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Check out updates from Coworker below. We regularly post campaign updates, new resources, and other stories - so check back here for the latest.

‘Welcome to the party’: five past tech whistleblowers on the pitfalls of speaking out

October 19, 2021
When Frances Haugen revealed she was the Facebook whistleblower who supplied internal documents to Congress and the Wall Street Journal, she joined a growing list of current and former Silicon Valley employees who’ve come forward to call out military contracts, racism, sexism, contributions to climate crisis, pay disparities and more in the industry. Read More

Could the pandemic give America’s labour movement a boost?

May 9, 2020

“May day, ho, ho, billionaires have got to go.” Protesters with slogans and placards, security hovering in the back: the gathering outside an Amazon warehouse in Richmond, California, on May 1st had all the trappings of a proper picket line. One thing was different, though—instead of massing together, participants kept a safe distance. The organisers had even chalked “Stand here” on the pavement at intervals of six feet.

 

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Crowdsourced wage transparency spreadsheets are going ‘viral’. Are you ready to get involved?

October 10, 2019

Crowdsourced wage transparency spreadsheets are going ‘viral’. Are you ready to get involved?

Oct 10, 2019 | COWORKER.ORG

crowdsource Across industries, and across the country, workers are embracing the power of salary transparency using crowdsourced spreadsheets to share information about their compensation. Inspired by a spreadsheet created by adjunct professors at US universities, Art + Museum Transparency launched their own spreadsheet in May 2019 that quickly took off. Now, inspired by their efforts, Philly baristas have created a spreadsheet of their own. In less than a week’s time, similar spreadsheets have popped up, crowdsourcing wage transparency among baristas in Seattle, Boston, Asheville, Austin, Cincinnati, Chicago, SE Michigan, Greenville, New York City, Portland, Denver, Colorado Springs, Dallas/Fort Worth, DC, New Haven, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. (Check out the links below for a full, updated list of spreadsheets.) In addition to starting important conversations about compensation, pay equity, and benefits, the crowdsourced spreadsheets function as a critical tool for employees seeking to work collectively for better wages. While sharing salary information is often implicitly (or explicitly) discouraged by employers, you have the legal right to share your own salary information. Under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, The National Labor Relations Board has, “…long recognized that employees have a right to discuss wages and conditions of employment with third parties as well as each other.” (PDF Download) The Board has repeatedly made clear that these rights extend to online platforms. crowd2 These crowdsourced wage transparency efforts offer a powerful jumping-off point for industry-wide solidarity, discussions among coworkers, and, ultimately, a fight for fair wages and adequate benefits. Ready to get involved? Below is a list of active wage transparency spreadsheets. Check out a map of local spreadsheets for baristas and other coffee workers here. Want to start your own? Check out our Q&A with Arts + Museum Transparency for some tips before you get started. Feel free to reach out to Team Coworker at info@coworker.org. We’re also happy to help.

We’ll keep this list updated as more become available. (Want your spreadsheet listed here? Share it with us on Twitter or via email.)

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So you want to stage a workplace walkout. Here are a few things to consider:

September 20, 2019

So you want to stage a workplace walkout. Here are a few things to consider:

SEP 19, 2019 | COWORKER.ORG

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From Wayfair to Google, employees have recently organized workplace walkouts to call for changes at their companies — building on the long tradition of strikes and work stoppages.

Image Credit: Global Climate Strike, 
https://digital.globalclimatestrike.net/#social-downloads Image Credit: Global Climate Strike, https://digital.globalclimatestrike.net/#social-downloads In the latest iteration of this workplace tactic, workers are planning an action in solidarity with youth climate activists called the Global Climate Strikes on September 20 and September 27, 2019. Employees in the tech industry including at AmazonMicrosoftGoogle, and Facebook have announced plans to join and use the global event as an opportunity to push their companies to change policies that impact the climate. For example, you can read the list of demands from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice here.

Do you want to organize a walkout in your workplace? First off: a quick note on your workplace rights in the United States.

Section 7 of the NLRA protects the right of many non-supervisory employees to work together to improve their terms and conditions of employment. This protection includes the right of employees to speak publicly to improve your and your coworker’s working conditions, wages, benefits, and other aspects of their employment. It also protects the rights of workers to organize in many other ways including actions like: starting a petition with your coworkers, working with your coworkers to ask your employer for a microwave in the break room, removing forced arbitration for all employees, speaking to press about those issues, and other actions you believe will improve your workplace.

Some types of workers including, but not limited to, government employees, agricultural and domestic workers, and independent contractors are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal legislation that gives employees the right to take collective action over workplace issues. Others, like railway and airline workers, are subject to other legislation and restrictions on their right to strike. In some cases, workers in specific states have broader protections. (You can find more information on this subject here.) It is important to note that even if you are included under the NLRA, a walkout that isn’t meant to collectively improve the working conditions, wages, benefits, and other aspects of employment would likely fall outside of these protections and you could risk retaliation and other repercussions.

Here are some ideas to consider to make it effective:

Get the support of your coworkers. Workers have power in numbers, so it is important to get coworkers on board. You can check out some tips on how to talk about workplace issues with your coworkers here. There are even more do’s and don’ts for engaging colleagues and supporters in this post. Location scouting, permits, logistics. What do you want people to do once they’ve walked off the job and into the street? Will there be speakers, a picket line, or group chants? Think about location, whether you want to get a permit to occupy a public park or area, etc. Make sure your location can hold the amount of people you anticipate participating — and don’t forget to have plans in place for different types of weather. If you are expecting the media to be there, it can be helpful to envision the image you would want featured on the news and then plan backwards. Where will a speaker stand and what equipment would they need? Where will supporters and the press stand? Creating a detailed schedule for the day ahead of time and sending someone to the location early on the day of the event to make sure everything is going smoothly is a good idea. How to handle your employer. Do you want to proactively notify your employer of the planned walkout? Or organize the walkout without your employer’s knowledge or blessing? If you plan to notify the higher-ups, you’ll need to figure out how to share that information and when to share it (e.g. the morning of the walkout vs. as it’s being planned). Do you want to send an open letter to your employer that is signed by a critical mass of people, concealing the identities of any leaders or organizers of the walkout? Or do you think it’s fine to speak directly to your employer as an individual? Getting on the local TV news. Once you’ve got a critical mass of coworkers who’ve committed to joining a walkout, consider whether it makes sense to alert local media about your plans. Before you do so, be sure that you and your coworkers have agreed on some clear and simple talking points and have a plan to field press requests to coworkers who are willing and available to speak to reporters. Writing a statement of purpose and some answers to frequently asked questions will help you all stay on message and field any requests quickly. It can be useful to set up an internal system to track incoming requests; to log which coworkers are responding to each reporter; and to share links to published pieces. blog template header

You can identify journalists to reach out to by checking the staff pages of your local TV, print and online news outlets and seeing if there are reporters who have covered similar stories in the past. If you can’t find email addresses, reaching out to reporters via Twitter can often be very effective. When in doubt, most outlets have a way to send in a tip or submit a story idea. If you don’t want news outlets to report on an issue before a specific date, clearly note that the news is embargoed until that date — but remember that word could still get out ahead of time. Sometimes it’s helpful to start with one individual reporter who you trust to tell your story best and offering that reporter an exclusive. Communicate clearly to the reporter that you are willing to exclusively offer them interviews about your walkout and be sure that you and your coworkers respect the terms of your agreement.

Visuals. You’re about to stage a public action, and the best public actions have powerful visuals. There are a number of ways to create a walkout with compelling visual elements. Consider crowdfunding the printing of banners, planning a sign-making party, or coordinating what you and your coworkers wear to work that day (e.g. everyone wears a green shirt). Inviting allies and supporters to join. Do you think your workplace walkout would benefit from community support? Consider reaching out to local faith groups, elected leaders, social movement groups, and others who might be interested in supporting workers taking action on an issue. Be clear about what kind of support you’re looking for — do you want allies to speak to the media or to a crowd, or simply show up to provide support and connection? Don’t be afraid to ask organizations and speakers to stick to specific talking points or refrain from speaking to the media (e.g. “We’d love for you to join this event, but we’re asking groups to refrain from speaking to the media. We want the employees at this company to be the focus of this event.”). This is your action, and you get to determine what takes place. Amplifying your action on social media. So you’ve organized 100 coworkers to walkout — that’s great! Each participant can use personal social media accounts to amplify the walkout. Come up with a hashtag (check social media platforms ahead of time to make sure the hashtag isn’t already in use for a different purpose) and encourage everyone to post about why they’re walking out. [Note: Speaking out on social media comes with elevated risk — employers can later find who tweeted about a walkout and target them for retaliation.] Identifying volunteers ahead of time who can commit to live-tweet and stream events can be helpful. Remind, remind, remind. Organizing a successful action is 90% follow-up. Once you get a commitment from a coworker to join a walkout, make sure to follow-up with them (more than once is best!) to confirm their plans to attend. You can do this in-person, via email, text or a secure messaging tool like Signal. If you plan on sending a mass email or text, make sure you’re not violating anyone’s trust by exposing their name and participation to others. Reflect and regroup. After your event, it’s often a good idea to debrief how it went right away and discuss your next steps. Make sure to develop a plan for quickly updating people about what will come next before the energy goes away. Ask for help. Do you have other questions about participating in a workplace walkout like the Climate Strike? Are you looking for additional resources or connections in your workplace organizing? You can reach out to our team through this form on Coworker.org.

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#ShutdownStories and the Federal Employee Takeover of Social Media

February 14, 2019

#ShutdownStories and the Federal Employee Takeover of Social Media

FEBRUARY 14, 2019 | COWORKER.ORG

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

During the longest-ever federal government shutdown that began in December 2018, an unprecedented number of federal employees used social media to share their stories with the public, and pressure elected leaders to take action. These stories — often heartwrenching portraits of hardship and hard choices — generated a massive amount of attention from mainstream media outlets and galvanized public support for civil servants and government contractors.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and others enabled workers across the country to talk to each other and share ideas and solutions. Through social media, federal workers and contractors spoke directly to policymakers and the public; volunteers and community allies were able to coordinate and find ways to help; and journalists were able to find powerful spokespeople for how the shutdown was impacting people’s lives.

Storytelling

Some of the most ‘viral’ moments of the shutdown came from federal workers who used social media to tell the story of their hardships, often using the popular hashtag #shutdownstories.

MJ is a single parent, so losing her only source of income added a hardship, but the fear overflowed into impacting her children.

I am a single mother of 3 with no help. Not knowing if I can pay rent or feed my family next week is hard and all that’s on my mind this day of Christmas when I should be happy. My kids feel my anxiety too ? #ShutdownStories— mj4ever (@mj4ever) December 25, 2018

A 30-year civil servant in California was forced to consider whether she could continue to employ for her husband’s caregiver.

I’ve been a loyal, dedicated federal employee for almost 30 years. I ❤️ my work. I may have to terminate my husband’s caregiver because it’s so expensive, it’ll rip through any savings we have very quickly. I’m besides myself with worry this Christmas. #ShutdownStories— AltCivilServant ✊???✊????????✌? (@AltCivilServant) December 25, 2018

Maria worried how her family would be able to survive after Christmas when her law enforcement husband had to return to work without pay. For families that just put some of their holiday gifts on credit cards, the shutdown couldn’t have come at a worse time.

My husband is federal law enforcement. He had the weekend off but now has to head back to work on Christmas morning with no indication of when/if he will be paid for providing crucial border security. We blame you @realDonaldTrump #ShutdownStories #TrumpShutDown— Maria Ortega (@shamapoo) December 25, 2018

Alfreda Dennis-Bowyer told CNN that she had savings and was in a comfortable position that she could sustain her life despite the shutdown. Her younger colleagues, on the other hand, had a tougher time.

She explained that those who were just starting out in life have student loans and young families with daycare to contend with.

“We’re real people and I don’t feel like he’s in touch with the reality of how people live day to day, week to week, check to check, “ she said. “He’s not looking at the big picture.”

Once the shutdown entered its third and fourth week, and it seemed there was no end in sight, the stories became more desperate. Journalists often followed up with feds on Twitter and other social media outlets, requesting interviews. Television news interviews allowed federal workers to explain the lengths they were forced to go to stay afloat.

Mallory Lorge of River Falls, Wisconsin revealed she was forced to begin rationing her insulin to treat her high blood sugar. Her insurance requires a $300 co-pay to purchase her insulin and she said that their family couldn’t afford it. She began skipping injections after meals and at one point removed her insulin pump out of fear.

“I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up,” she said in an interview with CNN. “The thought of having more debt was scarier than the thought of me maybe dying in my sleep.”

She explained that she didn’t even tell her husband about the rationing of insulin because she didn’t want him to worry.

It was through her online community of fellow diabetics that her story began to spread. Members of the group offered to send her their excess insulin, which she gladly accepted. When her story was escalated to the national news, others from Wisconsin and around the country pitched in to help.

Connecting

Federal workers also used social media to connect with lawmakers, the president’s staff and other workers around the country. In Washington, DC, for example, federal employees used the local community subreddit to discuss how they were spending their day.

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Someone — most likely a furloughed federal employee — created a massive Google doc, which listed all the discounts, special events, and services available to federal workers and contractors impacted by the shutdown.

During the 2013 shutdown, Facebook groups popped up for federal workers to coordinate and commiserate. This time, Facebook was a place where people worked to find services and volunteers worked to help.

Trash at national parks began overflowing, so volunteers coordinated on Facebook to do their part to keep the parks clean.

Thoughtful citizens stepped up to find people in their community who could donate food, household items, as well as supplies for babies and children. Using local Facebook groups, Cristina Walkley explained she saw it as part of her job as an admin to help. One of the major things she hoped to do was let federal workers know they weren’t alone and people cared enough to check on them.

“I think it’s our job as a community member, as a human being, to check on our neighbors and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’” she said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes. ‘Is there anything you need?’”

Another emotional piece of the equation was the need for angry Americans to vent at the president and his staff. @OKCatMom saw senior White House aide Ivanka Trump boast about the economy and used Twitter to share her response.

After President Trump made remarks about federal workers being “more than happy to do their part” to fund the border wall, reporter Matt Laslo asked for federal workers to contact him if they agreed. Out of the 800,000+ workers, Laslo said he heard from about one dozen.

“Mr. President, I am a huge supporter and also a Fed employee,” tweeted Jeffrey Barrett. “I support the need for a wall but not at the expense of a shutdown. Shutting down the government is affecting thousands of employees in many ways. Step up and end the shutdown. Get the wall in a different way.”

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CBS News correspondent David Begnaud also put out a call on social media for shutdown stories. He was flooded with stories on social media of single parents struggling, essential employees forced to spend money to travel to work when they still weren’t being paid. Begnaud reposted each heartbreaking tale, using the #ShutdownStories hashtag.

One such story came from Bryan, who said that he normally has about three months of money in savings, but after his mother passed away he was forced to cover funeral expenses. Add that to his family’s cars having problems and the holidays, his savings was gone. Then he was furloughed.

I woke up to more #ShutdownStories in my Twitter, Instagram & Facebook message boxes. I will continue to share this then.

Starting with this one:

“My name is Bryan and I’m a furloughed but essential DOT (department of transportation) employee…I have used to all my savings” pic.twitter.com/TSgoOIbzF4— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) January 24, 2019

Other federal workers used social media to coordinate with each other for protests and rallies at government buildings. On Reddit, feds traded opinions on Taft-Hartley and their legal rights to engage in work stoppages or protest the shutdown in other ways.

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Find and Access Help and Services

As the shutdown dragged on, many people stepped in to help, using social media to publicize events and available aid. There were hiring fairs announced for federal workers searching for something temporary or if they wanted to leave their jobs altogether. Federal workers also used Reddit and other sites to look for temporary job opportunities.

Looking for temp job around the rancho area. Federal employee and not working right now. from r/InlandEmpire

The town of Hunstville, Alabama is dominated by federal workers building NASA rockets. The entire community was devastated by the shutdown because so many people work for the government there. As the shutdown continued, the town banded together as residents began pawning their valuables. One church gave away over $16,000 in groceries. Job fairs popped up in communities for everyone from the Alabama NASA workers to TSA agents in Tennessee.

Chef Jose Andres opened a relief kitchen for federal employees in Washington, DC and worked with chefs around the country to open them in other communities. Lines to the kitchen circled the block, despite snow and freezing temperatures. Social media, again, was used to promote these events to federal workers and share their stories with the media.

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel stepped up as well. The show hired one federal worker each night until the shutdown was over. The first was a prison guard Kimmel assigned to play the tambourine.

Federal workers discussed the shows on Reddit. In one thread on the /fednews subreddit, a federal employee asks whether appearing on the show would violate ethics rules.

Other federal workers turned to crowdfunding to beg for help. Approximately, 1,000 GoFundMe pages were launched by federal workers lacking savings and struggling to pay their rent or mortgages. Questions emerged over whether these crowdfunding efforts violated ethics rules for federal employees. (We researched that question in a separate Medium story.)

gofundme

“It’s pretty embarrassing, but you have to do what you have to do,” said federal contractor Sammie Ward. In an interview with The Guardian, she explained her desperate search for assistance, the first she has ever made on the internet. “Thank goodness I don’t have a family. It’s just me and my dog.”

The Financial Assistance community on Reddit became a hotbed of advice for federal workers trying to manage debt, stay in their homes and maintain their credit. It became an excellent source of ideas for those searching for aid.

The wealthiest country on the planet faces yet another government shutdown — the fifth under Trump’s presidency. Workers will likely match their same efforts as before when it comes to telling their stories and amplifying the voices of those most desperate for help. Regardless of what happens in the next few days, at least this time around, those working to help are already prepared to continue their efforts.

In a a January 31st Instagram post, a Coast Guard employee’s spouse thanked everyone for their support: “It warmed my heart that complete strangers reached out. I want to say thank you to all those that took out the time to check on us, I truly appreciate you❤️This shutdown also pointed out how much everyone contributes to society (from the community to each government job). Praying for healing because I know this has scarred many.”

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Coworker.org is a global platform to advance change in the workplace. Our platform makes it easy for individuals or groups of employees to launch, join, and win campaigns to improve their jobs and workplaces. You can start your own campaign about changes you want to see in your workplace here at Coworker.org, or contact us at info@coworker.org if you would like to discuss a workplace issue with our team.

— By Sarah Burris

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