Staffers at the civic tech nonprofit Democracy Works won voluntary recognition of their union, the Democracy Workers Collective, Aug. 10, 28 days after announcing their union drive. They join News Media Guild Local 31222.
The new unit will represent approximately 30 employees of the nonprofit organization, which works to expand democracy in the U.S. The union’s members come from all its areas of work – communications, fundraising, programs, and software engineering.
Before the union campaign officially began, people of color at DW were organizing among themselves to ensure they received equitable treatment, said Neiko Alvarado. They shared information about their salaries and realized they weren’t all being paid proportionally, he said. They also compared anecdotes about poor treatment by some managers.
“Some of us realized we were trying to make change, but without the protections and power of a certified union,” he said. “The union was the next logical step.” Alvarado began investing his time in talking to fellow employees about at-will employment and other protections, as well as demands for equity.
He was pleasantly surprised by “how many people were ready and down to get into what a union was and show up for their coworkers. ‘I see where this is going,’” he thought. “Yes, I’m interested,” he said, and joined the union Organizing Committee.
Liz Starin, a software engineer, felt very strongly about organizing tech workers. They have been considered hard to organize, she said, because in many companies they are well paid. “But I think it’s important. There are a lot of us. We’re not magical, superhero beings. We’re just people who do tech work.”
But organizing her coworkers was a stretch, Starin said. “I thought it would feel strange because I’m a quiet engineer. But it’s been surprisingly rewarding. I thought it would feel unnatural, but it felt very natural.” They join thousands of workers who have organized as part of the Communication Workers of America’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA).
Now that they’ve won recognition of their union, workers will decide collectively what to fight for, Starin said.