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You Deserve a Tech Union

Earlier this week, Ethan Marcotte’s new book You Deserve a Tech Union came out and I read it immediately. I didn’t know what to expect as someone who, until recently, hasn’t seen the point of unions for generally well-treated tech workers. There is a widely held notion that tech workers are somehow different than workers in other industries. There’s the idea that the tech industry is made up of individual stars and success comes from an individual’s merit. This book throws all of that out the window.

It starts with two simple questions: what do you like about your workplace and what would you improve about your workplace? The obvious next questions are how you can keep the things you like and fix the things you don’t. Marcotte breaks down how these fundamental issues and others such as job security, pay disparity, and workplace harrassment are just as important in tech as they are in other industries. He presents collective bargaining as the most tenable solution. The reality is the people doing well in the tech industry are predominantly cis white men and the idea that tech workers don’t have any need for a union comes from a place of privilege. As a member of that group, I’m already aware that the current arrangement greatly benefits me, but it is important to not be blind to the entire situation. To that end, Marcotte expands the definition of a tech worker to anyone whose labor contributes to the tech industry, not just the well paid software engineers and others in traditionally technical roles. Often the workers experiencing the worst working conditions in tech are underpaid contractors who don’t have access to the benefits normally associated with tech work.

The book presents a practical look at the process involved in forming a union and goes through several examples of collective bargaining in the industry. The writing style is approachable and the book is short, which is very effective for this subject. He gets to the point quickly which keept me engaged the entire time. Because this book is so new, many of the examples he uses are either extremely recent or still ongoing, which creates a feeling of immediacy that is inspiring. This book is awesome because it doesn’t shy away from the issues our industry has and recognizes the power we have to fix them. I would consider it required reading for anyone working in this industry.