Microsoft and Big Labor

A union is trying to organize Microsoft’s programmers. The union is exploiting fear of off shoring to rally the workers.

Having worked in software engineering for a decade, but observed the utility of unions over 40 years, I strongly urge Microsoft’s employees to do some long, hard thinking before they sign up with the labor group.

Unions have been completely unable to stop off shoring in every industry they’ve tried. In fact, in steel, garments, and shoes, union activity accelerated the rates of job moves to overseas companies by making American workers more of a headache and more expensive. The primary motivator for a company to replace American workers with overseas workers is cost of labor. Unions drive up the cost of labor, making off shore workers even more attractive by comparison.

If American code bangers want to minimize the difference, they should concentrate on quality by pushing their companies to take advantage of things we’ve learned over the past decade:

  • Big, up-front design results in low quality code that no one wants delivered too late to do any good.

  • Trying to preserve old software written with code two generations old is more expensive than starting over.

  • No code should be written except to satisfy some test that’s failing.

  • Test everything.

  • Build continuously.

These simple principles, resisted more by programmers than by management, will allow American ingenuity and proximity to the customer to dominate the software industry for another decade, at least.