CODE-CWA Newsletter: September 24

CODE-CWA Newsletter: September 24

“With this agreement in place, we are on the path to a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive workplace that reflects the progressive values of our agency. ” said Sabina Tarnówka, senior strategist at Blue State.

Employees at Blue State, a creative and strategy agency with five offices in the US and the UK have ratified their first collective bargaining agreement. The Blue State union, organized as a part of the Communications Workers of America’s CODE-CWA initiative, won a number of benefits including an increased salary floor, severance pay, clarifications of working hours and guaranteed annual raises.

This newsletter covers the latest news and information from Google illegally underpaying their temporary workers to the difference between Employee resource groups and unions. As tech and gaming companies continue to exploit workers, CWA continues to organize and push back - and it is working. We recently filed an unfair labour practice (ULP) charge with the NLRB against the video game giant Activision Blizzard’s union busting tactics and poor treatment of their workers.

Are you looking for better working conditions? Reach out. We are ready to help and organize with you.


Join us on September 25th for a training on union basics and organizing models. The training takes place at 12PM PST and also discusses the ways to connect with co-workers. You can also join another organizer training on the 26th of September at 12PM PST on committee building. The training covers building and maintaining an organizing committee to run a successful union campaign.

Worker News

Blue State’s Union Secured Its First Collective Bargaining Agreement
Blue State, a creative agency, had voluntarily recognized the Blue State Union in October of 2020. After several months of negotiations, Blue State workers have finally ratified their first collective bargaining agreement. “Through collective bargaining, our union was able to codify changes to improve our working conditions, and create an accountability structure so that issues are addressed fairly and quickly,” said Blue State designer and union representative Shannon Kelly. Some of the benefits the Union was able to get include a minimum salary floor of $60,000, a better work life balance, structured pathways for promotion, and caps on healthcare premium cost sharing. Read more here and here

CWA Files Worker Intimidation Charges Against Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard employees who have organized under the name ABetterABK partnered with CWA to file an unfair labour practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The workers have alleged that management has threatened employees, engaged in surveillance of employees, and engaged in union busting activities amongst others. Tom Smith, national Organizing Director at CWA said, “We are very inspired by the bravery of ABK workers, and we will always stand shoulder to shoulder with workers fighting harassment, assault, and discrimination. Management could have responded with humility and a willingness to take necessary steps to address the horrid conditions some ABK workers have faced. Instead Activision Blizzard’s response to righteous worker activity was surveillance, intimidation, and hiring notorious union busters. The National Labor Relations Board under the Biden Administration has made it clear that it will hold companies accountable whenever they break the law; we have filed these charges to ensure that the actions of ABK management will not go unanswered.” Read more on Vice and on Bloomberg.

The Weaponization of Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are used as space to discuss issues and promote community building, however unlike unions, they typically do not bring about change. Companies often fund ERGs and use them to discourage unions or to keep a pulse on different employee communities. As CODE-CWA organizer Emma Kinema said, "The company allows employee resource groups so they can let the workers vent out some amount of steam on certain issues or social justice issues without actually threatening the boss's power". “I tend to describe it a bit like a sandbox. HR has this little sandbox we can play around in where we can talk about the issues, we can make recommendations, but at the end of the day, do we have the power to actually build the thing we want to build? No”, she said. ERGs are great ways to mitigate issues and get on the same page with like minded people, but to enact change, unions are the way to go. Read more on Protocol.

Employees Demand Google Pay Back Wages to Temp Workers
Google has been underpaying their temporary employees for many years, up to 50% lower than what is required by law, according to a report by the Guardian. “I was not surprised but I was disappointed that Google would go so far as to cheat workers out of their hard-earned pay in countries across the planet,” said Shannon Wait, a former Google temp and member of the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU). Over 140 temps have already signed a petition demanding pay, and to end temp work in favor of permanent employment. Read more on the Guardian.

The First Union Election at an Amazon Warehouse in Canada

Workers at the Amazon warehouse in Alberta, Canada have joined the Teamsters to file for a union election with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. This comes after a wave of organizing efforts that occured in various Amazon warehouses from New York to Iowa. As François Laport, the national president of Teamsters Canada said, “be it on job security, pace of work, discrimination, favoritism, or wages, the company has proven itself to be profoundly anti-worker. Amazon workers need to know they are not alone and they have the power, through the Teamsters, to change things for the better.” If the union election is approved, the Amazon warehouse may become the first in North America to unionize. Read more on Vice.

This Week in History

Sept 27 1909 – Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union begins strike against Triangle Shirtwaist Co. This would become the “Uprising of the 20,000,” resulting in 339 of 352 struck firms – but not Triangle – signing agreements with the union. The Triangle fire that killed 146 would occur less than two years later.

Song of the Week

Worker’s Song by the Dropkick Murphys

Yeah, this one's for the workers who toil night and day

By hand and by brain to earn your pay


We're the first ones to starve, we're the first ones to die

The first ones in line for that pie in the sky

And we're always the last when the cream is shared out

For the worker is working when the fat cat's about