1) All of my experiences related to unions have been negative. Things become more bureaucratic and inefficient ("oh no, you can't move that box, we need to wait for the union person whose job description is to move the box"), people are promoted because of seniority and not because of merit, bad performers up to and including flagrant criminals can't be fired because the union would rally to support them no matter how in the wrong they are, etc.
2) FAANG-type jobs have to be the cushiest jobs around. I mean, look at http://levels.fyi. Who else gets paid that kind of money right out of college, for doing a very comfortable office job, with a ton of perks on top?
I get that unions might be necessary in industries where workers are actually exploited, to protect said workers. But FAANG engineers are pretty much in the opposite situation. I don't like people creating an us-vs-them situation that doesn't exist, just so they can promote their own politics. As I commented recently, if you don't like it, quit (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21636860), and let the people who go to work to, you know, do work, do it in peace.
The optimistic view is that they believe that Google is a great place, capable of doing great things, but hamstrung by their current environment, and that giving labour a stronger voice will let Google do the great things they believe that Google can and should do. For example, they might see that management is not listening (enough) to rank and file feedback about the viability or need of different options leading to Google's endless parade of chat applications. Or they might think that Google is moving into a realm where their internal politics and decisions will begin to become ever more under public scrutiny, and that cleaning it up will lead to greater public acceptance of Google's goals.
The cynical view is that cushyness can always be removed. It's always labour's interest to lock in the benefits they have. And if you could lock it in, you should.
You cannot lock in future benefits short of shutting down a company, you can assume future benefits from diligent planning and business operations but it is never guaranteed.
The us-vs-them situation has always existed and it's always been political. It's been the monolith of management vs an individual worker. If you can't imagine anyone but blue collar workers having a union I'd point you to the various unions of Hollywood. If FAANG is as cushy as you say, there's not going to be any contentious labor disputes between management and workers. But unions would balance the power between them.
Second, consider that Google, Apple, and "dozens more" effectively stole billions of dollars from their own devs?
Their jobs are cushy, yes, but they were actually exploited.
For some anecdata, my dad’s a musician and a guy he plays with is a janitor for his full time job, and he is diehard anti-union out of life experience.
After asking a few questions I got the sense that they were both convinced of the evils of unions by the employers propaganda. They would show them videos and have occasional anti-organizing events were the company basically said “you organize and everyone will lose their jobs”.
One year I remember that organization was talked about by my dad around Christmas time. They shutdown the factory for a couple of weeks (to really hurt the workers during the holidays)and sent out letters saying that unions were responsible for the shutdown and this would only continue if they organized.
Another time when asking my grandpa about unions he told me that the owner of the factory took good care of employees and didn’t need a union. That his boss would throw a big Annual party with raffles and a $1000 grand prize. But if anyone ever thought about a union, all parties would be canceled and lots of people laid off. It was part of his speech almost every year.
Of course my blue collar immigrant family would be scared of unions, their employers basically held their jobs over their heads.
For #2, AFAIK http://levels.fyi is a collection of self-reported anecdotes, and probably skews way high. Nobody's going to go e-brag on the Internet how much they make if they feel their salary is low, but you'll definitely get self-reports from those handful of guys making $500K. Take that site with a grain of salt.
The IWW page on this is hilariously forthright.
> First of all, it is a myth that organized crime, including the infamous MAFIA, controls all or even most North American labor unions. (It is true that the Teamsters, International Longshore Association (ILA), Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers Union (HERE), Seafarers International Union (SIU), and various Building Trades unions have had to deal with MAFIA corruption). Many AFL-CIO rank & filers have fought long and hard to purge any and all forms of corruption (MAFIA and otherwise) from their unions; it's an ongoing struggle.
Why not detail some of those experiences? It would lend credibility to your post; because it otherwise reads to me like you’re repeating what you’ve heard about unions.
Had some bullshit waste of time while setting up a booth at GDC because we weren't allowed to unload the boxes with our stuff, or something like that.
I was born and raised in Uruguay, and cases of people openly stealing from their workplace that couldn't be fired because the union would strike until they were reinstated were commonplace, both in the public and private sector.
Someone close to me who owns a factory, again in Uruguay, was for some time under threat from the unions, who openly tried to bankrupt the company, so that they could take ownership, due to a law that entitles them to do that.
I've seen unions impede technological progress in every sector because it threatens their jobs. Who cares if it improves the experience for the customers / citizens? They take the whole company / city hostage to get away with what they want, and/or damage the premises (https://www.elobservador.com.uy/nota/asi-quedo-la-planta-de-...). That's also why in Montevideo every bus has two people, one to drive, the other sitting next to the automatic ticket selling machine, to put your money in, and hand you the ticket it prints. Who pays for having twice the people needed in that bus? The people.
I've seen the unions used to destabilize governments of parties who weren't ideologically affiliated with the people running the unions (the extreme left).
Except the 8 hour work-day and weekends, I guess? https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep...
I think that's one of the most relevant needs that would drive tech workers to form a union.
It still applies, and the status quo can get worse as soon as worker's power wanes.
As a society, employers were trending towards 40-hr workweeks and weekends. That was already where society was going voluntarily, so the fact that unions got legislation near the end of the trend (when voting it through would've been so much easier) isn't that much of a victory. It was unnecessary and just a play to take credit.
You write as if this happened on its own, 'voluntarily', by 'society' as a whole, when in fact it was driven mainly by one part of society - workers:
> "Demands for the five-day week began to proliferate in 1919, a year in which 4 million American workers went out on strike," said Priscilla Murolo, a professor of history at Sarah Lawrence College. "That was about 20 percent of the industrial labor force."
It's not that I got into software development because of money, but I want to point out that I made a ton of sacrifices in order to get educated, worked hard to secure the jobs I did with the quality I did them at, and continue to sacrifice to stay current with technology so as to remain employed into my 40s.
In this business, if you are young, you don't know what you don't know--the longer you are in, the harder it is to stay in. It's great in your 20s and 30s with all the disposable income and then all of a sudden you've got a wife and two kids and bills to pay and things start to falter right when you need them to be stable--and that is why we need representation of some kind. We need bargaining, or some kind of tenure, or something, so that when you're mid-career and late career you aren't just a throwaway non-person. Because I just watched it happen at my own company: My firm laid off 3000 people, mostly men in their 50s. Of course some "dead wood" got let go, too, but any fool can see what is going on when they lay off the older workers while still hiring the H1Bs and growing the "offshore" teams and what I keep wondering is "why are foreigners involved in AMERICAN health care at all?"
So while some tech jobs might be quite cushy, I’ve yet to see any rational or coherent defense of why these (or any) companies should function like dictatorships. It would seems that increasingly, more and more tech workers share this perspective.
I’d encourage younger folks who have an idealized view of American unions to check Scorcese’s new movie the Irishman about the Teamsters and Hoffa.
Here, by contrast, is a great podcast on the subject spanning many incidents and movements:
And another recent great book by Alex Gourevitch, “From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century”
“Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” by Staughton Lynd (who has written many great works of labor history) is the book inspiring many tech organizers:
> Nowhere in the world has organized crime infiltrated the labor movement as effectively as in the United States. Yet the government, the AFL-CIO, and the civil liberties community all but ignored the situation for most of the twentieth century. Since 1975, however, the FBI, Department of Justice, and the federal judiciary have relentlessly battled against labor racketeering, even in some of the nation's most powerful unions.
> Mobsters, Unions, and Feds is the first book to document organized crime's exploitation of organized labor and the massive federal cleanup effort. A renowned criminologist who for twenty years has been assessing the government's attack on the Mafia, James B. Jacobs explains how Cosa Nostra families first gained a foothold in the labor movement, then consolidated their power through patronage, fraud, and violence and finally used this power to become part of the political and economic power structure of Twentieth century urban America.
If you want to actually unwind the history of organized crime and unions in the US, you would have to also get into their long-standing ties with intelligence and federal police services, especially as a means to disrupt and purge communists from the labor movement. A good chapter to examine might be what drove Hoover’s odd, counterfactual insistence that the mafia more or less didn’t exist for a good part of his tenure at the FBI. Or the CIA’s Operation Gladio and it’s involvement with the Italian mob.
It's a good movie and all. I just wouldn't draw a lot of public policy lessons from it.
Company X offers to pay me to do job Y. My two options, as I see it, are taking the job and doing Y, or refusing to do Y and therefore not taking the job. I don't understand the logic of "I'll take the job but then refuse to do Y", except if I assume ill-intent from the person taking the job.
You are of course correct that any person is technically free to reject any particular job, but someone with an interest in both continuing to be able to provide for themselves and their family as well as in bringing about structural shifts that would allow for much truer freedom might refuse to perform a particular function for reasons other than ill intent.
There's absolutely nothing stopping people, especially a collective of people who might want to form a union, from pooling their own funds and starting an enterprise based on the values of their own collective design.
>You are of course correct that any person is technically free to reject any particular job, but someone with an interest in both continuing to be able to provide for themselves and their family as well as in bringing about structural shifts that would allow for much truer freedom might refuse to perform a particular function for reasons other than ill intent.
And someone, or a group of people, who've created an enterprise of their own values, are generating value from it and are providing labor opportunities and value to others are free to fire people who outright disagree with said values, or attempt to form an entity of power to dismantle or disorientate those values.
It is incredibly dishonest, and certainly of ill intent, to join or remain within a company or group whose values you strongly disagree with for the purpose of financially benefiting from that group's activities and trying to undermine said values from within.
Perhaps, but this is why unions should exist even when things are going well, to prevent them from getting bad in the first place.
I reject your strawman argument. FAANG engineers will hardly starve and die if they choose to work somewhere else.
Or start your own business and find your own way to provide for youself outside of the existing system?
The broader condition of society is that you need to produce something of value for them if you desire others to provide things of value to you.
The opposite side of your logic, is that if you assume good faith on the side of the job taker, then the want to do the job that they signed up for, and is willing to do what it takes to make sure they are able to do that job in a safe, efficient, and non-soul crushing manner.
In addition, conditions can change from the initial agreement of employment. Lots of stuff about workplace environments are not fully captured in job contracts, and are so subject to change. You don't need to assume bad-faith from a person to understand why the might want to have a say in how things change. After all, they agreed to a job under a certain set of implied environments.
Companies do not have to function like democracies. However, companies that try to harness the moral and ethical motivation of their workers should always be aware of how to keep company actions and goals sufficiently aligned with those of their workers to be able to tap into that extra motivation.
My experience is that the more someone rambles about "being the only rational one", the more oblivious they actually are.
People want companies to function like democracies, because they feel it's better for the world, or better for them, or both.
The capital don't have to listen to them of course, and the people can then organize and try to enact change in a different way - like voting for particular regulations or something similar.
Since you seem to value "rationality" and power, maybe you should think about how big collectives of people have power, and whether it wouldn't make sense to make some concessions, because otherwise things might get out of control and people like you might end up in a gulag or something.
Is there is an example of how this works in practise.
wondering how they get consensus and do workers really want this.
They walk through all of this with actual worker cooperatives and people researching and organizing around cooperative economic models.
I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but it’s funny that the circumstances you cite (sewing, basic safety) actually drove unionization in the early 20th century.
Turns out that if you don’t change the relations of power in your workplace, hold your bosses to account, they have a tendency to not be too concerned about your well-being.
Why do you insist in throwing the word "dictatorship" around?
Owning a sewing machine and paying someone to use it on your behalf should absolutely bestow you the power to choose what that person makes for you, while being paid by you, and while using your machine. How can this be controversial?
Let's take a look at this. Your contributions to the end product are:
- Owning a sewing machine
- Paying someone to use it
Their contributions are:
- Making the thing (say, sewing a shirt)
I think there is an inherent tension between thinking about which of these is more valuable. Of course the sewing machine owners and payers are all going “Hey, the sewing machine belongs to us. You got compensated for your work, that should end your involvement with it. You can't tell us kind of clothes we should be making!”; whereas the people who sew the shirts are going “Without our collective work, you're going to be able to sew maybe one shirt a day, and you don't even know how to sew. So listen to us!”.
The increasing interest in unions (FAANG is hardly a good representative of jobs across the software industry, let alone the entire US) seems to indicate that the needle of society in general has moved more too far in advancing interests of the sewing machine, and the people who sew don't have enough of a say in how things are done.
When one gets more money, the other gets less. There is no way out of this, as long as owner of the machine and whoever makes the thing are different people.
You're conveniently ignoring the part in which I'm also paying the other person to do something, after the other person freely agreed to do said thing in exchange for being paid. Would you mind replying to what I'm actually saying?
I disagree. It is not historically controversial for the owner of property to decide what is done with it.
With what, the slaves? /s
But when someone comes into my house I have some control over what they are allowed to do within my house and I can ask them to leave with the support of the law if they don't obey my wishes.
When I enter a voluntary employment agreement and give an employee access to my equipment the same thing applies.
From a third party perspective, this is just weird. Society sees two people associating, one providing labor, that other capital, no matter how money is flowing within the association. Weirdly enough our system only allows capital owners to have any say in the running of the system (via shares and the board). Within this system, unions are one way in which the owners of labor get a say in the running of the corporation.
Yes, generally there is a contract that stipulated what can and can't be done with the sewing machine so that the machine is not completely destroyed.
Generally employment contracts do not give employees the right to do whatever they want with the sewing machine.
Why do you mind if they have a say? If you don't plan on abusing and exploiting them, there's no harm, right?
EDIT: to put it into words I would think someone like you might understand better (power and money instead of empathy and solidarity) - because if you don't let them have a say, and exploit them, you might end up in a gulag, on guillotine or in wherever mass grave Mao put landlords.
We've had to ask you repeatedly in the past not to break the site guidelines. Would you please review them and stick to the rules when posting here?
If there is healthy competition among employers then workers have a real choice. If not then declining your money could mean: live destitute or starve.
As companies consolidate and collude (intentionally or subconsciously) even cushy office workers may face exploitation.
I own a sewing machine and I choose to sew clothes on it myself then sell it. Am I exploiting myself?
I own a sewing machine and I choose to not hire anybody to operate it and it sits unused. Someone that could operate it is sitting unemployed and unable to eat even though I could hire them. Am I exploiting someone?
I own a sewing machine and offer someone an amount of money if they operate it and produce the clothing I ask them to produce. Am I exploiting them?
I'm glad fringe maniacs that consider employment exploitation aren't taken seriously.
As it should. If they don't accept your power, they starve (or not get healthcare if we're talking about contemporary USA).
How is that any less violent? Because when you kill someone by starvation it's less bloody? Your kind are already using violence against us, you're just good at not caring about others or lying to yourself.
I did have links to a couple of papers describing this, but misplaced them, and google isn't forthcoming...
(This immediately suggests a strategy to combat such organization: instead of trying to find out who the leaders are - which will fail, because there are none - one should focus on misinformation to create enough doubt and noise that the threshold for spontaneous organization isn't crossed.)
That said, the decentralised setup has its own issues too. In addition to the misinformatioon aspect you point out, it makes it very difficult to control the 'reputation' of a protest or movement, since any Tom, Dick and Harry can claim to be associated with it and do whatever they want. This makes such an organisation easy to co-opt, or to misrepresent to the media.
Not that that protests have to achieve major results. Sometimes the main thing is to get exposure so that powers that be realize there is foment that needs addressing (in a positive way, not in a crackdown way).
Yes. Quite a lot. The leadership went from not acknowledging their protests, talking down on them and promising to go on with all the reforms, to want to talk, and taking down certain parts of the laws.
In google's case, I think they're just analyzing employee emails etc.
That’s why it’s ill advised to use company email for personal communication. Do it over telegram on your personal devices.
Corporate power resides in hubs and connectors that can be identified and disconnected to weaken the entire hierarchy. Lot of movements succeed because the hubs and connectors shift loyalty.
Niall Ferguson has written a good book [The Square and the Tower] analyzing Historical Events from a network theoretic perspective rather than the usual historical perspective of studying just the top most person(node) in the hierarchy. It has a ton of examples of how all powerful hierarchies devolve.
Management should not know workers are talking union until the workers are organized and on strike. Fuck Taft-Hartley and the NLRB.
Whatever the merits of the article I have a hard time taking it seriously with this kind of language. If this kind of language were used in the other direction the author would immediately be labeled a tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist.
> Ring and Kaplan want to reconsider the longtime ban on labor spying. It’s a sleazy idea, but typical for these two.
So they are working together, and perhaps “cabal” is too colorful of a term, as it also implies doing it in secret. It would appear they’re quite open about it.
I've been curious whether there could be a niche for cobbling together a dedicated network infrastructure for organizing labor. It'd likely be legally fraught, and constantly under siege; but I figure it could be done.
Tenant based encrypted-at-rest data of chat content and schedules. An onboarding knowledgebase mechanism. These are solved problems. The biggest issue would seem to be screening people for trust to keep the Union's affairs from just finding their way back to management or having someone plant proprietary info to end up blowing the entire thing up via eDiscovery and lawsuits.
It's funny how technology seems particularly useless at solving social problems and usually just serves to exacerbate them.
An online forum managed by the union is all that would be needed. But crucially, the union would need to be smart about who they give access to and also have good security people analysing usage/IP addresses and the like. Also make users agree to a declaration that they are legitimate users before granting access. If company spy does get access the union should send lawyers after them for accessing a computer system without permission. Of course it wouldn't be perfect, stuff will leak - but it would be a lot more secure that discussing union issues on company premises and on company equipment.
Maybe I'm looking at the issue too simplistically, but I find it odd that in this day and age unions still try to organise and discuss things the way they did decades ago.