I actually have been trying to write an editorial for a long time on Information Technology unions, but haven't really decided how to tackle it. When I saw this article from InfoWorld asking if IT workers should form a union, I decided to at least start commenting on the subject.
It does seem the classic IT worker is more of a loner, a cowboy, someone that tends to build their own skills and either succeed or fail on their own. I don't know many technology professionals that would want to have to abide more and more rules, something a union usually brings into force both for employers and workers. I have been in places where someone wouldn't do a particular task because their union would not allow it, and to me, that's just seemed silly and counterproductive.
The idea of unions, to protect a group of people from abuses, is a good one. I think that employers tend to demand more of workers than they are willing to ask of themselves. Many people expect the person they are paying to work every minute, be on time, give 100%, and more, but those aren't the same ways they themselves work. It seems that management falls into this trap as well, expecting their employees to go to any length to get the job done without any additional compensation.
But many unions seem to suffer from poor attitudes once they achieve the benefits for their members. They become unreasonable in their demands and protect workers that don't feel the need to put forth a professional effort.
I'm not sure that we'll ever see unions in the technology field. Our skills and job requirements seems to change so regularly, and the fluidity we all have to learn new skills and easily move through various positions from developer to administrator to architect would make it difficult for a union to help us negotiate benefits.
The article suggests a professional organization, similar to something like lawyers have with the American Bar Association, and that seems like a good compromise. I would like to see IT workers lobby for reasonable restrictions on hours, compensation and other issues that affect technology workers. I have rarely had issues with management, but there seem to be plenty of people being asked to work 80 or 90 hours on a regular basis. That's something I see as abuse of the salary system.
But a professional organization could help technology workers speak to legislators around the world with a single voice and perhaps ensure that we continue to thrive in the future.
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