Veteran libertarian syndicalist Tom Wetzel comments on tech worker organizing.
“This is about the tendency in more recent tech worker organizing towards actions supporting other workers. When I attended a meeting of Tech Workers Coalition in San Francisco, about a year ago, they told me these kinds of issues seem to gain the most support. For example, in San Francisco organizing in support of affordable housing — which is mainly a problem for the core manual working class in service sector in San Francisco, not for the highly paid software programmers and the like.
A lot of the problem here is the “golden handcuffs”, as some of my coworkers used to call it when I was still working for the tech firms as a tech writer. High pay and good benefits. If you read what the grievances are that the person writing this talk about, it’s not about pay levels. It’s about things like arbitrary management power and discrimination and harassment. Also forced overtime is another major issue.
This problem has existed for a long time. Back in 2000 when the Mission Anti-displacement Coalition was organized in the Mission District amidst a massive eviction epidemic, a bunch of programmers and others formed a tech worker group in solidarity, called Digital Workers Alliance. I was a member of this. You can see here the same pattern this piece talks about. Organizing to support other working class people — not organizing for their own work issues. Eventually from talking with various tech workers, some of us in DWA arrived at the conclusion that we could organize DWA as a union because we found that a lot of programmers, web content people and others had issues at work. DWA started to do that. In 2000 a lot of the people working at the startups (“dot coms”) were paid quite a bit less than software engineers at big companies — for example 35,000 to 40,000 was often a typical wage — but this was more or less the starting salary for programmers. At this time in the big tech firms (like Adobe Systems or Sun Microsystems) 100K was more common. Nowadays with the big tech firms in S.F. the higher salary seems to prevail.
But the issues of forced overtime, harassment, discrimination, and also firing people for organizing — these issues are still there. Just trying to organize for other people — a kind of “social responsibility” ethic — is not going to work for creating the basis for building a tech workers union.”
Comments based on article by Tech worker Carmen Molinari critically which appears in the linked article: