unionizing tech 

if you unionize at work, they fire you.
if your whole team unionizes, they liquidate the company.
so how do you unionize?

tech multiplies the power of labor,
which multiplies the power of the scab.
while the boss fires unionists,
only the bossless can unionize.

organize contractors!

Show thread

re: unionizing tech 

standard contracts,
standard tools,
paid work,
with the hypothetical software guild 😛

Show thread

re: unionizing tech 

when googlers organized a walkout, they demanded all the things a union might — pay equity, worker representation on the board, etc — but precisely because they lacked a union to protect those protesting, the walkout’s organizers were simply harassed out of google. this is why we need unions! no amount of asking nicely will get the bosses to stop laundering blood through our hands!

Show thread

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados I reckon some kind of 'guild' might be the best answer — if we throw in some minimum standards and ethics rules then there's a benefit for consumers and therefore bosses. You get to put a little badge on your box and charge $5 more and maybe people will get more suspicious of corporate adware that doesn't have it.

re: unionizing tech 


> suspicious of corporate adware that doesn’t have it

this implies the guild would produce corporate adware, but... why would they?

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados @andrewt

I think it was intended as corp software is *all* adware, not that the guild would produce it? Guessing though.

re: unionizing tech 

@sydneyfalk @andrewt gotcha. sorry for the misunderstanding

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados the IWW are happy to help, you know

re: unionizing tech 

@marnanel can you connect me with someone, or tell me where to get started on organizing a programmer union with the IWW? when companies liquidate teams for trying to unionize, what will the wobblies bring to bear to support us?

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados @marnanel this would be so good. tech desperately needs to be organized.

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados @marnanel can you CC me on this as well. I am really interested in developer unionization and would love to know how I can help.

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados call me a cynic, but wouldn't the union organizers get harassed out?

re: unionizing tech 

@a_breakin_glass it’s illegal in both cases but an individual usually lacks the resources to fight back, where part of a union’s purpose is to prep resources for such fights

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados @a_breakin_glass It's also very difficult to prove. In the case of the walkout organizers, it was just that they suddenly found themselves with fewer responsibilities, transferred, denied transfers, etc. It's never "we think you're a troublemaker so we're going to limit your job prospects until you quit."

There won't be any internal memos about it either because Google is careful to have such conversations in non-discoverable form.

re: unionizing tech 

@garbados i kinda understand what "standard contracts" mean in this case, but "standard tools"?

re: unionizing tech 

@devurandom @garbados

ANSI C set the standard baby

re: unionizing tech 

Or just do not unionize and we can all work together without working for a big company.

unionizing tech 

An alternative you may want to consider is to pool your resources with your coworkers, form a co-op and work on buying the company. Just food for thought.

re: unionizing tech 

@Ventronik no, i’m hellbent on unionizing the trade. it’s one thing to negotiate with your boss or to become the boss, and another to negotiate with all bosses when we say: no more!

@garbados They would just outsource more than they already do... It would proliferate java and terrible unreadable code. ;)

@seven are you saying we shouldn’t unionize or merely that it will be difficult?

@garbados I think it's a good idea, but coders specifically, are a particularly difficult one to do, by the very nature of the job, which doesn't have any boundaries in terms of where it can be done, or by who.

The power of unions is about being able to effectively stop production, for workers rights, I'm just not sure how you could effectively do that in the programming industry, if that makes sense?


> being able to effectively stop production

like literally anyone with the right creds can do? trip over the right wire. get the relevant people to refuse to log in. organize even ten minutes of downtime and mgmt will be begging to hear your demands.

i think the lore has got it backwards on this: that rather than tech itself making it harder to organize tech, we are uniquely positioned as a trade to organize effectively!

@garbados @seven actively causing system downtime sounds like something that’d get you in trouble with the us computer fraud & abuse act

@rabcyr @garbados To be fair, anything you do on a computer could get you in trouble with the CFAA, that thing is so general, we all probably violate it every day... But also, this.

@seven @rabcyr as it is said, the law is for the rich 🤷‍♀️ they’ll throw the book at you if they can, and they’ll settle out of court for a pittance if they can’t

@rabcyr @seven not to mention fired, blacklisted, etc... all the reasons we need a union 😉

when you’re a googler who didn’t sign up to make weapons, but there you are making weapons like so many bamboozled programmers, what do you do? embrace the blood, or fight back with commensurate force? the stakes are huge and “just quit” satisfies the power of the boss to oppress.

@seven @rabcyr that article is so tiresome 🤦‍♀️

it baselessly frames devs as not wanting to unionize, when our every attempt is viciously punished!

@garbados @rabcyr Couldn't agree more! But it's also probably at least entered the brain of some, who handle policy at corporations, so it gives them a, well a precedent to work with or at least justify themselves with...

@seven @rabcyr corpers will say and do anything to shut down unions. that’s why it’s so important!

@garbados @rabcyr Interestingly, I've thought that some kind of coder code of ethics would help, ya know like the doctors do no harm kind of thing, something that allows coders to look at a project, and say, this isn't something that meets with our standard of ethics.

But you are most certainly right, the last thing any tech company wants is their coders unified in solidarity across the industry... That would impact competition, which no corporation wants... It would likely also make said union the most powerful in the world... which... seems dangerous...

@seven @rabcyr

> the most powerful in the world

on the one hand, all power to the people ✊️

on the other, why would it be the most powerful in the world?

> that would impact competition, which no corporation wants

corporations generally abhor competition because it hurts margins. all profiteers aspire to monopoly 🧐

@garbados @rabcyr So much of the worlds infrastructure depends on programmers, to the point if they all stopped working on their projects at once, things would break, fast and in a way no one without programming skill could fix. Which means that organization would have the power to wield serious power (again not saying that would be terrible, but corruption in such an org in terms of potential would be high with that kind of might, and I'm not sure or rather would have a hard time trusting that power would always be wielded ethically, there is a reason the mob loved unions).

Agree corps don't want competition, but, at the same time lack of ability to say, bring a product to release sooner based on their development resources, or develop a certain tech faster than other competitors, would certainly be a problem. In a unionized environment the hackathons to meet a release date probably wouldn't happen, giving them less of an ability to beat the competition to the punch if you know what I mean. In essence, they need to be able to get the edge on like technologies and get there sooner, so competition is also vital to control market share, when talking beyond acquisition of IP, which slows progress generally speaking as well.

@seven @garbados if all of tech is unionized, then your point about competition getting the edge doesn’t hold. and that corporate abuse of labor to get the competitive edge is a main part of what workers are traditionally fighting by unionizing!

and these tech companies already wield serious power.

@rabcyr @garbados You aren't wrong... But it also means those corps have a very strong interest in keeping something like that from happening... It will cost them, in a number of ways, not just the cost of their actual workers rights.

@seven @rabcyr it will only cost them what they should have been paying all along.

although an enormous amount of capital flows through tech, we experience a permanent labor shortage as we rely on unaudited ecosystems for fundamental components. no corper wants to pay for that auditing because they generally don’t see the need, and so it causes widespread outages over and over when deep dependencies become abandonware and nobody notices until it’s a crisis. see also: the power that facebook wields through react, or google through angular. that power should belong to the workers who build and maintain that software, not the companies who exploit them.

i don’t think it makes sense to have One Big Tech Union, if only because tech is so vast a field and different sub-trades will deal with different nuances. decentralization disempowers the corruptable.

@seven @garbados @rabcyr

> In a unionized environment the hackathons to meet a release date probably wouldn't happen, giving them less of an ability to beat the competition to the punch if you know what I mean.

These all sound like excellent reasons to unionize. Here's why:

> the worlds infrastructure depends on programmers

Well, right now all their jobs depend on corporate environments that encourage breaking shit, overwork, and burnout. That destabilizes said infrastructure. 🤷

@sydneyfalk @garbados @rabcyr Don't get me wrong there are a million reasons to do exactly that, but I worry about the few brave souls that will have to be on the front lines... They will need a ton of support... Because they will most certainly run into all the horrible things that can happen to programmers and techs that get "excommunicated"...

The system as a whole doesn't favor the producers which is obviously what unions are all about, but anything less than globalized unwavering support has the potential to do as much harm as good. It's not like a physical loading dock, where they need the people on site, and there will be pockets of ready to do the work the union isn't doing for less than they are asking for in places where you can't unionize at all. The globality of it, is exactly what makes it a dangerous game...

@seven @sydneyfalk @rabcyr i’d be interested to hear about this “more harm than good” caused by less-than-all-encompassing unions 🤔

people on the front lines — that is, devs like you and i — will absolutely need support. that’s why we have to support each other. solidarity! because institutions like the NLRB are toothless, and the AFL-CIO is too staid to have our backs. their leadership is still convinced we just don’t want it enough, rather than recognize the reality that we’re risking our livelihoods every time we try.

there will always be scabs. but think: how many people really know how to do your job, and what happens if you don’t do that job? how long would it take to replace not only you, but all the tech where your knowledge specifically is critical to its operations? most devs i know work in situations where their abilities are, actually, pretty much irreplaceable. that strengthens our bargaining position.

@garbados @seven @rabcyr

I've hit my limit for discussion for the day so please feel free to drop me from further replies (but I generally agree with all this)


no no no, no apology necessary; I'm testing limits MH wise, so really, I appreciate the exit's not disturbing to either of you ^_^ <3

@seven @garbados @rabcyr With remote workers, the company could bring in a scab within minutes or hours if anything breaks. And usually programmers (or even admins) anyone from getting the source code or access production servers. Actively bringing a website down would probably get you sued as well.

@felix @seven @rabcyr

> within minutes

and how long will it take them to comprehend the system you’ve compromised? longer than ten minutes.

i brought up this example because i remember a team doing ten minutes of downtime as a labor action but now i can’t find sources on it 😬

still, we’ve got concentration camps in play, and if it takes something militant to impede your employers from entrenching them... maybe that something is important.

@felix @seven @rabcyr but again, this all is exactly why we need unions! if it takes militancy to keep our labor from killing people, but we need support to preserve our livelihoods in the face of retaliation, then we need to organize that support before militancy becomes anything more than self harm.

@garbados @seven @rabcyr Well compromising a system might cause you a lot of trouble. Not sure if it would be worth that.

@seven @garbados sounds like a real terrible idea on thier part. Actually I take that back no one gives a shit about whistleblowers anymore

@garbados at one point i was at a security conference and the very last talk was 50% tech and 50% talking about how utterly shit folk in tech get treated at times and how we need to unionise

@maffsie good! we need to be talking about this stuff more ✊️

@garbados @wxcafe A critical mass of IT folk just need to join the IWW.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!