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View Diary: Why Unions? Labor 101 (269 comments)

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  •  Software programmers (5+ / 0-)

    I've talked to a lot of software programmers since the late '90s and they are almost completely against unionizing. This is what I commonly hear:

    • I want to fight my own battles. If a job stinks, I  find a new one and quit.
    • I want to negotiate my own salary.
    • Unions will protect bad and incompetent programmers.
    • Unions add yet another layer of mismanagement.
    • Having a union will encourage my employeer to do more outsourcing.
    • Every industry in the USA that has unions is a dying industry.
    • Unions are anti-meritocracy.
    • I was in a union when I was 17 and all they did was take my money.

    And lately, their number one argument against unionizing is this:

    • Unions did nothing to prevent offshoring of jobs, so why would us unionizing help keep our jobs here?

    "Tech Workers of the World Unite?" over at Slashdot also has a lots of similar anti-union arguments I've heard when talking to software programmers.

    So even getting the discussion going about unions with software developers has been pretty much an uphill battle. As soon as people start to overcome their misconceptions, there is another downturn and a big layoff or a boom and people are out finding better paying jobs. Most software developers stay with one employer only three years or so.

    •  The knowledge of your programmers and you... (8+ / 0-)

      is, respectfully, not well informed.

      Fighting your own battle against multi billion dollar corporations is not realistic.  The power imbalance is to much to overcome.

      I am not aware that unions manage anything in the workplace.  Management is reserved to the management.  The additional layer comment is severly poorly informed.

      Having a union for everyone is the best means of preserving employment.

      The fastest growing parts of our economy are in energy, communincations and service.  Energy and communications is highly unionized and service is the main organizing objective of the largest and most effective unions in the country.

      Unions are not opposed to mertitocrasy but are opposed to arbitrary frequently unrelated reasons in rewarding employees.

      Interesting that your world view of unions seemd to have been formed at age 17.  To this I can only say that I dont think you had a strong understanding of reality at age 17.  To continue your lack of union support and call yourself a progressive tells me that you should "grow up".

      Finally if the union political agenda in trade had been followed the off-shoring of jobs that we see to day could have been greatly reduced.  But DLC'ers and Repugs have helped the WTO, NAFTA and CAFTA emerge as the greatest means to reducing American jobs.  Unions are not the problem.  It is short sighted progressives that cannot fathom the systems thinking  attack that union opponents have mastered.  Quit joining their effort by down mouthing unions!

      •  You attack me without reading (9+ / 0-)

        You are attacking me, the messenger, because I put up examples of what I'm fighting against? I'm sorry if my post was not clear enough for you.

        You attack me for trying to promote unions for programmers, and say I'm part of the problem. Maybe, so I've not been successful. However, you sure the hell did not read my comment. You saw the list of misconceptions that I'm dealing with and decided to vent your anger at me.

        Interesting that your world view of unions seemd to have been formed at age 17.  To this I can only say that I dont think you had a strong understanding of reality at age 17.  To continue your lack of union support and call yourself a progressive tells me that you should "grow up".

        You didn't even read what I wrote. These are the views of the people I am trying to convince to unionize. And yes they aren't well informed, and your attack-the-messenger response sure the hell doesn't help the union cause.

        I am strongly pro-Union and have been advocating unions for programmers. It is an uphill battle and I've not had any success. The topic is a non starter with most programmers. Seventeen may seem young, but my youngest co-worker just turned 21 and fresh out of college.

        I've been working to persuade software developers, who are my friends and colleages, that its in our best interest to unionize. It is an uphill battle because they are ill-informed and pro-union people seem to not want to LISTEN to their concerns.

        Quit joining their effort by down mouthing unions!

        Sigh. And, thanks for for protraying union advocates so positively, comments like yours will surely will them over.

      •  Yes... (9+ / 0-)

        Computer programmers (and a lot of other computer-related workers) have a bit of a union-phobia.

        A lot of the anti-union arguments come from the Libertarian undercurrent found in a lot of computer programmers. (I think it's the only industry where one of the most prominent figures is a total libertarian-type.)

        Of course, the underlying libertarian argument against unions is bogus and it doesn't take too long to prove it*, so we get all these other arguments designed to make up for the lack of quality in the one that originally convinced the union-phobics.

        It's doubly a problem beause computer science types are pretty smart on average (their whole job is to be smart) and they like to thimk of themselves that way, even when they aren't or in areas where they aren't.

        (* Note: The argument goes something like "unions are anti-competetive/anti-free market and hurt businesses unfairly". Although that's a gigantic reduction. The counter-point is that without unions the employers hold almost all the cards. There can't be any market because there is only one side to the equation--employees cease to become providers of services and start becoming natural resources there to be picked and used by corporations. (And yes, "human resources" departments do tend to treat employees this way.) With unions the combined bargaining power enables a true market whereby people can negotiate for compensation equivalent to the service they provide, even when employers don't want to give that compensation. Sometimes, yes, this means businesses fail--but because they can't give fair compensation for services rendered! If the market dictates a business should fail, but it does not fail because its employers cannot get fair compensation, then is that not a failure of the market?

        Note that this is right off the top of my head, so i may be wrong to an unknown degree :) This is your warning.)

        The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

        by Shapeshifter on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 03:01:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of these people are also responding (5+ / 0-)

          to the low capital investment required to do their jobs.  People who work in industry or manufacturing or hotels can't reasonably create their own businesses.  If you're a programmer, you can get all you need to get started and then some for under 1000 dollars.  It creates a different dynamic for them.  Also, it helps that most of them are still at an age where they don't need good insurance and they don't suffer work injuries the way people who work with heavy equipment do.  As time goes on, they will come around.

          A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

          by Webster on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 03:44:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well... (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            farleftcoast, Webster, kraant, Magnifico

            Some of them are old enough, although i suspect the younger ones are more averse to unions than the older ones. (Also, a 55 year old computer science person has a different background than a 25 year old computer science person.)

            It's true that money tends not to be the problem for computer science people, but on the other hand: the problem does tend to be benefits.

            Not necessarily insurance, but stuff like hours and other things tend to be abused. Lots of programmer managers just set impossible schedules, and then when the programmers fail to meet them the managers just demand unpaid overtime hours until the project gets completed. For instance, EA, a game design company, is notorious for screwing over its employees.

            The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

            by Shapeshifter on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 07:35:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, no, i can't leave it at that... (5+ / 0-)

              Let's unpack some of this stuff...

              Salon, i think, understands the problem: there are no unions, but if the abuses outlined in their article (linked in my comment above) are to be stopped the employees must unionize.

              The problem gets outlined nicely, although not anywhere near completely, but Salon: employees often work 100+ hour work weeks, set up intentionally by (i propose) ill-intentioned managers and higher-ups.

              Salon talks about how programmers are yesterday's heroes, but today's oppressed masses--and this did not happen by accident. When the established corporate forces saw that programmers were willing to work unbelievable hours under the right circumstances they set out to use those programmers in that manner. Back when programmers were "the heroes", they could have unionized or set up some basic form of collective bargaining--but instead, drunk on power (and probably inexperience) they scoffed at unionization and any such form of "collectivism" and asserted their own invincibility and suggested they were indespensible to corporations.

              But guess what? They weren't.

              Although they scoffed at "lefty" policies (and "lefty unions") at one point, all of their current problems stem from "righty" policies and their rejection of "lefty" policies. Here's the secret: They thought they were the new Rightist cabal; a new and indespensible power base the Right and their minions would have no choice but to respect and include at the Right wing's dinner table. They were wrong, however: they are the servants at the dinner table, just like everyone else.

              I know some people who explicitly used this line of thinking to try to bring me over to their way of thinking: "Why do you insist on not being a Republican," i would get asked, "You make so much money you shouldn't give a damn about unions or opposing Republican oppression, that stuff will never affect you!" However, basically completely resisted their suggestions and feel quite vindicated for it.

              Besides, i do not want to be a Rightist tyrant.

              WATW sums it up in the Salon article:

              Employees are working more hours. They're getting compensated less. And the power of employers is increasing compared to the power of employees. Compared to other countries, U.S. workers work longer hours. Corporate profits are up, and wages are continuing to stagnate even though we're more than three years into an economic recovery.

              Although, as the article notes, there's some talk of unionization i don't expect it to lead to much action in EA's case.

              Not yet.

              Even the computer programmer's self-promoted indespensibility does not help them in cases like EA. Again, as the article notes:

              In other words, you can't just sue your way to a more reasonable work schedule. "They're not going to change company practices in terms of excessive work hours," he says. "The only thing a court case might be able to do is get them compensation, and that's not even a guarantee."


              "First, a lot of them still haven't even accepted that it's a problem, and they cause a lot of grief to those who actually want to have families or social lives and still work in the industry that they love. Second, the 'cowboy' mentality that's been discussed seems to put this idea in developers' heads that they need to be these existential heroes and sacrifice themselves for the good of video games everywhere. The corporations feed off of these mentalities and use them to exploit people," [...] "I don't see them altering their basic mentality to suck developers dry. The developers themselves will have to take a stand. It would be nice if that stand could be taken without involving lawyers or unions, but increasingly it seems that that won't be possible."

              In other words, they'll pay whatever a single employee asks--assuming you can twist their arm enough--but as long as there is no collective demand they're free to go right on screwing over every other employee--who must, then, individually try to extract just compensation out of one of the largest game companies on the face of the planet. And this is the explicit strategy that EA (and others) use in order to exploit their workers.

              And, in fact, even when the problem and solution is right there staring themselves in the face they still want to treat it like a last resort. Is it really the observation of a rational person that, in the situation described, any solution could be had without involving lawyers and almost certainly unions? When the employers are not acting in good faith, do you think they will listen to you just because it's beneficial to you, personally? Their entire strategy is to do things which are massively beneficial to them, but incredibly harmful to you! If you're complaining, that's how they know it's working!

              What sort of solutions, then, do they propose?

              He hopes that enlightened self-interest will lead companies to take a more worker-friendly tack: "Whether it's rookies or veterans or whatever, it's proven that overworking your staff is not going to get good or productive work out of them. If you send people home to have a life, walk the dog, see a movie, and have a good night's sleep, they'll be more productive. After about eight hours of work you make more problems than you're solving by putting more bugs into the code."

              That's it. Just sit around and take it until EA realizes that it's in their best interest not to destroy the lives of their employees. And maybe it is--we're seeing new studies recently about how salaried employees spend something like an average of 4 hours a day totally unproductively. Maybe that unproductive time isn't unproductive at all, maybe it's to recharge their drained mental energies. No human being can be dead-on for eight hours a day, five days a week, whole years at a time. But "enlightened self interest" is Randbot bullshit.

              How much slack are you willing to give them, my computer programmer friends? You've already given them enough to make a noose, and they've stated their intent to hang you. Why is this okay?

              Or are you going to stand up and force them to treat you like a real human being? Once you're ready, i have the way for you: unions. I know you think that's "lefty garbage", but you ain't doing better yourselves. So i have a suggestion: either put up (your own solution, or a union) or shut up and quit whining.

              I'll be waiting.

              The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

              by Shapeshifter on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 08:27:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'd also note: (1+ / 0-)
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                Unions provide at least some measure of protection against outsourcing, which is a rapidly growing problem in a variety of tech jobs.  Programmers are not immune to it, by any means.  In fact, I'm extremely surprised that more programming jobs haven't yet been shipped overseas.  Unlike tech support (which seems to be a wholly bangledeshi phenomenon, nowadays), programmers don't have to interact directly with customers.  I think the only thing that is holding programming jobs here is the aura of celebrity a few programmers still maintain.

              •  Actually, my friends who work in the (1+ / 0-)
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                game industry have told me these kinds of stories.  At one company, they gave out sleeping bags to new employees for the times when they had to sleep at the office.  On the other hand, when they weren't at crunch time, they hung out, had friends come to their office, played games and hung out, sometimes for months without doing much work.  These guys didn't feel abused at all.  Many of them are married now and still in the industry.  I worked at a special effects company as well and we ran the same kind of schedule.  Was it tough?  Hell, yes, but the money and benefits were really good, there was always great food, and we were a team that could brag about our product.  No one there was whining, except when they got sent out of town on a half hour notice and didn't get to fly back until the next day.  But when they made an extra week's pay for the trip, they felt better.

                And I stand by what I said before.  One of these companies broke up and there were three new companies started from the employees there.  They all kept the same schedules and all still do it.  I support labor, but I also know that I got to work on some great movies, made a lot of money, and got to spend weeks screwing around, going to the movies during the day and all sorts of other things that most jobs wouldn't allow.  I'd take another job just like it too, in a heartbeat.

                i'd guess though that there is a shop or two that have regular hours and decent pay.  Lemme check around and see.

                A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

                by Webster on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 09:12:11 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Different worlds, Magnifico (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      StuartZ, farleftcoast, kraant

      Software developers generally work at will, I always have in that profession anyway, and take pride in our education, skill, and enterprise. When you don't like the product, the environment, the tools, the pay -- screw it, you move on. And as long as you're smart, lucky, healthy, and working in a strong economy, things work out great. Smart about your personal finances, too, don't forget to get that Keogh / IRA going at a young age. God help you if you stumble though, and thank God for a broad societal safety net, including Social Security.

      There is another world, though, including armies of blue collar workers making our comfortable middle class lives possible every day. I often think all those years I spent as a truck driver were even more valuable to society than what I do now. There though, you're more of an interchangeable part and will get ground into the mud if you don't organize in concert with fellow workers. The general culture discourages that -- everyone wants to think of themselves as that brilliant, self actualizing individualist. And that's a mistake and one that gets you acting against your own interest.

      The labor movement is the natural ally of every progressive movement as well. Notice how the Connecticut American Federation of Teachers endorsed Lamont, citing their opposition to the war's siphoning off much needed funds from education and other domestic needs.

      •  Not that different... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MikeB, peraspera, farleftcoast, kraant

        Different? Yes. Wildly different? No. Would unions benefit by having software developers in their union. Yes Would software developers benefit from being unionized? Hell yes!

        The reason software developers work "at will" is because they can't negotiate contracts with their employers. Why can't they? They aren't unionized. Software developers work long hours and are well paid, but they are being exploited. Take this article from the Nov 21, 2004 New York Times:

        But you can't look at a place like Electronic Arts, the world's largest developer of entertainment software, and not think back to the early industrial age when a youthful work force was kept fully occupied during all waking hours to enrich a few elders.

        Yet there is unhappiness among those who are living that dream. Based on what can be glimpsed through cracks in E.A.'s front facade, its high-tech work force is toiling like galley slaves chained to their benches.

        Game developers are probably the most exploited type of programmers, but I think they are the "canary in the coal mine" for the industry as a whole. The article explains a class-action lawsuit against E.A. for uncompensated overtime — 6 days a week, over 65 hours a week. Additionally, there is a burnout factor that favors management. Work the young and dumb until they burn out, and get the new crop of young and dumb to do the same thing. Later in the NYTimes article:

        INDEED, E.A. is noticeably young in appearance. After Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, spent a sabbatical last spring as a researcher at the company, he wrote, "I am 43 and I felt absolutely ancient during my time there."

        ... The company has 3,300 employees in its studios developing game titles, and it hires 1,000 new people a year. (Company officials said voluntary turnover is about 10 percent annually.) ...

        Professor Pausch listed cost savings from lower salaries as one reason E.A. wishes to shift hiring to a younger group. The company also recognizes that fresh graduates are the most suggestible; Professor Pausch said he heard managers say that "young kids don't know what's impossible." That, however, they will learn when they get their schedules.

        Long hours, uncompensated overtime, high turn-over and burnout? Yeah, software developers work at will and no things aren't terrible writing software... yet. The gravy years of easy money are over. Benefits are being cut, health insurance costs are rising, retirement means 401(k) and the whims of the market, layoffs are more frequent, and there are always the threat that your employer will offshore your job. Then the next time you're out job hunting and find salaries have been driven down 10-25% because software developers on H-1b visas are cheaper.

        Whether or not programmers are willing to admit it to themselves, or not — software developers are skilled labor — labor that needs to get organized.

        •  Right (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peraspera, farleftcoast, kraant, Magnifico

          I work summers as a developer, but teach computer programming at a vocational college during the school year (.NET, Java, PHP/MySQL, Flash), and am a member of the AFT. One of the favorite canards about unions, that they destroy initiative and foster mediocrity, is absolutely false in my experience, the exact reverse is closer to the truth. The organization I work for is pathologically risk-averse, and my educational and technical initiatives would not have had a chance without union protection. Not to mention all the standard benefits of unionization, including a great health plan, which has come in handy lately (to understate the case).

        •  These are all the issues that... (1+ / 0-)
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          surrounding organizing drives.

          "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?" -John Kerry, 1971 but what we needed to hear in 2003/2004

          by Demise on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 08:51:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  fair enough (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      farleftcoast, kraant, Magnifico

      These are the same arguments in all fields.  There's this perception that "I'm a great worker.  So, I get paid based on my work."  However, that assumes everyone else is a bad worker.  Well, then that means that the other workers think you too are a bad worker.  Come on, does that make sense?

      Anti-union folks have one or two fears about their jobs  or current employment situation that you can find if you listen carefully enough.

      The unions didn't save the offshoring argument is the scariest of all for these workers.  However, CWA has done amazing work on this front.  Read their info on how the Labor department will now allow some tech products to fall under TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance).  You can read the full article here:

    •  Wow. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      farleftcoast, kraant, Magnifico

      Lot's of disccussion about labor from the tech guys... To me, it's finding the right way to approach the industry and winning contracts. When you find a way that works, you run with it.

      It's a shame that there is so much turn over, is it because the jobs dry up? Or is it because you don't get raises or respect so you move on? I ask this because one of the primary goals when workers form the union is retention. Having a voice and negotiating successive contracts to build a workplace that you don't want to leave.

      If you are only lasting three years.. that's bunk. Who wants that level of insecurity? Who wants to burn through their savings every 3 years between jobs?

      I get the feeling that time will cure a lot of misconceptions. Workers can only eat shit for so long and try different methods of self-preservation (like going out after work together and forming a kind of 'brother/sisterhood' naturally in the face of a stifling work environment) before they start to wonder how to really affect change. Many don't realize it but they 'organize' already on the job and watch each others backs. Partnering with an established union is just the next step.

      "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?" -John Kerry, 1971 but what we needed to hear in 2003/2004

      by Demise on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 08:48:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some reasons for the turn over (1+ / 0-)
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        I'll try to answer your questions with anecdotal stories. These are just my observations and stories I've heard.

        It's a shame that there is so much turn over, is it because the jobs dry up? Or is it because you don't get raises or respect so you move on?

        There are a few common reasons. One is, a lot of developers want to keep their resume fresh with new skills and technologies applied on the job. A lot of developers believe they will get pigeon holed if they stay too long doing any type of development. For example, if you're C++ or Java developer and then need or want to find another job, you will find that the jobs now are C#/.Net or J2EE jobs. Now these developers are probably qualified for these jobs, but why hire someone almost right, when a buzz word compliant applicant is available. If you don't have the right buzz word with experience, you have a harder time finding a job. Companys get a product established in the market and don't want to rewrite it in a new language just so their developers can keep their resumes up-to-date.

        A more obvious example would be a Cobol or Fortran progammer. He or she may have been doing that work for the past 20 years and now needs to look for a job. They may be skilled developers, but they aren't up to date. Some have updated their skills, but still their work experience handicaps them. Age also plays against a software developers. Employers know younger people cost less money up front, so they try to hire younger people. If they don't have a family, then even better. The expectation is they'll work longer hours. Experienced (older) employees are more expensive, but generally will save the company money by not making mistakes that new developers make. A lot of companies haven't caught on to this cost trade off.

        Another reason is the boom-bust cycle in software development in some areas. Companies are bought and sold and close shops in one town and open them up in others. Companies are small (under 20 people) or mid-sized (under 200) and private companies with a non-unionized work force can fly below the radar. Layoffs can be done slowly enough so plant closing rules don't come into play. Sometimes a developer is offered a job in the new city, sometimes he or she isn't.

        An example, non-example, is word processing software. If times are hard, a person or company isn't likely to buy new software. Why buy new software when the old software still works? Best to save that money. So, the company that sells the word processing software downsizes in tight economic times. When a lot of companies do this, it floods the developer market and drives down wages.

        Salaries jumped considerably in the dot com era. Employers are still trying to bring them down. The threat of offshoring and in-sourcing keeps people in line. The line "Shut up and just be happy you still have a job" is often heard. So, this breeds ill feelings. When the software economy gets hot, software developers go find another company thinking this one won't be like their last employer. In reality, they are probably just filling the position left by an unhappy developer who found another job.

        •  So.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Workforce development in terms of training workers is a major issue. Unions could help in this by supporting councils that examine the direction of the market and offering trainings to workers.

          Also, contracts could be written that require the company to foot the bill for training. It's not an unreasonable request to retain a quality workforce.

          From what I am reading in your post, programmers would benefit from contracts that regulate their hours of work. No one wants to burn out on the job and proper strategizing of projects between workers and management would be a solution. It could also help with staffing issues.

          It's the size of the companies that make organizing harder. Also, the boom/bust of the industry is problematic. But, it's not going anywhere and will just grow.

          "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?" -John Kerry, 1971 but what we needed to hear in 2003/2004

          by Demise on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:10:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yup, I think so too (0+ / 0-)

            Yes, unions would make a positive difference for software developers.

            The reasons for software developers to unionize seem to be endless as my stories and examples show. But yet, I mention that we programmers should unionize and I get attacked.

            Why can't others in the profession understand this?

            •  The key to the lock (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kraant, Magnifico

              Is agitation.

              You've outlined the issues clearly, I bet your fellow workers have the same issues. Push the issues in conversations, bring up ways that they could be overcome by having more of a partnership with management... maybe management already has a 'review' board or some other method for workers to voice their opinions... how broken is that? Is it effective? is it a captive audience joke?

              Make a point to bring up one of the issues in that forum.

              Do you feel respected? Are you being talked down too? How can workers really be heard?

              Collective Bargaining.

              It's one thing to talk about the 'union' as some abstract with workers on the job. It doesn't move people to just talk about unionization. What moves people is to clearly define what the problems are and how they can be fixed.

              If workers don't respond to the issues they face on the job daily, then no matter how much resources, organizers, what-have-you a union throws at them- they will never be effectively organized.

              It's been said before but it can't be stressed enough- the union isn't the real power in the workplace, the workers are.

              "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?" -John Kerry, 1971 but what we needed to hear in 2003/2004

              by Demise on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:36:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Continued... (1+ / 0-)
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        If you are only lasting three years.. that's bunk. Who wants that level of insecurity? Who wants to burn through their savings every 3 years between jobs?

        Sometimes developers just leave because of boredom and burnout. Working on the same software for years, often more than 40hr/week leads to boredom. The problems all begin to look the same. So another project at a different company will at least appear to be new... for a while. I know this behavior is silly, but it seems to happen a lot.

        The lucky ones time their career changes to the booms in the software industry. Leave a job at the start of a boom, get enough value to survive the bust period, once things pick-up again get another job. My sense is the younger the developer, usually the more frequent he or she will change a job.

        I get the feeling that time will cure a lot of misconceptions.

        I sure hope so. I thought the crash of the dot com bubble economy would have been a wake up call, but it didn't change the attitudes of "we don't need a union." People have been writing software for twenty to thirty-five years now, and still seem hostile to the mere idea of organizing. I'm still hopeful that attitudes will change and I'm still trying to get software developers unionized.

        •  The 'Verge' theory.. (1+ / 0-)
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          Sometimes I wonder if middle income people still believe that they are on the 'verge' of something that will make them millionaires. This is more of a societal thing I think because Americans are raised to expect success and money but perhaps in the programming world, the idea is still strongly believed that (and possibly true even if I consider it pretty outrageous) they are one step away from riches.

          This is not to say that it's not possible but... it's definetly not a regular occurance. It's like a teen in the ghetto who thinks he will be the next Shaq Daddy.  

          I could be totally wrong but you did mention some programmers consider start-ups and have dreams of running their own companies. I don't think this a bad thing, it just tends to make the idea of solidarity less appealing to people.

          "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?" -John Kerry, 1971 but what we needed to hear in 2003/2004

          by Demise on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:18:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yup (1+ / 0-)
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            You hit upon why a large chunk of poor and middle class Americans vote republican and are anti-union. They think they're next in line to the millionaires club. They identify with the Paris Hiltons and Bill Gates of the world. Not only that, many people don't identify themselves with other people like them. They'll max out their credit cards and live in debt, just so they can appear to be more affluent then they are.

            Since so many people can't see where they are in the class structure of America, good luck trying to have them identify with anyone less well off than themselves. Since many people identify with the rich, and not with their own economic peers, good luck having them identify with the person enlisting in the Army because their are no jobs in town, or the person out on the street without a home, or the person standing in the unemployment line.

            •  Mirage (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I tend to tip-toe around this issue because it's hard to broach with people without coming off as insulting. I'll admit it myself, I coasted through most of my 20s expecting to have everything fall in my lap; this despite the fact that I grew up in a single-mother family, on the edge of poverty, being responsible for my sister while my mom worked 50+ hours a week.

              It's really ingrained in people.

              "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?" -John Kerry, 1971 but what we needed to hear in 2003/2004

              by Demise on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:43:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  This is the 'bootstraps' theory that (0+ / 0-)

              is used to keep workers from organizing, since they are told their own individual efforts will cause them to advance.  And sometimes it happens.  Though those who start with an advantage from birth generally do better, however.  We also have ingrained in us a consumerist celebrity-worshipping culture; so if religion was (and probably still is) "the opiate of the masses", the new opiates are consumption and celeb culture keeping the masses occupied at the water cooler.  At the water cooler we're talking new cars and clothes and Brad and Angelina, instead of how to get a voice in the workplace!

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