Unionizing in tech is not a new discussion, but the circumstances have changed considerably in recent years. The struggles of tech workers have become more public, and Big Tech has become increasingly more beholden to the public, both in the form of investors, and the court of public opinion.
Many people believe that unionizing in big tech is more possible now than ever. Should it happen?
In this article, we look at what sort of issues tech workers face, and how unionizing might be the answer.
What about the moment we are in has led tech workers to reignite unionization efforts in the first place? Below, we examine several pain points that have led tech workers to reach for the power of collective bargaining.
The tech industry, particularly when it comes to software development has been notorious for intense work cycles, sometimes called sprints, in which enormous quantities of work are done in short periods of time.
It’s important to note that the “Sprint” work cycle does not necessarily call for employees to work extreme hours. However, in trying to meet consumer demands, or bring products to market at a competitive pace, many tech workers find themselves buried beneath mountains of work, expected to tackle hours that are bad for their health and wellness.
The switch to a remote work environment has also led to increased pressure for many people working in the tech industry. This is particularly true for remote IT workers. Where once the area they serviced was limited by location, tech workers may now be servicing more people with greater and greater problems.
Because business technology has advanced considerably in the last decade—more than ever in the last two years thanks to Covid, the days when IT workers’ most frequent fix was updating Microsoft Word are long over. The work is harder, the hours tougher, the compensation, largely the same.
The tech industry has also come under fire from several directions for its work culture. Most recently, the gaming company Bethesda made headlines for its poor working conditions on major games like Fallout.
Despite being one of the biggest names in video games, Bethesda is a relatively small company with only 400 employees who, according to recent reports have been spread too thin.
Bethesda is just one of many examples. There have also been frequent reports of gender discrimination in tech with many saying that the industry is largely resistant to and uncomfortable for female employees.
Because of their subjective nature, work culture problems are difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, when taken together these anecdotes reveal a trend. Even though the tech sector is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet, and even though tech-related jobs command high salaries issues are lurking behind what many people consider a dream line of work.
How Unions Help
Unionizing does not guarantee a solution to all or even any of these problems. It does give tech workers a louder voice. Unions bring visibility to issues that are obscure for lay people. Through the power of collective bargaining, employees can negotiate for better hours higher compensation, and other things they might want from their employers.
It goes beyond that, though. Unionizing also has the potential to bring accountability into the public sphere. By bringing labor issues into the culturally conscious, tech unions have the potential to inspire significant, lasting change in their industry.
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