Unionization among nonprofit workers this year continued with staff at Code for America (CfA) in San Francisco, Calif., an organization focused on closing the technology gap between the public and private sectors, now represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Tech Workers Union Local 1010.
CfA management voluntarily recognized the staff union. Contract negotiations between management and CfA Workers United will begin in the coming weeks. CfA Workers United informed CfA leadership of the request for voluntary recognition on Aug. 2.
“This important milestone in Code for America’s history will increase our ability to create a government that works for the people, by the people in the digital age. This has been a learning journey for our organization, and we arrived where we are today, with voluntary recognition, because of our strong commitment to delivering on our mission and staying true to our values,” Amanda Renteria, CEO of CfA, said via a statement.
“As we look to the future, we will ensure that Code for America continues to be a special place to work, where every member of our team knows they are seen and supported, and where there is a steadfast commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as we fulfill our mission of making government work better for everyone,” she said via the announcement.
“Nonprofit and tech workers alike are becoming increasingly aware of the power a union brings them at work,” said Brandon Nessen, OPEIU organizing director. “Unionizing gives working people agency to advance not only their own interests, but the mutual interests shared by both staff and management.”
Voluntary recognition of their union avoids the often contentious and lengthy process of conducting an election via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). “We are pleased Code for America management took the step to voluntarily recognize our union, CfA Workers United, today via a democratic card-check process,” said Aditi Joshi, who has been with the organization for two and a half years. “We look forward to working together with CfA management to continue building a culture at the organization that empowers all employees to show up to work as their full selves, each and every day.”
OPEIU founded Tech Workers Union Local 1010 in January 2021 to raise standards for workers in the tech industry, with a longer-term goal of providing all tech workers access to collective bargaining. Beginning with its historic win at Kickstarter in 2020, and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum for unionizing the tech sector has grown significantly.
It has been a busy year for new unions in the nonprofit space. For example, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), in St. Paul., Minn., unionized.
It is a “really great place to work,” according to the organization’s Public Policy Advocate Ileana Mejia. But even the best workplaces have warts. Among the 30 to 35 MCN employees, nine were eligible for union membership. Six voted to unionize, and they sought help from the Minnesota Newspaper & Communication Guild, a local of the NewsGuild-CWA, a Washington, D.C.-based union for media workers.
During 2020, 10.8% of American wage and salary workers belonged to unions – 14.3 million people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s a half-percentage-point gain compared to 2019’s level, according to the 2021 Union Members Summary from the BLS.
Altogether, 12.1% of American workers, 15.9 million people, were represented by a union in 2020 – a category that includes those in union shops who don’t pay dues but nonetheless are covered by union contracts. The growth came despite an overall drop in employment figures. During 2020, 444,000 union employees lost their jobs. But union members experienced layoffs at a lower rate than non-union workers.
Granted, not all workers in nonprofits are unionized. Concrete figures on union membership among nonprofit workers aren’t as readily available. Neither the BLS nor the NLRB parse their numbers along commercial and nonprofit breaks.
There are, however, directional figures, The BLS report notes union members among public-sector (government) workers stood at 34.8% in 2020, more than five times higher than the 6.3% rate among private-sector workers.