from the violating-federal-law dept.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports
A San Francisco technology company laid off a group of software engineers as they were trying to join a labor union, according to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Communications Workers of America [CWA] claims Lanetix, which makes cloud-based software for transportation and logistics companies, violated federal labor laws by cutting 14 software engineers in January in San Francisco and Arlington, Va.
Most of the engineers were fired [January 26], about 10 days after they filed a petition seeking union representation, according to the complaint filed by the CWA's Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. A hearing to determine a date to hold the union vote was scheduled for [February 1].
[...] While unions have made inroads in representing Silicon Valley bus drivers, security officers, food service workers, and custodians, the Lanetix case could break new ground because union activity is still unusual for software engineers, who are generally highly paid and in short supply, labor lawyers said.
[...] there are [reasons other than gripes about pay, whereby] unions can attract higher-paid tech workers, including "if you feel mistreated by the company or if you feel there's favoritism going on or lack of job security", said labor law attorney Steve Hirschfeld, founding partner of Hirschfeld Kraemer of San Francisco.
"There's a myth that if you're a highly paid employee, you either can't join a union or wouldn't be interested", Hirschfeld said.
The Lanetix case is "significant because it is a tech company and they're well-paid engineers", he said. "That's still a rarity today for that group of employees to be organized. (But) the feeling among many tech workers is that they're viewed as being expendable."
[...] The Lanetix engineers signed union cards to join the CWA's Washington-Baltimore News Guild. (The Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents some San Francisco Chronicle employees, is also affiliated with the CWA.) According to the complaint filed with the board, the union said Lanetix began "threatening and coercing employees" for engaging in union activities starting in November. The complaint said one engineer was fired for participating in group discussions on Slack, an internal messaging service.
The union filed a petition with the board on Jan. 16 to represent the workers. The company terminated "all engineers and senior engineers in retaliation for demanding recognition", the complaint said.
The engineers were called into a meeting and told of layoffs due to the company's lackluster fourth quarter performance, CWA organizer Melinda Fiedler told Bloomberg Law.
"By the time they left that meeting, their computers were gone", Fiedler said.
Cet Parks, executive director of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, said the workers were told the company was moving engineering offices to Europe.
At the University of California's San Francisco campus, 79 IT employees lost their jobs this week, some of them after explaining to their replacements at Indian outsourcing firm HCL how to do their jobs.
The union representing the employees, University Professional and Technical Employees CWA Local 9119, says it's the first time a public university has offshored American IT jobs.
In a statement sent yesterday, UPTE-CWA says the layoffs could spread, since the HCL contract can be utilized by any of the 10 campuses in the University of California system, the nation's largest public university. "US taxes should be used to create jobs in the US, not in other countries," said Kurt Ho, a systems administrator who was quoted in the union's press release. Ho was required to train his replacement as a condition of getting his severance pay.
In its statement on the matter, UCSF says that it was pushed to hire outside contractors due to "increased demand for information technology and escalating costs for these services." The university says it will save more than $30 million by hiring HCL, after seeing IT costs nearly triple between 2011 and 2016, "driven by the introduction of the electronic medical record and increased digital connectivity."
The university says 49 UCSF employees were laid off, and it will eliminate another 48 jobs that are currently vacant or filled by contractors. "UCSF will not replace UCSF IT employees with H-1B visa holders, nor will HCL," the university wrote in a statement e-mailed to Ars.
Of the 49 laid-off UCSF employees, 34 have either secured other employment or are retiring, the university said.
Do you really need someone to tell you what to do at work? Three years ago, Swedish software consultancy Crisp decided that the answer was no.
The firm, which has about 40 staff, had already trialled various organisational structures, including the more common practice of having a single leader running the company. Crisp then tried changing its chief executive annually, based on a staff vote, but eventually decided collectively that no boss was needed.
Yassal Sundman, a developer at the firm, explains: "We said, 'what if we had nobody as our next CEO--what would that look like?' And then we went through an exercise and listed down the things that the CEO does."
The staff decided that many of the chief executive's responsibilities overlapped with those of the board, while other roles could be shared among other employees. "When we looked at it we had nothing left in the CEO column, and we said, 'all right, why don't we try it out?'" says Ms Sundman.
Because they are all in charge, workers are more motivated, [says Henrik Kniberg, an organisational coach at the firm]. Crisp regularly measures staff satisfaction, and the average is about 4.1 out of five.
Last March, VentureBeat said
Crisp, a boutique consultancy company in Sweden, is made up of approximately 30 people, but none of them are truly "employees". They have zero managers; not even a CEO. Decisions are made through consensus, and instead of relying on some manager to allocate tasks, Crisp developed its own protocol detailing the chain of responsibilities when a new task appears.
Computing is notorious for not having a worthwhile professional association. Some practitioners join the IEEE, the IET or the ACM. However, membership typically costs hundreds of dollars per year and offers little practical help to computer professionals working in small companies. If you're working for government or a large corporation or you're a super programmer in a well funded start-up then you probably have a union or you don't need a union. However, if you're the sole techie in a small business, appreciation for your dedication is just the start. What happens when you're asked to do something unethical or illegal? Where do you turn when a job goes sour? How do you avoid the problem? How can you avoid really toxic employers?
Rather than paying hundreds of dollars per year for talks and conferences, you require local experts who have first-hand experience of local employers and local employment problems. How can this be achieved reliably and cost-effectively? This is where our expertise should shine. Firstly, union entry should be at least as stringent as the conceirge union. Secondly, there should be a web-of-trust within each metropolitan region (and ideally between regions). In the best case, the network distance between all members should be four or less. Thirdly, an obligatory website should incur less hits than SoylentNews and therefore an upper bound for costs can be established for a volunteer effort. Essentially, it should be possible to run a union from donations of US$3000 per year or significantly less. Indeed, the major cost to members would be food and drink expenses when informally meeting other members.
So who wants to join a computer professional union with sensible fees and obligations?