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CODE-CWA Press & Updates

CODE-CWA Newsletter: March 3

03 Mar, 2023


CODE-CWA Newsletter: March 3  

“Weak labor laws allow companies like Apple to conduct union busting tactics in the hopes of scaring workers from organizing. The PRO Act would put power back in the hands of workers to make our own decisions about forming a union without the risk of losing our jobs.’” said Kirsten Civick, member of Apple Retail Union/CWA

Workers and contractors for big companies like Apple, Google, and Youtube are making headlines for their unionization efforts. Youtube music workers became the first members of the Alphabet Workers Union’s to strike. Google contractors secured a minimum wage increase for thousands of employees totaling millions of dollars. And on Tuesday, February 28 Kirsten Civick, a CWA member, organizer and employee at the Penn Square Apple store in Oklahoma City, spoke alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler at the re-introduction of the historic, bipartisan Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Civick bravely shared her story on the bad working conditions, captive meetings, and the anti-worker measures Apple took in response to the store’s union drive. She witnessed rotting sewage crash through her workplace's ceiling, hospitalizing several of her colleagues. Apple ignored this for years but went all-in to intimidate and union-bust when workers stood up for themselves. It's time to make the PRO Act the law of the land. Hear Kirsten’s full story here.

The tech industry has been booming. The video game industry was worth over $32 billion in the US for 2020 alone, but executives refuse to share their wealth with the workers, without whom the company could not make such profits. Tech and game workers deserve a living wage, PTO, decent health care and other benefits. Instead of spending money on union busting, those millions could be used to set an example: that employees have value. This is the world we strive for, but to get there, we have to show them that history lies with us. As Neil Gossell, a Youtube music contractor who is on strike said, “I’m not saying we’re the tip of the spear, but we’re part of something bigger that’s going on in America. All you have to do is pick up a history book to see how this ends.” Reach out!


On Saturday, March 11th join us for an organizer training at 1 PM ET/ 10 AM PT where we talk about union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing. And on Sunday March 12th at 1 PM ET/ 10 AM PT join us for a building the committee training where we talk about how to build a strong organizing committee. Check the CODE-CWA organizer training program for upcoming classes!


Worker News

An Apple Store Worker Is the New Face of US Labor Law Reform

Kirsten Civick, an Apple store worker in Oklahoma city is working with federal lawmakers to limit union busting used by companies throughout the US. The legislation known as The Protecting the Right to Organize Act is set for its 3rd congressional vote. Although it has passed the house of representatives twice since 2020, it has yet to pass the senate. If passed, this labor reform legislation would stop employers from holding mandatory captive audience meetings and give striking workers’ an array of protections. It would also give workers the ability to sue their employers if the NLRB does not prosecute their case. The percentage of a unionized workforce is down to 10% and has been decreasing for decades, due to anti-labor legislation. Civik however, remains hopeful and believes the PRO act will turn the tides. With the wave of labor organizing that has swept the tech and video game industry, many employees see unions as the best way to make working conditions better for all. “I don't want other people to have to go through the intimidation and the fear mongering that Apple tried to put us through,” said Kirsten Civick. A regional office for the National Labor Relations Board has already begun a case against Apple for union-busting and interference. Read more on Wired

The Invisible Workers Who Train Google's Algorithm Fought for $15/Hr and Won

Almost 3000 Alphabet contract workers, who rate the quality of Google search and Google ads at Appen-RaterLabs, are getting higher wages and will benefit from Google’s wages and benefits standard. In 2019, Google promised to increase the minimum wage of all its extended workers by 2020. However, even though Google was (and still is) the only known client of Appen-RaterLabs, the workers there did not get the benefits they should have received. In response, the Alphabet Workers Union - CWA filed a petition with over 1000 Alphabet worker signatories to try and pressurize the company. According to the petition, besides sufficient wage, many workers were also not receiving healthcare, PTO or family leave. After 2 pay bumps, and a lot of hard work, the Alphabet contract workers will finally receive Alphabet's own minimum standard of $15/hr— prior to this they were getting $10/hr. “It took months of organizing for workers to secure the minimum pay that Google has set as a standard for its ‘extended workforce. It is now time for Appen and Google to ensure every rater can take a sick day and have access to basic health insurance,” said Michelle Curtis, a Google rater and union member. Read more on Vice


Activision fired staff for using 'strong language' about remote work policy

CWA has filed another unfair labor practice charge against Activision Blizzard for terminating two employees for engaging in protected, concerted & union activity. The charge alleges Activision unlawfully fired workers for expressing outrage over the company's RTO. On February 13, Activision Blizzard announced it would end remote work and require employees to return to office in-person three days a week by April 10. This decision received an overwhelming negative response from employees who were accustomed to the flexible work arrangements they had over the past three years. Numerous workers protested the RTO plan citing cost of living concerns and the impact it would have on their co-workers who might be forced out of their jobs. Two QA testers expressed their outrage using strong language. In response, management set up disciplinary meetings where both workers were fired. Prior to 2020, the use of outbursts and strong language in the context of concerted activity by employees was protected by the National Labor Relations Board. Under the Trump administration the NLRB systematically rolled back workers' rights, including modifying the standard for determining whether employees have been lawfully disciplined or discharged after making offensive statements, which ultimately limits free speech rights for employees. “For far too long, Activision has gotten away with treating its employees, especially QA testers, like disposable work horses. Firing two employees for joining with their co-workers to express concern around hasty return to office policies is retaliation, point blank,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens. “When faced with unfair treatment by unscrupulous employers like Activision, workers should have the right to express themselves.” Read more on Reuters

Game Workers Are About To Take On The Biggest Boss Fight Of All

Noble Knight Games has the largest collection of tabletop, role-playing and video games in the world. The company is based in Madison Wisconsin where the living wage for a single adult is $17.52, but employees are getting less. One such employee, Justin Smith, is now earning $14 after getting a pay raise. Smith has even put off hopes of raising a family, and has taken on two roommates with his partner to avoid financial struggle. In the US, video games was a $32 billion industry in 2022 alone. According to Smith, he and his co-workers are part of the same broader industry, and even though business boomed, Noble Knight did not give the $2 raise workers demanded. All seemed lost, until a group of 28 quality assurance testers in Madison’s Raven Software changed everything. Their fight inspired Noble Knight workers to stand up and demand change. 74% percent of staff wanted to unionize and together they asked for paid sick leave, raises, and better vacation plans. The company was caught off guard at the sudden unionization effort and tried to trample the effort with a union-busting firm. The employees fought back with the help of CWA, and within 2 months, Noble Knight games voluntarily recognized the union. “That American dream is achievable. Once we bargain and get a contract,” said Justin Smith. Now workers from other retail gaming jobs are being inspired by Noble Knight, and are preparing for their biggest boss fight yet. Read more here

YouTube Music Workers Strike in Austin Over ‘Anti-Union’ Return-to-Office Mandate

Workers at Cognizant, a Youtube music contractor, went on strike because of the company’s union busting tactics. One of the main causes of this struggle is wage. When employees talked about pay increases, the company refused to even come to the bargaining table. As Katie-Marie Marschner, a cognizant employee explains, “I’ve gone through Google training. I go through their security training. I go through their ethics training…. [But] if we want to negotiate over pay, they say, ‘Pay is based on the contract we have with Google, so we can’t bargain over that.'” So the employees wanted to unionize to force the company to bargain and ultimately reach an agreement. However, upon organizing, the company demanded all employees return to work in the office. When the workers joined the company, they accepted their positions on the basis that their work could be done remotely. Some employees are not even in the same state. In addition to that, most of the employees work multiple jobs to make ends meet. By returning to the office, they would not be able to keep their other sources of income. That combined with the high cost of living in Austin would make it even more expensive for them. Presumably, the company plans to fire the workers who do not comply, to squash any hope of a union effort. The company wanted to put pressure on the workers, but in response the workers filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. They also went on strike, and even collaborated with lawmakers to send a letter to Google’s CEO. In the letter they asked the company to stop the anti-union efforts, and allow workers to freely organize as is guaranteed by federal law. The workers are now waiting for the NLRB to accept their election petition and rule on the unfair labor practice charges. Read more here

Apple Workers Accuse Firm of 'Union Busting'

“We have been getting a lot of union busting messaging from our managers, and even from very high Apple leadership in our regular meetings, even though in my store no one is trying to unionize that I know of. It seems like they are delivering the same messaging pretty broadly, like nationally,” said Elizabeth Carlson, an Apple store employee in Iowa. In Iowa, Apple management has pushed anti-union messages and has held captive audience meetings to deter workers from potentially organizing. The company wants to scare employees into thinking if they try to organize, they will lose all those benefits. Apple is a company that is responsible for 2 million jobs worldwide, is at the forefront of innovation, and has core values of keeping and believing in positive intent. However their actions of preemptively attacking employees paint a different picture. The company wants to make unions seem like third parties that would get in the way of the company and employees. They want to make it seem like unions work against the workers. The reality is that the workers are the union. And although workers at the Iowa store have not been unionizing, workers like Elizabeth are open to the idea and see the clear benefits. According to Carlson, organizing does not always stem from poor pay, or lack of benefits. In many cases, workers just want a say in how they do their job. Typically the decision makers are far away and do not understand the day to day requirements as well as the employees who physically work at the store. By having a voice, not only would customers be happier, but the store would run better as well. and how we can best help people, the whole store would run better, … and we would have a better experience at work. Listen to the full discussion on BBC


This Week in History

MARCH 1 1900 – The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the eight-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale.

March 4 1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt names a woman, Frances Perkins, to be Secretary of Labor. Perkins became the first female cabinet member in U.S. history.


Song of the Week

A La Heulga by Rolando Alarcón

A la huelga, compañero;

no vayas a trabajar.

Deja quieta la herramienta

que es la hora de luchar.

A la huelga diez, a la huelga cien,

a la huelga, madre, yo voy también.

A la huelga cien, a la huelga mil,

yo por ellos, madre, y ellos por mí.

Contra el gobierno del hambre

nos vamos a levantar

todos los trabajadores,

codo a codo con el pan.

A la huelga diez, a la huelga cien,

a la huelga, madre, yo voy también.

A la huelga cien, a la huelga mil,

yo por ellos, madre, y ellos por mí.




MWWC 7055



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