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Should the Profession of Architecture Unionize?

151
OneLostArchitect

What is your opinion on this?wh

 
Jul 26, 18 12:57 pm

3 Featured Comments

All 39 Comments

joseffischer

Sure, why not.

Jul 26, 18 1:07 pm  · 
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senjohnblutarsky

We already have enough money grubbing organizations siphoning off of our measly paychecks.  Why suffer another? 

Unions had their place, a long time ago.  We don't have the conditions in this field that necessitated the creation of those unions. 

Jul 26, 18 1:47 pm  · 
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Featured Comment
tduds

Unions don't just fight to improve conditions. They also work to prevent erosion of these earned conditions.

Jul 26, 18 2:49 pm  · 
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senjohnblutarsky

Now tell me, have you ever seen conditions erode in this industry? There are some standard lousy work hours, chauvinistic environments, and shitty managers. But we're not talking about intolerable conditions here. We're talking about a few people being shitty people. And that is a constant. There are always shitty people. But I can't say I've ever seen an increase in shittiness. The fact that this is a featured comment illustrates a bit of disconnect with the industry and with the conditions that lead to unions in the first place.  The two aren't even close.

People want to whine about long hours and hard work.  I grew up on a farm.  You worked seven days a week.  You don't take long vacations, unless there is someone else who can fill in for you, because the animals can't go that long without you.  You're a slave to the job, for low levels of pay, relative to the retail cost of the product. 

Farmers are just one example.  There are soo many more.  The whining in this industry is laughable and pathetic at times.  Sure, I join in, but it's mostly to poke fun at myself for having joined the industry. 

Jul 27, 18 7:57 am  · 
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joseffischer

Architects need to stop whining! See Senjohnblutarsky's comment as a prime example! Until our industry can't get by without illegal labor and $12 billion in govt handouts, clearly our conditions can erode much further. Come back to the forums and complain when you're paid 0.50 per detail on the sheet and have to cover your own healthcare and NO VACATIONS.

Thank you John for setting us straight.

Jul 27, 18 8:54 am  · 
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senjohnblutarsky

And yet another disconnect. This idea that every farm runs on illegal labor and handouts is ridiculous. People really don't have a damn clue where the food comes from, or how it's generated. Sure, produce farms are capitalizing on that sort of labor, but I specifically mentioned animals. Very different beast.

Jul 27, 18 11:45 am  · 
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tintt

I grew up on a farm. We had a saying, "a bad day on the farm is still better than a good day in the office." :)

Jul 27, 18 11:50 am  · 
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SneakyPete

Food comes from factory farms.

Jul 27, 18 1:32 pm  · 
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wurdan freo

Sneaky is on to something here... Most of the agriculture in the us is from large corporate farms that gobble up the soil and our water and ship their products to china. And then the farmers lobby makes everyone feel sorry for the family farm and they get $20 billion a year in subsidies with an additional $12 billion from the current administration. Supposedly the farm lobby is the most organized in washington. go start an arch lobby instead... seems more lucrative.

Jul 27, 18 7:34 pm  · 
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tduds

Farmers should unionize.

Jul 30, 18 2:59 pm  · 
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Chibchaquen

What conditions do you think lead to a union? Better yet, what do you think a union is? What is its purpose? Finally, what organizations do you belong to that are siphoning off your hard earned money? Why participate in those organizations if they are wasted funds?

Nov 8, 19 1:32 pm  · 
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No way! 

Unionized worker get health care, retirement, vacation days, overtime, mandatory raises, workplace protections, workman's compensation, etc. 

I want maximum profit on underpaid outsourced labor. Do you know how much it costs to maintain a Gulfstream G650?!

Jul 26, 18 2:22 pm  · 
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JLC-1

isn't the AIA an architects' union? being worthless is another issue

Jul 26, 18 2:42 pm  · 
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sameolddoctor

The AIA. lolol

Jul 26, 18 5:44 pm  · 
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tduds

I'm always pro-union.

It wouldn't take much to reform the AIA into a more union-like advocate.

Jul 26, 18 2:48 pm  · 
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joseffischer

Conceivably it wouldn't take much, except that you'd have to replace all the current leaders who mostly make up Firm owners who directly compete with a unionized workforce.

Jul 26, 18 4:22 pm  · 
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tduds

Right, first step is re-framing AIA from being an advocate for architects (assuming clients as the other party) to an advocate for workers (assuming ownership as the other party).

Jul 26, 18 6:51 pm  · 
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randomised

When I work at architecture offices in NL I know my minimum base salary, don't need to arrange retirement, get my automatic raises and lots of paid holidays, it's horrible!

Jul 26, 18 2:50 pm  · 
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Chibchaquen

Are you a partner at the firm? Or are you simply an architect for NL? How much profit is NL making from your hard work and dedication? a

Nov 8, 19 1:34 pm  · 
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zonker

teamsters United BIM workers union - maybe in New Jersey - never in Ca

Jul 26, 18 2:51 pm  · 
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heeroyui

YES! Definitely Unionize! I wouldn't mind volunteering my time to start this.

Jul 26, 18 3:03 pm  · 
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Featured Comment

There is an organization trying to be the union for architects. See Architecture Lobby. 

http://architecture-lobby.org/

Metropolis: The Architecture Lobby Stages a Radical Alternative to the AIA Conference on Architecture



Jul 26, 18 3:09 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur
Nope. 100% against architect unions. Just what we need, some bully lobby group keeping the bottom feeders employed.
Jul 26, 18 3:19 pm  · 
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senjohnblutarsky

And doing their best to make sure non-union people aren't employed.

Jul 26, 18 4:24 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

Sounds a lot like many Architects without a union.

Mar 27, 20 11:44 am  · 
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xian

Unionize against who? Firm principals? The general public? I don't see either putting up with it for more than 30 seconds...  

Jul 26, 18 4:46 pm  · 
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randomised

You don't unionise against something or someone but FOR something, you've got it all wrong!

Jul 27, 18 8:22 am  · 
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xian

You don't understand how unions work. Unions are not about sit ins and protest marches, they are about getting concessions from management. What I'm asking is, who exactly will an architect union expect to grant them concessions?

Jul 27, 18 8:59 am  · 
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heeroyui

It's simple, change laws so that architects get overtime. How's that for a start? Force that number on the client and home owners. If your clients don't have the money, push that on the insurance company. What is home insurance for? Has anyone here who owns a home actually flled a claim? They tell you no, architects are not covered.

Jul 27, 18 12:38 pm  · 
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xian

You think that will encourage more people to hire architects?

Jul 27, 18 12:53 pm  · 
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randomised

I know exactly what unions are for, don't need to lecture me about the workings and advantages of those ;) living in a social democracy here in the Netherlands. We actually have a union of architects, they negotiate our base salary for example, our generous paid holidays, make sure we have a pension plan, and promotes architecture in general, lobbies with government etc...so what do you need to know about a union for architects xian, I'm sure I can enlighten you :)

Jul 27, 18 1:11 pm  · 
1  · 
xian

I'll ask you again, who is this union negotiating with? Are you sure it's even a union? Here in the states, architects find their own clients and negotiate their own fees. All a union is going to do here is discourage people from hiring architects since they will have to mess with union demands every time.

Jul 27, 18 2:02 pm  · 
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curtkram

i'm guessing the idea would be employees have collective bargaining with owners/management. someone who owns a framing or roofing company probably isn't a millionaire either. collective bargaining may be able to help architects, especially younger ones, negotiate better terms the same way it helps a framer. for us, this might include money but also possibly better exposure or experience like site visits or something like that.

Jul 27, 18 9:25 pm  · 
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randomised

​"I'll ask you again, who is this union negotiating with? Are you sure it's even a union? Here in the states, architects find their own clients and negotiate their own fees. All a union is going to do here is discourage people from hiring architects since they will have to mess with union demands every time.​"

I'm talking about salaries and working conditions (holidays/pension) for their employees, not negotiating fees with their clients. I think your idea of unions is a bit distorted by The Sopranos or something :)

Jul 31, 18 6:31 am  · 
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How will a Union work for the very small firms in the US? will this make it difficult for those small firms to compete with the big corporate firms? Will we limit unions to firms over 12 people?

Jul 31, 18 11:22 am  · 
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archi_dude

The demands they list?


Lowering the standards and experience for getting a license while increasing the costs for services. Sounds like a recipe to be even more avoided on projects than architects already are. 


Looking for alternatives to privately funded projects yet charging based on value added? So creating a communal based project but charging in a very capitalistic way? 


Sounds awesome but lots of holes in implementation. Maybe just take back the CM process?

Jul 26, 18 5:43 pm  · 
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zonker

if that happens, I can assure you, even more production work would just be outsourced to China, India, Argentina and Mexico - too much is already being outsourced let alone make it worse

Jul 26, 18 5:46 pm  · 
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JLC-1

have you ever heard of a professional union? seriously, that's what the "associations" are for; the fact they don't act in your behalf is half to blame on you.

Jul 26, 18 6:02 pm  · 
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x-jla

If firms had to pay half of that they likely wouldn’t hire as much staff. Simple math. It’s not like the banking industry where the ceos are making hundreds of millions. Most of those at the top are broke as shit too.

Jul 26, 18 6:55 pm  · 
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joseffischer

You act like not hiring as much staff is a bad thing.

Jul 27, 18 9:01 am  · 
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SneakyPete

I'm for the benefits, but the unintended consequences would be Contractors and Developers using this as a wedge to lobby for lowering the legal requirements to become a designer of buildings. Red states would lead the charge, possibly with some bullshit "Licensed Building Designer" crap. We'd see a marked drop in requests for services. Perhaps, over time, there would be a rebalancing in which good design floats back to the top and be able to command a premium for "Architects" but in the meantime the opposite effect of the union's goals would be realized. Big companies would design buildings while paying the designers peanuts.

Jul 27, 18 1:36 pm  · 
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Th left two panels in the graphic are a contradiction yes?

Jul 31, 18 11:25 am  · 
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geezertect

It won't ever happen.  Unionization only works when you have a very large number of worker bees performing easily definable tasks for a very small number of employers who themselves have high fixed costs and can't afford the downtime of a labor strike.  That doesn't remotely describe this profession.

The only long term solution is to reduce the supply of architects.  The only thing we as individuals can do toward that end is to spread the word to the little high school kiddies that this profession will break most of their hearts if they go into it.

Jul 26, 18 7:31 pm  · 
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joseffischer

I do my part when I can!

Jul 27, 18 9:01 am  · 
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We can also keep the mandatory internships and exams to get licensed instead of watering them down and reducing the hours need to finish.

Jul 31, 18 11:27 am  · 
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shellarchitect

Wowza,  some of the dumbest articles ever on the arch lobby site, and I'm normally pretty sympathetic to such things

Jul 26, 18 8:57 pm  · 
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jon ammer

.

Jul 27, 18 7:28 am  · 
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randomised

(and just look at young Peter Eisenman and Michael Graves being scolded by Mother)

Jul 27, 18 8:29 am  · 
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Volunteer

Have architecture schools a accredited by the ABET rather than the NAAB. That alone should close about half the schools. (Looking at you, Ivy League)

If the engineering schools can graduate a structural engineer in four years, architecture schools should be able to do the same with architects (see above)

S - - - can the NCARB. use whatever the engineering profession uses for their members to go from state to state.

Do away with the "master's program" for people with degrees in arcane subjects they thoughtlessly majored in (everybody makes mistakes!). If they want to be an architect have them go for the four-year BS degree with credit for their undergraduate degree courses where possible. Hopefully they can finish in three or less years - at normal undergraduate tuition levels, not the inflated graduate school rates.

The Master's program should be reserved for people with at least five years of work experience.

You're welcome.

Jul 27, 18 9:55 am  · 
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Bench

That's ... very reasonable actually.

At the heart of what you're getting at (I think) is the over-supply in the US being the main problem. CAN / UK / AUS have much stricter quotas with smaller class sizes and fewer schools in the architecture programs. They also have a more robust side-system for 2-year drafting/technical programs, which occupy a very necessary place in the profession.

Jul 27, 18 11:29 am  · 
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tintt

but then you would have to admit that what we are currently doing is silly and that is NEVER going to happen

Jul 27, 18 11:48 am  · 
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Bench

I dont think thats it at all tintt. Rather a raising-of-the-bar, albeit in a somewhat ruthless manner, with the aim of elevating quality in the profession across the board.

Jul 27, 18 1:33 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

IF exams are the gatekeeper to HSW, then anyone who passes them should be competent, yes? And if NOT, revamp the exams. IF schooling is the gatekeeper to HSW, then there should be competent graduates from every accredited school. And if NOT, then why keep out those with less formal schooling than graduates?

What about an apprentice path to licensure? Used to be 12 years working for a licensed architect made you eligible to sit for exams.

Jul 27, 18 1:39 pm  · 
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curtkram

there are multiple gates. the exam is only one of them.

Jul 27, 18 7:28 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

Over supply? What a joke.

https://www.bak.de/w/files/bak...

Jul 28, 18 12:19 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

curt, that's true, but the gates as they exist don't do the job they intend to, requiring employers to figure out the good from the bad. If the gates keep out people who have the drive but not the training yet the gates aren't functioning, leading to incompetent people getting through, then what is the point of the gates?

Jul 30, 18 6:41 pm  · 
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The gates are not designed to separate good and bad. They have an entirely different purpose.

Jul 30, 18 8:11 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

That's kinda
what I'm getting at.

Jul 31, 18 10:06 am  · 
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zonker

At the heart of what you're getting at (I think) is the over-supply in the US being the main problem. CAN / UK / AUS have much stricter quotas with smaller class sizes and fewer schools in the architecture programs. They also have a more robust side-system for 2-year drafting/technical programs, which occupy a very necessary place in the profession.

The US will enter a recession in 1 1/2 to 2 years from now, and a major culling is overdue

Jul 27, 18 2:40 pm  · 
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JLC-1

hopefully it's not a war

Jul 27, 18 2:54 pm  · 
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Featured Comment
quizzical

This topic has been discussed in some depth in a number of earlier threads:

    How come we don't have an organized union ? (2005)

    Architects - the worst paid job in the world (2007)

    Union for architects (2008)

    Workers union (2010)

    Architect's union (2011)

There's some pretty good stuff on the subject in each of these threads.


Jul 27, 18 10:08 pm  · 
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quizzical

Oh … by the way … there once was a union in the US that attempted to represent the interests of architects … FAECT … see link below:

Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians

Jul 27, 18 10:26 pm  · 
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Volunteer

If this group wanted to have some fun they could have a mock funeral of the AIA in Washington DC. Before the graveside service a New Orleans jazz style funeral procession could make a few laps around AIA headquarters. Non band members could be carrying signs and wearing T-shirts (black) such as : "I gave Yale $200,000 and all I got was this T-shirt".

Group members could hold a contest for the AIA's epitaph as well: "We told you you were sick". 

Jul 28, 18 3:21 pm  · 
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Brilliant.

Jul 28, 18 7:09 pm  · 
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wynne1architect@gmail.com

yes!

Jul 29, 18 8:28 pm  · 
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wurdan freo

unions are dead. No firm in its right mind would unionize. No individual either. Go ahead and form a union and get ready to never work in architecture again. Not to mention the architects union would only be for architects. Draftsmen would have their own union. I think on the trade side they actually are part of the operators union. So go approach them.

Jul 29, 18 8:55 pm  · 
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tduds

If unions are dead, they were murdered.

Jul 30, 18 3:03 pm  · 
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wurdan freo

Nah... suicide.

Jul 30, 18 4:58 pm  · 
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tduds

Nah... Reagan.

Jul 31, 18 10:56 am  · 
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+++ tduds

Jul 31, 18 11:13 am  · 
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wurdan freo

​Lift a PBR... and remember those good ole canning lines while listening to the only version of this song worth listening too... https://youtu.be/vbddqXib814

Jul 31, 18 9:01 pm  · 
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x-jla

It would work with a good Joe Pesci from goodfellas kinda leader...smack the shit out of some starchitects...”pay this intern a fair wage or in the fuckin pizza over you go!”   



Aug 1, 18 9:29 am  · 
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x-jla

*oven

Aug 1, 18 9:29 am  · 
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zonker

Ah hah, your so funny - "Funny? how am I funny?, funny like a clown?, am I here to amush you"

Aug 1, 18 11:41 am  · 
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Labor Day 2018 bump.

Sep 3, 18 3:18 pm  · 
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newguy

The answer to this question should really only depend on your position.

Are you a worker/laborer?  Then the answer is Yes.

Are you management/principal/ownership?  Then the answer is No.

For whatever reason, architects view themselves as "professionals" and think that the conflict between management and labor does not apply to our profession even though it is conflict that exists in literally every industry in existence.  Architects have such a terrible understanding of labor theory.  The combined output of the production from the worker architects in any office is what creates the value for that firm.  The owners, principals, and management all have a vested interested in keeping salaries for their employees as low as possible so that they can keep the surplus value generated by their labor force for themselves.  This is true in every enterprise, and our industry is no different.

Oh, you think there is no hierarchy in your office?  You think you and your boss are working toward the exact same goal? Try limiting your work-week to exactly 40 hours and refusing to meet unrealistic deadlines and see if you don't get a sit-down conversation with your manager about the meaning of "teamwork" and "professional expectations."

Sep 4, 18 2:36 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Not every office is structured in such a way. Mine is not. Also, I'd be the first to remove myself if ever there was a suggestion to unionized. My career growth is determined by my skill and experience alone and I will not see my personal efforts help those who care less.

Sep 4, 18 2:51 pm  · 
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Steeplechase

The offices where I have worked, the sit-down conversations with junior staff are about too often exceeding 40 hours per week.

Sep 5, 18 4:46 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

^10% OT is the norm here when work loads are heavy'ish. That's based on 37.5hr weeks.

Sep 5, 18 4:50 pm  · 
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newguy

Steeple,

That conversation actually falls in line with my observation.  Because junior staff are paid hourly instead of being exempt, the conversation about "not exceeding 40 hours a week" to an hourly employee is about getting over 40 hours worth of work done for only 40 hours of pay.

Sep 5, 18 4:56 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Just move to an office where they cover your OT hours. Rather simple. Work 50hr weeks? Get paid for 50hrs. Kids these days, amiright?

Sep 5, 18 5:00 pm  · 
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Steeplechase

new guy, nope, it’s about getting 40 hours of work done in 40 hours and trying to figure out why they are struggling.

Sep 5, 18 5:24 pm  · 
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newguy

No. If you are constantly having that conversation with younger staff, then it is your assumption of what can be done in 40 hours by junior staff that is incorrect, not their production. Afterall, they are junior staff, so their efficiency (or lack-thereof) is the justification for their lesser pay. So expecting them to have the same productive output as someone who makes more (and is therefore more proficient) cuts against the argument justifying their lower base salary to begin with.


Now, obviously, if they are posting all day on archinect rather than producing, then that is a separate issue.  But if this is a trend that you see often enough to bring it up (as you just did), then the issue is more likely an issue of ownership wanting to squeeze more profit out of their workforce, which is an inherent property of all profit-seeking enterprises.

Sep 5, 18 5:32 pm  · 
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Steeplechase

Who said anything about constant conversations? That is something you made up.

Sep 5, 18 5:36 pm  · 
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newguy

You said: "The offices where I have worked, the sit-down conversations with junior staff are about too often exceeding 40 hours per week."

The implication being that you've had this conversation multiple times with various staff members.

Sep 5, 18 5:37 pm  · 
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Steeplechase

You’re still just making stuff up. I didn’t say I was doing anything nor do you know anything about staff sizes or frequency. One person amongst several isn’t a norm.

Sep 5, 18 5:54 pm  · 
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newguy

Perhaps you personally aren't the person having these conversations, that's probably true. And I'm sure there are poor performers as well, as there are in all offices across all industries. But that doesn't really take away from the point, now does it? The fundamental conflict between those who own production (capital) vs those who produce (labor) still exists. The details as they exist in your particular situation(s) is largely irrelevant when analyzing the competing goals between the bosses and the workforce, which is the only point I'm trying to make.

Sep 5, 18 6:02 pm  · 
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tuna

get ready to pay heavy union fees. 

Sep 5, 18 3:59 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

Why? What are you comparing this to?

Sep 5, 18 8:52 pm  · 
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Bench

You literally have no income. And all the fees you just described are typically paid by the firm, not the individual.

Sep 6, 18 12:10 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Now now Bench, collecting welfare is a form of income. is it not?

Sep 6, 18 1:11 pm  · 
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Bench

Now you mention that, I just realized that as a new American tax payer, I am literally sending money to this guy.

(*Disclaimer: Im actually a supporter of Scandinavian-style higher taxes for social services, including welfare, I just felt the need to get that shot in).

Sep 6, 18 1:45 pm  · 
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Bench

But you wouldn't know ?

Sep 6, 18 2:01 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Want to revise that post there Ricky? Sounds a little, je ne sais quoi... 

Sep 6, 18 2:05 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

you've talked to... but never worked a day in one. Great credentials you have there Ricky. Looks real good next to your sexist/racist remarks above.

Sep 6, 18 2:16 pm  · 
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Bench

Not touching this one. I'm out.

Sep 6, 18 3:02 pm  · 
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eeayeeayo

Rick most firms - at least most that regularly employ people, do pay all of those fees for their employees. Some require the employee to chip in some %, in order to have "skin in the game" - i.e. so they feel some responsibility for maintaining their credentials, actively participating in AIA, etc - but in those cases it's typically the employee paying 20 to 30 percent. Perhaps if you're talking about a sole proprietor who hires production help on a per-project basis or something then they may not offer that benefit - but anybody who wants to retain employees pretty much needs to pick up the tab for those benefits.  I've never heard of a single firm paying memberships and fees for employees and then garnishing them from their paycheck. People on this forum who discuss the value of paying for dues and memberships are usually sole proprietors or firm owners.

Things like AIA memberships are as much, if not more, for the marketing purposes of the firm than they are for the benefit of the employee - and anyway, if the firm wants to maintain its status as an AIA member firm then it has to pay an annual fee for every architect it employs - and that fee is more than double for non AIA member architects, so there's some financial incentive to the firm for ensuring that all licensed staff are members. These are regular costs of employing professionals - the typical outlay of fees in my firm averages about $1100 per year per employee, for AIA, NCARB, LEED, and license renewals.

You need to actually work in some firms before you can tell anybody anything about working in firms. As for your welfare analysis: there is no federal program that determines eligibility that way, and in fact there are plenty of studies showing that white families benefit disproportionately from welfare. There are certain California-specific family programs with case load limits that do work that way - i.e. they prioritize certain demographics because they must satisfy diversity quotas - I think you may be confusing some facts, which is understandable since you were a young child at the time that you were living in CA.

Sep 6, 18 3:06 pm  · 
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Feel free to provide links to the source material Rick.

Sep 6, 18 7:06 pm  · 
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kjdt

I haven't seen people post on this forum about employers who don't pay professional fees and dues. I've seen lots of people post about the cost of those things - but usually they're either a principal in a firm, or they're somebody who is a consultant or currently unemployed or something like that asking whether they should keep up those memberships and certifications on their own dime. I've never heard of firms paying things for employees and then taking it out of their pay - can you find any example of someone saying that's the practice in any architecture firm? Sure there are restaurant and gas station chains that charge their employees for things like uniforms and take those costs out of their checks, because the turnover is expected to be so quick that those employers feel it's not a good investment to provide them free, but that's not the mindset of most architecture firms or how they typically operate.

Sep 6, 18 7:26 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Ricky. Like always, you're speaking crazies. Come back to this nonsense once you've actually held a real job. Not going to bother helping you out here seeing as you're so far removed from reality.

Sep 6, 18 7:54 pm  · 
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kjdt

Rick I'm a principal in my firm. We pay license dues for the states in which we regularly do work (though some staff do have licenses in other states where we do not ordinarily pursue projects, and they do pay those out of pocket if they wish to retain them), we also pay NCARB certification dues, AIA dues, LEED and CSI certification renewals, and we reimburse the fees for passed exams. These are pretty standard benefits - we're not unusual in covering them. We do not deduct any of these from salaries, and do not grab them back if the employee leaves the firm. Turnover in professional firms is not typically so quick that investing a few hundred dollars per year per employee is unreasonable, and all of those certifications and memberships are part of those employees' resumes so they're part of what gets us work. As many of us have told you numerous times: you would benefit from actually working in a firm.  Imagine actually knowing what you're talking about! This is the best hiring climate in architecture in the last 20 years - why don't you get yourself a job somewhere and check out a firm from the inside?

Sep 6, 18 7:56 pm  · 
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Rick, does your local community college offer business courses? You might consider taking a few so you can get a better idea of how to be an employer. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter as you will probably never have an employee, and no one takes you seriously on the forum when to talk about being an employer.

Sep 7, 18 12:41 pm  · 
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kjdt

Rick I thought I made this explicitly clear, but let me try again: we cover FOR ALL FULL TIME EMPLOYEES INCLUDING NEW HIRES AND ALL LEVELS OF PROFESSIONAL STAFF and pro-rated for part-timers: license dues for the states in which we regularly do work (though some staff do have licenses in other states where we do not ordinarily pursue projects, and they do pay those out of pocket if they wish to retain them), we also pay NCARB certification dues, AIA dues, LEED and CSI certification renewals, and we reimburse the fees for passed exams. These are pretty standard benefits - we're not unusual in covering them. Most firms of any size larger than a 1 or 2 person shop do offer this, or at least cover 70% of all of these things. 

It was not my intent to turn this into yet another thread about the minutiae of your personal circumstances and why you can or cannot get a job. Do whatever you're going to do, or not.  My primary point was: you're ludicrously off base with many of your assumptions about employment and practices in architecture firms, and you're doing a disservice to people who visit this firm for insight into the profession. It's irresponsible and immature - especially since you've been told how off base you are by so many of us so many times. EITHER get a job in a firm so you can talk about real life experience OR don't get a job in a firm, in which case STOP dispensing suppositions, generalizations and craziness.

Sep 7, 18 2:47 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

NCARB's surveys always find that the % of firms that pay AIA dues and license upkeep are reported to be slightly lower by emerging professionals than by firm principals - but both are typically in the >60% range for all firms of all sizes, and >80% for medium and large firms. I disagree with Rick's assertion that it's not customary in most fields for employers to pay for professional licenses. There are debates about this in many professions, and not all employers do pay, but the majority do, and most business/employment authorities recommend that they do so, because any fees that are for upkeep of credentials or memberships that are customary in a profession ultimately benefit the company so the company should provide them. Besides, they're cheap benefits that are easy for the companies to provide and create good will and longer retention of employees, and they're tax deductions for the companies.

Sep 7, 18 3:20 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

Per our tax accountant: professional dues are still deductible in the new tax code by employers as long as the membership can be shown to help the employee to carry out the duties of his job. That's an easy one with AIA and CSI, since membership provides access to industry-standard documents, as well as state-mandated continuing ed, etc.

And we do recognize all the others you've mentioned as tax deductible, except NCBDC perhaps (because it's considered a vanity credential with no professional value) - why would you think they aren't?

As others have requested: please don't post your assumptions as if they were fact. If you don't know it from first-hand experience don't post it at all.

Sep 7, 18 3:42 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

Rick I don't have NCBDC certification, nor does anyone in our office or anyone I know, so I haven't investigated that one. If it pertains to you I'd suggest consulting your own tax person. LEED is legally required by the state and local governments for much of the work that my firm does, so there's no question that USGBC membership and LEED accreditation help in our jobs. CSI is the industry standard for specifications and document organization, and widely referenced by contract documents - so having that membership and CSI credentials is easily demonstrated as helpful. The tax code now allows deduction of memberships and credentials only if they help the employee in doing their job - and for all of the ones we're deducting it's easy for us to show that they do help in doing the job. If you can show that for NCBDC then great - I'm skeptical but not saying it's impossible.  It's not one that I could see an architecture firm wanting to pay for, as it's viewed by most architects as a vanity thing for residential contractors. Most architecture firms probably wouldn't see any practical use in having their employees get that certification - but maybe if you were working for a residential contractor.

Sep 7, 18 4:56 pm  · 
 · 

smh - only Rick could take a 7 word comment about paying union dues and make it into this massive inline thread that devolves based on him not having a job (or a clue) and ends up considering the (non)value of the NCBDC/CPBD and LEED for exempt projects.

https://i.giphy.com/media/l41l...

Sep 7, 18 7:43 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

^EA, but think about it... if there would be a union, there is a chance it ends up supporting Balkins and others like him.

Sep 7, 18 8:06 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

Rick: for the type and size of projects I do, in my state, LEED is in fact required by state statute. This is not an isolated situation - there are many project types in several states for which this is the case. Once again, your "as far as I recall" is not the same thing as first hand experience. As for your thoughts on union dues: first of all, you need to learn the difference between employer deductions and garnishments. Employers can never garnish for union dues. Garnishment requires a court order. Employers can only deduct for union dues if the employee authorizes that deduction, though in a non right-to-work state an employer can deduct union fees (not dues) from non-union members.

Sep 7, 18 10:53 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

I would rather not tell you what I work on or where, so here is one from another state:

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16a-38k: new state buildings of $5,000,000 or more, and renovations of state facilities in excess of $2,000,000, must meet or exceed a LEED silver rating or a two-globe rating under Green Globes. This has been amended several times since it was first adopted more than a decade ago, to now also include new school projects and several other types of projects and thresholds, and some requirements in excess of LEED Silver minimums.

I know of at least 5 other states with similar statutes. Some of them allow "equivalent" systems other than LEED, and some do not.  In the case of the projects that I work on, LEED Silver or better is required by state statute. 

Sep 7, 18 11:26 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

I understand your thought train, but nonetheless LEED has been adopted by STATUTE for many types of projects in several states. Whether or not that should have happened is not the point. The fact is that it has happened, and is in those statutes, so if I work on those projects in those states then I need to know LEED, so LEED accreditation and USGBC membership are helpful for doing my job, so they are tax deductible. See? It's not that difficult.  It shouldn't require all this arguing from you, about something that you don't know much about because you lack real world experience. I cited an example of a statute, and you're still arguing. I'm tired of this thread. Good night.

Sep 8, 18 12:23 am  · 
 · 
SneakyPete

...


Mar 27, 20 11:51 am  · 
 · 
archinine
The problem isn’t architects as employers but architects as a group allowing the degrdation of scope of services and fees. Just consider how many various ‘consultants’ are present and collecting checks for any given project, all of whose tasks in another era were performed by (and subsequent fees collected by) the architect. That’s why your entry level PA pay blows. Reclaim the positions of owners reps and CMs. Stop racing to the bottom for fees. Learn to use excel and create budgets. If a union could tackle any of those (which I doubt) the profession as a whole would be in much better standing and may even see a reduction in the serious brain drain currently felt.
Sep 6, 18 1:50 pm  · 
1  · 
betonbrut

I couldn't agree with this more! The issue with the profession isn't employers taking advantage of their employees... which is largely what unionizing is to combat... It is a fundamentally failed business model by and large for the reasons you mention above.

Sep 6, 18 4:26 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

Any "race toward the bottom" comes at the expense of the workers, though. Without upward pressure from a workforce demanding equitable benefits and pay, employers have no incentive to demand higher fees from their clients, which means that developers/land owners/rent-seekers and other owners of capital can force employers to negatively compete with one another for a job. This reduction of fee comes at the expense of the laborers within an organization who are then asked to provide more service (i.e, value) for less pay. Employers have no obligation to demand higher fee because an unorganized workforce beneath them absorbs the impact. This is the reality of all capitalist enterprises, and architecture is no different.

Sep 6, 18 4:44 pm  · 
 · 
betonbrut

In general, yes, a race to the bottom comes at the expense of the workers... however, in a professional setting, it comes at the expense of everyone in the company, including owners. What you are really advocating for is a minimum wage so to speak for the profession. I don't see how that is even realistic.

Sep 6, 18 5:35 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

I'm advocating for bottom-up bargaining on behalf of workers rights. What you are advocating for (benevolent owners acting on behalf of the firm) is the logic used by those who support trickle-down economics.  I am simply acknowledging the conflict that exists in the workplace between owners and laborers.  The economic interests of the workers do not align evenly with the economic interests of the owners

Sep 6, 18 5:59 pm  · 
 · 
betonbrut

What other professional organization, aside from public school teachers, has a union? Unions in this country are almost exclusively reserved for labor. You are also assuming the owners of architecture firms are somehow getting rich off the backs of their employees. That has certainly not been my experience.

Sep 6, 18 6:12 pm  · 
 · 

What other professional organization, aside from public school teachers, has a union? Unions in this country are almost exclusively reserved for labor. 

Define professional organization. Define labor. 

Firefighters, paramedics, registered nurses, government employees (federal, state, county, municipal), postal workers, actors, musicians, film and television writers, professional athletes (NFL players association, MLB players association, MLS players union), air traffic controllers, pilots, etc.

Sep 6, 18 6:40 pm  · 
 · 
betonbrut

I think you can understand (with a little help from Wikipedia even) what 'labor' means in the context of the origins of unions in the US. I fail to see how those jobs or careers you mentioned above relate to the practice of architecture as it pertains to unionizing. Why don’t doctors and lawyers unionize? My original point is that I don't see how the current state of the Architectural profession in the US would ever be able to unionize and further, I don't see how that would bring wages up as you are suggesting. This is not to say that I am personally anti-union. I love unions and think they play a vital role in the US economy; mainly the protection of employees as much as it is their compensation.

Sep 6, 18 10:35 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

Just because you don't swing a hammer doesn't mean the output of your work isn't defined as labor. In basic economic terms, the workplace is broken into two groups:

1) Those who control the means of production (the bosses)
2) Those who rent out their labor (the workers)

The profits realized in any enterprise (architecture included) is the value that is created by the workers.  Any surplus is value created does not necessarily go to the worker, but to the bosses, who then get to decide how much (if any) to distribute back down to the workers.  Any increase in worker productivity, which in our industry usually manifests itself as more work done in a tight deadline (i.e, those all-nighters we all know and love) is best understood as added value that is created by the workers, even though their salaries are often fixed.

Sep 6, 18 11:03 pm  · 
 · 

beton, I'm not understanding your point. You asked about other professional organizations that have unionized aside from teachers (implication was current unions), but then you complain that those careers and professions don't relate to architecture and the origins (historically) of unions in the US has been around labor. First, is your argument about the historical origins of unions, or about current unions? Second, are there certain career characteristics that you view as necessary for any comparison to architecture (ie. tight deadlines, long hours, creative process, unique product rather than mass-produced, licensure required, etc.)? Earlier you offered two qualifications 1) professional organization and 2) not labor. I think I offered plenty of examples that work for those, so you'll need to clarify or give a more detailed rebuttal.

To your other question, lawyers have certainly entertained the idea of unionizing, and it has been discussed with regards to doctors as well. Your guess would be as good as mine as to why they haven't unionized. It think the articles I linked offer some explanations, but they don't definitively state it shouldn't or couldn't happen. 

I'm not sure if I would be pro- or anti-union at this point (can I be union apathetic?), I'm just trying to understand what point you're trying to make here.

Sep 7, 18 12:35 pm  · 
 · 
betonbrut

The business model of architecture is flawed. Unionizing the labor won't fix that.

Sep 7, 18 12:41 pm  · 
 · 

It actually might if collective labor demands would force systemic change in order for the business model to still be profitable. If not, then unionizing certainly wouldn't hurt the current business model.

Sep 7, 18 1:00 pm  · 
 · 
Flatfish

I don't know.  My experience with unions is all from teaching, and there the unions ensure a lot of good conditions and protections, and it's definitely worth the less than one percent of my teaching salaries that I pay in dues, and those hundreds of dollars in annual dues are not a hardship and more than pay for themselves in negotiated benefits.  BUT: sometimes there are unintended losses in flexibility/creativity of working situations built into the union-negotiated agreements.  The intentions are good, but for instance I can't choose to teach more credits per semester than the collective bargaining agreements allow, or as a lecturer I can't opt to take on additional duties (even well-compensated duties) that are supposed to be assigned to tenured staff, or I can't be a temporary adjunct for more than two semesters even if I want to be (because it allows more flexibility of my schedule), etc.  I would be concerned that an architecture union might result in some similar inadvertent limitations, that are results of well-intended protections for most architects, but can have the end results of defining all architects' roles for them in ways that might not best fit every architect.

Sep 6, 18 3:58 pm  · 
 · 
citizen

Very good points.

Sep 7, 18 7:50 pm  · 
 · 
archi_dude

In my experience, it didn’t seem like principals really made that much money. Even if you made it so they were only making about 10% more than PM’s and all that money was spread out between the “workers” everyone would get maybe...$900 or so more a year? And if there’s shareholders getting a meager payout after years of service, never sounded like that was much of a stash to raid either...

Sep 6, 18 11:52 pm  · 
 · 
Steeplechase

But Marx says you’re being exploited!

Sep 7, 18 12:34 am  · 
 · 
newguy

The majority of exploitation in the architecture industry comes in the form of time. There's also the issue of underpaid (or un-paid) internships, as well as competition work that is given away for free. Working 60+ hours a week is the same as wage suppression, because you are being asked to increase your output without a corresponding increase in compensation. This allows clients (developers / landowners / literal capitalists) to undercut the value of our service, because without organized labor agitating for workers concerns, they can demand more production without increasing pay. I mean, think about it. How many architectural employees work long hours designing luxury housing projects that they can never afford to live in? They are essentially being poorly paid to increase the value of land that they are being priced out of.

Sep 7, 18 1:09 am  · 
 · 
Steeplechase

Don’t be stupid and work for free.

Sep 7, 18 9:12 am  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

newguy... you're on a dangerous balkins level path of ridicule here. How long have you been out in the working world?

Sep 7, 18 9:23 am  · 
 · 
archi_dude

New guy, 1) No one is forcing you to work in a place like that. I averaged 42-45hr weeks and remained on the high side of the compensation curve. 2) The reason the fees are so low is because most clients just want plans and permits to build but many architects make an exorbitant amount of extra work for themselves modeling the surrounding neighborhood in sketchup for rendering or using sketchup up to DD then remaking everything in Revit for CD’s ect. Ect. The fees make sense it’s the firms with broken business models that don’t. Also for a union to be successful you need to be necessary and control output on something, Long Beach longshoreman are a great example. Architects that create art and ignore CA, not that valuable.

Sep 7, 18 11:31 am  · 
 · 
newguy

Steeple, wonderful advice. I'll store that bit of lovely insight right next to my bootstraps and rugged individualism, thank you. Archi_dude, if your firm is rendering services (such as 3D modeling context) and not collecting fee on it, then that means that there are people in your office being asked to work on something without compensation. But for the record, I've never worked in an office that doesn't model context. It's an essential part of the design process. Your suggestion that we cut down these steps for efficiencies sake undermines the value of design, which is the very service that we provide. We don't just arrive at a final set of drawings, we work up to them. And how do we not control output? The buildings we design are what generates the vast amounts of wealth for the owners of those buildings in the first place. The buildings we design are the vehicles that are used to collect the rents of tenants and/or the extraction of labor from employees. Without those buildings, that wealth cannot be generated/extracted/funneled upward. The real obstacle we face is not one of controlling output, it's one of building solidarity.

Sep 7, 18 2:36 pm  · 
 · 
archi_dude

90% of Clients want permits and coordinated drawings sets. They don’t care about arriving at a genious design. How would striking on a service that no one
cares about have an effect?

Sep 7, 18 4:17 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

"buildings we design are what generates the vast amounts of wealth" Really? Well... if you're so damn certain that your killer design skills are magical goldmines, why not set up your own shop and charge what you think you're worth? Nothing's stopping you.

Sep 7, 18 4:25 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

archi_, they don't want "coordinated drawing sets." They want a functional building that gives them guaranteed long term recurring profit in the form of equity/rent that they can extract from their tenants. The property they own begins generating value once a building is placed on it and they can charge tenants to use the space. If there is no building on the property, then that property doesn't generate the wealth they desire

Sep 7, 18 4:34 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

and you can guarantee that wealth?I think the owner/client, in your very specific example, also plays a role there. It's almost like you've never worked in the field before.

Sep 7, 18 4:37 pm  · 
 · 

In general the point is correct. Rent extraction (in every conceivable form) is the
foundation of capitalism.

Sep 7, 18 5:10 pm  · 
 · 
archinine
New guy has completely missed the point. As others have noted it is the business model that has failed / eroded. Unionizing won’t help anyone squeeze water from a rock.

I’ve seen plenty of firm owners, principals etc working tedious hours of overtime right along side junior staff. Sometimes said owners even kick the younger ones out, feeling as though by being the owner, the buck stops with them and they ought to be the last ones out. Of course not every owner is that way, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that principal architects are raking it in because they aren’t.

Check the AIA salary calculator or Glassdoor at various large firms to see owner/principal pay. Compare those salaries to the higher ups at the big owners rep and project management firms. Even if it’s only a 5-10% difference, multiple that over the lifetime of a career and add in all the unpaid overtime, abysmal benefits packages, lack of bonuses etc, and you’ll start to understand why the brain drain continues.

Always follow the money, that’s usually where the answer is.
Sep 7, 18 10:30 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

New guy has completely missed the point. As others have noted it
is the business model that has failed / eroded. Unionizing won’t help
anyone squeeze water from a rock....Always follow the money, that’s usually where the answer is.  

Your point seems to be that the money supply only comes from Principles or firm owners, and that is only a part of the equation.  Owners of firms are competing for work from a class of land-owners, speculators, and developers who have no incentive to pay more fee if they don't have to, because that would dip into their profit models.  Well, if the owners of a firm cannot demand more fee, they will simply adjust by asking their employees to render more services for free.  Some of the more generous owners may even pick up some of this work themselves so as to not push this burden down on their workforce (although I think this habit varies wildly from person to person more so than office to office.  I've personally experienced both types).  Regardless, the end result is that a pool of architectural designers in any given office is asked to output more work in the week than they are contracted for.  User "archi_dude" above indicated that he only averaged 42-45 hours a week as if that is some sort of personal accomplishment.  So let's use his example and do the math:  

1) By his own admission, he is working around 100-260 hours a year for free.  Multiply that by his hourly rate, and that is how much of his free labor his firm is offering their clients. 

2) Now let's assume that his entire office is structured that way (and that his underlings aren't picking up the extra hours necessary to complete any given job).  In an office of 10-20 people, that is roughly 1,000-5,200 hours of work that are given away every year for free.  Multiply that by the average billing rate per staff member, and you can see just how much money is being gifted to developers. 

3) Now let's multiply these numbers across the entire industry, and you can begin to imagine just how much architects on the whole are being played like chumps.  

So who eats this massive discount that is just given away year after year after year?   Is it the clients, developers, and land owners who force architecture firms to negatively compete and underbid one another?  Is it the firm owners who have the means of controlling their staff size if and when work dries up?  Or is it the employees who are working hours without compensation, effectively reducing their wages and living precariously in fluctuating markets completely at the mercy of capitalist land owners? 

You tell me that the business model has eroded.  So tell me.  Cui bono?

Sep 14, 18 6:36 pm  · 
 · 
archi_dude

Well I only averaged those extra hours at a firm where there was a generous bonus package directly tied to keeping the firm lean and mean. The last firm I worked straight 40 hours but the work was boring and the pay was crap to compensate for the culture of giving nothing more than average. Since we are in a free capitalistic society, I was able to freely switch jobs to something that once again, has some fast paced deadlines with expected overtime but ownership rewards it with some SERIOUS bonuses and salary bumps. So basically I still don’t work that outrageous hours but I’m compensated for it. I’d rather just stand up for myself and get a good job then sit back whine and try to bring everyone down to my lame level with a Union. But I get what your saying about pushing back on the evil landowners. That would be BA, however, Globalism. I would fear most production jobs would be outsourced. Same situation the McDonalds workers found themselves in when LA implemented 15$/hr. The self serve kiosks moved in.

Sep 14, 18 9:19 pm  · 
 · 
zonker

I can see a teamsters United BIM workers union

Nov 11, 19 4:23 pm  · 
 · 
gregknow@bellsouth.net

I'm Gregory and have Bachelors Degree in Architecture from FIU.  I have 10 years of experience with autocadd, and I am up to date with autocadd Release 2021.  I started out with autocadd release 1.2 in 1983. 

I've learned BIM / Revit which is very important to this profession, and it doesn't help me one bit since most Architects today cannot operate this new technology or don't see any advantage to this new software.  They will use students for this technology and then lay them all off once the work slows down within a year. 

Maybe its time for mandatory training by a union of architects to keep a safe (UN-stale) working environment.  Most the Architects / owners today are keeping only 10% of their upper staff, and treat the rest of their employees like cattle and lay them off without notice.  This is why I've chosen not to become a licensed Architect and don't want to be apart of this stale profession.  

Although, I do still want, and need to work, and I liked what I learned in school, but no one will hire me here in Miami Florida.  Also, I may have to move from here since Miami is now like a foreign country. 

Employers here don't admit it, but they will not hire English only speaking Americans if they speak Spanish.  It should be illegal for employers to discriminate, and  layoff their employees without any notice and no severance pay. 

What else can I say but that something has to happen, and what goes around surely will come back around in the end.

Mar 26, 20 12:04 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

Yeah, that's not how things work, but you're free to believe that.

Mar 26, 20 12:41 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

I'm not saying your experience is not true, but I will say that it's far from typical.

Mar 26, 20 12:53 pm  · 
 · 
SneakyPete

2020-1983 = 37

37-10 = 27

What were ya doin' the other 27 years?

Mar 27, 20 11:52 am  · 
 · 
revolutionary poet

we should Unionize and then all quit at the same time.

Mar 26, 20 7:43 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

That's called a "strike"

Mar 27, 20 11:25 am  · 
 · 
Volunteer

Basically architecture is a guild, but the default heads of the guild, the AIA, NCARB, and NAAB have not been successful at all in limiting the number of practitioners. Indeed the more schools that need certification the more money the NAAB rakes in, the more architects in training and graduated and certified the more money the NCARB brings in, and the AIA tries to present itself as crucial, so send in those checks. 

A second fault is that architects are untrained in the kind of architecture the educated public demands. Todays architects trypicaly have no clue as to architecture pre-Bauhaus. FLW's Prarie Style and mid-Century modern were popular but post-Modernism, Brutalism, Deconstructivism, and Parametricism only induced horror in the educated populace. 


Mar 27, 20 1:35 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

We thought ourselves artists, not artisans, and made the grave error of following the arc of the arts, not the builders. It mostly worked until Postmodernism. Irony doesn't work well in buildings.

Mar 27, 20 1:55 pm  · 
 · 

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