July 17, 2019

Employee Activism Is Alive in Tech. It Stops Short of Organizing Unions.

At a corporate retreat that month in Napa, Calif., employees raised their concerns with management. They said they had been told that they would need to adopt Silicon Valley’s hard-charging, never-sleep culture or leave the company.

Mr. Bogensberger, the chief executive, presented slides warning employees not to be dramatic, which workers interpreted as a veiled reference to their complaints about overwork. Employees also said that women and minorities did not have equitable opportunities for promotion. The company spokesman said NPM had a nearly equal split of male and female employees, though it employs proportionally few minorities.

At the corporate retreat, employees met to discuss unionization, two of the current and former employees said. In March, NPM laid off the five employees, leading to the filing of a charge of unfair labor practices with the N.L.R.B. before the company settled.

“As a fairly outspoken proponent of socialism, it’s really weird and surprising to be accused of union-busting,” Laurie Voss, an NPM co-founder and chief data officer, wrote on Twitter in May. “The allegations in the complaint are not true.”

Just because many tech workers appear skeptical of unions, and so many tech companies have avoided unions, doesn’t mean they will indefinitely. Mar Hicks, a historian who has written extensively about labor in the tech sector, said the kinds of actions many workers had already taken, like the walkouts, were often precursors to unionizing. Workers eventually realize that their confrontations with management won’t deliver lasting improvements without a formal organization to back them up.

Some tech employees grasp that logic already. “I never felt I needed a union before,” said Frédéric Harper, a former NPM employee who participated in the organizing effort and N.L.R.B. case. “I reached a point where I think it’s maybe a good idea, maybe it’s needed.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/08/technology/tech-companies-union-organizing.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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