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VW deactivates employee email outside working hours (reuters.com)
183 points by j_baker on Dec 23, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments

I live in Germany, and I know many engineers who work for one of the big carmakers (either directly or through some external company). Most of them are under some form of collective bargaining agreement. They have a lot of nice perks, like paid overtime (in the form of days of) and pretty good salaries.

Meanwhile I work as a developer for an internet company. I've never heard of anybody working under a CBA, or any kind of compensation for overtime (except for extreme cases, like working on sundays). I earn significantly less too.

So I guess unions can be good sometimes, or something.

I'm a Canadian that has worked in a few large, unionized public or quasi-public workplaces as an engineer. In general hours of work, benefits (extended medical / dental) and vacation / sick leave will be better than in non-union private sector workplaces. Salaries tend to higher at the entry-level and comparable at the high end.

However, I have always found employee satisfaction and employee-management relations to be far worse in the large union workplaces.

I believe it is due to the fact that having a big, strong union that is capable of basically strong-arming the employer through the threat of job action (if you operate a nuclear power plant, having your engineers go on strike is not really an option) forces management to concede benefits they don't truly believe employees deserve, and that leads to clawbacks of, well, pretty much everything that isn't in the collective agreement. So you might get your 18 sick days (which you can never use without lying because no one who is not chronically ill gets sick for 18 working days every year), but you might have to fill out a multi-page form to get a new notebook (a paper notebook not a notebook computer).

Look at the sort of treatment that contract or temp employees get in big unionized workplaces - generally awful, and that reflects the company's true attitude toward it's employees.

I'd much rather work in a non-union workplace where I get benefits above the statutory minimums because the company truly values it's employees and understands that people who are treated well are more productive than one where everything I get was a concession to avoid labour strife.

If non-unionized company X gives 3 weeks paid vacation per year (2 weeks is the mandatory minimum in Canada) because they want to, that's much more likely to translate into a great workplace than the 4 weeks company Y gives because their employees are members of a massive national labour union and demand it.

Just my $0.02 from personal experience.

| I'd much rather work in a non-union workplace where I get benefits above the statutory minimums because the company truly values it's employees and understands that people who are treated well are more productive than one where everything I get was a concession to avoid labour strife.

Agreed, but do take notice that most people, in most industries, generally don't have that choice

I agree, many industries are a race to the bottom as far as treating your employees like people - retail, for example. But for 'knowledge workers' like most folks on HN, I think the tide is beginning to turn with a lot of tech companies realizing that employees who actually like the company, who can go grab an appetizing meal without leaving the office, or use whatever office furniture makes them most efficient, etc etc are going to generate more value for owners/shareholders than a 9-5 drone.

And just to clarify on the use of the term 'engineer', I am an electrical engineer specializing in protection & control. I have worked alongside a variety of electrical, civil, mechanical and industrial engineers in power generation, transmission and distribution. I long for the day when there is a company in my field with a startup mentality.

"extreme cases, like working on sundays"

Oh, Germany.

Did you know most stores close at 8PM on weekdays?

Is that supposed to be different from the states, where many retail stores close sometime between 7-9pm?

In the city I grew up in (in Bavaria) every store has to close by 8pm and no store can open on Sundays. The exception are bakeries and gas stations. (I also think that stores inside of train stations are exempted. And just so there is no misunderstanding, restaurants, cafes and pubs are of course also exempt from this.)

Where I grew up there is not a single open grocery store anywhere after 8pm or on Sundays for hundreds of kilometers. That makes a difference to places where stores can legally remain open longer.

I’m currently living in Thuringia where stores can be open until 10pm on weekdays – and sure, many smaller stores and even the big shopping mall still opt to only open until 8pm, but thee are always one or two big grocery stores that are actually open until 10pm.

The quantitative difference between no open stores and one or two open stores may be small, the qualitative difference, however, is big.

If you're a mom and pop or speciality shop you may close between 7 and 9 (usually closer to 9), but most of the regional or national "stores" close between 10pm and 12am.

Grocery stores are even better, generally either closing at 12am or not closing at all. Wal-Mart, for instance, is mostly 24 hours, and Wal-Mart is very widespread.

It really depends where you live. In Maine, all grocery stores that I know of close no later than 9pm. I really think that is better too, especially since a lot of the employees are high school kids.

Minors are already governed by federal work hour limits.

H-E-B (mainly in central and south Texas) has similar hours at some of its locations.

I think there is a difference. In German States, some states stipulate business hours†. In the US (and most other places) it's up to the businesses to decide their business hours.

Regarding the "supposed" part. I don't know exactly but I don't think there was some coordination or agreement between nations on who would do what.


Nearly everything closes at 8pm, even the grocery stores. In Berlin there were only two or three normal grocery stores I knew of that were open on Sunday (individual stores). Of course, restaurants and cafes are open a little later.

How are wages in europe for engineers and developers? I look at wages in Europe compared to the USA, and even though we work a lot more, developers do get paid far more too, especially when you compare on a cost of living and taxation basis.

If you bring it down to numbers, the pay is definitely higher in the US. For instance, an average software engineer out of school can expect a starting salary between 25 and 35k euros on average in France. In SF, it's more $70-90k at the very least.

But then you have to account for the higher cost of living, transportation (even if you don't drive, French employers pay for a part of your public transportation tickets), and all the other perks that are inherent to your job (insurance, subsidized lunches,...) and inherent to the country (better public education, etc.).

So I think it's hard to say empirically that engineers are better off in one country rather than the other- although I'd be tempted to say that very high end engineers are better off in the US rather than Europe, and the average engineer is better off in Europe rather than the US.

You have it backwards - the cost of living is considerably higher in France than in the US. What costs $1 in the US costs $1.20 in France [1].

...better public education...

Um, no. Better students, but a considerably worse public education system.


The cheese, however, is considerably better in France, as are the women (fatties over here drag our average down).

[1] Since I'm too lazy to switch to windows and open up the Penn Table in Excel, I backed the numbers out of GDP tables: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nomin...

[edit: Hi downmodders, sorry for providing facts. I'll try to avoid that in the future.]

Interesting data, thanks for looking it up+linking it!

Based on my very subjective experience living in both countries (France growing up + undergrad, US as a graduate student+working), I would say much depends on the size of the city where you live.

Living in San Francisco definitely costs much more than living in Lyon (2nd largest city in France) for me- if you look at the apartment alone, I'd have to shell out $2k+ for something I'd easily have in France for under a thousand euros in terms of size + proximity to businesses.

But then for the food + basic expenses (clothing, etc.) I feel like I spend about the same, although some things are more expensive in the US (public transportation, cell phone plans,...).

When I lived in Grenoble I lived a comfortable student life on 1000 euros a month- this would be nowhere sufficient to live comfortably with in SF. But of course the cities are of different sizes, so again this is very shaky grounds for accurate comparison.

I don't want to end up posting a novel here, but it's definitely an interesting topic on which I'd love to hear more insights from european expatriates in the US (or the opposite).

As for the cheese, you are completely right– and regarding the women, I don't want to belittle my fellow French women, but I would be lying if I said I hadn't found delightful ladies in SF :)

Providing facts does not excuse acting like a jackass.

Why do you feel I acted like a jackass?

The "fatties" remark was pretty crass.

I don't think general PPP and GDP comparisons really make sense on the specific scale offered there. The cost of living in the Bay area and NYC are much much higher then the cost of living in say Alabama. I wouldn't be surprised if $2000 in rent went a lot farther in France (even Paris) then it does in say Manhattan or SF.

A lot of SF employers of engineers serve all three meals, or at least lunch, pay health insurance and provide public transportation subsidization too, so on that basis they're about equal. Health insurance while unemployed isn't so nice although. Owning a motor vehicle on gas cost alone is almost double so I hear.

I recently last sentence is social democracy in a. nutshell.

The comparison should not be made between people who can be workers both under a union or outside of it, but rather between them and people who would be barred from employment altogether (at least in those specific instances).


Germany has plenty of unions and Mercedes, BMW, Audi seem to be doing well enough

You have two sides, with U.S. on one side where workers just work, with little thought for quality of life, and the other side is Europe, where they get paid a bit less, but they have 4 weeks vacation and much less demanding work load.

I dunno about you, but I'd gladly sacrifice $10K(which is pretty much the whole difference between the two) to get all the perks that europeans get

You can quit and take time between jobs. $10K should let you backpack around Europe for about 3-6 months, which is more of a perk than Europeans get.

I'm not quite sure why more people don't do this. Bank a bunch of money at a nice professional job, then quit and be funemployed for 6-12 months while they do lots of cool, life-affirming things. A bunch of my friends have done it - either backpacking around the U.S, or buying a Eurail pass and traveling around Europe, or vacationing in Thailand, or helping orphans in Uganda, or joining the Peace Corps - and have said it's one of the best things they ever did. It doesn't even take much money - most of these are liberal arts majors, not computer programmers, and make much closer to $50K/year than $100K/year.

For a few months that's possible, but at 12 months it starts getting tricky if you ever want a job again. May be less of a problem in tech, but in a lot of areas if you're "long-term unemployed", HR just screens out your resume; companies seem to only want to hire employed or recently-employed people (cf. http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/tribu/ct-biz-0905-wor...).

The obvious idealistic response being.. would you want to work somewhere that showed such shallow thinking?

If you need the money and can't find work?


Start a blog about your experiences and then call yourself a self-employed travel blogger. Might even make a little AdSense cash off of it too.

There are all sorts of creative ways to get around HR.

Or just lie and have someone you know in the industry say you worked for them during that period of time.

Hate the game, not those who must survive within it.

HR isn't going to read your blog, and HR is, sadly, the gateway to (just a guess here) 90% of job opportunities. If you have an 'in' at the company, you can bypass HR's initial gating, and your plan will work, otherwise it's unlikely.

The point isn't to get HR to read your blog; the point is to fill up that timeslot on your resume so that automated screening systems don't reject you for having a gap. If you'd worked at a regular corporation, it's virtually certain that HR wouldn't be able to see your work product either.

I'm not quite sure why more people don't do this

It's currently pretty hard to get a job again on the other side of the vacation. Plus for most people in the USA wages are so low it's hard to even save $10K. 48% of the population are living on or below the poverty line.

Your poverty statistics are wrong.

According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate was 15.1% in 2010.

Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/incpovhlth/2010/...

Has it somehow managed to more than triple in the last year?

Sorry, that was wrong. I meant "low income."


I did this last year and found a new job within 3 months of coming back. (The job is incomparably better than my old job in every way.)

Plus, when your audience is the Hacker News readership it would seem to make little sense to draw conclusions based on the bottom 48% of the population.

Hate to burst your bubble, but even poor people read hacker news. In my job, I make 14851 per year. I also drive 45 minutes to this job, because it was the only one I could find.

Or, perhaps, you'd like to make a supposition that smart people can never be poor?

there is no job security with that, way too stressful for most people...if it's official vacation, it'll actually be a vacation to enjoy

There's no job security in having a job, these days.

I think that if you want job security, you're much better off at developing the skills to interview well and the resume to make people sit up and take note of you. You can take that from job to job with you, and know that if you ever get laid off or fired, you can just get another job.

Germany, Switzerland, Austria, etc. have protection against dismissal.

- Germany: 1 month in first 2 years, 2 months for years 5 to 8, ..., 7 months from year 20 on.

- Switzerland: 1 month first year, 2 months for years 2 - 9, 3 months from year 10.

And (at least in Switzerland) a dismissal notice is void if you're on vacation and were not able to receive the registered letter.

I've heard this called "serial balancing" among startuppers, in this old piece and a more recent one I can't find the link for at the moment:


Health insurance makes employees "sticky".

If you're taking <12 months between jobs, COBRA takes care of health insurance. It can get expensive, but that's why you bank money while you're working...

Really tried contact some one in France in August have we?

4 is the absolute minimum, and in most countries that minimum is 5. The average is more like 7 weeks.

I was shocked when I looked at this:


The US has 0 (zero!) mandated days off. Even China gives people 5-15 days minimum.

and in the states, you are lucky if you get 3...with 2 weeks being much more common...and that's the middle class jobs, the lower class ones, you are lucky to get a day of paid vacation

in Australia, we get 20 days holiday, 10 days public holiday and up to 10 days sick leave, so up to 40 paid days off per year.

Holidays and sick days are cumulative too, and you're entitled to be paid for untaken ones when you leave your job, so log as you've worked there a minimum of 1 year

As far as I understand, Europeans count stat holidays, and Americans don't.

A typical American gets 2 weeks of stat holidays on top of their 2 weeks of personal holidays, so that's almost the same as the European getting 4 weeks.

that is not true. In Europe, when you say "I have 30 days of holidays", that means 30 days that you can personally take off whenever you want (more or less). National holidays, like Christmas, are never counted because they are free for everybody. So assuming the US and Europe have a similar number of national holidays, you get about 2x more personal holidays in Europe.

(Again, this varies. In Germany it is usually around 28-30, in Spain around 22)

Erm, I've never received so little holiday, even when I worked low paid manual work.

Currently I get 25 days per year not including 6 days stat, for 31 days total or just over 6 weeks total. This is considered average for London and the UK, I would consider 5 weeks to be the absolute low end in the UK. At the upper end in London the news about the Tube Drivers strike disclosed that they have 40+ days holiday, which is just over 8 weeks.

When I lived in Sweden the numbers were higher, with it being compulsory to take a fortnight in a contiguous block in the summer. The UK is the worst of the lot, and we have it OK.

Just my experience, but it varies so greatly from what you're quoting that I felt obliged to respond.

Indeed, continental Europe is a lot better than the UK. In the Netherlands holiday allowances can roll over for up to five years. My 30 days + public holidays is reasonable in the UK, and compared to the US (where I worked for four years, so have some comparison here) is heavenly.

20-25 seems to be the norm in London. Unless you're a tube driver when you get 40, 35k and still complain.

I can't wait for the day all trains are auto pilot.

In the 3 jobs I've had in London as a web developer, I've never started with more than 20 days (excluding the statutory ones).

It depends on the country, but Denmark counts them separately: there are 12 official state holidays that you get off regardless, plus a minimum of 5 weeks of movable holidays (often 6, but 5 is mandatory), so 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 weeks total.

Another data point, in Ireland, your public holidays (of which Ireland has 9 per year) are not included in your (legal minimum of) 20 days annual leave. So in total, you can get 29 paid days off.

That European social model is about to go bankrupt. (The American one soon thereafter, though not for lack of hard work.)

But not the German one. Actually it's one of the best working system in the world nowadays. And if you look at other well performing countries in Europe - Scandinavia, Switzerland, they are nowhere working like crazy. Holland has quite a sustainable pension system. I think you are over-generalizing. Sure, some countries are in deep shit, but that's not the social model that's in cause, rather a lack of accounting, lower business moral, lower education level, etc. There are also non social states going bankrupt.

I think you miss the point, this move from VW is actually acknowledging that taking time off is a step toward more productivity. I also think that having time for family, culture and further education on non related topics is the best way to make you a round person and thus someone who will be highly efficient in its job life. If that's how you would define Europe, it hasn't worked that bad... I mean, there have been centuries some people are saying the demise of Europe, but it's still one of the richest big area in the world.

Europe has gone through so much more worse crisis than the debt crisis, it will take its game together and solve it.

Not really. The strong economies of Europe (France & Germany), the ones that are bailing out the other countries, have the highest number of employee rights and annual days holidays. It's the examples of neoliberal 'light touch' countries (like Ireland) that need bail outs.

When you consider that in the UK NI is 11/12% and that covers the NHS and your state pension plus SERPS (second state pension) and unemployment benefits.

I knew a guy who emigrated to the USA and was working for CITI and was paying a bigger % of his pay just for his health cover.

The NHS is incredibly efficient in terms of ROI, the cost per person of the NHS is less than the cost of overhead admin work for healthcare in the US.

NI isn't hypothecated - the money the government collects through NI is thrown into the pot with almost all other taxes. NHS & pension payments come out of general taxation.

You do know employer and employee both pay NI, so total NI is around 24%

The employer contribution is only around 1%.

Where on earth do you get this idea? Please see this link http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/rates-thresholds.htm

It is 13.8% for employers!

so its not coming out of my pay and companies don't have the expense of running their own health systems and they dont need to employ extra HR people to administer them. It also means that startups don't have to compete against big companies that can afford health benefits which act to lock employees into big companies

Cool idea. Sounds like you can still send emails but not receive any until work.

I noticed that mobile email doesn't always help get more work done, unless you're the person asking the questions in the emails.

If a bb user is busy answering other people's questions... you're likely doing their work too. The culture of "we're waiting on you" that grows in an organization is the real enemy.

Interruptions are bad too. When someone shows up to interrupt and steal your attention indirectly they are saying "what you're doing is not as important as what I have to say". It might not be in those words, the act of interruption does that. Emails, calls, have to be managed.

Somehow I manage most days to do okay with zero sms notifications, zero email notifications on my phone and zero notifications on my computer. Nothing beeps.

There rarely are many problems that can't wait 1-2 hours. When it's urgent, someone emails, then calls. Poor planning on someone else's part doesn't make an emergency in my part. If people really need you they'll send you stuff a few hours in advance if not a few days. I reward pro-active behaviour and get back to them really fast.

Do any of you employ any strategies to get a better email/life balance?

Poor planning on someone else's part doesn't make an emergency in my part.

I've always hated this statement. I can understand, to some extent, not bailing out those who are habitually poorly prepared, but how can you justify not bailing someone out if it's what's best for your company?

You're ignoring the longterm effects of someone who chronically creates work for others due to their lack of preparation or ability. It is not good for a company to put itself under stress like that. It's especially poisonous when the person shifting and creating work like that is in a leadership position in the organisation because it sets the template for everyone else. Organisations that let that kind of behavior run rampant; fail to achieve.

Being able to distinguish between a real emergency and a real problem that is solvable in the normal course of operations is an essential skill.

Totally, the "not my job" mindset only slows things down.

When one person starts being a joker and not taking things seriously and being thoughtful of the productivity of others or their team, it can spread like wildfire.

In a lot of cases the stuff is habitual, at which point you get extremely irritated that people keep screwing up and all the time you're the one who has to clean up the mess. Yea sometimes stuff happens, and I don't think most people have a problem with helping out. But so many times it makes people feel used, which (at least IMO) is why people have this sentiment.

It's a matter of respect for yourself, and the time of others.

People who don't respect their own time won't respect the time of others that much. People who think their time is more important than others time will also abuse the time of others.

If I bust my tail getting something done for you that you needed and you can't do the same for something I needed, I'm now doubly under the gun. If I said hey, I have to be there for thebrokencube and you believe in not letting me down, guess what, we have that magical thing of having each others backs and supporting each other.

Sadly, most offices are daycares for adults. People act out their high school insecurities on an epic scale and wonder why they aren't getting anywhere in life.

The key is to be clear that I'm not here to play clean up for messy people. I am happy to pitch in when things go sideways, but do my job and lift the business up.

A broken person, or process will only drag things down.

"Sadly, most offices are daycares for adults. People act out their high school insecurities on an epic scale and wonder why they aren't getting anywhere in life."

Can you elaborate? This was a fun teaser but you didn't flesh it out enough.

Interesting question. For me it's like this.

If we're really customer facing business, we're a proactive business.

Last minute fires mean reactionary mindset. You can never be the best business possible when reactionary. Learning to anticipate things and have them ready in advance is doable in every business.

If we look at every last minute thing and apply this simple test to it, we'll know where we're at:

1) Is this something we've dealt with before? 2) Could it have been dealt with in advance?

If so, I'm not a fan of feeding the monster.

If not, guess what, you have a first time occurence that can use some immediate attention.

How to plan for surprises? I only schedule 5-6 hours of work a day. I leave 1-2 hours a day free. Either that time gets eaten up with true surprises, or I get ahead on my schedule. Responsible scheduling helps everyone.

Why should I be more concerned about what's best for an abstract concept than what's best for me?

(If) What's best for you is making the most money you can.

and .. if you want to achieve this by doing the least work possible, and creating work for others, they will not help you be more successful at your job.

A real successful team, person, and company will all believe in getting more work done with less collective effort. So, if I make my job easier, it shouldn't make your job harder.

Sadly, too many people in management don't get team building, team development, but instead narrow minded views and babysitting everyone through it.

Edit: Added the word If at the beginning, I was examining what I interpreted the previous commenter to be saying.

> What's best for you is making the most money you can.

I can't even begin to fathom that mindset. No amount of money is worth my health. None. I walked out on a great-paying job that turned into a clusterfuck and voluntarily did nothing for a year for exactly that reason.

I worked way below market for quite a while for that reason.

I'm working somewhat below market even now for that reason.

I keep score in happiness and satisfaction, not dollars.

> I keep score in happiness and satisfaction, not dollars.

The only way to win at society's collective pissing contest is to opt out.

I believe that this is the secret of work: find the work that gives you more satisfaction than pain, and become the very best you can at it. The money will follow, and it will no longer control you. What controls you now is a sort of purpose that you find through your work. Mind you, it doesn't negate the fact that there will be unpleasant/unsexy things to do at work. (That is one reason why you're getting paid for it, after all.) And it may even make it harder, as you now have a greater emotional involvement in your work.

Purposelessness will suck you dry. I think people instinctively know this when they choose salary over happiness, they just believe it to be inevitable.

No amount of money is worth my health

I wholeheartedly agree. Time is the most valuable asset any of us have, with money at best a distant second.

Sorry, I should have clarified, entertaining the Original poster's mindset, not my own :)

Money isn't wealth, time is. Having free time comes with money, but only so much.

Because the abstract concept pays your mortgage.

No, I pay my mortgage. (Or I would, if I were stupid enough to buy real estate in this part of the country.)

If my physical and mental health are trashed from overwork, I can't pay my mortgage, because I can't work for anybody.

Me and my family first. Company second or lower. Always. The company is replaceable, my life and health are not.

Sorry I misread your original post as "why should I be concerned about an abstract concept's wellbeing."

Yes of course you and your family come first. But you still have to care about the health of the place that gives you money.

If my company dies tomorrow I can easily find new work or try to start a company for a year and then look for a job if that fails. I basically think of the company as a client who I get stuff done in exchange for money and I think that's far more healthy than the alternatives.

PS: I live well below my market rate and toss the extra into savings. Living pay check to paycheck when your location or skills make it hard to find a new job is simply poor planing.

Agreed, thanks for the clarification :)

There could be serious/hilarious consequences to this send-but-not-receive policy... inability to correct a mistake in an email sent right before the embargo-period... a bunch of work done on cancelled/already-solved issues... expectation mismatches with new/outside/other-time-zone correspondents.

For some reason I'm also reminded of the scene in Swingers where Jon Favreau's character leaves a string of increasingly pathetic chopped-off voice messages, each trying to soften/undo/complete the previous, but in the absence of real interactivity, failing miserably.

I think it might slam inboxes early in the morning and late at night but over time (I would hope) people would learn to prioritize communications....

Ever tried making plans with someone who doesn't have a cell phone? I damn well make sure I'm not late because I have no way to reach them. Maybe the same will happen with less available email.

No good deed goes unpunished. It's sad but true. The key is to be helpful without being too helpful.

If you get a reputation for being the one to call in an emergency, you'll be the one who gets called in emergencies. If on the other hand, you get a reputation for getting back to people in a day or two unless there's an appropriate reason you need to get back sooner, people will expect you to get back in a day or two unless there's an appropriate reason you need to get back sooner.

That was exactly the story of my life. I got a reputation for handling the work of many people and making emergencies go away (more) permanently.

What did it do? More problems sent my way. I became the catch-all.

The tough part was transitioning to the 24-48 hour response, not so much for me but the people who knew I can reply in minutes.

I added an email auto response saying

"I schedule my time in a new way --I check my email 2-4 times a day to reply to everything at once and work uninterrupted for 90 minutes at a time.

Call if it's an emergency that hasn't happened before. Otherwise please send me all the details I'll ask you about anyways and I can get back to you right away with an answer in the first email instead of going back and forth.

If you need something done right away please let me know what you can take off my plate while I give you a hand."

After this, I simply replied to the best emails that let me write them a 30 second response. When you're the guy who helps solve problems, believe me, people will do their leg work to set you up to get back to them quickly.

A lot of emails I just emailed them what I would google to find the answer, enjoyed that a lot too.

This is fantastic. I really hope a business-school pumps out a report on this in 12 months' time. Emails should be dealt-with in batches. SMS and phone-calls should be used-for critical communications.

Union knowledge workers. Outside of healthcare do they exist in the US?

Boeing engineers are unionized:


They get overtime too. Something related to being a government contractor, if I recall correctly.

State and local government.

Some "knowledge worker" roles in phone companies are CWA positions.

Public university faculty in many states.

In government jobs.

Let's start a union.

I can't see how unions are good for anybody. They certainly seem to have crippled GM for a long time. If the workers force the company into unreasonable levels of benefits, it falters and they eventually lose their jobs.

I'm all for fair play and sensible regulations, but if the company can't forbid the workers from quitting, I don't see how it's fair that the workers can forbid the company from hiring someone else.

I much prefer being on my own for negotiations. I intend to be one of the best workers; why tie my fate to the average? And why tie the company to me if they can find a better employee?

GM crippled themselves with terribly designed automobiles that no one wanted to purchase.

Power and information asymmetry are the rule when you are negotiating with your boss independently. He knows what the other employees at your company make. You do not.

That's a funny statement, given that GM, even in their crippled state, is the 1st or 2nd largest seller of autos in the world (Toyota and GM have traded places a few times this year, I think?). For terribly designed autos that nobody wanted to purchase, SALES obviously wasn't a big problem for them.

I find it sad that this comment gets downvotes, and disappointed in the HNers who did so. This comment is not trolling or pointless, but rather is well spoken and makes an excellent counter to a pro-union argument. A comment should never be buried just because you disagree with someone's values.

Starting your "excellent counter" argument with the words, "I can't see how unions are good for anybody," is Newt Gingrich level debating. If not that, it at least portrays a lack of imagination.

So because GMs sucked, there is no such thing as success and they aren't "good for anybody." What was the GM CEO's salary doing during this crippling period?

That solves problems and creates problems.

Many things that are decided today based upon merit or by management discretion become tenure based. That is good and bad.

The good: - Your contract will require things to be done in a fair and equitable way, per the contract. - Your pay will be more predictable. - Benefits will probably be better. - You will have an advocate in the event of a dispute.

The bad: - Your contract will require things to be done in a fair and equitable way, per the contract. - Everyone has an incentive to stick around. - Certain types of people are very good at manipulating systems to their benefit. (This is present in all organizations, but the dynamic is different with a union)

I've worked in union positions in the past. IMO, the best thing about it is that there are no secrets with regard to compensation.

The main "good" bullet point that I think we're missing in tech isn't so much the pay as some sort of collective advocacy on onerous contract provisions. If you're very much in demand, you can cross out parts of your employment contract individually, but it's often hard to individually negotiate those kinds of variances, while lots of people negotiating together could probably get a more reasonable deal.

The alternative is to negotiate really collectively at the government level and outright ban the onerous contract provisions, like California's done with many forms of noncompetes.

You are wrongly assuming that M&P (managerial and professional) unions follow the old craft based union model which no M&P union does.

I was a member of such a union, and when the rubber hits the road, seniority rules.

I'm not anti-union either. If you're in a big multinational company, they are almost almost certainly better than not having a union.

Let's start a company.

Let's start a union.

And now you have two bosses and two problems. I recommend watching "Waiting For Superman" to see how the teacher's union impedes innovation in education.

The movie made a good point about how the Finnish education system has better outcomes than ours.

The big takeaway I take from this is we should move toward a Scandinavian attitude on unions.

I'd rather not turn Silicon Valley into the next Detroit.

The differences between S.V. and Detroit go far, far beyond the presence or absence of unions.

Instead, some of us are working to turn Detroit into the next Silicon Valley(well, not quite, but our own thing).

How do they differentiate critical communication which should get thru?

How would this work at a place like Amazon, for example? Even with 24hr staffing, there are some instances when the right person(s) are needed. Letting only messages marked as critical thru could lead to most off-hour massages categorized as important. I can see this working in some industries, but not all.

They only turn off email, right? I would imagine that actual phone calls are still possible.

I can imagine that working pretty well. I think people are in general much more hesitant to call than to send an email.

This would never work at Amazon. Fortunately for Amazon, they're not dependent on unions.

It's fortunate for Amazon. It apparently isn't fortunate for Amazon's employees.


For people who genuinely enjoy their jobs, this would be quite painful. I imagine doing this where I work and the employees would revolt.

Unions in developed countries with good labor laws don't make sense. They cater to the mediocre and the masses - and their policies go against the vien of competitiveness and innovation.

What do you think happens to "good labor laws" in the absence of unions?

An unfortunate consequence of our lobbyist-driven system is that the most effective way for people outside the 1% (actually more like the 0.1%) to get any positive attention from the government is for them to band together and hire their own lobbyists.

Are you saying the US has good labour laws? I think most would disagree with you

Yes. I have worked in Asia, South America. There, you can be openly discriminated or fired without severance. Good is compared to most of the world.

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