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  •  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

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    •  Well... (4+ / 0-)
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      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

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        •  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

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          •  The problem is... (1+ / 0-)
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            Some of them are okay, but some of them are EA.

            And right now, the decision on whether or not you are working for a company that is "okay" or "EA" is largely in the hands of the people you are working for. Sure, you can quit and join another job--but that's just handing your fate to a different group of people.

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

            by Shapeshifter on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 09:47:02 PM PDT

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            •  I'm not arguing against unions at all (1+ / 0-)
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              I'm just trying to explain why I think the unions haven't caught on yet in the computer industry.

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

              by Webster on Wed Jun 14, 2006 at 08:31:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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