Resolution #78A-21-09

Organizing at the Convergence of Telecommunications, Media and Technology to Build Worker Power

Over the past several decades, two of CWA’s traditional and highly unionized sectors - telecommunications and media - have converged with the high tech sector. Traditional media and telecom companies have been forced to adapt to changing technologies and to the emergence of large internet corporations like Facebook, Amazon and Google. These corporations have pursued a variety of strategies to maximize profits, from major acquisitions of media companies to “cloud” partnerships between tech and telecoms. Wall Street analysts, economists and observers have dubbed this new umbrella sector of the economy the Technology Media Telecom (TMT) industry. This industry is worth $5 trillion globally and consolidating rapidly.

The trajectory of the largest of these high tech companies mirrors the 20th century growth patterns in telecommunications and mass media. The value of these companies increases due to network effects as more users search with Google, shop with Amazon, and interact with one another over Facebook and Instagram. They are often called “natural monopolies” because of their ability to dominate an entire consumer market, and they have redefined many aspects of society and everyday life. With this technological revolution that has taken place, and in the absence of meaningful consumer protections, these corporations profit from the buying and selling of our personal data gathered from these online activities.

CWA has always been strategic in building power for workers as technological changes in key industries have disrupted our members' jobs. In 1981, CWA chartered a “Committee for the Future'' to adapt union strategies and worker training to meet evolving technology, seeking strategic partnerships and mergers, and adopting the slogan “the Union for the Information Age.” With the ongoing revolution in computing, the importance of the internet, widespread societal adoption of smartphones, and the rising power of the tech platform companies, this is again one of those moments. The employment practices of these companies have had a global impact on workers in every industry.

CWA is well positioned to build power for all workers in this new environment. Our union was born among young workers in cutting-edge industries -- the telephone workers who brought the revolution of two-way voice communication and union democracy to every corner of the country, the media workers who established groundbreaking approaches to union representation in printing, broadcast and newspapers, and the manufacturing workers who built electronics that powered TVs and appliances and anchored their communities with family-sustaining jobs.

CWA was one of the first unions to initiate organizing among high tech firms beginning in the 1970s and continuing through the “dot-com” boom -- from Wavetech manufacturing workers in Indianapolis, to IBM workers in New York and across the country, to Microsoft contractors and Amazon call center workers in Washington State.

Today, CWA represents workers in the tech sector. Through our Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE), CWA has committed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with growing numbers of tech and video game workers as they organize for accountability from their employers. We have seen organizing successes at tech startups like Glitch and EveryAction, at tech divisions of media outlets NPR and the New York Times, and at platform companies like Google with the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA Local 1400. CWA’s most active organizing locals have shown that workers in these highly non-union companies do in fact want the benefits of forming a union. They have welcomed a dozen newly certified units and over 2,000 new high tech members into our ranks since the launch of CWA’s CODE initiative.

Resolved: CWA affirms our commitment to building power for all workers in the newly emerging Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) industry by supporting tech workers who are organizing at startups, at the newly established titans of this industry, and at traditional telecom and media corporations, while continuing to support organizing of media, news and telecommunications workers at those companies.

Resolved: CWA will fight for bottom-up regulation of tech platforms, re-regulation of communications networks, and strengthened antitrust enforcement to rein in corporate dominance by empowering workers and the public.

Resolved: CWA will support tech workers who are organizing to highlight the uses and societal impacts of the technology they create and to blow the whistle when technology threatens our shared core values of democracy and respect for human rights.

Resolved: CWA commits to collaborate closely and work in solidarity with our global union partners to build power for workers who are organizing at these powerful multinational tech corporations.

Resolved: CWA will increase its involvement in critical efforts to protect democracy and society from abuses by TMT firms in areas such as data mining and surveillance, use of artificial intelligence to both intensify work and eliminate jobs, and the destructive role algorithms play in perpetuating misinformation and promoting divisiveness, extremism, and discord that threaten the very fabric of our democracy.