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To be a Profession or to Unionize in the Software Industry?


Which form of industry growth would you prefer - why?

Which path leads toward the culture you desire in a software development organization?

This is a wonderful article on the topic - read it and discuss with your colleagues.


Programmers don’t need a union. We need a profession.  BY 


"Unions work best for commodity labor, and I use that term non-pejoratively. Commodity work is easily measurable and people can often be individually evaluated for performance. For example, a fishing boat operator is measured according to the quantity of fish she procures. A lot of very important work is commodity labor, so I don’t intend to disparage anyone by using that term. Commodity work can be unionized because there aren’t large and often intangible discrepancies in quality of output, and collective bargaining is often the best way to ensure that the workers are fairly compensated for the value they produce. Software is not commodity work, however. It’s difficult to measure quality, and the field is so specialized that engineers are not remotely interchangeable. When the work is difficult to measure and large disparities of quality exist, you have a situation in which a certain less-egalitarian (in the sense of allowing top performers to receive high compensation, because it’s essential to encourage people to improve themselves) and more self-regulatory structure is required: a profession."
"A profession is an attempt to impose global structure over a category of specialized, cognitively intensive work where the quality of output has substantial ramifications, but is difficult (if not, in the short term, impossible) to measure, giving ethics and competence primary importance. A profession is needed when it’s clear that not everyone can perform the work well, especially without specialized training. Here are some traits that signify the existence of a profession."
1) Ethical obligations that supersede managerial authority.
2) Weak power relationships.
3) Continuing improvement and self-direction as requirements.
4) Allowance for self-direction.
5) Except in egregious cases, an agreement between employee and firm to serve each others’ interests, even after employment ends.
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