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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday July 02 2017, @06:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the unionize-now dept.

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?


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by turgid on Sunday July 02 2017, @12:31PM (13 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 02 2017, @12:31PM (#534148) Journal

    Unions in the UK got a very bad reputation in the 1970s and 1980s. I remember news reports of the Miners' Strike [wikipedia.org] in the early 1980s where the unions were often portrayed as being violent, unfair and unreasonable, intimidating innocent workers who didn't want to strike and being awkward to the point of intransigence in negotiations. Their leader, Arthur Scargill [wikipedia.org], was a Communist but had a fancy car and a luxurious home. Apparently he is leader of the Socialist Labour Party (distinct from the Labour Party).

    When I entered the world of work at an industrial site, there were a number of unions for different occupations. I (an Engineer) joined the Engineers and Managers Association. I was very reluctant initially because of the historical portrayal of trade unions in the media, their links to Communism and the fact that many of them support the Labour Party [labour.org.uk] financially. I did not want to fund any particular political party, and I've never been a Communist.

    That particular work environment was very old-fashioned and had a Victorian class system in place, very much "us and them" from the view of the management. There was a pecking order, with the industrial staff, cleaners and caterers at the bottom, followed by the clerical staff, then the engineers and finally the managers at the top.

    I soon became very glad that I joined the union. Over the next few years, changes were made to working conditions (hours etc.) and the union was able to represent us fairly and rationally. Contrary to the militant far-left unions I'd seen in the media as a child, this one was thoughtful, rational, reasonable, calm, even-handed. There was one particularly absurd case where management wanted to "harmonise" the working hours across site (the idea of flexi-time was completely two centuries too far ahead to even consider) and the industrial staff were to get a one-off payment of £750 for their inconvenience, but us engineers were to get nothing because we were "professional." The union soon sorted that out.

    The EMA later amalgamated with several other unions to become Prospect [prospect.org.uk] and I'm still a very happy memeber, over 20 years later. I have kept up my subscription and the union has been able to provide me with legal advice on a number of matters over the years including when I was being transferred to an Indian outsourcing company by my American employer, in the UK.

    The USA appears to have some very strange laws regarding unions. Here in the UK you're allowed to be part of whatever union you like. The unions are not all militant-left/communist, they exist on a political spectrum and they don't all contribute to political parties. Closed shops, I think, are now illegal. One union is not allowed to force out others in a particular work place. A union may only represent you officially if a certain percentage of your fellow workers are also members at your work place, however that does not stop them from being able to give you formal legal advice. Any union decisions on industrial action (eg strikes) have to be taken by secret ballot among the members and their are rules about quorums and majorities. Finally, even if your union votes for industrial action, you do not have to take part legally if it goes against your own conscience, for example if the union votes to strike and you don't want to take part. You are protected from recriminations under the law.

    I'm not a lawyer so take the above with a pinch of salt, but unions have had a very bad press in the last 30 years or so. They're not all the same.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday July 02 2017, @12:56PM (6 children)

    Yeah, that is far more sane than the union situation in the US and something I might even be agreeable to. Here, unless you are in a "right to work" state, pretty much every unionized shop is a closed shop with only one union present; you either join it or you don't work there. Unions routinely contribute to political parties, (Excuse me, political party. It's always the Democrats.) and are synonymous with corruption, strong-arm tactics, and actual mob ties once you get above a local level. Most of the laws in place throughout the nation are in place to protect unions and allow the corruption to continue, though "right to work" legislation has recently started gaining ground in some states.

    --
    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Joe Desertrat on Sunday July 02 2017, @10:07PM (5 children)

      by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Sunday July 02 2017, @10:07PM (#534267)

      Here, unless you are in a "right to work" state, pretty much every unionized shop is a closed shop with only one union present; you either join it or you don't work there. Unions routinely contribute to political parties, (Excuse me, political party. It's always the Democrats.) and are synonymous with corruption, strong-arm tactics, and actual mob ties once you get above a local level. Most of the laws in place throughout the nation are in place to protect unions and allow the corruption to continue, though "right to work" legislation has recently started gaining ground in some states.

      Nice that you ignore the long history of abuses of "right to work". "Right to work" means, union or no, that you as an employee have no rights other than what an employer chooses to grant you, for only as long as they choose to grant them. It is pretty much a turn back towards the days when employer abuse brought about the formations of unions in the first place. These things go in cycles I suppose, and conservatives tend to have a short memory of history, dooming us to repeat it over and over.

      • (Score: 1, Troll) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday July 03 2017, @01:16AM (3 children)

        No, my socialist friend, what it means is you cannot tell anyone who hires on at your shop "Nice job you got there. Be a shame if something happened to it." Unions in the US are largely nothing but an extortion racket arm of the DNC.

        --
        My rights don't end where your fear begins.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 03 2017, @09:43AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 03 2017, @09:43AM (#534395)

          Inability to understand legislation like this pretty much ensures you will never be able to retire as middle class. Almost deserved.

        • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Thursday July 06 2017, @10:10PM

          by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Thursday July 06 2017, @10:10PM (#535908)

          No, my socialist friend, what it means is you cannot tell anyone who hires on at your shop "Nice job you got there. Be a shame if something happened to it."

          Except this is exactly what happens in "right to work" states. One minute you have a job, the next you do not. It does not matter how good you are if you run afoul of the wrong person, some manager is having a bad day and wants to take it out on (or scapegoat) an employee, someone wants to put a friend in your position, management does not understand what you do, whatever. You have no recourse, no ability to protest the decision, no one to help you should you be wrongfully fired, you are out the door without a second thought.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04 2017, @03:32AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04 2017, @03:32AM (#534669)

        Right to work means a lot more than that. Right to work means that no third party is supposed to be able to insert themselves in a willing employment contract. It also means that employees can tell employers to take the job and shove it, and that unions can't extract money from unwilling participants.

        Footnote: this depends upon actual enforcement of things like RICO.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 02 2017, @06:13PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 02 2017, @06:13PM (#534198)

    Unions in the UK [...] in the 1970s and 1980s

    The era of Thatcher and union busting.

    the Miners' Strike

    Thatcherism writ large.
    Ronnie Raygun copied her methods with the mass firing of PATCO workers.
    (Reagan had been a union president. Total piece of shit.)

    [union leader] was a Communist

    A lot of people and political parties adopt names that are inappropriate WRT to their actual actions.

    Someone who is Communist would be working diligently to make natural monopolies publicly-owned.

    ...and this would be -after- a huge percentage of workplaces were Socialist (worker-owned).

    Socialist Labour Party

    See "inappropriate" (naming), referenced above.
    See also "worker-owned".

    The USA appears to have some very strange laws regarding unions

    The Wagner Act of 1935 was gutted by Republicans (and Blue Dog Democrats) shortly after FDR died.
    The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 fundamentally neutered workers' rights.
    In the subsequent 7 decades, neither of the Big 2 parties has made an honest effort to reverse this.
    28 states now have anti-union "Right to Work" (For Less) laws.
    The 2 establishment political parties in USA hate The Workers.

    About 40 percent of eligible voters didn't cast a ballot in 2016.
    A party that is pro-worker (e.g. the Green Party) should have gotten those votes, but Lamestream Media in the USA doesn't serve The Workers either, and fails to inform them about candidates and issues, concentrating on the "horse race" instead of the track conditions.

    .
    WRT "Computer Professional Union" in the page title, we had a story about a Socialist workplace that relates:
    Swedish Worker Cooperative Software Development Company Has No Boss [soylentnews.org]
    (When the owners and the workers are the same people, there's no need for a union.)

    -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Sunday July 02 2017, @07:41PM

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 02 2017, @07:41PM (#534221) Journal

      Unions in general were portrayed very badly in the mainstream media during that period. That was one of the reasons that I was so reluctant to join one at first.

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Sunday July 02 2017, @07:54PM

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 02 2017, @07:54PM (#534225) Journal

      Co-operatives are a good idea. I'm a member of "the Co-op" and do a fair bit of shopping there
        I've bought two laptops from them (AMD CPUs, great prices) and a washing machine. I don't understand what this obsession with "us and them" capitalism is, with shareholders revered above all else (workers, customers, the environment). It doesn't make any sense. It's unsustainable. But what do I know, I'm just a naïve lefty idealist :-)

  • (Score: 1) by purple_cobra on Sunday July 02 2017, @08:25PM (2 children)

    by purple_cobra (1435) on Sunday July 02 2017, @08:25PM (#534232)

    The history of unions in the US and the UK looks markedly different from the little I've read about them, with the former being more aggressive and "closed", for want of a better word. With hindsight, Scargill went too far but when their opposition was a right-to-hard-right Conservative Party who were pretty explicit in their desire to crush the voice and influence, however limited, of the working class, it gets that little bit more difficult to paint him as the worst of the bunch. I've mentioned the Battle of Orgreave previously in a couple of comments on this site and it's still worth reading about now; the ruling class mindset that arranged what appeared to be an act of paramilitary violence against a picket line is the same one that gave us the blaming of Liverpool fans for Hillsborough and will, no doubt, try to pin the blame on anyone but themselves for the tragedy at Grenfell.

    The German approach - recognising that employees and their unions have a vested interest in the company succeeding - seems to work better all round, but replicating that here in the UK is unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Sunday July 02 2017, @08:54PM (1 child)

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 02 2017, @08:54PM (#534248) Journal

      I agree. I've recently read two books of Alexei Sayle's biography which give quite an insight into British politics in the second half of the 20th Century. I was a young child when the miners' strike and Hillsborough happened, and I am shocked at the arrogance and brutality of the Establishment even in those days. This is why free speech, a multi-party democracy, free press and an engaged electorate are so important
        Keep voting!

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by purple_cobra on Tuesday July 04 2017, @09:13PM

        by purple_cobra (1435) on Tuesday July 04 2017, @09:13PM (#534934)

        I suspect we're a similar age then; I was 9 when the miners' strike started and while I have little in the way of memories of Hillsborough, I have read about it since. I'm Welsh, so even at that young age the strike had an impact as it felt like the state was trying to crush our little country, to bring it to heel. As I grew older, it became apparent that it wasn't just us; there remains a certain type of person who feels that the feudal system was the apex of societal organisation and that the working class should know their place and bloody well stay in it. Hyperbole, perhaps, but the ruling class certainly seem to have a vested interest in keeping us agitated and distrusting each other.

        I'll add Alexei Sayle's biographies to the ever-growing reading list. :)

        Funny you should mention "an engaged electorate": I got an e-mail earlier from the local Labour Party asking for expressions of interest to become a local councillor. That's interesting to me in terms of seeing the nuts and bolts of local democracy - how the sausage is made, if you like - but as I've already resolved to leave the area then it wouldn't be a sensible (or fair) thing to do.