CODE-CWA Newsletter: August 13

“That is not a neutral stance, that is not indicative of wanting a free and fair election in which everyone's voices are heard,” she said. “This is just additional proof they are being disingenuous with their intentions.”

—Angela Guo, organizing member of NYTimes tech union.

This week hundreds of New York Times engineers, data analysts and designers walked out over a union battle, as Times management’s counsel mistakenly sent its game plan to the union. Yes, you read that right. It was likely a bit embarrassing when the law firm representing the paper’s management accidentally sent a private strategy memo to representatives for the newly unionized staff. The email, titled “Tech Organizing Unit Scope Decision Options,” laid out options for how the paper could respond to recent efforts by tech and product staffers to form a union. The paper rejected the union’s request to be voluntarily recognized in April, opting instead to hold a vote among prospective members conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. Since then, the two sides have been locked in tense negotiations because the union wants a large and inclusive unit, while the company is trying to limit the amount of folks in the unit who are able to vote on its ratification or rejection.

While CWA continues to fight for labor protections, big tech companies’ exploitative practices continue to prove how important our work is. Union organizing and conversations around unfair and exploitative practices are picking up steam in the tech industry. In this newsletter, we give you the latest on tech worker organizing, from NYTimes to Mapbox, and more.

Through our support of workers across the tech, games, and digital industries we have seen a cultural shift as workers turn to each other to bring the change they seek. This commitment to building democracy in the workplace will impact all of us. Are you looking to organize your workplace? Reach out. We are ready to organize with you.

Events

On August 14, join us for a 12PM PST organizer training where we talk about union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing

While you're signing up for classes don’t forget to check out our new “Organizing Training” page on the CODE-CWA website. You’ll find a training program overview, additional resources to strengthen your organizing study, a briefing on your right to organize and more! Check it out here.

Worker News

New York Times Tech Staff Walk Out in Growing Union Fight

Over 300 tech workers at the New York Times (NYT) walked off their jobs on August 11. This was the result of various unfair labour practices such as polling workers on union support, and prohibiting intern managing employees from displaying pro-union support. NYT Software engineer Vicki Crosson said, “I feel continually let down by the company.” The Tech Guild has filled a number of complaints in recent weeks to the National Labour Relations Board which are still pending. NYT management also wants to cut out designers, analysts, assistants and team leads from joining the Tech Guild, which would reduce the number of people in the union bargaining unit by two-thirds. NYT Spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said that the company denies any wrongdoing and that “We [the New York Times] continue to support a free and fair election process and remain committed to working with the union.” Read more on Discourse and Bloomberg.

Half of the Tech Workforce Wants To Join a Union

The last two years has seen a rapid growth in the interest for unionizing the tech industry. A survey of 750 tech workers conducted by Protocol in partnership with Morning Consult showed that over 50% of tech workers want to unionize. The survey also showed that union interest does not vary with race but does with age. Over 60% of Millennial tech workers want to unionize compared with less than 10% for baby boomers. Many people view unions as a way to highlight problems and create a better working environment for all. David Barrett, the CEO at Expensify said, “I think that the union is a really important solution to a problem. But it's also recognition that there was a problem to be solved in the first place inside, it's like any company where there are employees unionizing. It's like, man, you gotta listen.” Read more on Protocol.

Stop Waiting for Someone Else to Unionize Your Industry

Workers in the game industry have historically been reluctant or unable to unionize. Many developers have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns, but have not taken action. Successful unionization in the game industry requires a collective effort where developers take their own initiative with the strategies and resources available. The best way to unionize is to find a friend, attend an organizer training or join a volunteer community. The Game Workers of Southern California, Game Workers Unite, and the Tech Workers Coalition are some of the volunteer communities in the game industry. Read more on Medium.

Mapbox Workers Union Lost The Election But They Are Not Giving

Employees at Mapbox voted to not have a union with 81 votes for and 123 votes against. Over the past several weeks Mapbox has launched a variety of anti-union campaigns to sway the election. Although the Mapbox Workers Union lost the election they are not giving up, and will continue to stay committed to its purpose. Mapbox leadership held anti-union meetings, hired many union-busting firms and told employees that they would take a reduction in pay for voting pro-union. Many unions including the Communications Workers of America are hoping to fix the loopholes of US labor law through the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act, if passed by the Senate, would make it easier for workers to unionize and increase penalties for those who violate workers rights. Read more here and here.

Employees at Code for America Are Unionizing

Employees at Code for America (CFA) are unionizing with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). Workers at CFA have asked management to recognize their union CFA Workers United. With the union they would be able to seek fair compensation, be involved in important decisions regarding employees, and make sure that everyone’s well being is taken care of. They want to make the working environment better and this is an important milestone in that journey. Read more here and here.

This Week in History

August 13, 1887: Leathermakers in Newark, New Jersey, locked out their employees as a strategy to crush the Knights of Labor. This lockout would demonstrate the lengths to which American employers would go in order to ensure their shops remained union-free, a significant departure from the accommodations made by European employers, a difference that still resonates in the American labor movement today.

Song of the Week

Solidarity Forever by Pete Seeger

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn

But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn

We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn

That the union makes us strong

Solidarity forever

Solidarity forever

Solidarity forever

For the union makes us strong