EppsNet Archive: Unions

Generalists Are Better Than Specialists

9 Mar 2013 /
Halo Reach, Forklift.

People ask me what is my “specialty” in software development. My specialty, if I have one, is in not having a specialty. I feel like I can contribute on any task.

That answer throws people off. They repeat the question, explaining that everyone is best at something. Managers especially like the idea of specialists because it simplifies the assignment of work: UI tasks go to the UI guys (or gals), SQL tasks go to the SQL guys, middle-tier tasks go to the middle-tier guys, and so on.

Before launching my illustrious career in software development, I worked on a union construction site. Everyone’s job was defined in excruciating detail — what each union member could and couldn’t do.

For example, if we needed to move a pallet from here to there, we had to find a teamster to drive the forklift. There were a few exceptions to that rule, depending on what was sitting on the pallet. In the exceptional cases, we had to find an operator to drive the forklift.

If we couldn’t find a teamster or an operator, the pallet had to sit where it was. We couldn’t move it. It didn’t matter how many other guys were standing around who knew how to drive a forklift.

Since then, I haven’t been a fan of specialization on work teams. It leads to some people having more work than they can possibly do while other people are standing around idle.

I’d make an exception if work demand could be guaranteed to match the available allocation of specialists (i.e., never), but if not, then give me a team of generalists every time.

Thus spoke The Programmer.


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Paul Krugman

19 Nov 2012 /

America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.

I hardly know where to begin with this . . .

First of all, what is the relevance of the 1950s as opposed to any other period of American history? America prior to 1913 had no permanent income tax and contrary to left-wing propaganda, it prospered. Why can’t we do that again?

Workers of the World, Unite!

Of course we’re all in favor of fairness — right? — but why is it only important that “the rich” pay their “fair share”? I don’t remember ever hearing anyone, certainly not Krugman, use the phrase “pay their fair share” in reference to any group except “the rich.”

If you’re concerned about fairness, isn’t it also important that the middle class “pay their fair share”? Isn’t it important that the poor “pay their fair share”? Shouldn’t we all have some skin in the game?

Why not say that everyone should “pay their fair share” instead of making a class warfare issue out of it?

 

As George Harrison used to say:

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all

America in the 1950s had a top tax bracket of 91 percent for incomes greater than $200,000. For every dollar you made in excess of $200,000, the federal government took 91 cents as its “fair share.” You got to keep nine cents as your “fair share.”

Out of those nine cents, you also had to pay Social Security taxes, state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and excise taxes. Am I forgetting anything? It doesn’t seem unlikely to me that nine cents on the dollar wouldn’t be enough to cover all those taxes, in which case you’d actually lose money on every dollar.

If I’d been a business owner in the 1950s, with the knowledge that once I made 200 grand, I’d be operating at a loss, I would have just shut the place down at that point and sent everyone home till the next year. I don’t care if it was November or August or January.

Finally, when Krugman talks about workers having “the power to bargain,” he’s talking about unions, as though the two things are inseparable. I’ve never been in a union but I’ve bargained for wages and benefits at every job I’ve ever had. Anyone with marketable skills can bargain for wages and benefits.

P.S. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but “workers” is a telling choice of words, isn’t it? Why not “employees” or just “people”? “Workers” calls to mind communist rallying cries and the Wobblies.


The Obama Bounce Fades

12 Sep 2012 /

And through it all, there is no presidential leadership. He’s too busy raising money to run ads so he can tell us what a great leader he is.

Everywhere we see, in ruins, Obama’s plans for our country. His foreign policy has encouraged revolutions that have brought our worst enemies to power in the Middle East . . . His education reforms have no teeth and he sits by passively as they are challenged by his own local teachers union.

Credit much of the quick end to his bounce to Romney’s ads which, right off the bat after the Democratic Convention closed, rapped Obama for trying to convince us that we are better off than we were four years ago. Obama’s campaign essentially poses the question: What will you believe — your own eyes or my speeches?


This Explains a Lot

31 Aug 2011 /

When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.

Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of Teachers (1964-1984) and President of the American Federation of Teachers (1974-1997)

Wisconsin’s Smoking Gun

1 Mar 2011 /

If you cut the pay of an overpaid worker, he’ll generally scream bloody murder. After all, overpaid workers like to stay overpaid. But if you cut the pay of a non-overpaid worker, you haven’t really damaged him. He just quietly leaves and gets a job elsewhere. After all, the ability to find a comparable job elsewhere is pretty much the definition of not being overpaid.

Now how are the Wisconsin public workers reacting to projected pay and/or benefit cuts? As if the rug’s been pulled out from under them, that’s how. Every time a worker says “These cuts will cause me severe pain,” that worker is saying, in effect, “I can’t get anyone else to pay me at the level I’m accustomed to,” or, in briefer words, “I am overpaid!”

So yes, they’re overpaid. And the louder they get, the surer you can be.


Orwell in Wisconsin

27 Feb 2011 /
Save Are Teachers!

On Saturday, February 26th, Americans in all 50 states rallied to show solidarity with the people of Wisconsin, and to save the American Dream.

Ha ha — George Orwell couldn’t have said it better!

MoveOn.org doesn’t stand with the people of Wisconsin, they stand with the people trying to rip off the people of Wisconsin.

Union-elected legislators provide sweet contracts for public-sector unions, who in turn kick back a share of the money to the legislators. Government employees take both sides of the action and the tax-paying fools who pay for everything are not represented at all.

That’s the American Dream?


Union Sundown

21 Feb 2011 /

Wisconsin public schools are among the lowest performing in the country. So it makes sense to me that this is one of the first teacher’s unions to get dissolved. And, this is a great example of how a union has outlasted its usefulness to the community.


We Are All Wisconsiners Now!

19 Feb 2011 /
Save Are Teachers!

Wisconsin has figured out a way to get all of its Democratic legislators to flee the state without so much as a BRB. How can we expand this nationwide?

Elected officials hiding out in undisclosed locations to prevent a quorum should wake everyone up to the extent to which public employee unions control our political destiny.

I have three words for the “sick” teachers in Wisconsin: Air Traffic Controllers.

We live in a top-notch school district in Irvine but it’s not because the teachers are so great. It’s the effort of the kids and the support of their families. Even in a good district, the teachers are very replaceable.

You’ll have to take my word for it but I could easily teach English, math or computer science at the high school level, even though I’m not government-certified to do so, and there are plenty of people in Wisconsin who could do the same.


The Democratic Party

27 Jun 2010 /
Democratic party logo

The Democratic Party is really a synthesis of environmentalists and peace advocates with a few gay rights activists and public employee unions thrown in.


Teachers Unions

3 May 2010 /
Teacher

In our biggest school systems, it’s become virtually impossible to fight the teachers unions and fire bad teachers. The giant Los Angeles Unified school system, with 33,000 teachers, fires only about 21 a year, or fewer than 1 in 1,000, according to the findings of an L.A. Times investigation. Now either Los Angeles has the greatest teachers in the world or something is very wrong. Talk to parents and you’ll know the answer.