- Technology industry workers have formed a new labor union as part of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), AFL-CIO, according to a Jan. 25 statement.
- The union, Tech Workers Union Local 100, has been created for and is run by tech workers and aims to ensure that tech jobs are sustainable, increase workplace transparency and create fair and equitable pay and benefits, among other goals, per the statement. OPEIU said the announcement builds off its successful 2020 effort to begin a union for tech workers at crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
- "Tech changes the world," Grace Reckers, lead organizer at OPEIU, said in the statement. "It's time all the hardworking people who make that possible have a say in how that change comes about."
Just over 10% of all U.S. workers in 2020 were members of labor unions, a share that changed little from 2019, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While they make up a small share of the nation's labor force, unions have shown up with some frequency in headlines at the start of 2021.
This is particularly the case within the technology sector. One of the biggest storylines, for example, involved workers at Google and other companies under its parent Alphabet. More than 500 of these workers created the Alphabet Workers Union with support from the Communications Workers of America. Though it is operating as a minority union and is not currently seeking federal certification by the National Labor Relations Board, the Alphabet Workers Union is open to all Alphabet employees, including those classified as temporary, vendor or contract workers.
The news followed years of advocacy by Google workers asking company executives to support pay equity, improve Google's diversity and inclusion efforts and end mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination cases, punctuated by a global walkout in 2018. Criticism of the company's policies governing temporary, vendor and contractor workers in particular led to policy updates such as the elimination of mandatory arbitration agreements and the implementation of a $15 per hour minimum wage for these workers.
Employers in the tech sector have largely avoided the types of unionization efforts that have been in other industries, sources previously told HR Dive, though others were unsure if such efforts ultimately would be viable. In a Jan. 27 webinar hosted by the National Employment Law Institute, Steven Suflas, senior counsel at Ballard Spahr, said the situation at Google "will be an interesting development to watch" for employers.
The discussion about unions has not been limited to the tech sector, either. Amazon, which has been the subject of union speculation for years, will soon see workers at an Alabama facility vote on unionization by mail-in ballot, The Wall Street Journal reported.
At the federal level, unions may receive a boost from labor secretary nominee Marty Walsh, a former union president whom the Biden administration called part of its effort to "usher in a new era of worker power."