Unionizing efforts stamped out at a dot.com.
December 2, 2000 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Unionizing efforts stamped out at a dot.com. 13 people whom the union was planning on representing were fired in a round of layoffs. Four others invovled in the unionization attempt were fired in October. There has yet to be a succesful unionization at any dot.com.
posted by capt.crackpipe (9 comments total)
Yup, don't try to better the situation for yourself and your coworkers unless you're prepared to be fired.
posted by fleener at 7:52 AM on December 2, 2000

Do dot.comers really have things that bad? I mean, I'm an editor at an online research group, and I can't really complain. Then again, I'm not in the middle of the dot.com mayhem, layoffs, etc. But will unionizing really change that? As I said, I don't pretend to know working conditions in a real dot.com, but as far as salary's concerned, i know that at least in online publishing, the average editor makes almost twice as much and normally doesn't do much more. It's not like dot.coms are the huge money making forces that industrial workers forced formed unions to fight against. Most of them are small and struggling, and even most of those that are doing well haven't yet turned a profit. They don't seem to be very oppressive. Someone prove me wrong...please?
posted by rklawler at 9:08 AM on December 2, 2000

The union efforts at etown and the ongoing attempt at Amazon are mainly aimed at customer service, which is by all accounts, the worst fucking job in all of dot.com-dom. When I say “fucking” I really mean it. Low pay (lots of perma-temps in customer serice), long hours, damn near maniacal bosses, overwork, worst benefits package, pissed-off customers. All the terrible horror stories are usually out of tech support/customer service.

Regardless of all that, any business which asks its workers to work more than 40 hours per week without re-imbursing them for it is breaking the law. I know, I know: if you choose to stay later, your employer isn’t doing anything wrong. But how many of you feel like your workplace has an unwritten rule forcing you to stay late? The 40 hour work week is pretty much a myth. Most people work far more than that. It seems reason enough to unionize — sane hours in the workplace. Life is not work and vice versa.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:37 AM on December 2, 2000

One of the problems with dot-coms is that the expect the customer service types and the perma-temps to work the same hours as the development and design employees, for significantly less pay and signficantly less soft bonuses.

The devlopment and the design people, the geeks and the artists, generally have a whole lot of freedom in dot-coms. We're able to, for the most part, come and go as we please, because we really do enjoy what we're doing. We get to decorate our cubicles or offices with toys and art and craziness, we wear ripped track pants and dirty t-shirts (as an extreme example of comfy clothes) and no one says anything to us, because we're geeks and artists, and we're... well... weird and creative and "just let them do their thing, they produce."

We have the benefit of having a career, rather than a job, and most of us are in this industry because it's something we absolutely love doing. The people packing books into boxes, or dealing with irate customers, they're doing it to get a paycheque and to pay the bills. They aren't New Media Employees, they're employees.

By expecting them to act the same as the geeks and the artists - a curious fixation to the point of obsession on our work is a characteristic the two stereotypes share - management is shooting themselves in the foot. Use different management techniques for your different employees and you'll get a company where more people are satisfied than not.

posted by cCranium at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2000

While I'm not at a dot-com, I fully sympathize with anyone who wants to stand up and say that the Unwritten Rule Of Working (ie give up your life to the company, or we'll can your ass and get someone who's more willing) is *wrong*. Every outfit I've been at has had that rule, and it's always mentioned in code: "That's part of the culture." "We work hard and play hard." "We'll buy you dinner if you stay late."

It all becomes an ugly cycle that spins out of control and leads to stress and poor health. I lost most of November to work, giving up weekends and putting in 12-14 hour days. And for what?

Why, a video game, of course.

This is the one thing that makes me shake my head about any talk of unionization in the game industry. We're not caring for sick people or directing air traffic or working in steel mills or doing any kind of work where a union makes sense, where you'd use the power of collective bargaining to demand and get a safer workplace, better pay, and less crushing hours. I am making video games. I am making something that is entertainment product, that the world can easily do without.

Every time I take a new job, I keep having this same thought: the more worthless whatever it is we're doing, the more people think it's the most important fucking thing in the world. Which is then followed by the thought: For all the time and energy we put in, you'd think we're curing cancer.

And, yes...I'm at work right now. And, yes...please save the "That's the way the world works, Sparky" comments. I've heard 'em all before. They don't make up for the lost time.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:41 AM on December 2, 2000

why work then?
posted by palegirl at 2:21 PM on December 2, 2000


why not get a job doing something that you feel makes a difference? at a university that's working on developing telemedicine or videoendoscopy or video training techniques for surgeons (to name three things the university of washington is doing).

or whatever. it may not pay you as insanely well as making games, but you would probably work saner hours, and you would know that you were using your skills to create something you feel has real value.

posted by rebeccablood at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2000

The funny thing is that games do *not* pay insanely well. We're supposed to get the extra pay in the form of a "Cool Dividend." As in, "Dude...I make games. Isn't that cool?"

Problem is that cool doesn't pay the bills, and it doesn't pay for vacations. But, trust me, I've been pondering an escape that will result in a better life. ;)
posted by RakDaddy at 1:58 PM on December 3, 2000

Hmmm. From what I've heard from friends working at big game houses, they're paid quite poorly compared to standard-issue dot-com shops. I was quite amazed to hear that a game designer at one place makes less than a run-of-the-mill producer (who reports to a project director) at the dot-com I work at.

That anecdotal evidence could be misleading or incorrect, but it was a shock to me.

Incidentally, at my place of work it's an article of company principle that people work more or less normal hours, but work is work - it's not play time in the office. We consider everyday overtime to be a failure of the managers to do their job well. If overtime does come along, usually due to a pre-site-launch crunch or something like that, then there are usually some VPs around who are also working hard to contribute - it's not just left on the shoulders of coders et al.

There was an ISP in Montreal that successfully formed a union a couple of years ago, but they were de-certified a few months ago when the ISP went a bit downhill for unrelated reasons.
posted by mikel at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2000

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