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Tech Workers

Tech Workers Deserve A Union

Many of us have tried to follow the recent kerfuffle involving Sam Altman’s leadership of the company he founded, OpenAI. In mid-November 2023 he was abruptly fired, then returned to power just five days later. The business press highlighted the implications of this power struggle for the rapid deployment of artificial intelligence and the future influence of investors like Microsoft. It appears, however, that the pivotal moment in the power struggle came when 738 out of OpenAI’s estimated 770 workers said they would resign if Altman remained ousted. Even if it only resulted in putting a CEO back in power (and to a company that represents a real threat to the labor movement), the revolt by OpenAI workers was nevertheless “one of the most successful collective actions taken to date in the tech industry,” writes Ethan Marcotte, and a reminder to tech workers of the power they have at work.

Tech Layoffs Are About Punishing Workers And Driving Down Wages

In January, amid mass layoffs across the tech industry, Google laid off 6 percent of its workforce, or about 12,000 workers. In protest, dozens of tech workers crowded the sidewalk outside of Google’s Chelsea offices on February 2, sharing stories of laid-off coworkers and urging each other to join the union. The protest took place while executives at Alphabet (Google’s parent company) were on an earnings call with investors, announcing billions in profits. The workers highlighted the cruelty of how workers were told they’d lost their jobs. One anonymous worker shared that they were laid off via email while eating breakfast in the office.

New Tech Labor Movement Unites Office And Gig Workers

The recent wave of employee activism and organizing efforts represents a widening rift between the industry's rank-and-file employees and its executives. For the first time, developers and product managers with higher pay and closer ties to management are siding with their lower-paid colleagues in warehouses, cafeterias, and contract gigs. A global pandemic and sweeping protests against systemic racism have brought workers across pay scales, job types, geographies, and companies together in an unprecedented show of solidarity. They've protested unsafe and toxic workplaces, racial and gender discrimination, and stagnating wages as tech companies rake in record profits. At the same time, workers who build the technologies shaping our society are demanding a say in how those products get built.
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