Engineers and Scientists - Unions and Professionalism
- Jay A. Young (Kings College)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1961
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,184 - 1,186
- 1961. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 7.5.3 Professional Registration/Cetification
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 135 since 2007
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For many years-but particularly within the past several months-many scientists and engineers have privately and publicly discussed questions concerning their professional status. Though no poll has ever been taken, most of them probably maintain that they do practice a profession. However, this similar conclusion is based upon diverse premises, depending upon the individual scientist or engineer. Further, it is reasonable to conclude that many scientists and engineers, and perhaps most of them, think that it would be inimical to their status as a scientist or engineer (or, at least, that it would not be very beneficial) if they were to join a union. On the other hand, some have found that membership in a union is desirable to obtain proper remuneration or to improve other conditions of their employment. This article examines the claim of scientists and engineers to professional status and discusses the propriety of their membership in unions. In the interest of brevity and since most scientists and engineers are employees, no detailed discussion of the status of independent professionals (i.e., lawyers, doctors, etc.) will be considered here.
The Taft-Hartley Act Describes the Professional
A recent, rather widely accepted definition of a professional employee is given in the Taft-Hartley Act which describes a professional employee in one of two ways. 1. He is one who is "engaged in work: (a) predominantly intellectual and varied in character as opposed to routine mental, mechanical, or physical work; (b) involving the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment in its performance; (c) of such a character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time; and (d) requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study in an institution of higher learning or a hospital, as distinguished from a general academic education or from an apprenticeship or from training in the performance of routine mental, manual, or physical processes". 2. Or, he is one who has received the specialized intellectual training just described and who, under the supervision of a professional employee, is performing work directly related to that performed by a professional employee to qualify himself to become a professional employee as just defined.
The Popular Image of The Professional
Implicit in this definition are several attributes of a professional characteristics by which others traditionally recognize him to be a professional. 1. He possesses a strong sense of individual responsibility, a tendency to answer first to himself for his professional actions and secondly to an employer (or client). 2. He maintains a flexibility in his approach to a problem, using established rules, techniques and procedures as guides to the desired answer, rather than as specific, rigid routes. 3. He tends to assume that he has tacit authority to make decisions or perform acts which he deems necessary for the immediate or remote welfare of an employer without the concurrence of his employer, at least within broad limits. 4. He is able to recognize his own need for further knowledge and possesses the necessary ambition to acquire such knowledge. 5. He adheres to the tenets of integrity established by his professional predecessors. In addition to this characteristic of responsible independence, a professional is motivated by a desire to serve, as well as to further his own proper self-interests. For good reason, he may not serve all who ask, but the quality of the service given is not related to his personal regard for those to whom the service is given. Finally, the financial return received by a professional is not the sole measure by which the professional himself determines his degree of success; and even in the popular view, his success is not estimated solely by this criterion.
How the Professional Differs From the Nonprofessional
If there are no differences between a professional employee and a nonprofessional employee, there can be no reason to suggest that a professional employee should not join a labor union. If the differences that exist are minor, there can be no objection to union membership.
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