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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, Informative) by Thexalon on Monday March 12 2018, @01:54PM (5 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Monday March 12 2018, @01:54PM (#651324)

    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.

    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
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  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12 2018, @02:05PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12 2018, @02:05PM (#651331)

    Ford did not go bankrupt.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday March 12 2018, @03:34PM (1 child)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 12 2018, @03:34PM (#651367) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday March 12 2018, @07:36PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Monday March 12 2018, @07:36PM (#651486)

      "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 only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Monday March 12 2018, @05:52PM (1 child)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Monday March 12 2018, @05:52PM (#651446) Journal

    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. []

    The idea that the US doesn't produce steel anymore, regardless of the cause, is itself a myth.

    • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Tuesday March 13 2018, @02:22AM

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Tuesday March 13 2018, @02:22AM (#651632) Homepage Journal

      "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!