Discussion on: Should we form a labor union?

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Matthew Daly

I've long thought having a trade union would be helpful for web developers.

Web dev is more of a trade than a profession - we build stuff, we lack any sort of definitive professional body the way accountants have, and I have personally known people who entered the industry via apprenticeships, so to say it's not a trade is wrong.

We also have certain structural problems in the industry. The demographic is predominantly young and male, which comes with its own set of problems:

  • Younger developers may be less knowledgeable about their rights as employees, and so easier to exploit (many of us have horror stories about trying to get paid for work done)
  • The benefits offered will tend to target this demographic, thus dissuading older or female developers from applying for positions and intensifying the lack of diversity
  • Developers are in my experience usually socially liberal, but outright discrimination certainly isn't unknown in our industry and it's naive to think otherwise
  • I've known employers to treat staff very badly in this industry - brutal death marches, written warnings for talking, and things like that

This is all stuff unions can help with.

In addition, I believe in trade unions as a (usual) force for good. I'm in the UK and normally vote for the Labour party, who grew out of the trade union movement. I'd like my industry to have more role in shaping government policy, and having a trade union for us that would be affiliated with the Labour party would be one way to achieve that next time Labour are in power.