Studying labor law and employment practices wasn’t cool if you wanted to work in Big Tech. It changes.
Industrial relations have been the neglected child of human resources professionals. Dealing with unions (especially in India) has always been described as the equivalent of joining the bomb team. The history of militant unions has led newcomers to avoid or minimize stopping where they need to deal with union officials. I believe this reinforces skills that are difficult to hone in any other mission.
In the 1980s, strikes and militant unions made daily headlines in India. The Great Bombay Textile Strike was a textile strike called on January 18, 1982 by workers at the Mumbai factory under the leadership of union leader Dutta Samant. The aim of the strike was to obtain bonuses and an increase in wages. Nearly 250,000 textile factory workers have gone on strike in Mumbai. The majority of the more than 80 factories in central Mumbai closed during and after the strike, leaving more than 150,000 unemployed.
Not just blue collar jobs
Unions would negotiate to improve wages, bonuses, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement) and working conditions. They kept an eye out for unfair labor practices. They provided the checks and balances to the power equation. The unions had class connotations. It took a long time for medical representatives to organize because they believed “unions” were for blue collar workers. Pilots, doctors, nurses, bank workers and many others have bodies that represent their interests.
The IT industry in India (IT, ITES, KPO, BPO) has attempted to organize employees under an organization called FITE (IT Employee Forum). Given the high mobility of employees in this sector, disgruntled employees would leave the employer and join the competition.
There is a work-worker-workplace balance that will always be maintained. When the nature of work changes (e.g. from farms to factories) it takes a different set of workers (with different skills) and to manage them the workplace needs new roles, rules and legislation.
Dying to have it
When the founders of tech created new startups like Google around the turn of the century, they seem to have built a different world. There was nothing more to be desired from an employer. Other high-tech employers competed with lavish perks and fancy offices to outdo themselves. Suddenly everyone wanted to be in tech.
Google was that new employer who got everyone to sit down. Everyone wanted to see the office which had slides, free food, unlimited vacations, pools, masseurs, sushi on demand for entrees. Stocks created millionaires, dead or alive.
Google’s “death benefit” meant that the spouse or domestic partner of the deceased employee received 50% of his salary for 10 years.
The world is not enough
When Google employees formed a union, news. What could googlers be upset about? They have all the perks, great salaries (the median Alphabet employee made $ 258,708) and perks that make others envious.
The Alphabet Workers’ Union now has 700 members. They tackle issues that traditional unions have rarely sought to have an impact on. Here are four triggers that prompted Google employees to form unions.
1. Ethical Uses of Technology: “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the letter began, before explaining that Google’s involvement in the Maven project would damage its brand and its public confidence. Google was working with the US Department of …
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