US tech industry sees growing wave of employee activism

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Tech workers marching to support Facebook


U.S. tech employees are collectively taking action like never before in a broad push for better conditions, job security, higher wages and more, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

Despite six-figure salaries and unlimited vacation time, many tech workers have been questioning the effects of their work and joining forces with more blue-collar, service and contract-worker counterparts, pressing for better work conditions and pay.

Tech workers marching to support Facebook’s cafeteria workers in San Francisco last month. (AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado)

“It’s unprecedented, both the magnitude of the power of these companies and the willingness of white-collar employees to shake themselves of the privilege that they have and to really see the impact of the work they’re doing,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who has interviewed dozens of tech workers involved in organizing.

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They’re feeling emboldened because of national and global “existential crises” and the realization that tech companies “have more power than any multinational corporation has had in a long time,” Dubal said.

Among the broader activism: Amazon and Microsoft employees demanded the companies stop providing services to software company Palantir, which provides technology to federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Army; Amazon employees urged the company to transition to renewable energy and confronted CEO Jeff Bezos at a shareholder meeting; and, after last year’s walkouts over Google’s handling of sexual misconduct cases, employees signed a letter protesting Project Dragonfly, a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

The phenomenon has been particularly strong in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Salesforce, Google and Palantir, among others.

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The bastion of activism and progressive culture has been hit hard by the tech boom’s housing affordability crisis.

“There’s a lot of power (that) people are being asked to build for the shareholders of these companies and the management of these companies,” said Ian Busher, 28, a former contract analyst for Google and an organizer with the Bay Area chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. “If you want to make the world a better place, you should exercise judgment and democracy with the people you’re working with to build these tools.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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