-- OriginalOwner_ writes:
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.
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.
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.
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"No, you can't update the build system for that new file. You're an application software programmer. Union rules require that build system programming be done by build system programmers."
"Our only database programmer has to be laid off. He doesn't have seniority. We're discontinuing the Windows Metro support, so we no longer need a programmer for that, but our Windows Metro programmer has seniority. He gets the database programming job now. No, he doesn't know SQL or really anything about databases, but he'll manage."
Well, both making sure that people aren't put into jobs that they aren't qualified for and making sure that training (or re-training, if desired) is available are things that unions should do. Unions that run strictly on a seniority basis are only going to useful to workers in fields where the needed skills can be taught to a new employee in no more than a handful of days - and given the robotization of manufacturing, there are fewer and fewer of those available.
Which is not to say that you don't bring up good points - but they could and should be addressed in the structure and rules of the union itself rather than just assuming that the union rules will be super-restrictive about who can do what and who gets fired first.
AC voiced a legitimate opinion, shared by many people - both union and non-union. At certain points in history, one union or another stepped up, and made a difference that made working people's lives better. Every literate American should be perfectly aware that some of the unions eventually grew too powerful, which attracted corrupt SOB's to "leadership" positions within the unions. Other unions are mere shadows of what they ought to be, and fail to better anyone's lives significantly.
In the late 1800's, and early to mid 1900's, unions were good, overall. Sometime after the "Greatest Generation" returned from war, the unions largely went to shit. Unions share a great deal of responsibility for the steel industry moving offshore. The auto makers eventually went bankrupt, due in part to unsustainable pensions.
I'm modding AC as "informative", and I hope a couple other honest moderators will do the same.
Unions share a great deal of responsibility for the steel industry moving offshore.
The idea that the union per se was what moved the steel industry offshore is basically a myth. Even without the unionized US steelworkers, steel companies had plenty of other reasons to leave:- Even if US steelworkers had been getting minimum wage and no benefits or retirement package, wages would be cheaper elsewhere.- Other countries have far fewer pesky environmental and labor laws, and many of those that have those laws don't enforce them as vigorously as the US (i.e. at all).
Regardless of what the unions did, as soon as the protectionist tariffs on steel were gone, there was absolutely no reason for companies to stay in the US. And once the "free trade" agreements like NAFTA, GATT, and our low-tariff trading with China were the highest law of the land, manufacturing businesses were gone.
The auto makers eventually went bankrupt, due in part to unsustainable pensions.
Which bankruptcies are you talking about here? Ford, GM, and Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009 for mainly the same reason many other companies were going bankrupt, namely the global financial crisis. All 3 of those companies make most of their income not from cars but from the loans to buy their cars new, so the financial crisis hit them badly. And they'd already moved out of the US in the 1990's for all the same reasons mentioned for the steel industry above.
And it wasn't unsustainable pensions that really caused a lot of balance sheet problems, so much as the cost of health care for their retirees. One of the many reasons our for-profit health care system is bad for the country as a whole. It's also worth noting that management is constantly trying to weasel out of pensions and retirement benefits because the main incentive they have to pay them is to avoid being sued by retirees - they won't get any more work out of the retirees, and in many cases they've already busted the union that negotiated them in the first place.
Ford did not go bankrupt.
Healthcare? So - healthcare doesn't count as part of the retirement package? I think that all payments and benefits negotiated by the union counts as "pension". But, you do make a point that our healthcare system is so very screwed that even the strongest corporation can be brought to it's knees by healthcare costs.
"Pension" usually refers to a regular fixed payment to retirees. They're somewhat a relic of the era when the normal plan for blue-collar men was "Learn a trade in shop classes. Get an entry level position at $COMPANY out of high school. Work there for about 40 years. Retire."
The health insurance benefits weren't seen as a big deal when they were originally negotiated. Now, the cost of the health insurance is frequently much larger than the fixed payment.
The idea that the union per se was what moved the steel industry offshore is basically a myth
The US is still the fourth largest producer of steel on the planet. [wikipedia.org]
The idea that the US doesn't produce steel anymore, regardless of the cause, is itself a myth.
"No one remembers who came in second." -- Walter Hagen
Whether it’s producing steel or building cars or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here on our great homeland, America.
We're making much more steel than we used to. Because of my Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross. He's the king of bankruptcy. He bought up so many of our steel mills that were going bankrupt, he turned them around. He did so much, no thanks to the Obama administration! And we're going to do much better now, because of my big, beautiful tariff. IF YOU DON'T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON'T HAVE A COUNTRY!
They still have strong unions over in western Europe, and it seems to work out well for them. Germany is one of the world's two 2 exporters and a manufacturing powerhouse, despite not being a cheap cost-of-living place.
Over here, unions are generally responsible for high costs and terrible product quality, through stupid policies like what the OP was writing of (one employee not being allowed to do another employee's job when necessary, or job responsibilities being stupidly divided up to create more jobs unnecessarily).
It seems that the problem is that America is just plain dysfunctional and has a huge problem with corruption. It's just like trains: Germany and Japan have great trains that work well, are on-time, are very high-speed, and don't crash, and we have Amtrak. When there's anything political, we're simply unable to do it well. So we can make smaller companies and come up with brilliant high-tech products and services, but we can't keep our bridges from falling down, we can't make a decent passenger rail system, we can't come up with a healthcare system with reasonable costs that covers everyone decently well, and when we do build stuff that's government-connected or paid for, it costs an absolute fortune (even compared to countries like Germany).
I sometimes wonder if the US problems stem from the amazing propaganda industry you guys have.
You seem to have a huge amount of brainwashing going on, from school kids chanting that creepy oath of obedience every morning before school, to the Nuremberg rallies at football games during the "salute to service" round of games.
Gods forbid anyone should say anything critical of the military. That's a lesson they learned very well from Vietnam.
The anti-union comments in this thread show the ignorance of what unions are and what they could be, but the fear of any collective action is a weirdly American thing.
The fact you can only manage to muster two political parties is another weird thing to those of us who live in democracies. There are 320 million of you, and you agree with each other so much that there are only two points of view needing to be represented?
What they could be, and what they have been doing for the post half-century, are two extremely different things. Just read some of the anecdotes, like the guy who couldn't replace a light bulb at a trade show because he had to pay a big fee for an electrician to do it, because some union at the convention center got that rule put in.
I'm guessing that unions in Europe aren't this corrupt and dysfunctional, so of course you're scratching your heads about why Americans hate unions so much. It'd be nice if we could have useful unions that actually served their members well, but also helped the manufacturers be productive, instead of driving jobs out of union states or out of the country, but for some reason, we Americans simply are not capable of this. Why is this? It's like asking why Zimbabwe can't have an efficient, functional government.
This one is a little different. The problem here is that it's mathematically impossible to have more than two parties when you have a first-past-the-post voting system. It necessarily devolves to two dominant parties. So to have more than two parties, you need a different voting system, like approval voting, which I understand is popular in Europe. Well, we can't have that. I'm quite sure if you took a poll of Americans asking if they'd like to switch to (insert voting system here--approval, Condorcet, Borla, IRV, etc.) they'll vote "NO". Again, this is just like asking why Zimbabwe can't have a good government: the people here simply can't understand. When you have a populace that has no real education, and can barely do long division (actually I'm doubtful of this now), you're not going to get political action to change a voting system.
The problem here is that it's mathematically impossible to have more than two parties when you have a first-past-the-post voting system.
This statement is wrong, and easily disproved, as the UK currently has 8 parties in their Parliament, under first past the post voting.
You are correct, proportional voting is how you wind up getting proper representation, but every time I argue this point on the internet, I get some American telling me it's "impossible" and that no matter how the electoral system gets reformed, it will just wind up with two dominant parties.
They sometimes even argue that that's how things ought to be, which brings me right back to propaganda.
No one does it better than the US does, so you've wound up with a nation of unthinking patriots.
The odd thing is that you don't know what the parties will be composed of as you vote. The parties don't even exist until well after the vote.
I gather you call the parties something like "The Government" and "Her Loyal Opposition".
Those, effectively, are your parties. They are created in dirty backroom deals. The voters have no say in this.
Such a poor attempt at trolling
Try again idiot.
This statement is wrong, and easily disproved, as the UK currently has 8 parties in their Parliament, under first past the post voting.
You're going to have to explain yourself on this one, especially in light of the other responder's post which seems to be saying that your party system doesn't really work the way ours does. I've read mathematical analyses claiming that, with our party system, FPTP necessarily leads to having two dominant parties, and that it's basically impossible to have more than 2: you just end up with what we have, which is "third parties" that people don't want to vote for because it's basically like not voting at all, and can effectively help the party/candidate you hate the most. I can't imagine how any other country's system can get around this if you have a slate of candidates to choose from.
You are correct, proportional voting is how you wind up getting proper representation
Yeah, we don't have that. Our election systems make no allowance for that.
We actually do have other voting systems, but only at local levels. In Tempe, AZ, for instance, they use runoff voting (not the instant kind) for electing city council members and the mayor. They also disallow any party affiliation to be advertised; you just get a ballot with people's names on it. If there's 3 or more names, and no one candidate gets at least 50% of the vote, then they toss out the candidate with the fewest votes, and then hold a follow-up election with the remaining candidates. This way, you can vote for whomever you want without "wasting" a vote, but if your favorite pick is the least popular, you get another chance to pick between the more popular candidates, so you can keep the wrong lizard out.
It IS impossible, I've already explained why. It's the whole "wasted vote" thing, which is very real: if you voted for Ralph Nader in Florida in the 2000 election, you were missing a chance to keep George W Bush out of office. Those Americans are absolutely right; maybe you shouldn't assume that you know more than all the people who live here under this system. However, if the electoral system were reformed with a better voting system like IRV, Condorcet, etc., then no, it would not necessarily wind up with 2 dominant parties (and even if it did, it would be *much* easier and more frequent for different parties to get into those 2 dominant positions), so anyone who says that is wrong and doesn't understand voting systems and math.
They sometimes even argue that that's how things ought to be, which brings me right back to propaganda.
No, it's not propaganda; we don't have any propaganda telling us that first-past-the-post is sacrosanct. Americans, by and large, really aren't even aware that there are other voting systems in existence. And any that argue that "things ought to be this way" are just stupid. Possibly, they're people who believe the Constitution is some kind of holy document passed down by the all-wise Founding Fathers, and that we must never deviate from it, when in fact the Constitution does not specify a particular voting system (the whole Electoral College thing is silly, but it does not require FPTP; states can have whatever kind of election they want to choose their Electors, however the election that those Electors vote in at the Electoral College is a FPTP election. Also, Maine and Nebraska do use a different system to allocate electors proportionately). But mostly it's because of sheer ignorance.
I think you've missed the point.
The UK has first past the post voting, exactly the same as congressional districts and they have managed to elect 8 parties in their current parliament. This is not unusual for them and disproves the "mathematically impossible" bit.
I am well aware that you don't have proportional voting, and I am also aware of how the US system works.
I would be prepared to bet a whole dollar that I know a whole lot more about the US system of government than the average US voter (probably not you however).
What about that lawyer's union, what do they call it?, a Bar Association or something?
And that doctor's union, American Medical Association? Total scam!
Yeah, techies should never unionize! We'll get the respect we deserve from employers one day without organizing, maybe, probably!
Ask an economist sometime about something called rent-seeking behaviour.
Yes, bar associations and so on are scams - they're just scams with a veneer of respectability and a plausible cover story.
For society, they're very expensive solutions to problems that don't justify that sort of lock-in.
Really? You think it's a bad thing that there are organizations out there that make sure that doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other people doing difficult jobs with human lives at stake know what they're doing? That seems like an important societal function, and for those kinds of functions either you need a private organization to take care of it, or you need a government bureaucracy to take care if.
As far as the option of doing without some sort of organization with examinations and continuing education and such, that doesn't seem like a great idea when you have 3 hours to get your appendix out and you're too busy being in pain to worry about looking over the resume of all your potential surgeons to check on their competency. Or somebody you had zero say in hiring decides to set up a tower crane near enough to your house that it could easily kill your family if they screw it up.
The problem with unions in the US is that you allow them to be monopolies. In the UK, you usually have a choice of unions, or at the very least you have the ability to start a second union at any time. Importantly, all employees (union or non-union) must be offered the terms negotiated by the union. This means that a union only thrives as long as it represents the interests of its members. If there's no benefit from a strong union, people quit the union. If there are few union employees and a bad employer, people start a new union that's better at negotiating.
In contrast, in the US it's common for there to be a single union that prevents hiring of non-union staff. Everyone has to join the union if they want the job and so there's no incentive for the union to do well: they get dues from all employees, whatever they do. You end up with a large bureaucracy whose incentive structure is closer to the company than to the employees.
I think you've nailed it. Thanks for your perspective, TheRaven!
That is certainly an image of union shops that has been created in the popular imagination. But let me present another scenario for you:
Boss: "So I'll need you to be here at 9 AM Saturday. We've lost a few people and we need to catch up."Programmer: "So you'll be paying the $1000 schedule change bonus, plus giving me an extra vacation day, per our union contract."Boss: "Never mind."Programmer: "Good, that way I won't have to break my promise to be at my kid's baseball game."
The union rules are whatever the union members and management agree to in their contract negotiations. If the union rep and management have any sense at all, they won't be making the kinds of ridiculous rules you've described.
If the union rep and management have any sense at all, they won't be making the kinds of ridiculous rules you've described.
Found the problem with your post.
So, I signed us up to a(nother) computer show in Chicago. We set up a nice booth, nice curved backdrop liberally salted with our software and demo images, a couple computers to live demo, a couple of technically sophisticated lovelies, and were all ready to go, except one of the bulbs on the backdrop was burned out. This not being our first rodeo, we had brought spares. As I was reaching up to unscrew the bad bulb, a fellow approached from the floor and told me to stop what I was doing. He then informed me that as replacing the bulb was an "electrical task", one of the union electricians would have to do it, and the fee would be a one-hour minimum, which was $75 at the time. I gave him some argument, because (obviously) this didn't require an electrician, but he insisted, and in fact said that if we would not comply, we would be removed from the show. So I capitulated; but we never went back to Chicago, and I try to find the time to recount this... adventure... whenever someone tries to paint unions in a positive light.
I also led a life as a rock musician for a while; played a lot of bars, etc. I have lots of union stories from those times, too. None of them good.
My middle kid is an engineer (train driver) with Burlington Northern. He's a union member. He has absolutely nothing good to say about their union, either.
A good friend here works for the local telephone co-operative in the field, basically deals with POTS and Internet service issues. His anecdotes of what their union does are not encouraging.
My general feeling – gained entirely from my own direct, personal experience, and that of those people I know well – is that unions are inherently of a nature that tends to make them corrupt on the one hand, and leads them towards using inappropriate leverage (often compounded by being for the wrong reasons) on the other. I'm reasonably sure there are exceptions, but in my 60 years, I've never personally run into one, which I find somewhat chilling.
For your one story about shitty unions. Which I have heard before, not sure if that means chicago trade shows are a disaster or you're repeating something someone told you. For this one story I won't make it to the end of my day without encountering someone who is getting absolutely shit on by their crap work while the money rolls in.
I can assure you that is my own story, about my own company.
It is not, however, the first time I have told it.
I was a grad student with the CompSci department teaching assembler language, and joined the union. I got a job offer with the Clinical Psychology department to build human physiological instrumentation.My department head told me I couldn't take the Clin Psych job, because I could only work for one department according to a rule that he probably made up.I said "tell it to the union rep", and he backed down.Oh, and there were actual women in the Clin Psych department.Of course, in private industry, I never once saw management with arbitrary demands and restrictions, so unions are irrelevant there ;-)
As I was reaching up to unscrew the bad bulb, a fellow approached from the floor and told me to stop what I was doing. He then informed me that as replacing the bulb was an "electrical task", one of the union electricians would have to do it, and the fee would be a one-hour minimum, which was $75 at the time. I gave him some argument, because (obviously) this didn't require an electrician, but he insisted, and in fact said that if we would not comply, we would be removed from the show.
A similar thing happened to me at a Detroit trade show back in the late 1990s. We were not allowed to plug our 3 desktop/workstation computers into the power outlets provided by the convention center since we were not electricians.
If I recall correctly, we had to note how much power we'd need in the booth & what kind of equipment we were bringing when we rented the space from the convention center. We had to sit around twiddling our thumbs for about an hour while waiting for a `qualified` union member to come by and plug our computers in for us. Did he check to make sure the computers would draw only the power we had requested? Nope. Just reached down, plugged our powerstrips into the wall and collected his fee.
FYI . . . I remember similar union stories from MacWorld trade shows in the late 1980's early 1990's. The show was held in both Boston and San Francisco. In this case, it wasn't about a light bulb, but about moving some largish container from one spot to another.
Exactly.Unions need to be intelligent and work with management (and management needs to be intelligent and work with its employees so they DON'T need a union, or work WITH the union if there is one).
My story is of a Jamaican man in a union, delivering products (I heard this from one of his disgusted co-workers). He did some of his deliveries, then stopped at his girlfriend's (on company time) for some shtupping.This delayed his deliveries until he was in overtime.The company had someone follow him and take note of why he was consistently getting overtime and BAM, got caught and was fired.
The union fought it because it was 'racism' and he was reinstated.
What the union SHOULD have said was "Yup! He's GONE...but someone has to be hired to replace him." And then they should reinforce to the union members that STUPIDITY will not be tolerated.
Unions WERE VERY important in the past, but STUPIDITY has made them a joke (reminds me of that BBC show On the Buses.)Unions need to go back to intelligence and relevance.
Protip: unions have been on the side of the capitalist ruling elite for some time now. The function they serve to the ruling elite is to intimidate workers to prevent them from striking and to force workers to accept shit deals.
http://www.wsws.org/ [wsws.org] has been covering this for a few weeks now.
This is the reason for all those union horror stories above. The unions are trying to give unions a bad name, because the ruling elite knows that workers organizing is very bad for their sociopathic bottom line. These "unions" do not represent workers.
The workers need to organize independently of these so-called "unions." The price of not having the ruling elite's boot stamping on your face forever is eternal vigilance.
Similar story for a Bay area trade show in the 80s. We needed a couple power strips cuz we had a dozen things to plug in and only 2 outlets. We were plugging everything in when a guy comes over and told us to stop, a union guy had to do that. Boss argued a bit, we eventually let the union guy do it.
Never went to another trade show in the Bay area. Except for Siggraph, but my company didn't participate.
And what are the chances these draconian turf wars came about because of management's continual attempts to get more and more tasks classified as non-union. I'm sure it rounds to 0%, right?