Staff at the civic tech nonprofit Democracy Works have announced they are unionizing with the News Media Guild Local 31222. As key participants in protecting, expanding, and improving democracy in the United States, the Democracy Workers Collective seeks policies in their workplace that align with the organization’s external work.
A supermajority of eligible staff asked Democracy Works’ CEO and the Board of Directors to voluntarily recognize the Democracy Workers Collective on July 12 and to begin bargaining for a first contract. The Democracy Workers Collective will represent staff from across all areas of work at the organization – communications, fundraising, programs, and software engineering. They join thousands of workers who have organized as part of the Communication Workers of America’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA).
Democracy Workers Collective member Kane K. said, “Democracy Works makes voting a more accessible task for voters and election administrators alike. We send thousands of election reminder messages, maintain tools and datasets that allow voters to look up their polling locations online, provide state-specific info about how to vote, and enable voters to track their mail ballots.”
During the 2020 election cycle and amidst a global pandemic, Democracy Works staff stepped up to meet ever-growing needs of U.S. voters and election officials, organizers said. Their nonpartisan work is more important than ever before in protecting and improving American democracy through civic participation.
Working under high-stress circumstances in 2020 came at cost to employees’ morale, well-being and safety, and resulted in questions about pay equity, promotions and hiring, reporting structures, and systemic racism in the workplace. Though management sought to make policy improvements for staff, the changes have resulted in confusion, frustration, and mistrust.
In 2021, about 15% of employees left the Democracy Works team, exacerbating capacity issues and exposing challenges with employee retention. Employees have rarely been invited to participate in decision-making when major policy shifts are made, they said, and the Democracy Workers Collective seeks to change that.
The Democracy Workers Collective hopes to help rebuild trust in the organization while maintaining and creating systems that benefit all staff. Nicole C. said, “I am so excited to work alongside fellow Democracy Workers Collective members as we work together to ensure a representative, inclusive, equitable, accessible, and just Democracy Works and democracy here in the United States.”
Photos, clockwise from top left: Nicole, Rye, Allie, Becca and Jake. See why they are part of the Democracy Workers Collective.