The local UAW (United Auto Workers) union has brochures on how to start a union. They actually have people within their organization who will help you with the process. These folks used to leave their brochures around the cafeteria wher I worked as a programmer for EDS/Bethlehem Steel. Like Roseanne mentioned - unions are almost non-existent in the Info Tech field. Even in a highly unionized location like Bethlehem Steel with an employer like Electronic Data Systems (see www.edslawsuits.com) - the union could not get the IT workers to join. Again - a trip to your local union hall should prove positive. Their numbers are usually in the phone book - and recommend that you call to set up an appointment. Hope this helps. Johnny (firstname.lastname@example.org) [ July 28, 2002: Message edited by: John Coxey ]
Why don't we like unions- I think there is a lot of men in this business. We don't like to ask for directions. We don't like to go to the doctor. We visualize ourselves as that lonely gun fighter in the street a high noon. We're smart too. We know they add another layer of red tape. We know the decrease the overall efficiency of the system. We know unions are apt to be responsible for wrongs on the same level as the wrongs management hits us with. I don't think the UAW, the IBEW, or the Teamsters is going to have a winning image. Who represents air line pilots? It may take the wife considerable threats, but once that trail six pack of Viagra works, sales seem to be brisk.
posted 17 years ago
Rufus: - As to why we don't have unions in the IT sector. 1. I am not sure if IT workers are considered "management" employees - if so, then it might not be legal for us to form a union in USA. 2. Fear of the unknown - company retaliation, etc. 3. High turnover rate. Every single person in this industry that I know of has been laid off at one time or the other in the past 5 years. Nothing seems to be stable in this game. Makes it hard to organize. Not like the steel & auto industry where you have entire familes working multiple generations in the same plant/place/company. 4. Unions (at least in USA) are associated more with blue collar (industrial labor) workers. Perhaps this is why they never took off in our field. 5. With the exception of the past year or so - IT was a pretty hot field and wages were pretty good. 6. My biggest two biggest gripes right now in the IT field: A: The H1B visa issue. The fact that USA Colleges are not teaching real-world skills, yet foreign colleges are. American industry is looking for real-world skills (ie: J2EE, XML, Oracle, etc). If they can't find it here - they go overseas. And, our govt says it's perfectly ok to do so. The H1B folks I know of (HP & Lucent) knew their stuff - and were paid the same wage as USA folks. So I personally can't gripe about pay scale differences - although I am sure this practice exists. But what gets me - is that in India - a BS-CS degree (or it's equivalent) takes 3 yrs and is alot more real-world oriented than a USA college. My second gripe: B: Our God-Forsaken Tax system. Why in the hell do I have to pay 40-50% of may pay in taxes. Then pay to visit our national parks. Pay another fee to fish. Pay another fee to park. Pay another fee for gas tax. Pay another fee for sales tax on the gas tax. Pay a 10% excise fee on all fishing equipment. Pay a sales tax ontop of the excise fee. See how we get "nickle and dimed" to death. BTW/ I have spent close to $500 on fishing licenses in USA just this year alone. CO $35, PA $50, WY $75, MT $70, NY $50, NJ $45, CA $45, NM $50, UT $55, UTE INDIAN RESERVATION $50
---- In the above two cases - I doubt a union is going to help. And in the IT industry - since unions are just about non-existent, I think it would take 10 yrs just to get the H1B or overseas programming issues to the table --- and that's if a union movement ever takes off. Any other opinions out there? Johnny (email@example.com)
unions don't scale. they are good at sorting out things like health and saftey, but as soon as their power reaches a political level they will be destroyed by the government of the day (what happened to coal miners?)
Certainly all of the above are true. However, I feel it's more for historical reasons. Unions, in the US, began because "unskilled labor" was powerless against corporations. Only by unionizing could they employ collective bargaining to get better wages and working conditions. Software engineers are highly skilled professionals. There wasn't a need to improve either wages or working conditions. As for whether it's needed now...
posted 17 years ago
John Coxey wrote: I am not sure if IT workers are considered "management" employees - if so, then it might not be legal for us to form a union in USA. Is this right? is "management" really not allowed to form/join unions in the USA? Again, here in the UK I know lots of management people in unions. Just because you manage other people doesn't mean that you are not an employee yourself. Sure, I might raise an eyebrow to see a director or CEO in a union, but on the other hand I'm a company director working in IT and I've thought seriously several times about joining a union.
IT workers are not management. For the record, the unions, with which I am familiar, closest to software engineers include... - airline pilots - medical residents - graduate students - guild of web masters (started by a friend of mine, actually) Also, although we don't have formal unions, we do have professional societies like IEEE and ACM.
posted 17 years ago
Frank / Mark: - I've heard that was one of the stumbling blocks with the Teaching Assistant's and/or faculty at universities forming a union - is that they were considered part of "management". - It's my understanding that "management" cannot form a union. - I understand that before the (I think it was a college in California) teaching assistants formed their union - that the issue of whether ther were "management" or not went before several court hearings. Just what I have heard.... John Coxey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There seem to be several problems with forming an EFFECTIVE union in IT. Mark mentioned several examples of educated groups which form unions. The biggest one I would add are teachers. They are an extremely powerful union full of educated members. yet the unions mentioned previously which are actually effective in gaining collective bargaining power seem to have two things in common which makes individuals join them and management deal with them. The first is that even in the case of the unions with educated members, the trade they are protecting has a very limited number of total employers. If there were no teachers union and you were a teacher in Chicago, you would have very little bargaining power because there are very few places to teach other than the board of education. kind of like someone who has to sell his car to feed his family, but only one person is making an offer. Even if the offer is low they still have to take it. How many U.S. airlines are there? 20 or 30? Pilots make huge salaries, but if they don't work for one of those 20 or 30 companies (save for the few who fly corporate) they can't transfer their skills somewhere else. IT people, on the otherhand, work in every industry for thousands of employers. In theory, an IT person can move from healthcare, to finance, to government work much more easily because their skills are much more transferable. Thus there is less of a reason to join a union. I know what you all will say next, due to the unemployment, many IT people can't transfer jobs that easily. This leads to the second thing a union needs to be effective. It must have most of the potential employees as members. If every programmer and potential programmer in the world united and demanded certain things, it MIGHT work. But as long as you have enough skilled people anywhere in the world willing to code, U.S. unions (at least for programmers) lose. Union formation would seem to be most effective in cases where every availible worker is being used, but they are not making the money that the company could afford to pay them. High unemployment means tons of people willing to break from the union to feed their families. Because of the slowdown, there are tons of skilled people willing to program for a little less if given the chance, and thats just in the U.S.. If you formed a union and demanded that, lets say Citibank, give it's java programmers higher salaries, how long do you think it would take to find enough unemployeed programmers to fill the position of the programmers who go on strike? This doesn't even consider how much easier it is to get the product overseas. When autoworkers negotiated with auto companies, the auto companies knew that even if they moved the plant to mexico they would pay stiff tariffs if they brought the car into the U.S. for sale. While the government could impose a stiff tariff on imported software, that would be extremely difficult (if not practically impossible) to enforce. It's much easier to catch someone smuggling 2000 pound cars into the U.S. from Mexico than it would be to catch someone smuggling a 20mb file over the internet from India. Sorry for the long post Jon
"I study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy in order to give their children a right to study painting poetry and music."<br />--John Adams
posted 17 years ago
So is a union in the USA a different sort of organization from what we call a union over here, then? Although some high-profile, single-employer unions have had strikes and other industrial actions over pay, most of what unions seem to offer is other things. A union might offer things like:
lobbying of government on issues of importance to its members
assistance with work grievances (harassment, unfair dismissal etc.)
group deals on insurance, pensions, mortgages etc.
Essentially anything where more voices are better than one. I can see all of those sorts of thinge being beneficial to IT workers and management, even those who run their own small businesses like I do. Can anyone explain what it is about unions which would lead the US government to make legislation about who might join them?
I'm not sure the US government put limits on who can join a union, although various governments (federal and state) do place limits on the who can strike and when. On the average, US IT workers are less interchangable than workers for whom unionization works well. We want our management to recognize and exploit our differences and interests.
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