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Companies seem to want to view employees as somewhat disposable and have shifted the burden of taking care of somebody long term (pensions, retirement, career progression etc) onto the employees themselves. But in doing so they're encouraging labor mobility, and seem strangely shocked to find out that employees would take with them the expertise, history, and network of contacts that they had accumulated and move that value somewhere else.

It's really interesting how they have resorted to strong arming their engineers with these shot in the back non-competes, and couple it with salary collusion and hiring agreements. Throw in the golden handcuffs (that turn into golden dental floss after a few funding rounds -- long after they've gotten their 60-70 hour work weeks out of the true believers) and you see how they are trying to stymie that labor movement.

It's really a wonder that technology workers haven't started forming some sort of union.

They are not shocked when it happens. The attempt to force employes to stay on using non-compete agreements among other things is exactly because they know employees must move on to survive. They know very well that the failure to provide pensions and career progression will drive employees away so they use force and, quite frankly, terror to keep them with the company.

Particularly lovely is the near universal marriage of at will employment agreements with non compete agreements.

>It's really a wonder that technology workers haven't started forming some sort of union.

-The average age kept perpetually at about 28 (meaning only about 5 years work experience)

-The perpetual threat of tech labor imported from overseas.

-The belief that professional association and (gasp!) unions are pure socialist evil or at least are for low paid looser.

And if you think salary collusion and extra legal hiring agreements are shocking, just watch the response there would be to an effective professional association.

Professional association doesn't strike me as pure socialist evil, it strikes me as yet another group for protecting current workers from new competition[1]. I like that programming is a profession one can enter without having to go to the right schools and pay $15k to take the exam, thank you.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licensure

Unions could be mis-used that way. Like anything, they could also be misused in any way. The point of a Union is to protect employees from employers period. It is not to limit their own membership by restricting entry into a field nor to be a front for the mob nor to eat babies.

Licensure is also a good idea. Of course no legislature will ever pass it nor any company ever honor it with out the clout of very large tech worker organization.

More practical but less honorable would be an organization that fiercely funds large numbers of tech worker lobbyist since that is the only way the system actually works now. Also, since much of their lobbing would align with tech company interests, it would not be crushed with the same zeal.

Unions could be mis-used that way. Like anything, they could also be misused in any way. The point of a Union is to protect employees from employers period. It is not to limit their own membership by restricting entry into a field nor to be a front for the mob nor to eat babies.

When you're in a country where you have to get a license to braid hair, design interiors or manicure, you can't dismiss it as some exception that can be ignored.

Licensure is also a good idea.

Sure, if you're already in the industry, it's great. Lots of money to be made by keeping out those who can't afford to jump through the hoops. It's not like poor people really deserve to be programmers anyway.

Is the job of braiding hair only for rich people in your country?

Should your argument apply to doctors too? No restrictions on entering because people who don't go to med school will be locked out?

But do come over to the US, you can work as a serf under H1B, have no protections and many legal restrictions, accumulate no pension and be fired on your 35th birthday. But you will love the fact the manicurist don't have to have to fill out any paperwork.

In my country? No, I'm talking about the US: it cost a tuition of $16000 and two years to braid hair in Utah. In my left-wing European country we can braid hair without a license, thankfully, especially for the (mainly) African immigrants who find a job that way.


Utah is an extreme right wing theocracy. Whatever happens in Utah is most certainly _not_ the work of unions.

You should note I never mentioned "unions" once in my posts. I wrote about professional associations and licensure.

But licensure is licensure. The effects are not any less harmful because the people pushing for it are good unionists and not evil right-wingers.


This isn’t just a random Utah law. There are more than 1,000 licensed professions in the United States, partly a result of more than a century of legal work. As the country industrialized, state governments wanted to protect their citizens and create standards not just for lawyers and doctors but also for basic services. It didn’t take long for professional groups to find that they also stood to benefit from the regulations. Over the years, more and more started to lobby for licensing rules, often grand­fathering in existing professionals while putting up high barriers to new competitors.


Your link is based on the "findings" of a libertarian law-firm and lists the 10 most inappropriate licensees. These include: Preschool teacher, Optician, Midwife, Veterinarian Technologist. Even these "worst" cases have miniscule license fees and minimal competence requirement. So small they in no way keep out competent people however poor: if you can afford a cheap TV then you can afford to be a Midwife.

And the idea that a Midwife should have absolutely no experience or that the preschool Teacher have zero background or your Optician have no education what so ever is pretty nearly crazy.

The only reason to get rid of it is so large companies could emerge to replace your midwife with a minimum wage incompetent.

True, maybe there should not any be requirements for hair braiding. This hardly means all licensing is a bad idea. To stretch one wild story about Utah hair braiding into "all professional associations are bad" takes more imagination than I have.

Eliminating all licensing across the board is shear libertarian crackpot-ism.

I'm extremely confused by 'midwife' being on the list. In British Columbia, midwives are medical professionals with a significant amount of training, and are able to provide medical advice and even write prescriptions for pregnancy-related drugs.

The idea that one of the people helping my wife give birth could have no training, or that people are being 'kept out' of the role because they don't have training or experience, seems idiotic to me.

This isn't the 1800's, where your midwife was 'the woman in town who knows the most about delivering babies', and we shouldn't act as though it is.

Using a midwife in the US is considered extreme or weird. Really only used by people classified as hippies. (Not how I feel, but that is the general vibe I get. Even poor people use hospitals - the people you think midwife's might be useful for. Not many home births going on here...)

That explains a lot. In the UK the term midwife is more or less synonymous with obstetric-specialist nurse. The term for a tie-dyed woman who comes into your home and burns incense to help you through delivery in a birthing pool is a 'doula'.

actual doulas may not wear tye dye or burn incense and I'm sure many provide an excellent service to facilitate some mothers through the childbirth process. Every labor is different. They may also be qualified midwives. And many midwives will also facilitate home births where appropriate for the mother and child. Basically, the US hospital and OB doctor-centric system is ... weird.

Eliminating all licensing across the board is shear libertarian crackpot-ism.

Thank $deity that strawman was burned to the ground.

In what conceivable way is any Licensure compatible with any libertarian principle?

Any government issued license is completely incompatible with libertarian values by definition. So no, not straw-man: crackpot.

I'm not saying licensure is compatible with libertarianism. I'm saying I never advocated for the elimination of all licensing, so you were attacking a some imaginary libertarian strawman, not replying to me.

The article is making the following argument:

- Some professional association call for licensure.

- There is a case of bad licensure in Utah.

- Therefore all licensure is bad.

- Therefore all professional associations are bad.

I would cite that reasoning as an exemplar definition of crackpot.

Or more likely since it lists a $30 license as one of the 10 most burdensome "licenses to kill for", it is just plain dishonest.

I assumed that you shared the article's reasoning since you linked it.

- Therefore all licensure is bad.

Uh, care to share where you read that? What I read was:

"Almost nobody is calling for wholesale abolition of professional licensing. I sleep better at night knowing that the commercial pilots flying over my apartment are trained and licensed."

"A bolder idea, of course, would be for states to get rid of the licensing rules that are doing more harm than good." (emphasis mine)

I love my dog, and I want my vet techs to be licensed.

I think a much better way to protect employees would be some form of enforced employee ownership. Stay somewhere for 3 - 5 years? Great! You get voting shares of stock and a voice in how the company is run.

We don't see this very much, but people don't really demand it either. If people started striking for ownership instead of salary and benefit increases, I'd bet that'd change.

I highly doubt that would be at all practical. You're basically suggesting that if you hire someone and they stay past a certain time, they will own part of your company forever. This removes the agency that owners have over their own businesses, and makes it so that no one would want to keep employees longer than 3-5 years (or whatever the threshold would be), resulting in guaranteed turnover.

It also gradually removes the barriers between workers and capital in a positively Jeffersonian way. Owners who weren't comfortable with that could, of course, fire people every 3-5 years, but firing and hiring isn't free either.

I've always thought that it might be an ideal solution to wage capitalism to force owners to sell equity to their employees at some predictable rate.

Pfft, there are so many restrictions on stock usage such as proxy agreements to the CEO, founder stock with 10x voting rights and so on that it might as well be useless for that.

What would you think of a profession instead of a union?

This piece does a good job explaining: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/programmers-d...

Thanks for that link, it helped clear up some confusion I've been having about just what exactly I've been trying to accomplish with my career (or how to explain it to others). Now I have a term that I can use to summarize it!

Unions have their own problems, I've worked in a union environment (gov't health care, Canada) and it didn't really address the issues I had with the job. In fact it made some things worse because of the ways they came up with to work within the CBA. That said, within that union I (software dev/ops guy) was under the same CBA as the workers who cleaned the hospitals. So some of the issues may have just been a union that was representing sets of people with different issues. In fairness the things that are universal (e.g. benefits) were handled well for the most part.

There was a post a few months ago about how software development should be a profession and we should have a strong professional association to help represent our interests. To help prevent things like this amazon case.

My wife is a unionized employee in a very large union (which covers a large number of people in various fields), and I've seen a lot of second-hand idiocy related to it.

As one example, my wife spent three or four years without even having a collective agreement; their old one had expired, and the union hadn't bothered to/gotten around to/nailed down an agreement with the employer. Literally their biggest responsibility, and they were years late.

What they did do, however, was send out a mass e-mail to union members encouraging them not to participate in Ugly Sweater Day, because it could hurt people's feelings (literally, their concern was that people's feelings could be hurt), and other equally worthless wastes of time. Behaviour like that makes me wonder what these people actually do with union dues.

That said, there are also huge benefits; for example, there have been a few cases where people we know have been chosen to interview for a position, only to be told suddenly that the position was no longer being interviewed for – and then finding out that someone with less seniority and less experience was offered the job. Not saying our friend should have been given the position, but they didn't even interview her for it.

On top of that, there's the generic benefits of a union environment: more vacation, less nepotism, pension, and – my personal favourite – as long as you show up to work every day and do your job, your salary will increase (more than the legal minimum), your vacation will increase (more than the legal minimum), your pension will keep going up, and eventually you can retire.

So it's kind of a mixed bag. In cases of large, faceless bureaucracies it can help significantly by preventing people from being promoted who don't deserve it, just because they're friends with the boss/interviewed well/bribed someone/etc. On the other hand, large unions are basically another giant, faceless bureaucracy which purports to be on your side but typically operates under its own agenda, and in many cases, appears anti-employer for no reason other than spite.

To summarize:

Union Pros: Job safety, real cost of living increases, pension/retirement opportunity, some protection from unfair hiring/promotion practices.

Union Cons: Silly emails?

Cons include things like seniority based promotions and ridiculous hoops to jump through for hiring and firing.

Job safety is good, but it does protect incompetents as well. That becomes a poor situation for everyone but the incompetent.

They use them in unions too, but in a slightly different way. San Francisco local 6 (Electrician's union). Basically, if you go through, or start their apprenticeship program; you can't walk away and open a non-union shop. This is different than non-compete clause, but in the same realm.

That said, I think Computer Programers should unionize. A lot of thought would have to go into the union, but in the end you guys would be making a decent, consistent salary. The union could stipulate that new start-ups are exempt from union rules; until they, if they reach a certain level of success?

In turn, it would require established companies, like Yahoo Google, and Amazon follow union rules. In the end, the cash might be despirsed among the workers, and the Founders might not throw money around like they are printing it up on a string of Epson Printers? "But Mark, I don't think we can spend a trillion dollars on app.com; we have to pay our employees, and the pension fund needs capital?" Would a Programmer, who spent 30 years learning a coracopua of languages, put up with egotistical rich kids, spent so many hours in front of a box, lost weekends because you had to find the errors---like a pension when you retire?

Oh, Amazon will just move to the Amazon. Maybe not?

Except you wouldn't be spending lost weekends in front of a box. Companies wouldn't be willing to pay OT.

Hourly based salary would be kind of amazing.

Of course the downside is that it is harder to do flexible hours and such when you are expected to be working 40 hours 9-5 for your pay.

I don't think it'll work.

Unions more or less kinda worked when you had largish enterprises with a lot of employees. This is more or less the world described by John Kenneth Galbraith's "The New Industrial State."

This world doesn't really exist any more. It was undermined by lots of forces. I'd say the main force was people being dissatisfied with the working conditions.

In order for collective bargaining to work, there kind of has to be a collective to bargain for. Humans are not naturally attracted to collectives.

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