Washington, D.C. -- On Tuesday, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced the launch of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA), a new initiative to support workers’ organizing efforts in the technology and game industries. Tech and game companies’ meteoric growth in recent years has been accompanied by growing concerns around workers’ rights and workplace conditions, including the disconnect between the companies’ stated values and the societal impact of the technology. CODE-CWA will provide resources for workers who are joining together to demand change.
“Companies in the technology and game industries have gotten away with avoiding accountability for far too long,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “Workers in these industries are exposing the reality behind the rhetoric. This initiative will help tech and game workers reach the next level in their efforts to exercise their right to join together and demand change.”
Employees at major American tech and game companies have grown increasingly active and outspoken about workplace issues, including sexual assault and harassment, ageism, unequal pay, “crunch time” (i.e. long-term overtime and overworking), poor treatment of contract workers, inadequate racial and gender diversity, and lack of transparency and inclusion in decision-making around controversial contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
To lead this new initiative, CWA has hired two highly experienced organizers. Emma Kinema, co-founder of Game Workers Unite (GWU), a network of video game workers with chapters all over the world, will be based on the West Coast. Wes McEnany, a leader in the groundbreaking Fight for 15 organizing campaign will be based on the East Coast. CWA has established a website, www.code-cwa.org, with information for workers who are interested in joining the initiative.
CWA has been working closely with worker-organizers and Game Workers Unite chapters, and a delegation of game workers attended CWA’s biennial convention in August. Last month, the GWU chapter in Toronto signed a partnership agreement with CWA Canada.
“Workers in the tech and game industries face unique challenges, and CWA’s expertise taking on massive corporations in the technology, media and telecom sector is a big asset as workers build genuine power to address these challenges,” said Emma Kinema, lead organizer of CWA’s new initiative. “CWA is a member-led union with a demonstrated commitment to bold movement building, engagement in social issues, and progressive union democracy. The launch of this new initiative marks a watershed moment for workers in the tech and game industries.”
CWA has a long history of building power with workers in the technology, media and telecom (TMT) sector. CWA was founded by telecom workers, and supports media workers through its Newsguild-CWA and NABET-CWA sectors. In the late 1990’s CWA’s WashTech local did pioneering work to address issues faced by Microsoft’s contract workers.
CWA in early December filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of the “Thanksgiving Four” -- the four Google workers who were fired in retaliation for their involvement in worker organizing efforts to preserve and improve their working conditions at the tech giant. Google’s decision to fire the four workers coincides with the company’s hiring of a consulting firm known for its anti-union rhetoric. Later in the month, CWA filed other Unfair Labor Practice charges, one on behalf of a fifth Google worker, who was fired in retaliation for engaging in similar organizing efforts, as well as one alleging other coercive and intimidating tactics by Google to chill further organizing efforts.