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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Unionization of professionals in data processing: an assessment of recent trends


The needs of management, unions, employees, and computer professionals combined with existing practices of Labor Relations Boards and the various divisions in the Departments of Labor have combined to create a unique array of social conflicts. At the root are management's interest in keeping many skills in data processing and computing out of bargaining units and the union's interest in including as many of these skills as possible. There is also conflict between past strategies guiding labor relations and the structure and function of professional work in modern organizations. Two recent developments are analyzed: (1) The FAA's success in keeping airports operational with the help of computer-controlled air flow procedures; (2) Management's successful bids to exclude professional engineers working in data processing jobs from bargaining units. At the same time, the National Labor and Mediation Boards have rejected attempts to define data processing jobs including highly skilled systems analysts as a separate craft or class for representation purposes while granting such status to engineers in similar employment situations. If this principle of exclusion from unions of licensed and certified professionals who are doing DP work is established in North America, it may lead to increased labor unrest in many highly automated and data processing industries.

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