I’ve been working in the tech field, as full time professional programmer, since around 1993. Yes, I get paid to do something that’s also my hobby and it’s awesome.
Ever since I can remember, there has been talk on the sidelines about unionizing tech workers. I’m not even sure how these conversations start. But people do like to bitch over coffee. So maybe that’s it?
When I would hear people talk about organizing, I’d always think the same thing:
Who the fuck would want to be part of a union?
Have I occasionally been treated like shit over the years? You bet. Did I cry about it and try to find a Daddy to take care of my problems for me? No. I walked and found something better. That’s the beauty of the modern world. Options.
Now, let’s share a walk down memory lane as I recount several personal experiences with union reps, starting at a very young age.
A Garbage Company
I was 11 years old. My grandfather got notice that some of his employees wanted to organize and join the union. Union reps showed up at the office one afternoon and were quickly dispatched from the premises.
Someone my grandfather knew and trusted said people were going to come back later that night and start trouble, they did, and it was short lived.
My grandfather wasn’t one to be messed with, and this was, as they say, “Back in the Day”.
I remember revolvers, double barreled shotguns, and long kitchen knives being pulled out of the trunks of cars. My grandmother scooted me and my brother into the house.
I don’t remember anyone from the union coming around anymore after that night.
The guys that were trying to organize my grandfathers company eventually came back to work for him.
No hard feelings, it’s just business.
A Concrete Company
Commercial concrete is a big deal.
It’s what I started doing the summer I got out of the Marine Corps. It’s hard work, it’s always in demand, and the pay is awesome.
One afternoon, on one of our larger jobs in the Northern Virginia area, some clown was standing in the middle of the road. He was wearing a rat costume and blocking trucks trying to deliver concrete.
We laughed and pulled over to ask him what his problem was.
It was a union rep. He was holding a sign that said something along the lines of “You’re working for a rat, join the union and we will fight for you.”
I don’t know how much a union rep earns per year, but it’s got to be a ton to do that sort of shit. Maybe their bosses have convinced them they are fighting for the Greater Good. Who knows.
The guy couldn’t even fight for himself.
Scrapping for dollars is a dangerous business.
A Government Contractor
Being generally lazy and opposed to heat, unless there is an available swimming pool somewhere close, I quickly gave up the concrete trade in favor of inside work.
Turns out that the skills I picked up tinkering with SCO Xenix on a neighbors IBM XT were worth a few bucks. Lucky me indeed.
Living in the D.C. area, you can’t turn around without running into a company that does business with the U.S. Government. A ton of work for IT types around here, so that’s where I spend a lot of my time.
One afternoon, as I was aimlessly wandering through the parking lot of one of these companies, I was approached by a guy holding a bunch of pamphlets.
“Hey guy, can I talk to you for a sec?”
“You just did.”
(I’m kind of a prick that way.)
He offered a little smile and handed me one of the pamphlets.
“Ever thought about joining the union?”
“Oh my God, fuck off.”
He just shrugged and walked away looking for the next person that might want to hear his story.
Later that week, I saw one of the pamphlets posted in the coffee room. Someone had brought it in, pinned it up on the board, and there was a notice that we were going to take a vote.
If enough employees wanted to learn more about the union, the company was going to let them in to pitch their story.
We held the vote, and fortunately less than 2% voted to let the union in.
A Huge Tech Company
But these guys won’t give up. If they can capture a tiny portion of the IT workforce they will be rolling in cash for generations to come.
Union organizers from the Communication Workers of America Union’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) have convinced them that forming up into a union will force Google/Alphabet to bend to their demands.
One of the CODE-CWA union organizers is quoted as saying:
“Some of them make a lot of money and are working at companies that do really bad things. I think they’re at a position socially where they’re like enough is enough.”
You know what you do if you’re working for a company that’s doing bad things, and you’ve had enough? You quit. You go to work somewhere else, or you start your own company.
It’s always the same story out of the union.
They want to hit the industries where there is a lot of demand for the goods produced, the workers earn a decent salary, and the total population of workers is sufficient to make it worth the unions time. It’s just a numbers game.
The Google workers that want to join CODE-CWA have committed to paying 1% of their salary to the union. In exchange the union will negotiate on their behalf and work collectively toward common goals.
Google should fire them all, likely triggering a PR disaster with the sensitive crowd. But does that even matter anymore?
The union story is always the same. Pay us. We will fight for you. We will demand they treat you better!
But the big boys don’t have to play, and neither do you.