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8/29/2003
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Best Of Listening Post

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt reign in the career corners of our online Listening Post. But while there is some scapegoating, there are attempts at problem solving, too.

One of the more interesting ideas to come along has been IT unionization. Some IT workers have organized, hoping that their jobs will be made better and more secure. Visitors to the Listening Post are debating this development, batting around the advantages and disadvantages of union shops, as well as the effectiveness of unions in curtailing offshore outsourcing.

"Capitalist Leslie" bounds in with a rousing--if dog-eared--"We have nothing to lose but our chains." CL sees ill will on the part of management, which "is being trained to increase productivity by intimidation. The workday is no longer 8 hours. We are fired at whim."

"Capitalist Kingsborough" is of a similar mind. "I joined a union years ago at an NYC utility. It's better to be in one than to be alone. No matter how good you are, if you are not liked, you are gone."

"I'm divided on whether IT should unionize," writes "char Lange." "It would almost be a waste of time to unionize. Being from Michigan, I can say unionizing will not stop jobs from going to other countries. It's almost a best bet to freelance to big companies that want to save the cost of medical and other benefits."

"Mark Edwards" sounds like someone who's been to a couple county fairs. "I have gone through all the stages of IT-job-loss grief. Blaming the H-1B and L-1 workers. It ain't their fault. They just want a buck. It's the U.S. Congress and U.S. companies that import the labor. Will unionizing help? Yes, temporarily. But the Internet has moved the outsourcing trend from manufacturing to IT, accounting, and engineering services. IT will be offshored because it can be." He recommends people train for new professions in areas like biotech, nanotech, and robotics.

Not surprisingly, there are anti-union posters as well. "The IT field is constantly changing, and if unions were to secure jobs and large raises for obsolete workers, they might bring the industry to a standstill," writes "Joe Martin."

"Ronald Fong" says unionized IT shops can result in literal standstills. "When I first started at a unionized organization, I had called a meeting with IT staff. Come 3 p.m., the meeting wasn't finished but one of the staff got up and started to leave. I asked him where he was going. He said, 'I start at 6 a.m. and I finish at 3 p.m. Bye.' I was astonished."

The question of IT unions is moot, "John B." says, "Unions are never going to fare well in a field so rife with individualists. And there are radical skill differences between IT professionals, something that's not conducive to unionized labor, which favors evenly divided tasks and diverse skill levels."

"Maybe unionizing isn't the answer," "Ben Gusty" says, "but some sort of organizing needs to happen. Or do you prefer to stand on your own, hiding behind your monitor, getting picked off one by one?"

"Gene Miller" exhorts people to "organize, join, and contribute to a professional association that aggressively lobbies. Be active in the association." GM says any association should "finance political action committees, which support candidates to protect our interests."

Someone with the nom de Web "Subscribe IT Tele-Integration" says unions are "a big waste of time." Instead, SITI wants to lobby for the removal of labor laws. "We can have a maid that only costs $12 a week, and we can have a full-time yard man for $40 a month, and private bodyguards for only $50 a month like in Peru and in India. If we can only lower our service costs and take the wage laws out, we wouldn't mind a lower income." Lower pay here would make offshore outsourcing unnecessary and obviate the need for unions altogether.

OK... Remember, don't be shy, but do be civil in the Listening Post.

Jim Nash
managing editor
news and interactive products

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