RE: STC is broken

Subject: RE: STC is broken
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Keith Hood" <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2008 08:56:57 -0400

Let's get back to basics.

Someone proposed a union for Technical Communicators. I said why, given
the demographics of techwriters - small groups and singletons working
for thousands and thousands of organizations, rather than large groups
working for single or clustered employers (like public [..]service, auto
manufacturers, etc. - a guild was the more likely form to adopt.

I then pointed out some problems with guilds.
Whether you see the use of their powers as unethical, incompetent or
some other description, is a matter for you to sort out... as it is for
any observer.

I'm just saying that it is the nature of the beast.

Other than the kinds of members (and their work situations) that they
"represent", the first salient difference between a union and a guild is
that a union has far more motivation to grow and far less motivation to
restrict membership, while a guild has the reverse emphasis.

The analogy was of getting there first and staking out the high ground,
like being the first kids up the tree who pull up the ladder and then
exercise control over who gets to join their exclusive club.

The second salient difference is that, while both unions and guilds need
to have government power backing them, the union deals with workplace
issues by bargaining every few years, but the guild deals with them by
fiat. When a guild member goes to work/set-up-shop, the union/guild is
not there negotiating on their behalf. Rather, the guild has already put
in place rules that set the parameters, and the member follows them.

It is in the nature of guilds, and of humans who operate guilds, to work
for the perceived benefit of the guild first. That's just the way it is.
Some members might actually believe, and even act upon, high-minded
rhetoric about the public good, and to a large extent they have to
address that in order to justify their existence to the world at
large... otherwise, why did we grant them special powers (in the case of
guilds that have the blessing and authority of the king... er.... the

It is perfectly natural for a guild to restrict membership and the
automatic, mechanical, reliable-as-gravity result of restricting
membership is to increase the share per member. Share of what? Share of
whatever the guild controls (in addition to its members).

In the case of medical associations, particularly as I've known them,
that translates directly to each doctor's share of the population of
Because the association controls the institutions that make more doctors
(the schools), and controls the process by which doctors become
accredited to work on their own, it controls the number of doctors that
exist at any one time.

In the jurisdiction where I live, the same medical association that
"foresaw" a coming glut of doctors - patently false if they could do
simple arithmetic and had _ever_ heard the words "Baby Boom" - also
lobbied successfully to have chiropractors and other alternative
practitioners de-listed from the socialized medical plan. Even with that
enormous blow they were not able to crush the chiros because the doctor
shortage that they manufactured has driven people to seek other
health-care options and to pay out-of-pocket (which we don't do for
doctors... when we can find them).

The above is meant as a parallel. If we succeeded in getting a TechComm
Guild instituted, WITH the key provision that government mandated its
prescriptive and exclusionary powers, then there would shortly be a
"shortage" of qualified, certified technical writers. The natural
reaction of companies everywhere would be to get their documentation
needs attended by people who would hold titles _other_ than Technical
Writer or Technical Communicator. Inevitably, seeing market-share and
control drift away, we-the-guild would begin lobbying to have it made
illegal to use /n/o/n/-/u/n/i/o/n/ non-guild workers to perform
such tasks. That's a lot easier to accomplish than to carry out a
decades-long branding and public-education program to sway the public
into avoiding purchase of products that don't carry "our" seal. Much
easier and more reliable to have government just give us powers to make
it unlawful to use scabs and unlicensed workers.

Any effective guild leadership would begin working for that kind of
power from day one. Most of them would not see it as unethical. Most
would tell themselves that _not_ pursuing such ties to government and
such powers would be the unethical way, because failing to pursue such
ties would be failing to secure the most secure outcome for the

People who wanted to work as technical writers/communicators would line
up to join, whether they agreed with the stance of the guild or not,
because the guild ticket would be the only way to legally work in their

Some people on this very list are nodding and rubbing their hands with
anticipatory glee. Others are turning aside as though encountering a bad
smell. Probably a majority wonders now, and would wonder after it
happened, what all the fuss is about.

Where the STC-Guild/AMA-Guild comparison seems less threatening than the
STC-Guild/Ontario-Medical-Association comparison is that you folks don't
yet have as much socialized medicine as we do, so there's far less
perceived need to limit the number of doctors that are churned out in
the USA. But it's just a matter of degree, and you are moving toward it.


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RE: STC is broken: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
RE: STC is broken: From: Keith Hood

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