Major labor union aiming to help organize tech and gaming industry workers

The Communications Workers of America has launched an initiative to boost the efforts of employees in tech and gaming.

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Workers in the tech industry have been waging a battle to unionize, in large part prompted by treatment in the workplace and certain business decisions by their employers. In response to this battle, some have alleged backlash by management. 

Now, one of the largest labor unions in the country, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), is launching an initiative called the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) to help technology and gaming industry employees in their efforts.

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Announced by the CWA on Tuesday, the campaign is designed to address growing concerns among workers around their rights, workplace conditions, and business decisions made by their employers that seem to conflict with their stated corporate values and beliefs.

Some of the worker issues and concerns cited by the CWA including sexual assault and harassment, ageism, unequal pay, "crunch time" (long-term overtime and overworking), the poor treatment of contract workers, and inadequate racial and gender diversity. But the concerns go beyond the workplace.

Technology companies have earned condemnation over various business decisions that critics say focus on profitability at the expense of ethics and integrity. Though several tech firms have been the subject of criticism, Google is one company that's been consistently in the crosshairs.

"Don't be evil," was a motto the search giant once used throughout its code of conduct as a way to remind employees to behave in a responsible and ethical manner. But contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the now aborted effort to create a censored search engine for China have led people such as former Head of International Relations Ross LaJeunesse to argue that the company has forgotten its own motto.

Last November, the CWA filed a complaint against Google with the National Labor Relations Board, asserting that four employees were fired over speaking out against the company and "engaging in protected labor organizing."

Google has maintained that the workers were fired over violations of data security policies. But other tech companies, including Amazon, Tesla, Uber, and Lyft, have also been accused of trying to stifle union activity or firing workers attempting to unionize, according to Business Insider.

"Companies in the technology and game industries have gotten away with avoiding accountability for far too long," CWA President Chris Shelton said in a press release. "Workers in these industries are exposing the reality behind the rhetoric. This initiative will help tech and game workers reach the next level in their efforts to exercise their right to join together and demand change."

To spearhead the initiative to organize, the CWA has hired two organizers that it said are highly experienced. Based on the West Coast is Emma Kinema, the co-founder of Game Workers Unite (GWU), a network of video game workers with chapters around the world. Based on the East Coast is Wes McEnany, a leader in the Fight for 15 campaign, which has been advocating for a raise of the minimum wage to $15.

"Workers in the tech and game industries face unique challenges, and CWA's expertise taking on massive corporations in the technology, media and telecom sector is a big asset as workers build genuine power to address these challenges," Kinema said in a press release.

"CWA is a member-led union with a demonstrated commitment to bold movement building, engagement in social issues, and progressive union democracy. The launch of this new initiative marks a watershed moment for workers in the tech and game industries," Kinema added.

The CWA added that it's been working closely with Game Workers Unite chapters and other organizers. A group of game workers also attended the CWA's convention in August. The initiative is represented online by a website called the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, which offers information for tech and gaming industry workers who want to join.

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