Help me unionize my generation
September 3, 2014 6:04 AM   Subscribe

Very specifically; I have the option of trying to get my class of IT workers at a University to join UPTE but I don't like them for various reasons and want something more exclusive to me and my peer group.

Obviously I can't do this alone but I am the type of person that can get large balls rolling when I choose. What I want is a relationship with an established union that would be harmonious with ostensibly white collar computer professionals. The graduate student TAs here have organized under the Teamsters and I find the admixture laughable.

In the past I didn't think we needed representation because I believe unions work best for workers who are being exploited or discriminated against. Now I have come to believe that my generation, commonly referred to as X, is suffering these conditions at the hands of the junior baby boomers who as a rule are woefully out of touch and self-involved. I am at my wits end and have to do something.

Hope me.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I work in IT, but not at a University and at a consulting firm.

If you tried to unionize my colleagues you would be laughed out of the building.

So I would try to work grass roots and work on the reasons that you need to unionize, what the benefits and to address the risks. Most of the people you are trying to unionize have never even contemplated unionizing before and don't even understand what it means.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:10 AM on September 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you seen the Freelancers Union? They target white-collar freelancers and have everything from group insurance to a Political Action Committee. (I've only used them for health insurance and gigs in NYC, not sure how active they are in other areas).

There is also IWW. Noam Chomsky is a member.
posted by rada at 6:25 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

On my campus the lab techs/IT workers are part of UPTE. Membership draws from all generations, and they seem a pretty good bunch. SEIU is also a possibility, perhaps.

Grad students tend to be part of Teamsters or UAW, which I've always find interesting.

(I'm a member of AFT.)
posted by kendrak at 6:29 AM on September 3, 2014

Found Noam Chomsky's interview for IWW, whatever you think of him in general, there are some interesting thoughts/history on unionization there, for example the Obama-Caterpillar connection.
posted by rada at 6:37 AM on September 3, 2014

You are going to need to provide immediate demonstrable benefit to coworkers, and simultaneously scare them into understanding what life outside university is really like.

With you being in IT, I recommend a little bit of history for you: Net Slaves and Net Slaves 2.0 are good primers on the first generation of tech savy folks that did not make it big.

You really want to focus on Pay, pay scale, and quality of life standards. To do this, I'd focus on what does a unionized nurse make vs a non-unionized nurse. Additionally, I'd focus on how many hours each works and what the advancement structure is for everyone. A great number of IT workers I know are expected to be simultaneously 9-5 workers and 24/7 on-call. Lets not forget people wanting IT services with no associated cost, meaning the project queue in IT is generally so long that even actual high priority items fall off in favor of the squeakiest wheel. Simultaneously, employers routinely want to automate IT solutions to eliminate work. In a libertarian world of - I take care of myself and only myself - this may not be bad, but it is completely destructive of a work life balance.

Once you have that, you want to figure out how much dues are, and what an effective adjusted salary for an IT worker is - because at the end of the day, people are convinced that the fees for unions aren't justified and as a result seem willing to keep being overworked by employers. All an employer needs to do is provide one or two employees a better pay rate than their counterparts and you've got a single holdout that thinks that yes, they can go it on their own. You will need to prove them wrong - those that don't want to unionize, and employers who work to game employees into not unionizing.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:05 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

What you want out of unionization and the quality of the union you want to affiliate with will be important. I'd contact a bunch of them and see what they are offering in terms of dues, benefits, and legal and organizing assistance. I think this is why grad students end up in something like UAW or Teamsters, because they offer help.

Some people who might be willing to join one union might also not be willing to join another. I belong to a union, but couldn't sign on for the things your required to agree to support to join IWW.

From a "makes logical sense" point of view, you could potentially link up with lots of different unions. UPTE is part of CWA, but it seems you could also make a case for IBEW or if it is a public university AFSCME or AFGE. AFT or NEA would make sense given that you're university workers, but I don't know how willing they are to pick up allied workers who are not teachers.
posted by Jahaza at 8:29 AM on September 3, 2014

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