Late last month, we asked you if developers should form their own union. Your response was clear: yes. Some 66 percent of respondents to our survey want tech pro unionization.
The tech industry is in great shape. A choice to form a union is not a Hoffa-esque call to arms. Instead, it represents a protection of what tech pros already have. We’re seeing salary levels hit a ceiling, and a field of developers who don’t feel valued at their job.
If you wanted signs that things are potentially boiling among tech pros, look no further than Google. It was only after a blockbuster New York Times article and a worldwide walkout amongst its staff that the search-engine giant ended mandatory arbitration for reported sexual harassment. The 20,000-strong walkout wasn’t blind anger, though: the staff had demands, one of which was the end to arbitration for sexual harassment claims.
In an article for The Cut, those walkout leaders paint a picture of an employee corps petrified of action for fear of retaliation. If the New York Times piece was the first domino, the loosening of arbitration was second – and they want more to fall.
In addition to ending arbitration, Googlers want clearer policies on sexual harassment, an end to pay inequality, equal opportunity hiring and promotional efforts, and the elevation of Google’s Chief Diversity Officer to one who reports directly to CEO Larry Page and advises the board of directors. They also want an employee representative on the board of directors.
In its way, this is an example of how a developer’s union could successfully come to fruition and operate. Demands were made, a strike was held, and some concessions were made by a company. The strikers was comprised of folks with vested interests, not a rag-tag bunch of complainers with no leverage.
With a foothold at a major tech company, demand for a union could spread to other firms (like Facebook) before finding its way to the mainstream. Sadly, this is just unlikely, at least in the near term.
That being said, the desire to have a tech union is clearly present, and tech is ripe for more checks and balances. But as much as tech pros would love to see it, the path to a successful nationwide developer’s union just isn’t clear quite yet.