Cooperative Economics for Engineers; or, Why You Have More In Common With Pirate Fleets Than With Your Manager

Tech sector employees have historically had few influential unions, professional societies, or other cooperative entities. 2019 may be the year that changes, thanks to the ongoing conversation around game developer working conditions, walkouts at Google protesting inequity and sexual harassment, and the recent collective bargaining victories at “new media” establishments.

Most programmers work in industries with better working conditions, but dig beyond the surface and you can spot some uncomfortable questions. Why are stock options deliberately misleading? Why isn’t there standard on-call compensation? Why is on-the-job training so limited? Why are programmers over 30 considered old? Why are companies so interested in outsourcing, offshoring, and even prison labor?

We need more context to answer some of these uncomfortable questions. Let’s take a lightning-speed tour through the history of cooperative economics, including medieval guilds, Luddites, ship’s articles, the American labor movement, credit unions, rural electrification, communications workers unions, web development co-ops, and community broadband networks. Learn what connects all of these moments in history, and how that very same thread runs through our careers as technologists today. And most importantly, learn why you’re more like a pirate than you ever guessed!



James Meickle

James Meickle is a senior site reliability engineer at Quantopian, a Boston startup making algorithmic trading accessible to everyone. His current areas of interest include data pipelines, ...