RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?

Subject: RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?
From: "Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>, "Bill Swallow" <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>, "Geoff Hart" <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 11:36:58 -0700

I think your observations are spot-on. I agree that a tech writers'
union is impracticable and that the guild model could work. The
Betriebsrat is a different type of animal that I evoked only to
illustrate the point that employee representation can be a good thing
(if done on the right scale by a group with a directly vested interest).

The interesting thing about the Betriebsrat was that it was a company by
company thing. All of the non-management personnel (developers, tech
writers, system admins, and even custodians) are represented by the
Betriebsrat (which itself comprises employees from those groups).
Betriebsrat leaders are not paid, employee membership is automatic, and
there are no employee dues. As far as I know, there was no overarching
organization in which employees from several companies were represented,
and there was no extra-corporate leaders negotiating terms for
employees. So, the Betriebsrat is not really a union. It gives employees
a single voice with which to respond to the single voice of management.
The only place in which overarching control enters is that, as far as I
know, companies of a certain size in Austria are required by law to have
and support a Betriebsrat. The thing I really admired was the maturity
of the relationship between Betriebsrat and management, especially when
things got hard. At least in my company, the Betriebsrat understood
commercial reality and was just as interested in corporate success as
was management.


-----Original Message-----
From: McLauchlan, Kevin [mailto:Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 10:24 AM
To: Leonard C. Porrello; Bill Swallow; Geoff Hart
Cc: techwr-l List
Subject: RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?

n Behalf Of Leonard C. Porrello said, at some length:
> > Ned said, "... I despise unions is that I want no one making
> for me out of 'my best interest'. The only entity that truly has my
> interests in mind is me."
> When I was working in Austria for a U.S. based Fortune 100
> the corporation decided the lay off 10% of staff and middle management
> in our Austrian branch. In their typically heavy-handed manner,
> corporate announced this through upper management, and we all were
> assured that those who would be cut would get severance. However,
> because of Austrian law, the typical U.S. approach didn't work. By
> we had a workers' council ("Betriebsrat") in the company, comprising
> company employees, elected by employees. They were not able to prevent
> the layoffs (and that wasn't their mission). However, they were able
> ensure that the layoff weren't the result of a short term need to
> improve the bottom line, and they also gained several very important
> concessions from the corporation, such as higher amounts of severance
> tied to years of service and a system for allowing all volunteers
> before any involuntary cuts would be made. I wasn't cut, but the
> Betriebsrat did a lot of good, and we were all better off because of
> The Betriebsrat worked because representatives had interests that were
> identical with workers' interests. Employees were confident that the
> corporation was hearing their concerns, and the upshot was that
> felt much better about the corporation--in spite of the layoffs.
> Above and beyond that, because workers in places like Austria are able
> or organize themselves (not necessarily in Detroit/Teamster style
> unions), they have things like six months of stipended maternity and
> paternity leave, 25 days of paid vacation per year, universal health
> insurance, and unlimited sick time (which I never saw abused). And
> before anyone soils himself about the evils of unions and socialism,
> me add that I am not advocating a socialist state. However, I would
> point out that some countries that are more socialistic than Austria
> (such as France--a nation for which I have no love and would not, in
> most ways, want to emulate) exceed U.S. productivity in terms of
> per hour worked
> ( And
> before anyone's head explodes with the idea that such benefits require
> much higher taxes, allow me to add that my taxes in Austria (which
> included excellent health care) were no higher than the taxes I pay
> in the U.S. plus what I pay for insurance.
> While Detroit/Teamster style unionization is currently unnecessary in
> many industries, the evidence does not support the categorical
> condemnation organizations that represent workers' interests.

As long as they represent the local workers' interests, I don't really
have a problem (at this time, reserving the option to change mind as
further info becomes available...).
My experience with unions (in Canada) is that the local crew is entirely
beholden to the regional/national/international union bosses and get NO
help and resources if they want anything that doesn't toe the line as it
is laid down by those upper union levels.
You didn't mention whether there were dues involved.
In the model with which I was familiar (too long ago, and yet not long
enough), the dues went up the food chain, and only portions ever came
back down, with lots of strings attached.

However... as I believe I've made clear in earlier threads where the
word "union" was mentioned in the same breath as "Technical Writers", we
aren't really suitable for that approach. Very, very few of us work in
big shops with dozens or hundreds of other writers. Most of us seem to
work as captive FTEs in onesies and twosies, or as contractors and
freelancers... again in onesies and twosies, at tens of thousands of
employers, in dozens of industries. That's not real union fodder.
"Local 21637 of the Techwriters' Union (by unanimous vote of both its
members) is now on strike against Little Jim's Software and Popcorn,

I pointed out why the Guild model might be more appropriate, but I also
pointed out some pitfalls that needn't be repeated just now.


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RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position: From: Donald H. White
Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?: From: Geoff Hart
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?: From: Bill Swallow
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?: From: Leonard C. Porrello
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit; STC position?: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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