Survey: Should Developers Form a Union?

It’s a simple question: Should developers have their own union?

Our survey below is downright binary: it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But there’s a lot of context to such a simple question.

We’ve seen what a developer’s “union” can look like: A loose-knit band of voices making pleas rather than demands. Ahead of this year’s WWDC, a group named “The Developers Union” publicly rallied support amongst iOS developers to request Apple provide a better revenue cut for developers and free trials for all apps.

A union’s strength is in its entrenched position of resistance, and this “Developers Union” never quite had a solid stance. It even called itself a “non-union union,” which is not a thing. And once it failed to elicit widespread support or see immediate results, it quietly folded: The Developers Union website is no longer up, and head cheerleader Brent Simmons seems to have removed a post announcing the formation of this non-union union from his personal blog (though one defending it remains). Its official Twitter account hasn’t been updated since June 5, when WWDC started.

At WWDC, Apple announced it would begin allowing free trials for apps – one of the requests made by The Developers Union. That was clearly coincidental, but it would have been fair for the “non-union union” to declare victory on that front and continue growing its membership. It didn’t. Instead, it simply went away without cause; that’s not how any governing body or steering committee should represent its membership.

At its core, a union exists to protect its members from the whims of corporations. It helps secure good pay, acceptable working conditions, and other benefits (such as pensions). Developers typically don’t have issues making a living wage, and don’t work in squalid conditions. A proper retirement account is easily attainable, typically via the company you work for.

But we’re seeing signs the halcyon days of tech might be numbered. Salaries are plateauing. Automation threatens entry-level jobs. Ethics is coming to the fore. A sense of value at work is diminishing. Developers and engineers want more responsibility than companies are willing to provide.

Perks are quickly becoming the new battleground for tech pros, but working from home and more vacation time aren’t total solutions to many of tech’s rising issues. We have to question if tech pros need reliable outside representation. Conditions aren’t dire, and likely never will be, but is it better to organize now to ensure the industry ‘norms’ we’ve come to expect (and enjoy) don’t vanish?

The choice to unionize is a fork in the road, which is why our survey is simple this time around. Imagine a scenario where a flyer for a real union is being passed around your workplace, and you have to decide whether to sign up: either you do, or you don’t.

Now you have the opportunity for a trial run. Should developers unionize, or not? The choice is yours. (And don’t worry, our surveys are always anonymous.)

We’ll be publishing the results in a future article on Dice Insights, so stay tuned!

Related