CODE-CWA Newsletter: January 19

This commitment to building democracy in the workplace is not just for the benefit of workers, but for all of us.

The new year started off with a bang for tech worker organizing. After over a year of organizing, the Alphabet Workers Union was launched at Google. This effort is just another example in the growing evidence that tech worker organizing is not only possible but it is necessary.

While many may have heard the news of the Alphabet Workers Union, no news coverage can fully represent the lengths workers have gone to build and fortify the relationships necessary to launch a union at a corporation where five years ago the idea seemed laughable. Through our support of workers across the tech, games, and digital industries we have heard shared concerns and a cultural shift as workers turn to each other to bring the change they seek. This commitment to building democracy in the workplace is not just for the benefit of workers, but for all of us.

Last week’s insurrection was led by white supremacists, including the President. Many factors played a role, but it is hard to shake the concerns of workers who have long raised concerns about the role social media platforms have played in amplifying hate speech and racist rhetoric by the President. Many of these corporations were quick to act in the hours following the insurrection. This underscores that the decision making power at these companies is held in the hands of a few executives who are not immediately impacted by hate speech and misinformation on their platforms. Workers have long raised concerns at many of these companies only to be fired, silenced or given broken promises. It is clear that greater accountability is necessary in all of tech—it cannot be the same headliners making decisions at their discretion again and again. To change this dynamic, workers must build our own agency and hold our companies accountable. Or else, these platforms will continue to serve as a stage for misinformation, hate, and other forces that are committed to violence over life.

It’s time to grow worker power in tech. And it is precisely for this reason that CWA launched the CODE-CWA campaign one year ago last week. Are you looking to organize your workplace? Reach out. We are ready to organize with you.

Events

This Sunday you can join Class 2 in our Organizer Training series with the course “Building the Committee” on January 17 at 12PM PST. You’ll learn how to build a strong organizing committee, and how to maintain it so that you have the strong foundation necessary to run a successful campaign. While this is the second class in a series, it is not necessary to have taken Class 1 before. On Saturday, January 23 at 12PM PST, you can attend Organizer Class 1: Intro to Unions and Organizing to learn union basics and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing conversations. Enroll online today!

Worker News

Hundreds of workers at Google and other Alphabet Subsidiaries unionized, launching Alphabet Workers Union. Right as tech workers were heading back to work after the holidays, more than 200 workers at Google and its parent company Alphabet announced the formation of the first union at a major tech corporation open to both full time and temporary, vendor, or contract staff at Google and other Alphabet subsidiaries. The union has quickly grown to over 700 members since. This announcement signaled an important shift in staunchly anti-union Silicon Valley—one that was brought about after years of worker organizing. Alphabet Workers Union was organized in secret for over a year and just elected its leadership. We are honored to have supported Alphabet Workers Union and look forward to continuing to work with them. All union members are card carrying members of CWA Local 1400. Moving forward the union hopes to address a range of issues, including tackling Alphabet’s segregative two tiered employment system. Read more from The New York Times.

Google workers explain why they have launched Alphabet Workers Union and how their new union will help the company live up to its old motto, “Don’t Be Evil”. With so many asking why workers in tech would want to unionize, members of Alphabet Workers Union were sure to explain their motivations and vision in a critical op-ed piece. Workers articulated the frustrations at work that are shared by many. They cited examples of corporate promises that go unkept, a toxic culture that has not done enough to repudiate sexual or racial harassment, and executives who are more focused on the bottom line than on living up to stated values. It is clear that in order to bring the change to the workplace that workers are demanding, it is necessary to act collectively and that a union is the answer. Check out the full op-ed in The New York Times.

Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google and more have chosen to close Trump accounts. Following events in Washington, corporate tech giants like Facebook and Twitter acted decisively after four years of minimal effort to stop the President’s spread of misinformation and hate on their platforms. It is clear that, across multiple platforms, only a handful of decision makers have the power to deplatform Trump. This highlights how so much power is concentrated in the hands of an elite few who have been far removed from the real world impacts of Trump’s messaging on their platforms. The systems in place have been insufficient at best and it is time for real changes in how these platforms operate and are regulated. Read more on NBC.

As Facebook workers grow increasingly dissatisfied with the platform, organizing is the answer. Recent events in Washington have led tech corporations like Facebook to change their hands off approach to addressing misinformation and violence language used by the President on the platform. The decision was made by a handful of executives who are very removed from the real world impacts of the hate and misinformation spread on their platforms. Even after years of workers speaking out about their feelings of guilt and responsibility for the oversized impacts of Facebook’s reach, the corporation has been reticent to act on the concerns of workers—concerns shared by many in the broader public. To tackle the sluggishness of executives to protect the public from the dystopian effects of their platform, worker organizing is necessary. Check out the rest of the story in The New Republic.

Silicon Valley has worked to transform our understanding of work in order to protect profits through the exploitation of workers. Corporations have split their workforces and minimized the labor of certain workers to sell a fantasy of what it means to be a “tech worker”. This is evident through the tiered employment system we see across tech companies. Contingent labor in Silicon Valley accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the workers at most tech companies. This is not limited to blue collar workers and is a strategic choice to avoid having to pay fair wages and benefits to some workers, while ensuring a division between all workers. Read The Nation for more.

This Week in Labor History

1964—Eight thousand New York City public social workers went on strike for better conditions for themselves and the people they support. Through two different unions, thousands of NYC public social workers went on strike demanding better wages and smaller workloads to better service their clients. This effort was supported by organized labor, community groups and the civil rights movement. Mayor Robert Wagner fired all eight thousands strikes and threw nineteen key leaders in jail. Through a massive organizing effort all nineteen workers were released after two weeks and the workers won their strike demands within a month. This win was in part due to the strong alliance between social workers and welfare recipients. It can serve as a model for what is possible when unions reach beyond the workforce to build solidarity with allies. Read more about this effort that unified various stakeholders here.

Song of the Week

Gil Scott-Heron—Three Miles Down

Here come the mine cars

And it's damn near dawn

Another shift of men, some of them my friends, comin' on

Hard to imagine workin' in the mines

Coal dust in your lungs, on your skin and on your mind

I've listened to the speeches

But it occured to me politicians don't understand

The thoughts of isolation, ain't no sunshine underground

It's like workin' in a graveyard three miles down