Remember that despicable and elitist piece by PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy about how the BART strike was crippling the nascent tech boom on Mid-Market? Well, it's inspired a much better informed retort from Kevin Roose on NYMag.com.
In the wake of the BART strike, he delves again into the age-old topic of how, or if, Silicon Valley workers could ever be organized under unions. Given that it's one of the most powerful growth sectors in the country and yet has managed to avoid any whiff of unionization despite often placing any number of unreasonable demands on its workers, it's a fair question. But is the success of the tech industry due to the fact that everyone works ridiculous hours in exchange for somewhat higher pay and free snacks? Or is it mostly because we don't actually manufacture anything here, and that's all done in countries where workers have even fewer rights and protections than here?
Roose points to Lacy's comments, as well as a recent comment made by UserVoice CEO Richard White, both quoted in an article on Marketplace, as being particularly classist, and unsympathetic to the idea of preserving working-class, unionized jobs. White suggests, for instance, re: the BART strike, "Get ‘em back to work, pay them whatever they want, and then figure out how to automate their jobs so this doesn't happen again."
But did anyone ever think of starting a union of programmers, way back when? Roose discusses the history of union rumblings in Silicon Valley, including a 1982 effort by Atari workers to unionize, and Apple's leaked 2011 memo to managers of one of their off-site operations about "union awareness." (Also there have been ongoing efforts to unionize the 64,000+ workers at Apple's retail stores.) But by and large, all such efforts have been quashed in large part because Silicon Valley's workforce is all white collar, and mostly well cared for and generously compensated. And while the anti-union sentiments among CEOs and tech elites is not unique to that industry, these liberal-leaning Bay Area residents should probably understand some more history about what unions have done for American labor law before they run their mouths.
Portions of the tech community are not only observing the destruction of unions as a long-term sociopolitical trend, but actively cheering it on as an example of an intellectual "maker" class beating out working-class "takers." The old Silicon Valley anti-unionism came from narrow corporate self-interest; the new seems more broadly ideological.
Programmers and back-end engineers, unite!!