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Bar graph showing value of wage theft in 2012 -- $280 million -- vs. value of street, bank, gas station, and convenience store robberies -- $139 million.
A New York Times editorial points out that software engineers and fast food workers are more similar than we might think: Both groups are affected by wage theft.
In the days ahead, a settlement is expected in the antitrust lawsuit pitting 64,613 software engineers against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe. The engineers say they lost up to $3 billion in wages from 2005-9, when the companies colluded in a scheme not to solicit one another’s employees. The collusion, according to the engineers, kept their pay lower than it would have been had the companies actually competed for talent. [...]

The case essentially alleges white-collar wage theft. The engineers were not victimized by the usual violations of labor law, but by improper hiring practices against their interests. The result, however, was the same: Money that would have flowed to workers in the form of wages went instead into corporate coffers and from there to executives and shareholders.

The software engineers presumably made a decent living despite being cheated by their employers, which can't be said of fast food workers forced to work off the clock or not being paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. But their case highlights something middle-class Americans would do well to remember: The corporate race to the bottom on wages and working conditions is coming for you, too. In fact, it probably already has, in the form of the decline of the pension and stagnant wages except at the very top. And when you fail to give a damn about the fast food worker, unless they trot out a convincing enough tale of noble poverty or dismiss the public worker's struggle for the pension they earned with "well, I don't have a pension, why should a janitor?" or scoff at the idea that software engineers and fast food workers share a common interest against the massive corporations that employ them, you're inviting that race to the bottom to hit you sooner and harder.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The KETI Program, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wonder who will be the next victim? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    DailyKos contributors??

    •  What? (0+ / 0-)
    •  Oh no! I weep at the thought of mighty (0+ / 0-)

      thousandaires being reduced to --- what? --- lesser thousandaires?

      There does come a point where there ain't a whole lot left to lose.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:30:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No man is an island. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poserp, jbsoul, Urban Space Cowboy

      I work in Silicon Valley. Have for a long time. Engineers, by their very Asperger's definition, do think they are islands. They need to wake up. This is blunt evidence that everything is connected, even them.

      I've gone on several job interviews over the last couple of years (currently working) and what I have found personally is that everyone I've interviewed with operates under a wage freeze. Once they find out what I'm making, which is slightly above 'market,' the interviews die off fast. Even when I'm a perfect fit for the position.

      I think Silicon Valley operates under a pervasive wage-fixing scheme, and that it goes beyond there to the rest of America. Here, it goes not just from Google, Adobe and Apple, but all the way down to the startup layers of the job economy. I've interviewed at all levels and they all show the same behavior. And yes, I work in engineering.

      Hmmm, sounds like a good topic for a post, even though I haven't done so in five years or more.

  •  I hate to admit it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, ssgbryan

    but I have little sympathy for the software engineers because so many of them think of themselves as capitalists and so without a need for unions.

    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

    by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:27:30 AM PDT

    •  Well, we're all told that we're capitalists (9+ / 0-)

      We're bootstrapping, independent, corporate climbing temporarily inconvenienced millionaires.

      I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

      by CFAmick on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:35:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We need unions more than ever. Right now. (9+ / 0-)
      •  I totally agree (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JBL55, viral

        And I think IT workers might be finally waking up to that fact, now that they are losing their leverage.

        "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

        by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:52:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I doubt it. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JBL55, gjohnsit

          You can tell them, you just can't tell them very much.

        •  Unions don't help us much. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Lighthouse Keeper

          Outside of a few big boys, there's not many of us at any single place of work, and our jobs are very easily outsourced because data is cheap to ship across oceans.

          Might help the dudes at Appfaceoogle, but for the vast majority of us, if our quality of work isn't going to keep us around, a union isn't able to either.

          Frankly, we'd be better off with a trade association more than anything else, but that would require us to get along with other people for longer than a few minutes at a time.

          Everyday Magic

          Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
          -- Clarke's Third Law

          by The Technomancer on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:55:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  trade unions (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Technomancer

            I definitely think a trade union is the route to go for software developers.

            It would be fairly simple to start, too-- offer it up as an alternative to one of the contracting companies.  

            I'm helping to interview candidates for my group now, and it always strikes me how contract for hire agencies  make money by taking it off of the salaries of the people they place.  

            Wouldn't it be better if contract programmers/IT staff worked for themselves and used a trade union to help place them into positions?  

            •  Depends on the type of employment. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cloudysulphur

              I can see that being useful for consultants, like you're talking about, but not salaried/benefit-receiving workers.

              The value-add from a trade union is going to be training, group benefit rates, and relative job security it provides (assuming they do list work like other trade unions), otherwise, we're paying that 3%-10% of salary in dues every year for the same service a recruiter gets 3%-10% for, except they only take it off of the first year's salary.

              Now, if such a union acted like a not-for-profit company for the purposes for handling the B2B 1099 transactions so that consultants got paid via W-2 rather than 1099s and negotiated for group rates on benefit packages, that could actually be pretty useful and would be worth some dues for the consultants -- I know that'd make a case for me to return to consulting from the salaried work I'm doing now so I'd at least get paid for the extra 10-15 hours I put in every week (and being in CA, doing what I do, and making over 96k a year, it's not wage theft per the law, thanks lobbyists).

              You still have the problem that the person next up for work on the list is a Python developer when you need a Ruby developer, or s/he's good with Java but not Groovy, or is a DevOps person that's trained in Puppet when you're a Chef or Ansible shop.

              The jobs, for the most part, just aren't standard enough from firm to firm to really gain any sort of leverage, and because of the lack of standardization, it becomes difficult for a trade union to offer the other value-add they normally bring with them, which is certification of a union member's skill set and with that, the implicit guarantee of a certain level of knowledge/quality of work.

              Should that change in the future, it becomes a lot easier to make the argument for both trade and employee unions.

              Definitely tossing you a rec, though.  I think you're on the right track there, at least -- when reading my post, remember that I'm the guy whose job it is at most places I work to bring up the flaws with any idea so they can be address, so this post should be read in that light and not as being opposed to the idea of a trade or employee union.  I want to see unions work for my industry.

              Everyday Magic

              Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
              -- Clarke's Third Law

              by The Technomancer on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 09:28:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  definitely depends on employment type. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                The Technomancer

                It definitely depends on the type of employment.  I'm a salaried software developer at a medium sized company and couldn't see the traditional union working at my workplace.    

                The trade association I envision would definitely be a non-profit, W2-based with pooled group benefits and training.  I think the ideal would be not to cost more than the equivalent contract company and to invest the "profits" the contract firm made back into the employees.   I can't see people willingly join such an association unless they see a tangible benefit.

                I would like for unions to work for software companies, but think they need to be a new type of union.  I haven't seen much of that type of discussion take place.   I listened into the Alliance@IBM board for a few years, and didn't see any of it on their site.

                The training and certification question is a good one-- the pace of change is increasing.  I've been working on back end work/web services for a few years and have found I'm now out of date concerning responsive web toolkits like AngularJS.  

                The field has changed a lot in the last fifteen years,  with the movement to agile development practices and open-space offices from a traditional cube-farm.  

                I appreciate your input -- it provides some good questions and ideas.

                •  I'd kickstart that. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  cloudysulphur

                  The last part of your post is why I stuck with systems administration and moved from there into DevOps -- languages and frameworks come and go, but even with the shift to cloud, you still need someone who can provide the platform for all those apps and can tune the kernel it get maximum performance from the OS.

                  That, and all the dev jobs wanted a college degree or shipped code, while entry level sysadmin work wanted me to not shit myself when I saw a command line and made sure I didn't type 'dir' instead of 'ls'.

                  Everyday Magic

                  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
                  -- Clarke's Third Law

                  by The Technomancer on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 05:44:52 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  In two words, and I mean this with all of (5+ / 0-)

      the love and admiration it implies: "F___ You!"

      Rather difficult to join a union when there might only be one or two of us at a firm.

      Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
      I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
      —Spike Milligan

      by polecat on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:45:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I say this from experience (6+ / 0-)

        I was working at UCSF about 10 years ago when the SEIU tried to organize the IT workers.
           The IT workers voted against unionizing by an overwhelming percentage. It wasn't even remotely close.
           It was very discouraging to listen to my fellow IT workers bad-mouth unions.

        "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

        by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:51:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unions don't stop outsourcing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alypse1, Calamity Jean

          What good is a union when entire departments are closed down and shipped to India, or Malaysia.

          I will tell you with 100% certainty that if my department voted to unionize, 90% of the jobs would be in Malaysia in 6 months.  Probably 100% by the end of the year.  Unions give zero protection against outsourcing and "free" trade.

          End NAFTA, CAFTA, stop the TPP dead, enact real tariffs, end all "free" trade.  Then we'll talk unions.

          I'm not going to commit an act that just gives my CEO one more reason to outsource us.

          •  Who do you think is going to push (0+ / 0-)

            to stop outsourcing if not unions?

            "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

            by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:03:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bang up job they've done so far (4+ / 0-)

              Give me a break.  If unions were a force to stop outsourcing, then Al Gore would have never made it through the Dem primary in 2000.  No one from Clinton's NAFTA pushing admin would have been.  The unions would have backed a Dem who would have promised to repeal NAFTA.

              I've only seen one thing stop outsourcing - wage equality.  Our CEO wanted to send every engineering job to Malaysia.  But most Malaysian engineers are incompetent and only follow direct orders, then stop and do nothing.  That's not to be cruel, it's the truth.  Plus, so many companies were setting up shop in Malaysia, even the incompetent could demand huge raises year after year.

              Management saw the rapidly rising wages and the poor work ethic and quality, and stopped outsourcing cold.

              That's it.  Not unions, not politics, not anything but cold hard budgeting stopped outsourcing.  They outsourced until it didn't make sense anymore.  But if we all demand unions and huge raises, the see-saw teeters back and poof go the jobs.

              •  Then lets put money into EDUCATION and insure (0+ / 0-)

                that the 'seesaw' stays here.

                Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
                I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
                —Spike Milligan

                by polecat on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:12:47 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Education is not the answer (5+ / 0-)

                  Not that I oppose education in the slightest. I'm a big believer in educating people en mass.

                   But not everyone can be a high-tech worker. Not even close.
                    We need some people to work in the factories and do low-skilled work. Plus, many people will simply not want to do that sort of work. And we can't doom them to poverty and misery simply because there aren't enough opportunities (and never will be enough) at the top-end.

                  Norm is right. We need to look at those free trade agreements, but we also need to organize.
                    Anything else is a half-measure.

                  "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

                  by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:20:00 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Education isn't the problem (5+ / 0-)

                  None of the American engineers who were outsourced were undereducated.  They were all very smart. And if you noticed, I directly pointed out that the Malaysian engineers hired in their stead were not smarter.  They were noticeably less experienced and motivated.

                  You can call for more education all you like, but a more educated worker demands a higher wage, and when CEOs are happy hiring 2 less educated overseas workers to replace one American, you're not fighting the right battle.

                  •  There are tens of thousands (4+ / 0-)

                    of people with PHD's and Master degrees working minimum wage jobs right now.

                      That's all you need to know.

                    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

                    by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:28:21 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  A PhD or Master's degree... (2+ / 0-)

                      ...indicates relatively little about the value of one's labor in the market.

                      Obviously this is true of degrees in areas that have few jobs - there are only so many employers who need another expert in Greek history and there are probably many more people with PhD or Masters degrees in those fields than there are jobs that truly require that degree of education.

                      But it's very true in technology such as software development as well. I've worked with plenty of PhDs who couldn't understand practical software development problems or form practical solutions to said problems (I've also worked with many who could). I've seen them jump to the most bizarre and unsupportable conclusions time after time because they lacked real world experience (and were not open to gaining it). Most of these people probably should have been working minimum wage jobs (actually, I would be happy if they had any job - as long as it wasn't at the company I worked at).

                      As a hiring manager, I generally have "minimum educational requirements" for a position -- but that's mostly as a shortcut to me having to screen 10x as many applicants and rely on the educational system to screen out some. Maybe it doesn't sound fair, but I can't call every applicant or read every resume that the world would send me if I didn't have such requirements. I'm sure I miss out on a few good people (and, I happily hire those who don't have the requisite degrees if I get personal referrals or run across them some other way) but it doesn't make sense to look for gold in a coal mine even if there are sometimes a few flecks in coal mines (well, not being a geologist, I'm not sure that analogy fits).

                      Any more than a High School degree should insure that one can get a job better than minimum wage, a BA, BS, MS, PhD shouldn't either unless that degree also actually translates into increased productivity (in a broad sense).

                      (This is independent of if the minimum wage is updated to at least keep pace with inflation or better - there will always be those who make less than others no matter how high minimum wage is increased.)

              •  I'm not going to argue (3+ / 0-)

                that unions have been unable to stop the outsourcing/offshoring. That's self-evident.

                  That doesn't mean that they haven't opposed it.

                But let me put something out there that is also self-evident:
                Without supporting the groups that oppose those free trade agreements and outsourcing/offshoring then there will never be enough push against them, and we will always live with them.

                "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

                by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:15:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  But who do I support politically? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  gjohnsit, ssgbryan, wilderness voice

                  I thought supporting Obama would be pushback, given how he spoke in 2006.  But he hasn't shut down the TPP.  He hasn't done anything to reverse NAFTA.  Empty speeches mostly.

                  So which politician are the unions going to support that will push back against free trade?  Hillary?  The wife of the NAFTA architect?  Don't make me laugh.  Hillary's a globalist.  If Obama doesn't get TPP done, Hillary will.  

                  Now don't get me wrong, I do support unions for union trades.  Work on an assembly line, or construction.  Work that isn't creative, where the workers just follow orders and there's little to differentiate workers.

                  But engineering isn't work on an assembly line.  I don't spend all day doing the exact same task over and over again, or the exact same tasks as the man to the right and left of me.

                  •  The Dems have mostly abandoned unions (4+ / 0-)

                    They only give the unions lip-service anymore.
                    You have no arguments with me on that point.

                     But that makes supporting unions, as opposed to supporting a political party proxy, all the more important.

                      As for your point about unions being inappropriate for some trades, I strongly disagree.
                       If you work for a paycheck, then you need a union. One working class slob looks like the next to the bosses.

                    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

                    by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:26:26 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But how would unions address this wage theft? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      JBL55

                      This is an honest question.  Laura's diary is about an anti-competition scheme:

                      The engineers say they lost up to $3 billion in wages from 2005-9, when the companies colluded in a scheme not to solicit one another’s employees. The collusion, according to the engineers, kept their pay lower than it would have been had the companies actually competed for talent
                      But one could think of that scheme exactly the same as a union contract.  Say a software engineers union negotiated a contract with Apple, Intel, Adobe, and set the prevailing wage for the engineers.

                      Now one of the top talent engineers at Adobe thinks he should be paid more.  He wants to go work for Apple for more money, but they're bound by the same contract.  Apple isn't allowed to pay more for top talent.  The whole point of a union is to treat the workers all pretty much the same.

                      So how is that functionally different from the wage theft that happened?  The companies simply agreed to a wage cap on their own, instead of negotiating a contract with a union.  Would a union contract really allow Apple to poach top talent union engineers from Adobe for more money?  What would the other union workers say about that?

                      •  Think of it this way (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Norm in Chicago

                        In which situation do you have more leverage: by yourself, or as a group?
                           When you go bargain with your boss, would you rather sit alone in a room with 4 bosses around you telling you what they are going to pay? Or would you rather sit in a room with 20 of your coworkers telling your bosses what the minimum it is that you will settle for?
                           Which situation do you feel has more power?

                          As for the companies, that's called theft for a reason.
                        They are organizing against you, and it was effective. So how is you and your coworkers organizing not to your benefit?

                        "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

                        by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:45:30 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  But the theft was not paying above the minimum (0+ / 0-)

                          A)  The Union sets the prevailing wage.
                          B)  The "free market" sets the prevailing wage.

                          Either way, there's a fixed wage that all companies agree to abide by.

                          A)  The companies all agree to pay the prevailing union set wage and not poach each other for top talent.

                          B)  The companies collude together and agree to not pay more for top talent.

                          Either way, the top talent is not getting paid more money.  Isn't it theft either way.

                          Unions are great when they set standards for wages and working conditions.  But they're not great when they set a ceiling on wages and tell individuals that they can't work harder or innovate to get better pay as top talent, because the wages are fixed by union contract.

                          My dad did get great benefits as an IBEW electrician. But he was the best electrician in the entire damn plant, and he never got the pay he deserved until he left the union and became an electrical tech.  Only then could he demand higher raises for his talent.

                          •  There's two issues here (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Norm in Chicago

                            1) You are admitting that companies organizing against you is very effective, but you are stuck in thinking that you and your coworkers organizing somehow won't be effective.
                              That is illogical. Organizing is effective in setting wages, not just for companies but for workers too.

                              As for the "free market" setting the prevailing wage, not if the companies are colluding.

                            2) Your opposition to unions because of "top talent" is exactly what I experienced when the SEIU tried to organize the the IT workers in the UC system.
                               You are thinking of yourself as a capitalist, not a worker. It is exactly how the companies want you to think.

                               First of all, not everyone can be "top talent". > 90% of IT workers are going to get screwed, eventhough the majority of IT workers think like capitalists.
                               Secondly, unions are democratic. You tell the union what the ceiling should be, not the other way around. And if the union doesn't listen to the workers then you find a different union.

                              Finally, my father was also an IBEW electrician. Until the day he retired he was paid far more than the average non-union electrician. Or even a very good non-union electrician. Back in the early 80's he was making $35 an hour. I don't know what they make now.

                            "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

                            by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 11:17:46 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I made them equally effective (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm assuming that a union-set prevailing wage and a collusion-set prevailing wage are both equally effective.  Stay with me here:

                            A)  The union says wages are $35/hr and get all companies to agree to that contract.
                            B)  Company collusion says they won't pay more than $35/hr.

                            Either way, the engineers say they're workers, not capitalists, and $35/hr. is just fine.  Everyone is making good money, everyone is happy for a while.

                            Then, it comes out that Apple actually was willing to pay $45/hr the whole time, but didn't.  They didn't pay more because:

                            A)  Apple agreed to a union contract to pay $35/hr and didn't want to treat workers like capitalists and poach the top talent for $45/hr, because that wouldn't be fair to the bottom 90%.

                            B)  Apple was worried that if they offered $45, Intel or Adobe would offer $50, so they colluded to keep wages at $35/hr.

                            Which one(s) are wage theft?  A?  B?  A and B?  or neither?

                            I'm sorry, but you can't ask for unions to treat everyone the same, say paying the top 10% more is capitalist, and then in the same breath complain that Apple wasn't capitalist and didn't hire away the top 10% for more money while screwing the bottom 90%.

                            You have to pick one.  Are you mad at Apple for paying everyone the same, or for not paying the top 10% more?

                      •  Why would a union set a cap on wages? (0+ / 0-)

                        Contracts usually set a floor, not a ceiling.  That's why they work, set a max wage wouldn't make sense for this kind of field at all (or any).

                  •  Union aren't just for the assembly line (0+ / 0-)

                    Maybe you've never heard of unionized college professors?  Surely there work is not (entirely) rote and is often creative.  The problem is that the tenure and hiring system makes it very difficult to vote with your feet.  Universities typically don't want journeyman professors and even if they hire them, they frequently require working to regain tenure.  Because of this, non-union faculties receive salary raises equal to inflation in good years and no raises in subpar years.  Benefits and working conditions also tend to get worse over time.

                    And consider this, in software, once you age past 35 or so, the ability to vote with you feet decreases year by year.  Unions are about protecting workers from exploitation no matter what job they do (see also airline pilots unions, professional sports unions, etc.).  


                    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.—Carl Schurz
                    "Shared sacrifice!" said the spider to the fly.—Me

                    by KingBolete on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:46:56 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The alternate point of view is this... (0+ / 0-)

                      Most of us are lucky/blessed/privileged enough to make enough that we care more about the tech we're working on than the pay.  Most of us that put in the 50-60 hour weeks do so because that's OUR infrastructure or code that's going to be out there and we love what we do.  In the Bay Area, we generally do get stock/equity/some form of ownership as well.

                      And speaking for myself here...if someone's doing this for the pay rate alone and not because they love this shit, that's not the person I want working next to me, because that person isn't going to put in the extra time to solve a particularly hard problem, or take the extra time to closely review code, or want to keep up on the latest and greatest tools and technology.

                      We are lucky enough to have the privilege to be choosy about where we work and how often we do it.  And there are definitely some terrible shops to work for.

                      But at the end of the day, there's not that many of us.  Even in tech-heavy San Francisco, tech workers are just 6% of the workforce, and outside of the larger companies.  If our core skill is in a commonly used language or technology that hasn't changed in years, it's easily outsourced.  If your skill is the ability to become the instant expert on new tech, you'll always have work no matter how gray your hair gets.

                      If there was a way that unions could actually help tech workers out, I'd be all for it, but the nature of the work and the wildly varying skill sets required for the different portions of the field at the level this article is talking about isn't a fit for it.

                      Now, the men in women in the data centers and doing the physical work of IT most definitely need unions.  Tech support? Union helps.

                      Software engineering or system architecture?  Give me the use case where a union can help and I'll be happy to support it, even at the cost of my own advancement, because the better off everyone is, the better off I am as a whole, even if not financially.  But I haven't been able to find one.  I'd love to be able to defend the idea of an IT Engineering union, if only because union training and union certification ensures that there's at least a portion of a candidate's skill set that they aren't completely BSing about.

                      Everyday Magic

                      Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
                      -- Clarke's Third Law

                      by The Technomancer on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:15:03 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Yep. Unionizing definitely improved matters (0+ / 0-)

                      for the faculty at my university.  And the more administrations encroach on traditional faculty responsibilities, the more important it becomes.

                      You’re certainly right about voting with one’s feet.  In my experience it’s only a bit of an exaggeration to say that there are basically two ways to change schools if you already have tenure: become a department chair somewhere (if you can stand the thought), or be a star.

        •  The "I've got mine, screw you!" contingent? /nt (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gjohnsit, JBL55

          Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
          I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
          —Spike Milligan

          by polecat on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:02:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Everyone wants to attack the little person who (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gjohnsit, polecat, happymisanthropy, JBL55

          goofs off a little instead of the big guy who is sucking them dry. I think part of it is that they see the little guy right in front of themselves, and they never see the big guy. They end up, unfortunately, rewarding the 1% for treating them like lepers.

        •  I can believe it. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gjohnsit

          It's vey depressing.

        •  I'm not opposed to unions in general, (0+ / 0-)

          but I'm not sure I would want to be part of one, or whether I would be able to. Although technically I'm a programmer not a software engineer, even if neither category covers all of what I do.

          Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

          by AaronInSanDiego on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:04:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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

            Well, I'd be part of one if there was a use case for one, but depending on what day/hour it is, I'm writing code, or I'm spinning up more infrastructure, or negotiating a vendor contract, or mentoring a junior team member, or sitting in on a budget meeting...

            There's nothing routine about the work once you're off of help desk or out of the data center.  Hell, you can't even get two companies to agree on what exactly the core skillset of a DevOps Engineer should be.  Some companies mean they want a coder who isn't going to break production systems.  Other companies mean that they want an experienced systems professional that can write code in a language more complicated than BASH or PowerShell.  Others expect a DevOps  person to be a cross between your change management engineer and a systems architect.

            I want to be convinced that a union can help me out.  But I can't find a use case where it benefits us outside of the tech support and data center gigs.

            Everyday Magic

            Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
            -- Clarke's Third Law

            by The Technomancer on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:21:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  There's more to it than that (7+ / 0-)

      I remember mentioning the need for a software engineers union to one of my employers. It was met with a very stern statement:

      "We are not that kind of company."

      It was one of those moments when a friendly chat turned very, very awkward.

      Even if the employees think they want a union, the company will make the unionization process ... uncomfortable.

      :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
      Can you help me make Green Planet Heroes happen?

      by radical simplicity on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:45:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's to be expected. (0+ / 0-)

        There's not a lot of companies anywhere in this country that make unionization easy.

        If unions actually helped us out, we still have the privilege to push the case without getting fired -- or at least, we have options if we do get sacked...and we'll probably get a raise out of it to boot, given the market.  But at the end of the day, finding a use case for a union in this line of work is difficult to do.

        Everyday Magic

        Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
        -- Clarke's Third Law

        by The Technomancer on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:24:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Speaking as a 35-year IT professional ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gjohnsit, Samuel Chompers

      ... who put herself through community college in part as a proud Teamster factory worker, I'm one of the exceptions to the "rule" you suggest.

      Unfortunately too many of my co-workers seem to believe themselves above the level of the "goons" they associate with unions.

      IOW the suckers prefer to believe the lies told to them by union-hating management.

      Some are open to the idea that we are being paid at least a third less than we would if not for the Reagan years and the disconnection between productivity and compensation, so they aren't beyond hope.

      But many believe raising the minimum wage would raise prices, ignoring the fact that bloated executive pay also raises prices.

      Needless to say, they are convinced that, since they're programmers, they are logical thinkers.

      Sigh.

    •  Erm...Where do you get that idea from, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Technomancer

      exactly?  All the software engineers I know are more interested in the technology than the money.

      •  Right up until their job gets outsourced. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vemito, wylieSteve

        Seriously, there is a thing about money.

        When you have enough, more is only a small motivator.  Enough means that most money worries aren't...you have enough for food, shelter, transport, health care AND a reserve large enough for any emergency you can imagine.

        Engineers make enough, even with price fixing, to be above that threshold...as long as they have a job.

        A friend of my wife's who had been a successful software engineer his whole life responded to a year and a half of unemployment with suicide.    He thought his family would be better off without him.

        Another friend of my wife whose husband got a job right out of college and had never been unemployed has crashed and burned after his first layoff.  He is at least still alive, but they've got four kids, two with medical problems and he's still bewildered, two years later, spouting tea party nonsense.

        So unless the engineer is somebody like me, who started my career unemployed (because the 90s recession/peace dividend flooded the job market with middle aged engineers taking entry level jobs, and many entry level jobs simply no longer existing) and spent 5 years or so deeply underemployed before I got a "good IT job" during the 90s tech boom...they have no idea why anyone can't do what they did...get educated, get a good job, then work "long hours for the love of the software".

        When you're deciding between paying rent, utilities or food, you don't work long hours for the love of the tech.  You work long hours to survive.

        The dirty secret of tech work is that they carefully pay you not enough to retire, but enough to keep you working an extra 20 hours for free every week, with 24x7 availability.     I actually had more time to myself working minimum wage in the early 90s (probably not true today with the crazy 5 hour shift/random timetables of modern retail and warehouse work) than I do now.   It's a trap, it just has a gilded cage.

        I'd much rather be an engineer with wage theft than a minimum wage worker with wage theft.  Done both, thanks.  But had I been paid every hour I worked, with overtime for anything over 40, regardless of any salary increase I might have made with a union, I'd probably have twice the actual wealth I have now and could get that time back with early retirement.

        What I have to look forward to in reality is holding on while my health deteriorates till I'm old enough for an early retirement payout, then 15 years of probably very low paying work, just to try to get a sane schedule back as I get too old and have too many responsibilities to deal with the one I've been living for the last 25 years.

        The "joy of the tech" pales a bit when you start seeing the same old challenges repeating.  After 25 years in the business, I am lucky if I get a glimmer of anything interesting and new one hour in 60.   Most of it is stuff that I've been there, done that, know what success looks like how to get there, and it's just a job like any other getting from point a to point b, with a hell of a lot of communication to make sure everybody else pulls in the same direction.

        •  I don't mean they don't care about money... (0+ / 0-)

          I mean they're engineers because they love technology.  They're geeks, they chose the field because of their passions, not their pocketbooks.

          The comment that they think of themselves as capitalists strikes me as rather bizarre.

  •  UIUC professors not happy about pension cuts. (5+ / 0-)

    Pension reform typo leaves thousands hanging in the balance

    But one unintentional effect the bill had was significantly cutting the retirement benefits of those already eligible to retire if they do not retire by the time the bill goes into effect on July 1.

    On Friday, President Robert Easter and Chancellor Phyllis Wise warned the University Board of Trustees that a mass exodus of faculty and staff prior to July 1 is very much a reality. As a result, Easter said, the University could have trouble finding instructors for all of its courses. Wise said the effect would go beyond the classroom, as the professors retiring would lose grant money and would have their research disrupted.

    Avijit Ghosh, a senior adviser to Easter, said the problem could be easily fixed by the state legislature — all legislators would have to do is rewrite one sentence — but no one seems motivated to fix it.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:36:38 AM PDT

  •  The rightwing, stealthy side of Silicon Valley... (7+ / 0-)

    ...is alive and well; and, one of the few business sectors contributing significantly more to Dems than GOP'ers in 2012. But, at the same time, the sector's led by folks like leading Libertarian voice Peter Thiel and Mark Zuckerberg, a top supporter of none other than Chris Christie, early on.

    TruthOut has an ugly, incisive, reality-based report on Silicon Valley's AstroTurfing...

    Tech Companies Adopt Astroturf to Get Their (Wicked) Way
    By Toshio Meronek , Truthout | News Analysis
    Sunday, 20 April 2014 00:00

        In 2013, the 10 biggest tech companies upped their spending on lobbying by 16 percent over the previous year.

        Companies like Amazon, Google and IBM spent far more than most pharmaceutical firms, the National Rifle Association, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, and others that we tend to associate with trying to control the conversation in Washington DC. And just like these other lobbiers, tech megacorps are casting a lot of their money toward causes that increase social and economic inequality, like pushing for cheaper labor and tax breaks for the richest of the rich.

        To achieve these goals, tech corporations have begun embracing a strategy that is widely known as "astroturfing": Lobbying in a sneaky, roundabout fashion, by setting up their own faux-grassroots organizations. Executives at tech's largest companies, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Microsoft spend millions on lobbying indirectly through nonprofit groups that promote a grassroots image, but are in reality the tentacles of corporate interests that are just trying to forward their own agendas.

        "You see groups all the time that clearly aren't grassroots by what a normal person would assume is grassroots," says Robert Maguire, political nonprofits investigator at the Center for Responsive Politics. But tech companies are recent adopters of the strategy as a public relations tool, and their influence is growing…

        …FWD.us: Militarizing Borders and Slashing Wages…
        …

        ..FWD.us doesn't go out of its way to hide the fact that its controlling members are tech industry billionaires, but you could easily be fooled by its current focus of "building a grassroots movement" of ordinary citizens like you and me to pass immigration reform.

        That sounds benign enough, until you learn more about the type of reform FWD.us is pushing for. The group favors a certain type of immigrant: highly-skilled, foreign tech workers who would be cheaper to hire than their American counterparts. Net effect: lower wages for everyone.

        Before directing its focus on immigration reform, the group had made the mistake of campaigning for the Keystone XL pipeline, which turned out to be somewhat unpopular among many of FWD.us' richest members…

    (On that note, it's nice to see Daily Kos putting their money and influence where their mouth is by supporting incumbent Mike Honda against another primary challenge from Ro Khanna in CA-17! Kudos for that!)

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:37:39 AM PDT

  •  Don't forget the H1-B's -- that depresses wages, (10+ / 0-)

    too.  Why do you think Silicon Valley likes to employ the young and ignore anyone over 40?  So they can pay people less.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:43:27 AM PDT

  •  Not only the non-competition agreements between (0+ / 0-)

    companies not to poach each others employee's its the being on salary, and not getting overtime.  Most of us work 60+hrs week and not getting OT for it.  As a contractor in my former position, I got the OT, the regular employees didn't.

    DBA

    "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

    by doingbusinessas on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:47:07 PM PDT

  •  Watching Elizabeth warren Charlie rose (0+ / 0-)

    we need to force her to run for president

    wall Street Casino is the root of the problem. Don't call them banks.

    by timber on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:47:09 PM PDT

  •  wage violations are endemic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Flying Goat, The Technomancer, jbsoul

    across the spectrum.  I once saw a seminar with a group of labor lawyers.  One, a former Dept of Labor investigator, said that she had never seen an employer that didn't have violations, i.e., wage theft, in one form or another.  

    It must be somewhat state by state, but here in NY, the number of people who don't know that they are statutory hourly employees, and are not paid over time, has to be huge.  I know, I was once one of those people who thought that "salaried" meant I wasn't entitled to OT.  If I knew then…

  •  I'm so not moved (0+ / 0-)

    This is really a reach of a comparison. On the one hand, we have people earning minimal salary, who are denied even those agreed-on meager earnings. This is very clearly theft of wages.

    On the other hand, what the anti-trust case was aimed at was the following. Suppose you're an engineer earning $120K/yr at Apple. Google figures it's easier to get good engineers after Apple HR has reviewed and interviewed them, so instead of going through a mountain of their own applications they cold-call the Apple engineer, and offer a higher salary, say $140K. Apple get annoyed, but they can't legally prevent that, and they do the same when they can, so they collude with the other big companies not to do that to each other. Such a collusion is illegal, hence the antitrust case.

    No one is preventing these highly-paid people from going and applying someplace else and using their current salaries as leverage, but technically, their climb up the ladder of selling themselves to the highest bidder would be slightly slower under the collusion in question. This is not wage theft by any means, not comparable even to the common practice of having software people regularly work overtime without additional pay.

    The hugest fish are of course feeding on the merely big fish, but these software engineers are driving gentrification and displacement all over the bay area, and I can't feel too sorry for them over this particular point.

  •  One word: UNION (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jbsoul

    In my imaginary world, the people who make the machines run, form a union. A Guild. A fucking Thing.

    Because.

    In numbers there is strength.

    Some truths are universal.

    When the latest Heartbleed bug appeared, I was astonished to learn that ONE GUY was barely paid to run the show on SSL. I am so naive. Of course there is one underpaid guy. Of fucking course. And the latest announcement is that the heavies like Google and Apple and Microsoft will contribute $100K a year to secure online transactions.

    Really? Not a million or two or three?

    I, for one, say "fuck you" to our new corporate overlords. I would quote from "Young Frankenstein" about now, but the words would incite a riot, of which would be long overdue. So, fucking magnets, bitches.

  •  I have done both -- fast food and programming (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jbsoul

    My second job in high school (first was working in a greenhouse) was in fast food. I currently work as a programmer. In between I've worked on assembly lines, as a car washer, as a furniture mover, in another greenhouse or two, and a ton of other things while doing temp work.

    I have major respect for anyone who does any of those jobs, or anything like them. The person working the drive-thru is just as important to the universe IMO as me or anyone else doing their work, and doing it well despite their situation.

    One of the reasons for my respect is I've seen people get screwed at all levels, from janitors to CEOs (who can get royally messed up by venture capital firms if they don't play their cards right). It's happened to me too -- missed paychecks, skimping on hours, and a whole host of other fun employer practices. And that's just what I've encountered as a programmer. I've seen far worse in the other jobs I've worked.

    Lately I've been dealing with someone who squeezes every employee to within an inch of their life by being passive-aggressive and generally pushing well beyond sane time periods for software development. My final straw came when this person started missing paychecks and was very cagey about whether or not there was enough money to pay anyone who was actually doing the work.

    A union could do far more than just negotiate salary and benefits. Personally as a software engineer I'd like to see honesty from employers about their ability to pay. My guess is this is fairly wide-spread in my industry (software development generally, and start-ups specifically), and having an organization backing you up and demanding transparency when it comes to pay would be very useful. IMO it should be illegal for someone to withhold information about finances when that information would, basically, indicate that you're now working for free. For instance, I envision a union negotiating concessions like escrow accounts for paychecks that can be viewed by both employer and employee so everyone knows when the "end" is near and can find work accordingly. That would also make it easier when you transition to the next job -- I can explain my situation to prospective employers, but having the facts would go a long way towards removing the "he said, she said" stigma that can follow someone who left a company because they ran out of money.

    It is generally illegal to withhold pay, but why not also bargain for the right to know in advance when the money is going to run out? Why not have an organization that can negotiate sane working hours for employees? In my experience stock options are almost always worthless, so I negotiate for salary and benefits. One of those benefits is working normal hours so I can be a parent and a normal human being outside of work.  

    So, if someone came up to me tomorrow and  said "we would like to help you achieve these goals by forming a union", I would emphatically say "yes".

    •  Also, challenging the programmer work stereotype (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMScott

      A boss I had recently was commenting on an employee in another company who was working over the weekend. Then, just to be really awesome about it, this boss said "I wish I had an employee who was that dedicated".

      Dedication is not function of hours worked in a week. That is a stereotype, pushed sometimes by other programmers who feel awesome when they work more than 40 hours a week. I think it's fine for them to do that if they choose, but there are others who don't work that way, including me. I don't think anyone should have to work that way just because person A down the street works that way. Besides, programming IMO is 90% mental activity and 10% typing. I can be just as awesome in 40 hours over two weeks as anyone who puts in 80 hours in a single week.

      One of the first things I tell a potential employer is I expect 40 hour weeks, and if they have a problem with that then I'm happy to work someplace else. If a company is willing to work that way, then that's someone I generally want to work for (unless they say that to your face and then expect 70 hours, which happens all too often).

      Anyways, I'm glad long weeks work for some people. But I disagree strongly with the idea that this is how every programmer "should" work, because not all of us do.

  •  a weird conversation I had (0+ / 0-)

    One day at work, a co-worker was complaining about the work ethics (or lack thereof) of one of the temps. She them mysteriously pivoted to a diatribe against public worker unions. Without any evidence. As if the temp worker were a union member.

    It left me dumbfounded.

  •  How they do it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wylieSteve

    Yes, as a IT geek, I make more than the average worker. But I think EVERYONE in the US who isn't making more than $500,000 a year is getting shafted. Why? Because the 1% and the .01% are taking a bigger and bigger slice of the pie and they aren't sharing while making the claim that the millions of us that actually DO the work add nothing to the bottom line. BS! I don't care if you are a janitor (and I was one before I went to college) or a manager, that is just plain unadulterated BS! You are worth more to the company than they want you to know.
    But the trade agreements that were made in the 80s have suppressed my wages. I am making $12,000 a year less than I was making 8 years ago. The pressure from outsourcing the jobs to India has forced programmers to go without pay raises for years (I haven't seen one in over 5 years). But yet, we programmers bought houses back when we thought we would continue to get raises and have seen inflation eat away at our income to the point where the mortgage and health care keeps taking a bigger and bigger bite out of the bottom line and we feel it too. I don't mean to sound callous, because I also realize that I have it a whole lot better than most people. But I am also cognizant that those that aren't making as much as I am SHOULD be making a lot more. There has always been a discrepancy in the wages between different  professions because they require different skill sets. I will fight to have your wages raised even if you don't want to fight to have mine raised. Why? Because it is the morally correct thing to do.
    Look at some of the comments on here. If they can get people to fight over the fact that one person makes $20,000 more than another, they WIN!!! How do they win? It's called 'Divide and Conquer'. Remember that the rich keep playing the magician game (watch what I'm doing with my left hand while I rob you of your watch with my right hand). It is time to see past these petty differences and rise up as a single entity to fight for our right to share in what we produce and how much that enriches the 1%.

  •  What about the hardware engineers? (0+ / 0-)

    Intel & Apple are both primarily hardware companies.

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