re: Why "Just Unionize" Doesn't Work VIEW POST

re: I often wonder what the stats look like for different companies. I suspect some are better at time management than others. You can tell from the de...

For us to demand a union when we're already very well-paid sounds like a recipe for some kind of proletarian backlash.

There are two problems with this projection:

  1. Workers organizing benefits other workers, no matter who's paid how much. Solidarity is more important than the pay difference -- which, between senior factory workers and senior software developers, is not especially huge outside tech meccas. In fact, being able to demand higher pay makes tech workers an asset: we can easily afford higher dues and help fund further organizing efforts. And of course, it's not like higher pay and even seniority mean you can't be exploited.
  2. How long do you think the gravy train is going to last? By the time the labor market is outright flooded with newly-minted CS grads everyone here will have the security of seniority, but this is not a stable situation in the long term. All these efforts to drive young people into STEM fields (and out of the humanities) will effectuate a rebalancing of tech workers' power against corporate power, and it won't come up in our favor. The glut of surplus labor in the games industry will become the norm, wages will drop, job security will be a thing of the past, and the few successful startup founders who make it big will continue to be held up as an example of why this is all still fine.

It's true that we are presently, to coin a phrase, labor aristocrats; however, that's arguably true of most workers in the West (migrant farm laborers, Appalachian coal miners, and so on excepted). We may be at the top of that particular heap at the moment. But don't think of it in terms of "our situations are so different we can't work together". Think of it as "everybody should be able to enjoy what we have"!


I, for one, do not want to be lumped in with everyone else. You can surely agree that there's a big difference between a recent grad and a senior developer in terms of ability to deliver value for your customers.

That's what it ultimately comes down to, being able to understand your value and how you can be worth more than your cost for your customers. I've met plenty of devs who do not understand this concept and end up wasting tons of time and money for the companies they work for. They just putter around on low-value items.

With our base salaries, we make so much money it's just silly for us to be asking for all of this other stuff. Don't like your job? Easy. Save your money and in just a few years, you'll easily have over a hundred grand in investments. Wait ten years and you can retire from full-time work.

On a software engineer's salary, you can easily sock away over 50 grand a year. I just can't fathom what there is to complain about.

Most of the time, I've worked a steady 40 hours. Sometimes I have to work a little more than that, but it's pretty rare and I always get extra compensation for it. All that extra money is simply pushing me even closer to the day when working for someone else is 100% optional.

Plus there are all kinds of polite ways to say "no" that don't require organizing a huge protest. Don't like the extra hours? Just don't put them in. Don't like the after hours calls? Don't answer your phone. Just stop.

What are they gonna do, fire you? If you've got a ton of money in your investment accounts and a little side business, it's only a minor setback. Be super polite and helpful within your limits, then let the chips fall where they may.

Those recent grads, or at least many of them, will eventually become senior developers. Even absent the immediate economic argument, it's at minimum pragmatic to be looking out for the people who are in the process of becoming your peers.

The rest of what you're talking about makes a very pretty soliloquy on the virtues of being relatively young, healthy, adaptable, and free from material commitments and responsibilities some years into your career. It's a great position to be in! But here's the thing: insofar as that all describes you (for now), it makes you one of the lucky few. Should someone just starting out without an established work history to prove their bona fides, someone with expensive health issues, someone with children, someone relying on their employer for immigration sponsorship, someone paying down student loans or other debt, someone supporting other family members all forgo the collective advancement of their and their peers' interests against those of their employers' just because you've managed to line up a path to early financial independence for yourself?

I assume my peers are perfectly capable of looking out for themselves, and frankly, their support isn't really what matters when it comes to money in my pocket.

It's more important to look out for my customers' businesses as they are the ones brining in the money that pays our paychecks. Take care of the customer and we'll find ways to bring in more talent. But if the business is failing, none of that's going to happen - protests and unions or not.

People only get paid what they get paid because they provide something of value to some purchaser. Sitting on the street with signs does not produce anything of value. I would argue it only does the opposite.

I think we just fundamentally differ on our views of the free market. I believe the free market solves this problem on its own without any further intervention from governments or unions. People can save their paychecks and gradually build a buffer that lets them pursue better opportunities.

There are plenty of software engineers with families and other obligations who are still quite capable of socking away plenty of money every year, especially when they figure out how to cut out all of the unnecessary spending. You'd be shocked at what you can accomplish by driving less, cooking your own meals, never carrying debt on a credit card, avoiding expensive cell phone plans, etc.

Why should I, the fiscally responsible one, be punished for the actions of those who aren't so good at spending their money? Why would I want to be lumped in with them? Free markets reward me for my good behavior. Government intervention does the opposite.

On a software engineer's salary, you can easily sock away over 50 grand a year. I just can't fathom what there is to complain about.

Wait, what?! I don't know where you live but 60-70k in Italy is a senior's salary in a lot of places and companies still balk at those numbers. Only a few companies pay a lot more and 100k salaries are rare (unless you're one of those amazing devs that has an upper level seniority, or you work at an american company with a branch here) So, nope, maybe where you live saving 50k per year is doable, here is the actual salary people would kill for, I guarantee you that :D

Why should I, the fiscally responsible one, be punished for the actions of those who aren't so good at spending their money? Why would I want to be lumped in with them? Free markets reward me for my good behavior. Government intervention does the opposite.

I think this fixation on free market solving all the problems doesn't actually take reality into consideration, because if free market would be able to solve all the issues (for a young and well off developer like you seem to hint at but also for a disabled person working in tech in another part of the country or in another continent) it would have. Don't you think?

We wouldn't be here talking about these issues we have living in a free market society otherwise.

And finally, what you're arguing against is also the definition of the societies we created. How is that argument different from "I don't want to pay for taxes if other people are not good at not getting sick" or "I don't want to pay for taxes to pave roads in a place I'm never going to drive to" ? :D

I'm not against free market, but the idea that it magically and eventually solves each and every problem by itself is a little bit of a fairy tale we like to believe (I did too). We wouldn't have governments and regulations if free market was a virtuous magical pill. Usually when you have a totally unregulated free market you tend to have an environment when people are abused. The moment you're not young and able bodied you wish your peers didn't look at you with IDGAF :)

I think we are so used to thinking in terms of government solving our problems that it is often difficult to fathom a world where they don't.

Take roads. Would it be so bad to privatize them? A company could buy the rights to the land, build a highway, then charge a toll to run cars through it. Companies would compete to offer a better experience, easier payments, cheaper prices, special lanes so semis don't get in the way and ruin your driving experience. What's the real barrier preventing this from happening?

Come to think of it, I really don't want to pay for roads that I'm not going to drive on. If privatization makes that possible, that's a sweet deal! I could save even more money and become financially independent even faster. Who on Earth wouldn't want to only pay for the roads they actually drive on? Paying for bridges people rarely drive on is inefficient. It's robbery!

The same goes for health and disability insurance. Why should I subsidize people who eat junk food and don't exercise? They're grown adults. They can pay for insurance themselves. It's not efficient for me to pay for all of these totally preventable diseases when people could just pick up some weights or stop drinking so much soda.

You save money for the time in life when you aren't young and able bodied. Before you start saving money, you buy health and disability insurance in case something happens to put you in that situation. If people were more educated in financial matters, they would know to do this. But they choose to blow their money on fancy cars and credit card debt instead. This is also not my problem.

And yeah, on some level the world just isn't fair and free markets don't solve every problem. They aren't supposed to solve every problem. They just happen to be the best thing we've got.

We put a bunch of companies in the ring and we make them compete for your dollars. iPhones and airplanes and targeted cancer treatments emerge from the Dilbertesque corporate nonsense. Some people get very rich, but most of us just enjoy a steady improvement in literally every measurable indicator of life quality. I'll take that deal.

When dealing with a bad employer, your worst day is the one where you say a few curse words on the drive home from the cubicle. When dealing with a bad government, your worst day is the one where they show up at your doorstep with guns. I will happily give more power to my boss if it means giving less power to the people with the guns. I'd rather get fired than fired at.

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