I’m a union organizer. In the last few months we’ve started getting a lot of calls from workers in the tech industry looking to unionize. We don’t have a lot of experience talking to tech people. A few of them said they were contacting us because of an article you wrote about how to form a union, so we were wondering if maybe you could help us get the lay of the land.
Dear Union Organizer,
Thanks for reaching out. Happy to help as much as I can. As long as we agree that I’ll be painting with a broad brush and making some big generalizations. Once you get in front of real people and start talking about their real problems, anything they tell you should supersede anything you’re reading here. K? Let’s roll.
First off we should probably discuss why this is happening at this particular moment in time. To do that, we’re gonna have to use the word “betrayal,” which I realize sounds really dramatic. I don’t use it lightly, but I think it’s apt.
Internet mythology from way back in the day was about building a utopia. We were building a haven for creativity, radical thinking, innovation, and liberation. We were going to make sure everyone had a voice. We were going to give you a way to talk directly to your favorite artists, athletes, and celebrities. Workers were recruited to jobs by being told they were changing the world. (Turns out that was true, btw. We just didn’t ask in which direction.) At the same time there was a lot of talk about how companies had flat hierarchies. (A lie.) How the CEO wasn’t your boss, but your friend. (A lie.) How tech was a meritocracy. (The biggest lie.) We built workplaces that were more like college campuses than workplaces, which hijacked workers’ sense of community. They were told their companies weren’t just a workplace, but their true communities. (A lie.) But most importantly, we pepper-sprayed kids with stock options and told them they’d all be millionaires…