Dear Designer

Dear Designer: How to Form a Union

If you’re being ignored or mistreated at work, it might be time to organize

Mike Monteiro
Published in
10 min readOct 16, 2019
Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Dear Mike,

I work at a big social network. Our bosses are doing some shady shit the employees aren’t happy with. Not only do they go against our values, but I think they may actually be detrimental to society. We’ve tried talking to them about it, but we feel powerless, and we’re afraid of retribution. We also don’t feel like we have any representation. When shit goes wrong, we go to HR, and HR covers for the company. So me and some folks at work have been talking about unionizing. They’re ignoring us as individuals, so we think we’ll be able to do more if we speak with a communal voice. But we have no idea how to actually form a union. We found a section on the AFL-CIO’s website with “Four Steps to Forming a Union” and we thought, oh great, four steps is easy. Step two was “contact a union organizer.” Dude, that might as well say “summon a wizard*”! I don’t know any union organizers. Help!

Dear Designer,

Yeah, that’s a hell of a drop-off isn’t it? One of the biggest hurdles to unionization that we’re gonna have to deal with is that we don’t speak each other’s language. We (and by “we” I mean the big WE — let’s just say tech workers) don’t know how to how to find, much less talk to, a union organizer. Most of us have no history with unions. And union organizers have no idea how to talk to us. They’re much more comfortable talking to industries they’ve been dealing with for a long time. We’re newcomers to the union world. What we do is still a mystery to many people. We’re an odd bunch. We have trouble explaining what we do even amongst ourselves, and unions like things in tidy little categories, like plumber, electrician, baker.

The thing is, if we learn to talk to each other, both parties benefit tremendously. We get the collective spine we need, and unions get access to a young industry that ensures they remain relevant into the future. So we’re gonna have to build a common language. (For now, we may have to settle on a good translator.)

Luckily, I happen to know a union organizer. I called up my old buddy Chad Manspeaker, who works for the IBEW (that’s the…



Mike Monteiro
Writer for

English is my second language. You were my first.