Developers Split on Tech Unionization Question

Should developers unionize? We put that question to you last month. The results… were decidedly mixed.

Some 52 percent of respondents thought that tech unionization was a good idea, while 48 percent said “no.” That’s a pretty even split, but perhaps that’s unsurprising; after all, this is a divisive issue that folks have been thinking about for a long time, and each side has its equally passionate critics and advocates.

Dice’s numbers echo other polls. In January 2019, for example, the Game Developers Conference, having surveyed its attendees, found that 47 percent thought that game developers should indeed unionize (another 26 percent said “maybe,” 16 percent said “no,” and 11 percent didn’t know). However, many of those survey-takers thought the chance of actual unionization was pretty slim. (Meanwhile, the gaming industry continues to wrestle with “crunch time,” allegations of poor management at major firms, and burnout, all of which help drive the unionization conversation.)

 “When asked whether they think video game workers actually will unionize, the largest share (39 percent) gave an uncertain ‘maybe,’” read the report that accompanied the poll data, while “24 percent of respondents said they don’t think game workers will unionize; just 21 percent said yes they will unionize, and 15 percent said they don’t know.”

At firms such as Amazon and Microsoft, employees have joined together to protest everything from treatment of women to military and government contracts. While not all of those actions have proven successful, they’ve forced management to listen to employee concerns. 

“A company is nothing without its workers. From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners,” the organizers of a massive 2018 walkout at Google wrote in an essay about their motivations. “Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.”(Google promised to address the issues related to that walkout.)

But such actions, while certainly “collective,” are also a long way from sustained, formalized unions. Will the tech industry progress further in that direction? It’s hard to tell at this juncture, but one thing is clear: Developers are pretty divided on whether unionization is a good idea.