Saturday, August 02, 2003


This discussion forum takes on a subject near and dear to my heart: unionization. The thread began in October of '02, and the most recent post was added yesterday. The range of responses is huge, and there are posts all along the continuum, from "Of COURSE IT should unionize" to "No way in hell." Even more interesting to me, however, is the observation that a number of the arguments against unionization were almost exactly the same as those I heard when working with the GFTEO to unionize graduate students at Penn State. People hold some odd ideas about unions, and often make blanket statements that are huge overgeneralizations. Dues structures, membership options, and other things vary from state to state and from union to union, contract to contract. Treatment of strikes also amuses me: unions don't strike capriciously - especially not these days, when strikes are less effective. In any case, a strike is a last resort: such actions are difficult for all involved parties - workers, unions, and employers. In these IT-related discussions the "professional" argument rears its head as it did (and probably still does) in the grad union campaign: unions are for blue collar workers, argue some. Well, that's patently untrue, and it's also a pretty snobby/elitist position to espouse. While white collar workers may not feel that they share the same issues, especially in the area of wages and raise structure, there are a number of overlaps: job safety and security, clear and fair grievance procedures, and training and professional development are all areas where white collar workers could benefit just as much as blue collar workers. Unions and unions contracts are not necessarily all about the money. At Penn State, wages were one of our least priorities. Clear policies for hiring and firing, clearly written job descriptions, and adequate health care were more important issues, not only for the union, but for the average graduate student, than were pay raises. At the most basic level, unions are about ensuring that workers are respected, not exploited. I don't see how that's ever a bad thing.

- posted by laurie @ 8/02/2003 10:20:00 AM
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