Whenever it would come up on the internal boards the arguments were usually along the lines of:
* "People who don't deserve to be paid more will get more money under a union"
* "I'll be paid less under a union"
* "Unions will slow us down, and we'll become more bureaucratic"
* "Unions are corrupt, and only care about themselves"
It was always clear that there was a huge misconception about what unions are, and how they work, based on the depiction of unions in popular culture or the past. When you talked about unions, people would think about the Teamsters, the police unions, etc.
Myself and others would end up pointing out that yes, that's true of some blur collar unions, but that's not what we're talking about. Think about the Writers Guild, or SAG. Dwayne Johnson earned $90 million last year - he still pays his union dues. You'd struggle to find any writer who didn't think the Writers Guild had actively improved their working conditions.
Are the various Hollywood unions perfect? No, they're not. But I think you would really struggle to argue that working conditions would be better for those in the creative arts without them.
Tech companies have spent a long time cultivating an image of benevolence towards their employees, but ultimately they are not your friends. You need somebody to fight your corner. Hollywood found this out years ago with the studios - hopefully Silicon Valley will discover it too, however unlikely it seems.
For an example of how this works in practice, look at the UAW’s conduct with UC’s grad students.
Years ago, they negotiated salary caps for grad students, and then negotiated contracts that severely cut health care benefits for women over their own members’ objections. Getting anything done involves baroque red tape, so even complaining about this sort of thing would take dozens of people multiple months (and almost certainly wouldn’t cause the union bosses to take action).
Recently, they ratified contracts when the rank and file protested at union meetings, and some UC campuses voted against the contract.
This led to illegal “wildcat” strikes where the students walked out because they couldn’t pay rent. The university then fired them.
This was only possible because of closed shops. If people want to switch unions, they should be allowed to.
And this case why on earth where professional roles being represented by an Auto workers union.
An innovation in organized labour from around the turn of the 20th century known as the "industrial union" (as opposed to the "craft union") wherein the union seeks to organized all workers in a particular industry rather than a particular job. The idea is that this prevents workers of different jobs being pitted against one another, and provides more power as a strike could shut down an entire industry.
Trying to go back to the ancient one big union just wont cut it
However, what is allowed is to require people who are hired to join the union, with the exception that if they do not want to join the union, they can opt to pay only "financial core" dues, to compensate the union for its work negotiating an agreement that the non-members supposedly benefit from too. The effect of this is that workers remain governed by collective bargaining, pay a lesser amount than members, and have no say in union leadership. They are also exempt from union discipline (ex fines for strikebreaking).
In some states, with so-called "right to work" laws, the employees who do not want to join the union pay nothing at all. This is actually not inherently a right of the states to make such laws, but an option they are delegated as part of the federal laws. After a recent SCOTUS ruling, all government employees can do this in any state.
In any case, what OP said is true re: our collective bargaining system is built around one union (whether or not everyone is required to pay dues) representing all workers, whose pay/benefits/other matters cannot vary from the union contract. Whether or not non-members must pay any dues
As to your point, the names for the old unions are largely historic vestiges. The "Big Labor" unions are massive conglomerates (just like the companies they rail against) that grow as big as they can. Ironically, the true hard-leftists like the IWW originally advocated for "One Big Union" as opposed to small, factional unions for each trade--but they would hardly be pleased with the highly-capitalist mammoth unions we have today.
If you are philosophically opposed to unions, you shouldn't have to pay them at all.
You don't. Work somewhere else.
And to loop back around to the topic most of us are discussing, if there were some type of SWE Guild, standardizing rules around FOSS usage and remuneration for FOSS creators and maintainers should be high on that guild's list of priorities. There're thousands of people in the entertainment industry making comfortable livings off a combination of some work and residuals; why can't that be us? Why shouldn't people who've created, maintained, and improved projects that companies have leveraged for billions of dollars of profit see some of that money?
What you said is cool and all but I am still waiting for my money for all of the open source software that you are using.
Sane countries make you pay only if you want to participate in the union (such as when you vote).
EDIT: There's a bit of an exception. For example, in universities, sometimes graduate students have a union and faculty have a union. It doesn't make sense to place them both in the same union because the faculty boss graduate students around. However, it would make sense for the two unions to cooperate against the administration.
EDIT2: Another reason unions should be as concentrated as possible is so they form a united front against the bosses. If every employee is in a different union, how can they achieve anything without great difficulty?
Wut?! TIL where people got the belief that single communist party could rule democratically. We all know how about those experiments played out in history
And you hear about this all the time in other workplaces. Not allowed to move a monitor to the next desk over because the union guy has to be the one to do it. Not allowed to move a piece of equipment out of the way until the union guy finishes his lunch break and does it.
Unions can be good but unions like this are so bad for everyone around them that it cancels out any good.
Imagine a consulting firm that had a monopoly on all the architects in California. The only architects in CA are ones that you might bring in from this firm, and to prevent change, it's in the contract that you can't hire outside architects. It's a straight up anticompetitive monopoly. But that doesn't mean consulting firms are bad, it's just that monopolies are bad.
The biggest difference between this kind of consulting firm and a union is the accounting and the taxes, so I think the same logic applies. Unions can be good, but monopolistic unions are bad. When there's only one police union for your city, they have extreme bargaining power because it's a monopoly.
There needs to be a middle ground between completely independent bargaining and monopolistic collective bargaining. If we figured out a reasonable way to have multiple coexisting unions for a given profession and location, I'd bet unions would be much much more widely accepted as good.
Until this bigger problem is fixed unions will remain one of the very few things workers can do to improve their odds in life. So you can't be for or against them - it is the only logical outcome of the current social order.
You seem to have the entire thing backwards: the failure to build and grow unions in the US has resulted an absence of power and political representation for working people. Without this counterbalance, the rich and corporations have used the state to enshrine benefits for themselves and total power over workers.
If there's one thing that my decade of internet commenting experience has taught me, it's that some people will always find a way to be dogmatically for or against any conceivable position.
I've actually experienced it twice, but neither case had anything to do with unions.
One was officially a Health and safety matter (if you'd not been on the manually handling course you should not be moving heave expensive bits of equipment around) though I suspect it was really more of an insurance matter (only the relevant people should be moving the expensive equipment, or accidental damages won't be covered). Commercial arse-shielding, no unions involved.
The other was again commercial: in an outsourced IT arrangement where all equipment moves had to be done by someone on the outsourced team. This of course carried a charge for time, but if it wasn't done that way the contract said the charge could still be made with additional charges for the extra paperwork. Again, a purely commercial matter, no unions present affecting the matter in either company.
For reference I volunteered at a convention there, which is how I know all this.
But I suspect it happens less often due to union matters than the oft regaled stories suggest, possibly less overall too.
The union wounds here are entirely self-inflicted by proving in practice that they make a bad system. That is terrible evangelism and no ammount of wagon circling will change that. Can you blame them for thinking a 401k would be preferrable to a pension from people who would embezzle it anyway?
They are harming the protection and good through their own short-sighted rent seeking actions. Which makes it all the more frustrating as there is actual good that could be done instead.
It is in no way limited to unions and may be found across all walks of life and individual to megaconglomerate scale but I have noticed an antipattern of "insistent loserdom", in blaming everyone else and refusing an iota of self change in a certain downward trajectory.
I personally come from a pretty poor upbringing. I can see why it's scary for some to change something that 1. is working relatively well and 2. got them out of poverty.
The point in bringing up trivial issues like moving monitors is to emphasize the greed and absurdity that ensure that even simple, quick tasks become cash sinks and long term blockers, directly because of common union practices. This is the inefficiency that unions tend to breed, and it is a direct consequence of their purpose: protect members even at the expense of nonmembers and the rest of the corporate collective.
No one is complaining that they aren't allowed to move their own monitors. We are explaining that these ubiquitous policies in sum do more harm than good to greater modern society.
When it comes to identity politics, unless you are an illiterate, congenitally disabled, imprisoned, transgender veteran of color in a 3rd world country then I would ask you to respectfully step back and let our true heroes speak. Thanks
I don't like it because it's an all-purpose "shut up" card itself. It discounts opinion and argument not because of any merit or logic, simply because of the arguer's socioeconomic situation - which is not even known! I feel it is a very lazy way to conduct a conversation.
I'm sorry if my original post came across sarcastically, i was just trying to "reductio ad absurdum" some of the arguments i've heard in the past.
What I hate about "privilege" is that it is an invitation to introduce the notion of personal virtue into what should be a dispassionate discussion. It turns into a competition which has nothing to do with the merit of the point. It is a personal thing, much like race, and it's not useful. When I hear "you wouldn't understand because you're privileged" i can just translate it to "because you're white" or "because you're asian" or "because you're X". Well great. Where does that get us? And since you're talking about me, let's look very closely at you?
I don't deny privilege exists. Of course it does. I daresay I see it more than most, living where I do. But like racism it is not to be tossed around lightly, or it will basically kill any discussion.
The whole point is that the fight for protection of workers' rights needs some sort of organization. Traditionally, that has been called a "union", but if the problem you're pointing out is that the name has too many bad connotations, feel free to propose another one.
FWIW, it looks like most of the "good unions" are careful to call themselves "guilds".
In other words, in my office an employee is not allowed to hang a whiteboard on to a wall. Because building mandates only union employees can make such hardware modifications.
Fine you are protecting the job of the union but what you are really doing is prevent job creep or scope creep.
Another hypothetical example: no employee is allowed to work past 5 pm. Sure hardworking employees want to. But when they do, the put the pressure on other employees to do the same. This kind of culture is net negative.
I think that should really read "Fine you are trying to prevent scope creep but what you are really doing is protecting the union jobs."
I've had my own experience of being forced to wait for a union worker to report onsite to accomplish a basic thing, only to be told when he showed up an hour after requested "If I didn't use the time in the job order, they'd just reduce the time alloted for the next one, and we'd get docked for running over."
Pick a metric and it will restructure the entire working environment to meet that metric, no matter how illogical or inefficient things become.
Keep adding more rules to close the loopholes in the process and you get the craziness in some jobs where things can't get done because there's no way through the red tape anymore.
It is also about territory control. You don't want to give up power to someone else. Typical society problems. The solution lies in how do you practice friendship with someone so cunning and selfish that you can be in the loosing seat quickly, yet still be friends and still be on neutral ground?
Rules and structure created by the union.
Dystopian world ahead of us
Anyone who's actually had to deal with a union can agree with this point.
At our company, a number of job functions are union-only work, meaning it is a violation of the union contract for any non-union employee to perform that work.
In principle, you might think that makes sense, until you need to get something very simple done - that you are willing to do yourself and cannot.
It becomes infuriating. Need to plug that new PC into the socket? Sorry, equipment installation is a union job. But the new employee can't start if the new PC on his desk isn't plugged in? Tough shit - please put in a requisition and it'll get scheduled within the 48hr SLA, and completed in 7-10 business days.
Need that extra monitor moved between two adjacent cubes? Sorry, equipment relocation is union work. If you do it yourself, you'll be fired. But it's just a monitor, you say? Tough shit - please put in a requisition and it'll get scheduled within the 48hr SLA, and completed in 7-10 business days.
Oh, you want to move that folding table and a few chairs to the conference room so you can have a design meeting with the whole team? Sorry furniture movement is union-only work. But it'll take me literally 10 minutes and the alternative is to cancel the meeting. Tough shit - please put in a requisition and it'll get scheduled within the 48hr SLA, and completed in 7-10 business days.
These are real examples at my company - I didn't make them up.
So what's the ultimate outcome here? Employees obviously look for ways to circumvent the union. Then the union finds out and sends a few reps in to take pictures of things that have been touched/moved by non-union workers, and sends it to their lawyers (paid for by union dues). The lawyers then send formal notices that the company has violated the company contract, and notices go out to the whole company - union workers get all riled up that the company isn't respecting them, and non-union workers roll their eyes and vow never to work for another unionized company again. Bad feelings all around & Giant waste of everyone's time.
The alternative to carving out job functions for union workers, is to force everyone to unionize - and that's got its own problems.
Unions are great in unsafe industries in an unregulated market - ie. 1940's coal mines (extreme example). Six figured desk jobs can manage with some reasonable labor laws made at the State level. A union is a huge additional layer of bureaucracy.
Contrast that with my experience with Unions in Sweden; and that is that they basically don't exist except to ensure that workers rights are not infringed.
So they'll be involved in a termination, or help negotiate overtime pay.
There is no such thing as a "union job", it's just having what's referred to as a "collective agreement".
Yes there are benefits to the worker (esp when your job puts you in harm's way). Yes collective bargaining is awesome. Unions, if run well, are fantastic. In my opinion we tend to mess them up.
"Unions are bad!", no, the concept is fine, you have some bad ones.
"Police are bad!", no, the concept is fine, yours are just untrained and overburdened.
"Public transport is bad, I need a car!", no, the concept is fine, you just have bad public transport and that forms your opinion.
Also, in the context of comparing to other countries, I would think many did not have the land available to spread out in the same way at the time cars were available? I'm just curious how much of this may be related to the timing of the US
We're not going to get different results when we form a union in the US unless we make an attempt to get different results.
I’m just arguing that the concept is fine, and the implementation is corrupted. Removing the corruption would be great but the issue is not the concept itself.
If you think EU unions are great - then you'll need to first educate American union advocates about what they're doing wrong.
Im for unions, it beats the current situation, but im weary of the sales pitch.
Even some in the US as some commentators have suggested (Screen Actors Guild being one)
As much as I would like to believe that there is a massive pro-working-class institution in the US that can afford to spend billions per annum on under-the-table PR/propaganda campaigns to shill collective action, it just isn't the case. The MIC on the other hand... putting those socialized taxpayer dollars to work against the evil working class (around the world).
Ps, i was not saying communism == unions. Thats fucking retarded on so many levels.
Hell maybe they all do. Maybe that is why modern day democracy actually works (checks and balances) and has very little to do with comunism vs capitalism.
One of the liveliest things about ''The Wizard of Speed and Time,'' aside from the frantic Mr. Jittlov himself, is the film's animosity toward Hollywood in general and the movie unions in particular. Mr. Jittlov, who himself resigned from the Directors' Guild in order to make this film free of union requirements, includes a sequence in which he visits one union office after another, being told in each that he must play by expensive and archaic rules if he expects to play this game at all.
When he tries to rent studio space, he is given a list of costs right down to the fee for a parking space, and winds up shooting in his own garage. And when he films an outdoor sequence in a park, a helicopter appears overhead with a loudspeaker to chastise him for trying to film without a permit. ''Maybe I shouldn't make films for a living,'' he muses dejectedly at one point. ''I've got a bicycle. I could deliver Steve's Pizzas.''
Historically they were a often a feudal "link" of control for administration. They meet with the head haberdasher to discuss carrots and sticks of taxation and licensing so they pay willingly and let them shout about unlicensed competitors instead of trying to chase down every last haberdasher to tax.
Unions are more "if you piss off every affiliated habberdasher in the city they refuse to make hats until their demands are met".
American systems are not dependable, intercity and interstate travel is often not punctual to the point of futility.
There are very few examples that prove me wrong here (probably NYC<->NJ links being an exception)
Travelling around Los Angeles is just not possible, the buses are disgusting when they actually work and the time tables may as well be dinner menu's for value they bring.
Getting to LA from San Francisco required a coach, the coach was 8hrs late. There were no trains.
Going from NYC to Philadelphia by train cost me $300, when I returned it cost me $82 and was delayed by 4hrs.
Travelling around NYC using their underground was "ok" from a dependability standpoint; though I saw human excrement on many occasions, in one case it was smeared entirely on one of the benches where passengers usually sit.
I consider American public transport to be pretty poor. Where it is punctual it is disgustingly unhygienic. Where it is hygienic it is prohibitively expensive and non-punctual.
The rail networks prioritise freight and lines are fragmented heavily- it is common for one line of track to have several different owners as it progresses through a state. This causes delays as they do not seem to cooperate in using the tracks effectively, or delays from the use of a line causes cascading delays.
I've lived in Finland, England and Sweden- and I have travelled most of Europe (NL, DE, DK, FR, ESP) and have found public transport to be mostly punctual, in some cases it's actually "dependable" as in, I can rely on public transport getting me to my destination in a precise amount of time (+/- 10 mins).
This is definitely not the case in the USA outside of a few very major cities.
“Many occasions” sounds like BS to me. Until the pandemic I rode the subway at least 12 times a week, every week for the past 22 years, and only saw human excrement twice (and one time it was actually a pretty funny story.)
I do slightly suspect that peak hours are more cleanly than non-peak time due to various economic reasons.
But I saw:
* poopy seat (when I got on the train at JFK)
* little human sized nugger, near the door, nearly stood in it as I disembarked a train near penn station.
* sticky urine floor near the door, which took me a good 1m30s to realise was definitely male human urine as I inspected the piss marks up the side of the door that I was pressed against during a busy ride.
Next time don't take Amtrack. Using NJ Transit from NY Penn to Trenton then transfer to SEPTA train into Philly will be < $30. The delays are unavoidable if something is broken.
That was such a good experience, even the tickrt app brought me joy.
Alongside that you also have (putting aside the longstanding battle between them) a plethora of on-demand taxi services.
There are decent (although not high speed) train connections to most other major cities in the UK and even to continental Europe, there's an airport literally 10 minute car ride from the financial district, and two major European airports under 30 mins train ride away (obviously all dependent on your starting location within the metro area).
As an integrated system it's not perfect, but I'd certainly argue it's a viable aspiration for many cities to hit "good".
Admittedly sometimes I'd fall asleep and miss my stop.
With that said, I have lived in the following places for more than a year, and found the public transportation to be good, if not excellent.
- Paris, France
- Lyon, France
- London, UK
- Amsterdam, NL
- Bayreuth, DE
Despite some well-known problems in some of these places (strikes in Paris comes readily to mind), the advantages remain enormous:
- Reduced motor vehicle circulation in the city
- A high degree of mobility at a moment's notice
- The ability to move around without breaking a sweat (sadly important when going to a meeting in a suit)
- The ability to get home while inebriated
- The ability for suburban (read: underprivileged) employees to participate in the heart of the regional economy
The list goes on...
Could you start a new kind of union as a kind of non-profit startup?
If I wanted to do this I'd leverage modern information technology to create covert communication channels for organizing and leverage big data, machine learning, and game theory to drive organization and bargaining strategies. You could apply pressure across supply chains, not just in individual industries, and you could really be quite a pain in the ass. Cambridge Analytica for the working class?
Also ditch the work rules and other antiquated industrial era ideas. Just go for pure financial and quality of life outcome. Work with industries if they're willing to play ball, but be a major pain in the ass when they don't. Negotiate, you know.
Honestly the hacker in me would be tempted if I had the time, skills, background, and connections. It would be a chance to wear a black hat and feel good about it. :)
If you did this you'd also have to be damn serious about opsec and tradecraft. When you threaten to increase labor costs, the gloves come off. I'd be about as worried about security doing this as I'd be running a dark web drug market.
It would really help if people would just use some qualifiers "US Unions", "US Police", "US Public transport", "US government".
The 'left' argues for unions based on the concept. The 'right' argues against them based on their execution. So we go round and round and round and round because neither is willing to consider or admit that we might be talking past each other.
Makes for great web traffic though.
The point is: many (most?) first-world countries have unions that work well overall. Same with police departments.
What you're describing are putative reasons why the American execution is a failure.
Sure, I'll freely admit that unions have worked very well other places, but the US seems to blow it every darn time. Why would this time be different?
Why assume that the day after a tech union is invented, suddenly you're stuck with a massive clanking bureaucracy that's identical to the ones that were formed in very different industries many decades ago?
Q: "Why is X so bad?"
A: "You're doing it wrong"
Could it also be that Y is always/sometimes just better?
The last two generations of western civilization were raised, out of good intentions, to be culture blind, and now with what's happening in the country we are seeing the result.
We should seek to raise rights and standards of living for all people. The focus on whether other people have cultures compatible with specific forms of government seems very suspect. Such talk keeps people down. Self-determination is a human right; therefore, it is a society’s right to determine government and culture. Your focus on culture is very strange; it suggests that the culture is a thing that justifies itself independent of the people. The culture is a thing people live and do. Your phrasing makes culture seem insidious, seeking to resist changes to status quo. Some monoculture advocates reject alternative cultures and seek to outcompete them. By implying there are singular cultures, you wipe away self-determination.
I don't know where to start with this comment. Perhaps you should stop grouping arguments by stereotype.
At an individual level, different people require different interventions, because they have different personalities. Some people can handle responsibility. Some people need financial motivation. Some people respond to love. Others best learn through violence or fear (I was far too smart to listen to my parents until they threatened a spanking, for example).
If you take all of these different personalities and force them to live under together under a single set of rules, regardless of whether their needs are met, they will compete, if not for resources them for social clout. It is human nature. Particularly in a universe where resources are scarce and time is short.
Though large scale human interaction has a normalizing effect, within the high dimensional space of human belief and behavior there is ample room for these same micro behaviors to be reflected by macroscale cultural trends. And, similarly, because the "ideal" form of government depends ultimately on widely varying beliefs, forcing multiple peoples with significant cultural distance will inevitably lead to inequality and clash - this is not a statement of superiority, sand though it can be used as part justification for some of the antisocial beliefs you raised, that doesn't mean it isn't untrue or that these real problems that we are seeing emerge across the world will simply go away if we ignore them. This pattern has been repeated across time and space and is an unnecessary source of unacknowledged strife in the modern world.
That’s why I drew the logical connection to authoritarian concepts. No one is forcing anyone to be more free. That would be impossible. Freedom is a choice one makes for oneself, individually. Keeping someone from being free can be forced upon another. Society can do this collectively through laws. These are nuanced differences between freedoms and liberties, which some people don’t have.
I don’t know why you focus on the culture when people are why the culture exists as it does, not the other way around. The status quo benefits from dominant culture and from keeping established power structures in place. You can’t use the culture as an argument to justify a form of government that removes human rights. Just like I can’t sign a contract that gives up my Constitutional rights. Those in less free countries are not given the choice of more freedom.
Those definitions should be loosened in an office setting, rather than dismissing the entire idea of a union.
They have real experiences of a union in their company. You have examples of unions in your country. Who is correct?
If your answer is yourself, then you're not understanding the point or the concern that people who are against unions have. It doesn't matter if Sweden implemented it well and somewhere else implemented it poorly. Bottom line is that the poorly-implemented scenario can happen, does happen, and in fact happens more often than anecdata of "oh no true union does that".
Unless you can propose a foolproof way that the "wrong way" is always prevented, then you will get opposition to your beliefs. Calling people or things stupid doesn't solve that.
Don't like your deal, which doesn't let everyone move tables? Negotiate a new one. Maybe you can offer them something they'd rather want instead.
Having a let hostile environment also let smaller, more agile unions thrive, instead of forcing them to all join together.
I won't retort with a similarly vulgar comment because:
1. we probably agree on the value of unions
2. I understand your exasperation with American ignorance and cultural bias on the subject
3. it's not constructive
However, it brings me no joy to assert that you are dead wrong. Union jobs can and do exist in places. The deleterious nature of these jobs is a subject of frequent debate in France: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permanent_syndical
"Ignorance and bias" is apparently now equivalent to "decades of experience that differ from your preferred reality".
Unions in America are clearly a dumpster fire, but only someone profoundly ignorant (and arrogant, to boot) could claim that unions are a failed concept.
If you don't have these kinds of things in the contract, what can sometimes happen is a situation where all the "monitor movers" are unionized, but then management hires a new "screen transporter" for $10 an hour who isn't in the union.
Broadly summarizing, the potential for the remaining tie-breaker to defect to either side tends to keep participants honest, even if they're bitterly opposed.
Often you find yourself in a situation where nobody can win, but anyone can choose who wins if they commit to losing.
Unfortunately, it's rare all three participants realize the situation.
You can say "unions are a no brainer - America is so backwards not to have them".
I can say "unions are awful and poisonous to a company."
...and given the different definition of "union", we are each correct within our national context, but often incorrect when saying it online.
US unions != EU unions.
 Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
As a result, it's a race to the bottom as governors try to pursue business-friendly policies to attract jobs. And on the other "side", to pursue union-friendly policies to attract votes.
Both of which tug decisions to the extremes, the better to win their base, rather than seeking compromise that's acceptable to both parties.
One reason proletarian internationalism remained a hotly debated topic in communist theory for decades.
I find it fascinating, particularly in a country like America where democracy is a core part of our being.
Unions allow people to vote on their own preferences, then use their collective voice to negotiate. If you don’t like some bullshit union practice, then that is the fault of the people in it not the unions themselves.
Power perpetuates power
Eric: It isn't if you can't go and work somewhere else.
— J. B. Priestley
Not everyone is in a position to find another job. And what do you do if the best place you can work is still rubbish? What if you're an ISP tech?
Okay, sarcasm aside; I've worked for many different tech companies and good managers are exceptionally rare and there is no pressure from the top to change that, and pressure from the bottom doesn't work. There is, however, a lot of pressure to not fire or demote managers as it looks bad for the management above them.
You can’t get rid of power, just redistribute it. As flawed as democracy is, that’s what it attempts to do.
Or do we want to get rid of governments? ;)
In that case I’ll happily make the same snarky comment about whatever collection of humans accrue and then abuse power in our new government-free society.
People are naturally social. There will always be power, wielded in one way or another. But we have and will figure out schemes to wield it in a to benefit the many more than the few.
For seemingly silly rules like the ones you're describing, the union is attempting to protect jobs and hours.
I wish my union was more like some European unions I've read about, where they're involved in the decision-making process. Mine fights for wages, positions, and conditions, but management decides how things work - so long as they're not violating the agreed-upon conditions. I expect your workplace is similar. Instead of mapping out a path with management, my union reacts to the path set out by management, and I think a lot of the weird rules come as a result of reacting, rather than helping to create.
I also think this sort of collaboration would be better for companies, particularly larger companies, where there is a disconnect from how things actually work and how corporate thinks they work. We have this particularly terrible piece of machinery that corporate is obsessed with justifying. We have other machines that do its jobs better, but it does the jobs of many machines - just much worse. It just wastes a lot of time, but corporate incentiveses management to use it, and when discussing the POS machine, management cites those incentives as reasons for why the machine is actually good. When you say, "Yes, but how does wasting all this time using this particular machine help the company?" management highlights the incentives.
Maybe that's true of low labor jobs, but Employees in six figure jobs have tremendous power.
One of the reasons companies try to create anti-potching rules is exactly to try to get back some power.
The unemployment rate in the US was 4% prior to covid, and even lower for tech and white collar desk jobs.
This issue simply must take a back seat to bigger problems in America.
What if labor rights is actually the single biggest problem that drives all the others?
I can think of things like a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave, anti-discrimination in hiring, maternity/paternity leave, and guaranteed PTO that could be helped by unionization to make us a stronger country, collectively.
And no, leveraging a union to force your company to drop a controversial customer has absolutely nothing to do with labor rights, that's just taking advantage of a organization your tribe happens to control
Unions could absolutely have an impact on racial discrimination and wealth disparities.
It's okay, society can handle more than one issue at a time.
You may be right. I don't know enough about those specific dynamics to argue against it. It doesn't feel right to me, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. It does bring to mind professional sports in the US - Football, Basketball, and Baseball. All have player unions, and all have players that make six figures at minimum, with a fair amount making tens or millions and some making hundreds of millions. But, the NFL is famous for having the most toothless union, and, as a result, its players have the worst contracts/conditions - by a wide margin. It seems to me that unions could still help people who make six figures.
One issue I saw with the pre-Covid job market is that it's too often all or none. Either you spend a ton of time and resources getting a position that pays well and then asks you to work 60+ hours a week, or you take a job that lets you scrape by (even if those positions still ask its workers to put in a lot of hours). It's hard to find balance in either situation, and unions could help restore some of that balance to both situations.
>One of the reasons companies try to create anti-potching rules is exactly to try to get back some power.
What I've read indicates that anti-poching rules are BS. They seem to exist so that employers can control their employees without adequately compensating them. Pay for talent or let it walk.
>The unemployment rate in the US was 4% prior to covid, and even lower for tech and white collar desk jobs.
Beside the point, but the 4% figure doesn't account for gig work, underemployment, or people who have stopped trying. I believe you, and it makes sense, that white collar desk jobs would be in better shape than lower-class positions.
>This issue simply must take a back seat to bigger problems in America.
The hollowing of the middle class is as big as any issue imo, and if we prioritize building the middle class, it will aid in solving many of our other issues. As far as I can tell, nothing would help bring people out of poverty more than a strong union presence.
Are your union members actually paid by the hour or are these hours tracked to justify/demand a certain headcount of salaried union members?
The tracking of work affects future contracts, though, because management (particularly at the corporate level) is continually looking to cut hours and positions, and the union looks to justify keeping them.
In non-union jobs I've worked, those hours/positions get cut without meaningful pushback, and the workers left were forced to do more work without receiving more compensation.
Most of the time? Some degree? Any union that does not represent its members to the best of its ability is not a good union.
That's also why it's vital that no single union has a monopoly on a certain type of work; if union members are unhappy with their union, they need to be able to leave and join or start a new one.
This is as naive as saying that "any good country does not represent it's population" and then therefore expecting good governments.
> That's also why it's vital that no single union has a monopoly on a certain type of work; if union members are unhappy with their union, they need to be able to leave and join or start a new one.
Again, the reality on the ground is one of union monopolies. Union power derives from its collective bargaining power - so separate unions always end up merging and union bosses always end up as major power brokers, accountable to no one.
Many countries have healthy unions. The problem in the US is not the concept of unions, it's the American concept of unions. It's how the US goes about dealing with unions. That's the thing that needs to change. Claiming that all unions are bad when that is clearly not the case, is a nonsense argument.
This is the case for many corporations, leading to corporate mergers too, accountable to no one. That's why we have mechanisms to deal with it. Some mergers must be approved by the government. Sometimes companies are split up. We just need to apply the same regulations around anticompetitive behavior and monopolies to unions, so that we can have unions while keeping them from being all encompassing.
I absolutely agree, but there are unions and unions. The SDA in Australia for instance is, for some members, useless, and for other members actually harmful - but it has been effective at winning better conditions for some workers. (SDA isn't the best example because RAFFWU, which is another union founded by workers and organisers who believe that SDA has failed workers, does a better job everywhere it goes.) A good union is better than a bad union, and a bad union is often but not always better than no union.
I also agree that unionised workers need to be able to effectively organise, which might involve starting a new union. That being said, union turf wars can devastate actual efforts to better conditions because of issues that could be resolved without splitting the union. The best reason to pack up shop and set up a new union is because the union doesn't have an effective means to, or a culture of, internal democracy, which means problems with the way the union is run can't be addressed. But if a union does have this, it's better to 'work within the system.'
There absolutely are legitimate reasons to not want to join a union.
However, “both sides can be right” so to speak, whitewashes (word chosen deliberately) away the historical fact and current reality of systemic suppression of and propaganda against union organizing by US workers.
Let us review GM.
They knew they needed to cut down product, would the union let them?
They knew they needed automation as their labour costs are too high.
The union position was always the same, use the profits from some cars to subsidize the losses from others. How long can that go on for when you continue to lose marketshare?
Their pension is a mess as fewer and fewer workers are supporting it.
Or, you can review Daewoo motors (sold to GM).
The banks flat out told them to cut costs or no loans and they would go bankrupt. Did the unions agree to anything?
I feel like your point, although containin validity, kinda misses the forests for the trees w/regards to what I was trying to express.
By no means am I claiming every particular union is perfect. What I am claiming is that organized labor is, at present, an important way for people in the working class (which really does include us white-collar knowledge professionals, at the end of the day) to gather power and use it to negotiate decent pay, humane treatment, fair treatment, etc, when there's a long and very visible history of the folks in positions of management and power being very comfortable with exploiting and abusing the employees of their own companies, if they can get away with it.
Unions are a means, not an end -- like government. Like the market.
This is known as a 'closed shop' in the UK. Closed shops are not synonymous or required for unions to function.
Case in point: my girlfriend's workplace has been recently purchased by a multinational. Everything fine and well, until they had to pay her. Her monthly salary was cut by about €400 because they refuse to pay past overtime work (which is perfectly legal here, was required by the old employer and was 100% documented). She then gathered with her colleagues and they decided to sign up with an union to put some pressure to the new employer. It happened last week so I have no more news.
Anyway, that's what unions are for, at least over here; they shouldn't be used to move furniture or things like that.
Unions, unlike in Europe, function to protect hours for hourly workers, carve out job functions for union-only work, set standardized salaries, and prevent dismissals. Historically they did a lot more with worker safety, but that's been taken over by the federal gov't (OSHA).
It's just not comparable to the EU. The words almost mean entirely different things - and that's why talking about it in this forum can be very confusing, and often needlessly antagonistic - because the words just don't mean the same thing.
They can be, undoubtedly.
But don't forget the times when they go into bat to defend the rights of workers who have been treated badly by their employers - whether during employment or when they have been made redundant and procedures have not been followed correctly. When you're a part-time worker who is in a union who has very little input in your day-to-day work, but they come to your rescue with a considerable amount of legal muscle behind you in such a situation, the £10 a month you've paid them looks like very good value indeed.
I totally get that unions can be the embodiment of self-protection and bureaucracy, and can lead to expensive and crazy situations (indeed when I see some union leaders here in the UK it appears that is their desire). But that isn't all they are there for - they can also help the little guy out when their back is against the wall.
when i was in my early 20's and unaware of how the world worked i had a job as a contract IT guy at a very well known Power company. People would call me up with their problems and i would fix them. After a few months, somone took me aside and explained to me that they are really bad, as they are "using" me to avoid having to deal with other unions to do this work. I was simply unaware that "plugging in a network cable" was a union job and i just did it as it was easy enought.
The sad thing is it was union employees attempting to avoid other union employees...
That being said, there are some obvious counter-arguments to your experiences, however they tend towards "guilds" as mentioned in another comment more than unions as I understand them.
> Oh, you want to move that folding table and a few chairs to the conference room so you can have a design meeting with the whole team? Sorry furniture movement is union-only work.
Bob grabs the table and lifts with his back, in a twisting, jerking movement. Bob is then unable to come in to work due to back pain for the next two weeks. The union keeps Bob from hurting himself unintentionally.
> Need that extra monitor moved between two adjacent cubes? Sorry, equipment relocation is union work.
Someone notices that a bunch of monitors have gone missing. Have you been burgled?! Noone has any record of where these monitors have gone, however you eventually track then down to Alice's cube where she has finally completed her dream 9-monitor nest. Phew, false alarm!
> Need to plug that new PC into the socket? Sorry, equipment installation is a union job
It gets cold in the winter, so Dan brings their own heater to put under their desk. One day they forget to turn it off when going home and burns down the department;
On the other side new employees don't just materialise out of the ether. The organisation should have plenty of time to set up their working environment
 Funnily enough, if Dan was part of a union they would have enough bargaining power to make sure their employers provide adequate working conditions, however their manager simply filed away their request away under 'C', for "Complainers - Fire these people first"
I'm totally on your side about these examples being ridiculous, but I do like to steelman the other-sides arguments
Now introduce a powerful union - and now you have TWO incompetent authorities fighting one another, which often results in a hopelessly ineffective company - not a better one.
I appreciate the humor in your responses - but the difference is that my examples were real-world examples - not theoretical.
A company cannot put process in front of every theoretical risk - that will just run you into the ground because an unbounded inefficiency.
For anyone who thinks that this is just hyperbole, it's exactly the sort of thing that happens.
When I worked at a unionized television station, I was watching an aircheck of a recent broadcast. When I was done, I ejected the tape and put it back into the archive.
The union filed a grievance against me for pressing the eject button. As a manager, I could use Play, Stop, and the shuttle controls, but not Eject. Only a union member could eject a tape.
At another television station where I worked, there was an employee retiring after 30 years with the station, and we thought it would be cute to show a ten-second clip of him working while the anchors said goodbye and thanks. It never happened. He worked upstairs, in the tech center, and the members of the photographers union weren't allowed to operate any electronic equipment up there because that was the province of a different union. This included working their own cameras. At the same time, the people who worked in the tech center weren't allowed to operate any of the station's cameras, because that was the domain of the photographer's union. As I said, we were never able to air a clip of this good employee doing his job.
At another television station, I worked weekends. Naturally, I was expected to work five days a week like every other employee. So I was assigned to help write during three weekdays. A union grievance was filed against me for taking a theoretical writer's job. The result was that for the next FIVE YEARS, I did nothing three days a week but look at lolcats, and the station had to keep paying me my full salary.
I'm not anti-union. I think unions are essential for coal miners, maids, janitors, and other people. But I'm not convinced that white collar people need unions. Or at least there should be a method of calling out and publicizing union abuses to let their members know what's going on.
People throw the word "union" around a lot with their support, not knowing that it's not the same everywhere.
No, it is the responsibility of the laws surrounding unions in USA. They give ample of protections ensuring you can't easily oust or change bad unions. Even worse the left is championing anti worker laws like banning "right to work", a right that everyone in EU has which protects workers from bad unions, but somehow in USA "right to work" is anti union.
Companies that operate this way must be in slow paced industries. To innovate you must be able to just do stuff. As soon as you add a bunch of hoops and sign-offs you lose momentum.
My own hypothesis on this is that it's not just a matter of high overhead but of slowing things down to the point that it breaks the dopamine reinforcement loop for the human beings involved. Humans need to be able to see results or at least movement toward them in a reasonable amount of time or it becomes really difficult to stay focused and engaged.
The work rules and bureaucracy element is like 100% of my skepticism about unions. Get rid of that stuff and I'd be all for them.
That being said, unions aren't the only source of inane bureaucracy of course. Many organizations without unions manage to invent worthless tar pits of their own.
1. Vow never to work in the software industry.
2. Allow that perhaps mine is a bad example, that there might be good software shops to work in, and wait for more data.
Though I would not fault anyone for choosing #1.
Does it really, though? Because literally every one of your complaints above would be solved, if your companies employees stopped actively fighting the union, and just simply joined it instead.
Have you ever been involved with trade show setup? The trade show unions have elaborate rules about work attendees can and cannot do for themselves.
At low-budget startups, we built our trade show booths ourselves. We had to carefully read the union rules during booth design so we made sure we could install our lighting without the use of a ladder and tools, for example. We used a lot of tool-less fasteners and kept everything low enough that our tallest person could reach it without standing on anything, because otherwise it would trigger union labor rules that required us to pay extra and wait for the union labor to get around to our booth.
Sure enough, on the trade show floor we had a union member watching us to make sure we didn’t get up on a ladder or use tools when installing certain pieces of equipment. Presumably they were getting paid to monitor us and ensure we didn’t actually do any of the forbidden work ourselves.
This is the inefficiency that people see when they think of unions. That inefficiency isn’t going away, because it’s central to how unions maximize income for their members. That inefficiency is why many developers don’t want to form or join unions.
I'm trying to think of how this is different than how the mob operates but I'm at a loss.
I could have gone to Best Buy, bought what I needed, installed it, and been back at work in an hour. Sigh. So I limped along.
A month later, along comes the new RAM and gets installed. But I was long done with the project that needed it.
Anyway, no fan of unions that get their feelers into every crack, in an attempt to pad union jobs. I am definitely in favor of some feedback that helps them be useful and productive - time-to-response on tickets for instance, that affected their pay maybe. Then we might all be happier.
<edit> Sure unions are not the only ones doing this. But unions are doing this. So its 'fair' to blame them.</edit>
EDIT: Non-union shops are just as culpable in the deficiencies you describe (creating and defending bureaucracies from innovation or creative destruction), which is why your pejorative opinion of unions poisons the ability to have a legitimate conversation regarding their benefits to workers (who have very little power against corporations). Unions have challenges, but all organizations of people have challenges.
It'd be fair to say, its union supporters that can't have a meaningful discussion. Because they have a chip on their shoulders. So discussing the negative is instantly off the table.
Anyway, I've worked my whole career free of that particular brand of dysfunctional organization. Worked with guys who were part of them, including one 'enforcer' who's whole job was to threaten other employees into line on critical votes. How's that for dysfunctional?
Imagine you did get your RAM in time, or could have bought it and expensed it. ...then you had to raise ANOTHER 2 week ticket to have it installed in your computer.
I also would like more realistic examples of bureaucracy, because yours are frankly bullshit. Yeah yeah the MTA is bad sure, and I've interacted with unions before that exemplified their stereotypes. But if you really think employees would suddenly not be able to plug in a monitor or move it across the room because there's a union, I think you're completely incorrect.
These were real examples that infuriated everyone. I also think they're bullshit. That's what made them infuriating.
> How does that work at a large company that's already bureaucratic?
It effectively doubles the amount of bureaucracy, because it adds to the list of work that requires a ticket.
> I still have to wait a long time for new equipment.
Do the examples in the comment above currently require a ticket? Plugging in a computer? Carrying a monitor one cube over? Grabbing some chairs from another office? I suspect not.
That's not a union, that's a guild. A medieval-style guild has a monopoly on a certain type of work. A union merely represents its members in workplace negotiations.
Because the argument "the wrong way is the only right way" makes no sense. If it's wrong, you fix it. Being forced to choose between two wrongs is no good.
I worked at a unionised company in the UK and the CWU would have got short shrift if they Tried that with my members (I was Branch's secretary For the M&P union)
What about the Writers Guild and the NBA players union? Would the people in those unions say that?
Semi-genuinely asking? ;)
Or, is this a hypothetical, rational-actor thought experiment you're conducting?
A UBI can possibly help prevent this type of silliness.
Ironically the best examples that come to mind are Uber and some other start ups which manage to both pay terribly and be hardly viable businesses.
UBW would probably work best in a productive sense in a massive stack of prespecified mini-jobs that could be done without supervision like "mow this section's grass, paint this fence".
The Soviet economy tended to have supply side issues - everyone had enough money but getting things to buy was difficult.
I'm not sure how the two are really related and it's a deep and interesting thing to study which I haven't really done. So I don't know all the nuances but that would be an actual example of it.
I'm not so sure. That's a handwave past social issues, and sounds like a bandaid-for-a-bandaid.
So if we give UBI out, can I suddenly plug my monitor into a socket without violating a union contract?
At my company, the majority (all?) employees in my local office are un-unionised. We have the same system (it's just departmental). This is a system that emerges in large old bureaucracies regardless.
Which is why it's present in many unions tracing their formation back to the early 20th century. They're big and they're old.
Your point about the Hollywood unions is a great one. Like tech, in Hollywood everybody has clear incentives to create a great final product. Positive-sum thinking usually part of the culture. In that context, I think unions can be a big help, especially when there are such large wealth and power differentials between the bosses and the workers.
I also think your former colleagues' seeming lack of agency is weird. The union is something the workers create and run. If they think a union they create would be bad, what are they saying about themselves?
They think a union would be a bit like a homeowners association - in principle owned and run by them and never acting against their interests, but in practice a threat as much as an opportunity.
There aren't many supposedly-good organizations in the US.
According to Gallup, in 2019 there were only three institutions in which more than half of Americans had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of trust: the military, police, and small business. The police probably lost that trust recently, leaving only small business and the military.
Only 29% trusted organized labor, which puts it below the presidency, in 2019. But even fewer trust big business, and trust in organized labor has been rising, so there might be some hope for unions.
It is a universal human tendency that is strongly in effect here at the current time and place.
How did this happen?
That desire for exclusion and enforced superiority appeals to some more than others. So it's unsurprising to me that HOA boards frequently turn out awful.
Happily, as older, first-ring suburbs turn into cities in their own right, we're seeing some reversal of that. E.g., as kids and grandkids stay in the area, we're seeing demographic and income diversification. Some places are realizing that things they've previously excluded, like drug treatment and publicly supported housing, are now necessary.
> Political parties?
Check. There are only 2, and cynicism towards both of them is pretty high, as neither really represents the people.
Check as well. See Fox News, which actually delivers "entertainment" disguised as news.
> Boy scouts?
Probably not, but who knows?
Disclaimer: Not an American, just a Canadian that follows US new a bit.
> Probably not, but who knows?
Just a long history of homophobia there.
I just assume that it's almost never going to be the case.
It might look like it's created by worker, but it's created by a sub group of workers which is unhappy with a status quo. This effort will be led by even smaller sub group of activists that have a drive and skillset to organise and weasel into a leadership positions.
Worker run union seems to be even more implausible. It's going to be run by a managerial body composed of said activists, which I absolutely expect to be self-serving, rent seeking and, well, parasitic. Occasionally their interests will coincide with interests of workers they represent, but that will be just some happy accidents.
True in principle, but rarely in practice.
Hollywood also has an endless supply of enthusiastic young people. To me this sounds like an argument in favor of unionizing the game dev industry.
I personally don't want an union in my work place. It's not because I've watched too many movies, but because I've worked at unionized environments before and they are absolutely terrible for me. All the usual symptoms often talked about were there.
Maybe there are good unionized workplaces out there (Hollywood has been frequently pointed to as an example), but I've never experienced them. Out of my interactions with unions, they've been 100% negative, hence my views on unions. Until some of these underlying issues are resolved, I think we'll always have this very mixed to negative view of unionizing.
Their leaders earn a lot, so they have an interest in maintaining the status quo. As one parent mentioned, you can't do much without their approval. Take for example the underground. The commercial property from the subway stations was under the control of the union, all the kiosks and small shops paid rent to the union.
Also some of their former leaders went into politics and got involved in corruption scandals.
The "boxing match" analogy is reflective of the "us against them" power struggle between those trying to leverage their own hand at the expense of someone else in the U.S. corporate-union world.
This is contrasting to the concepts in Europe of labor stakeholders having a roundtable and coming to compromise as a group effort... not that it's perfect, just a different system.
Unions are formed in environments where people feel it’d bad enough to pay the price.
The same way if we looked at jobs hiring bodyguards, most would look pretty dangerous, but we wouldn’t blame the bodyguards.
Without getting into the details of cause and effect, look at it from the perspective of the current employees. Currently it's a nice place to work. Contrasting with previous experiences with unions where they've been terrible experiences to work at. Why would I want this kind of change?
If they’re seriously discussing unionizing, perhaps that assumption is to be revisited ?
eg I would oppose unionizing at my current place of employment because I’m generally happy and feel having an union will make things worse based on past experience with unions.
Writing and acting are race to the bottom. There are plenty of people who would be willing to act for free. You can't say the same for working at Facebook.
In order to stop the race-to-the bottom SAG-AFTRA artificially constrains the marketplace by forcing studios hire a certain number of union actors. In this case, it doesn't really hurt newbies because they'd otherwise get paid peanuts anyways. However, that isn't something that people would want in tech expect perhaps in the videogame industry.
Anyway, while you don't really get the benefit of unionisation unless a large number of people join at a workplace, it's still possible to join some unions as an individual, and there are some lesser benefits like free legal and employment advice.
I suspect what actually happened is that a customer said: "my minions are organising on workplace, let me control most viral posts". The PM looked as what it was, and the posts the employer was complaining about, and made a scenario on that.
Knowing some of the engineers on workplace, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that they didn't think about what they were doing, only whether they could do it, and what was the best design.
I'm not totally against unions, but it seems like that's probably how all the messed up union situations started.
As far as I know, they probably all started with good intentions to improve conditions where change was really needed. None of them started with the intention of creating a bunch of bureaucracy, nor to negotiate wages higher than the market can handle, thus jeopardizing the financial health of their employer, etc.
But, like all organizations (every type in every sphere of life -- government, private sector, charity, religious, and more), there is always the danger that once the organization gets enough power to fulfill its mission, it then moves on to using the power for things it shouldn't.
That's not a reason to dismiss the idea of starting a union, but it is a hazard to be avoided. So it should probably be part of the discussion, just not in a way that's used to instantly shut down the idea.
2) Good PR can easily be outweighed by negative PR. Coal companies have excellent PR departments, but their opposition has invested a lot in negative PR.
3) PR images always exist in your head, but regular encounters with union workers can cause that image, rightly or wrongly, to crash against reality. People think relatively highly of scientists, partially because they never encounter them in real life; compare their image with lawyers or corporate managers.
2) I said this further down the thread, but isn't that table stakes? If you're going to advocate for your members, you yourself need to have a support base beyond that membership. Otherwise you get the situation we've got now, where a request in support of the members is viewed negatively precisely because it's coming from a union.
3) Again, table stakes. Especially so if union members buy into the negative-PR-driven image and create a feedback loop.
I'd love to have a workable union system for tech workers here, but I just don't see what they offer unless you can persuade meaningful numbers of your coworkers to sign up.
It's explicitly about preventing two consenting parties (union + employer) from freely entering into a contract.
Oddly enough there are some (libertarians) people who consider the right to enter into a contract freely pretty sacrosanct, but I've yet to hear one complain about this law.
And Prospect is explicitly not "Political" with the Big P i.e. aligned with a particular party - in fact almost all Professional unions are as they have members of all political parties
I'm not sure tech has a similar need, wages are (generally) high, I would say safety is generally not a concern or where it is (data centers w/ noise), it's usually taken seriously. It's a hard sell.
That's what organizing is. Take personal reaponsability and form or join a union together. It's not something you do on your own and that in fact can be dangerous.
- Spend 1 million to accommodate a union's demands e.g. raise salaries and improve working conditions
- Spend 999999 on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_busting organizations that are specialized on disrupting unions, tarnishing their reputation, and manipulate/threaten/sue/bribe/smear their members
In some countries unions has become corrupted, bureaucratic, ineffective. Companies benefit from that.
If the _only_ thing the union does it make life better for the members at the cost of the company, then you have to expect the company to not want the union there.
A similar argument is put forward by Kerryn Higgs' book "Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet", to explain why society takes direction from economists, in pursuit of economic growth, rather than taking direction from science. Higgs' book is focused on trying to explain why society is failing to tackle climate change, not an analysis of unions, but some of the history that is presented regarding pro-business propaganda is eye opening. Here is an excerpt of an interview with the author:
> How did scientists lose credibility? When I was young, science was almost a god. A few decades later, scientists were being flippantly brushed aside. How did economists displace scientists as the crucial policy advisors and the architects of public debate, setting the criteria for policy decisions? How did economic growth become accepted as the only solution to virtually all social problems—unemployment, debt and even the environmental damage growth was causing?
> The new corporations of the early 20th century banded together into industry associations and business councils like the immensely influential US Chamber of Commerce, which was formed out of local chambers from across the country in 1912. These organisations exploited the newly emerging Public Relations industry, launching a barrage of private enterprise propaganda, uninterrupted for more than a century, and still very healthy today. Peabody coal, for example, recently signed up one of the world’s PR giants, Burson-Marsteller, for a PR campaign to convince leaders that coal is the solution to poverty.
> Back in 1910 universal suffrage threatened the customary dominance of the business classes, and PR was an excellent solution. If workers were going to vote, they’d need the right advice. No-one expressed it better than Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, who is credited with founding the PR industry. Bernays was candid:
>> The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the... masses is an important element in democratic society (he wrote). Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism ... constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country… It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.
> PR became an essential tool for business to consolidate its power right through the century, culminating in the 1970s project to “litter the world with free market think tanks”. By 2013, there were nearly 7,000 of these, all over the world; the vast majority were conservative, free market advocates, many on the libertarian fringe, and financed by big business. They cultivate a studied appearance of independence, though one think tank vice-president came clean. “There is no such thing as a disinterested think tanker,” he said. “Somebody always builds the tank, and it’s usually not Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.” Funding think tanks is always about “shaping and reshaping the climate of public opinion”.
Ah, bingo: here's a bit out of Higgs' book that discusses how the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) campaign for the “American way” managed to get pro-business propaganda into the school curriculum in the 1930s, and lo and behold one of the early aims of the organisation is to fight against unionism:
> In 1895 the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was founded to lobby for business-friendly legislation and, under the leadership of David Perry, in 1903 it launched “a crusade against unionism.” [...]
> The NAM campaign for the “American way” was massive. It replicated Creel’s World War I model in establishing local cells, “Special Committees of Public Information,” which enlisted local Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, and churches, as well as lawyers, teachers, and local dealers of the appliances and cars made by the corporations. These committees of influential people were responsible for the regional face of NAM’s multifaceted “publicity program”; they funneled articles, features and films to newspapers, radio stations, and movie theatres; they sent speakers to the theatres as Creel had done, as well as to every local group of any sort (including women’s groups and what were then called “negro groups”); they distributed pamphlets and weekly bulletins to schools, clubs and libraries. Aware that the adult population was cynical about the corporate claim to “service,” they aimed specifically at schools where _Young America_, their weekly children’s magazine that portrayed capitalism as dedicated to looking after them and their communities, was sent to thousands of teachers, who used them in classroom assignments. _You and Industry_, a series of booklets written in simple language, linked individual prosperity to unregulated industry, and was distributed to public libraries everywhere. One million booklets were distributed every two weeks by the US Chamber of Commerce, which, along with the giant industrial corporations, was also involved in the campaign.
I'm not saying there aren't things a union could help with, I'm just saying that for most devs, those things aren't pinching very hard. Also, you have to be realistic about the impact of unions, they are a double edged sword. Police unions aren't a straw man, they are a real example of the worst case scenario for abusive concentration of power and agendas at odds with the public good. The best examples always come with some bureaucratic overhead. So it is valid to consider the cost/benefit of unions. Again, I'm not taking a stance on what is right here, just saying unions are not as obviously a good idea in every case as you might imagine and the hesitance of your co-workers, right or wrong, is at least understandable.
Police and teacher unions are very much current events in the U.S. between COVID and the protests.
Many people assume unions are simply squeezing their employers, but unions also put the squeeze on customers. We had union members protesting in front of our office building and harassing our visitors for an entire month because our building owner refused to pay 3X the cost to use union labor for the drywall work.
Unions originally seem to have made a very positive impact on the working conditions of workers. Just think of the horrible situation of steel workers (and others) during the start of the industrial revolution. Workers organized to make a change and improve their lot.
Fast forward a few decades: Unions seem to have become self-sustained entities whose incentive have switched from helping workers, to sustaining the union's economic interests. They also sometimes help some workers, but it's not free.
There is a very well known case in Quebec, Canada. It's the Gaspesia debacle:
"Work on the mill conversion began in the spring of 2002. From the beginning, the project -- established as a limited partnership 50 per cent owned by the Fonds de solidarité with the SGF and Tembec each holding 25-per-cent stakes -- was plagued by delays and mismanagement. The FTQ was accused of blocking workers affiliated with other unions from getting construction jobs on the site. Contractors complained that workers were paid for eight-hour days, but put in only three hours of productive labour."
This is only the tip of the Iceberg, and illustrates why there seems a negative perception of unions.
Also the Rock may pay his union dues because (a) he's required to be a memeber and (b) the cost is immaterial to him. The top performers are usually hampered by unions they'd be fine without; he's not going to need the pension and health insurance the collective bargaining agreement gets him.
If I had a union I'd have to negotiate my work against two entities: my employer and a union.
Why on earth would I want to do that? Seems more complicated and I'm less powerful in the negotiation.
Because the union would be 'on my side'? Lol I don't buy it. I think the union would be on the side of their management and whatever political hobby opinions they held, and possibly the majority of the members, but not on my side.
For example, I was not allowed to run ethernet through the paneled ceiling to hard wire our conference rooms for the startup I was at.
Why? Well the building had a contract with a unionized cabling company so every cabling job in the building HAD to be done by them. We would have been charged thousands and had to wait weeks for a job I could do myself in 30 minutes.
Software development is rarely, if ever, unionized - and I'd imagine the majority of FAANG workers starting at said companies within 5 years of graduating from college.
This is a valid point. Your two examples are guilds not unions; they're inherently geared more towards contractors and individuals due to the nature of the work. While job hopping has become both more prevalent and more frequent among software engineers, it's certainly still mostly an employee-oriented field. It's very true that under unions, high performers specifically are paid a bit less and low performers a bit more. This is both the upside and the downside of collective bargaining and a fundamental characteristic thereof rather than a flaw of a specific union. As someone who's generally been promoted faster and paid more because I worked hard and put in long hours, unions are anathema to me. I'd likely be paid less and a less-productive peer paid more. I can see, however, why such a prospect would appeal to most people. But as an outlier among most employees, I see no reason to entrust my situation to majority rule as that takes it from a negotiation between me and an employer (a person who represents my interests and one who doesn't) to one between someone who represents the average employee and an employer, both of whom probably don't represent my interests.
It's easy to say how good a union could be, but will it actually be that good? What kinds of things can go wrong? What weird laws are in place and how could that complicate things?
The bottom line is that if I am happy already, a union is more risk than reward.
“Union” is a trigger word but call it an association like BMA, BALPA, or a Federation (Police) or even a guild, and everyone would be if not on board, at least willing to have a non-emotive conversation.
I'd be more likely to join an organization called "Gathered Friends for Salary Negation And Fair Treatment".
Also Guild does imply exclusion which is the medieval guild system which I think others have mentioned.
How are they not perfect?
It is not mandates from the state that lead to wages and work conditions improving. It's rising demand from employers, as their revenue increases, and they compete with other employers for a limited pool of workers.
Unions obstruct the flexibility and freedom of the market, and thereby hamper economic efficiency and competitiveness. Firms will, all things being equal, see less revenue growth in a unionized labor market, than a non-unionized one.
From the perspective of an economist, all cartels are bad, whether they deal in oil or labour or anything else.
The whole point of unions is to affect change, so what does that sentence even mean?
All else being equal means the union did nothing to change anything, and therefore is 100% overhead.
The outlier is if unions succeed in changing immigration policy to restrict the inflow of foreign labor. That can have unexpected effects that boost the country's economic growth rate or at least help its wage growth rate.
Depending on the situation, immigration restrictions can also harm the country's economy/wages.
Unions are there as a counterpart to business screwing employees.
I understand the US has a different experience with unions than the rest of the world, but they can be really good.
Employers have certainly tried to screw me (e.g. "you need to work overtime with no pay"), and it's really useful to have someone have your back saying "uh, nope that's not legal", instead of being alone as a newgrad.
The effect that unions have on ensuring employment contracts are not being broken by exploitive employers pales in comparison to the effect they have in restricting the labor market by giving unions what effectively amounts to government-enforced monopolies over various work units, which lets unions exploit companies.
There are numerous alternatives to granting unions enormous extra-contractual powers over employers that are available to society to prevent employer violations of labor contracts.
Look at teachers and police unions for a prime example. Great police get paid the same as the police who racially profile. Great teachers get paid the same as the teachers who phone it in.
Additionally unions protect incompetent employees, which I don't want.
So the value prop for unions seems to be: get paid way less money, we'll make sure your incompetent colleagues never get fired and we'll make a stack of money for union bosses in the process.
I want to negotiate my own pay and benefits, and it's worked out excellent for me. A union only serves to harm my interests.
* Job jumping is what forces employers to actually recognize performance. That's both for the person leaving and for everyone else left behind.
* Not so much for the company a person leaves or joins, but for the economy as a whole, job jumping IS performance. Your job isn't just being good at whatever you do right now, it's finding and moving to roles that are more useful economically (aka pay more).
Not counting the most dull sweat shops, programmers experienced in the company's code and processes just are like X months/years of salary more valuable on average than everyone else in their hiring pool on average.
I worked on my prior workplace for three years and at the end I worked half as hard for twice the result as in year 1-2. In the first 6 months I got sort of nothing done. I think this applied to other hires too. Is anyone agreeing with this, numbers approximately of course?
The first point is Why do you care? 6m of not producing anything but still getting paid is a problem for the company not you. If there were a way of getting 6m production from you for no salary, they'd do it. They're undervaluing usefulness, but you're over valuing it!
The second point is that too few people move. Why does that matter? Because it explains the companies actions. Imagine If you have 10 employees who could get jobs elsewhere, and you have to pay them all 5k to prevent that happening. But you know 9 of them are not even going to look. So if you do nothing, you'll save 50k but lose 1 employee. Rehiring will mean 6m of lost usefulness of 1 person. So unless the average salary is 100k, you're better off losing 6m worth of work and saving 50k...
If more people moved more often, companies would do more to encourage people to stay. The fact that such a big chunk of the workforce are basically lifers is why companies don't have to value long service...
Instead: being good at doing interviews including "looking the part", being strong negotiators, changing jobs often.
Likewise a OK programmer at their present job is worth maybe half a year to 2 year in salary in company or narrow product specific knowledge, for the company.
The way changing company gives raises doesn't make sense for the company losing an employee. The employee is worth more for the prior employer than the new. And the new employer's present employees are worth more than the new.
Value is what someone will pay, the highest salaries go to those who can get them.
As for the tech industry, remember, your already getting paid less because of companies like Apple and Adobe who had the non-poaching agreement. This stifled salaries for everyone involved.
Unions are so bad, but companies will collectively bargain if they can.
The two retorts to this are: 1) it's selfish arguing. "Fuck you got mine" style, dismisses what happens to everyone else as long as you're OK. Which may be fine for you, but why should the rest of us agree that you being wealthier is the thing we all want?
2) You negotiating against the resources of a multi-million dollar company who can hire any legal or negotiating team of experts against you? Can you, really?
> "Additionally unions protect incompetent employees, which I don't want."
Unions don't have to protect incompetent employees, but they can demand that the employee be proved incompetent and not falsely accused of incompetence and sacked without "trial" - which could happen to you. Unions protect exploited, abused, unfairly treated employees too, which you might become one day.
> "I want to negotiate my own pay and benefits, and it's worked out excellent for me. A union only serves to harm my interests."
Voting sure is worse than having me as dictator, isn't it? Democracy only serves to harm my interests. Surely you will agree that's a good reason for FaceBook to suppress talk of Democracy and voting in nation-wide FaceBook chat?
Not really, because it's not like tech low performers are in poverty. Tech salaries bottom out at $60-70k in most places in the US. $60k is far from poverty and far from nothing.
>Which may be fine for you, but why should the rest of us agree that you being wealthier is the thing we all want?
Well, the collective in this case has already agreed that I should be paid the market rate that I successfully negotiate. Unionisation is extremely unpopular in tech.
>You negotiating against the resources of a multi-million dollar company who can hire any legal or negotiating team of experts against you
Negotiating isn't 1:1. If you are an effective negotiator and perform well then you're usually negotiating multiple offers and using them as leverage against each other. In reality, it's less "David vs Goliath" and more like "Goliath vs Goliath vs Goliath". If a company refuses to meet my expectations, I move on. No harm done.
>Unions protect exploited, abused, unfairly treated employees too, which you might become one day
I willingly give up those rights. No, really. My current employer can terminate my contract for any reason with minimal notice required. I don't really care, because I know they won't do that as long as I continue to deliver value. In return for those contract stipulations, I am paid more.
But you seem to gloss over the inconvenient facts about police and teachers unions.
In fact, teachers unions regularly protect sexual predators. 
Similarly, police unions regularly protect officers who commit heinous abuses of power.
>Democracy only serves to harm my interests
Maybe I just think a bloated organisation that protects incompetent employees shouldn't be the moderator of so-called "democracy".
If I have a problem within an organisation, I make my thoughts clearly heard with management. If management refuses to listen and the issue is serious enough, I leave.
For example, I once worked for an undisclosed company who refused to allocate resources to fix security issues impacting our customer's privacy. I pushed the issue as high as it would go in the chain of command and left when it was clear they refused to do anything.
And by so doing, you give them up for others too.
> "the collective in this case has already agreed that I should be paid the market rate that I successfully negotiate."
Is there any reason to think you + (more resources, more experienced people, more leverage) could NOT negotiate a higher rate? That you are the best imaginable negotiator, despite having no specific training and only practising once every few years?
> "I don't really care, because I know they won't do that as long as I continue to deliver value"
/r/LeopardsAteMyFace will be there for when the company decides it's in their interest to eat your face.
> "In reality, it's less "David vs Goliath" and more like "Goliath vs Goliath vs Goliath"."
It's more like (Goliath + Goliath + Goliath) vs you; remember when "the Department of Justice alleged that Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar had violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by entering into a series of bilateral "No Cold Call" Agreements to prevent the recruitment of their employees [...] The alleged intent of this conspiracy was "to reduce employee compensation and mobility through eliminating competition for skilled labor.""? - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-Tech_Employee_Antitrust_L...
> "I pushed the issue as high as it would go in the chain of command and left when it was clear they refused to do anything."
I refer back to your claimed excellent negotiating skills, and suggest that a better negotiator - or a large percentage of the employees "united" in some way - would have much more chance at effecting change, and that this is evidence that individual action is weaker than you wish/imply it is. To be clear, when the employer had the power to ignore you until you quit, leaving the injustice to be perpetuated against the customers, you didn't win.
> But you seem to gloss over the inconvenient facts about police and teachers unions.
I think this is an irrelevant diversion; that the courts sometimes lets guilty people go free is not a reason to ditch the legal system, that unions have people who do bad things in them, or that some unions are bad, is not a reason to reject the principal of uniting to make larger negotiating blocks to balance power dynamics which are almost entirely on the employer's side, with tactics like dividing and conquering - setting all employees on individual permanent competition with other employees.
I take it you've never actually gotten an offer with a large tech company. You're negotiating against some HR rep or hiring manager not some blacks ops negotiating team. Teams of lawyers cost a lot of money and paying them $40k to save $20k is stupid for a company.
>Unions protect exploited, abused, unfairly treated employees too, which you might become one day.
At the cost of also protecting the incompetent as they look very similar to those who are abused. Working with incompetent people is something engineers really dislike.
A well paid tech employee can invest their money, spend less, start passive income streams, etc. They have many options to hedge against future issues that don't include having to put up with idiots.
>Voting sure is worse than having me as dictator, isn't it? Democracy only serves to harm my interests. Surely you will agree that's a good reason for FaceBook to suppress talk of Democracy and voting in nation-wide FaceBook chat?
Governments are a necessary evil many would say, Democracy is simply the least bad of many bad options. Unions are not necessary.
"some HR rep", you say dismissively. Are they not an extremely competent professional negotiator? They can't out-negotiate a (typically young, inexperienced, antisocial) programmer? Perhaps they should be fired and replaced with someone who can? Someone who will quietly make a no-poach agreement with competing companies, say.
> "Teams of lawyers cost a lot of money and paying them $40k to save $20k is stupid for a company."
The teams of lawyers have already been there, drafting the employment contracts in favour of the company, rewriting the hiring policies in favour of the company, adding the terms and conditions which say "anything you do on your own time on your own equipment belongs to us" and "you can't work anywhere we think is a competitor for years after leaving us" and so on.
> "Unions are not necessary."
Unions came as a response to employer abuse. "many would say" they are very necessary. Either way it's a step from "not necessary" to "they shouldn't be allowed".
how do you know you are earning as much as you should?
I mean if we take facebook as an example, you can't negotiate pay. You're slapped on a scale and thats it. You might be able to up your share offer, but actual pay is fixed on a scale.
Which is the same as what it would be if it was unionised.
Also, you have chosen two professions that are run by public organisations, so pay is always going to be low However in other countries, teachers unions are very effective at settling compensation. (The UK for example has reasonably well paid teachers)
I think the problem is that you seem to be labouring under the pretence that you are special, and earn a specially high wage. Statistics say that in practice your probably earning close to median for tech. Make of that what you will...
 well yes and no, depending on country, but lets assume the USA
Stocks basically are pay, because anyone who doesn't immediately sell them as they vest is fiscally irresponsible.
>Which is the same as what it would be if it was unionised
Firstly, no. The scale is wide and you are placed somewhere between the low and high points of the scale for your level. Not every L5 engineer earns the same thing. Secondly, total compensation is what matters.
>Also, you have chosen two professions that are run by public organisations, so pay is always going to be low
Tech contractors for public organisations in my area are paid more or less market rate.
>However in other countries, teachers unions are very effective at settling compensation
Not for top performers, they are paid the same as low performers.
>The UK for example has reasonably well paid teachers
If you are the best teacher in the country, you get severely underpaid.
>Statistics say that in practice your probably earning close to median for tech
I earn 110% more than the median wage for my particular level, according to Glassdoor/Levels/etc. I don't think I'm special, but I think I perform highly and are paid in kind for that. Given I'm capable of analysing my own impact, it's pretty clear I'm paid a fraction of the value I provide to the company too.
Just because this worked for you doesn't mean it's a good strategy at every company every time.
Sure, AMZN exploded over the last years, no idea why so. I had doubts i would ever go above 1k, not to speak about approaching 3k.
I got stock 10 years ago at $13/share and now it's worth $201/share. I don't feel irresponsible for still holding it.
Teachers cannot negotiate salary, thanks to unions. The best teacher in America is paid the same as the worst teacher.
And no every union is about teachers, which are by defenition not comparable to white collar tech employees (coming back to the FB example).
Grade teachers on their students' test scores? Okay, now you have teachers spending inordinate amounts of time on overfitting the curriculum to the local standardized testing requirements and less time actually ensuring their students are educated.
Grade developers on their lines of code or number of features shipped? Be prepared for needlessly verbose code and buggy garbage shipped out to meet the metric.
Throw these objective criterion out the window in favor of a more judgment-based approach? Be prepared for lawsuits when the mistake is eventually made.