IT Employment

Why programmers are not subject to protective labor laws

There are a large number of underhanded and often illegal labor practices in the software development industry, and the abuse of "contractual" workers is amongst the most prevalent.

One of my readers wrote in to me with the following message:

Would you study and write about why programmers are not subject to the protective labor laws of society? When and how did the term salaried become coequal with slave?  Look at the change in contracting laws where independent programmers were not accepted by corporations and the middlemen got the profit and the programmers got to be salary-slaves.

I asked Justin James, our Programming and Development blogger, if he would like to take a crack at covering this topic. He gladly agreed. Here is what Justin had to say:

There are a large number of underhanded and often illegal labor practices in the software development industry, and the abuse of "contractual" workers is amongst the most prevalent.

Before we go any further, please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, and none of this is intended to be treated as legal advice. I'm just telling you about my personal experiences and directing you to information that I found on government Web sites.

Here is a small sample of these kinds of abusive relationships that I have personally experienced or witnessed:

  • H-1B visa mills (think: "puppy mills" with immigrant workers instead of dogs) that lure workers to the United States, and then hold the requirement of employment over their heads to force them to work for sub-par wages and often in illegal circumstances.
  • Staffing agencies getting paid by the hour, but paying their workers on a salary and forcing them to work grueling hours.
  • The old "comp time" ruse where hourly workers are not being paid overtime wages as required by law, but instead granted comp time. While this would normally be legal, everyone knows that the comp time will never be taken due to the demands of the project, so the worker is effectively working for free.
  • Being told by the client that overtime is mandatory, but the contract agency then rejects the timesheet and claims that the overtime "was not authorized."
  • Laying off swaths of long-term employees because an "outside vendor" was brought in to do the work. During the exit interviews, they were told that they could be hired by the outside vendor to do their old job, but they'd take a deep pay cut, lose all time accrued, receive inferior benefits, and no longer be able to move up in the ranks unless they were "converted" to employee again. The kicker? The "outside vendor" was owned by the company!

Disgusting, isn't it? The ones who victimize immigrant workers are the ones who burn me the most, because those workers often have families counting on them, have dreamed of coming to the United States for ages, are not aware of the laws, have few friends or family ties to fall back on, possibly have communication barriers, and may even be happy with the arrangement in comparison to their previous circumstances.

But even for U.S.-born programmers, we too often do not know our rights. Or when we do, we find it easier to just sneak out the back door and find another job than to bother going through the work to find some justice. For example, nearly every developer I know is under the assumption that programming is always going to be exempt from overtime laws. Well, that's not entirely true. Here are a few examples of software developers actually getting overtime pay:

As you can see, this is fairly endemic. And, more importantly, justice is achievable. How do you really know if you are entitled to overtime? Well, it is not so cut-and-dried as one would hope. The key lies in your responsibilities and, partially, your compensation levels. The IRS divides this decision into three categories:

  • "Behavior Control" - Can the business tell you how to do your job?
  • "Financial Control" - Does the business control how you can make your money or business decisions?
  • Type of relationship - How does this relationship exist on paper and in reality?

In addition to considering workers "independent contractors," there exists a particular attitude in many companies that a salaried employee must be at the employer's beck and call. First, a bit of clarification around the word "salary." A "salary" simply means that you get paid the same amount each week, and it has no bearing on whether or not you are truly eligible for overtime pay. If you are not eligible for overtime pay, then you are an "exempt" employee. It is possible to be paid on an hourly basis and be "exempt," and it is possible to be on a salary and not be "exempt."

All the same, many software developers are being classified as "exempt" illegally! Check out this sentence from the Department of Labor's guidelines for technology workers: "Technologists and technicians do not meet these requirements for the learned professional exemption because they do not work in occupations that have attained recognized professional status, which requires that an advanced specialized academic degree is a standard prerequisite for entrance into the profession."

Unfortunately, there are no regulations (that I can find, at least) covering whether you can be forced to work in excess of a standard workweek. That being said, in my experience, the best defense against this kind of abuse is to work to become classified as a "nonexempt" employee; when the boss (and the accountant) realizes that you took home a paycheck bigger than his boss' paycheck because he forced you to work a 60 hour workweek, you can bet that it will end!

For more information, you'll want to check out the following IRS and Department of Labor pages:

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

301 comments
kandyass
kandyass

Next time you hear someone say that labor day or MLK birthday are stupid holidays I want you guys to think about this. People died to for the 40 hour work week, and other rights we take for granted or voluntarily wave. In the capital vs labor conflict, you would not believe how low the bosses will stoop to protect their shenanigans. Just google "labor massacre" they don't tell you about these things in school but its real. The most recent one I know of was in Greensboro NC 1979, where the Klan was commissioned to whack a group of organizers. They did it in front of TV cameras and were found not guilty in criminal court. Currently, small groups, or lone assassins will either execute or "disappear" key people to protect capital interests to maintain a cleaner public image for the companies involved. Remember, what you let the bosses get away with today because they will always want to see economic growth in the future, even if it only comes out of your hide. (;poleved uoy ffuts eht ni sroodkcab tup

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

Could the threat of workers organizing and striking for fair labor practices change corporate behavior towards IT employees?

kpthottam
kpthottam

I was on a H1B for 5 years and was among the lucky few who wasn't abused. However most other H1B holders who I knew worked long hours and were never paid over time. let me explain why these guys (rarely gals) end up tolerating this abuse - The immigration laws are designed to entrap the employee , here are couple of examples - 1. The work visa clearly states at the end of employment the visa holder must immediately return to their country of origin. Meaning you must catch the night flight out of the country. Are you ready to uproot your family the very evening you lose your job? Note: there have been a couple of cases where the immigration judge allowed for up to 20 days after ending of employment but few know about this and hence are intimidated by this provision. 2. If you want to transfer from a non-immigrant to an immigrant visa , it is the company that must apply for it. Once the green card process is started , if you leave that employer, the next employer`s green card processing re-starts from the beginning. Given that the average processing time is 5-8 years, who would want to under go the wait once again by changing job? Thus H1Bs are enslaved by the corporate lobbyists who got these rules put in place as the nation's laws. This is a strike prevention system , forget about about the old strike breaking laws, a new way of repealing the 'Roosevelt new deal'

CodemasterPrime
CodemasterPrime

I'm a Director although my bosses micromanage me enough that I could make the argument I'm not. (I hire and fire, but every decision is vetted by them first). Recently, we lost a person at the office that was doing part time IT work (about 3 hours a day). Instead of hiring someone, they essentially had me take on the helpdesk type work, because "We can't keep someone fully employed if it's only 3 hours scheduled per day". (My plan for the rest of the time was have them do proactive work, like check the virus infection notifications). Aside from the silliness of figuring out what a help desk persons daily schedule is (I know how to estimate but they actually want bugs scheduled in advance), this means that I get to work 3 hours a day more to cover this job of course. No overtime because "I'm management." So ... I contacted a labor lawyer. As I make a pretty good salary, their opinion was that although I would be eligible for overtime, no Jury would convict, so they wouldn't take the case. It's the same in almost every programming field. We force our employees and contractors both to put down 8 hours a day and frequently work then 16+ when GoLive comes close. Standard practice, no overtime. "They should be happy to have a job in today's economy." I do get overtime for the DBA's that work for me, however. Recently one of my DBA's was asked to estimate installing a product we'd never used before. We swagged it at 40 hours; it took closer to 80. Management decided that the employee gets to not get overtime for those extra 40 hours because 'they should have known'. This was work for hire, not an independent contractors assessment. There really needs to be a programmers/IT workers union.

jck
jck

I work in government. I have a good friend who works for the Canadian government. We are both programmers, have the same job duties (well, I have more...since I also do low-level DB admin/maintenance stuff too), etc. - He makes more than me by about 50%. We figured out part of this is because of higher taxes in Canada. But, he as a government worker is still paid more overall. - We are both salary. Yet, he is eligible for overtime pay even though he is salary. I am not. I can only get additional pay if I assume duties of another job. I just find it ironic that things are able to function in Canada whilst they pay more and give overtime to salaried personnel, while at the same time here they say that if employers had to do such that the system would be doomed. Oh well. I just thought it funny.

msaradhi
msaradhi

True that some of the pointers raised by this discussion. While I have not directly discussed this issue, I had dealt a host of issues surrounding 'Software Development' through my paper 'Software Engineering From A Practical Perspective' published in ACM-Software Engineering Notes around 1992. One of my ex-supervisor having read that commented to me that it was a 'tongue in cheek' outburst and also wondered that would buyers pay more money realising these difficulties of the developers. If anyone wants to read and have no access to Association of Computing Machinery site, I can forward a pdf copy. :) Saradhi, msaradhi@yahoo.com

textilesinfomediarydotcom
textilesinfomediarydotcom

Textilesinfomediary believes that all those programmer who think that they are underpaid have freedom to exit. So matter of exploitation does not arise. They are well educated guys and know their limit.

Drroogh
Drroogh

Overtime is not the only issue, what burns me the most is the Intellectual Property agreements that professionals are forced to sign, effectively turning them into intellectual slave labor. I'm not a programmer but a designer but the intellectual property issue is still the same. For instance I was part of a design team that created a now patented product back in 2003, it is still selling in Walmart and others at a premium price because of the patent. What did we get as the designers beside a pat on the back? They shut the plant down and told me see ya sucker! Who reaped the benefits of the design, the managers on bonus programs and the sales force on commission did!!!

Pat9008
Pat9008

The independent attitude of programmers and analysts makes it hard to form organizations. And the management and corporate directors love to take advantage of it. Most IT "professionals" prefer to think that their intelligence and skills will guarantee that they will be treated fairly. We now see that does not work out too well. When the standards are being set at the Labor departments or in the Congress and the state legislatures, the corporations and the business groups always show up and lobby for what works for them. And for the average IT workers, who shows up? Nobody. Thus we get all the H1-B quotas. And all the lovely exemptions on the job categories. And the push to ignore 40 hours/week standards. I thought that when I worked as a contractor that it was at least a reasonably honest arrangement. I did not worry about time-and-a-half. I worked for straight time. If I needed to put in an extra 5 or 10 hours a week, fine. It went on the time sheet. If they did not want to pay for it, I didn't stay late. Oh I'd donate a couple of hours but that was it. The attitude that if you don't like it, quit and go somewhere else, does not work. Not if almost all employers are doing the same thing. But a lot of other office workers are getting treated like this as well. It's interesting that the people out on the shop floor do NOT get treated that way. Even in anti-union states like here in Arizona.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I was in a union at one time and won't trade being a free agent for anything. Everything from pay to working conditions are better now. Let me give you an example: I was tired of everyone getting the same pay, a common issue with unions. I was busting my butt and the slackers were making the same amount of money for less work. All that justification like its good for the soul crap wears thin after awhile. Then there is all the stupid rules like No bonehead you have to wear safety glasses while grinding metal. Union meetings that go on forever about trivia and whining. I could go on but each point would lead to the same place. The day of unions is over as it is with industrialization. We are post union and post industrial for better or worse. GET OVER IT! If you don't like how you are being paid or treated leave. If you can't get the situation you want retrain for a job where they kiss your butt because you are a rare commodity. Grow some guts and learn to negotiate and stand up for yourself. Of course with the growth of the state you could go work for nanny government and get a union and a supervisor to wipe your runny nose. However, if you want to be a gutless, directionless, sniveling victim more power to you. THAT LEAVES MORE FOR ME, YaHoo!

davidm_95758
davidm_95758

A few years ago, California changed labor classifications for programmers earning less than $85k/year as a mandatory non-exempt position. Programmers earning less than $85k can only be classified as exempt if they have three or more direct reports (supervisor/manager).

fmartin
fmartin

Don't complain, in Mexico a programmer is earning about USD$400 by month an the schedule is from 9 to 18 6 days per week

randal.evans
randal.evans

Back in 1991, an amendment was made to the labor act passed that year to exempt programmers who were paid at least 6.5 time minimum wage. There was also a salary level set around $57,000 for those paid on a salary basis. This was an attempt to deal with the fact that some of the IT employees should have a professional classification and would be exempted from OT. Especially those who were being well paid.

C
C

Why does a high school drop-out who works on an assembly line make more than someone with college or university? They are represented by a powerful political voice. We have the keys to the kingdom. Why should we be abused? How many of us truly believe we are being treated with fairly? I propose we form the "International Brotherhood of Data Shepherds"! Who's with me?!

steved45
steved45

It is globalization and it benefits the few not the many. Our trade and tax laws applying to trade were written by global lobbyists what more can you expect. This is one of the things trashing this economy and killing the middle class. The president ran on the platform of bringing jobs back to the US - not happening - nor is there any slowdown of visa work or offshoring. In face its increasing. http://www.madnamerica.com

chas_2
chas_2

Well, this sounds exactly like why companies would turn to outsourcing in the first place - to avoid treaing I-T professionals with the dignity and respect they reserve. I guess they figure that running to India and getting workers on the cheap excuses the company bosses from treating them like humans. And, as the article points out, if such foreign workers aren't familiar with the laws and legal relief solutions in the U.S., more's the worse for them. I'm really beginning to think the corporation - the concept of the board of directors issuing stock and such, in order to control company operations - has been one of the main reasons American I-T workers (as well as in other industries) have been treated so poorly. The "corporation" itself is an entity, but it's not a person. When the U.S. was conceived in 1776, there was no such thing as a corporation; the closest thing we had were guilds for various crafts. Things began to change in business when the corporation was invented. This is not to say that sole proprietorships don't have their own problems, though. Anyone who's worked for a "family business" can attest to that. But the sort of egregious abuses of fair labor practices almost always fall at the feet of incorporated places and the I-T industry is lousy with such organizations.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

The fact that illegal workers are used to lower the ceiling for domestic programmers. One of the tactics that I care far more about is that companies will hire foreign labour, do precisely what you've stated, after turning down dozens of qualified domestic candidates, simply so they can justify paying their workers less.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

The IT field in Richmond, VA has converted to 99% contract positions. To set the stage for this environment, nearly every company has a "drug test" as a prerequisite for an interview. This invasive, ritual humiliation has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual position in 99.9% of cases -- people in IT don't fly airplanes, and there are very few IT positions in Richmond which require a Secret or Top Secret security clearance. The ONLY purpose for this pre-employment humiliation is to establish right off the bat that the employer can and will ask the developer or system administrator to debase herself, and the developer or system administrator will comply. It is disgusting, it is endemic, and it needs to be made illegal.

Galdekot
Galdekot

What alot of managers do not understand is, there are only so many productive mental hours in any given day. Much like how truck drivers are not supposed to drive more than eight hours at a time. I've been programming for twenty-five years and have learned one thing very well, after about eight hours of solid concentration, what starts to come out often needs to be fixed the next day. Employers should pay well and demand much, then send everybody home after eight hard worked hours. Problem solved!

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

The UK government has come up with a new twist to screw contractors... When their contract comes up for renewal, they offer them the 'option' (vee make you an offer you can't refuse kind...) of signing up as a 'fixed term employee' or being replaced by one. If anyone hasn't heard of it, it goes like this: - You aren't a contractor. - The department hires you as an 'employee'. - You are PAID as an employee -- ie. LESS than 50% of your normal contractor rate for doing that particular job. - However, you don't actually have any entitlement to ANY of the 'normal' government employee benefits. - And you don't really have a 'full time job' because you're fired the moment the fixed term ends. - And you DON'T get any of the normal severence benefits that REAL employees would get. Great scam -- get high-priced contractors for less than 50% of their normal rate and give nothing in return. Sounds like a dream come true for a lot of companies.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

who pay enforces to ensure workers do what the union want, regardless of what's good for the workers or the country. One thing that did the unions a lot of damage here in Australia is when the most militant union, the dock workers union, went out on strike early in WW2 in support of pay rise for hazard pay while they sat in the pub and watched the Army load munitions because the union wouldn't let them touch explosives, but they had to have danger money because explosives were being loaded - without the union workers being on hand. Their attitude was "Screw the troops fighting for their lives, we want more beer money and exercise our union muscle." Over the years I've had more trouble with union organisers violating my rights as a citizen and a worker, than I've had incidents with employers violating my rights. Talking of assassinations - where's Jimmy Hoffa, and who made him vanish? What we need is a middle ground, but with some unions and some bosses doing all they can to make people move to one end or the other, we got big troubles.

Questor1
Questor1

The real problem is that programmers and other IT workers do not organize to solve labor concerns. Unions have received bad publicity (some needed, some not deserved) that has formed a negative impression in the minds of workers. Companies fear unions and often threaten to close plants & offices or move work to different cities or countries whhile threatening workers in this supposed global economy. Whether a IT worker is H1-b/L-1, exempt employee, non-exempt employee, or a contract worker - there needs to be a new way to organize workers. While the Internet has greatly improved direct and anonymous communications between people, it has reduced the need for IT workers to join as a group in one place to work or to organize. Unions no longer seem to be the answer for labor problems since they are experiencing declining membership. However, what is the best answer to allow workers to organize and have business management address their group concerns about labor problems?

jkameleon
jkameleon

He declined when he learned the details you've described. His comment: "All in all, I'd make more money, but not substantially more. The main problem is, that I could be deported any moment by practically anyone. A street cop wouldn't like your face, and I'd be kicked out. Fuck that!"

jk2001
jk2001

Any IT organization for workers should include H1-Bs as members.

gardoglee
gardoglee

I have read that most western European countries have various benefits, like paid vacation the day you start work and medical coverage for all which American companies say would destroy them. At the same time European companies seem to be able to compete very effectively with American companies. I'd be curious whether anyone from Europe, Australia or elsewhere could comment on how their situation compares with how you described yours.

yattwood
yattwood

As many cogent posters have noted, the current economic situation in which the prevailing management mantra is "Be Glad You Still _Have_ A Job" will not help IT workers. What needs to happen is a groundwell of protest from _end_users_, the people who actually _fund_ IT budgets. I am beginning to hear rumblings in my company - for years, the database standard was Oracle or SQL Server; all of a sudden a large project was started using _DB2_ (which none of the current DBA's were experienced with), so naturally, here came the contractors, 99 44/100% from India. There has been more "sturm und drang" than I've heard in many a year - complaints about the teams, the work produced, the _re-work_ that the _existing_ staff has to correct, the amount of changes pushed through as "emergencies", etc. End-users need to look at the REAL costs of a project in terms of staffing - the quality, types of people, ability to be understood, ability to work with others AS WELL AS technical qualifications - using "low-cost" offshore people often costs MORE in the end, through re-work, increased maintenance and support costs

nfhiggs
nfhiggs

"Then there is all the stupid rules like No bonehead you have to wear safety glasses while grinding metal. " You actually think this is a stupid rule????

CodemasterPrime
CodemasterPrime

I would agree, although I think we need a better name :) There are too many laws on the books that make this exploitation legal. Going elsewhere isn't a solution. Frankly, as an IT specialist, I understand long hours. Systems don't decide to break down on reasonable hours. This doesn't mean that comp time and overtime isn't valid, however. As a programmer I prefer working long hours once I'm on a roll. Getting Friday's off would be nice, however. As a pro

Galdekot
Galdekot

This simply isn't true. Infact the pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower were all a part of a corporation. The concept of the corporation was not invented by the U.S. and certainly not during the period the U.S has been around. Ever notice that all cities and towns across the U.S are incorporated.

jkameleon
jkameleon

I'm used to be judged by my work, not my urine.

darpoke
darpoke

sensible thing I think I've read in this protracted discussion. Extremism and fundamentalism are the most damaging attitudes in today's society. The world needs to grow up and realise that few issues, if any, boil down to a simple dichotomy of 'right and wrong' or 'them and us'. Compromise and empathy are the characteristics of a mature and reasonable mindset. It means never bending over backwards and sacrificing all your needs on an issue - and never asking anyone else to do the same. Instead we waste our time with the most powerful people and groups expending all their energy to ensure that whoever they have aligned themselves against has to make all the sacrifices. Kids are raised being told that there are two kinds of people in the world, they believe it - and that's exactly what the world becomes. Talk about a retarded social consciousness.

groffg
groffg

Laws that unduly "protect" workers--including unions, implicitly state-supported constructs--may very well alter the behavior of employers in such a way that confers benefit to employees. However, the risk in this approach is that, taken too far (easily done by government), capital expenditure toward this sector of the economy decreases due to higher cost of doing business. There is no free lunch in economics. We've all heard that expression--well, most of us--and IT is no magic exception to this rule. Raise the cost of doing business directly or indirectly and business will stagnate. If the US were to go this route, we would seal our fate as a second-class IT power-house, making the software sector the new "rust belt" (not overnight, but over time). Pray that state-supported "protection" does not relegate us to this avoidable fate.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

but still, the way the laws are now, they'd have no incentive to join w/o some protection from companies waving that law around as a club against the H1b holders.

jck
jck

He gets weeks of paid time off, including 2-3 weeks in the summer his firm gives him for family travel. As well, he gets a "bonus" and he's an engineer not management or executive. It seems that companies (and the law) in Europe seem more oriented toward labor. I know a lot of European companies take large amounts spent that would be spent on executive bonuses and stock purchases for executives here, and turn them into something that gives their employees nice things to make their personal life better. I, like you, would like to hear more about how workers on other continents are treated, what their work conditions are like, what kind of things they are given...so that we can compare ours and see how fortunate or mistreated we really are.

dickgoodwin2003
dickgoodwin2003

My own experience working with offshore contractors is that while most of them are very nice, hard workers, and highly educated, they mostly can't invent anything or create anything useful. All they can do is follow orders, and sometimes not all that well due to language problems. If you need creativity and inventiveness, you can't beat home grown talent. At least one company I have heard of gave up totally on a 100% offshore developed software project, and threw it out, fired all contractors, and started the project all over with local talent. It was a first class disaster. Goes to show you -- even Harvard MBAs can learn something once in a while.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

a manufacturer near where I live has a plant, and within the last few years has moved most of its production south of the border to Mexico. From what I understand the defect rate of the plant near me was 20%, sounds kinda high, but it gets worse... the new production from Mexico, with its cheaper labor DOUBLED that defect rate, and made it 40%... I guess warranty claims and factory rejections on final products aren't calculated in the costs, but is treated as a "blind" and "blanket" coverage... Who knows if any of that budget gets sucked off elsewhere either. (After Enron, it wouldn't surprise me IF some company was guilty of this.)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But when the financial analysis is performed quarter-to-quarter, there's no incentive to look long-term. That lesson has yet to be re-learned...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

He won't have to fake the "Blind" part of his blues name. ?Make Your Own Blues Name? Starter Kit: a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Melon, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

jk2001
jk2001

We need a clause in our contract that allows us to optionally work a couple long days and take Friday off at our discretion. Maybe something like: we'd give 24 hours notice, and get approval, before possible upcoming long days during a defined period, and "clock in and clock out" for the entire period of work. Hours would be limited to 40 per week, and comp time to be taken on Friday or Monday. That's kind of what I do now - I say that I'm going to have to take comp time because I have to do some weekend work.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

I think he meant that the corporation, as we know it today, wasn't around in 1776. The corporation then, had a limited, finite, life which expired when the project/goals of the corporation were met.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Questor, were I you -- I'd start checking my facts before making foolish statements. As for you saying I was talking about UK unions, I was not. I was talking about NORTH AMERICAN unions -- and yes, I do happen to know about them because I lived the first 40 years of my life in Canada AND the USA. (I hold Canadian and UK citizenship and am going for my THIRD next year -- as if that makes any difference whatsoever.) Certainly, those people who have any drive, ambition and high-level skills whatsoever wouldn't touch a union with a barge pole -- they don't want to be HELD BACK -- either financially or career-wise. Unions cater to the 'lifer' -- the person who wants to start at the bottom, work their way up, take annual increments and stay with the same job until retirement and a pension kick in. That may have worked in the 1960's, but not today. If you think I was 'attacking' you -- go and read the post again. I was talking GENERALLY about the unionists. Go read again. As for other statements about me never having worked on large IT projects, etc. Wrong again. I've designed some of the largest systems with some of the largest teams in Europe. As for having no experience being in a US union -- absolutely right. (I don't have to get hit by a bus to know that it is a stupid idea to stand in front of one either.) I HAVE been on the 'service end' enough times to know how little pride these people take in their jobs. I've stood at the counter to have it slammed closed the SECOND the clock struck 5. I stick by my main points: 1. Unions hold businesses hostage by: - Preventing them from firing lazy, bad workers. - By forcing them to hire lazy, bad workers BECAUSE they are union members. - By forcing them to KEEP bad workers and fire good workers -- just because the bad workers have more 'seniority'. - By forcing them to pay ever higher and higher salaries while giving more and more concessions, reductions in the work itself and increasing benefits. - By forcing employers to pay the union-dictated wages -- rather than what the MARKET or WORK determines what the job is worth. - By promoting bad/lazy work habits because employees KNOW that they can never be fired or gotten rid of. (Why work hard or have high standards of quality when it doesn't matter anyway?) The ONLY people who benefit from unions are the union leadership (who pay themselves EXTREMELY well), and the slack and idle workers who get the jobs for life and the fat pension at the end of it. Unfortunately, the result of unionization is very clear and often demonstrated. Private businesses are driven into bankruptcy -- EVERYONE loses their job and everyone who invested in the company loses their money. Public organizations fare better -- they survive from public funds (your taxes) regardless of inefficiency or incompetence. Sounds like a lose-lose proposition to me. As for what YOUR job is 'worth' -- the simple truth is that it is worth ONLY what the MARKET determines it is worth -- not one penny more. IT work USED to be worth big bucks because: 1. Not many people were capable of doing it. 2. You had to 'be there' to do it. Both of these market value drivers have completely vanished. Many IT jobs are now the kind of work can be done anywhere in the world. Should it be any surprise to discover that the VALUE of the work has started to level-out by global competition? Of course, this goes completely counter to the unionist attitude, "I've been programmer (or what have you) for the past 10 years so I DESERVE $$$$ per hour." The wake-up call is that NO YOU ARE NOT -- you are not 'worth' ANYTHING. It is YOUR WORK that is worth something and ONLY what the MARKET says it is worth. Nobody on the planet gives a fig fart whether you earned $1,000 per month or $10,000 per month on your last job. Employers want to know how you solve THEIR PROBLEM -- TODAY. (And if their problem CAN be solved for $10 per hour from some guy in India -- so be it. That's your competition and that is the market. Period.) When I was an employee at IT shops in Canada, part of my compensation was based on overall company performance and personal performance as defined by annual review and objectives. As a contractor, my VALUE in the market is determined solely by my knowledge, skills and experience -- as related to the NEEDS of the CLIENT. It doesn't matter whether I'm short, bald, fat, skinny or over 70 years old or whether I have some form of 'seniority' -- what MATTERS is whether or not I can satisfy the client's needs. Even as an employee, this meant that some days I could go home early, but other days I'd be there overnight -- along with a lot of other people. There would be cars in the parking lot 24/7. We worked hard -- we were rewarded for our efforts. Nobody held a gun to our heads -- we had the CHOICE of whether or not we wanted to work harder to make more money. Unions want more money WITHOUT harder work. Big difference. Unionization strips employees of the will to do anything more than the absolute bare minimum -- demanding more money and benefits for less and less work. It is an UNSUSTAINABLE model and explains quite well why fewer and fewer hard goods are manufactured in the US anymore and all the jobs are flowing to China and elsewhere. People are NOT willing to pay 3 or 4 times the price for the little "Made in America" sticker anymore. Not for hard goods, and not for software and services. Nor should they. I work my a$$ off every day of the week (including weekends) -- but I have the CHOICE of how much or how little I work based on how much or how little I want to make. I have the choice of whether or not to study, learn, take exams and increase my value -- or to slack off and laze around watching my skills become obsolete and my value decrease to nothing. I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but I happen to like having choice. If I work my butt off for a year and can take two months off to do nothing but go flying, spend with my family or buy another aircraft -- that's fine with me. What I CAN say is that I LOVE getting up in the morning to start work. I love the work, I love being able to set my own hours and do some of the biggest, most challenging and most interesting projects ever. Every day is a learning experience and the kind of hard work that gives great satisfaction from being able to accomplish important things. How many people in the union can say that?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

First, for what it's worth, I read Marty's post as using the generic "you," not the specific "you." Of course, I am not emotionally invested in it, either. Second, the history of unions in Great Britain is quite different from the history of unions in the US. British unions have almost literally shut down the country to get their way; the closest thing to that that I have seen in the US is what I suspect will soon be happening at Ford. Brits are entitled to feel the way they do about unions; unions there have done much worse than even the Teamsters or UAW. From the tone of both your posts, I think you will enjoy this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdOCWUgwiWs

Questor1
Questor1

This response regards rude comments just made by "Marty R. Milette", a Leeds, England IT Contractor who declares he knows how all Unions work in the USA and the world - even though I doubt he has ever worked in the USA. It is amazing that Marty's comments are so negative and that he attempts to apply his "one narrow view fits all world problems" approach. As a Brit citizen who seems to think he has a solution for all IT problems, Marty should "walk the walk, before he talks the talk." The ivory tower that he seems to live does not give him a world view on real-world problems - including IT worker concerns in the USA. Marty's personal attack on me in this forum shows just how prejudiced and condescending his ideas are. I am not an out of date IT "floor sweeper" as he implies. Since I have been in IT in the USA for 25+ years I have earned 3 college degrees, Novell and Microsoft MCSE certifications and worked at computer programming, tech support, and managerial positions. I am up to date on all IT certifications. Marty's apparent attitude problems and abrasive nature would cause him to have problems earning any IT job here in the USA. He sounds like a "lone wolf" contractor who has real problems working with other IT workers on large IT projects. I doubt Marty has worked in a large company as an IT employee where unions are needed to protect employee legal rights. I have worked in IT operations at two companies that were later accused by the US Federal government of unsafe working conditions. These manufacturing companies illegally allowed cancer-causing chemicals into the air and did not protect their own employees. Several employees died, including a Vice-President of Operations, after long-term exposure to these hazardous c0onditions and eventually resulted in class-action lawsuits being filed against the company. Unions tried to get employees to allow the unions to negotiate on their behalf, but the companies threatened to shut down operations if the unions succeeded. One union local did form, but the company soon moved work to another plant. The US government only stepped in after the class action lawsuits were filed and did not protect employees, including IT workers. Marty's assertions that all unions are worthless has no merit or basis in fact. He has no standing to claim this because he has never belonged to a union in the USA, and never worked in the USA where 20% of IT jobs have moved to other countries mainly influenced by short-term low wages over the past 10 years. I live in a city where 2 large offshore outsourcing companies relocated their USA headquarters and experienced IT jobs drying up, jobs given to low wage H1-b and L-1 visa workers, and illegal hiring preferences given to younger workers over older workers. I have "walked the walk" and seen first hand how union representation can and has benefitted IT workers abused by these and other company-imposed abuses. If a business refuses unions or cannot afford unions that protect worker rights, then that company does not deserve to be in business - regardless of their cost-cutting efforts.

yattwood
yattwood

When I worked for Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) as a clerk, it was a closed shop and I _had_ to join the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC). I was subjected to the most nit-picking rules, and I was not treated very well. Working as a Crew Dispatcher for both Conrail and Amtrak, I had to wade through the labyrinth of union work rules that guided train crews. In the early 1980's, I became what was called "Non-Agreement", I was trained as a programmer (COBOL/CICS/DL/1), and my work environment improved _immensely_ - I was treated like a sentient human being, with the understanding that as long as I did my job, nobody was going to micromanage the time I spent in the office. Yes, there were days I left early, and there were days I worked long into the night - that was understood. Being a 1958 Baby (do the math ;-) ) I've gone from MVS/TSO/JCL/CICS/IMS to Oracle/UNIX (I had to learn Oracle because the DBA that did it left, and the manuals were left on my desk, and I was told, "install this on a NCR UNIX server!" - didn't know Oracle, didn't know UNIX, but I learned) to Windows/SQL Server to DB2/AIX. I'm a poor test taker, so I don't do well on certification exams; however, I have come though in clutch times (often at 2AM) to recover someone's Oracle database or operating system (you haven't lived until you've replaced a disk drive on an old 700 Series HP-UX workstation and reinstalled the OS and applications), because I know how to use MetaLink, the Internet, my personal computer library that I've built at my own expense, and through experience. I've seen Oracle Certified Professionals that couldn't start the database in SQL*Plus if their life depended upon it, much less deal with versions of Oracle ranging from 8.1.7.4 through 11g Marty is right - one must take responsbility for one's own career, and update one's skills, even if your employer won't pay for it (which is why I learned that one can install Oracle 10g Enterprise Edition on Ubuntu Linux even though it is technically not supported (you fool Oracle into thinking it's running on Red Hat......)

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

I know of very few employed IT workers who are working in unsafe conditions or unpleasant environments. Nobody (except H1B's and illegals) are 'slaves'. Children aren't employed in IT. IMHO, unions haven't served a useful purpose in the past 100 years -- since then have been responsible for the destruction of more businesses than any financial crisis. Unions 'work' by blackmailing employers into paying higher and higer wages REGARDLESS of the actual 'value' of the work. To be honest, MUCH of IT work (grunt-level programming) is NO LONGER the same 'sorcery' as it once was -- when just about ANY task in IT demanded a high salary due to the scarcity of supply. You've got things completely backwards: >What will you do when your job is offshore >outsourced? You are your OWN career manager -- if you can't read the writing on the wall and retool and reskill yourself -- you deserve exactly what you get. If you want to sweep the floor and not bother to try and move yourself up the food chain for the rest of your career -- don't expect to get rewarded for it. >What will you do when your employer >unfairly treats you on the job and you >have no one else to talk to? Cry me a river. Nobody said life was ever guaranteed to be 'fair'. Whose definition of fair would be used? Irrelevent. >What will you do when you first realize >that you are the victim of age >discrimination when younger people new to >IT compete for the same jobs you are trying >to get hired with your years of experience >but they are hired solely based on age? Refer back to the first point -- if you have become fat and lazy sitting on your but pushing the same buttons day in and day out without bothering to upgrade yourself -- you are no value to anyone. If some kid can come in off the street and beat you at what took you 'years of experience' to do -- then you don't deserve the job. >Labor unions are the answer to protect >worker rights when the US government won't >help the US worker. What 'rights' are those pray tell? The right to sit on your butt and do as little as possible to keep a job? The 'right' to have a job? The 'right' to have pay increases year after year -- regardless of whether the company can afford them OR you actually DESERVE them? The 'right' to keep your job NOT because of your skills, but simply because you've warmed the chair longer than someone 'below' you (who may very well offer the company a MOTIVATED and WORKING body)? One needs to look no further than government unions to see what happens. You have a bunch of goofs warming chairs, watching the clock and doing absolutely as little as possible until retirement and the automatic pension kicks in. Just watch them scream when they don't get the annual pay raise. Just watch them cripple the organization during a strike. Look at the automotive industry. Want to talk about inefficiency and quality problems they put even parts of the government to shame. And god help the employer who ever actually wants to try and FIRE one of these lackies. The crap will hit the fan so fast and furious no employere would even DARE to think about it. NOBODY needs ANY of this nonsense. Employers don't need to be blackmailed into raising their prices to support these lackies. Customers don't need to pay the increased prices. Shareholders (who, by the way are, for the large part just regular folks like you and I) have no need of losing their retirement nest egg watching the company slide into the toilet while foreign companies BENEFIT from natural market forces. Interestingly enough, none of your arguments hold any weight whatsoever. I, myself, am approaching retirement and have NO SHORTAGE of extremely high paying work because I DO have the experience and HAVE been upgrading my knowledge and skills for the past 20 years. I have a few unemployed friends but can honestly say that they are in that position solely because they took the lazy, easy route and didn't make the effort to improve or update. In this industry, that's the death sentence.

Questor1
Questor1

Ahhh... the old "free lunch" argument supposedly served by bad unions in a new free trade economy . Your free movement of capital and jobs to other countries causes less need for labor unions argument encourages the increased abuse of workers by companies that have no allegiance to any country, culture, or worker. The history of the labor movement across the world has repeatedly shown when workers and wages are abused by companies and management, unions develop and grow as a natural choice by workers who are being abused. You just don't understand the real economic facts of life. The US & world population is constantly increasing causing an oversupply of labor and decrease in wages. When there is an ovesupply of labor, large companies start to abuse workers anf their wages to further benefit company profits. Companies have no allegiance to countries, cities, or workers. Businesses cannot be trusted because they frequently break social contracts they sign when it is to their advantage to supposedly be "competitive". Labor unions help protect workers by organizing workers to defend and negotiate improvements in their worker rights. I really think you will have to eat these "free trade is good" ideas when you realize that labor unions are one of the few ways to combat world trade labor abuses by large companies. Your argument is as thin as your lack of your facts. You have *mistakenly* bought the idea that the world economy benefits all workers and free trade helps the USA where there is supposedly no need for labor unions. Raw capitalism is always in direct competition with labor unions and needs to be regulated for the public good. Some treaty actions by the US government are real mistakes that can be hard to correct. The NAFTA treaty has led to the economic decline and possible fall of the USA as a world power, where manufacturing as a base of the US economy has moved to other countries. The US has become a nation of service jobs to help consumers and does not have a more solid base of manufacturing jobs for producers. Labor strife has increased since NAFTA and the US economy is not better after NAFTA. Since the US government is unwilling or unable to protect worker rights abused by companies, labor unions are formed and chosen by workers. This is why the seeds of labor discontent have been planted and will eventually grow into a resurgence in worker interest in labor unions. What will you do when your job is offshore outsourced? What will you do when your employer unfairly treats you on the job and you have no one else to talk to? What will you do when you first realize that you are the victim of age discrimination when younger people new to IT compete for the same jobs you are trying to get hired with your years of experience but they are hired solely based on age? Labor unions are the answer to protect worker rights when the US government won't help the US worker.

jkameleon
jkameleon

If project specifications are difficult to formulate, the optimal solution is in house talent. There will be a lot of interaction between the investor and developers ("is this what you meant?" "we forgot to mention this is specs, could you do it anyway?"), and it's far better, that they are accessible and familiar with the business. If specifications are easy to define, offshoring is definitely the first choice. Typical example are communication modems. Data go in, signal goes out, and that's it. Under the hood, it's far more complicated than any business application can ever hope to be, but on the outside, it's just a simple box. Such work is in a constant hunt after the cheapest workforce on the globe. > At least one company I have heard of gave up totally on a 100% offshore developed software project, and threw it out, fired all contractors, and started the project all over with local talent. It was a first class disaster. Outsourcing/offshoring things 100%- that's usually an attempt to get rid of IT problems by throwing them across the fence for somebody else to solve. Doomed to fail. IT can only be as good as organization it supports. It organization is dysfunctional, IT will be messed up even more. And if you outsource the mess, it can only get messier much, much more. IMHE outsourcing is a good thing, as long as both outsourcerer, and in house staff are competent, and able to cooperate. As a matter of fact, I can't even imagine how could we do without it. The precondition for outsourcing to work is goodwill and fair play between everybody involved: management, in house staff, and outsourcerer and it's staff. It this can be achieved, benefits can be enormous. If not, disaster is guaranteed even more than normally.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

around in 1776 - two real biggies were the East India Company, founded in the 1600s with the first shares being available in 1613; and the Hudson Bay Company from the 1670s. Plus a large number of corporation towns and cities across Europe and the UK, and a few in the US colony as well. I also seem to remember reading somewhere a couple of the very early US colonial states were corporate states to begin with.

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