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Subject:Re: Tech Writing Unions (was: What am I worth?) From:Richard Yanowitz <ryanowit -at- NYCT -dot- NET> Date:Wed, 3 Mar 1999 12:33:31 -0500
At 11:31 AM 3/3/99 -0500, Suzette Seveny wrote:
>I do not disagree that unions have had a major impact on workers' rights and
>conditions. At a time in our history, they were required. HOWEVER - most
>governments at some level now provide labour standards, which include working
>conditions, maximum hours of work, etc. IMO unions are no longer
>only exist to protect lazy and mediocre workers. I would rather let the
>determine my financial worth, not some socialist group who believes that
>everyone should be paid the same.
>Should this profession become unionized, I will be among the very first to
>change careers. I have never belonged to a union, never will belong to a
>union, and have never been unemployed for any period longer than a month,
As a long-time member of the National Writers Union (which has a signficant
as a long-time tech writer who commands top dollar (to the extent that
compensation correlates with employment value--admittedly a less than
obvious assumption, esp. when we look at corporate executives)
as an observor of the diminishing power of unions (at least in the US)
alongside growing discrepancy between rich and non-rich (at least in the US)
I can only hope that Suzette
her magnanimous homage to labor unions of antique times
re-visits her thinking about the current value of unions (though that
typically takes a personal, radicalizing experience like that of a
militantly anti-union journalist who recently joined the National Writers
Union in response to dirty dealing by her editor and publisher)
lamentably switches careers in the face of what I hope will be a growing
understanding of the value of collective action and the principle that in
unity there is strength.
As a comparison, I invite reflection upon the condition of teachers today
vs. 30 years back and more. In that ancient time, they had much trouble
unionizing because somehow they were supposed to be above such tawdry,
proletarian behavior, and because the joy of educating generations of the
future should be reward enough--and so for a very long time, longer than
workers in most industries, teachers remained largely people of independent
means, suckers, idealists, women (who obviously didn't need a living wage
because they either had husbands or were just filling in time until
marriage), or some fetching combination thereof.
Next: The unsupported though plausible allusion to "workers" (is the
adjectival sub-text "many"?) who are "lazy and mediocre" (at the same time?
separately?) reminds me of the logical rigor in use of welfare-cheat
anecdotes as bases for eliminating welfare. And if "mediocre" is distinct
from "lazy," I'm curious why "mediocre" workers, who presumably can't help
themselves (do we will ourselves to be "mediocre"?) oughtn't have rights
and protection in the workplace? (I will leave alone the question of who
judges what is "lazy.")
Then: "MOST governments at SOME level now provide labour standards"
[emphasis added] sets forth, to put it politely, a rather sweeping, nay
leveling, claim (which among many things assumes adherence to and
enforcement of such standards), the shortcomings of which I leave to the
imagination of the gentle reader.
And finally: while I might welcome "some socialist group who [sic] believes
that everyone should be paid the same," it would be one for which followers
are as scarce as people who read manuals--and it would be, alas, but one
among a plethora of feuding socialisms and approaches to fair pay. Nor, to
the best of my recollection, has any union (is that now a synonym for
"socialist group"?) ever demanded that everyone be paid the same--rather
such unAmerican and unCanadian goals as a reasonable rate within the
context of industry success, with a reasonable approach to raises, security
and working conditions.
But what madness has induced me to say all this? Normally as soon as I
read an expression like "let the market determine," I know it's time to
race for the nearest exit.
Richard Yanowitz, NYC
ryanowitz -at- bigfoot -dot- com
Freelance writers (including tech writers): join the National Writers Union
Web site: http://www.nwu.org/nwu/
E-mail: nwu -at- nwu -dot- org