The Firm

The Firm
Code Union, Code Better

Joe Blancato | 11 Oct 2005 08:04
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But in fairness to administrations current and past, when Teddy was around, America was a very different place. We weren't yet a Beacon of Light Standing on a Hill for other cultures to gaze upon in awe. We were the new kid on the block, trying out something called Rugged Individualism, figuring out exactly who we were and what our place in the world was. Europe was a boat ride away; we'd just secured the West and were stretching our arms. Strong decisions were made by strong people.

Unfortunately, that time has long since past. We're the fattest kid on a block that's shrinking every day due to the Information Age. Our American Dream has changed from a house with a white picket fence to a wild goose chase of consumerism and faux-Roman decadence. We're forever in search of more toys, more cars, more women, more money. And certain members of a certain socioeconomic class are convinced the best way to achieve that dream is to sacrifice those below them in the name of unfettered capitalism.

As the Baby Echo generation enters a job market still choked by their parents and in some cases, their grandparents, we continue to force the price of skilled labor into the ground. Coming close to their parents' salaries isn't something people dare to dream anymore; an American generation is doing worse than the one before it.

It might seem that the only way to protect our Way of Life is to force industry to start paying fair wages for fair work globally. But, the global option just isn't going to happen; the world at large is far too maligned to our political bent to expect everyone to agree to a world-wide solution. We need to think domestically before we can spread such a grand dream to others. We're left with making American companies color inside the lines.

But how? We can't wait for legislation to prevent this; the president and his party believe devaluing skilled labor (or shipping it away - ultimately the same end) is a good idea. We have to give legislators from both sides of the political spectrum a reason to shift their weight behind the American software worker - we need a whole boatload of us to leverage some lobbying power on a few big names in Congress. If we don't, we need to prepare ourselves for the reality that the Good Ship American Software Industry will pull a Titanic - and we're not first class passengers. The best way to do this is also the most controversial, something so stigmatized by "big business" (prepare your tinfoil hats) that among most young, educated, white-collar workers, it's a four-letter word. The software industry needs to unionize.

There, I said it. I'll wash my mouth out with soap later. But think about it. It worked last time. Since Samuel Gompers led the American Federation of Labor in the late 1800s until the late 1960s, unions worked with (and against) large businesses to ensure skilled workers received fair wages, compensation for injuries and retained the 40 hour work week.

This is not to say they're perfect; some large unions are known to be hideously corrupt and have been the target of numerous anti-trust suits. But the same can be said for large companies, as well. Any large organization that grows unchecked will eventually grow too powerful for its own good. This is why a delicate balance between an organized union and top brass is what the software industry desperately needs.

It's not anyone's fault, really. Video game design began as a frontier science. Teenage kids roamed like Kerouac, hawking video games in baggies and boxing their own releases a decade after they made their first million. The early years of the industry were a Hemingway novel set in a nouveau Old West. You got by on talent, hard work and grit. Teddy Roosevelt's spirit kicked a horse into a gallop here, and gaming exploded into a gold rush, where ultimately the only people making money were the shysters selling mining equipment.

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