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A woman who took on Google and won (bbc.com)
208 points by evo_9 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 234 comments

I hope unionizing against these tech giants becomes fashionable. I worked at Adobe as a contractor and one of the recruiters for the contractor had called me and told me not to discuss my pay because I was being paid very well for the job (I wasn't and in fact was underpaid but I took the job to build a resume). I immediately asked my coworkers what they made and told them what I was getting. I also asked the recruiter to send that in writing. I got a call the next day from his manager saying to ignore and disregard what he said.

While they squashed the issue immediately, I suspect this practice is common and bullying people about sharing their wages in this industry is normal.

It goes a lot further than that. I had a very brief stint at a company that looked good on the surface but was toxic as hell underneath. As part of my employment agreement I had to sign an NDA stating I could not discuss my compensation with other employees. If memory serves there was an exception for HR and my manager but I wasn’t supposed to talk about it with anyone else. I honestly don’t know if conditions like that are legal in Ontario but I also didn’t have the resources to contest it.


If you make $60,000 a year for a job, you are doing decently well on a US-wide perspective (and very well on a global perspective). However if your coworkers, doing the exact same work as you exactly as well, make $120,000, you’re in fact being underpaid.

And the solution to the first issue isn’t to attack the people making $60,000 but to bring everyone who is underpaid up.

No, he's including in the compensation the experience etc.

It's not strictly a free market so the market closing price will be lower than true equilibrium because a no-agreement for one negotiator (labour) results in starvation but a no-agreement for the other negotiator (employer) results in minor discomfort.

Perhaps allowing the former to negotiate freely by guaranteeing life will bring negotiation outcomes closer to true market closing price. That's got its own problems, of course, but unions aren't a bad idea to attempt to increase power of labour vs employer.

"Experience" has nothing to do with compensation. You don't deserve more money just because you have been around longer. It is appropriate to make it proportional to value creation. Experience helps with this but obviously then the correlation will be lower.

No, he was paid with getting the experience. He got compensation in the shape of "build(ing) a resume"

I'll ask my landlord if they take that next time. I'm sure the company would love to earn experience from my work instead of money too since it's so valuable.

I bring this up in the most tongue in cheek manner: https://thehardtimes.net/culture/surprisingly-cool-landlord-...

Well stated. Makes me wonder...

Maybe you can somewhat pay your landlord in living experience, frequently blogging about your amenities included in the place for a possibly more-than-one-time rent extension for pandemic purposes.

I'm an influencer, let me live here rent-free.

That's not experience, that's advertising.

While you are laughing, tenants absolutely pay landlord in "experience". For commercial rents, tenants like Apple in shopping malls pay significantly less than regular rate (https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-gets-sweet-deals-from-mal...).

Prince Harry move to Montecito increased property values around his house (https://nypost.com/2021/03/08/montecito-home-next-to-prince-...). I am sure many luxury buildings in any city would be happy to rent apartment to him for free just for publicity it will generate. This is equivalent to having Google/Apple on your resume.

Even if you are nobody, there are experiences you can provide to the landlord in lieu of rent (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/landlords-are-targeting...) [Do not recommend, probably illegal for both sides]

That's not experience, that's clout.

Also I think it's pretty clear this discussion does not pertain to corporate or celebrity tenants.

Well, you can always ask. These deals are voluntary.

There is a huge gulf between "we agreed on these terms given extant circumstances" and "this is a voluntary relationship". The gulf exists because extant circumstances can be inherently coercive.

Sorry to burst your ancap bubble though.

What a strange way to converse

Retreating to criticism of rhetoric is a classic signal that you have no substantive rebuttal.

No. It means the opposite - not paid well.


I think anyone would ask for more money in that case, right?

That's not true. There comes a time where you're willing to take a pay cut for the group of people you are working with [that of which includes experience/mentorship maybe even stable job vs overpaid exec startup position]

Depends on the company. Most are worthless from a resume perspective.

But stating that they were giving you something you wanted even more than money is not good grounds for complaining that you weren't getting enough money.

There is more which has value than money.

This whole thread shows that HN disagrees. I can't understand how you all think compensation works.

I know that this isn't skilled labor at the level of systems or network administration, but $15/hr sounds low for data center techs swapping out hard drives. I'm sure it's all very scripted, but still, I'm surprised to learn that the grunt labor in the cages is making something resembling the Seattle minimum wage.

it is low. over the course of my career I have witnessed skilled people earn less and less, almost always for the sake of "shareholder value" (more generally called "profit" at smaller places) and it is sickening.

when I was very young, one could be promoted simply by demonstrating a willingness to learn and be better when others were not. now, if you are not doing at least that, you are not considered for a raise.

last year I got a perfect yearly evaluation, and a 0.6% raise, which equaled inflation for the same year.

a raise is supposed to be a raise. a reward. incentive to continue the good work.

it used to be that if you could perform well that you were rewarded. now, if you perform well, you stay afloat. that's it.

I really hate this planet because of things like this. if humans were a decent species, money would not work it's way toward people who already have more.

honestly, I can't wait to be done with this life. the black abyss is better than working harder than anyone else simply to keep your head above water.

Under the thin veneer of civilized society it's still the law of the jungle; while our civilization may have become advanced, our DNA hasn't caught up. We are programmed to blindly accumulate as much as possible, because for most of our evolutionary history scarcity and disaster was always just around the corner. In modern times, it translates into those who already hold positions of wealth and power going for even more, at the expensive of everyone else. This has in turn been amplified by technology and globalization.

Having said that, historically we're still at a "high point". It's a cold comfort, but still..

Seeing how wages adjusted for inflation have stagnated while productivity has nearly doubled in the past 40 years and the impending climate catastrophies, I don't see how we're at a high point. Although, I guess if some kind of climate catastrophe occurs, we could consider ourselves in one of the luckier generations https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/productivity-workforc....

Actually I think we peaked 10-20 years ago. My father experience most of the peak 50-odd years - thankfully he didn't live to see what the world has become.

The sobering reality once you understand things is that we are never more than 1 generation away from living in caves and losing all civilization. The delusion of durability of The Cloud (compared to physical books) is one of the saddest things.

I used to be a vendor for both Seagate and WD - and they'd regale us about how NO HDD can store data forever even if it's not running. Everything fails as long as it at 300K rather than 0K. And the lifespan of most electronics and computer is FAR shorter than most people imagine.

>while our civilization may have become advanced, our DNA hasn't caught up. We are programmed to blindly accumulate as much as possible, because for most of our evolutionary history scarcity and disaster was always just around the corner.

Yes, we'd be much better off if we'd just stop progressing at some arbitrary point, and just accepted:

- 35 years of life expectancy

- no running water

- famines every decade

- zero modern technology, like electricity or even healthcare

35 years of life expectancy was not reality. If you lived past childhood you usually lived until your 50s or 70s. There are tribal villages in africa today that barely have modern anything and have many people in their 90s. Human life expectancy decreased with the transition from hunter/gatherer/herder tribes into agriculture with a few crops, due to relative malnutrition. It's only recently in modern times that we have started matching hunter gatherer life expectancy with our knowledge of nutrition and 120 year old medical knowledge.

>35 years of life expectancy was not reality

So? That's still the definition of life expectancy. Moreover, being able to live to 90 if everything went right doesn't mean much when you die at 20 because of a treatable illness/injury, or seeing your wife/kid die in childbirth.

> Under the thin veneer of civilized society it's still the law of the jungle

that "law of the jungle" thing is a myth. people believe it because it makes sense, but it isn't real for humans or almost any animal species.

what really exists is that people feel very good when they view themselves as superior to others, and they come up with an insane amount of mental gymnastics to justify what they do to attain that feeling.

one of the great myths of nature is that predators have some sort of instinct to screw over their social group at every opportunity. even most animals know that there is strength in numbers and in fairness. we humans have taught ourselves that fairness and consideration of others are weaknesses and that feeling like a badass at the expense of others is very positive.

humans are literally an irredeemable species at this point, because all of the evidence of what I say is available to anyone with an internet connection, but it's easier and more fun to feel like a badass occasionally than it is to change your view of society, so the facts get ignored and humanity continues to destroy itself over smaller and smaller things.

> One of the great myths of nature is that predators have some sort of instinct to screw over their social group at every opportunity.

Speaking of humans: Their social group, no. Other social groups, absolutely.

We know this as "ingroup bias".

Pre-internet, your ingroups and outgroups were largely restricted by geography. Moreover, you got this sort of "ingroup boosting" effect by being part of a town, county, state, and country, so you had a lot of overlaps with other people.

Interestingly enough, each of those geographic entities actually occupies a "slot" in your social graph -- unconsciously, you think of them as people.

Without a forcing function providing behavioral moderation through discordant groupings, ingroups and outgroups become increasingly monocultural, tribalistic, and behaviorally extreme.

>one of the great myths of nature is that predators have some sort of instinct to screw over their social group at every opportunity. even most animals know that there is strength in numbers and in fairness.

Citation on this? Your claims are contradicted by wikipedia articles like: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide_(zoology)

The big ideological thing that both these comments miss is the they don't question the presupposition that we need to be 'natural'

Oh, but what is "natural" is not "coercive," at least according to capitalists.

> if humans were a decent species, money would not work it's way toward people who already have more

We are a decent species, that's why we've survived this long.

There is also more at play than just humans being "decent". I recommend this short (3min) video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k_FfS1kHfY

TL;DW it's almost a natural law that things accumulate in a pareto distribution.

Would you be interested in moving to and working in a town where everyone earned the same salary?

I think the labor has also required less skill over time or at least compared to other companies. Google has very uniform custom hardware. Usually they only produce a few configurations of a particular platform at any time, and there may only be 1 or 2 platforms in a building. They build the racks in assembly lines before they are shipped to datacenters. Software detects problems with hardware, often diagnoses the issue automatically, and schedules it for service.

I think they even used to have a patched kernel that would disable faulty RAM so that they wouldn't have to replace single DIMMs.

I think it follows a common pattern of replacing medium skilled labor with low skilled laborers augmented with very few high skilled laborers.

Also the biggest DCs are in low cost-of-living/cost-of-labor areas. E.g. South Carolina, Iowa, and Oklahoma have the federal minimum wage ($7.25).

20 years ago, the local pay for that type of work was $17.50 including benefits. This was in a not very high COL living area relative to Silicon Valley or the like. I look at the pay over there every few years and it has always gone down, while the benefits and career advancement have vanished.

It has always been a PITA to be the low person on the totem pole, but these days the pay isn't there, the benefits aren't there, and the treatment can be rather appalling.

An important distinction being that this was in South Carolina, not Seattle. And presumably Google's data center isn't in the middle of the expensive parts of South Carolina...

According to Wikipedia, $15/hr full time amounts to the median wage in Berkeley County, South Carolina, and it is more than double that state's minimum wage.

Median housing costs are also less than 1/3 of median in King County, WA (Seattle's county).

This doesn't bode well for Google, but rather, is damming for what is supposed to be one of the richest places on Earth. Just image trying to live on less than $15/hour.

The story is full of the standard paradoxes: a) She's being paid 'reasonably' but probably not for such a rich company/area b) She's entitled to 'talk about comp' but people slamming the company publicly on Facebook posts are not going to last, it's reasonable that the company wold be upset buy that c) Google is full of actually quite nice people wanting to make a difference, there's a lot of moralizing about 'equity and diversity' but in their relentless pursuit of profit they create a 'tiered class system' of people, of completely secondary status and they grind them with every bit of the massive power they have.

Google is not rich because they 'nickle and dime' people, they're rich because they create a globally useful product, and have enormous market power.

Some things Google could do:

1) They're stinking rich. Pay good wages and give awesome benefit packages.

2) Don't intimate people but let them know if they're leaking information to the press or posting publicly that they're going to be let go.

3) Make every single person from CEO to the servers at lunch 'part of the company' and let them come to company events, and see the 'invited speakers' etc. if they want.

The reason they should do that is because their supposed to be 'good people' i.e. communitarians first. It's hypocritical to virtue signal publicly if they can't make their own beds.

$15 is livable wage in that county though. I checked Zillow and there are ok looking houses starting at 100k ($450/month mortgage = 20% of income). Most expensive house in the county is $2.5M and it's actual lakefront mansion on 10 acres with swimming pool and private pond.

$15/h is unlivable wage in Bay Area or Seattle but actually ok money in many parts of the country.

While corporations are somehow considered people, they can't be expected to be good.

$15/hr is a living wage in the mountains of North Carolina where that datacenter is located. It is $30k/year. A house in that area costs about $100k. The median income in the area is $17/hr. Minimum wage is $7.25.

This is a good story for all to realize -- you CAN talk about your OWN pay to anyone you want. Every employer I know has tried to say "you can't do that" or "its in your contract" and I would rebuff and say the contract is illegal/non-binding as it goes against labor laws (in the US as per various labor laws and an executive order as recently as Obama). I get really annoyed w/ HR in firms -- their goal is to stop information from being shared to control things. On the flip side I do not agree that just because your colleague makes X that you deserve X. Pay never consistent and I have no problem with that part given we aren't clones of each other either.

Is that a US think? I've worked for employers in several European countries and have never heard an employer telling me not to discuss pay. Once a manager told me not to tell everyone about a pay raise as it was out of schedule and he didn't want lengthy discussions with other employees. But that was his personal request, not a request by HR. If I had wanted to discuss it I could've done without consequences, he made that clear as well.

It's still unusual to discuss pay in many companies but not because the employer prohibits it.

Is salary negation a common thing in Europe? Because in the US, it’s pervasive if you’re salaried (not hourly). The problem then becomes: if I negotiated, say, $75k/year, but my equally skilled coworker negotiated $85k/year, it doesn’t look good on the company. So the company just pushes you to not share at all. And it’s worked.

yes salary is negotiable in Europe but mostly within a range depending on your level (which is usually not transparent, you don't know the ranges). people mostly avoid salary discussion because of cultural reasons I guess, but never due to the employer, I can't imagine HR telling someone to not discuss their salary.

Yeah, it is quite common. In IT. I wouldn't say it is in other domains.

Wait, I'm confused reading this. It's really hard to make out which of the abusive behaviors here are Google's, and which are Modis'. I don't really understand the relationship between those two institutions. (I'm assuming there's plenty of fault on both sides here, but it would be nice to understand the specifics)

How much of her direct day to day life is set by Modis? I figure Google pays Modis and Modis pays her? (If so, how much of a cut is Modis keeping?) Did Google directly provide her water bottle, or did it need to go through Modis? It looks like the threatening email she received claiming that she couldn't discuss compensation came from a Modis manager, not a Google one? Which managers were in the room when she was fired for her Facebook post? (I'm assuming Google ones, since they're on-site?)

> It's really hard to make out which of the abusive behaviors here are Google's, and which are Modis'.

Which is exactly by design. They can each blame the other and hope the employee doesn't complain.

It's basically "Big Tech Bashing" at this point.

She wasn't working for Google, she was working for a contractor. Go to a different datacenter and it will be staffed by a different (local) contractor. Same thing for most of the building's maintenance staff. What makes it news-worthy is that the owner of that particular server-rack was a high-profile company. Had the same thing happened at a datacenter owned by a bank, nobody would have reported on it.

Google was involved in her employment. The Alphabet Worker's Union filed a complaint against both Google and Modis. There's no reason to assume that only one company was involved, who was responsible can be decided by the NLRB.

You understand that most Google DCs are owned and operated by google, and serve only google, right?

So like even at best this is "Google contracted some dc operations to a company that violated labor relations law."

The more newsworthy part is that she was able to get recourse.

It wasn't long ago that Google directly employed most of their datacenter techs. I know a couple guys who worked their way up from server monkey to SRE. It's sad to hear that that pathway seems closed off.

If you get a guy to come replace your roof, it's not really your problem that his employer didn't give him a water bottle, now is it?

Sure, but if I own a house construction company and hire a contractor to do the roofs because I want to keep roof costs down at all costs I am responsible for the low salaries and poor conditions of my roof contractors.

being a good client I would still offer them water/soft drink regardless.

Yeah, it kinda is, unless you're a total shitbag with no empathy.

If the contractor doesn't pay the subcontractor, you as the homeowner are liable.

I would say Google is completely responsible as they choose to hire contractors for the purpose of mistreating and exploiting them. If Google replaced this contractor or hired their own employees then Google shouldn't be blamed, but as is they hire people to do this for them. It's their fault.

When I worked at Google, I worked in Platforms, which is the division that makes the servers that populate Google datacenters. They had a program where you could spend a week or two (can't remember exactly) in a datacenter, acting as a low-level tech like this woman. The idea was that you'd see the problems they'd encounter and design servers that were easier and safer to service. I regret that I left Google before I had a chance to do this.

I think they should re-target the program and make it mandatory for execs, and make them live on the $15/hr wage that they pay the techs for a few weeks.

Sounds much better being a datacenter tech for $15/hr compared to flipping burgers for minimal wage. Where this datacenter is located it's $7.25/hr...

Work at a burger place like In n' Out, and you get real benefits on top of your hourly wage.

Heck, when I was in college, my part-time Starbucks job gave me good health coverage and a bunch of other perks that my first few post-college tech jobs didn't. (This was mid-90's). FWIW.

One of the unfortunate side effects of Affordable Care Act was that retail jobs nowadays don't provide you with any health coverage if you work part-time and they now try to limit your weekly hours at 29.5, which is the max before they have to treat you as a full-time employee.

Is there a name for that, where whatever the limit is, people set things right at it? The same is true in progressive tax brackets, and the number of cancer cases that people get right when people are eligible for Medicare in the USA.

Seems like it is common enough to have a name.

> The same is true in progressive tax brackets

I might misunderstand you, but progressive tax brackets mean you pay extra money only on money earned after the limit. So if that line is $1000, under which the tax rate is 10%, you pay $100. Then if the tax rate above that is 20%, I pay that much only on the amount above $100. So if I make $1020, I pay 10% * $1000 + 20% * $20 = $102. (Not 20%*1020 = $204)

In other words, you can’t take home less money overall just because you crossed the line into a higher tax bracket. I felt it was worth mentioning because it’s an easy misconception to have.

"she worked in a Google data centre, she was actually employed by a subcontractor called Modis, part of a group of companies owned by another firm, Adecco.

That complex arrangement has become increasingly common at Google."

This complex arrangement is common in every large corporation. The two layers of contracting companies rarely have any contact with the workers who are fully controlled by managers at the paying company (Google in this case). However, everyone is very careful to officially document that no one at the company is the manager of the contracted employee. But they are.

It doesn't really sound like she took on Google, but I guess "A woman who took on Modis and won" is a less engaging headline.

That undersells Googles use of these staffing firms. Years ago I interviewed for an engineering job with the self driving car team at the newly built Google X office. At the end of the interview the manager informed me that if I were brought on I would technically be employed by a staffing firm (I think Adecco). Apparently everyone on the team had to start this way and people were moved to full time on a set schedule as slots opened up.

My point is you can't assume contractors at Google are independent service providers that happen to be working on site like when you call a plumber to your house. They can and do use this arrangement to keep labor costs low even when employees are working on the company's core business. Before it was Waymo I don't think anyone would have called it the Adecco self driving car project.

Yeah Adecco is used by every major software company. There was a big lawsuit though saying that you could only be contractors for 2 years if they were doing the same job as regular employees.

You're still accountable to the subcontractors you hire.

Agree. What a clickbait. I thought BBC is better than this.

It seems like there must be something lost between Google and its contractors, because Google already doesn't have a policy against discussing wages and compensation, as evidenced by the crowdsourced salary and comp spreadsheet that's been going around for almost a decade now.

When I first started at Google long ago, I came through an acquisition. As part of that we were all given a relocation package to move closer to the office if we needed to. When I was discussing the details with the HR/recruiter person on the phone I mentioned that I had been talking to my coworkers about the details and I had a logistical question that we couldn't figure out... and they stopped me dead in my tracks and told me point blank and very seriously: "you are not to compare or discuss any aspect of your offer with your coworkers", like I'd committed a cardinal sin. I was a bit shocked.

EDIT: FWIW the relocation package terms were all the same between everyone, so it was a bit ridiculous.

And people are illegally fired for it every single day. Same for trying to start a union.

It had before, it was just not explicitly said. That crowdsources spreadsheet was a huge achievement, and if I recall correctly, there was push back from the management at first, they just didn't have a legal way to enforce the policy.

> something lost between Google and its contractors,

Yes, that's the primary purpose of having contractors -- to slough off legal obligations.

> Google already doesn't have a policy against discussing wages and compensation

This was a hard-fought battle, employee + NLRB vs management.

That's not the way I remember it. The way I remember it, someone got up on corp. G+ and said "everyone put your comp in this spreadsheet" and by the end of the first day ten thousand people had filled it out and nobody cared.

So much of Google's HR policies are so clearly illegal I still boggled by it. We saw this in spades with Damore but also with numerous other situations since.

When I started working at HP, within 1 week we had "Neophytes Training" and that including half a day of a lawyer from corporate legal explaining all the things that needed to be common knowledge about rights, obligations and duties as an employee. That include HR rules, CA and US law, like the ones in this situation.

Who the hell gets into management without knowing the general territory of NLRB and DoL rules and laws?? WHO?? Apparently Google and every one of their contractors!

So how exactly has Google et al. either lost knowledge that was once very common in Silicon Valley in most corporations or never bothered with it? Wouldn't this be part of what "Adults in the Room" from VCs or hired senior managers bring to the table?

The hubris daily demonstrated by "Googlers" seems a likely part of it - they naturally "know better what is what and what is right than anyone else on the planet". That's their modus operandi most of the time. There are SO MANY STORIES about this in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. But their egoes ignore a little thing called the law.

Discussion of salary and (iirc) discussion of working conditions are strongly protected in the US. Anyone know how universal that is?

Legally, yes. De facto it's a lot trickier, and that's always the rub.

Most of the public sector jobs in India (& in California too) have published lists of every position's base rate & the rate of increase.

A lot of states have public salaries. If it's not released then organizations like newspapers will file FOIA requests.

I am not aware of any such protections in Europe. It may be, but in the 3-4 countries where I know the legislation there is no such thing.

There's legal protections for discussing salary in UK at least

This new is great, but I find one part kind of backwards: why does the declaration in pages 3-4 https://cwa-union.org/sites/default/files/20210331_nlrbsettl... only shown in the case of a violation like here? Why can’t the declaration be posted in conspicuous places in every workplace much like how job postings, minimum wage, rules around harassment, and occupational safety are?

This brought back some memories. Some years ago,I worked for a gas/oil infrastructure contractor. Essentially got fired for trying to cool myself too often by pouring water on my face. At the time,I was spray painting gas pipes under direct sunlight with pretty heavy PPI in the middle of hot summer. Anything below 30 degrees would have felt like heaven.

In all this story,there was someone,who had a nerve to tell her that she can't have a bottle of water...

"Tech workers have it great. What would a union even accomplish?"

Stuff like this is exactly what unions would accomplish if they became more standard in the industry. The Google union is a couple months old and is already successfully defending their members from violations of labor laws. How many others are there who are working in unsafe conditions and/or illegally fired for "security reasons" and have no one to speak out on their behalf?

Wait, what exactly did the union accomplish here? From the article it sounds like:

1. They got a suspension for talking about unions overturned, but not her later firing over the Facebook post.

2. Google signed a document saying its employees "have the right to discuss wage rates, bonuses, and working conditions," which is just a restatement of U.S. law.

3. Nobody admitted any wrongdoing and there was no monetary compensation.

If that's what winning looks like, I hate to see what losing is.

> Her suspension for talking about supporting a union was overturned, but not her later firing for the Facebook post.

Where does it say that? The article doesn't mention a firing at all.

> Nobody admitted any wrongdoing and there was no monetary compensation.

There usually is monetary compensation in settlements like this, they just don't disclose it.

> "The next day, I was at work, I got called into a conference room with all, for the most, the managers present. And they told me that my Facebook post was in violation of the non-disclosure agreement, and that I was a security risk and needed to hand over my badge and my laptop immediately, and be escorted off site."

I've never been fired before, but I'm pretty sure when they ask you for your badge and laptop and escort you out the door, you're being fired.

This was the suspension, and is what triggered the union to file lawsuits on her behalf

> There usually is monetary compensation in settlements like this, they just don't disclose it.

They do usually say “settled for an undisclosed sum”.

Although software engineers and systems administrators do have it great now, compared to others like the data center techs in this article, it is also worth planning for a time that it may not be so, especially if you expect to be in the industry for a long time yet.

And the article demonstrates not all tech workers have it great, aye?

Why is the Alphabet Workers Union filing lawsuits on behalf of people who don't work for Alphabet (e.g. the woman in this article)?

Because it’s a political group, not a traditional union. Its members are more interested in control over the company and perceived injustices to others rather than problems experienced by the members.

Collective bargaining can be used to make demands about anything really. It doesn’t have to be working conditions for workers. They can even use their power to pressure Google into supporting particular political candidates, etc if they have enough power.

That's one perspective, though you haven't attempted to demonstrate why politicals shouldn't be an aspect of unions.

Seems reasonable to me for unions to be involved in lobbying.

Right. We accept that corporations lobby constantly. Why shouldn't their employees have a voice, too?

Anyone should be able to lobby.

There's nothing overtly nefarious about lobbying.

Lobbying is 'telling government about something specific'. Usually in your own interests, but the interests of the people should interest the government.

The problem is the asymmetry of power and access.

Wow, just wow. Like, no one asked really but here you go

What is stated is absolutely true...

Contractors included, see here:


We recognize our power as Alphabet workers—full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors—comes from our solidarity with one another.[emphasis mine]

Contractors included.

They cover full-time employees and contractors of Alphabet.

Come work here in Brazil! We have more than 15,000 unions! We have a union for union workers (not even joking). It's great! We are now a very very rich country, the labor is valued and we are also a tech powerhouse!

Sarcasm aside, it's really disturbing to see amazing countries like the USA falling for the same illusions that have kept us poor since forever. What defeats bad bosses is the option for workers to simply walk away, be it because of competitors offering better conditions or because you don't really need the income in the short term.

If your are left wing inclined, I suggest that you lobby UBI instead of unions.

Be better than us.

Wages rose faster in America back when we had stronger unions. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us... And rich executives were taking a smaller fraction of the profit for themselves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_Sta...

You are right. That is why Somalia, with no legally recognized labor unions, is a global economic powerhouse, while shitty European countries like Germany, Finland, Denmark (where up to 2/3 of the workforce is in unions) are in the dirt.

Cherry picking can go both ways. National economies are complex, and what works in one country can fail in another. There is zero point in generalizing.

Do you live in any of those countries?

Germany is shitty though when it comes to tech. The pay is garbage compared to US top companies so they lose out on the top global talent.

It’s possible that unions are great for average and below employees, but they appear to be a pretty sour deal for everyone used to big tech income in the US.

> _________ is shitty though when it comes to tech. The pay is garbage compared to US top companies so they lose out on the top global talent.

You can fill the blank with the name of literally any country on earth and the sentence will still be correct. Tech salaries in the US are a huge outlier. There is not a single other country on earth where ICs can earn remotely as much as they do in the US tech hubs. Even US top companies don't pay remotely as much in their non-US offices.

Every country other than the US is shit when it comes to tech salaries. I doubt unions have anything to do with that either way.

If you use the same argument then how do they make the world's top luxury cars with "average and below" union workers?

My impression is that tech is one area where union membership is very low in Germany.

correlation != causation. I can give you examples of rich countries that have lots of unions. Would you say it's the unions that made them rich?

You should look elsewhere for reasons why Brazil is relatively poor today. I guarantee you unions have very little to do with it.

> I can give you examples of rich countries that have lots of unions.

Just curious, who would that be? I am guessing some Scandinavian countries, maybe?

See the table here:


France, Austria, Belgium, Iceland, and Sweden all have above 90% collective bargaining coverage. Finland, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Australia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany are between 50% and 90%.

Imagine life without your unions. It could be worse. Brazil has many problems preventing it from taking over the globe. Union are not holding them back.

You have bigger companies vs many smaller companies. Unions and big companies go hand in hand.

I think this discussion of unions for tech workers glosses over a fundamental truth. While a union may be good for some people, for many (I think most) technical experts at a place like Google it would easily be a net negative, so they don't want them.

A similar analogy is why "no-tipping" restaurants are so rare in the US (or why they go away so quickly when they are tried). While no-tipping may benefit some servers, your good and better servers can easily make more money with tipping, so they don't want it to go away. The same dynamic exists for software developers.

A great many people spent a great deal of time and effort making unions seem like a bad deal. However, the underlying truth is unions are till useful for Actors making millions of dollars on a movie let alone FAANG programmers.

The core misunderstanding is unions adjust to the conditions of the workers they represent. Collective bargaining is hated by upper management because it shifts more power to the workforce be that someone making minimum wage or millions. People think great healthcare when they should be thinking more worker friendly stock vesting schedules and other issues that impact highly compensated individuals.

Unions have no value for 'actors making millions'.

The union is basically irrelevant to them.

The various unions and guilds in film/tv production are there to protect the regular workers who operate in often very irregular and ad-hoc circumstances.

Also - acting is a hugely oversubscribed job, most actors don't do acting full time. There are 10 actors for every role. Even good one's.

Even just 'working actor' - let alone 'millions' - is a very lucky position.

'Famous' actors are not helped by the union, they have agents who manage their deals, much like athletes and their comp. is a function of totally different things.

'Athlete's Unions' are actually advantageous to them, because they can leverage power against owners, but in that case it's 'rich' vs. 'rich' entities fighting over surpluses, and nothing is gained or lost for the rest of us, it's not a helpful basis of comparison for working-class unions.

‘Famous’ actors making millions like Donald Trump joined the SAG because they thought it was a net benefit to them. One of the major benefits is protection from those vary same managers which have historically often acted in their own interest rather than their clients.

Another benefit that seems minor to multi millionaires but occasion really makes a huge difference in these people’s lives is a significant pension. It’s unfortunately common for very rich actors to end up broke at some point making the security of knowing you’re never going to be poor even if they don’t stay rich a huge deal. That’s something managers can’t negotiate on a film by film basis and it’s an example where minimizing downsides becomes more valuable than maximizing total compensation.

Or you could just increase minimum wage (unions help with that!) and get rid of tipping culture. Because fucking with peoples livelihood because your muffin took a bit long to come out is insane.

I mean, this seems to completely miss my point. Good servers make much, much more than minimum wage.

Most places in the world with reasonable minimum wages /actually/ use tipping as a way to reward good service, as opposed to an additional, morally mandated tax. Under a higher minimum wage, good servers would still make plenty if their service was truly worth compensating extra for, wouldn’t they?

CAN make more. Not so many of them actually do.

Are you speaking from actual experience? I was a server for several years, and virtually everyone made 1.5 to 2 times more than minimum wage from tips. A few made triple minimum wage. The employees that were not tipped such as hosts made half what their tipped counterparts took home. Tipping is GREAT for workers in my experience.

Oh, wow, so some people actually made a living wage. Yeah, that sounds great.

Is that sarcasm? The alternative to tipping is not servers at Olive Garden getting paid $20/hr in straight wages. If people want to advocate for servers and bartenders, they should make sure that what they are pushing for will actually make food service workers better off. Serving isn't a great job, but it's far better than many other service sector jobs, and there are people who raise families waiting on tables.

It's incredibly frustrating to hear well-meaning but misinformed progressives argue for policies that would make the lives of people I worked with and respect much harder.

No, it's not sarcasm. If a business can't afford to exist without abusing workers by paying below a living wage, that business's business model needs to be rethought. If that means people don't get unlimited breadsticks and have to pay a little more on the check, then that's what it means. And, I do mean "a little more": McDonalds workers in Denmark make at least $20/hour, get excellent benefits, and a Big Mac costs a whole $0.27 more than in the US.


Most career waiters make more money from tips than wages. Customers are willing to pay more when they know exactly where their money is going.

That's not most waiters.

Tipping sucks. The expectation that people work a full time job that does not also carry the expectation of being able to fund them existing and continuing to show up for work sucks too.

You've made the same, "but a few are doing great" argument made above.

If a waiter makes less than minimum wage from tips, the restaurant has to make up the difference. In these situations, the restaurant's margins are so thin that they'd be receiving minimum wage anyways.

That does not change the "some are doing great" argument.

What do you mean? As I illustrated. There is a lot of potential upside with taking a tipped wage, but little downside.

Pull the minimum up, and yes it improves. Without it? No.

That’s shifting the goal posts. All waiters/waitresses make at least the minimum wage (by US law) and the better ones make way more.

And yes, that is a SOME are doing well argument.

Most are not. Minimum wage = struggling overall.

Pointing to a minority making real bank as justification for current policy that leaves a majority struggling does not make sense.

Do US servers make more than Australian servers? Australia with a minimum wage of around $17 USD compared with US average of around $7.50 USD.

What is the average wage:tips ratio for US servers?

Maybe, just maybe, those of us working in great conditions can give more weight to the many more who clearly are not, lest we all see a reduction?

My understanding of the relevant research is that tipping is not strongly related to service quality. Most people tip the same everywhere, perhaps varying according to their mood or the type of establishment. It's certainly not a given that "good and better" servers are making more from tips.

Yeah... those fast casual restaurants and cafeterias are just unable to compete.

I’ve worked with big tech companies as a customer for a long time on significant projects. Over time, corporate politics is pretty brutal and without representation good people get into lousy situations, even for high performers. Google is no exception.

Servers like tipping because big tippers are more than the enforced average of non-tippers. It's little to do with the people being tipped, and the people who make the most tips are the ones with the largest breasts and prettiest makeup and skin color, not the ones doing the best job waiting tables.

No union is perfect for an environment without management. Introduce management and a union is required.

What exactly is it you think makes a union “required”? I’ve not worked for a single union company in my tech career and everything appeared to be better at every company than pretty much any other industry that I know of.

>"everything appeared to be better at every company than pretty much any other industry that I know of."

Maybe if you held different position your point of view on a subject could be different.

Yeah maybe. You can say “maybe” anything...

Are this person’s experiences not valid on their own somehow?

> Google signed a statement saying the company's workers had the right to discuss pay and conditions with each other.

erm, doesn't American labor law prohibit retaliatory actions for doing discussing working conditions?


Credit card companies do the same thing. They run ads stating you won’t be held liable for fraud. The implication is that the credit card company does this because it cares about you as a customer. The truth is federal law dictates cardholders can’t be held liable for fraudulent charges.

"I don't rob banks!"

Unions depress wages for top performers, and protect incompetent staff. I don't know about you, but I don't particularly want to pay dues to a union that will go to bat for incompetent coworkers dragging us all down.

Teachers unions go further than protecting incompetent staff and actually protect sexual predators [1] [2], just to give you an idea of the morality of the typical union.

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443437504577547...

[2] https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/sex-predators...

> Unions depress wages for top performers, and protect incompetent staff.

Entertainers and sports professionals have unions which do not seem have this problem.

Unions can only raise wages by constricting the supply of labor. SAG does this by forcing productions to hire a certain percentage of SAG members. This works out fine because are essentially a infinite number of potential actors, so the market wage of an actor in a competitive market is close to $0. In all other industries, unions incentivize stagnation.

That might be true sometimes, but it isn't the general rule. SAG is more akin to the way medical and legal organizations constrict supply. But most unions instead fix a structural problem.

One of the fundamental asymmetries of our corporate age is that employees have ~1 company, but companies have many employees. That gives a company enormous negotiating power: it's easier for them to find another employee than for you to find another job.

Unions act to restore balance so that companies and workers have more equal negotiating power. That doesn't come through supply restriction. E.g., in high school I worked for a grocery store and we were unionized. They could have fired all the stockers at once if they wanted, as it was not particularly hard to learn the job. But what they couldn't do was pressure me into taking less money by threatening to fire me.

The supply of physicians is primarily restricted by limits on federal government funding for residency slots in teaching hospitals. Every year there are students who graduate from medical school but are unable to practice medicine because they can't get matched to a residency program.

The supply of lawyers isn't restricted at all, as shown by stagnant or falling median wages. Almost anyone who wants to become a lawyer can enroll in one of the "third tier toilet" private law schools, and states don't impose any limits on the number of law school graduates allowed to take the Bar exam.

I'm surprised to hear the AMA has no influence over the size of residency funding, but if that's what you're saying, I'll take your word for it.

The supply of lawyers is restricted through onerous education and licensing requirements. You could argue that the fall in wages means they are no longer as effective in controlling supply. But if you think the supply "isn't restricted at all" I encourage you to start offering legal advice for money and let me know how that goes for you.

The AMA has been advocating for increased graduate medical education funding. I suppose they have some influence, but apparently not enough to convince Congress to boost funding enough to meet the demand.

I don't see anything particularly onerous about education and licensing requirements for lawyers. A sufficiently motivated student can complete law school and pass the Bar exam in a few years. So in practice there's no significant restriction on supply.


You really don't understand how multiple years of education plus a notoriously difficult exam count as a restriction on supply?

Again, if you think there are no restrictions, hang out your shingle and start giving legal advice. If you're right, you should be fine.

Things aren't as black and white. Unions, like every other manmade institution, seems to be rot when its getting big, old and fat.

German labour is heavily unionized, a lot of the workers are lazy and incompetent. A lot of the union leadership is well paid and almost never works. It heavily opposes remote work(for good reason, but with a slightly wrong conclusion).

Their salary negotiations have been a clusterf* in recent years. And in fact I tried them, and contributed. But attempts at protecting employee rights were not only shut down by leadership but also fellow union leadership. They were too busy cozying up to leadership instead of protecting and informing other employees of employee rights. When it comes to employer abuse they will be too "busy" to help you, so realistically you will still need your own private law insurance.

I'm not opposed to unions and I do agree that workers need better protection especially in the US. But we also ought to be able to talk about how these big institutions may no longer protect the interest of those people and at some point exist to feed their own mouths more than the workers they were intended to protect.

Is it better than nothing? Yes, absolutely. But why do man-made structure always end up like that?

I don't think I said things were black and white. I definitely agree that unions aren't perfect. But a lot of workers are lazy and incompetent regardless. People with power are problematic everywhere, too. I guess this is what we get when we try to run a planet and our main ingredient is half-evolved primates with a long history of trauma. At best, it's going to take us a long time to get things sorted out.

"Unions can only raise wages by constricting the supply of labor."

SAG doesn't make it's 'wage' because production companies are forced to hire from a smaller pool of SAG workers.

SAG sets prices.

There are actually an 'unlimited number' of SAG workers who would, if it were note for those numbers, also work for $0.

Also - unions don't set their wages by 'restricting labour' - they negotiate directly using the power of being able to shut down production. (Ok, arguably this is 'restricting the labour pool to current workers' but that would mean something different).

For Doctor and Nurses - you could argue that those guilds do actually restrict the number of workers in the field to keep prices up by supply & demand, but that's generally not what unions do.

> they negotiate directly using the power of being able to shut down production

This is true, but they would slowly lose their leverage if they didn't constrict the labor supply.

In order to join SAG you have meet certain requirements (e.g. speak a certain number of lines). The vast majority of actors in a union production have to SAG members, so this effectively acts as a rate limit to the number of new members.

The same goes for other powerful unions. Ford would love to build a new factory that employs non-union workers, but they aren't allowed to.

The best police officer and the best teacher in the entire United States are paid identically to the worst, most abusive ones.

If you support police unions for example, you're inherently supporting the notion that a police officer who is courteous and cares about the community should be paid identically to the Chauvins of the force.

I think this is a good way to sow discontent about unions. Most people see themselves as above average, so stories like this will convince them that 50% of their coworkers are holding back their advancement opportunities. If there just wasn't all this dead weight around, they would be paying ME more! Now the employer doesn't have to fight the union -- the union fights itself! It's brilliant.

Unions are not designed to maximize the effectiveness of each shareholder dollar. They exist to give all employees a safe and fair work environment. That probably means that some 40th %ile performer gets paid the same as an 80th %ile performer. But they both get water bottles when working in a hot datacenter, and they both get their bonus that was promised to them in writing. I don't think that's a bad deal. Without a union, people would be fired for complaining about unsafe working conditions, bonuses that were promised would never come, and people would be working 8 hour shifts in 85 degree datacenters with no water. That doesn't sound that great to me.

If unions are so bad for workers, why do large corporations sink millions of dollars in anti-union ads in newspapers? Probably not because they really want to give their highest performers raises, but are hamstrung by regulation, and need the public to step in and protect them from the big bad union. They do it because they want to lower wages, make the job harder and more dangerous, and go back on promised bonuses when all the employees start asking where they were. The ads work, too. The seeds of doubt have been sown, and whenever Jeff Bezos reads a comment like yours, I'm sure he smiles a little.

> If unions are so bad for workers, why do large corporations sink millions of dollars in anti-union ads in newspapers?

This is a false dichotomy, it is possible for unions to be bad for (a majority of) workers and employers at the same time. Employers don't want to be sandbagged with low performing staff any more than their coworkers do.

The danger of police unions is that the things they negotiate are very often not money, but rather regulations and laws that makes it harder to punish police violence and misconduct.

Planet Money did a great podcast about this last year: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/05/871298161/police-unions-and-p...

This conflates too many issues; people dislike police unions because they are a powerful lobbying force against police reform. They prevent innovations like liability insurance [0] from gaining any traction.

And no, I at least personally think the Chauvins of the force shouldn't be paid at all, because maybe their 18 cases of misconduct should lead them to being removed from the force.

[0]: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/07/871751070/liability-insurance...

The issue here is that police unions don't just represent good police officers, they represent every police officer. Every issue with police unions, like "they make it difficult to fire bad cops", has an analagous issue in every powerful union. Autoworker unions often negotiated terms where companies couldn't fire autoworkers without "just cause" (read: the same kind of absolutely airtight case it would take to fire a police officer; the sort of thing that in practice never happens).

Unions have benefits for their employess of course, like making it impossible to fire them among other things, but then you have to work in the type of environment you get when everybody is impossible to fire.

Tech companies don't rely on public sector pay scales. Does LeBron James get paid the same as Darius Garland? Turns out he is free to negotiate his own contract, despite being part of a strong union. Imagine that.

The way salary works in the nba is the top players like LeBron can only get paid a % of the salary cap. So half of the teams have a star or two like LeBron making 25-30% of the cap. So the best players all get paided the same. Older players have a min, teams have a cap. Based on skill/age players slot into pay ranges that match their output.

These are the maximums for 2021 28,649,250 (players with less than 6 years experience) $40,108,95 (players with 10 years plus)

The nba was a bad example.

Interestingly, that's not the kind of union that the OP has (disregarding the fact that LeBron James is underpaid because of union lobbying). So hypotheticals aren't useful. No one is really proposing any tech workers union that is like the one NBA players are in.

All proposals are the other kind. And none of them encode equal rights for immigrants in their bylaws.

> The best police officer and the best teacher in the entire United States are paid identically to the worst, most abusive ones.

The idea that all teachers and police officers in the US are paid exactly the same is wildly untrue. The pay for both those jobs varies based on all sorts of factors, especially including location and job title.

I know several teacher and can confirm this is true. If nothing else, where you work makes a big difference. The average salary of a teacher in california is about twice the average salary of a teacher in utah. Teacher pay is also often dependent on test scores of their students (which has its own problems, for example the best teachers might get assigned the worst students, because the teacher can help those students better, but that hurts the teachers test performance). The amount of education you have also makes a significant difference.

The best are promoted into other positions like detective and get to work on bigger cases. Otherwise depending on how long you have been employed you will get more than someone just starting because experience is valuable.

Imagine no union. Pressure from the mayor or council or the media or a connected criminal will get you fired possibility thrown in jail.

> Otherwise depending on how long you have been employed you will get more than someone just starting because experience is valuable.

This is exactly the problem with unions. Pay for time under your belt is a stupid idea. Experience isn’t actually worth more to anyone beyond an adequate amount to do the job competently.

A police officer with 10 years of experience is not going to actually prevent more crime than one with 7 years. Additionally, an ambitious officer that takes training seriously, etc can be a much better officer than one with twice the experience.

Rewarding seniority rather than merit is literally an incentive to do the bare minimum for as long as possible.

Most police services/forces have a ceiling on that. I worked in one where there was a combination. Not in the US, but the issues are similar and we had a union.

The union absolutely could not protect sworn officers who broke the law. And if a member was in legal trouble, the local branch voted on whether to provide legal support ( good lawyers paid by the union for as long as needed). I saw an officer charged with stealing (from a found wallet) where the branch voted not to provide that support.

My advice- pay police more and expect them to behave as professionals.

As a teenager in Thailand I saw police (1990) who didn't get paid enough to live- they relied on local community giving them rice, blankets, weapons.. or they ripped off folks -mostly from outside the community. Speeding tickets for foreigners etc.

I was paid ok to do my digital forensics- but doubled then tripled my wage in 2 years of leaving- doing ~ the same stuff (what people call incident response is built into your blood after a few years of policing).

I would also argue that I was much better as a police officer after 7 years than after 2, and much better at the specialization that I choose in the police- digital forensics- after 9 years, much better... and when i left @15 years I was much, much more valuable to the service than when I joined (skilled in forensics, understood the court process, could well react to emergencies, could write policy not just follow it etc)- but my pay had gone up maybe 30%. But I didn't go up in rank because I didn't want to manage people, so my wage mostly capped.

And if anything- that is the issue with time based seniority- you force people to stop doing what they are good at and make them managers, with predictable results. (ie poor management)

Edited to not be a single wall of text

So a police officer with 1 year experience should be equal to one with 14 years?

I think you underestimate what experience gives you in terms of decision making, community contacts and nerves of steel. 

Way to take the maximally uncharitable interpretation.

"Entertainers and sports professionals have unions which do not seem have this problem. "

Entertainment and Sports unions exist for completely different reasons.

Traditional unions exist because of an asymmetric power dynamic between workers and labour, at least, historically.

Sports Unions exist so that fairly highly paid athlete's can squeeze even more money out of their employers by gaining leverage.

Actors work in an aspirational industry that is massively oversubscribed with talent, and wherein the work is generally ad-hoc or contractual and conditions vary greatly.

The vast majority of actors earn very little and probably are not full-time actors. Their Union sets a 'floor' for basic comp and expectations because otherwise there wouldn't be one - but they generally don't get into controlling roles for talent, they don't control job definitions etc..

I have a neighbour who worked at an auto-plant and his job was to sit in a room and does nothing, observing the floor. A role with kafkaesque bureaucracy and roles that simply should not exist. Family members have priority for jobs. In a nutshell - that union has considerable control and influence over the operating nature of the company whereas I don't think that's a long term benefit of unions.

My sister in law works for a government sector union and their hiring practices have almost nothing to do with merit or qualifications, it's shocking. Again, a situation wherein I think the power of the union is a detriment to the system overall.

That said it seems clear that after a wave of 'getting along' in the US, surpluses are not being shared and unions at Wallmart, Google, Amazon etc. seem like a good way to develop better equity. But I suggest it would be better for everyone if those companies just did a better job with their staff and were more gracious and generous.

> Sports Unions exist so that fairly highly paid athlete's can squeeze even more money out of their employers by gaining leverage.

Why can't tech workers unions do that?

In the fight between Athlete's and Team Owner's 'it doesn't matter' to any of us. It's a zero-sum game, they're rich people arguing over surpluses.

For commodity workers in industry, without unions it's possible they are mistreated, in which case, it's better for everyone if there were to be unions (although I think some kind of agreement would be better than unions). But workers unions can also leverage considerably more power than is better for everyone and make the company and industry struggle.

Unions are a form of power, they work differently in different scenarios, and the scale and relative power matters a lot.

It's just not sufficient to say 'there's a union over there therefore we should have one' or 'unions are all evil' or 'unions are always better than not' etc..

1) Teachers unions protect everyone

Somehow people who talk about "child predators" always ignore the fact that a bunch of people who get falsely charged also get protected. That's REALLY important. My anecdata knows far more teachers who were falsely accused than actual child predators (ratio: 12 to 1).

A single teacher can't possibly corral the amount money required for a defense against a school board funded lawyer.

2) Almost all of the "incompetent" teachers left in place are there because the school adminstration won't file the paperwork.

School administrators are politicians. They are always looking for their next job. The one thing administrators hate is bad press because it will dog them when they jump jobs.

Actually firing a teacher is fraught with opportunities for bad press. No matter how distasteful the teacher's behavior--somebody in the community will likely be on their side. If those people are vocal, firing that teacher dooms your political career--probably forever thanks to Google.

Consequently, administrators prefer to simply shunt bad teachers aside rather than risk their career.

So, put the blame for incompetent/horrible teachers where it belongs--square on the shoulders of the school administrators who have made a political calculation and refuse to fire people properly.

I could also post about how police unions protect abusers as well. I was thinking more about guaranteeing rights for Amazon warehouse workers and people like the woman in the article working in datacenters where basic expectations like being able to go and get water aren't going to jeopardize your job. The people who are FTEs at these companies dont need unions. It's the people working for contractors for these companies so they can hide a bunch of ugly practices and cost cutting who need it.

Every worker needs a union, professionals need associations.

There are huge power imbalances at work

You wrongly assumed that I think police unions are fine. Most unions end up proliferating toxic practices.

If you join a union you're protecting child molesters? I think you flew a little too close to the sun with this FUD. Dial it back a bit so it sounds a little more sincere next time.

Very true. You can say if you work for a rich person, you are protecting / enriching child molesters as well.

Many wealthy business owners have been convicted of all kinds of illegal activities, including child molestation.

What a crap straw man argument.

Your only citations against unions is the same situation reported by two news agencies about a union that is legally obligated to defend their members?

It’s amusing how quickly and often someone can emerge with FUD from the woodwork, ready to create a hellthread.

Hoping to avoid wading into the specifics of this issue, but have you considered that unions are unpopular among software engineers? I am the most pro-union person I know personally, and I am not pro-union.

As a European living in Europe I am more of the impression that anti-union sentiments are mainly widespread in the USA. But then again I haven’t really discussed unionization with anyone either. I just see more negativity towards it in public from Americans than from others.

In East Europe anti-union feelings are strong among the people that lived under the communist regimes (~ 45 years or older). Unions were widespread at that time and the negatives were very visible, hard to forget the huge negative influence they had in the period of 1990-2000 when the transition of these countries was slowed down or sabotaged by unions.

I don't think that's blanket true. What about Solidarnosc?

It was well regarded at some point, but the current membership numbers (4% of what it was at peak) is showing that the post-1990 evolution was not great. Providing support for closing stores on Sunday is not the purpose of a worker union.


Really everyone that I know in that age range. I am living in Eastern Europe and I worked in several countries in the region.

I know many software engineers who like unions actually, they tend to work at larger companies. There's definitely a lot of affinity for libertarianism I've observed amongst software engineers. I try not to psychoanalyze.

Please don't take HN threads into generic ideological flamewars. They're too repetitive to be on topic here.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26733237.

You aren't obligated to join a union (certainly not in tech at least)

Almost all unions rapidly try to transition employers into a union shop. Pretty quickly language starts to arrive about 'freeloaders' and 'scabs'. Simply put, I don't trust you when you say "you aren't obligated".

> Unions depress wages for top performers

Someone better let Lebron James know!

bit of an ironic example, lebron is considered one of the most undervalued athletes by contract value. mostly due to salary cap and wage scale restrictions in the nba, things the nba players union agreed to.

also see messi's contract for an example of what these athletes are worth in an open market: https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/lionel-messi-barcelona...

obviously soccer and basketball aren't apples to apples. but look around the nba and you see many salaries across the top of the scale that suggest the top performers are vastly underpaid.


> obviously soccer and basketball aren't apples to apples.

Which is why your comparison messi isn't very good. In fact if you read past the headline, your link explains why.

think it's an interesting data point nonetheless, Barcelona and the Lakers are worth about the same amount. Barcelona takes in a bit more than 2x the revenue, but Messi is paid about 5x more. both are arguably the best/most popular players in their sport. hard to find perfect comparisons, so take it all with a grain of salt. if there is a better comp would be really interested to see it, this is the best I could find.

If the NBA player union disappeared tomorrow and Lebron was able to renegotiate his contract he still wouldn't be paid close to messi. The player union isn't capping his salary, the salary cap is. One of the things the player union fights for is to increase the salary cap so all of its members can be paid more. This is an example of an union getting its top performers higher salaries, not the inverse like you're suggesting.

1. Would LeBron generate less money for his team/league the gap between him and the next best is slightly less?

2. Does the NBA give LeBron a platform to make 2x more than his NBA salary in endorsements? (Yes.)

don't understand the first question

as for the second point, not sure what this has to do with the original comment/point, specifically the fact that lebron is proof against the idea that "Unions depress wages for top performers". obviously a lot of complex dynamics here, and one could argue that the nba players union has helped make the nba more successful and all the money that came with that. just pointing out that using lebron as a counterargument to the original comment about wages (ie his nba salary) is a bit ironic.

Yeah my local school convicted a teacher after he was caught with a minor and his semen on her after she did a rape kit. Dude had been a well known and respected teacher for over 20 years.

Unions have shot themselves in the foot. They only benefit the workers and heavily fuck over customers more than they do companies. Unions were there to improve conditions and give fair wages. Not protect, like you said, incompetent workers. But it turned into that.

To all FAANG employees: Just because you personally have it good in the penthouse doesn't mean a union isn't needed. The people toiling in the cellar need you. The time to use power is while you still have it, just as the time for a backup is while everything is fine.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

--Pastor Martin Niemöller

What is the win here? Is this what constitutes a win against a big corporation nowadays? "Not totally lawless ...yet"

I don't see where anything got better for anyone?

apparently nobody else sees a win here either.

What is the difference between a minimum wage worker and a robot?

1. Feelings

2. Children

3. Dignity

4. Character that makes your org great

For starters, minimum wage workers are humans and need water to stay alive.

What is the difference between a high-wage worker and a robot?

I have one honest question regarding tech workers and unions and I hope it can get answered here:

What about Open Source and Free Software? Is that non-union or is it expected that, in the event of a work stoppage, people who work on, say, nginx as a hobby will stop work, too? Neither of those options even sound possible.

I'm not sure it would be considered a union if the people involved aren't being paid. However, there is already a public, collective, confrontational approach to dealing with an open source project with problematic leadership: forking.

That doesn't really answer my question: If there's a strike, all workers go on strike, so is Open Source/Free Software development considered work?

> I'm not sure it would be considered a union if the people involved aren't being paid.

Open Source projects compete directly with closed-source software, sometimes very successfully. It's a big part of the industry.

Wait, are you talking about a general strike where all workers in an entire industry go on strike? In the US, strikes are usually limited to a single employer/workplace. So you might see all the employees of Bob's Software Shack stop working (even if their day job was to contribute to open source) until the company improves salaries/benefits/reinstates taco Tuesday. However, I have a hard time imagining that there would be a call for all software developers in the country to go on strike, so I really don't know what volunteer open source contributors would do.

I’m generally a union supporter. I’ve noticed a trend regarding Google specifically that most of the grievances are about Google’s reaction to the union effort. “Retaliation” seems to be the main thing the union cares about. It makes me think of the snake eating its own tail. We need a union to protect us from retaliation for joining the union. I don’t think this invalidates the need for a union, but it just makes me skeptical.

Reading the story about the founding of the union: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/04/technology/google-employe...

It sounds like the purpose of the union is to create a permanent activist-class of employees, who focus on promoting the union instead of doing their jobs, and are protected from termination by the union (or the NLRB). It’s a far cry from from miners who picketed because they were dying on the job.

I’m not going to cry about the mega-profitable Google having a few hundred less productive employees who spend their time on this, but it doesn’t exactly inspire me either.

I don't understand how you see a story about terrible treatment of Google contractors, followed by severe retaliation when they try to negotiate better conditions, and your main takeaway is, "Huh, these union people seem to spend all their time trying to protect themselves from retaliation. Sounds fishy."

These people were offered benefits that never materialized and generally treated unfairly. I don't know why some people instantly assume it's the billion dollar company that's in the right, and the guy or gal making $15/hr who's trying to take advantage of the system.

But did the union do anything about the working conditions for these contractors, or just the retaliation for this one person who got fired?

I don’t have anything against the worker here, I feel for them. It just seems like the union is very ineffective, and it’s goals don’t even seem to be aligned with the workers (other than those who get fired for being in the union).

If unionizing is so pointless, why did Google suspend her for even talking about unionizing? Also, the article states quite explicitly that management did not want employees talking about wages. Now employees can. Is successfully protecting freedom of speech really such a small thing to you?

To put myself in the shoes of the worker, of course I want better working conditions and pay.

To put myself in the shoes of management. My company has a class of workers who do activism instead of their job. If one of my employees wants to join that class, I’m probably going to be disappointed - although firing them for this would be idiotic, because it’s illegal and will get me in trouble with the NLRB.

I think the workers here absolutely deserve representation that can get them paid more than $15 an hour, but this union doesn’t seem to be it. It seems more like an institutionalized pissing match between a clique of employees and management. It’s like a hack that exploits labor law to protect workers from the peril of at-will employment. Don’t like the expectations of your job, but still want to get paid? Join the union! Now if they fire you, it’s retaliation!

Why "instead of their job"? It's perfectly possible to both do your job and engage in activism.

If you look at the history of activism at Google, a lot of former organizers have been terminated. The union is there to protect current organizers from similar retaliation.

Why should activist employees (who, I should note, are activists for their pet political causes rather than actual working conditions) not get reprimanded/terminated?

There should be no discrimination, if you a non activist and an activist did the same thing (posted same shit on FB) then you both should have the exact same treatment. What I read from this and other articles is that management goes hunting for reasons to fire people they don't like. In this case someone posted about bad work conditions and got fired, in other casaes people posted "wrong political thoughts" and got fired, maybe there needs to be a reasonable reason for firing somebody and there should be a body that would have the job to try and defend the worker.

I agree with that interpretation of the facts on the ground. It just seems like an unconventional reason to have a union. Generally I think the purpose of unions is to advocate for the interests of the workers at large, not to be a kind of employment guarantee for people who want to do activism instead of their job.

If I worked at Google and I had some complaint about my health insurance or something, it doesn’t seem like the union would even be the right people to talk to, because they don’t seem to represent the well-being of the workers like an ordinary union.

If you were a member of AWU, that would very much be a legitimate issue to bring to your workplace unit chair.

AWU does advocate for the interests of workers, as demonstrated by this article. It's just that full-time employees don't tend to have as many issues as the temps do.

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