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    I’m very excited that there’s finally movement in this direction. I honestly expected it to start in gamedev, but am happy to be proven wrong.

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      I thought exactly the same and expected it to mention Motion Twin (the anarcho-syndicalist gamedev cooperative that made Dead Cells). Honestly, seeing actual change, no matter how small, is giving me hope.

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      C-level executives and board members antagonize employees and threaten unemployment, knowing full well that they’ll never miss a meal or a mortgage payment and that their children will still have health insurance and good schools: freedom.

      Workers thinking they should organize to present common concerns to management: not freedom.

      Remember, they only call it class warfare when we fight back.

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        Workers organizing is freedom.

        Workers being coerced to join or pay an organization is not freedom.

        This is true even when the organization itself exists to protect freedom.

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          Workers being coerced to join or pay an organization is not freedom.

          Yes and no. My being forced to pay taxes isn’t freedom. My living in a society with roads and clean water and educated children (and my own education, which given my home life at the time wouldn’t have happened without compulsory and free education) dramatically increases my overall freedom, far more than was lost by paying taxes.

          The power imbalance between most employers and most employees is such that the vast majority of people are almost-serfs in all but name. The tech sector can sometimes forget that because of the high salaries and relatively competitive employment market…but for most people, their health and home are literally tied to the whims of someone who views them as nothing more than expendable labor. Sure they’re “free” to change jobs, but saying “you’re free to risk your children’s health!” isn’t really freedom at all.

          Correcting that power imbalance might take away some freedom, but it would add a lot more freedom on the other side of the balance sheet, IMHO.

          Universal health care and a strong social safety net is the other way to fix this, if labor unions are determined to be too problematic. That allows you the freedom to change jobs without worrying that you couldn’t pay for your child’s healthcare.

          To provide a real example: a friend of mine has a chronically ill daughter. Without health insurance he literally cannot afford to keep his daughter alive. Thanks to the repeated attempts at removal of the preexisting condition clause by the GOP recently, he runs the very real risk that he could end up with his daughter uninsured and potentially in dire straits if he were to lose his job. His employer knows this and, as the provider of his health insurance, could demand literally anything of him. If he were unemployed long enough that he could no longer pay for COBRA between employers, he’d literally be unable to keep his daughter alive. That is not freedom; that it’s not the government who holds the power is immaterial.

          (Note that his employer is awesome and doesn’t do anything bad, but that’s not true of everyone and it shouldn’t have to be…)

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            I think you made a great case for universal healthcare – which can be argued to either side of the political fence. If you lean left, universal healthcare is a right and a true good. If you lean right, universal healthcare drives competition, flexibility and allows people to create new companies and more around more quickly.

            That said, I am not sure you made a great case for unions. Unions don’t fix the fundamental problem around healthcare in any form. You still can’t leave to a non-union shop, can’t leave to start your own company, etc without giving it up. If anything it makes it more entrenched.

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              You seem to be fixating on a single example, not the thrust of his argument. You do realize other first world countries have universal healthcare and wayyy higher union participation than the US? There must be other things unions are useful for.

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            The point of labour organizing is not ‘freedom’, especially not in the anglo sense of formal freedom on the marketplace, that everyone on the English-speaking internet seems to assume to be the only true and natural kind of freedom there is. It’s merely improving the conditions of labour, nothing more, nothing less.

            That said, unions can be terrible because they’re often loci of concessions, nationalism, taming, and other reactionary politics, rather than struggle.

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              They can have issues. Most of the problems I see are caused by apathy and/or incentives at the top with problems they cause being externalities. Unions also seem to stop more problems than they create. They also counter the trend paid with political bribes to make people easy to fire without cause in as many states as possible. That’s on top of executive compensation always going up in companies that “can’t afford” good wages or benefits for production works. These all lead me to be pro-union in general.

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                Idk how it is in the US honestly, but that part of my comment wasn’t anti-union in general just noting that they definitely have limits in a political sense.

                However for workers they’re obviously a huge net-positive.

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                  Oh ok. That makes more sense.

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                You make a good point. The immediate goal of a union is not freedom of its workers. I think workers unionize, though, because they desire more freedom. Limiting work hours means freedom to choose what to do with the rest of the day, for example.

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                  Yes, that’s one of the broader conceptions of freedom I was referring to:)

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                I agree with you here. I’m all for workers being able to collectively bargain for their own interests, but not at the expense of imposing on the liberty of others.

                I don’t mind if my co-workers unionize, but I want to be able to choose my own terms of employment with my employer without having a third party interfere without my consent.

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                  I don’t mind if my co-workers unionize, but I want to be able to choose my own terms of employment with my employer without having a third party interfere without my consent.

                  You can’t have your cake and eat it too: if the strength of your coworkers’ union results in your employer entering into a favorable health insurance contract with an insurer, are you really going to reject that insurance and try to negotiate your own? Even if the insurance you purchase will invariably be more expensive and will cover you less?

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                    I don’t really care what a third party does with regards to my contractual agreement with my employer. The agreement I enter in is between myself and the company employing me.

                    In your hypothetical, I may indeed choose to cover myself. It’s hard to guess without actually having the numbers and going through a negotiation. I likely value different things at different levels than a potential union does, and would be better served negotiating based on my preferences rather than letting a group decide the terms of my contract.

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                      Except you would end up with a significantly less favourable contract, as you lack the negotiating leverage of the union.

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                        I don’t understand why you care so much about my contract. It’s up to me to decide what is favorable for me and what isn’t. I have the leverage of my own skills and experience, and that I can take a better offer from a different employer at any time.

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                          I don’t care about you, per se, but if everybody privileges abstract notions of freedom over concrete gains from their employment, you have a collective action problem and everybody ends up strictly worse off.

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                            Strictly worse off by whose definition? I’m under no moral obligation to sacrifice my own values to appease yours. If you’re worried about me not joining your union, then make your union attractive enough that I want to join it over negotiating my contract myself. Don’t force me into a contractual agreement that I never consented to.

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                              If you’re worried about me not joining your union, then make your union attractive enough that I want to join it over negotiating my contract myself.

                              In all likelihood, it will be attractive - but the benefits it confers will end up available to all employees, not just those in the union.

                              Now, if the choice was a strict “join the union and receive benefits which it negotiated” or “do not join the union and you are solely responsible for negotiating every part of your employment” I’d be happy, and it sounds like you would be as well.

                              Would you decline to accept any benefit - work conditions, time off, retirement, etc. - which was negotiated by your workplaces union if you planned to not join the union? If your answer is yes, I’d applaud your consistency.

                              The problem that @jfb identifies is that most people would say “no” - they’d chose to benefit from things negotiated by a union they’re not a member of.

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                                Now, if the choice was a strict “join the union and receive benefits which have been established” or “do not join the union and you are solely responsible for negotiating every part of your employment” I’d be happy, and it sounds like you would be as well.

                                Yep, perfectly fine with me.

                                Would you decline to accept any benefit - work conditions, time off, retirement, etc. - which was negotiated by your workplaces union if you planned to not join the union? If your answer is yes, I’d applaud your consistency.

                                In a contract negotiation between myself and my employer, it’s impossible for me to know what parts of their offering are influenced by the presence of the union, or to what extent they are. For example, imagine an employer that would negotiate for some sort of health insurance regardless of existence of a union. If the existence of a union changes that relationship via a change of insurer, I can’t just ignore it and keep whatever insurance plan I chose before the union came in.

                                I don’t care to take advantage of a union. I won’t take drinks from your “union members” fridge or take breaks on your union schedule and hope nobody notices. I will, however, negotiate the best deal for myself with my employer, and not handicap myself by trying to figure out what I would or would not have access to if the union didn’t exist. The union is an outside agent that I don’t have control over, and the extent that its existence benefits extend beyond its members are for the union to figure out.

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                                  Would you decline to accept any benefit - work conditions, time off, retirement, etc. - which was negotiated by your workplaces union if you planned to not join the union?

                                  I certainly wouldn’t refuse all time off because the union gets some, but I wouldn’t automatically assume to have the same. If I get three weeks, and the new union contract gives four, then I guess I’m stuck with three.

                                  But observing that the company gives four weeks off is a data point I might consider when asking for more time off. That’s not strictly a union thing, though. If I saw a non union worker getting more time off, I might want that too.

                                  Is that how it works in the non union case? If you hear a coworker got a raise, do you refuse to ask for your own?

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                                    My wife has a saying: Good and Evil don’t exist, it’s just selflessness and selfishness.

                                    Eric is talking right around the crux of the matter, but he missed something.

                                    I’m under no moral obligation to sacrifice my own values to appease yours.

                                    Sure you are, buddy. You aren’t under any legal obligation, nor any ethical obligation. The obligation is in fact, a moral obligation.

                                    When you throw your lot in with a group, you are sacrificing some of your autonomy in exchange for the group’s strength. Due to network effects, many groups are stronger than their strongest member, but yes, sometimes a member will become weaker by joining. (I’m ignoring here the second order effects like community respect gained due to being described as selfless, etc.)

                                    EDIT: reworked the bottom, sorry.

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                                      Sure you are, buddy. You aren’t under any legal obligation, nor any ethical obligation. The obligation is in fact, a moral obligation.

                                      You and I have very different moral preferences if you think it’s ok to impose your values on someone else without their consent.

                                      When you throw your lot in with a group, you are sacrificing some of your autonomy in exchange for the group’s strength.

                                      When I join a company I am entering an agreement with an employer in which I exchange my labor for (primarily monetary) compensation.

                                      Your assumption that joining a company means joining an subset of coworkers for an unspecified goal of “group strength” seems entirely arbitrary to me.

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                                        Look, the simple fact is that unions allow for more favorable price fixing by Labor.

                                        The benefit should be obvious.

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                                          You join the work force as a worker and that makes you a worker. There are social expectations from that and you can be aware of them well before deciding to join the workforce. There’s an unwritten social contract and in the same way by living in a nation-state you’re implicitly a citizen, by joining the workforce you’re implicitly a worker and then subject to all the moral obligations that come with it. Most of them are not protected by law, because in non-socialist states one of the goals of the legal system is to repress the worker, but nonetheless you’re held responsible by other workers. This, most of the times just boils down to “he’s such an asshole” but in other times it meant more than that, because your action was directly and undeniably hurting your peers.

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                                            You and I have very different moral preferences if you think it’s ok to impose your values on someone else without their consent.

                                            Don’t worry, I’m not in a position to compel you! That would be wrong. I may only ask.

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                                              But, that isn’t the case we are discussing is it? We are talking about compulsory unionization. Join the union or no job seems to be what they are referencing.

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                                                Right, the closed shop. It’s a way to limit individual liberty to allow for stronger collective liberty. I’m perfectly ok with this, but there are those who have a different conception of liberty who might not be. I think it’s totally wrong, but it’s not a nonsensical way to conceptualize the relationships between people.

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                                But the situation of a union being part of the negotiation is not much different than the situation where just you and the employer negotiate. Typically in a non-unionised company your boss is heavily restricted in what they can offer you by company policy and HR. Unionization is the same kind of rules just optimized for other goals.

                                The notion that you are somehow more free negotiating in non-unionised jobs is - I don’t know - self-deception?

                                I started at a unionized company which gave me a 20% pay increase that my previous employer was unwilling to match (their competitive offer was 10% after telling me before I applied that they could notpay me more). Now the union negotiates for me the annual pay increases. I can also negotiate directly with my employer in the sense that my employer can put me into a more senior position which means I would get more 💰.

                                If the union contract was bad, i could still negotiate with my employer that they pay me above the union contract. But since the union contract is quite generous and above the typical competition I would have a hard time negotiating that in the same way as i have a hard time negotiating for that kind of a salary at non-unionised competitors.

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                                  , i could still negotiate with my employer that they pay me above the union contract

                                  It was my understanding this was explicitly not allowed by union agreements. This is because to have collective bargaining power and a “union contract” requires that contract to be adhered to by all union members. Can you link me to a union that says you can negotiate individually in their rules? How does that even work – so you get a floor but then can ignore the ceiling and push for whatever additional you want? Doesn’t that take a lot of the positive upside away from a contract from the employer side?

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                                    My union has around 16 pay levels plus some kind of an individual components. If you want to earn more than the highest level you can definitely get such a non-union contract (it’s what management gets in any case).

                                    You can also negotiate for being grouped into a different category.

                                    You could also try to be hired as a contractor (this would mean that you have the biggest negotiation freedom).

                                    Anyways the question is pretty theoretical in the sense that the union contract is fairly good and on average better than what individuals with the same competency get on the free market here.

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                              “I don’t mind if my co-workers unionize, but I want to be able to choose my own terms of employment with my employer without having a third party interfere without my consent.”

                              In our unionized company, everyone gets the benefits and small restrictions that come with the work of the union and its members. Some people think only the union members should get benefits union negotiates. We know how badly that might end up, though. Especially fights internal to the company. We don’t push that. We do encourage people to highlight benefits union brought: ending fire-without-cause of hard workers; reducing perjury on your references; great health/dental for $25 a month; right to sleep between shifts (a bit…); paid holidays, sick leave, and vacations; fair-ish, standard pay based on position, experience, and time in company. I’m not saying it’s best terms but better than most competitors.

                              That said, I see your position. That people choose competitors to union companies for their different terms supports it a bit. :) I’ve considered letting union people get their negotiated terms while others get theirs. The first thing I ask those people is: “Do you want to work for least they can pay over minimum wage, overtime without overtime, unsafe working conditions (maybe even no bathroom), have little to no benefits, and potentially be fired without cause after years of hard work with bosses giving you no or falsified reference? And while we get the opposite?” Outside high-pay areas like highly-skilled techs, most companies are giving employees as little as they can. They get more commoditized without even being sure they’ll get a job reference for a better job. Might have to endure a lot to get it in some companies. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity.

                              Now, if you do, there’s another thing to consider. These companies that are offering you a good deal at some five to six digit wage might be pocketing multiples of that with folks in suits doing less than you getting a bigger cut or higher cut vs beneficial work ratio. They will similarly be paying lobbyists on Washington and at state levels similarly large sums to reduce what you can gain at an individual level. The unions are one of few groups lobbying for people like you. If more technical workers unionized, then there’d be more lobbying effort toward getting such individuals better deals. That sector also has the kind of money where donations and campaigns might bring some serious results in terms of expected compensation, work environment, better share of I.P. ownership or equity, paid leave (maybe maternity leave), or even better housing in high-rent areas. Again, may not interest you. I just wanted to mention people dealing with you might have been paying politicians to reduce size of those deals, your perks, or rights as a worker.

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                                Thanks for the thoughtful response. Your company’s union sounds like it’s doing good work, and you’ve done a good job making a case for it. I would not rule out joining a union without looking at the terms of membership, but I would also be extra wary of joining a company that had compulsory union membership.

                                I don’t have a problem with people making more money than me at the same company, regardless of their beneficial work to pay ratio (which I can’t assess anyway), or what kind of clothes they wear ;)

                                As the lobbying question, there is a high chance I would make the ethical judgement not to join a company (or union, for that matter) based on their lobbying efforts.

                                As an aside, I appreciate your posts and comments on Lobsters in general; anything from nickpsecurity is must-read for me.

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                                  I appreciate the kind words! I was hoping some of us could chill the thread a bit. It seems like you just prefer to have more insight into and control of job or other commitments letting other people do their thing. A union shop may or may not be right for you depending on how flexible the terms are for non-members. Glad you would consider turning down an offer if it supports corruption. Most wouldn’t.

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                                  reducing perjury on your references

                                  Are you referencing bad-references as a way of punishment? I didn’t realize that was a common enough thing to warrant protection from.

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                                    Many poverty or working class people I know has either experienced it or had to mitigate it with careful exits knowing it could happen. The middle class and up folks with more to loose or carry with them usually play exits safe because they know it can happen. I don’t know how often it does happen to them, though. I know there’s laws in some countries where they have to give you references without any badmouthing. Apparently, it happened enough to make laws against it over there.

                                    Not here, though. Still can get hit with the shit.

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                                  this is slightly tangential to the direction this went in, but I’m curious. Why? Bargaining as a group is always more advantageous than doing so individually.

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                                    I’ve worked in a unionized industry; it’s not the utopia you make it out to be. While the average income may be higher under collective bargaining, this is done by making some people worse off than they would be under individual bargaining.

                                    There’s also a huge issue with people who really should be fired, but who aren’t because of the overhead imposed by the union. Honestly, I’d prefer to work for less remuneration than to work with under performers. Particularly when you know those under performers are getting paid the same amount as you. It’s completely demoralizing.

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                                      “There’s also a huge issue with people who really should be fired, but who aren’t because of the overhead imposed by the union.”

                                      I don’t have any hard data, only 8 years personal experience working in a (partially) unionised white collar job.

                                      It might vary union by union or company by company but there’s patterns I noticed at management level. My union won’t protect people who do nothing: only people who work as instructed by management who are written up, suspended, or terminated by poor results of management’s plans. There are people at my company who we can’t seem to get rid of. Management uses union as excuse but I’ve seen no use of established procedures against those workers. It seems management in those areas either lets them talk their way out of it, ignores those that argue or intimidate the most, and gets hard on the more compliant workers (aka easy targets or outlets) that probably don’t deserve it.

                                      The performance metrics also suck so bad at this company and a lot of others (including non-union) where many workers artificially look like they’re not good workers. Some of these companies fail workers if they don’t achieve a arbitrary expectations with no proof they matter (see Office Space) or from managers without real-world experience. If they do this to everyone or many, then the bad workers just fade into the background of what looks like a problem with everyone. A made up problem. If the requirements were sensible, then most people would meet them visibly working at a steady or fast pace (context dependent) with some barely working and some getting way ahead. The bad workers become much easier to identify, discipline, and/or eliminate with a fair baseline.

                                      I’ve talked with people in a few other industries that are unionized. They usually have examples of the above two points happening that mostly come from top-down, ignore-workers management and office politics. I still can’t be sure how much “the union” was responsible for workers being hard to get rid of if management was that inept. It’s all the more believable by how much non-union workers and books on management talk about the same failures. My theory is most managers and corporate offices suck in a lot of ways with unions countering them usually in pretty generic ways focusing on what members value most. Outside the focus areas, the rest of the dynamic becomes back and forth battles with plenty of potential inefficiencies. Companies with competent, take-care-of-workers management usually has less of these problems and workers don’t ask for unions. Hmm… ;)

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                                        I agree. Unions are not a panacea for every issue workers may have with a company, and in fact can cause many of their own.

                                        However, the issues you mention here are also universal:

                                        While the average income may be higher under collective bargaining, this is done by making some people worse off than they would be under individual bargaining.

                                        True! But considering the current state of tech salaries, I think that’s acceptable from a macro level view. I say that as one of those that would likely see a pay decrease under a union contract – I tend to negotiate quite a bit with potential employers.

                                        There’s also a huge issue with people who really should be fired, but who aren’t because of the overhead imposed by the union.

                                        There are two parts of this argument:

                                        • Unions tend to keep around poorly performing people longer

                                        and

                                        • Unions introduce extra overhead with process into the firing process

                                        I think both are false personally, and I don’t think there’s any data to prove either, I’d love to be proven wrong! For the first, I’ve personally found the opposite – the bar to entry for IBEW-NECA was much higher than that for non-unionized electricians, and the bar for firing was extremely clear. For the second, process can add more time, but it can also reduce it by clarifying for all the bar for firing. I find in most tech companies, the standard months of bad perf -> PIP -> eventual firing process can take a long time due to trepidation on the part of all parties.

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                                          I think both are false personally, and I don’t think there’s any data to prove either,

                                          I don’t have any hard data, only 8 years personal experience working in a (partially) unionised white collar job. I’d have thought it was rather logical though that unions would, in their capacity of protecting their members, make firing more difficult. Which can be a good thing, but can also be horrible for org culture and performance.

                                          The idea of a union as a quality filter is interesting, and not something I’ve come across. IME, unions will take anyone in their industry who’s willing to pay the fee.

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                                            Yeah I agree largely. If only there was a set standard for unions across the board — unfortunately their independence produces wildly disparate results at the tail. For that reason I can never begrudge someone that is against a union in good faith too much, I can only make my persuasion towards unionization more effective. Thank you!

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                                              Unions are typically very strict on safety, and few things are more dangerous in the workplace than an incompetent electrician.

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                                                But in an office job, incompetence isn’t dangerous, it’s just useless. Perhaps that accounts for our differing points of view.

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                                                I’d have thought it was rather logical though that unions would, in their capacity of protecting their members, make firing more difficult

                                                There are also reasons not to make firing harder, notably the reputational damage that would occur (and which, evidenced by you, has already occurred :) ).

                                                As others have said, unions tend to make the bar for firing very clear, which also tends to mean bureaucratic. This isn’t a bad thing; bureaucracy is what we use in place of trust when trust is hard to establish or otherwise damaged. It’s also not necessarily a slowdown, as others have pointed out.

                                                It does mean that it’s harder for a manager to fire someone at a whim, or based on a longstanding issue that’s not been written down or communicated. But that’s a good thing. At the very least, documentation helps someone who is fired know why (and therefore what to work on in the next job). At the best, starting the documentation process is enough to turn a bad employee into a productive one.

                                                It also means that it’s harder to fire someone for something that’s inconvenient to the employer, but not the fault of the employee. In some places, for example, it’s very common for union construction sites to have a position called “lift operator”. It’s been used as an example of union waste in the past – it’s just someone who sits in the elevator and presses the buttons for everyone. But that position was originally created for (and is usually still used for) union members who have had injuries or other physical problems which make it hazardous or impossible for them to do mainline construction work.

                                                In a union-free situation, that person would be fired, through no fault of their own.

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                                            Bargaining as a group is always more advantageous than doing so individually.

                                            Not it isn’t. I can’t be more clear than that. There are lots of cases where negotiating as an individual is a far more advantageous position. If your values differ than the group. If your skills differ from the group. If you needs are in direct conflict with the group (for example, you want a 20% raise and don’t care if it is taken from $personX because they are bad at their job). This idea that the group think is magically always what is best for you is fundamentally untrue.

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                                              since neither of us have given data yet, I guess I left myself open to be rebutted in this way. There is data showing that on average union workers make more and have better insurance and benefits in general than non-union workers, but since we haven’t applied that to the tech fields yet, I won’t bring that up as proof. Do keep in mind that for non-tech fields, all of the above is already established as true. in addition:

                                              for example, you want a 20% raise and don’t care if it is taken from $personX because they are bad at their job

                                              is not really how raises are ever allocated, and if they were, I think that company needs a union.

                                              Instead I’ll provide three opinions:

                                              • Letting yourself be lulled into believing that you have more leverage than you do is pretty common amongst workers in highly competitive fields in bull markets. In a bear market where tech isn’t as desirable, you might change your mind.
                                              • The only metric you care about in this instance is salary, however collective bargaining would provide benefits far beyond that. It’s (relatively) easy for an individual to argue for more money, not so easy to argue for better healthcare packages or other benefits. In particular, I’d note that a lot of the benefits I have in mind probably wouldn’t apply to single dudes, but would to fathers, women/mothers, or non-binary folks (not even to mention race and religion).
                                              • To attack the salary question specifically, IMO the huge disparity within and between bands because of negotiation is bad. Responsible companies should tie pretty tight salary ranges to level bands and stick to it. Anything else widens disparities in worker pay. I know that a lot of tech folks will rebut this by saying that their work deserves 300k more than their coworkers, but I think that’s probably not true in 99.99% of cases.
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                                                There is data showing that on average union workers make more and have better insurance and benefits in general than non-union workers

                                                “average” and “always” are very different – but since this wasn’t the thrust of your argument, we can move on past it.

                                                is not really how raises are ever allocated

                                                This is also simply not true – I have sat in exactly such hard decision making meetings. People fired, positions collapsed to give raises to other people, whole teams let go to give budgets to other higher performing teams. You put forth this idea “this isn’t how raises are ever allocated” when it simply isn’t true. It makes it very hard to have a fair and rational discussion with you. Budgets are well – budgets and in bad times hard decisions have to be made.

                                                Letting yourself being lulled … your mind.

                                                Absolutely agree. Tech workers commonly think they are worth more than they are. I suspect the Worth despair poster is commonly applicable: https://i.imgur.com/G7yMiXu.jpg (“Just because your necessary doesn’t mean your important.”)

                                                The only metric you care about in this instance is salary

                                                No, what I care about is individual interests. Some individuals value salary very highly, others a company car, others vacation, others healthcare, others still childcare and others more disparate and interesting things. I don’t find find fathers, women/mothers or non-binary folks to be any less individual than “single dudes”.

                                                Anything else widens disparities in worker pay.

                                                The silent implication here is the disparity in worker pay is a bad thing, which I don’t agree with.

                                                I know that a lot of tech folks will rebut this by saying that their work deserves 300k more than their coworkers, but I think that’s probably not true in 99.99% of cases.

                                                Sure, you say 300k to make your strawman seem obviously true – knock an order of magnitude off that number and ask if a reasonable person at the same tier believes they are worth 30k more… hell, even define how you makes these “bands” – arbitrary experience in terms of years?

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                                                  1. You’re right that average and always are different. To be more explicit, I only care about the average. Individuals can get pay raises and better benefits for any reason at all, deserved or undeserved, union or no union.
                                                  2. You’re right — what I should’ve said is this: a company that makes the decision to fire one individual purely to justify giving a raise to another is not a place I would want to work. There are a number of factors that go into hiring, firing, and salary decisions, and I believe your original example was a little too simplistic.
                                                  3. In normal working conditions, these groups you described will be looking individually for the benefits they want and need. However, their bosses often don’t or won’t share in desire for or see the value in those benefits for a variety of factors. Some of those are economic — workers and their bosses have completely different world views, especially at tech companies. Unions are a way for workers who are by and large powerless individually to fight for those shared benefits collectively.
                                                  4. Disparity in worker pay is a bad thing from a social standpoint, especially in the same level. If two engineers are both seen as being at staff level, why would they make more than a difference of 50-100k in total comp? It contributes to gender and racial wage gaps for the benefit of a small set of engineers.
                                                  5. I said 300k because I’ve seen it in real life. Two engineers, one male, one female, both evaluated as being senior. One got a sizable equity grant, large sign on and a 15% bonus. The other got a pittance in equity, no sign on, and a 10% bonus. In reality, the gap was much larger because of the appreciation after the initial grant. And standardized levels and bands based on data are pretty standard at most modern startups and FAANG. For an example of what I’m referring to here, Camille Fournier open sourced hers while she was at Rent the Runway as CTO: http://dresscode.renttherunway.com/blog/ladder. Those should be tied to pay bands. Bands and levels should never be tied strictly to YOE.
                                                  1. 2

                                                    To be more explicit, I only care about the average.

                                                    Worth clarifying which average you mean while you’re at it (mean vs median yield quite different answers)

                                            2. 3

                                              Assuming your interests are the same as the group’s. Even when they are, priorities differ. Everybody wants more pay and more vacation, but which do you care more about? If I want to work 30 hours for 75% pay, will the union negotiated contract offer that flexibility?

                                              1. 1

                                                It’s more likely to if you are a voting member.

                                                But your employer will be more than happy to reward you for defecting, until the union is gone and they again have leverage.

                                                1. 0

                                                  If you are a part of the union, you get to help decide that. :)

                                                  A democratic union would take its workers wants and needs into mind when crafting the contract with the employer. Right now, you can probably only get those benefits by either being very lucky to find a company that supports it, by altering your lifestyle by working on contract, or by earning it after some time proving yourself. Hypothetically, a tech industry with a standardized contract for workers could extend those benefits to all companies, saving you the time of doing one of the above or opening your own business.

                                              2. 3

                                                I don’t mind if my co-workers unionize, but I want to be able to choose my own terms of employment with my employer without having a third party interfere without my consent.

                                                I’m assuming a lot by your avatar, but my guess is that you serve a lot less to gain from unionization than, for example, a woman of color. In other words, you still want to benefit from a system that rewards white males even if that mean weakenings an institution that would bargain for people lesser off than you.

                                                1. 0

                                                  You’re assuming a lot more than you think you are.

                                                  you serve a lot less to gain from unionization than, for example, a woman of color

                                                  A woman of color? Which one? All of them? What color? In what way?

                                                  you still want to benefit from a system that rewards white males

                                                  What system? Where does it reward white males?

                                                  I’m assuming a lot by your avatar

                                                  I’m a minority. The company I work for is less than 5% white.

                                                  1. 3

                                                    I have no desire to engage with semantic games with you, especially if it’s just going to be screenshotted to Twitter with ad hominem attacks.

                                                    Have a good day.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      Since I don’t expect you to respond to this message, I’m just posting this to clear my record.

                                                      I have not played any semantic games. All I asked you to do was concretely define your statements and back them with something other than conjecture. I can’t argue with someone who doesn’t clarify their own argument.

                                                      Ad hominem is an argumentative strategy, of which I have not engaged in. I think what you want to say is that I insulted you, which is also false, unless you count “white, male Bay Area resident” as an insult.

                                                2. 2

                                                  You are agreeing with something I did not say.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    In most of human history, the only people who rented themselves for wages were slaves. Up until recently, wage labor was called wage slavery. It takes a certain mental gymnastics to equate ‘consensual contract with employers’ as liberty. Think about how absurd it is to rent your time, especially for creative work like programming for example.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      But at the same time, people like getting wages. They don’t know how to make society value their time, so they get an employer to do that instead.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        When a few people in society hold all the money (inequality is huge) and the only way they value the rest of society is through wages, then doesn’t it follow that wages are the only realistic way for most people to get money? It’s really the only choice they have. Since wages

                                                        a) Don’t change any power relations b) Don’t change any ownership relations

                                                        They are an attractive vehicle for the people who hold all the cards. The alternative is people have percent ownership in where they work! that would be lovely.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          I suppose I’m less cynical. Money is justa recognition that someone else appreciated what you did, and most people have no idea how to help society, or have no will to risk their own lives to help society. Thus, we get salaried positions with benefits to make sure we are safe and able to live. Wages are just the employer saying they appreciate your contribution to whatever the employer wants to do.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            It’s a nice sentiment, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The system we live in was built piece by piece over a period of time. There are historical reasons why things the way they are. If you could magically wave a wand and create it anew, would you have wages? Wages are a modern concept anyway. Why not something better?

                                                            Or are you saying the system we have is ideology-free and it’s people’s human nature that governs it?

                                                            1. 1

                                                              What’s wrong with the way we have constructed work? It has created the modern world, without which we both may never have had this discussion

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  So? People in general love to be miserable anyway, so I reject the notion that you can fix misery with something other than wages.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    You believe people love to be miserable? This is simply an absurd view and allows you to justify vast harm. Did you know, for example, that wage theft (wages are stolen from workers) is the largest theft? It dwarfs thugs and criminals by a mile.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      And wage theft is wrong. Two people entered an agreement and one party broke it.

                                                  2. 5

                                                    “Freedom” is not a useful word, here.

                                                    1. 2

                                                      And if the existence/non-existence of a union depends on whether the company can hire non-union workers, you have to decide between one kind of freedom and another.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        Yes, exactly. But how can we choose? Both have merits and consequences.

                                                  3. 27

                                                    #politics

                                                    Unionising, workers rights, vaguely approaching topics like socialism; this is hardcore politics, glad to see it at the top of lobste.rs.

                                                    1. 8

                                                      I definitely felt that there was a tag missing for this story. Not #politics, because that’s off-topic in the general, but a subset like #workers–which is obviously relevant to the vast majority of us here.

                                                      1. 8

                                                        This story is completely political, it has +59 and only -3 off topic, so it doesn’t hold that the subject of politics is off topic here, otherwise this should have been removed by a moderator or downvoted by the community.

                                                        1. 5

                                                          It is political and relevant, but not all political content is relevant. The vast majority isn’t, like electoral or cultural or international (non-tech) politics.

                                                          What I’m saying is, #politics is too wide. There is a subset deserving of a tag, and this story is in that subset.

                                                          The subset of politics relevant to Lobste.rs is tech worker organizing / rights / struggles. Stories such as the one about secret pay cap deals between companies would belong there as well.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            Totally agree, of course lobste.rs is about/for technology, not politics as a separate domain. But isn’t every lobste.rs tag implied that it’s about that subject at the intersection with technology, not the subject itself? Lobste.rs does happily cover the intersection of tech with biology and cognitive science; maths and history; geography and psychology, so why exclude the intersection with one particular subject?

                                                            I agree that the definition of the subset and the terms used to refer to it is critically important, not least because of the amount of raw fear present here that ‘politics’ as a subject has a violent power to destroy this community.

                                                            Would it be reasonable to expand the subset to include the social implications and considerations of technology, as for example is voted +69 here

                                                            1. 1

                                                              Yes. We have tags for art, persons, philosophy, and satire that are enormous subjects in their own right. I’ve removed a few otherwise pretty neat links for not intersecting substantially with computing.

                                                              I’m very reluctant to add a politics tag as it’s very hard to draw a bright line around in the way it is, say, illumos. The political discussions we have (often nominally about licensing, codes of conduct, specific famous people/businesses/groups) account for the majority of threads that cause moderator heartburn - removing the outright abusive comments is not so hard; after battle lines have been drawn I burn a bunch of time and attention eg. messaging people to remind them that downvotes and flags are not for following people around the site and punishing them.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                yeah, I don’t think #politics is the right way to go, but I think there might be some other middleground here which opens space for the kind of valuable conversations that have happened in this post. If I can come up with a constructive suggestion I will.

                                                          2. 2

                                                            I don’t know, maybe a #politics tag would bring a negative connotation, because of the word itself? It’s sorta how I interpreted the comment you’re replying to.

                                                        2. 5

                                                          I had to finally quit reading HN because so much of this type of stuff. Please don’t bring it to lobste.rs next. Really don’t want to see everyone’s opinion on politics, just javascript frameworks if that’s not too much to ask.

                                                          1. 12

                                                            see I really don’t want to see javascript frameworks

                                                          2. 2

                                                            This is politics about as much as arguing over pay professionally is politics.

                                                            Inclusionism of “politics” would irreperably damage the site and destroy its culture.

                                                          3. 12

                                                            The Lanetix story is the story of all unionizing efforts at the beginning. That is, when confronted the bosses just fire everyone and there aren’t any laws against doing that (or if there are they aren’t enforced).

                                                            It also exposes the myth that tech workers are difficult to recruit. If there was a genuine shortage of tech workers there’s no way that they could have been fired like this without also ruining the business.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              I think the calculation was that firing 14 might ruin the business, but being a union shop would run the business. So when left with the decision between two bad ones – they picked what from their perspective was simply less bad. I am shocked this entire thing happened at such a tiny company.

                                                            2. 11

                                                              Great idea!

                                                              1. 7

                                                                This thread has become quite heated, with an unusual number of downvotes and strongly worded comments. I would encourage all of you, regardless of whether you’re upvoting, downvoting, commenting, or reading, to take a moment to consider how you could better be spending your time.

                                                                If you’d like to comment, I’d encourage you to read the article and say something about the story as presented.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  There’s also a great deal of well considered, thoughtful, extremely productive conversation happening here, and as far as I can see all the moments where it has become heated have been handled by the people concerned extremely respectfully, except one which seemed purposefully inflammatory.

                                                                  This is a huge testament to the way lobste.rs has been moderated before to guide us to this kind of collective respectful behavior in the face of conflicting viewpoints, and personally I find it extremely exciting that perhaps in these threads there has been the exchange and discovery of information about that could directly lead to members of the lobste.rs community having significant changes in their quality of life. This is why these conversations are important to have here.

                                                                  Tangentially I want to add: productive conflict and disresepctful behaviour are two different things and while ‘we’ collectively continue to allow the former and sternly discourage the latter, ‘we’ don’t have much to fear in terms of loss of direction or control of the community.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    Let me help you.

                                                                    The top-level comments in this thread are gossip, rallying, shaming, and propagandizing.

                                                                    You claim these conversations are important: that they will have significant (presumably positive) changes in one’s quality of life–yet in place of a testable (contingent, falsifiable) model for why this might be the case, you use the word “perhaps.” All you are doing is making excuses to justify what you think in order to create a sense of agreement.

                                                                    You can either state what is valuable (true) about this thread operationally (precisely, testably) such that we know what you’re talking about, or you are engaged in sophism.

                                                                    Tangentially, your comment also includes an emotional appeal.

                                                                    1. 3

                                                                      It’s also really strange to get a critical response when my main points were:

                                                                      • There’s a great conversation happening here
                                                                      • Previous great and consistent moderation has lead to the high quality of conversation here
                                                                      • Great quality conversation on subjects that matter could make tangible difference in peoples’ lives. (Although obviously there is no way to measure this). And if that did happen it would be great, which is why making space for these conversations is important. This is ‘community’ this is not measurable metrics, so I can’t prove anything, but just look at the conversation!
                                                                      • The difference between conflict and bad behaviour is worth understanding

                                                                      I can’t see an emotional appeal here at all. I’m making opinion based points about the qualities of conversation and the effects on people as people.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        I actually was going to link to all the really awesome points, especially the ones where people had differing views or exchanging meaningful information, and these are all at the bottom of the tree. I’ll do that when I have more time.

                                                                        Thanks for overwhelming negativity and a conscious choice not to consider the huge positivity in a community and in a thread. The attitude of these kinds of posts is the kind of negative comment from someone in a moderator/power role that makes me feel like leaving a community and not contributing where I see value (which doesn’t have to align with where you see value). There is protecting your boundaries, and then there’s being blind to positive potential in the name of control and structure

                                                                  2. -10

                                                                    People’s poor financial discipline is why employers have power over you. If you have fuck you money, then you can just quit and find another job.

                                                                    The fact that you can’t just quit is why employers have power because they can afford to end the relationship but you can not.

                                                                    If you used your money to buy a holiday in the Caribbean then you don’t have it to buy your freedom.

                                                                    1. 31

                                                                      I have fuck you money. Not lots of it, but enough that I managed to bring my boss to the table and get a raise and a promotion out of it.

                                                                      However, virtually none of that money was acquired by my merit: I got it by selling the house my father left for me and my two sisters. I’m a clear example of how fuck you money is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, a privilege, not the result of merit.

                                                                      But there are other kinds of privilege, more subtle ones, that amount to the same. We’re you able to study without having to work to provide for yourself or your family? We’re your parents college educated? Did they encouraged you to go to college? Do you have students loans? Do you have a safety net you can fall back to if shit goes wrong?

                                                                      All of these things are essential in acquiring fuck you money. None of them are your merit. None of them are things you worked hard for. They’re all accidents of birth. A.K.A., privilege.

                                                                      Is it impossible to get fuck you money without those things? Surely not. But it’s much, much harder.

                                                                      So, tldr: don’t blame people for not getting through hard work something that, most people that have it, got it through accident of birth.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        That can be valid at the beginning, getting exploited in pay the first few jobs but then it boils down to people’s negotiation skills and confidence.

                                                                        I negotiated hard my very first gig while I know people who still don’t ask for a little more when getting their 20th contract.

                                                                        That’s why I find it silly when people say that certain people are just bound to make less, if you don’t negotiate when people need your expertise then when are you going to do it? And if you don’t then who’s to blame the employer if he gives you exactly what you are seemingly ok with?

                                                                        1. 4

                                                                          This is a simplification of a very complex subject. Pay gaps, be it gender, race, social class, or whatever other line, is a complex, multi-factored issue. It can not be explained away by “if you’re getting paid less is because you deserve less”.

                                                                          This is the kind of question where, honestly, your experience is kind of irrelevant (and so is mine. You can argue that I’m contradicting myself, because I used my own case in the first comment, but in my defense, I was posing myself as a counterpoint to an idealized example of someone who acquired fuck you money through pure merit, so, I was trying to point that individual cases don’t matter in this question, generic trends do). Great, you negotiated well your first job. Good for you, but a) you’re likely overlooking your own privilege and b) you’re a single data point. For every one of you, good negotiator person, I can probably find 20 that got continually fucked over by factors beyond their control and found themselves unable to negotiate pretty much anything.

                                                                          And finally, yes, employers are almost always the part to blame, because they have more power. It’s like sexual assault. A boss can’t claim a employee consented in being foundled daily if the alternative was being fired. Employers hold the power, so it’s their responsibility to not take unfair advantage of employees. If conditions are setup in a way that creates incentives to employers to be unfair, than we need government and employee organization to step in a guarantee that employers are not dicks.

                                                                          1. 4

                                                                            Employers hold the power

                                                                            They do control the means of production and leave us to sell our labor for a wage. But the power is ours for the taking, if we decide to take it.

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              Fair enough. My country is on the verge of electing a homophobic racist buffoon that openly supports torture and the return of a military dictatorship, though, so you can understand why I don’t place much hope in a popular uprising.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                Brazil?

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  Shit, I’ll be really sad if you’re not from Brazil yourself. But yes, Brazil.

                                                                      2. 17

                                                                        Spoken like someone who has never known poverty!

                                                                        Am I having poor financial discipline when all my wisdom teeth got impacted and infected simultaneously and I have to choose between keeping my hard-earned savings and not having a mouth? I have ten false teeth through no fault of my own. Should I have thrown away my ability to chew solid food to keep “my freedom” instead? I guess I could drink Soylent for the rest of my life!

                                                                        1. [Comment removed by moderator pushcx: Please don't make personal attacks like this. I saw alynpost commented already, but this is the kind of rhetoric that's just not acceptable to leave up.]

                                                                          1. 4

                                                                            Respectfully, please do not engage in personal attacks on lobste.rs.

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              Thank you for the clarification, and I shall abide.

                                                                            2. 3

                                                                              Disrespectfully: fuck off, troll. This is hot garbage, and has no place anywhere.

                                                                              cc @pushcx Is this acceptable discourse for this web site?

                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                The comment it is replying to is far less respectful, albeit somewhat more polite. Why didn’t you ping a sysop about that one?

                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                  Why would I ask a question to which I already know the answer?

                                                                                2. 2

                                                                                  I don’t think it should be, but sometimes, you have to take an uncomfortably strong stand against bad ideologues.

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    I don’t care what you do or how you justify your actions. I care about what kind of discourse is tolerated on this particular web site, which is why I asked @pushcx and not you.

                                                                                    Basically, if we can be assholes to each other on the basis of whether one happens to view the other as a “bad ideologue,” then I’d like to know.

                                                                              2. 2

                                                                                Yup, that’s why people don’t have fuck you money. Because of all the Caribbean holidays they buy.

                                                                                /s