2004-11-22

Uniting IT Workers

An interesting article: Workers of The IT World, Unite! - Computerworld

Having been out of work about 14 months cumulative in the last 4 years, I am upset about the excessive number of computer jobs going overseas.

And in theory, I think having a union to represent us might be an advantage.

This article points out 2 unions that have some in-roads in the computer field. One of them is CWA.

I've had some dealings with the Communication Workers of America. Due to my interactions with them before, I do not feel comfortable with going to CWA.

Let me tell you about being a union worker under CWA. When I started with AT&T back in 1984, I was given two choices. I could have union dues taken out of my pay check, and join the union, or I could have the same amount deducted from my pay anyhow. Not too hard a choice, but it sounded wacky to me. The job I had before AT&T did not treat us very well, and I practically organized a union in that shop. So joining the union sounded pretty good to me then, even if it was a little wacky. So I checked the box to join the union.

At first, I didn't really see any problems with the union. But after a while, some of the downsides became more obvious. Raises are rather limited. Being able to move into better positions was limited by seniority. And when the group I was in required off-shift work, that was also decided by seniority. Being at the bottom of the seniority, I wound up working 2nd shift after 6 months. Then I wound up working midnight shift for 1-1/2 years. And it looked like I would not be about to move up or move off night shift for some time due to seniority.

But there was another thing that happened that made me unhappy with CWA. It was the time we went on strike. Okay, I have no real problem with going on strike to stand up for what one believes in. But I found the situation with the strike disheartening. The CWA called for a strike in a number of areas due to failed negotiations with phone company management. We were on strike for 6 weeks. During that time, people on strike made no money, except maybe a tiny pittance for putting in time on the picket 'line'. The times I went on the picket line, there was only one other person, and it wasn't very animated. But that is fine, I wasn't looking for trouble. We had a few scabs - people who went back to work in spite of the strike. Crossing the picket line.

Well, during that 6 weeks, it seems other sections managed to come to an agreement with management. So we heard about other areas going back to work after about 2 or 3 weeks. This was not a very good show of solidarity in my opinion. After 6 weeks, our section finally agreed with management. And we went back to work.

And my first paycheck was smaller. Why was it smaller? Well it seems the union got to collect back dues from the 6 weeks we didn't work. That doesn't seem right. But that wasn't the biggest insult. It seems the other sections that went back to work early had an interesting agreement. It seems their agreement said they got whatever benefits that those of us staying out 6 weeks negotiated for.

This steamed me. This did not seem right at all. They did not stand with us to solve the strike. They got to go back to work and get paid sooner. They got the same thing that we had to stay out 6 weeks for. It seems to me that at a minimum they should have had to cover our back union dues.

So, I've had trouble in jobs without unions. I've had trouble in a job with a union. I do know that the computer field seems more volatile than it should. I might consider supporting a union of some sort to help strengthen my position. But not if it is CWA.

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