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Can Big Tech manage the surging wave of unionization?

The news: Tech workers around the country are preparing to embrace the labor movement after decades of being “left behind.”

“It is going to be a great change,” said David Sullivan, an executive of the union that recently celebrated a first-of-its kind election at an Apple retail store, per Bloomberg.

Why this matters: As Big Tech companies become wealthier and more influential, many of their workers are looking to unions to negotiate more equitable compensation and benefits as well as organize around ethical issues.

Efforts to unionize in the US:

  • Apple retail workers at a Maryland store voted to unionize last week. Employees at the world’s most valuable company cited wages and a say on COVID-19 policies. They are not alone, employees from more than two dozen Apple retail stores are interested in unionizing, per union leaders.
  • An Amazon warehouse in New Jersey is the latest to get a union vote after similar elections in Staten Island and Alabama.
  • 80% of New York Times tech workers voted to certify union representation in March. 
  • In March, thousands of Etsy sellers went on a weeklong strike to protest a recent hike in transaction fees and other changes.
  • Between October 2021 and March 2022, there was a 57% YoY increase in union representation petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) according to recent data.

What’s next? 50% of tech workers are interested in joining a union, according to a 2021 Tech Employee Survey conducted by Protocol and Morning Consult.

Big Tech has been responding with a measured mix of compensation raises and union-busting maneuvers to avoid unionization. 

  • A leaked Amazon training video reveals strategies management can use to quash union discussions, per CNBC. 
  • Another video shows Apple’s head of retail, Deirdre O’Brien, cautioning employees on how joining unions could hurt a business, per The New York Times.
  • Tech companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are leaning on salary increases to retain talent now that incentives like stock options and equity may not be as attractive due to Big Tech’s era of uncertainty.

The bigger picture: Expect the situation to intensify as momentum from Amazon and Apple employees’ union wins could inspire a domino effect in other shops.