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labor relations 101

Labor Relations 101

A Primer for the New Economy

Dr. Gina Neff Assistant ProfessorUniversity of California, San Diego


1. Why IGDA can’t negotiate for you

  • Union Basics

2. Why unions would love for you to unionize

  • Context of the New Economy

3. Why you might love other options

  • Challenges & innovative solutions

4. Why don’t you talk about it?

  • Brainstorming on Collective QoL solutions
rights to a union
Union basicsRights to a Union

“the policy of the United States [is] to encourage the practice and procedure of collective bargaining”

National Labor Relations Act

forming a union the optimistic version
Union basicsForming a union. . .(the optimistic version)
  • A majority of people decide they want representation
  • A company can then chose to recognize the union
  • Everyone works happily ever after
the pessimistic and sadly often realistic version
Union basics(the pessimistic and, sadly, often realistic version)
  • NLRA law has been gutted
  • Companies routinely break the law to stop union drives
  • Even when union organizing drives win, companies often refuse to bargain in good faith
steps for forming a union
Union basicsSteps for forming a union
  • Figure out the right “international”
    • Communication Workers of America seems a good fit
  • Learn skills for talking with co-workers
    • Training from union organizers can be key
  • Figure out the long-term campaign strategy (3 years is optimistic)
tools for forming a union
Union basicsTools for forming a union

Communication Workers of America

  • Experience working with technology workers
  • Incorporating new models of unionism
  • Has organizing mission
  • Union organizers can help training for campaigns


  • General information and history
  • Ideas for how to talk to co-workers
other union resources
Other union resources
  • (notice British sp.)
  • Troublemakers’ Handbook by Jane Slaughter
the union movement needs you
New Economy ContextThe Union movement needs you
  • Changing nature of the US workplace
  • Address issues in non-industrial context
  • Organizing energy
  • Declining union membership
    • “Gamers of the World Unite” is a PR coup!
but can unions handle the challenge
New Economy ContextBut can unions handle the challenge?
  • Industrial model of organizing
    • “hot shops”
  • Ability to manage flexibility
    • European experience with technical unions
can an organizing drive work
New Economy ContextCan an organizing drive work?
  • “Venture Labor”
    • Volatile combination of creativity and entrepreneurial behavior
  • Flexibility
    • Turnover
    • Project-based work
    • Studio size
  • “Permanently Beta”
    • People have to adapt to ever changing technologies
  • “Heterachy”
    • Less hierarchy may pose a problem for collective answers
solutions based models for the new economy
Challenges & InnovationsSolutions-based models for the New Economy

Problem One:

Benefits tied to jobs

  • Clear advantages to freelancing for people in many industries
  • Freelancers often lack benefits
  • Savings from “group buying” of insurance often not available to those who are in “non-standard” employment
solution offer a way for freelancers to buy coverage
Challenges & InnovationsSolution: Offer a way for freelancers to buy coverage
  • Membership Organization of “Freelancer Union”
  • Services independent workers need
  • Savings on Health Insurance
  • Advocacy on Issues
problem two inequality in the tech workers
Challenges & InnovationsProblem Two: Inequality in the Tech-workers
  • The problem of “Permatemps”
  • Outsourcing issues and age discrimination
  • Training costs often high for individuals
  • No collective voice for problems of high-tech workers
solution offer a membership based union
Challenges & InnovationsSolution: Offer a membership-based union
  • Avoids problem of individual “shops”
  • Avoids problem of defining the bargaining unit and the lengthy certification process
  • Advocates explicitly for workers in the industry
other solutions
Other solutions

Advocacy groups

  • Cyberlodge, CPSR, etc.

Freelance cooperatives

  • Paneris,
collective models do work in the new economy
Collective models do work in the new economy

Unions provide one kind of support but are not the only solution

Ultimately for any collective solution to work people have to build and buy into them