CODE-CWA Newsletter: March 26

After a rigorous organizing campaign, software engineers, campaigners and other workers successfully won voluntary recognition from EveryAction for their union at Mobilize, a community organizing app company. All eligible workers joined the new Mobilize union. The union is the latest to form as part of CWA's effort to organize tech workers, following last year's unionization of Glitch workers and the formation of the Alphabet Workers Union in January.

Union organizing is picking up steam in the tech industry. In this newsletter, we give you the latest on the steps tech employees are taking to organize and form unions. 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 waiting to organize with you.


On March 27th at 12PM PST, join us for Class 2 in our organizing series, “Building the Committee.” While this class is the second in a series, it is not required to take the first class. However, Class 1: “Intro class to Unions and Organizing” will be offered at 12PM PST on March 28th. In this class we talk about the union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing conversations. These classes are taught by staff and worker organizer trainers every weekend. Sign up here.

Worker News

Another CWA Success, Mobilize App Workers Have Unionized. EveryAction is a progressive political tech company, so their leadership was friendly and even excited when Mobilize workers announced their intent to unionize. “We're highly invested in the labor movement as well, and worker's rights, and their ability to organize in the collective bargaining unit,'" said Jared McDonald, one of the leaders on the organizing committee. The story of their conflict-free, even kind, unionization process mirrors the experience of the Glitch workers, who described their collective bargaining agreement negotiation with similar language. Read more on Protocol.

How the PRO Act Could Impact the Tech Industry. The PRO Act would override “right to work” laws, which currently exist in 27 states and allow workers to opt out of paying dues while still requiring unions to represent them. The PRO Act would require all workers represented by a union to pay dues and would ban certain union-busting practices carried out by employers, such as holding mandatory work meetings meant to stifle labor organizing, putting time limits on union elections, and permanently replacing striking workers. For example, if the PRO Act were in place, Amazon wouldn’t be able to send anti-union text messages, hand out anti-union leaflets, and mandate anti-union meetings for its warehouse workers organizing in Alabama. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 55 million people, were contractors or gig workers in 2017. Many Silicon Valley contract workers at the top tech firms say they’re working under a “two-tiered caste system,” without the same rights, benefits, and perks as regular company employees. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and other Silicon Valley companies lobbied against that version of the bill. Read more on The Next Web.

After Busting Union Drive, Medium CEO Tells Journalists to Feel Free to Quit

One month after what workers describe as a successful union-busting campaign, Medium CEO and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams announced to journalists who work for him that they should feel free to go. Medium hired the union-busting firm Kauff McGuire & Margolis in the leadup to the February union vote. All Medium employees—including the editorial unit—attempted to unionize and lost by one vote. Williams also held “coffee chats” with small groups of workers, where he claimed without proof that it would be difficult to raise money from venture capitalists if the union won the vote. Williams—the owner of nine publications including OneZero, Elemental, and Zora—says he no longer believes in the concept of publications. Employees at the company say that journalists who work at Medium’s nine publications were not the initial driving force behind the union, but were some of the most vocal supporters of it. The news media industry is highly unionized but the tech industry is not. Read more on Vice.

Amazon Delivery Drivers Forced to Sign ‘Biometric Consent’ Form or Lose Job

Amazon delivery drivers in the US have until tonight to sign this consent form for Amazon to collect their biometric info and use AI-cameras that monitor their location and movement. If the company’s delivery drivers, who number around 75,000 in the United States, refuse to sign these forms, they lose their jobs. The form requires drivers to agree to facial recognition and other biometric data collection within the trucks they drive.The policy has already received scrutiny from Congress. Last month, five senators raised concerns about drivers privacy in a letter to Amazon. Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Reuters "investing in safety across our operations and recently started rolling out industry leading camera-based safety technology across our delivery fleet. This technology will provide drivers real-time alerts to help them stay safe when they are on the road." Read more on Vice.

Amazon Illegally Interrogated Worker Who Led First COVID-19 Strikes

A National Labor Review Board (NLRB) investigation has found that Amazon illegally interrogated and threatened Jonathan Bailey, a lead organizer of the 2020 COVID-19 Amazon walkouts. On March 18, 2020, Amazon warehouse workers shut down their Queens facility after one of their coworkers tested positive for COVID-19, the first positive case of an Amazon warehouse worker in the United States. Two days later, Bailey led a second walkout with 13 workers. The following day, a regional manager who introduced himself as a former FBI agent pulled Bailey aside and interrogated Bailey about his role in the walkout, told him his behavior might be harassment, and demanded Bailey contact him before any future walkouts. The case was settled before it went to trial, but the issuing of the complaint means that an NLRB investigation found Amazon broke the law. The NLRB has previously found evidence of Amazon violating workers' right to organize free from retaliation in Chicago and Staten Island. Read more on Vice.

Students at United Kingdom-based Universities Form No Tech for Tyrants Students from Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, and Edinburgh have organized and formed No Tech for Tyrants (NT4T) to sever links between higher education, violent technology, and hostile immigration environments. No Tech for Tyrants organizes, researches, and campaigns to dismantle the tech-talent pipeline and violence infrastructures at the intersection of ethics, technology, migration governance, and surveillance. Some of their work includes: equipping future and current tech workers with information they need to hold the technology industry accountable for its complicity in human suffering; hosting teach-ins, talks, and workshops for members of the academic and activist community; and pushing university administrations to develop ethical guidelines for corporate partnerships. NT4T works alongside Mijente and No Tech for ICE, Privacy International, and other organizations. Read more on their website.

Do British Uber Drivers Deserve Better Benefits?
The British Supreme Court found that contract Uber drivers must be classified as workers eligible for minimum pay and benefits. That’s not the case for Uber drivers in the United States, especially after the passage of a California ballot initiative, known as Prop 22. The ballot proposal was written by a group of gig companies to exempt themselves from state law that classified their workers as employees. “You don’t have to choose between employee rights and a flexible work schedule,” said William Gould, a Stanford University law professor and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. “What happened in the U.K. is an opportunity to address this at the federal level.” Following the passage of Prop 22 in California, lawmakers in at least a handful of states from Utah to Massachusetts are mulling new regulatory frameworks for gig workers that could lead to a patchwork of rules and worker rights that will be difficult to disentangle without federal legislation. Uber wants laws similar to Prop 22 in Canada and across Europe, and it has been lobbying multiple statehouses and labor unions for look-alike legislation. Read more on the New York Times.

This Week in Labor History

March 29, 1937: The U.S. Supreme Court, in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, upholds the constitutionality of minimum wage legislation enacted by the State of Washington, overturning a decision in 1923 that held that federal minimum wage legislation for women was an unconstitutional infringement of liberty of contract.

Song of the Week

Tracy Chapman- Talkin’ About A Revolution

Don't you know

They're talkin' bout a revolution

It sounds like a whisper

Poor people gonna rise up

And get their share

Poor people gonna rise up

And take what's theirs

It's finally the tables are starting to turn

Talkin' bout a revolution

It's finally the tables are starting to turn

Talkin' bout a revolution, oh no

Talkin' bout a revolution, oh no

Talkin' bout a revolution, oh no