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Time for IT to Organize?

By Oldefar ·
I have stated from time to time that perhaps it is time for IT workers to think about organizing. I ran across this link in the Dallas Morning News today - http://tinyurl.com/ixhg.

The link is for US workers and is sponsored by the CWA, a US union. However, anyone working in IT who feels they are being exploited should look at this site.

So what is the answer? Is it time for IT workers to look to unionization? Is there an alternative approach such as cross company and cross border trade guilds that work on behalf of all IT workers? Or do we all simply press on looking out for number one?

Personally I think the issues go beyond single companies and single countries. The Indian developer pulling work away from the first world developer today will see the Chinese developer pull it from him tomorrow. Work will move tomorrow even easier than today. Call centers, NOCs, data centers, and all aspects of engineering and production are no longer tied by geographic constraints.

I see no incentive for company management, rewarded by short term profit margins, to take a broader or long term perspective. However, the same technology that makes my job so portable makes every IT worker my peer and coworker. In the end, we are talking about how we, the global IT worker community, makes our livelihoods. That is a sizable community if we make it one.

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Actualy John I don't have a

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to pay capping

Problem with Board Memebrs pay rates if you want good personal you should have to pay for them. But and this is the very big but it is when these people prove less than copenent and a re awarded massive payouts to leave the company that I have a problem. If someone has increased business substantially they desivere a pay increase but when they prove totally inept and get millions of Dollars to leave this is just plain wrong and I thnk it is the biggest crime in any corporation. Somewhere here someone used the example of Enron and while all their plant is still working as the US needs the power that they produce it was the little people who got burnt and not the Senior Managment. Thankfuly some are facing criminal charges but all to often these same people will just walk away from the mess that they make and go on to creat antoher one else where with no repucations for their actions. Or in a case not as bad as Enron if they are senior Board Members will get massive payouts to leave and then after the fact the shareholders are only given the chance to rubber stamp the decission of the remaining board members. The if something really nasty has happened and the shareholders vote to throw out the remaining Board Members they will just see the value of their stock drop dramatically so in most cases they are stuck with the devil that they know rather than the devil that they don't know who may prove very god but these people having already lost so much money are unwilling to risk any more. I really can't understand just why the Stock Market is held in such high regard as an investment opportinuty. Sure the returns may be greater but so are the risks I was always taught not to play with money that you can't afford to lose, but this belief seems to me to now be a long dead idea or at the very least an "Old Fasion Ideal" and I constantly see people play the stock market with borrowed money in the hope of the next big killing and making themselves rich. Almost always these people lose everything and worse still as they have nothing left they are incapable of paying back the original loan which started the whole thing off in the first place.

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Free Enterprise Support

by Oldefar In reply to Time for IT to Organize?

A more balanced approach to distributing corporate earnings, a more balanced pay scale between top management and bottom worker, and a global mindset within the workers is not counter to the free enterprise concept.

The entrepreneur, the inventor, the creative mind, and the visionary who create a new product, service approach, or market space are the risk takers and deserve to be rewarded for their effort. As a startup, they take most of the risk and typically own the company. As the company grows, they often move into the role of CEO or President, and are able to draw a salary like their workers. At this point, that salary should reflect a reasonable ratio of compensation. They still benefit from owning the company - stockholders equals 1. It is a good time to begin looking at how profit is handled as well. Perhaps the ratio of half to stockholders and half to work force begins here.

With success, many of these companies go public to obtain capital. Within a short period of time, the initial entrepreneur moves out of the top spot and into either a director role or is bought out entirely. At this point, the reward for that entrepreneur is in place. If he continues as a stockholder he continues to reap reward, and if he sells out he moves on.

So now the company is public, owned by stockholders. While many are initially funded by venture capital, many are also funded by institutional funds. The "risk taking" investor is playing with my insurance, retirement, or bank funds, not his own money, so the argument that he needs a high reward for his risk falls apart. The same applies with the management team. They did not risk their money in taking on the job. It was a going concern they were hired to manage and continue successful operation. Compensation to them needs to reflect this reality, not the false concept that they are entrepreneurs.

As for the founder, I hope he earned billions on his effort and goes on to repeat his success. But as a CEO, move that compensation back to reality.

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Remember Apple

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Free Enterprise Support

Look at how much money the directors voted themselves after they got rid of Stev Jobs and look where that company ended up. In an act of desperation they brought back Steve and expected him to fix up in a short time what had taken them years to stuf up.
While Stev got some of what he deserved the people who voted him out got a lot more and took the company to hell in a handbasket but at least while Jobs was still ther Apple was a leader and highly placed in the PC market.

The real problem here is that when a company like Apple/Microsoft grows so big that the original person who was responsible for it can no longer control every aspect of the business and brings in outsiders to manage things it is the beginning of the end for most companies particuarly the ones who invest heavly in development to keep their place in the market as to accountants this is nothing more than a waste of money that could be betrter spent paying themselves.

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We make enough to be complacent.

by admin In reply to Time for IT to Organize?

I don't think it will unfortunately change until it gets a lot worse.

My Great Grandfather was a union organizer some time ago. Him and his co-workers lived away from their families most of the time in "skid shack" bunkhouses with many men in a room. They worked long hard hours and ended up many weeks owing the company store more than they had earned. He would climb to the top of very tall trees used as "spars", cut the tops out and rig up cables and pulleys in the tops. His only safety equipment was a belt around the tree and metal spurs on his boots.

It was dangerous work. His co-workers (and family members) died often, or were maimed to the point they could no longer work, and every time the whistle blew signifying someone had fallen, many people in the town rejoiced because one of their sons could finally get work.

It was rough. So rough that my Great grandfather killed someone at a picket line.

The unions were organized because circumstances were very desperate then. I don't see that in IT. I hear a lot of people complaining, but most of us are just too comfortable to go out and sweat the blood it takes to change the institution when mangement starts bucking us IMO.

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Lateral Thinking ...

by jardinier In reply to We make enough to be comp ...

Colin and myself have given instances in Australia of two different Professional Unions which are toothless tigers. So I'm going to throw in a few suggestions for consideration:
Create some good karma by making a significant donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If it weren't for Microsoft's shitty software and all the Service Packs and Critical Updates, there would probably be only half as many IT jobs available as there are. Onshore or offshore, IT is probably the most rapidly growing industry that has ever existed. New applications will continue to appear. Some time ago I started a discussion on "Artificial Intelligence." It didn't attract much attention, but one member posted that "AI is the future of IT." So I am suggesting that those who have the programming ability, rack your brains for new potential applications and start working on them now. Thus you may be already prepared for new concepts as they emerge.

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The more things change the more they

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to We make enough to be comp ...

Stay the same. 50 years ago it was the greedy boss who didn't care how many people died so long as he got his money. Prior to that it was the robber barrons in Europe who ruthlessly trampled on their pesents so they could maintain ther way of life. Now it's the CEO's and their ilk and while working and safety conditions may be better all that they are interested in is getting as much return on what they spend. At the moment most workers are considered by the senior managment as a drain on their resources it doesn't matter that it is these very same workers who produce whatever that makes the money for the senior managment just let these workers claim a small pay raise and listen the the howls of complaint that originates from the Boardroom but let these very same Boardroom members vote on a pay rise for them selves and you won't hear a single argument, what is worse here is that quite often the worse a company performs the greater the Boardroom members pay rises are.

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IT is too broad a term

by maxwell edison In reply to Time for IT to Organize?

The general term, "IT" consists of the following (and much more):

From people who build computers for Dell, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, and others, to the folks at the local computer superstores who build and service them, to the Mom and Pop shops who build and service custom units, to the people who build them for their individual companies (who may have other functions as well), to the independent consultants who build them, to everything else in-between.

From the engineers who design the next generation of processor, to the others who design, build, support and sell the various cards, boards, modules, drives, and widgets, not to mention the ones who test and troubleshoot past, present and future technology.

From the people who write software for Microsoft, Autodesk, Symantec and the other major players, to the employees who load and support all the various software (who may have other functions as well), to the ones who write custom software, to the people described above who service it, to the independent consultants who do it, to more than I could possibly list in this thread.

From the Web Masters, to the Internet Service Providers, to the large network administrators, to the small network administrators, to the help desk personnel, to the in-house or independent security consultant, to the CIO, to the IT manager, to the IT staff, to the computer guy because he knows the most about computers, to anything and everything in-between.

Not to mention the engineers, designers, suppliers, teachers, data processors, administrative staff, and other users who simply utilize IT, but could be considered as part of the IT industry.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

"IT" isn't an industry in and of itself, but rather one that encompasses and supports virtually every industry you can think of.

Besides, I'd like to see a general pendulum swing away from organized labor. It's too much, already.

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Some Stats

by Oldefar In reply to IT is too broad a term

In the US, union membership dropped to 13.2 percent of workers according to the US Department of Labor. In 2001 that percentage was 13.4

As for IT being too broad, you could be right. The purpose of the discussion boards is to generate alternative perspectives. So what are the divisions between IT workers that are meaningful to the concept of a trade guild? Is the salaried versus hourly division sufficient? Exempt or non-exempt?

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Absolutely ...

by jardinier In reply to IT is too broad a term

I have long been thinking along the same lines, and noting that TechRepublic only seems to attract the attention of a small spectrum of the industry.
Would you recommend (with a view of unionism in mind) that these various associated aspects of IT be clearly divided into smaller, but quite specific categories?

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My Bias - I'm the wrong guy. . .

by maxwell edison In reply to Absolutely ...

...to suggest the best ways to unionize, since I'm inherently and philosophically opposed to collectivism in any form. (Well okay, most forms and most circumstances.)

Yes, it's true that labor unions, during the early part of the 20th century, offered a most valuable - and needed - service, and they literally changed the business landscape in America (and elsewhere, I suppose). They redirected the tone and expectations of the relationship between employees and employers. But that was then, this is now. Most employers today think of their employees differently. They see them as assets that must be protected, not chattel that can be used and tossed aside. Sure, not all businesses operate that way, but most do. And those that don't will never be as successful, and some simply won't survive.

Of course there will be downturns, layoffs, and so on. I've experienced that sort of thing myself. (I was laid off from my last job - 12 years ago.) But learning to roll with the flow, and focusing on the opportunities instead of the setbacks will always - yes always - be the force that will result in a person landing on his or her feet, usually better off than before. Sure, the problems are there, but so are the opportunities. Seek and ye shall find. Seek the problems, and you'll find them. Seek the opportunities, and you'll find those too. I'ts all a matter of choice.

I've served myself well by serving my employers (past and present) well. I've always approached my jobs (and I really haven't had that many) as a business within a business. I've tried to see things through the eyes of the business owner and proceeded as though I was my own business owner. This isn't "my department", for example, but rather "my business". That kind of attitude gets noticed, just as the "complainer" gets noticed. The difference, however, is obvious, and the resulting outcome will be just as obvious. Instead of employees adopting the "us against them" attitude, the "how can I make things better" approach would be more productive - and more rewarding - in the long run. If a person is in an environment where that sort of mind set isn't prevalent, there are plenty of opportunities available where it is.

So my take is this: Instead of voicing an opinion on the picket line, speaking with your feet will send a much louder message - especially if enough people walk.

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