Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Over the past few years, there has been a considerable uptick in union organizing from workers at tech companies. If you or your fellow workers have considered organizing and want to do so as securely as possible, Vice has put together a helpful guide that you should read. (Disclosure: I am a proud member of the Writers Guild of America, East union through my employment at The Verge.)
Vice’s guide covers how to assess your company’s policies toward workers organizing, how to use things like encrypted messaging apps to communicate with your fellow organizers, and how to responsibly talk to the media about any collective action. A key thing the article highlights is that you should avoid doing any sort of organizing work on company infrastructure:
By that we mean computers, phones, printers, chat software, and email. But also avoid discussing labor actions in physical places like meeting rooms, cafeterias, or basketball courts.
That means if your workplace runs on employer-provided G Suite, for example, your IT department might be able to access any email you’ve ever sent or any meeting you’ve ever scheduled on your calendar. This is likely also true if your company runs self-hosted email and calendar services. If you send emails or host meetings using your employer’s infrastructure, any of that information could be used against you if the company discovered your efforts to unionize and decides to retaliate.
The article includes recommendations from organizing documents written by other tech workers
The article is implicitly targeted at tech workers, many of whom are in the process of high-profile organizing efforts. For example, the guide recommends that organizers avoid using Slack, as the app isn’t encrypted, and companies can read any message, including DMs, sent over company-owned Slack groups. The article also includes snippets and recommendations from organizing documents written by workers at Microsoft and Amazon.
Perhaps the most high-profile recent case of organizing in tech is the Google Walkout during which more than 20,000 Googlers walked out in large part to protest the $90 million exit package given to Android co-founder Andy Rubin.
At the time, Google management seemed accepting of the collective action. But two of the primary employees leading the walkout efforts, Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker, left the company in 2019, alleging retaliation from upper management for their organizing work. Google has also been accused of union-busting, hiring an alleged anti-union consulting firm, and four fired employees involved in internal activism at the company said they planned to file labor charges against the company, accusing Google of retaliation for their organizing efforts.
Some Amazon employees have also organized, with part-time workers in Sacramento protesting the company’s strict time-off policies, workers from Minnesota Amazon warehouse walking out, and Minneapolis warehouse workers striking last July on Prime Day.
Again, if you are thinking of organizing your workplace, go read Vice’s article about how to securely do so.