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Poll: Is An Engineer's Union Needed? - RF Cafe Forums

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Is An Engineer's Union Needed?
Unions are desperately needed    29%  [ 35 ]
Unions might be worth trying    29%  [ 35 ]
No opinion    2%  [ 3 ]
Unions would probably do additional damage    13%  [ 16 ]
Unions would definitely make things worse    26%  [ 32 ]

Total votes : 121

 Post subject: Is An Engineer's Union Needed?
Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 10:18 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:02 pm
Posts: 451
Location: Erie, PA

I am conflicted over the subject of unions because of the combination of both great good and great bad that has been part of their history. The good comes from the bargaining strength gained through large numbers of workers having the power to stifle the productivity and profitability of a company by controlling the flow of work through exclusive membership. Most individuals do not have that kind of bargaining power. The bad comes from the legendary levels of corruption and ties to mafias and other underworld organizations. Politicization of the unions often forces its members through dues to support causes that they do not believe in.

Arguments given for engineering unions include that it would help improve salaries and benefits, and help control the number of foreigners that are given domestic jobs. Arguements against unions suggest that forced inflation of wages and benefits would destroy companies that compete in a global economy.

As with many other ideas, the organization of engineers into unions surfaces every few years. So far, no real traction has taken hold and in fact, unions overall are losing membership. Passionate and vigorous arguments are offered by both sides. What is your opinion on unions?

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 Post subject:
Posted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:29 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 2:02 pm
Posts: 392
Location: Germany
Greetings Kirt,

From my experience in 2 large defence companies which had Engineers union and also Technicians union, there is only a big disadvantage. The union members tend to take care first for themselves and then for the Engineers they represent. The management often bribes them just to avoid a strike or any other actions of this kind. In the era of private working contracts the unions are just like a dying Dinosaurs, namely they are outdated and would completely vanish in few years.

Best regards,

- IR

 Post subject:
Posted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:47 am 
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Greetings IR:

Interesting that right after this polls is created we get news of Ford Motor Company looking to buy out all of its union workforce in an attempt to rid itself of the union. This will be a event to watch and see how it unfolds. Ford must really be in deep doo-doo.


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 Post subject:
Posted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 4:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2006 4:01 pm
Posts: 2
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
I'm torn as well on the issue of unions.

On the one hand, throughout history, it has been shown that businesses are often terribly abusive of their employees, and to workers, anything that helps protect their rights, allow them to negotiate higher wages, and aid in job security seems like a great idea. Obviously, this is why they trumpet unions so loudly.

On the other hand, if anybody needs a union, this clearly communicates a simple harsh but true fact: That person's skill set is common.

Going back to supply-and-demand (which almost any discussion of economics must eventually retreat to), it's a basic principle of business that if a company needs a person with a specific skill, they will hire someone with that skill. They will typically hire the cheapest person they can afford, but if they cannot find anyone cheap, they will bite the bullet and hire someone expensive. This means that if you have unique skills that few other people have, you will be in high demand (because of a shortage of supply) and you can therefore command more money.

Conversely, if someone actually needs a union, this means their skills are not rare; they are in a field of work that can be performed by many other folks, and that is why they "need" a union. Ultimately, unions actually do damage to the economic infrastructure by artificially forcing lesser-skilled people to be paid more than their market worth.

I saw a group of IBEW guys doing a public-works project the other day, rigging up some traffic lights. This is obviously important work, but looking at them, I realized that a majority of what they were doing was actually digging up the earth with shovels. This sort of thing is generally considered "unskilled labor" that almost anyone without a physical handicap can do. They're classified as electrical workers, but in verity, a relative minority of their job was electrical-related; it was mostly labor. That's why they need to be in a union. Notice that most people who are (for example) designers of high-speed signal-processing ICs are not in a union. That's because their skills are rare enough that they can do just fine without one, thank you very much.

It is really indicative of the problems we're starting to face as our country becomes increasingly overpopulated. Nobody wants to see our fellow human beings suffer for lack of work, but there just isn't enough to go around, and when two people can do a job that only requires one person, either of them will get paid less than if there were only one person who could do the job. For now, senior-level high-end EE types can still make over $100,000 a year, but if more people attain that level of education and experience (which isn't at all impossible), then no matter how important their jobs are, they will start getting paid much less. It's all based on supply and demand.

 Post subject:
Posted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 6:59 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 14, 2006 8:53 pm
Posts: 18
Location: Earth
LateBlt wrote:
I'm torn as well on the issue of unions.

It's all based on supply and demand.

True indeed, but only when all else is equal (i.e. free market under same conditions). Note that I'm no fan of unions, but I will throw a bone in here.

How do you justify when you have two equally skilled workers (read, engineers) but one makes 1/3 of what the other does based on geographical location? Or when operations in a geographical location cost less solely because that location does not have the same standards (read, OSHA, EPA, etc), or because they devalue their currency (read, China)?

I do not believe unions are the solution to this (I think they just hide the problem and delay the unevitable), but rather goverments not properly representing their skilled workers, and technical organizations not using they lobying power to represent their members (read, IEEE).

 Post subject:
Posted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2006 4:01 pm
Posts: 2
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
How do you justify when you have two equally skilled workers (read, engineers) but one makes 1/3 of what the other does based on geographical location? Or when operations in a geographical location cost less solely because that location does not have the same standards (read, OSHA, EPA, etc), or because they devalue their currency (read, China)?

I'm not justifying any of those things; injustices happen, most definitely, and unions can help prevent them. I'm not saying unions are only good or bad. They're both.

As a specific response, though: It's worth noting that cost of living relates directly to wages. A person in the USA may make more than a person in China to do the exact same work, but everything in the USA tends to be more expensive (particularly housing), so the actual purchasing power of the two wages may be almost equivalent. The American worker's wages may be worth more on the global market, but as far as their own life is concerned, their money doesn't necessarily buy them a whole lot more in their home country.

That's not to say that the basic quality of life in the USA is the same as in China; there are clear gaps between the two. And no, that's not fair. But the solution is more a political one than a technical one. I am merely a humble engineer-laborer, so I should speak no more on this. :)

 Post subject: Unions
Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:46 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:02 am
Posts: 1
Location: Illinois
I do not think that Unions (in the traditional sense) are the answer. You probably have to ask yourself if you are a professional or not first. If you spend your offtime from your job doing engineering reading, research or anything related to your profession then you are a professional. If you go to you job, leave it behind and do other things on time not working for your company then you are really just a laborer. For the former, as a professional, we need to band together as lawyers and doctors do. They do not have Unions but they work together as professionals and understand that helping each other helps their own prosperity. Of course they have licensing and many engineers do not chose to go the PE path because it is not necessary for their job. Hopefully all understand the interdependencies of the last statement. Now PE licensure is somewhat of a buddy club but the same is true for lawyers and doctors.
As for wages, I think there are a few balancing factors: true hourly wage, quality of life and future. By the latter I mean working in an area that has a future. Don't settle on wages for a job. Take only what you think it is worth. Don't work over 40 hours per week because your hourly wage goes down unless you feel it benefits your future. You are not going to stop outsourcing and taking the job for a lower wage is not going to help your future or mine.... they will still outsource. It is a continual game. If you are needed they will pay, if not, you need to be working in a different field. Don't take the BS line about experience either because it is really an engineer's job to learn and what you sell is the ability to come up to speed quickly in many technical areas. If you can not sell that then you probably are not a professional and a union may be the right direction for you.
I represented engineers in April 2004 in Washington DC talking to my Senators and Rep (actually staffers) about many of these issues. Chris Brantly (IEEE-USA) said that it is difficult to represent such a broad range of technical people from Academia to technicians.

My first post.


Posted  11/12/2012

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