CODE-CWA Newsletter: May 7

CODE-CWA Newsletter: May 7

“We hope the success of our campaign is part of a greater movement in tech organizing that will positively impact the efforts of fellow technologists across the industry,”—Digital Media United member, following voluntary recognition from NPR.

As digital and tech workers at NPR, these workers are a crucial backbone to the network. Workers came together to build Digital Media United in order to do “our part to promote professional ethics; technical excellence; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in (the tech and digital) industries. The formation of our union also represents our commitment to public media’s journalistic and cultural mission in the digital era.”

Workers won voluntary recognition from NPR and the network released a statement saying, “NPR supports employees’ right to decide whether to be represented by a union, and we are committed to upholding that right.” The union was quickly certified with more than 90% of employees signing cards supporting the union. On social media workers shared, “We're proud to work at NPR, a place that immediately understood our desire to unionize and came to agreeable terms within our timeframe. This new relationship will deepen all of our ability to deliver on the mission to serve and grow NPR’s audience.” DMU members are a part of NABET-CWA Local 31.

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 Digital Media United at NPR to Alphabet Workers Union at Google, 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.


On May 8, join us at a 12PM PST class where we talk about the union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing conversations. Training is active and participatory. We do not let anyone join more than 10 minutes late. This is Class 1 in a series, perfect for beginners. Class 2, Building the Committee, will be held at 10AM PST on Sunday, May 9, 2021. Sign up here.

Worker News

NPR Plans to Recognize Digital Staffers’ Union

As part of the newly formed Digital Media United, digital and tech workers at NPR received voluntary recognition for their union. Workers applauded management’s willingness to respect worker voices and are looking forward to continuing to shape NPR into the best network possible. Looking to the future, workers hope to address priorities including, equal pay, staffing increases, restrictions on the use of temporary status, and hiring processes that ensure diverse applicants. Extensive worker organizing resulted in over 90% of employees signing union cards—the excitement amongst workers for their union is palpable. The union includes workers in content operations, design, digital support, product management and software engineering at NPR. Read more at Current.

The Animation Studio That Makes ‘Archer’ Won’t Recognize Workers’ Union

Floyd County Productions, which has regularly touted progressive values, has not recognized the union, and the union says that the company has hired a union busting firm, has held a mandatory 'captive audience' meeting during work hours, and, according to a charge against the production company filed with the National Labor Relations Board, has "implemented a policy requiring employees to obtain management approval for any media publications or social media postings regarding their employer." The charge states that this policy was implemented "in retaliation for its employees engaging in union organizing." The union known as Floyd County Productions Guild has been created with support from the Communications Workers of America’s CODE-CWA project. It was supposed to be the first union open to 150 workers at Floyd County Productions, since it was founded in 2009. Around 100 workers expressed interest and more than 80 signed a request for union representation. The union includes artists, animators, IT workers, editors, systems engineers, background artists, and layout artists. In a statement to Motherboard, Floyd County Productions denied it was trying to bust the union but did not explain why it has not recognized the union yet. Read more on Motherboard.

Basecamp Employees Are Leaving After Their Ceo Bans Politics At Work

Numerous employees at remote working software company Basecamp announced on social media that they are leaving the company days after its co-founder and CEO announced sweeping changes including banning political talk on work accounts as well as banning all workplace committees. "I've left due to the recent policy changes and subsequent public actions by company leadership," one of the employees who left told Motherboard. Overall, 15 employees so far have tweeted that they are leaving the company today, with some saying they are leaving specifically because of recent policy changes.The move seemed to follow the lead of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which made similar policy changes last year. Coinbase offered buyouts to employees who disagreed, and some workers took up the offer to leave the company. Read more on Motherboard.

Amazon Work Rules Govern Tweets and Body Odor of Contract Drivers

In a recent version of its policies governing small delivery companies, or Delivery Service Partners, Amazon said, “Personal grooming must be maintained at an acceptable level, including but not limited to prevention of unpleasant breath or body odor, modest perfume/cologne, and clean teeth, face/ears, fingernails and hair.” The document also requires that drivers refrain from “obscene” social-media posts, undergo training programs approved by Amazon, follow instructions from Amazon’s delivery app and be drug tested whenever Amazon representatives ask. “Amazon seems to want to have its cake and eat it too—to have all the control of an employment relationship, without bearing the costs,” said University of Miami law professor Andrew Elmore. “These documents provide an important signal to courts and to government agencies that this is a relationship to look at.” Read more on Bloomberg.

Instacart Is Deactivating Gig Workers and They Are Devastated

Dozens of Instacart gig workers who have posted on social media since late March about having their accounts deactivated for being "linked to another account(s) on the Instacart platform." Shoppers on social media say this is unjustified, and claim they never created duplicate accounts or engaged in fraud and have not been offered specific information about what triggered the deactivation. Many of these gig workers have become desperate, and don't know what to do."We don’t know how we will pay for rent and bills and be able to provide for our families," one told Motherboard. In recent months, Instacart’s gig workers have been targeted by hackers and scams that drain their earnings, take over their accounts, and steal their personal data. Many of the deactivated gig workers claim to have had their accounts hacked in the past year. Instacart employs more than half a million gig workers in the U.S. and is expected to go public on the stock market at a valuation of $39 billion. Meanwhile, Instacart spent more than $27 million on a ballot initiative in California, known as Proposition 22. Read more on Motherboard.

Facebook Stops Employees From Reading an Internal Report About the Insurrection Buzzfeed reported findings of an internal investigation into how Facebook groups helped incite the January 6th insurrection. But when Buzzfeed's story gained significant attention, moderators made the report inaccessible to most employees without citing a reason. Buzzfeed has published the full report here.

Border Patrol Purchased Technology That’s Basically A ‘vehicle Forensics Kit’

The technology can reveal where you’ve driven, what doors you opened, and who your friends are. The contract of the ‘vehicle forensics kit,’ shared by Latinx advocacy organization Mijente, shows that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) paid a Swedish data extraction firm $456,073 for a bundle of hardware including “vehicle forensics kits” manufactured by Berla, an American company. A related document indicates that CBP believed the kit would be “critical in CBP investigations as it can provide evidence [not only] regarding the vehicle’s use, but also information obtained through mobile devices paired with the infotainment system.” The document went on to say that that tool was the only tool available for purchase that could tap into such systems. “The scale at which CBP can leverage a contract like this one is staggering,” said Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Read more on the Intercept.

On May Day, Gig Workers Organized an Intersectional Movement

As thousands of workers rose across the country to celebrate, demonstrate and demand change, gig workers, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 — organized a day of demonstrations and caravans led by rideshare drivers currently or previously working for companies like Uber and Lyft. Oakland is just one of several cities across the country where gig workers planned a caravan of drivers. Their action was co-organized by a coalition of over 25 groups, including Rideshare Drivers United, Gig Workers Rising, Workers World and the People’s Strike. Read more on Truthout.

This Week in Labor History

May 6, 1937: The Ford Motor Company refused to recognize the United Auto Workers labor union and hired guards to resist unionization. On this day, Ford employees and United Auto Workers organizers were attacked by Ford security forces on a pedestrian overpass at Ford's Rouge Plant. Published pictures of badly beaten UAW organizers Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen swayed public opinion in favor of the UAW. Their attack came to be known as the "Battle of the Overpass" and became a lasting symbol of the American labor struggle. More here.

Song of the Week

Pay Gap by Margo Price

Honey, I work so hard for my money

And I leave my babies at home

Breaking my back trying to bring home a check

And working my fingers to the bone

At the end of the day, it feels like a game

One I was born to lose

This institution, a dead revolution

Is giving young women abuse

Pay gap, pay gap

Why don't you do the math?

Pay gap, pay gap

Ripping my dollars in half