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posted by cmn32480 on Monday March 12 2018, @09:08AM   Printer-friendly
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.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by janrinok on Monday March 12 2018, @11:59AM (2 children)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 12 2018, @11:59AM (#651300) Journal

    But what have they done for me lately?

    It might be simply a case of employers are less likely to try to take advantage of you because the unions exist. So the unions might be achieving things from which you benefit without having to be visibly causing disruption in order to protect your rights.

    Now, I'm not saying that everything that the unions do is necessarily good for business, or even for all of their members. Perhaps you are not getting your money's worth from them - but only you can decide that. It might be that the only time that you realise the benefits that you had when you were in a union might be when it is too late for you to turn to them for help.

    Most of my career I was not allowed to be in a union - I served in the military. And my experience of unions is limited to the UK and Europe. But I can see people benefiting from the rights that the unions have won on behalf of the workforce frequently and so think that it is not a simple black or white matter.

    I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
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  • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Monday March 12 2018, @12:59PM

    by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 12 2018, @12:59PM (#651316) Journal

    And my experience of unions is limited to the UK and Europe.

    There's a big difference between the US and the EU style of unions. I wish that the US ones would become more efficient and beneficial like the EU ones were, rather than the EU ones becoming more like the US ones as has been happening.

    One old person talked of unionization in the US back in the early part of last century. His workplace eventually unionized but the union carved out an exception just for him since he did not want any part of what was going on. During the period leading up to the decision, there were countless times goons showed up at work looking to "talk" to him. However, he was 100% successful in scooting off on all fours under, around, and over the obstacles until they eventually stopped showing up having never gotten near him even once. There were also quite a few evening meetings where unions were discussed and the advantages praised. However, if any dared stand up and ask difficult questions or oppose the idea, the lights would flick out, there'd be scuffling and shouting and when the lights came on, that person would be gone from the room. After enough meetings like that, there was no longer any vocal opposition.

    Lately, it sometimes seems that many EU unions are now there more to enforce management policies and agendas than to work for improve/protect conditions or worker well-being.

    In some EU countries, it used to be that the unions would have a representative on corporate boards to try to exert a moderating influence on decisions and plans. It used to work rather well and usually was an advantage to the company over the long run even if it sometimes caused trouble for some of the other directors.

    Still, even with the decline there are advantages. Others can go on about weekends, sensible working hours, reasonable vacation periods, health care, parental leave, and so on.

    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
  • (Score: 1, Redundant) by looorg on Monday March 12 2018, @02:12PM

    by looorg (578) on Monday March 12 2018, @02:12PM (#651337)

    That could be the case. But it's problematic since nobody will ever know. It's hard to say either or in that case really. My main complaint is that they are basically charging for or living on past glory such as things that they fought for or won in large parts about 100 years ago such as the 8h work day. The five workdays per week is now almost 50 years ago since it was instituted. These things will change from country to country so they are not universal, but then neither is union membership. They might be working in something amazing at the moment, but I seriously doubt it and in case they are they are not making it known to the members (or anyone).