Tech Workers Have Their First Union Contract

On Tuesday, employees at Glitch signed the first collective bargaining agreement by software workers in the United States.

For the past five months, employees at the New York-based collaborative coding site have been negotiating with management for a contract with a range of conditions aimed at protecting workers. Some notable ones include the right to recall laid off workers as well as requiring “just cause” for termination as opposed to the norm in the United States, where employers can discipline or terminate an employee “at-will” for any reason.

Employees at Glitch announced that they had voted to unionize and join Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1101 in March 2020. They said in  a release at the time that “90 percent of the workers indicated their support for joining CWA and authorized CWA to be their bargaining representative.” 

The agreement at Glitch marks the latest in a string of campaigns coming out of the CWA’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) initiative, which launched in 2020. The campaign seeks to help workers at major American tech and game companies better organize to end workplace issues including sexual assault and harassment, unequal pay, “crunch time” where workers are forcibly overworked for long periods of time, exploitation of contract workers, discrimination, pay inequity, and immoral contracts with federal authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In the year since the CODE-CWA initiative launched, other tech workers have organized their own unions. In Pittsburg, workers at the Google contractor HCL formed a union in 2019. In 2020, Kickstarter and Spotify podcast workers also formed their own unions, with the latter kicking off a work stoppage to help convince Spotify to voluntarily recognize them. Code-CWA was behind workers at Alphabet forming the Alphabet Workers Union, seeking better working conditions for employees and contractors. 

Newly-unionized workers and those seeking to organize at other tech companies are no doubt watching the Glitch contract signing closely. Those unions, too, will need to bargain with their employers for a collective agreement, and a strong agreement elsewhere in the same industry can serve as precedent in those negotiations. 

“We’re excited that Glitch workers have signed their first-ever contract, a milestone in this industry,” said CWA Local 1101 President Keith Purce in a statement. “CWA has decades of experience helping workers improve conditions at some of this country’s largest, most powerful corporations. We know we’re stronger when we fight together, and we hope this victory inspires other software engineers to organize their workplaces.”

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