Tech workers are responding to widespread layoffs and inadequate working conditions with strikes, protests, and unionizing efforts across the globe. In Austin, Texas, a group of workers made history last week by becoming the first Alphabet subcontracted employees to go on strike. The YouTube Music strikers, who are staffed by Cognizant, recently voted to unionize, and according to Alphabet Workers Union “are paid as little as $19 dollars an hour.”
In France, developers from Ubisoft held the company’s first-ever strike after management announced the cancellation of three games due to worsening economic outlook, which the company’s CEO blamed on workers.
Union membership in tech has also risen significantly in Sweden, with campaigns in Spotify led by Unionen. In German union ver.di is also growing its presence in the industry with campaigns to organize workers’ councils in Spotify, SAP and TikTok. In Spain, UGT and CCOO rushed to demand that Twitter respects Spanish labour law after Elon Must announced his plan to layoff over 80 per cente of the platform’s staff in Spain.
UGT’s General Secretary Pepe Álvarez made clear with a tweet that the unions won’t sit on the sidelines: “@TwitterSpainSL is firing its 26 Spanish workers by mail. In our country a collective dismissal requires opening a consultation period, negotiating 15 days and communicating it to the labour authority. Not doing so makes the dismissals VOID.”
These actions highlight tech workers’ growing concerns about job security, the impact of layoffs on their livelihoods, and broader issues such as workplace diversity and tech companies’ responsibility to support their workers.
“In this wave of inhumane layoffs, workers in the tech industry are showing the world that unions are must-have tools to promote fairness in the workplace,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “Unions serve as a firewall against arbitrary and unjust actions of employers and help ensure fair compensation and benefits for all employees. By standing together and advocating for workers’ rights, tech workers can play an essential role in creating a more just and equitable future for all.”
Video game workers have also spoken out in recent years against working conditions in the industry, including low pay, insufficient benefits, rampant use of mandatory overtime or “crunch,” and workplace cultures rife with harassment and discrimination. Workers have also begun to form and join unions, including at Nexon and Smilegate in South Korea, Paradox Interactive in Sweden, Ubisoft studios in France, and, most recently, Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software in the U.S. Invited by UNI Global Union, representatives from video game workers unions from 20 countries met in Berlin last summer to discuss international efforts to mobilize in a global campaign to raise standards and ensure safe working hours and conditions worldwide.
According to a survey of video game workers across 29 countries by UNI Global Union low pay (66%), excessive work hours (43%), inadequate benefits (43%), and workplace discrimination and/or sexual harassment (35%), among other work-related issues, are the driving forces behind employee dissatisfaction and their desire to form a union in the workplace. The vast majority of respondents (79%) expressed support or strong support for unionizing their workplace.