Ready, and Action!

SAG-AFTRA may be on strike, but we’re still acting! Taking collective action to tell management how important time to rest and recover is to our unit, that is. Over the past weeks and months we’ve been taking action to secure our rights and working conditions so that we can keep contributing to Code for America’s mission for the long haul. As we’re seeing across the country: collective action gets the goods.

Hearing from the collective

Taking action reminds us this isn’t about any one individual within our union. This is about all of us: our collective power and our shared priorities. Over the past weeks, action has looked like: replying to management’s emails, slack threads, a PTO petition, and, most importantly, checking in with our colleagues. We’ve heard from management that union activity is “making people uncomfortable.” As one of our members put it, “Anyone else notice how management says we’re making people uncomfortable when we talk about our lived experiences?

When we take action, we acknowledge that “yes! this is uncomfortable.” It’s uncomfortable for all of us when management has all of the power and every forum to say what’s on their minds. This environment is untenable, especially for the most marginalized among us, and it’s time for a change (it’s been time!). Every week we’ll continue to show up at bargaining, with solutions-oriented proposals on how we can improve our working conditions and relieve the discomfort. Both at the bargaining table and with continued action, we’ll do everything in our power to illuminate the path forward.

Telling management we reject their proposal

On July 13th, management returned to us with a proposal. We were expecting to have movement, especially after 4 months of stalling. We saw that instead of making any substantial changes, they changed the document with some minor changes a day before bargaining. Instead of working on providing us a counter, time was spent building up a narrative that’s been notably different from what was happening at the bargaining table. That narrative was sent out via email to staff, during our bargaining session, with management’s “highlights” from the very proposal we were going over at the table.

While this email is being sent to staff, management and their counsel are insinuating that our bargaining committee didn’t speak for the rest of the unit. They went even further by attempting to force a vote on their proposal. Something they have no legal right to do.

The unit decided to respond. Collectively.

One member of our unit responded to management’s email with their thoughts on the proposal, and asked the rest of the unit what they thought.

Hello fellow staff members,
As you have read above, the management committee has put forth their full
package proposal – which essentially reintroduces everything they tried to get
us to agree to back on March 23, 2023. In this package they again reject key
priorities without any hint of listening to our collective voice or seeking to
compromise. Flexible PTO, holidays, mental health days, leaves of absence, pay
increases, and more — on all of these topics, the most recent proposal is
inferior to or the same as the status quo of our current working conditions that
we've sustainably had the last several years.
As the management committee has demanded that the union vote on this proposal,
we thought we would share how we feel about this proposal.
Members of CfaWU - what do you think about this package proposal?
Personally, I reject it.

We asked our unit to reply with a simple sentence, if they felt comfortable doing so: “I reject this proposal.” Four words, that’s it. 69 members (60%) of our unit responded. Many shared their own reasons for rejecting this proposal, including personal stories, advocating for others, and a desire to protect the benefits we have today.

Slack action

The next week, we followed suit by sounding off in slack. A member of the unit posted in our all staff Slack channel, sharing why our first contract is important to them along with their own reasons.

In case you missed it, CFA Workers United is getting close to finishing our
union contract! We've sent our counters and are excited to discuss our
priorities with management.
As CFA Workers United, we're committed to using our collective voice and power
to make CFA an even better organization for each other and the people we serve.
We all have our own reasons for wanting a contract that secures equity and
sustainability. Today, we welcome you to reply in this thread and share why
you're excited to win our contract!
I'll kick us off:
Winning a strong union contract is important to me because I manage a serious
chronic illness. During a severe flare in 2015, I was forced to leave my job due
to non-existent leave support and a lack of adequate PTO - which in turn meant
losing the employer-sponsored healthcare I needed to treat my disease. My
experience highlighted the importance of enshrined workers rights, especially
ones that support those of us who are chronically ill or disabled to do our best
and most sustainable work.
For me, open PTO was one of the main reasons I proudly accepted this job offer.
Open PTO, leave protections, and a 4 day work week all represent steps towards
an equitable and sustainable working environment for me and ALL CFA workers. We
want to be here, and we want to show what's possible! -Union Member
Why is reaching a strong contract important for you?

This time, we asked people to reply with two to three sentences summarizing why our contract is important to them. Once again, our unit went above and beyond. 29 members (25%) of our unit replied in-thread to the original message. Again, most of them sharing very personal and often emotional stories about certain benefits that are important to them. The vast majority of these revolved around flexible PTO and other leave policies.

Many people also shared their reply to the main channel1. It takes a lot of courage to post about something so vulnerable in such a large space.

PTO petition

Last week, at our weekly all-hands meeting, we delivered our Keep Flexible PTO Petition to management. Signed by 75 members (65%) of the unit, this petition told management unequivocally that we will not agree to any contract that takes away our current benefits without increasing sustainability.

Dear Management Committee:
As members of the union, we stand firm in our commitment to keep our safety net,
our set of benefits, and advocate for stronger provisions. In your counters, you
are attempting to take away benefits we've come to rely on, such as holidays and
flexible PTO. Our union will not ratify any agreement that chips away at our
existing safety net without giving us more sustainability and stability. Much
like Code for America's commitment externally to equity, we expect fair
treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all staff.  We will not
tolerate disparities or tiers in benefits like flexible time off between
non-union and union staff internally. In nonprofit unions, it is common practice
to expand union wins to non-union staff, and vice versa, and while we cannot
bargain over non-union member benefits, we encourage Code for America to follow
this practice.

A member of the unit spoke at the end of our meeting, during the open mic segment. They introduced the petition to management and shared some additional thoughts, while others sent an internal link to the signed petition in the chat. In a show of solidarity, several members on the call turned their cameras on, complete with new virtual backgrounds!

Superheroes aren’t just in comics

Sometimes, they’re the creators! Following the delivery of the petition, another member of the unit stepped up to the mic with the incredibly well done comics below. In true Code for America fashion, these were shared in a slide deck and presented. Slide by slide.

Flexible PTO at Code for America

Flexible PTO2 has been a key benefit at Code for America for over a decade. We’ve heard from dozens of our colleagues who were recruited on the promise of flexible PTO, and dozens more who have stayed at CfA because of this policy. Most of us have used it for something other than vacation, such as an unexpected emergency.

One of the final hurdles in reaching a contract is securing our existing flexible PTO policy in our contract. So far, the only reason management has refused to maintain our existing flexible PTO structure is because “we just can’t do it in a unionized environment.”

The only data management has provided to back up their claim was a screenshot of a graph that appeared to come from a spreadsheet, with no backing data. If a member of our unit had delivered something like that to management, they would not have accepted it. Why don’t they hold themselves to the same standards they’ve set for us?

Looking forward

With our collective voices out there, we look forward to reviewing management’s counters to our latest economics proposal at bargaining this week. We hope to see that management is listening and has heard our messages loud and clear.

Want to help us get our first union contract? Tell Code for America to act with integrity and bargain in good faith, then share this post on Twitter, Threads, LinkedIn, and any other spaces where you connect with the civic tech and labor organizing communities! For press inquiries, please email us at:

  1. Management later referred to this as “taking over the channel.” 

  2. Also referred to as “open,” or “unlimited” PTO.