One of my life missions is to chip away at the capitalist system as much as I can within my capacity as a single human being. A target of my chisel is Big Tech, a major perpetrator of inequity, injustice, violence, and the destruction of democracy across the globe. I’ve worked in tech since 2011, and the greed and fuckery of tech companies, billionaires, and neoliberalism disgusts me to no end.
It’s only recently that I have found an avenue to go beyond my own voice and immediate professional network, and get involved in actual organized efforts. Several months ago I joined the Tech Workers Coalition, a democratically structured, global community of people who work in and adjacent to the tech industry as well as labor and community organizers. We take concrete action toward systemic change, social justice, workers’ rights, and economic inclusion through volunteer projects and collaborative initiatives.
This week, in partnership with Tech Workers Union Local 1010, we introduced a new Tech Workers’ Bill of Rights, which outlines a series of protections that all tech workers deserve. It’s an exciting time to do so in light of recent developments in tech organizing like the new Alphabet Workers Union which formed in January 2021.
I am proud to be part of the team that created the Bill, with the hopes that it will be a useful resource and tool for workers who want to control the conditions of their labor, and who want to start conversations with their colleagues. Our definition of tech worker includes salaried knowledge workers like developers, designers, marketers, and others who work directly on products and services, customer service, warehouse workers (think Amazon), gig workers (ridesharing, grocery delivery, etc.), and contractors.
I also see this Bill as a way to educate well-compensated tech workers who aren’t yet awake to the fact that they, too, are exploited by a system designed to benefit the mega rich. They just happen to make more money and have less precarity in their lives.
You can read the Bill below, or visit TWU Local 1010 to check it out and learn more about this effort.
A Tech Workers’ Bill of Rights
Technology wields immense power. It fosters connection, creativity, and curiosity across the globe. Alongside the human connections fostered through tech, however, we see tech companies abusing privacy, reproducing inequality, surveilling already over-policed communities, exploiting workers and the environment, and stoking hatred and violence in our world.
It is vital that workers gain the ability to shape the products we build and the work we do.
As tech workers, we represent a range of job roles, work environments, and salary levels. We are the creative, technology, academic, and office workers who deserve a say in the products and services we build. We are warehouse workers facing dangerously inadequate workplace safety protocols. We are customer service representatives squeezed to work more and more hours with insufficient pay and benefits. We are part time, gig and contract workers of all kinds who want to to protect our livelihoods in a highly competitive landscape.
The Tech Workers’ Bill of Rights aims to protect and support everyone under the tech industry umbrella, no matter their job level or title, income, education, background or life experience. Additionally, in an industry where leadership is overwhelmingly homogenous, we strive to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable and oftentimes most invisible workers in this industry.
We commit to prioritizing the voices of those workers who have been marginalized within the tech industry through discrimination based on gender or gender presentation, race, class, age, ability, personal beliefs, immigration status, sexual orientation, neurodiversity and other differences.
The Tech Workers’ Bill of Rights is undergirded by the core values of equity, empowerment, representation accountability, safety, autonomy, fairness, and freedom. Through our Bill of Rights we not only commit to upholding these values, but also to building a more just and equitable future for all tech workers.
Equity: Workers deserve fair and inclusive work environments free of discrimination. Workers have the right to a harassment-free workplace regardless of race, class, age, ability, personal beliefs, immigration status, sexual orientation, neurodiversity or any other differences. Employers should provide accommodations for workers with disabilities and should work towards creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Empowerment: Workers should have input in decision making around their working conditions. Changes in working conditions should not solely be decided by and handed down from the top. Workers should have meaningful input and be included in discussions when working conditions change. This could include but is not limited to, working hours, office/remote conditions, equity, paid time off, benefits, and contracts.
Representation: Workers should have a meaningful say in business decisions, including company strategy and ethical standards. Our responsibility in the tech industry should be to people, communities, and the environment rather than solely to profit. This means that workers should have the protected right to individually and collectively raise concerns about products, initiatives, features, or their intended use that is, in their considered view, unethical.
Accountability: Workers deserve equality and transparency when it comes to hirings, firings, and HR practices. Workers should have full transparency into hiring practices, employee evaluations, promotions and raises, HR processes (including processes around sexual, racial, and other forms of harassment and discrimination), and salary and benefits, including executive salary and benefits. All workers deserve due process before firing, to know if they are on a performance improvement plan, and the ability to raise questions, concerns, and counterpoints. Workers deserve full transparency and upfront communication when it comes to decisions around restructuring and layoffs.
Safety: Workers have the right to safe working conditions. Workers have the right to a physically and emotionally safe and accessible work environment, with, at minimum, an office space compliant with commonly accepted accessibility practices. Workers have the right to work in a cooperative environment that does not pit workers against one another. If workers feel unsafe coming into the office, employers should make every effort to allow them to work remotely. Workers should be free from overly-broad non-disclosure agreements that silence victims and hide unsafe workplace conditions.
Fairness: Workers deserve equal pay for equal work. Workers should be paid at least a living wage for their work, without regard to any discriminating personal attribute such as those mentioned above. Workers should be free to discuss their compensation with their coworkers without fear of repercussion. Workers have the right to full transparency around promotions and raises, and explicit criteria to achieve them. Regardless of job classification, whether full-time or independent contractor, on-site or remote, workers are entitled to fair and equitable pay and working conditions and should be compensated for any excessive hours worked.
Freedom: Workers should be free to express themselves, dissent, and organize without fear of repercussion or retaliation. Workers have the right to a workplace that is free of retaliation from management or other employees. Regardless of employment status, workers deserve the ability to freely discuss salary and benefits, job security in the face of disagreement, input into employment contracts, and equal protections for organizing. Employers should not conduct active, targeted monitoring of communication between workers. Workers should be free to speak about their lived experiences, without the restrictions of non-disparagement clauses. Workers should never be forced into mandatory arbitration, so as to retain their full legal rights.