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Protocol | Workplace Tech Employee Survey

Half of the tech workforce wants to join a union

In a survey of tech industry workers, about 50% of respondents said they are very or somewhat interested in joining a union in their workplace, and more than 60% of millennials said they were interested.

Google employees walk off the job to protest the company's handling of sexual misconduct claims

Just under 50% of tech industry workers said that to their knowledge, there is definitely or probably interest in forming a union at their workplace.

Image: Mason Trinca / Getty Images

A decade ago, many tech workers seemed more concerned with their stock options than forming a union. But in the last two years, a growing list of tech workers have formed unions or tried to, including a very powerful and rapidly-expanding one at Google — and about half of all tech workers are now interested in joining a union, according to a survey conducted by Protocol in partnership with Morning Consult.

Fifty percent of survey respondents who identify as technology industry workers said that they are very or somewhat interested in joining a union at their workplace in the survey, conducted from June 17-July 2. Just under 50% of tech industry workers also said that to their knowledge, there is definitely or probably interest in forming a union at their workplace. (To review margins of error and other questions about methodology, see this explanation of how Protocol designed the survey.)

"That's kind of crazy, in some ways, because unions in tech aren't a thing. And still one out of two workers are like, this is a good idea," said Wes McEnany, the director of CODE-CWA. CODE-CWA is the Communications Workers of America's dedicated effort to unionize the tech industry. So far, the CWA tech-focused effort represents the Alphabet Workers Union, Mobilize, Mapbox, the New York Times tech guild, Glitch and others, and all but Glitch formally announced their unions in 2021. The Office and Professional Employees International Union has also embarked on a similar effort for smaller tech companies, called Tech Workers Local 1010, which represents the Kickstarter union.

"Obviously we've seen a ton of interest since we've launched the CODE campaign. The Alphabet Workers Union continues to grow, that's gotten a lot of play with a lot of folks. There is something really encouraging here," McEnany said.

In the survey, Protocol found very little difference in union interest by racial or ethnic identity; people who identify as Black or white, for example, had nearly identical levels of interest, just above and below 50%. For McEnany, this data helped confirm his theory that questions of race had little relationship to whether workers are interested in unionization. "I don't think race matters much in these things," McEnany said. "Workers have issues. Tech companies have problems that are problems for everybody. And there's issues around race that piss off all of the workers, because white workers are offended and angry that they can't retain workers of color."

Click to download the full report

But while ethnic and racial identity doesn't play a very big role, age certainly does. Millennials are far more interested in joining unions than any other generation in the workforce; more than 60% of survey respondents in that age range said they are definitely or probably interested, compared to less than 40% for Generation X and Generation Z (although the Gen Z sample size was very small), and below 10% for baby boomers. That data aligns with McEnany's experience, who said that most of the people who approach him about forming a union are millennial or Gen Z. "That just generally tracks with building unions, younger people generally lead the way on social change," he said.

Unions tend to form during short moments of high-pressure social change, according to McEnany, and he said that interest is so unusually high because young people are, at the moment, feeling that pressure. "Historically, we form unions in industries in upsurges. They sort of happen in these compression points that happen over not very many years," he said.

Some corporate leaders see tech worker unionization as an indication that workers are collectively organizing to change a culture or environment they dislike. "I think that the union is a really important solution to a problem. But it's also recognition that there was a problem to be solved in the first place inside, it's like any company where there are employees unionizing. It's like, man, you gotta listen," said Expensify CEO David Barrett at a Protocol event Tuesday.

Yet many of the people leading worker organizing efforts instead understand unions to be a force that helps protect workers and also ensures good cultures remain that way. Many of the new unions have formed at small, very progressive tech workplaces, like Mobilize. The union didn't form to address any one glaring issue, but instead as part of an effort to codify and preserve the cultural benefits of working at the company. "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?" one Mobilize employee told Protocol in March. "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 said.

"The fact that this many people that are going to be in the workforce for the next 30-40 years are interested in unions, it gives us a lot of hope," McEnany said. "They have a perspective that things are messed up and they should have more agency at their jobs, a lot of problems that are innate to their creation, and things need to change, and for me this data is confirming that."

Protocol | Fintech

Amazon wants a crypto play. Its history in payments is not encouraging.

It missed chances to be PayPal, Square and Stripe — so is this its chance to miss being Coinbase, too?

Amazon wants to be a crypto player.

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

The news that Amazon was hiring a lead for a new digital currency and blockchain initiative sent the price of bitcoin soaring. But there's another way to look at the news that's less bullish on bitcoin and bearish on Amazon: 13 years after Satoshi Nakamoto's whitepaper appeared on the internet, Amazon is just discovering cryptocurrency?

That may be a bit unkind, but the truth is sometimes unkind. And the reality is that Amazon has a long history of stumbles and missed opportunities in payments, which goes back more than two decades to the company's purchase of internet payments startup Accept.com.

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Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas is a senior editor at Protocol overseeing venture capital and financial technology coverage. He was previously business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and before that editor-in-chief at ReadWrite, a technology news site. You're probably going to remind him that he was managing editor at Valleywag, Gawker Media's Silicon Valley gossip rag. He lives in San Francisco with his husband and Ramona the Love Terrier, whom you should follow on Instagram.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

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Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Protocol | Enterprise

How Google Cloud plans to kill its ‘Killed By Google’ reputation

Under the new Google Enterprise APIs policy, the company is making a promise that its services will remain available and stable far into the future.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has promised to make the company more customer-friendly.

Photo: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images 2019

Google Cloud issued a promise Monday to current and potential customers that it's safe to build a business around its core technologies, another step in its transformation from an engineering playground to a true enterprise tech vendor.

Starting Monday, Google will designate a subset of APIs across the company as Google Enterprise APIs, including APIs from Google Cloud, Google Workspace and Google Maps. APIs selected for this category — which will include "a majority" of Google Cloud APIs according to Kripa Krishnan, vice president at Google Cloud — will be subject to strict guidelines regarding any changes that could affect customer software built around those APIs.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is Protocol's enterprise editor, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire, and served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure.

Amazon job opening points to plan to accept crypto payments

The news sparked a rally in the values of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Amazon may be planning to let customers pay for orders with cryptocurrencies.

Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

Amazon is looking to hire a digital currency and blockchain expert suggesting a plan to let customers accept cryptocurrencies as payments.

The tech giant's job opening says Amazon is looking for "an experienced product leader" to help develop the company's "digital currency and blockchain strategy and roadmap" Amazon is looking for product leader with expertise in blockchain, distributed ledger, central bank digital currencies and cryptocurrency.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Protocol | Policy

Big Tech tried to redefine terrorism online. It got messy fast.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism announced a series of narrow steps it's taking that underscore just how fraught the job of classifying terror online really is.

Erin Saltman is GIFCT's director of programming.

Photo: Paul Morigi/Flickr

A little over a month after the Jan. 6 riot, the tech industry's leading anti-terrorism alliance — a group founded by Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter — announced it was seeking ideas for how it could expand its definition of terrorism, which had for years been more or less synonymous with Islamic terrorism. The group, called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism or GIFCT, had been considering such a shift for at least a year, but the rising threat of domestic extremism, punctuated by the Capitol uprising, made it all the more clear something needed to change.

But after months of interviewing member companies, months of considering academic proposals and months spent mulling the impact of tech platforms on this and other violent events around the world, the group's policies have barely budged. On Monday, in a 177-page report, GIFCT released the first details of its plan, and, well, a radical rethinking of online extremism it is not. Instead, the report lays out a series of narrow steps that underscore just how fraught the job of classifying terror online really is.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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