Feeds

Can US software developers form an ‘open source’ union?

The CyberLodge

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

There has never been a successful union-style organizing movement among US software developers. Ian Lurie, who runs a Seattle Web design firm, believes this is because traditional "industrial" union structures don't serve programmers' needs very well, but that a new, "open source" union structure based on pre-industrial craft guilds might make lives better for people in the job-nomadic IT industry.

Lurie has financial backing from a major traditional union, so this is more than a vapor-level dream. And there are certainly plenty of disgruntled -- often unemployed -- programmers, sysadmins, and other IT workers out there right now who might be willing to join a group that promises to help them find decent-paying jobs with union-style benefits.

The union backing Lurie's effort is the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (AIM). Lurie's firm, Portent Interactive, designed the AIM Web site. Together, they came up with the CyberLodge concept.

Lurie says, specifically, that the idea was developed jointly by "myself and the Communications Director of the IAM. I've been running my company for about 8 years, and saw more and more jobs being offshored, as well as some truly horrific management practices that, while they began during the boom, have persisted in the 'market correction.' We came to the conclusion that the issue here is one of power. Mid- to large-sized consultancies and other software/tech companies have a great deal of combined lobbying clout, plus a lot of dollars they can move around. And while tech workers have the ability to counter that when necessary, they're totally disorganized."

An obvious response to this is, "But most of them seem to like being disorganized."

Lurie agrees. "So," he says, "a traditional union is out of the question for a number of reasons:

  • Tech workers are far too transient to belong to a 'union shop'.
  • There's no way tech workers would WANT to be part of a traditional union.
  • In my opinion, employers need to be much more involved with this organization than in a traditional union.

"We need to strike a balance between the need to present a reasonably coordinated message and the need for a highly flexible, portable organization that lets tech workers work the way they do today.

"The 'Open Source' concept came from my belief that we need to listen to folks before we try to form this organization, and then allow the tech workers to play a central role in the growth of that organization."

Naturally, one of CyberLodge's first acts was to put up a Web site. Lurie says it already gets more than 10,000 visitors per month, and that the number is rising steadily. Right now, a great deal of the content seems to harp on the problem of IT jobs going overseas, admittedly a large one for U.S. IT workers, but what could a union of IT workers do about it?

Lurie says, "I think (fighting against) offshoring requires two strategies: 1. You have to change the way the workforce works. 2. You have to balance out overwhelming political power on the part of big capital. And somewhere in between you have to wake people up. That requires a good-sized membership base to start, but I don't think we're talking tens of thousands."

So far the number of CyberLodge members is zero. There is currently no way to join. But, Lurie says, "We're shifting our strategy, like, NOW, from information-gathering to putting together a proposal for prospective members."

One major membership draw may be union-sponsored, portable health insurance puchased thrugh CyberLodge's AIM connection. According to Lurie, the cost to a single, 36-year-old non-smoker for a decent plan would be around $120 per month. "That's for standard health care, not just 'I got hit by a bus,'" catastrophic coverage, he points out.

This health insurance would "belong to" the employee, not an employer, so it would be of especially high value to IT contractors and consultants who flit from company to company, which is the group at whom the initial CyberLodge membership drive will most likely be targeted.

Employers would be able to hire CyberLodge members without worrying about supplying benefits like health insurance and 401K plans, which they would get through the union. Lurie also talks about setting "standards" rather like the apprentice, journeyman, and master statuses granted by craft unions to workers who meet a set of skill, training, and experience criteria. In theory, an employer who hired, say, a CyberLodge member "Journeyman Java programmer" would be getting a worker of proven ability who could sit right down and go to work.

"I really think education and placement will someday be a major part of Cyberlodge," Lurie says. "We need to provide a connection between sharp, quality employees and employers. We won't decline membership to folks based on experience. But it will, eventually, be important that employers know that a Cyberlodge member is a great contractor/employee who can add real value to their company."

Remember, Lurie is an employer, not an emplyee. He says, "My ulterior motive in this is to build a better workforce for ME." Another factor is that he -- or at least his company -- is getting paid to put together the seeds of CyberLodge, although he points out that at least half of the time he puts into CyberLodge is uncompenstated; that it's "about 50/50" volunteer and paid work on his part.

"Seriously," he says, "We've really come at this as much from the needs of employers as employees, in a lot of ways. And part of the reason for that is that I do run a company, and a tech company at that.

Another obvious question came to mind here: "What if your employees all join CyberLodge and go on strike?"

"I'm not worried," Lurie replied. "I work very hard with my employees to make sure that we all do well. And that's how Cyberlodge should work, too."

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
'In... 15 feet... you will be HIT BY A TRAIN' Google patents the SPLAT-NAV
Alert system tips oblivious phone junkies to oncoming traffic
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
SMASH the Bash bug! Red Hat, Apple scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
'Google is NOT the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim'
Plus: 'Pretty sure iOS 8.0.2 will just turn the iPhone into a fax machine'
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.