly wasn't by the 1990s and doesn't even seem to even be on the radar today as far as I can tell.


In principle, yes, but there's a huge empathy gap from most people involved in pushing progressive causes. Like, I'd expect a lot of those folks to straight-up mock us for bringing up open offices as an issue while being white men with six figure salaries.


You hear objections like this and you wonder how self-aware the people making them are. Principles are things you'll advocate for even when others mock you for them. Equally importantly: if "someone might mock me" is going to stop you from doing something, how do you do anything, ever? Are we on the same Internet?


I meant to make a point more like "I don't give money to people who obviously hold me in contempt."


> I’m not willing to stick my neck out

> empathy gap

Maybe if you were more open to helping them with threats to their livelihood, dignity, and well-being, they’d be more open to helping you with yours?

I don’t know, just a thought.


Traditionally yes, but it's not one that modern progressives seem to have much interest in.


No, we're too rich.


It's not politics if there isn't horse trading. Single issue pressure groups that do not form alliances with other groups do not achieve anything meaningful.


It's not horse trading if the very first thing you try to do is try to help out other groups. That's not forming alliances, that's selling your organization into chattel slavery.

Find the points where some dedicated work can help out tech workers as a class and push on them. Then once you have something worth trading for, sell it dearly and hold out for something worthwhile. IMO something like a volunteer writer to put out educational material relevant to working conditions in tech is probably the best bang-for-buck. Teach people how and why to job-hop and negotiate, make it concise, informative, and helpful, and put up a standard link to organization and request to sign up for the mailing list. Bog-standard growth-hacking, except peddling a professional organization rather than some startup's SaaS product.


Why not? Workers have a lot of power when they are organised as groups. Tech workers especially, since it is such a valued industry right now. If you organised with other tech workers, you could push for change with a lot more success than with other groups, so it makes sense to use that power to get change in every sphere of society you care about. Would you have the time/energy to work as part of all the different groups you care about? Would all those separate groups ever have the same size and power as one big group of combined interests? No. This is a terrible strategy to get the changes you want.

All the important social changes of the past - workplace safety, worker benefits, weekends, overtime, maternity leave, etc. - were achieved not individually by specially focused groups of organised workers. They were done through the actions and demands of mass movements of workers across industry lines. When you say "such-and-such group should only focus on the specific issues that affect them" then you are playing into the divide-and-conquer strategy of the ruling class and ensuring that you will gain less overall in the struggle against them.


> All the important social changes of the past - workplace safety, worker benefits, weekends, overtime, maternity leave, etc. - were achieved not individually by specially focused groups of organised workers.

So were a lot of other not-so-great things, like per-country immigration quotas (which we still have to this day), Puerto Rican colonialism (vestiges exist to this day as well, though at least the genocide stopped in the 1970s), - heck, even internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Organized labor lobbied heavily for all of those, because they protected the interests of white workers.

The problem with talking broadly about "solidarity" is that it's all contextual - who are you standing in solidarity with, and who are you standing in solidarity against? For people in minority groups and historically marginalized and disenfranchised people, it's not always clear that "solidarity" means solidarity with their interests - historically, it often means the exact opposite.

I'll probably get downvoted for pointing this out in a thread that's literally a PR piece advocating unionization of the tech industry, but it needs to be said.


You're totally right. There are huge problems with some of the things that happened in the labour movement and with how it turned out. Look at how unions in the traditional union industries like construction are just gatekeeping excellent jobs while other workers in these industries are being extremely exploited. That's a very blatant lack of solidarity.

This is not necessarily an argument against unions though. It means we need to stand for unions that are engaged in real solidarity with the workers and other oppressed groups. And that we must put pressure on any that are engaged in bad practices to change.


Since democracy also causes not-so-great things to happen, are you ok with it being overturned and replaced with a dictatorship?


Well for one thing, I am an extreme conservative by American standards. I would be more than willing to join a trade advocacy group, but I would never give money to an organization that was going to push for "progressive" causes. The changes I want outside of trade advocacy are more than likely not the ones you would want.


I don’t think you have fully considered what the word “solidarity” means here. The whole notion of solidarity is at odds with a sole focus on tech worker interests.


then the term "solidarity" loses meaning when prefixed with "tech worker", unless you mean a specific political subset of tech workers. But then that's not "tech worker solidarity" because you are separating out leftist tech workers from centrist or rightists.


This isn't about the interests of tech workers, it's about our responsibility to society as a group of people who have been handed a lot of power. In a world with so much inequality and suffering, don't you think that's important?


I disagree with the premise that inequality is a bad thing, other than practicing a trade my goals are probably not your goals.


It's interesting that the efforts to kick money out of tech are getting more traction than the efforts to unionize, even though unionization is by far the less extreme option.


I'm not sure we need more progressive activism in tech. After the way the James Damore thing was handled I'm starting to think maybe tech workers are safer keeping their political beliefs between them and the ballot box.

I think people should be free to hold any political belief, but are wise to separate work and politics.


I think you may have got triggered on a few of the words, and may not actually disagree with Tech Solidarity.

This is about tech workers organizing; realizing that their power is greater when they are united, and having greater ability to challenge what comes down from the top.

There are huge swathes of policy decisions made at technology companies where the engineering classes are likely to have different views to the executive class, like:

- What is reasonable data to exfiltrate from a user’s device?

- Can you open source this cool internal tool you’re working on?

- Should the company prevent you from working on FOSS projects in your spare time, or try and get first-dibs on patents you dream up on the BART?

If you want autonomy over your work-life, that means being able to speak frankly about the politics of work with your colleagues. Even if you or they feel uncomfortable occasionally.


Totally. Everything you’ve raised there seem like professional issues to me. I fully agree with unionising and working with other tech workers to address professional issues. Ethics and things related to work as a tech worker should be discussed and debated in the work place. But I’m not sure societal issues need be debated there. In your free time great, but not at the cost of your working relationships.

Sorry not trying to not pick on terms, just trying to better communicate my intention.


> But I’m not sure societal issues need be debated there.

Then you'd better organize your workplace so you can tell your colleagues what they can and can't talk about, or believe is an important aspect of their work.

The line between ethics in the technology industry, and societal issues is likely not as bright as you think.

You may wish that there wasn't overlap, but that doesn't make it the case. Figuring these things out is difficult, but if we want technology to represent the intentions of technologists (not executives and venture capitalists) then it is incumbent upon us!


>Then you'd better organize your workplace so you can tell your colleagues what they can and can't talk about, or believe is an important aspect of their work.

To clarify I'm only talking about my personal strategy, everyone else can do as they see fit.


Okay, but then they should stay 10 miles away from the word "progressive" (or any form thereof). That word now has unshakeable connotations that are incredibly divisive among tech workers.


Work and politics are inherently connected though. "Not being political" in the workplace is a political stance in itself - it's taking the position that the current state of politics is perfectly agreeable to you.

James Damore was made an example of, yes, because he went against the politics of the status quo. He made the mistake of not organising with others and building power as a group that challenges the status quo. This is why unionising is important: a demand from a mass worker movement that can pose a real threat to the status quo is the only demand that has a chance of being met.


> "Not being political" in the workplace is a political stance in itself - it's taking the position that the current state of politics is perfectly agreeable to you.

No, not being political in the workplace means someone values their stable income more than they value the need to talk about their opinions.

Even though their opinions might almost completely agree with what their peers think, it's abundantly clear that deviating even slightly from the orthodoxy within tech can be disastrous to one's ability to pay for their home and food.

edit: I can no longer delete this, but I would if I could. I'm not defending nor condemning any partisan stance. I am not stating my own opinion on any matter at hand. I'm giving what I think could be a reason for someone not wanting to be politically active.


> No, not being political in the workplace means someone values their stable income more than they value the need to talk about their opinions.

Support of the status quo is a political choice. There is no neutral.

Also, the option to "stay out of politics" is something not afforded to everybody. As a financially comfortable white guy with in-demand skills, I can do it. But if you are on the sharp end of any of America's ingrained biases, you may not be able to.

See, for example, all the women now able to come forward about workplace harassment. Their speaking out, their striving for workplaces where they are free of abuse: those are inevitably political actions. So too is ignoring or resisting that movement.


I don’t care about sports. Does that mean I support the latest Super Bowl winner?

Not everyone can afford not to care about sports. Does that mean I have to care about sports?


Your argument only makes sense if you view politics as optional entertainment and identity-decoration.

While this is increasingly the character of American politics, this is not what politics is about. Politics is ultimately a contest over resources (financial, social, etc). Whether or not you get them determines whether you’ll have a short life of misery or a long life of luxury.

Politics is the contest over who gets them, framed as who deserves them. If you have no interest in this contest, then either you have the luxury of little incentive to change it, or you genuinely believe that the current system is fair and equitable.

I’m yet to meet another human (of any political leaning) in the latter category. It is difficult to reconcile saying that you care about other humans, but you don’t care about politics. The same cannot be said of the Super Bowl.


You (and probably others) have dramatically shifted the goalposts here. It went from "not wanting to voice political opinions in the work place" to "not caring about politics." Those two things are drastically different and cannot and should not be considered the same.


To accommodate the apparent desire for sports analogies, my intention was to play the ball, not the man from the parent into it's own very deliberately planted goal posts.

WRT the discussion above the parent, I'd say that the two opposing posts are are actually in agreement:

> "Not being political" in the workplace is a political stance in itself - it's taking the position that the current state of politics is perfectly agreeable to you.

> ... not being political in the workplace means someone values their stable income more than they value the need to talk about their opinions.

If you accept that we have power to impact the real world in our professional lives as technologists, then these are perfectly compatible descriptions of the same stance.

I should say, I myself am at least partially in this camp. I firmly re-orient many discussions at work when I deem them to be unproductive, and pretty often this is because they drift into partisan 'badge-flashing'.

But, I'm not shy about speaking up about things at work where the actions of the company affect the balance of power out there in the real world and real people's lives. These decisions are important, if if they're going to be made, the impact of them should be discussed explicitly. This often means breaking the (political!) spell that user and investor interests are inherently aligned, for example.

Admittedly, this may be something which is probably felt more by people at large consumer Internet companies, as opposed to the technology/software industry as a whole.


Not voicing a political opinion is distinct from not being political. Spending 40+ hours a week supporting the status quo while helping maintain the norm that "political" opinions (that is, ones that take issue with the status quo) shouldn't be voiced is unavoidably a political act. It may be a reasonable one, and I'm not taking issue with people who do it. I just object to taking about it in a way that pretends that it isn't also political.


Pardon me while I refuse to indulge in your war over definitions. Meanwhile, the meaning of the phrase "I don't talk politics at work" is perfectly clear.


Sure. And if xupypd had said that originally, maybe it would have been clearer. But what he said was it'd be "wise to separate work and politics". That's not possible.


It is possible: don't talk about it. It's only impossible if you see the world in black and white.


You're the one seeing it a polarized way, your imaginary perfect separation between work and politics.

Consider, for example, unionization. In our culture, it's seen as heavily "political" right now. Consider the actions that trigger unionization: stewards of capital using their bargaining power to disadvantage laborers. That too is political, but is often treated as if it weren't.

There are places where the opposite applies: unionization is seen as normal, and therefore apolitical, while the power of capital is seen as strongly political.

What makes something accepted in some places and not in others? That too is politics. You're being political right now by trying to control what is even classified as political.


You completely missed my point. My point is that you're language lawyering by co-opting words by interpreting them in their loosest possible sense, even when it's clear the original arbiter of those words didn't invoke the word in the loosest possible sense. If you see the world in black and white, then this form of language lawyering make sense.

This language lawyering of yours is a straw man in disguise. You build up a claim that nobody is making ("I literally never ever participate in politics even though politics actually means 'every possible interaction with society'") but that everyone would agree is absurd. So... you win, I guess?

Meanwhile, when I talk to people in real life and say, "I don't discuss politics at work" or "I try to keep work and politics separate" they know exactly what I mean. But on HN? Forget about it. Language lawyers are here to ruin the day!

So what does "I try to keep work and politics separate" actually mean then? Well, you've shown an apparent attachment to the word "politics" to mean "literally every possible action" so I obviously can't use that word to explain it to you. And of course, many people might interpret the phrase slightly differently, but if I had to take a reasonable shot at it, I might say, "I try not to discuss current events in the same terms that politicians or pundits discuss them" or perhaps, "I try not to discuss perceived contentious or controversial issues at work" or perhaps "I try not to discuss my voting preferences at work" or perhaps "I try not to evangelize political candidates at work" or perhaps ... Well, I'm hoping you get the idea by now.

So why the heck do people say "politics" instead? Because it's pithy and vague, but somehow, some way, most folks seem capable of reasonably interpreting the statement to mean roughly some variant of what I said above. You know what's unreasonable though? Interpreting the statement to mean something that is trivially nonsensical.


I agree being too persnickety about language is a problem on HN. I deny I'm doing it here. Let's review.

This is in response to an article about Maciej Ceglowski's very clear advocacy of becoming politically active at work. About tech workers organizing to become politically active.

The comment that started this thread said, "I'm not sure we need more progressive activism in tech. [...] I think people should be free to hold any political belief, but are wise to separate work and politics."

Kiliantics said "Work and politics are inherently connected though. "Not being political" in the workplace is a political stance in itself [...]"

Jake Basile replied saying he just wanted to stay out of politics. I pointed out that itself was a political choice, and one only afforded to people who are sufficiently well off, that there was no way to be out of politics. Jptssn disagreed with this, comparing politics to sports, suggesting both were equally ignorable. Confounded pointed out the error in this thinking.

Then you jumped in to complain about goalpost-shifting, and here we are.

If somebody say they didn't like talking about politics at work, that'd be fine with me. That's a statement of preference. I don't like it either. If somebody were just saying they didn't talk about politics at work, that would also be fine by me as long as they understood that a) that was also a political choice, one that in practice means supporting the status quo and b) that was a personal luxury afforded to them by their position in society.

But in this thread we have a) the notion that we shouldn't have progressive activism or even talk about politics in a work context, and b) a claim that politics is both as separate and as dispensable as which group of guys moved a ball around more.

I (and others) object to that. I especially object to the notion that politics is distinct from "normal" or "just going to work". That's a way that people who benefit from and actively support the political status quo try erase cries for change from those who think the status quo should change.

In sum, if people want to actively argue for preserving the status quo, great. When people try to cut off discussion of changing the status quo as "political", not great, because that's just a sneaky way to defend the status quo. Make sense?


> Jake Basile replied saying he just wanted to stay out of politics. I pointed out that itself was a political choice

And that was exactly where the language lawyering began. If you think there is "no way out of politics" and someone else says "I stay out of politics" then it is manifestly obvious that both parties are using different definitions of the word "politics." Any further discussion that ignores the discrepancy in the uses of words such as perceived pithy points about "HAH! gotya! that is actually a political choice!" is just confusing the entire issue, knowingly or not.

Next time, just clarify what words mean. Instead of, "hah gotya!" ask, "what do you mean by staying out of politics?" Or just charitably interpret it using one of the many variants I listed.


Yes. I understood his use in that fashion and responded to it. You'll note that the bulk of my point was clearly about how his choice was a luxury, not about the language used itself.

If every white dude who "stays out of politics" understands that a) they can do that because previous political activity of white dudes has given them that option, and that b) they are supporting that system if they participate in that system while not talking about politics, then I have no beef with them.

My issue is with the erasure of that, the pretense that "staying out of politics" really is staying out of politics. An erasure performed in many places on this page, including by the politics-is-sports dude. Or by xupybd, who suggests the separation of work and politics.

If you think Jake Basile gets that and was not participating in that erasure, great. I'd say that at best it wasn't clear. But given his follow-up edit about "not being politically active", I'd still disagree.


OK, fine, then next time just say "assuming you're a 'white dude', check your privilege please" and be done with it. It's much shorter and makes your point much clearer.

> If every white dude who "stays out of politics" understands that a) they can do that because previous political activity of white dudes has given them that option, and that b) they are supporting that system if they participate in that system while not talking about politics, then I have no beef with them.

You are literally still assuming that everyone is using your definition of the word "politics." I don't know what else I can do to explain this to you. Re-read my comments I guess? Because you still haven't gotten it.


Buddy, I understand your point, I just don't agree. I've been thinking about the topic longer than you've been alive, so I'm unlikely to be persuaded by you just repeating your point ad nauseam.

I also didn't hire you as an editor, so you can take your amateur writing advice and fuck right off.


So since politics is important, not caring mean I support the winner?

You make a strong case for caring about politics. But I’m not convinced why low interest in an argument puts me on either side of it.

I’m sure a sports fan could make an eloquent case for caring about sports. But I don’t think they would say I’m anyone’s supporter by virtue of not watching the game.


If you could be mostly uninvolved in the game, sure. Move to the country, grow your own food, etc. But you participate on a daily basis. You're doing it right now.

It's like somebody saying they have nothing to do with engines when they drive a car every day. They may not know how the car works, and they may have low interest in raising the hood since it has always worked for them. But refusing to look at the machinery doesn't mean it isn't there.


I’m saying I can hardly support a regime by virtue of not caring about politics.

A new born child doesn’t understand and can’t care about politics. Would you say this child supports the ruling party? Never mind whether politics affects the child or vice versa.


Say you're living in 1930s Germany and you have the opportunity to either vote for or against the National Socialist German Workers' Party. If you're Aryan, you may have the luxury of thinking, "meh, same shit either way, I don't really care about politics". Other people in that society - Jews, Roma, homosexuals, etc. - don't have such a luxury. As minorities, they depend on what you and the rest of the electorate choose. One could argue therefore, that you have some of the burden of blame to bear if that outcome does end up impacting them with some kind of negative consequences...


Trolley problem. If I don’t pull the lever, maybe I can be blamed for it. But does it mean I support trolleys?


You can say that, but you're wrong.

A newborn child takes no actions and makes no statements. It is utterly dependent, contributing nothing. Is that you?

It's perfectly reasonable to say that you are happy enough with the status quo to support it. It's also reasonable to be afraid enough of the status quo to refuse to be in visible opposition to it. What's unreasonable is to be a beneficiary of and contributor to an intricate system of economy and authority and then act like it has nothing to do with you.


Luckily, I never claim politics has nothing to do with me.

Politics, sanitation, planetary orbits all affect me, and I contribute. But I don’t necessarily care about them all.

Your central thesis, that there “is no neutral”, is unworkable. Examples that fly in the face of it abound. Carve out the special cases, like you did for children, and there will be nothing left.


If you believe it is unworkable, demonstrate it. I'm making the claim for the average adult participant in the socioeconomic system, so I believe there's plenty left.

You claim you don't care; let's grant that for the moment, even though your energetic participation here suggests otherwise. Nobody's saying people can't not care. They are saying that taking a "not caring" stance while both benefiting from the status quo and contributing to the status quo is in effect supporting the status quo.

If you want to support the status quo, godspeed. There are many good things about it. I only object to people pretending the status quo has nothing to do with them when they quite obviously are an active part of it.


Support of the status quo is a political choice. There is no neutral.

The "status quo" is "the person who was elected gets to be President". It's OK for you not to believe in democracy per se, or in a specific flavour of it, that's Freedom. But let's call a spade a spade shall we?


It's far, far more than that. It's who has the wealth and how we divide wealth we create. It's the rules we make together, and the rules we follow without ever explicitly making them. It's who we hear from and who we don't. Who we trust and who we don't. It's how we frame these topics we're discussing.

Humans are social animals. We exist within a power structure that we help shape. We can't escape that. But we should be honest about it.


The "status quo" is "the person who was elected gets to be President".

He gets to be President until he's impeached, loses an election, or is declared unable to discharge his duties using the procedure in the 25th Amendment.

And... that's it. He doesn't get a guarantee that nobody will criticize him or his agenda. He doesn't get a guarantee that nobody will try to rally legislative support to prevent his agenda being enacted. He doesn't get a guarantee that nobody will use the courts to challenge his executive orders. He doesn't get a guarantee that the courts will allow any executive order he issues. He doesn't get a guarantee that state and local governments will assist federal initiatives. He doesn't get a guarantee that large donors will support him or his preferred candidates and causes.

There are many, many ways to challenge a sitting President without removing him from office. You don't have to challenge him, but the fact that you choose not to is a political choice, not an apolitical one, since it constitutes acceptance of and complicity in whatever he manages to do as a result of not being challenged.

Neutrality and "apolitical" stances are never neutral or apolitical. They always constitute acceptance of whatever will happen in the absence of your explicit action, since if you didn't want that stuff to happen you had an opportunity to challenge it and actively chose not to.


it constitutes acceptance of and complicity in whatever

I'm not sure you really believe that, here's an experiment to find out: did your feelings about Hillary change at all as a result of the Weinstein thing? Do you feel complicit in all Weinstein's deeds? Or substitute any of the many Hillary-supporters caught up in scandals now.

Just as an experiment of course.


I'm not sure you believe the premise of your own retort, which is that all people must at all times be either 100% absolutely good or 100% absolutely evil, and that expressing a preference for one candidate over another is equivalent to absolute support for 100% of that candidate's positions and actions.

All I have to do to avoid your oh-so-clever and original knock-down checkmate demolition of a response is point out that it's possible to express a preference for A over B while finding neither to be ideal, and to endorse A while also wanting to influence A to change their position or behavior on certain things. And this is perfectly consistent, since my position is that silence and nonaction are complicity, and what I advocate here is speaking up and acting. I can even head off the inevitable further send-me-fleeing-from-the-room-while-an-eagle-sheds-a-tear-etc. complete killer retort of "well why aren't you busy denouncing Hillary Clinton with your every breath then" by pointing out that I can in fact prioritize issues and say "I acknowledge this thing was bad, and want to return to it, but there is another thing currently happening that I consider worse and am prioritizing at the moment".

(like most people who try to fight on this, you're a bit formulaic; would you like to at least try raising something original?)


>I'm not sure you really believe that, here's an experiment to find out: did your feelings about Hillary change at all as a result of the Weinstein thing? Do you feel complicit in all Weinstein's deeds? Or substitute any of the many Hillary-supporters caught up in scandals now.

I've been feeling particularly smug, after all these corruption and graft scandals, to be on my #BernieWouldHaveWon train.


> I've been feeling particularly smug, after all these corruption and graft scandals, to be on my #BernieWouldHaveWon train.

Oh, cool, do you have some actual evidence about the alleged HRC corruption and graft scandals that you can share?


Donna Brazile wrote a whole book about it. Money meant for down-ballot races was being funneled to the HRC campaign, and both HRC and Obama had left the DNC in heavy debt. From the stories, it sounds like the Party didn't like Obama much more back in 2008 than they liked Bernie in 2016, and as a result, they basically rejected Obama's attempts to reconcile and merge his electioneering efforts back into the Party. This basically fucked them over completely on down-ballot races.

The Democratic Party sounds like a terrific lesson in the Iron Law of Institutions, and right now, much of the American Left (that is, actual left, social-democratic and leftward) is behaving the same way, too.


> Donna Brazile wrote a whole book about it.

Her claims that the DNC rigged the primaries were quickly shot down as bullshit and she walked them back the very next day.


Maybe so, but nonetheless, it shows how the DNC has traditionally been a device for funneling money from ostensible members of the Democratic Party, to whichever presidential campaign is on at the time. If you ever wondered why the Democrats lost so many down-ballot seats, the basic answer is: because they sent all their money to Hillary, Obama, and then Hillary, including the money meant for the down-ballot races. Pay nothing, play not at all, lose by default.


>>> Donna Brazile wrote a whole book about [HRC corruption] >> Her claims were bullshit and she walked them back. > Maybe so, but nonetheless, it shows [...]

No, look, you can't say "this proves it", have that proved to be bullshit, and just go "maybe so but" and carry on with your disproven argument!


Why would they? Weinstein supported Hillary, not the other way round.


Support is not the same as toleration, indifference, or complacency. That being said, they are choices, as you say, though awareness and fear do affect culpability (something that seems to be implied in your comment).


For a system you are outside of, sure. But we're talking about a system that people are actively participating in. E.g., the people who spend 50 hours a week working at Uber are supporting Uber, whatever their attitude toward it. I suppose the possible exception is somebody who goes in and consciously sabotages the place for 50 hours a week, but that's the edgiest of edge cases.


To a point, there is a reason why I don't wear on my sleeve some of my beliefs be them political, social, economical, or whatever.

Morally, ethically, fill-in-the-blank, there is a variety of spectrums I am happy to hold my tongue on until my personal limit is reached. Yes, it varies on any given range. I'm not sure it's fair. No, it's not consistent because I'm Human; don't sue me.

> "Not being political" in the workplace is a political stance in itself

I agree. I don't know why this is necessarily wrong. Maybe I like the current political stance, whatever that is. If any one of us thinks it's wrong, we can act and speak and accept accordingly.


I'm disagreeing with the premise that because someone doesn't speak up, they must agree with the status quo. These things don't follow. They simply don't disagree enough to risk whatever they would be risking by speaking up.


>I'm disagreeing with the premise that because someone doesn't speak up, they must agree with the status quo

What do you think about the notion of "the standard you walk past is the standard you accept?"

>They simply don't disagree enough to risk whatever they would be risking by speaking up.

That would make sense under some fantastical rule that exlcuded speech (or silence) from being political whenever "risk" is involved; but deciding to speak or be silent based on a risk/reward tradeoff is still a political decision.


Perhaps ‘implicitly support’ is the better phrase to use than support. But: “Qui tacet consentiret”


> it's abundantly clear that deviating even slightly from the orthodoxy within tech can be disastrous to one's ability to pay for their home and food

This does not square with reality as I've experienced it. Hell, I've worked with someone who thought von Mises had a point--and he'd argue with you about it. Loudly, in public, and in written formats. There are receipts. And yet somehow, despite the mustachio-twirling machinations of the "orthodoxy", he's still thriving in the industry. Promoted regularly, big fat stock-option grants, the works. Despite not being anything special technically, just another guy. Somehow, disagreeing but not being an odious prick about it seems to go okay, and he's certainly not the only well-paid-and-respected person I know in the industry with loony views. (He's the only one I know who I like, but that's another thing.)

But I left a catch in there. There's that "being an odious prick about it" part, isn't there? There's the "writing manifestos impugning your coworkers based on their gender" part, there's the "throwing money at political factions bent on making the lives of your coworkers worse" part. Yeah, that's going to get people mad. That might make people not want to work with you. But why should they? When you're an active threat to their well-being, of course they want to see the back of you. And it sure sounds like you're mixing that up with "deviating even slightly from the orthodoxy".


> And it sure sounds like you're mixing that up with "deviating even slightly from the orthodoxy".

You're just proving my point with your insinuation that when I explain why some people might not be comfortable sharing their political views in their workplace that I am somehow condoning whatever negative political ideology you disagree with. I have said absolutely nothing of my own politics.


[flagged]


You need to fix how you address other community members. The guidelines ask us to comment civilly and substantively, and what you're doing here is rhetorical bullying.

Don't you want us to have thoughtful and insightful conversations about this? Stop sabotaging it.


> Sorry, my dude, but I know where your car is parked.

You don't know anything about me. I think I'm actually a pretty alright guy, and I treat everyone with as much respect as they treat me.

It's wonderful that on a post about why some people are afraid to bring politics to work, I'm being witchhunted now because I answered, in a completely non-partisan way, why that might be.

I regret even making my post. Discourse is impossible anymore.


I think that there are two lines here that are easy to conflate. 1) That the golden rule "treat others as you would like to be treated" is sufficient to make you A Good Person, or at least not complicit in any sort of -ism.

2) That, as (assumption here) a member of the ethnic/cultural majority in tech, there's some obligation to speak up for those who may not be able to do so themselves - the social dynamics are different when a member of the 'in' group calls the group out on exclusionary behavior, as opposed to when an 'out' group-er does so.

On some level, this is a cultural divide, and at least from my perspective, we're perhaps realizing that the first line is insufficient - plenty of repugnant norms and behaviors have been implicitly approved by mainstream society despite everyone conforming to the 'golden rule'.


What's happening here isn't "witch hunting," it's discussion on a forum.

You may be uncomfortable being questioned or critiqued, but lamentably that is par for the course when posting to a discussion forum.

There may also be fora where what you say isn't called into question; this, I don't think, is one of them.

Discourse is certainly possible.


His whole manifesto was riven with statements that he was explicitly not claiming his female coworkers shouldn't be there.

The fact that people keep repeating this lie is disturbing. The document is public.

https://medium.com/@Cernovich/full-james-damore-memo-uncenso...


> "throwing money at political factions bent on making the lives of your coworkers worse"

That would describe every political donation.


I don't think that's a universally accepted position.


Are you saying James was being an an odious prick? Have you read what he wrote? Or heard that he was encouraged to give feed back?


Has there ever been a study on the effectiveness of "you're either with us or against us"? My sense is that forcing everyone to pick a side, even if by declaring the silent or fence sitters as an opponent by default, brings one's side a short term increase in supporters as those who are fearful of being seen as the enemy are pushed into tepid support while the vast majority who had been keeping their heads down either openly become the opposition or continue to keep their heads down while silently agreeing with the opposition out of resentment for those who forced them into making a choice.


Interesting question. I don't want to claim I have an answer, but I am reminded of an experiment that Bob Altemeyer mentions in his book https://theauthoritarians.org/.

They tried some United Nations simulations with people who he calls authoritarians (of which one trait could be described as subscribing to either with us or against us mentality), and the result was always a total nuclear war.


I think you're making a false equivalence, to a degree. No one has said that you're "with us or against us". The point is more that "if you remain silent, you stand on the side of the oppressor"

Here's an MLK quote better to that effect:

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."


Would you also say that “not being religious is a religion in itself?” Or that “not being sick is a disease in itself?”

Maybe there are games I’m just not interested in playing.

There are many different ways to frame the human experience. “Democrats v. Republicans” is only one.


Politics is not a game or a religious belief. It is a literal matter of life and death for millions of people who have very little power. (Hint: not tech workers.)


Politics is the result of ethical values, which according to quite a lot of philosophy is a form of belief. Religion can and in many place do play a major role in forming such ethical values, which is partial reason why religion has so close connection in forming politics.

Ethical values impacts literal matter of life and death for millions of people. This is true. Ethical values differs also from people to people and is a deeply aspect of personal identity. As such, challenging coworkers on a political level also means challenging coworkers personal identity, and that just something which the workplace is poorly designed for.


You have the right to advocate for these people. You do not have the right to use the tech industry as your personal tool for doing so or to shame people who have other priorities.


But again, these two things are connected. IBM is in the tech industry, wouldn't you say? It had ties with the Nazi regime during the Holocaust [0], taking advantage of the crimes of Germany for profit. There were many companies at the time which did so.

Your work is directly linked with exploitation and oppression of people around the world, in almost every industry. The tech industry is directly linked to child slavery in the Congo, mining Cobalt for hardware. And tech players have a big role in worker's rights in the US too, think about Uber drivers. There's every reason why tech workers should use their united power to do something about these issues.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust


Everything is connected. Society is a fabric. You're not going to win me over to your side by talking constantly about how we're all guilty because we're all connected or nonsense like that. The tech industry and the people working in it have no special responsibility to work toward social causes and I'm going to oppose any attempts to hijack it.


"not being religious is a religion in itself?"

Possibly. It's certainly possible to experience "religious discrimination" as a result of not being religious. The right to be non-religious is essentially a political one.

> “Democrats v. Republicans” is only one.

That's an extremely narrow view of what politics is. I can't blame you for that because a lot of people want to jam everything down to that narrow view, but there are plenty of things in politics other than factionalism.


> James Damore was made an example of, yes, because he went against the politics of the status quo.

No, he was "made an example of" because he made working with him untenable when he said 30% of the company weren't capable and only there due to quota filling and tried to justify that with utter bullshit non-science (showing up his critical thinking skills as non-existent - not good in a software engineer context.)


> I'm not sure we need more progressive activism in tech. After the way the James Damore thing was handled I'm starting to think maybe tech workers are safer keeping their political beliefs between them and the ballot box.

The whole point of tech-worker organizing is to, for instance, obtain more secure employment than at-will law provides for, keeping companies from firing people who accidentally generate bad publicity by falling into an HR honeypot. Under a sensible system, whatever Damore's private opinions, I do believe it would have counted as Google basically entrapping him.


I don't trust the people organizing tech worker "solidarity" to actually protect everyone's free expression. History suggests that the solidarity effort is instead about further enforcing ideological rigidity.


> I don't trust the people organizing tech worker "solidarity" to actually protect everyone's free expression. History suggests that the solidarity effort is instead about further enforcing ideological rigidity.

It also doesn't particularly help when some of its prominent advocates are on the record stating that some intersections of gender and racial minorities are less important than others.


Can you explain who and what you mean by this?


Having been a member of a union, I've seen unions protect unpopular people, including sexual harassers. I have mixed feelings about this. I do think the harassers deserve to go through a fair process ultimately though.

Also see for example how "progressive" police unions are.


It's always safer to be less political. It's safer not to be political in your professional life, and not to be political in your personal life. It's safer to look after yourself.

If you actually care to act civically, if you care about your political beliefs, then you might want to consider the impact of what you do. What you do in your personal life is likely to be much less socially impactful than what you do at work. If you are not concerned about your impact then it doesn't matter.


>It's always safer to be less political. It's safer not to be political in your professional life, and not to be political in your personal life. It's safer to look after yourself.

It's only safer until your life is disrupted by politics. Be it access to healthcare, taxes, education, etc it's a certainty that at some point ignoring politics will stop being a great option.


Don't ignore but don't get petty either, post political society awaits us


There is no "post-political society". Society is defined by politics; "politics" appear as soon as three people are in a room together. "Politics" is an active, controlling, and inescapable force that permeates every connection between those people, between you and me, and between everybody else around. There is no "post-political" society unless everybody's dead.

And, to make it really-real clear, it's not "petty" to refuse to associate with people who want to make life significantly worse for you and yours. It's defense.


The same argument could be made for irrigation systems and crops, open marketplaces, or technological progress. All are necessary entanglements in a society and allow a society to be and flourish, but I don't define politics as something so nebulous and impenetrable an idea, politics is more about the relationships,dynamics and interactions of people and their values, and if we all cared more for one another than for temporary gains we could achieve what one might call a Post Political Paradise


No such thing as a "post-political" society in which states and other enforced power structures still exist. You want a post-political society? Sounds like you're an anarchist ;-).


> It's always safer to be less political.

Not anymore. If someone at work brings the discussion to some wedge issue and you dare say nothing, or "I don't have an opinion about it", God helps you. You'll be labelled anti-X, Y-phobic or Z-supremacist because you dared not expressly agree with someone's "right side of history" political stance...


Not my experience at Bay Area tech companies.


I agree.


"The personal is political." Injustice cannot be compartmentalized away.


I agree to an extent but let me put it like this. I'm very conservative, to the point that many at my work place would disagree with the way I live and others around me live. So I'm not super open at my work place. I like my co workers and I enjoy working with them despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. This is only possible because we silently agree to disagree on those topics by not bringing them to work.


The phrase "The personal is politial" is associated with second-wave feminism. I never expected to see it applied to James Damore.

Something to think about for both of us. ;)


I know you mean you say that injustice should not be compartmentalized away, but it's worth making this explicit.

History tells us unequivocally that it absolutely can be.


You do understand that itself is a political position, right? The notion that people must entirely erase themselves to conform to the preferences of whoever is paying them is a very particular viewpoint, one that demands very specific power relationships. And it's only even hazily tenable to the extent that one's interests align with the status quo.


Damore wasn't fired for political beliefs. That's a narrative spread by conservatives because it gets people riled up and lets then act like victims.

He was fired because he made statements that pissed off a fair number of his coworkers, and that were not in line with the companies views.


For the most part, its safer not to stick your head up. There's a real chilling effect in action, and for the sake of your career, it's better to keep your opinions to yourself, lest the torches and pitchforks be directed at you.


People in other countries routinely face much greater threats of reprisal than those faced by most activists in the US.

In other countries you have people resisting in the face of totalitarian regimes which brook no dissent under threat of death or torture for activists and their families. Yet people still resist.

As far as I'm aware, we're still far from a state of affairs where joining a union in the US means facing those kinds of risks. Yes, it might affect your career negatively -- but it might also affect it positively, as there are among us people who actually look at union membership as something to be proud of rather than hide.

Yes, there are libertarians and economic conservatives who froth at the mouth at the very mention of a union, but I haven't heard of many of them actually going as far as killing people for joining unions in recent decades.

So what kind of risks are you realistically going to face if you join a union?


That escalated quickly. From chilling effect for the sake of the career to torture and killing.


In late 19th to early 20th century in America (and some other places), union membership actually could be a life or death proposition. Back then, violence went so far, particularly around mining industries, at times to literally be called as warfare and battles.

Examples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_Wars https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_Labor_Wars etc.

At this point in America, push-back against organized labor (or in fact most other activism) doesn't reach this level. In some countries, however, activism of any kind is still potentially on this level of risk.


Realistically it seems the impediment is perceived loss of comfort from loss of income.


That's always been true of all organizing efforts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Workers_of_the_Worl...

"The extremely high rate of IWW membership turnover during this era (estimated at 133% per decade) makes it difficult for historians to state membership totals with any certainty, as workers tended to join the IWW in large numbers for relatively short periods (e.g., during labor strikes and periods of generalized economic distress)."

The question is why union efforts do so well in some eras, and so badly in other eras. And why the workers become militant in some eras, but not other eras.



"for the most part its safer to watch others being targeted, its better to deaden yourself and empty yourself of all empathy lest you do anything at all of substance in this world"


Culture is something that top senior leadership is responsible for. And in that regard, they also have to lead by example.

If senior leadership represent mono-political-views, and their actions are representative of their views, then the rest of the organization will act the same and we feel the need to act the same.

So if (or rather 'when') senior leadership in US tech company (or a non tech company, like a bank) was mocking Trump and his supporters, you can be sure that employees not sharing those views, would be feeling unsafe (in the sense of keeping their job/promotion opportunities/word-of-mouth effects).

Anti-Trump crowd tends to call their views and

policies 'progressive',

their positions on labor force/visa as 'inclusive'

their unacceptance of opposing view as 'fight against bunch of '..isms''.

--

A side point..

It is unfortunate that politicians, their media propaganda arm, (and trial lawyers) take such an active role in 'wordsmithing' that, they pollute the meanings of the words. To the point, those words feel 'dirty' or 'less impactful' to be used (because they are now 'loaded' ).


The idea that top leadership is responsible for culture is exactly what makes organizing in tech so exasperating.

Tech workers can have their own culture, their own priorities, their own views on what is ethical, important, and valuable in life. And they can come together in defense of those values in a way that senior management must understand, accept, and respect.

That ability to come together, organize, and prevail is something people gave their lives for. It mattered to them and should not be something we give up.


Perhaps a better way to phrase things is that top leadership is responsible for creating a set of environmental conditions where the right culture can thrive and grow.

A not-insignificant chunk of that is in choosing the right people, which is more than just selecting for raw ability.

It's a mix of having enough skills to contribute, and having the ability to rapidly adapt and upskill on top of that, but it's also being collaborative and working to strengthen the organization at all levels, and being kind and considerate of others.

The way that you structure your organization has a huge impact on all of those things.

Stack ranking? Kiss collaboration goodbye. You've just put every team member at odds with their peers for their very survival.

Purely top-down performance reviews? People will put more effort into being visible to their managers than in being helpful to their peers.

And so on it goes with interviews, onboarding, etc.

All of these things matter hugely, and they all very much flow from the top of the organization.


You're missing the point of organizing, which is to ensure that if the workers don't like the culture, they can force the top leadership to make changes to the "environmental conditions"


I agree. They are also missing the conflictions with top leadership first being responsible for making money. I think the points made here are fine and good, but not exactly helpful.


So... Organize!


It's not "anti-Trump", it's anti-incompetent-buffoon-who-is-likely-to-destroy-international-relations-for-decades-and-plunge-us-into-nuclear-war.


I think it need to be resaid: Do we make world a better place by progressing technologically/scientifically or socially ? There is really not much time for both. No offence to those who do later, but I like to believe that we do former here. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Working together for a tech is beautiful endeavour completely oppositie to a political movement.


Technical progress without social progress is the standard road to dystopia. At best this is China. At worst it's Saudi Arabia: glittering cities of the mega-wealthy built by slaves.

You cannot say that something is "better" without considering how you're evaluating that and for whom it's better.


I object to the postmodern relativism embedded in your comment. "Better" can be universal in science and technology. Cleaner energy, faster processors, and less disease are not socially constructed forms of bullshit. These improvements are real.

Technical progress, in fact, is the only progress. Moral fashions comes and go, but we remember new scientific principles and how to apply them. Far too often, I see people try to slow the development of technology to suit the current moral fashion. That infuriates me: technology improves the human condition far more than moralizing ever has, and slowing technology development creates incomprehensible amounts of human misery.


How was the invention of chemical weapons "universally better"?

And where would you rather life: In a world with the technology of today, but the value system of 1438. Or in a world with today's system of law and human rights, but with the technology of 1438?


Any scheme that would have blocked chemical weapons research would also have blocked the green revolution. We're never worse off for having more basic knowledge about the universe. If you don't like chemical weapons, do something about people using them. Don't try to keep people ignorant.

Re dates: moral fads always look like moral progress from the inside. That doesn't make it so. I hope that our ancestors are kinder to us than we are to our own predecessors.


Yeah, now you're doing some sort of logical yoga, with an added dose of maybe-identured-servitude-was-actually-great-relativism.

Also, if I did "something about people using [chemical weapons]" wouldn't many of the things I would do qualify as useless non-technical progress? After all it's not technology that stops the US from dropping Sarin on ISIS, but the Chemical Weapons Convention.


I think you mistook who we are. By we mean those who already are doing TP, not everyone. That would be everyone here.

There are enough people for everything. Some can do TP and others SP. If you are capable of doing TP then doing SP is inefficient use of resource.


>Do we make world a better place by progressing technologically/scientifically or socially ? There is really not much time for both.

There's time and need for both.


Absolutely shocked, shocked there is such a dearth of understanding, let alone endorsement of an organizing push in the tech sector on HN. fwiw I'm actually farther to the left of mace, and I disagree substantially with some of his positions, but there are few issues in such dire need of exposure and support. Here's to another year of work and a deeper foundation laid. Cheers to those of you doing this work, you are noticed, your work is not in vain.


Such perceptions of HN are, as far as I can tell, in the eye of the beholder. People with different politics just find different samples to consider representative (e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15585780, https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%2013110004&sort=byDate...).

The statistical distribution known as "HN" isn't consistently political in any clear way; what it consistently is is contrarian. As soon as a theme appears, comments appear to contradict it. The theme here happened to be one way, so the contradictions go the other—they have to, otherwise what's a poor contradiction to do? Once those appear, then the contradictions of the contradictions show up (often with comments that begin "I can't believe that HN..." or some such). Circle of life on the internet.


while I appreciate who you are, I've also been on this site almost since the very beginning. I almost never comment, and didn't start commenting for literally years because of the quite obvious political/economic biases of the main contributors, which has seemed in the long run to have held rather steady. There are outliers, of course, but I'd be willing to bet that the proportion of highest voted commenters identifying as pro-labor, let alone critical or hostile to capital, is going to be vanishingly small. especially given that it was originally called Startup News (or something along those lines). Grahams politics are also well known, and I've actually asked him, myself, directly, about them at a well known conference.

I'm also a little weirded out that someone who seems as scientifically/mathematically literate as you would link to a couple of comments as if the story of HNs political biases would be summed up or even broadly illuminated that way.

Again, I know who you are, I know what a pain in the ass the work you do here is, I just think that maybe you're a bit too close to the sun to see this one. My 2 cents.


I'm _the_ highest voted commenter on the site, by a weird and embarrassing margin, and I'm pro-labor (though not anti-capital).


First against the wall! The Revolution will be sorting by HN karma.


which is not by itself indicative of anything other than regard for your opinions on security? Really man? I get that you want to go to bat for dang here, but way to sidestep my point, I said quote "the proportion of the highest voted commentors that are pro labor or hostile to capital will be vanishingly small." There's a fair amount of semantics around what that could mean in practice, but one person, who themselves complains about HN social/political biases on twitter on the regular does not a majority make.

edit: not to mention I noted in my post to dang that there will be outliers, which, again, you clearly are at an internet forum originally and still largely dedicated to startups, a demographic slice not exactly well known for their love of labor rights.


I'm not from the US and I'm fairly left wing by HN standards (although I did co-found a VC backed startup - although quite a long time ago) and I'd have to agree with dang on this one - I don't really see any great consistency of political views on HN.

There are also quite a lot of comments and articles pointing out the negatives of working at startups and the risks of working with VCs - while I'd agree they are in the minority I don't think comments that are "hostile to capital" are necessarily shouted down.


> let alone critical or hostile to capital, is going to be vanishingly small

This is nowhere near true.


This is an interesting perspective but it doesn't really mesh with my experience. If I had to describe the typical political sympathies of HN, it would be "somewhat right of center on everything, except far left on tech policy" (e.g. strongly pro net neutrality [1], lukewarm on race/gender disparities in hiring [2]). Can you think of a big thread that drew a solidly left-leaning reaction on a social issue?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14754772

[2] https://hn.algolia.com/?query=diversity&sort=byPopularity&pr...


Not really right.

Anti-surveillance, anti-war, mildly anti-consumerist, mildly pro-immigration, mildly anti-religion, anti-nationalism, anti-monopoly, anti-drug-war, anti-1%

Right-wing politicians campaign on the exact opposite of all of these positions. It's not too different than libertarian, but right has almost nothing in common with libertarian anymore.


Anything related to universal basic income? UBI is a hard left policy - it's essentially welfare+++


Much of the support for UBI comes from a segment of the libertarian right which sees it as a way to eliminate welfare bureaucracy and regulation (not just regulation in the public benefit space, but also minimum wages and some others.)

It's not really a “hard left” policy, it's more a policy of pragmatic libertarians on both left and right, opposed by both dogmatic libertarians (because it remains a public intervention, if lighter-touch than the status quo policies it would displace immediately or over time) and those on the left and right with a stronger preference for government control and direction.


[flagged]


Would you please not post unsubstantive comments here, let alone on divisive topics? If you can't take the time to post thoughtfully, please don't post.


I felt the piece implied that organization is a universal good, to be desired by all workers. My comment was intended to register that at least one person, my self, does not want to be part of a union, or put in a position to choose between being employed with a union or unemployed without (due to unions bullying and leveraging companies to coerce membership). I guess I could've used more words, and less emphatic language, I can't do anything about it this point.

And for what it's worth, the votes did ping-pong around quite a bit, which means that at least some people understood the point I was making in so few words, and felt it was worth promoting.


That's OK, just continue to work as a contractor where you pay your own holidays, sick leave, etc. Don't expect any of the benefits unionized workers win to come your way.


Unions use all kinds of unpleasant coercion to 'encourage' people to join them including black listing of scabs and companies that use them.


Well, it turns out that wages for non-unionized jobs rise in the vicinity of active unions. So even those who oppose unionization may benefit.


[flagged]


Since I suppose this may not be obvious to everyone, we ban accounts that troll like this.


I've enjoyed Ceglowski's talks but he says a lot of things that just are clearly wrong in this article.

"When you have a monopoly you can’t really have a consumer boycott," Ceglowski said. "People can’t realistically not use Google or Facebook at this stage"

What? People can't not use Google or Facebook? I use Bing sometimes, it works fine, and of course you only really need to use search engines at all if your job requires it. And lots of people don't use Facebook, or used to use it and no longer do. This statement is just so clearly and factually false it is disappointing.

For progressives like Ceglowski, organizing tech workers is ... about pressuring companies to do better on a range of issues, from sexual harassment in the workplace, to user privacy and security, to election integrity

"Election integrity" presumably meaning that he wants the tech industry to control what people see about politics and politicians, lest they accidentally vote for the wrong guy.

As for doing more on progressive agendas ... the big tech firms are all notoriously controlled by an extremist "progressive" agenda already. How exactly does this guy expect Google to do even more than it already does on things like privacy and security, or sexual harassment in the workplace? They fired Damore for having the audacity to point out that years of bending over backwards to recruit more women had failed to make much difference because women don't study CS at the same rate - a verifiable fact that upset a bunch of fundamentalist feminists.

The idea that the tech industry needs to unionise to force tech firms to be even more Clintonite, globalist and to try and control elections is tremendously disturbing. My respect for this guy has plummeted.


No, the tech labor force needs to organize to force tech firms to operate in ways that respect the majority of their employees, rather than ignoring them entirely.


That sounds good, but in practice, such organization will amount to the destruction of the meritocracy and the elevation of a certain set of political views to the status of job requirements.

A tech union would, I think, inevitably devolve to the kind of organization that denies the existence of skill differentials.


You say this as if tech is currently a meritocracy.


It's closer to a meritocracy than practically any other field. I firmly reject the postmodern war on quality and the dismissal of merit as an illusion or a form of oppression. Impact matters.


This is a field that in 2017 still deploys vast amounts of new PHP code, and in which the most successful new database offering of the last 5 years has been MongoDB. You've got a very tough row to hoe to support the argument that it's a "meritocracy".


Google recently settled a lawsuit with its engineers for $410 million, for colluding with other tech companies to keep engineering wages down. It's currently under investigation from the Department of Labor to determine whether they are giving equal pay for equal work. I don't think the meritocracy you describe currently exists.


there is no such thing as meritocracy


> What? People can't not use Google or Facebook? I use Bing sometimes, it works fine, and of course you only really need to use search engines at all if your job requires it.

Peter Thiel has a book called Zero to One that spends an entire early chapter discussing the techniques companies like (specifically) Google use in order to hold a practical monopoly while not exposing themselves to anti-monopoly regulation. In Thiel’s opinion this is deliberate, and a tactic that should be used in the readers’ own company.

> "Election integrity" presumably meaning that he wants the tech industry to control what people see about politics and politicians, lest they accidentally vote for the wrong guy.

That’s a pretty poor-faith interpretation of “election integrity” given that the companies ‘idlewords targets include companies that have spent the last few weeks testifying before Congressional committees on this very topic.

> They fired Damore for having the audacity to point out that years of bending over backwards to recruit more women had failed to make much difference because women don't study CS at the same rate - a verifiable fact that upset a bunch of fundamentalist feminists.

Ah! See, I knew you were capable of a good-faith interpretation of someone’s writing.

> ...even more Clintonite, globalist and to try and control elections is tremendously disturbing.

...




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