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?
(Score: 3, Informative) by ledow on Monday July 03 2017, @09:11AM (1 child)
Unions are a way to pay someone to fight your battles for you.
I don't understand that. If I have a genuine grievance, pretty much anyone professional will help me fight that battle - from outside agencies to lawyers to the relevant ombudsman. Sure, maybe the union has more resources, but I'm paying for those resources - on average - anyway. The average benefit from a union will be less than - or at most equal to - the contributions anyway, or it wouldn't be able to operate.
I find that a union is the same as any other large corporate entity. Wrapped up in red tape, more worried about bottom-line appeasement than my cause, and subject to the same administrative overhead necessary to get out of helping those it should be helping.
To be honest, I have also had any number of discussions with employers along the lines of: I negotiate my own pay and conditions. I don't just accept whatever the union accepts. I end up with the same - or greater - benefits without having to pay union fees or generate problems for my employers.
Unions often operate on the "all members equal" policies - where one employee at a certain level should be earning no more than another employee elsewhere at the same level. I disagree immensely with that and such a policy would have cost me nearly 1/3rd of my current salary over the years. I'm often operating on an unofficial "don't tell the others" policy with regards to my pay because of it. If the unions get wind, they will demand that for everyone, including the idiot that can barely do his job but they can't get rid of "because he's union and it would be too expensive".
And I work in schools. Almost every teacher is a member of one union or the other. I steer clear of such things. I don't see how it's prudent to lump everyone into a box and negotiate wholesale unless you are operating below-average anyway. And if you think you need a union to represent your interests against your employer, in legal or ethical terms, then really you need a new workplace, not a union.
To me, unions are the antithesis of finding the middle ground. They are either far too powerful (e.g. London transport worker unions who strike more days every year than I get holiday allowance), or completely powerless. And I end up doing a much better job myself, including through some quite serious employment disputes and pay. I have reported my employers to relevant government departments before now who invoked their wrath upon an employer (when they were clearly doing illegal or highly dubious things), resulting in replacement of the entire management team. At no point did I need a union. And worst case, I would have just hired a lawyer.
Either you're in the right, or it's not worth the effort to chase. A union can't change that.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 03 2017, @09:36AM
That may be what unions devolved to, but it is not what unions originally were about. Unions were not supposed to be organizations providing a service to the workers, but the union were supposed to be the workers. Basically, in the original idea, it's what you get if workers unite to fight together instead of against each other (guess where the word originates from!).
Of course, like any sort of organization (note the origin of that word, too) it is prone to bureaucratisation and becoming a separate entity.