Issue 29: Building power from the ground up

14 Dec 2018

In 2016, Silicon Valley tech company cafeterias employed only 65 unionized workers. Two years and countless hours of organizing effort later, 1,400 of Silicon Valley’s cafeteria workers have union representation. On Monday night, we gathered in San Francisco to hear stories of that work from the women who lead the campaigns.

Members of Unite Here Local 19 demonstrate for a raise

Some of them had worked in the cafeterias of Intel, Cal State East Bay, Nvidia for years before they were organized. The abuses they experienced ranged from psychological bullying and sexual harassment to being coerced into working 70 hour weeks at the threat of losing their jobs. We talked about the “what the hell do I have to lose” feeling — the desperation that is a precondition for taking action to make change. We also talked about the equally important realization that you’re not the only one who is struggling. Moving from feeling that you’re isolated, to knowing that your co-worker leaves work crying in her car every day, just like you.

The cafeteria workers shared that they wanted to lend support to tech workers who were also building collective power at their companies. For them, it was often tempting to write off tech workers as “snobby rich kids” who don’t care. But this perception changed when certain tech workers began to reach out to start friendships with the cafeteria workers, and later even showed up to the bargaining table to help negotiate a contract with management. As one of them told us on Monday night, “The company tries to divide us. They tell us that the engineers don’t want us to form a union, that the engineers hate us. So it made a big difference when you’d say hello, when we could form a friendship. I see we are the same. If you cut our arms we bleed the same color.” 

These heroes challenged us to make our relationships with one another real — that our relationships with our coworkers are the most important foundation for organizing. Everyone is going through something, they said. When we share with each other what we’re struggling with, we will stick together. Knowing what’s real will keep us together.

They encouraged us to keep going, not to give up. “Its going to be hard but you can do it.” 


Upcoming Events

Seattle Learning Club: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
Saturday, 1/5 3PM at The Seattle Public Library University Branch in Seattle

TWC Monthly General Meeting
Thursday, 1/10 6:30PM at Seattle Labor Temple Association in Seattle 

The New Tech Worker Movement: What’s Next?
Friday, 1/11 7PM at Verso Books in Brooklyn

The Code of Conduct is in effect at all TWC events.

In The News

Game Workers Unite UK is now a legal trade union. Game Workers Unite is a global movement to bring better labor standards to the gaming industry.

Amazon warehouse workers in New York have gone public with a unionization campaign. “The third and fourth floors are so hot that I sweat through my shirts even when it’s freezing cold outside… We have asked the company to provide air conditioning, but the company told us that the robots inside cannot work in the cold weather.”

Don’t shop on Amazon this holiday season. “I need to try and resist. Even just a little. Because I know what’s behind the blue half-smile of the Amazon Prime symbol. It’s a sea of human beings – vastly underpaid human beings who will walk up to 15 miles in a single shift to pick up the Charles Dickens biography I’m buying for my dad. They’ll pack it and ship it, and it’ll be here tomorrow, because that’s convenient for me.”

Unionization efforts are underway at a Tesla solar panel factory in Buffalo, NY. “I wanted to work at Tesla because I wanted a job in green energy, a job that can change the world. But I also want a fair wage for my work.”

The Slate union voted to authorize a strike if management doesn’t meet their demands for stronger diversity policies, cost of living increases, and to stop its “right to work” insistence on union dues to be optional. “Before the strike vote, Slate employees engaged in other forms of protest, including hour-long periods during which they refused to respond to their managers on the workplace chat hub Slack.” 

Employees of New York Magazine are the latest media workers to organize to form a union to have more of a voice at work. “The bargaining unit includes around 160 full and part time workers, from traditionally (more) secure jobs like writers and editors to those in the industry’s more precarious positions like fact checkers and copy editors.”

As a first step to escalate action, Oakland teachers led a one day wildcat strike on Monday calling for higher wages. Follow California Educators Rising for updates.

Journalists paid to help fix Facebook’s fake news problem say they have lost trust in the platform.

Public scrutiny of and employee unrest internal to Amazon continues to grow in response to ICE’s use of its Rekognition surveillance technology. And following continued pressure, Google committed not to sell a face recognition product (they do, however, make a ‘face detection’ available to customers via their Google cloud business).

Meanwhile, Palantir renewed its border security contract with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations arm; Palantir is maintaining the line they are only involved with cross border criminal investigations but we know this to be a lie and we hope reporters will keep them honest when they misrepresent what they are doing for ICE in the future. Sending solidarity and support to the workers at Palantir who pushed back against this contract. Remember, we got your back.

Accenture, despite being 10 months into its $297 million contract to hire 5,000 border agents, has only hired two new agents. This news comes weeks after workers at Accenture wrote to their bosses asking them to cancel the contract.

The NYCLU is suing ICE for a faulty algorithm that may be in part responsible for the fact that the number of immigrants in detention is at an all time high.

As the internet continues to fall out of favor with the public, people are starting to demand answers. A New York Times interactive feature calls for greater scrutiny into data tracking practices by a host of companies, large and small.

Song Of The Week

Mujeres Valientes by Los Lobos

En la frente de liberacion
Del pueblo Mexico Americano
xisten mujeres, lindes y valientes
Existen mujeres, que saben luchar

En ciudades y campos se forman
Dando fuerza y valor al hermano
Revolucionarias, pidiendo justicia
Revolucionarias, dando inspiracion
Revolucionarias, pidiendo justicia
Revolucionarias, dando inspiracion

Son las madres de la raza nueva
Son las novias del gran movimiento
Son las Adelitas, chicanas bonitas
Son las Adelitas de revolucion
Son las Adelitas, chicanas bonitas
Son las Adelitas de revolucion


On the liberation front
Of the Mexican American people
There are women, beautiful and brave
There are women, who know how to fight

In cities and fields they are formed
Giving strength and courage to their brother
Revolutionaries, asking for justice
Revolutionaries, giving inspiration
Revolutionaries, asking for justice
Revolutionaries, giving inspiration

They are the mothers of the new race
They are the lovers of the great movement
They are the Adelitas, female soldiers
They are the Adelitas of revolution
They are the Adelitas, chicanas
They are the Adelitas of revolution