CODE-CWA Newsletter: June 18

CODE-CWA Newsletter: June 18

“We see ourselves as part of a larger movement -- it’s bigger than just Mapbox.Things are really moving in organizing in the tech industry. And, you know, we’re part of that.” - Trevor Specht, Mapbox IT developer.

“Tech workers, myself included, have found that we don’t want to keep having to jump job to job.” - Andy McCoy, a software engineer at Mapbox who has worked at half a dozen venture-backed firms over the past decade.

A supermajority of workers at Mapbox, the number one competitor to Google Maps and with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from Softbank, signed union cards with CWA this week. Workers at Catalist, a major progressive data firm, won voluntary recognition for their union with CWA. Flagship tech companies haven’t had unions for decades, but workplace activism is increasingly shaking up the sector. CWA has guided many of these efforts. This is important because big tech still isn’t taking care of its workers—this month, Uber offered its drivers health insurance, then retracted the offer after two weeks.

This Juneteenth, we remain committed to building a worker solidarity movement across industries in order to ensure that every worker has a voice on the job and the power to win their fair share. Racial Justice is economic justice.

In this newsletter, we give you the latest on tech worker organizing from the Mapbox Workers Union to the New Yorker Union, and conversations around unfair and exploitative practices at tech and gig companies 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 June 21, join us at a 5PM PST class where we talk about how to build a strong organizing committee, maintain it, and build a strong foundation from which you can run a successful union campaign. Training is active and participatory. This is Class 2 in a series. Ideally students should take Class 1 first, but it's not required. Sign up here.

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

Mapbox Faces Union Drive as Labor Organizers Extend Push in Tech

Employees at Mapbox Inc., which makes mapping tools used by Instacart Inc. and Snap Inc., have announced their intention to unionize with CWA, making them the latest group of tech workers to embrace organized labor in a traditionally nonunion industry. Their union seeks to represent all 222 U.S. employees, technical or not, at the SoftBank Group Corp.-backed company. A supermajority of eligible workers have already signed union cards with the Communications Workers of America, the next in a string of CWA organized tech workplaces. Read more on Bloomberg.

Workers at progressive data firm Catalist unionize A supermajority of workers at Catalist, a major progressive data provider with deep ties to the labor movement and Democratic campaigns won voluntary recognition for their union through the CODE-CWA campaign. Catalist workers build and maintain the longest-running voter file outside the two major political parties and use data and analytics to help campaigns, unions, and progressive organizations reach voters. CODE-CWA has previously helped workers form unions at other progressive tech firms, such as Blue State Digital and Mobilize America. Workers celebrated their voluntary recognition and shared, “We work with the labor movement every day—we’re honored to finally join it!” Read more on The Hill.

Strike Averted as New Yorker Union Reaches Agreement for First Contract

After more than two and a half years of negotiationsCompensation: Wage increases of more than 10% for most New Yorker Union members, and of up to 63% for some; a salary floor of $55,000, which will increase to $60,000 by 2023; guaranteed annual raises of 2% to 2.5%, increasing over the life of the contract; a company-wide commitment that at least 50% of job candidates interviewed will be from underrepresented groups; a ban on N.D.A.s in cases of workplace discrimination or harassment and a contractual right for employees to have Guild representation in investigatory meetings when they raise complaints about harassment.In a press release the union a News Guild-CWA affiliate said, “These gains are the direct result of collective action—including a credible strike threat—proving that when we stand together and fight, we win. With these agreements, we have laid a foundation that will raise standards at NewYorker at CondeNast and throughout our industry.” Read more here.

Amazon’s Greatest Weapon Against Unions: Worker Turnover

The churn inside Amazon’s warehouse and delivery network has created a formidable barrier to organizing.Chris Smalls made a lot of friends in his first year working at an Amazon warehouse in 2015. But within a matter of months, most of them were gone. “That’s the name of Amazon’s game: Hire and fire,” said Smalls. “They know that people don’t want to be here long, that these jobs break you down physically and mentally.” Smalls would know better than most. Amazon terminated him last March after he led a walkout at his Staten Island, New York, warehouse over safety concerns. Now Smalls has started an independent effort to organize a union at that facility, battling the same force he saw from the inside: Amazon’s high turnover rate. “It’s definitely one way to avoid a union,” he said. Read more on HuffPost.

Uber and Lyft Donated to Groups Who Pushed Their Anti-Worker Rights Agenda

The ride-hail giants are orchestrating a complex PR scheme to sway public opinion to ensure drivers aren’t classified as employees. According to public records obtained by The Markup, Lyft set up various types of political committees in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington. Uber formed one super PAC in New York. Combined, the companies contributed a total of more than $3 million to the committees. Along with paying several public relations and lobbying firms through those committees, the companies also made donations to more than 30 local organizations that work with communities of color. A few of those organizations are behind the op-eds, which feed into the companies’ narrative that the fight for “independent work” is an organic grassroots movement waged by people of color. It’s like social justice greenwashing,” said Mark Smithivas, a former Uber driver who’s an organizer with the driver advocacy group Independent Drivers Guild Chicago. “They’re happy to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ as long as that means their workers don’t form a union.” Read more on The Markup

The Motherboard Guide to the Gig Economy

The gig economy is eating the world. This is Motherboard's guide to the terms, phrases, and talking points you need to grasp to know what's happening.tGig companies have spent billions of dollars over the past decade not only fighting how they are regulated, but how they are talked about. At different points that has meant different things, but the goal has always been to narrow the range of acceptable debate. In doing so, gig companies have undertaken exploitative and illegal behavior over the years while distracting from how bad they are for workers, consumers, various communities, and the economy at large. As gig companies are looking to replicate regulatory victories such as Proposition 22 nationwide and abroad, having a grasp on the industry is more important than ever. This is Motherboard’s guide to a core group of buzzwords, phrases, talking points, and strategies deployed over the years by gig companies to advance their cause. Read more on Motherboard.

This Week in Labor History

June 18, 1941: Union and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph and others meet with President Roosevelt about a proposed July 1 March on Washington to protest discrimination in war industries. A week later, Roosevelt orders that the industries desegregate.

Song of the Week

They'll Never Keep Us Down: Hazel Dickens

And they'll never shoot that union out of me, oh no

Never shoot that union out of me

And they'll never shoot that union out of me

Well, the power wheel is rolling, rolling right along

And the government helps keep it going, going strong

So, working people, get your help from your own kind

Your welfare ain't on the rich man's mind

United we stand, divided we fall

For every dime they give us, a battle must be fought

So, working people, use your power, the key to liberty

Don't support that rich man's style of luxury

There ain't no way they can ever keep us down

There ain't no way they can ever keep us down

We won't be bought, we won't be sold

To be treated right, well that's our goal