me, any time programming comes up: this reminds me that we should unionize

me, whenever there is a data breach: programmers should definitely unionize

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whenever corpers use software for blatantly evil stuff that gets people killed: yeah we should definitely unionize

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whenever i meet another programmer: have you ever thought about... unionizing?

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whenever i hear “meritocracy”: oof, sounds like we need a union

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whenever another programmer mentions unionizing: solidarity forever! solidarity forever! for the union makes us strong

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i am always two key words away from singing solidarity forever, and for our mutual safety i cannot reveal them

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visiting your startup’s office which occupies an old textile mill littered with the ghosts of workers past: mmm smells like you need a union in here

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@inmysocks hah! you didn’t think it would be th— It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong!

@garbados @inmysocks

Well, at least it gave us the 5 day work week. And the idea of vacation/sick pay. Job site safety. And a zillion other things we hardly notice anymore.

Unions have their shares of issues, but they are far outweighed by *not* having unions. Yes, programmers should unionize. Lawyers and doctors are doing it, too.

@June when i lived in boston this described like half of all offices i visited, but also have you thought about unionizing?

@garbados i don't work there anymore because i was nearly killed by the stress and have ptsd that i'm still recovering from

@June sympathies. i went through similar. no one should have to. glad you’re still here with us ❤️✊️

@garbados (lol i visited my old work's website which fit this definition exactly and looks like they've been using the SSL certs that are now no longer trusted by firefox oh wow i bet they're having A Time with this on the thousands of embedded tablets. haha fuck them)

@garbados also, it immediately brings to mind naomi wu’s ‘everything is about merit until merit has tits’ for me.

@garbados The solution for this specific issue is a professional body, not a union. Most other professions (e.g. engineers, nurses) require licensing from one or more such bodies. This license is a double edge sword. On the one hand only a licensed engineer can stamp a design, and only a registered nurse can administer specific medicine. On the other, if a stamped design fails, or a nurse kills someone, that individual is at fault.

@garbados In this example, to implement the evil thing in the first place would require an individual with a license. And if that evil thing killed someone, the licensed individual who implemented it would be at fault.

@garbados we kinda have unions for programmers in Germany, but it's the big trinity of unions, the ones I perceive as "real" in the spirit of unions don't have the same backing power to be honest to be sad. do those big unions work? I don't know. At least according to the magazines they seem to do the union work for employees.

@ng0 i work for a german company but i don’t know that much about unions in germany. as a foreign contractor, i’m totally disconnected from those systems.

@ng0 by which i mean, could you tell me more about your experience with unions in germany, both big and small?

mention of nazi germany 

@garbados I see. I'm a bit sad that for example the regional chapter of the FAU (Freie ArbeiterInnen Union) would not be as effective as my membership in verdi. I sympathize with FAU in spirit, but verdi (supposedly) is big enough to get anything done.

My personal experience with verdi is kinda not good I guess? Like I have to call them up again as being self-employed + being a student you get shoved into one small sub unit in the federal state I'm in, and my problem back then was forgotten.
Other people think they are good, so it depends on the job I guess.

A friend of mine was thinking about specialized union for programmers a while back.

My father's family side used to(?) be in unions for large parts I think, coal mining traditions until they've shut it down here.

FAU is like, rooted in anarcho-syndicalist structures iirc.
I'm not saying the big ones (more than 3) are not political, they suffered big hits during world war 2 (basically almost all union bosses send to KZs, money of unions merged into the biggest nazi workers union) and they had to rebuild after it was all over.

It seems like the percentage of union members is fading since the 1990s, but I'm not sure.
@garbados it's a bit terrible that they rely on google for translations, but we're all spread thin.

@garbados Heeeellllllllllllll no. 1.) There are way too many management types in the world who want to treat programmers as factory workers, this would only exacerbate that problem. 2.) Too many programmers harbour ideas of being on the other side of the table at some point in there career that they wouldn't join for fear of damaging their future prospects (e.g. VCs won't fund companies founded by former union members). Better idea: programmers need to form more worker's co-operatives.


> VCs won’t fund companies founded by former union members

sounds like you need a union

> more workers co-operatives

diversity of fronts, comrade

@garbados You've missed my point somewhat. It's not the motivations of VCs, it's the programmers that I'm citing as the problem in your plan. Many of them (for whatever reason) see themselves as on the side of capital. Because of this I don't think you can get the critical mass for a union to work. That is unless you're planning on going down the "join the union or we'll break your legs" route.


> I don't think you can get the critical mass for a union to work

you aren't the only one to bring up this point but, regarding software, think about the number of maintainers most common infrastructure has: between zero and three. more than that takes full-time resources and funding, which can be cooperatively obtained, but "a critical mass" is in most cases closer to two programmers than a thousand


> You've missed my point somewhat

sorry for the flippancy, it's just "union" can refer to so many different kinds of trade and labor organizations while your critique aimed squarely at a very specific form. this happens once or twice whenever i bring up unions so i'm not always inclined to engage the critique.

@garbados That's fine. Not sure about where you are from, but here in the UK the union movement at large have done a good job of promoting that specific form as what a union is (not to mention that specific form is what a union is defined as legally). If what you are saying is that programmers need to collectively negotiate with their employers, yeah sure, I could see that as useful. There is just a lot of baggage that comes from that form of unionisation that I would not welcome.

@garbados For example: in factories unionisation tends to come with a lot of standardisation of job role. As I am the kind of programmer that likes to move outside that role a bit (be it sysadmin work, light hardware prototyping or something else) I would loath that kind of restriction.

re: tech unions 


> programmers need to collectively negotiate with their employers

that is the general idea. critiquing specific forms and then concluding "collective bargaining is bad" only helps your boss exploit you.

i'm in the US where even saying "union" can get you fired. being that our craft is international, we will ultimately need international forms of collectivization in order to demand and establish the high technical and ethical standards that public infrastructure requires.

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