After weeks of collective action, we expected management to show up to our August 17th bargaining session with counters to our latest economic proposals. Counters that should have been presented to us the week prior. In fact, at the previous week’s session, they told us to expect them.
In what’s become a consistent pattern of excuses and delay tactics, management showed up with no counters to our largest outstanding economic proposals: Leaves of Absence, Holidays, Paid Time Off (PTO), and Four-Day Work Week (4DWW). Despite having some of these proposals since October 2022, they claim they still need more time and resources to make a counterproposal. We have waited long enough!
At last week’s bargaining session, they once again showed up with no counters to the above outstanding proposals! Instead, they countered with a Strikes and Lockouts proposal that again is worse than what they offered before, stripping more of our rights away. While we were able to reach two Tentative Agreements, it was for Management Rights and Waiver proposals. They seem to be prioritizing only proposals that benefit them and keep delaying proposals that benefit workers.
Regressive bargaining is a common bad faith bargaining tactic, in which either side reduces or withdraws an offer from an agreement on a particular item of bargaining. For example, if an employer offered 30 days of vacation, they couldn’t come back later and only offer 25. Conversely, the unit can’t offer a 4DWW, then come back with a 3DWW (unfortunately).
Management’s latest proposals regress in two specific areas from their previous proposals: compensation and 401k. When confronted about this unethical and illegal move on their part, they claimed that wasn’t their intent. Rather, that they were attempting to be more equitable but simply “hadn’t done the work” to make sure the numbers were right. They have since provided some data on this, and said that they didn’t intend for this proposal to be worse than the previous proposal.
We proposed an across-the-board wage increase for each year of our contract that tries to keep up with inflation and the cost of living. Between the two, the average worker ends up actually earning less each year. Management, on the other hand, refuses to move from the current average annual wage increase. Our labor does not depreciate, and all workers deserve to be fairly compensated.
In their previous proposal, management offered an across-the-board annual wage increase of the average, or lower than average, merit increases from previous years. Their latest proposal, offered a tiered compensation increase with 0.2% more for employees making less than $100,000 per year, and 0.2% less for those making more than that in the name of equity. Management is proposing that union employees who make over $100,000 have a smaller annual wage increase than their managers currently do! Considering the average salary of our unit1, the math ain’t mathin’.
We should note that some unit members have voiced their possible support for a tiered wage increase, where those who make less receive more2. In fact, many of us are fighting for those that have less. However, equitable decisions can’t be made in the absence of data. We can’t just pick an arbitrary number because it makes life easier for those in power and call that “equitable.” Data is important here, but it’s something we’ve asked for and have been lacking from management.
Management has offered to continue the current benefit of a 100% match, up to 3%, for all employees. In their previous proposal, they offered to add 50% for contributions over 3%, up to a maximum of 5%, for all employees after three years of employment3. Much like compensation, their latest proposal moves to a tiered system where those making less than $100,000 will receive the additional match up to 6%, while those making more would be matched up to 4%. We’d let you do the math, but you have about as much data as we do at this point.
Strikes & Lockouts
Management continues to push for their proposal that limits our rights to legally protected activity. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made it clear that employers can not limit an employee’s ability to talk about or solicit for the union on non-work time, including before and after work, breaks, and time off. As the NLRB states (emphasis ours):
Working time is for work, so your employer may maintain and enforce non-discriminatory rules limiting solicitation and distribution, except that your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms. Also, restrictions on your efforts to communicate with co-workers cannot be discriminatory. For example, your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about the union during working time if it permits you to talk about other non-work-related matters during working time.
The proposal from management, on the other hand, attempts to do both of these things. Not only does it prohibit us from discussing the union during work hours, but it extends that to the entire work day! Additionally, it bans using “work-only” communication channels, which are regularly used for non-work-related conversations, for union discussion. Working in a remote environment, these channels are some of the most vital forms of reaching workers; a sign that management wants to reduce our ability to engage workers. The following is a line from their counterproposal:
Participating in any picketing or leafleting during the workday or in communications channels designated for work-only topics
Code for America’s leadership knows that when we talk about our lived experiences at work, it makes people uncomfortable. They also know that discomfort should be aimed squarely at them. We’d hoped that by communicating the potential harms their proposals inflict, they’d understand why we fight for them. Instead, we’ve seen that they have little interest in reaching us across the table, with little explanation for their stances.
More attempts to silence our voices
Since recognition, management has consistently used their power in an attempt to silence us. It ranged from asking us not to talk publicly at all4, discouraging posting of union material in all-staff spaces (such as Slack and email), surveilling our collective social media as well as the social media of individual members, trying to limit our communication rights in their proposals, attempting to establish “norms” that are nothing more than tone policing the people that have been harmed by their actions, and even taking disciplinary action against vocal members of the unit.
Less than an hour before our bargaining session, management sent us their new, 8-page long “Slack policy”. When we brought this new policy up during bargaining, we were told that this was sent to us before bringing it to all staff as a courtesy and that this “is the policy they will be implementing”. We reminded them that they are legally required to provide us with any new policies5 for review and bargaining before they can be implemented. They claimed that this had been in the works since before recognition6, not that it would matter, then backpedaled and claimed they were giving it to us for review (as opposed to as ‘a courtesy’).
When management pulls back, we step up
It has been over two years since Code for America management recognized our union. Yet here we are with no contract to show for it. After countless delays and excuse after excuse, we have had enough!
We are tired of waiting for management to do the right thing. It is clear that their interests lie in maintaining their own positions of power rather than coming to a fair and equitable agreement with the unit. We will continue to ramp up our collective actions. ✊
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According to management. ↩
This is anecdotal and we haven’t performed a formal survey at this time. ↩
With an average tenure of less than 1.5 years. ↩
Leadership has asked the union to refrain from communicating externally about the process. However, due to such activities like our open letter and taking public action, we’ve found that they’ve slowly begun to respond to the asks we’ve repeatedly made at the bargaining table. ↩
Referred to as “work rules.” ↩
A migration to a new Slack workspace has been in progress for that long. ↩