IT unions: The wrong approach to achieving a noble goal

Patrick Gray, TechRepublic, Aug 29, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

There have been numerous reports in recent weeks about sweatshop conditions in technology companies, for example,, and while some people just don't care, others have advocated remedies such as unionization to address these conditions, as for example is happening at Gawker. This post is a poorly informed argument against unionization. Here are its major arguments and my responses:

  • "It's impossible to take individual performance into account when attempting to set collective compensation practice" - nonsense. I work in a unionized environment where people have very specialized skills and pay and promotions are based on performance, not time served
  • People opposed to the working conditions "would quickly be displaced by another person willing to make those sacrifices" - not true. In a unionized environment individuals are protected by the possibility of collective action by everybody. You aren't on your own in a union.

I am in favour of unionization. Historically, non-union workplaces feature lower pay, harsher working conditions, fewer benefits, and weaker job security. People arguing against unionization are either uninformed, like this person, or they are advocating on behalf of company owners and management. They stabilize the economy, create wider social benefits, and increase productivity.


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