In a Direct Challenge to Their Employers, Tech Workers Begin to Organize

Source: Sam Harnett, KQED, July 6, 2018

#TechWontBuildIt.

This was the theme of two unprecedented meetings earlier this week in San Francisco and Seattle. Tech workers, including engineers and programmers, gathered for a forum put on by the labor advocacy group Tech Workers Coalition.

The meeting in San Francisco was standing room only. More than 100 tech workers from both small companies and major corporations like Google and Facebook talked about how to organize, challenge their powerful employers and stop the companies they work for from creating products and services they find unethical. This meeting was the latest in what is becoming a rising wave of tech worker activism and protests…..

Related:
Why Tech Worker Dissent is Going Viral
Source: Itasha Tiku, Wired, June 29, 2018

Silicon Valley has a long and secretive history of building hardware and software for the military and law enforcement. In contrast, a recent wave of employee protests against some of those government contracts has been short, fast, and surprisingly public—tearing through corporate campuses, mailing lists, and message boards inside some of the world’s most powerful companies.

The revolt is part of a growing political awakening among some tech employees about the uses of the products they build. What began as concern inside Google about a Pentagon contract to tap the company’s artificial-intelligence smarts was catalyzed by outrage over Trump administration immigration policies. Now, it seems to be spreading quickly. ….

….. Silicon Valley’s recruiting pitch has long been: Work with us to change the world. Employees are encouraged to make their work life synonymous with their social identity, and many internalize those utopian ideals. “People who signed up to be tech heroes don’t want to be implicated in human rights abuses,” says a senior Google employee involved in the protest against Project Maven.

Tech workers may feel freer to challenge their employers in part because they have marketable skills at a time of great demand, says Nelson Lichtenstein, a history professor and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara. “Why don’t you find this among the people wiring the circuit boards together in China? Because there they are much more vulnerable,” he says. ….