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NYT tech workers form biggest tech union in US

The news: About 80% of New York Times tech workers voted to certify union representation, making it the biggest tech union in the country with collective bargaining rights, per The New York Times.

The Times Tech Guild is certified with the National Labor Relations Board, per Reuters, and represents about 600 software engineers, product managers, designers, data analysts, and other workers.

The bigger picture: Although the overall share of union membership in the US has fallen in the past several decades, the labor movement is gaining steam in the tech industry with workers at companies like Apple, Amazon, and Tesla seeking membership, and workers at Google, Raven Software, and Activision Blizzard unionizing.

  • The 226 Google employees who initially made up the Alphabet Workers Union swelled to 800 this year, but that’s a small proportion of Google’s over 150,000 workers. It remains a minority union without collective bargaining rights and isn’t recognized by the company, per Insider.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has been a vocal critic of unions, challenged the United Auto Workers to organize a vote, suggesting he’s confident that workers will vote against unionizing.

What this means: The fact that the largest tech-worker union is made up of workers not employed by Big Tech signals that tech employees are standing in solidarity even when they’re a minority in their workplace.

  • This move creates an identity based on job function instead of where they’re employed and suggests we’re going to be seeing similar efforts in other tech fields.
  • Greater public awareness about labor issues in the tech industry, such as long hours, pay equity, and ethics concerns, will give workers who want to unionize more leverage.

How we got here: Overarching economic trends like the Great Resignation, soaring inflation, stagnant wages, and heightened awareness about pay inequity and discrimination in workplaces is fueling a resurgence of interest in union membership.

  • A 2021 survey showed that 50% of tech workers were very or somewhat interested in joining a union, a rate that jumped to 60% for millennials, per a study conducted by Protocol and Morning Consult.

Analyst Take: “Driven by stagnating wages and soaring inflation, and feeling empowered by a tight labor market, workers are organizing to push their employers to boost pay, expand benefits, and improve working conditions,” says Zak Stambor, Retail and Ecommerce senior analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Pressure is mounting on employers to ensure that they’re providing benefits and working environments that meet employee expectations.”