The workers at Mobilize, a community-organizing app recently acquired by political tech juggernaut EveryAction, announced the formation of their union this morning as part of CODE-CWA's effort to organize tech industry workers.
One hundred percent of eligible workers joined the new Mobilize union after EveryAction voluntarily opted to recognize their formation and affiliation with the Communication Workers of America. By voluntarily recognizing the union, EveryAction avoided the often fraught and drawn-out union election process, like the recently failed election at the Medium Workers Union and the ongoing by-mail election of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama.
The new Mobilize union is the latest to form as part of CWA's effort to organize tech workers, following last year's unionization of Glitch workers and the formation of the Alphabet Workers Union in January. Earlier this month, the workers at Glitch became the first group of software engineers to reach a collective bargaining agreement, winning worker protections like firing for just cause instead of at-will and severance packages for laid-off employees.
Unions began to pop up in various places across the industry over the last year and a half, and the Mobilize workers may be just the first in a flood of new groups. Organizers at CODE-CWA told Protocol earlier this year that there are a number of worker groups in the process of union formation. And CWA is not the only national organization pushing to organize software engineers and other tech workers; the Office and Professional Employees International Union has formed the Tech Workers 1010 local, home to the Kickstarter union, for the same purpose. Tech Workers 1010 is working with a number of tech union campaigns that are still underground, RV Dougherty, an organizer for OPEIU, told Protocol.
Because EveryAction is a progressive political tech company, the company leadership was friendly and even excited when Mobilize workers announced their intent to unionize. "They said, 'Yeah, we want to do this the right way, we're highly invested in the labor movement as well, and worker's rights, and their ability to organize in the collective bargaining unit,'" said Jared McDonald, one of the leaders on the organizing committee. The story of their conflict-free, even kind, unionization process mirrors the experience of the Glitch workers, who described their collective bargaining agreement negotiation with similar language.
"Obviously we have a privileged position where we work for a progressive employer, but if we don't do it, how are the people who are going to work for less progressive employers going to do it?" McDonald said.
"Like Glitch, I think that we can serve as an example for other employers to see that it doesn't have to be this really confrontational process, so that we can work together to figure out what workers want," he added.
The Mobilize workers first started to discuss forming a union after the app was acquired by EveryAction in December 2020. As organizing committee leader Mime Čuvalo, Mobilize's lead software engineer, was negotiating his new contract (before the union was formed), he found certain clauses he wanted to challenge, like one that he thought might give EveryAction the right to all of his creative endeavors produced during both work and personal time. He discovered that his colleagues all had similar issues and were negotiating the problem individually, and so they banded together to get the clause clarified.
It made them realize that if they formed a union, they could push for other protections they wanted in their contracts, and then codify them for other workers.
And so Čuvalo and his colleagues started what can best be described as dating the national unions, looking for an affiliation that would help them become part of the bigger movement to organize tech workers.
"It was almost a coin flip between OPIEU and CODE-CWA, but we just thought that with CWA, they had recently organized Google workers, they just won their first contract with Glitch, they had a bunch of others in progress as well," McDonald said. "They really are doing the work of organizing tech workers in a really compelling way. We're all going to be a part of this movement, and they're really on the forefront of it."
Not everyone in the tiny, powerful and sometimes faction-filled tech organizing movement feels the same about CWA. Some tech workers and former workers, including members of the Alphabet Workers Union and ex-Google employees, have argued that CWA is more interested in "claiming" this new frontier for organizing than actually meeting worker needs, and that affiliating with a national group at all, each of which has its own interests and history, can be harmful to the movement.
But the Mobilize workers don't agree with that assessment. They want to learn from CWA's vast experience organizing workers of all stripes, and they know the group can provide them guidance and protection if they ever end up in conflict with EveryAction. "They have just so much experience outside of tech, too, that I think is still relevant. If there ever was a fight, they have all sorts of unions that have had to go through far far worse than what we were ever expecting," McDonald said.
And to the tech workers skeptical of the need for unions in an industry with unusually high salaries and often-fabulous benefits, Čuvalo points to the drive to build a better world that motivates almost everyone in tech. "I know there are a lot of passionate and idealistic and progressive people in the industry," he said. "If you want to build a better society, it starts small. It starts at home. There's a drive there that I think people can tap into."
Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that CWA helped negotiate a change to the employment contract. CWA did not help negotiate; instead, EveryAction clarified its contractual clauses to its employees.