We are Disgusted with Code for America Management’s Decision to Lay Off 35 of Our Colleagues
The manner in which Code for America management announced company-wide layoffs shows that they have abandoned their commitment to our organizational values, our mission, and our staff.
Code for America CEO Amanda Rentería joined bargaining today to announce to our unit that management had decided on a 17% reduction in staff across the board. In real terms, this means 35 of our colleagues are being immediately laid off. That’s 35 people with families they need to take care of. That’s 35 people with rent due tomorrow. That’s 35 people who were given less than two hours notice that they no longer have a job, who were informed of this via email immediately before a four-day holiday weekend1.
Now, we’ve [grown accustomed to news of tech layoffs][tech-layoffs], but this one came as a shock to nearly everyone in the organization. In the past months, at the bargaining table, through external company communications, and during company-wide meetings, we have continued to hear how well Code for America is doing in executing its mission. Today’s announcement proved a lack of transparency at a mission-driven organization where the most frequent word used by leadership is “collaborative.”
Management has taken no responsibility
These layoffs are ostensibly for financial reasons, so that Code for America can ensure its sustainability into 2024. When a member of our collective bargaining committee asked if anyone from CxO or the management bargaining committee would be laid off, CEO Amanda Rentería said no, and that they were in fact hiring another C-suite position. When asked on followup if leadership bore any responsibility for the gross mismanagement of Code for America’s resources, she replied that “we’re taking responsibility right now by sharing this with you all.”
Sharing information is not the same as taking responsibility. We are disgusted by Code for America management’s shirking of their collective responsibility to our mission, our clients, our partners, and our staff members. Never once, in their email announcing layoffs or during bargaining, did Rentería or any other member of CxO apologize or take any form of responsibility whatsoever for their actions that led to the upending of 35 of our coworkers’ lives with next to no advance notice. The responsibility for mismanaging our organizational growth lies with those who have the most power in this organization; the people most impacted by their failures are those who had no say in these decisions at all.
Failing our mission
So many of us have invested time and energy into Code for America because we believe in the mission. Today, Code for America management failed us, our mission, and our values. They did not listen first, as that would have required collaboration with our union and our broader staff before making this decision. They did not act with intention, as is clear by the haphazard and rushed nature of layoff notifications. They most certainly did not include those who have been excluded — if anything, they pushed those who have been excluded further into the margins.
Most importantly, nothing about Code for America management’s actions today was human-centered. The value we most pride ourselves on proved to be a hobby. Every single member of Code for America CxO and management bargaining team — Amanda Rentería, Mike Cowden, Tracey Patterson, Arlene Corbin-Lewis, Hashim Mteuzi, David Schlendorf, Yasmin Fodil, and Melenie Hernandez — bears collective responsibility for the cruel hypocrisy they employed while dealing with the coworkers they profess to care so much about.
Disrespecting our union
When layoffs happen in a unionized environment and there isn’t a contract in place (like us at CfA Workers United), the Employer is required to bargain with the union over the effects of layoffs, including terms of severance. While CxO informed us of these layoffs today, they have yet to provide the necessary information for the union to effectively advocate for our members.
With the information available to us now, we are particularly disturbed that the two members of our collective bargaining committee who have most often been the voice of our union — the two people who have most publicly spoken out against management’s abhorrent behavior in the bargaining process — are among those laid off today. We do not believe their selection for layoffs is a coincidence, and we are dismayed (though honestly, not surprised) that Code for America management is once again resorting to retaliation against those who dare to voice dissent.
We in Code for America Workers United will hold strong in the face of a management team that would rather our organization self-destruct than engage in the participatory democracy a union entails. We love our clients, we love our partners, and we love our work. Heartbreakingly, before they were locked out of all their accounts, many of our laid-off colleagues were frantically trying to finish and hand off work so that our clients would have the support they need.
We remain committed to taking care of each other as we regain our footing and focus on finishing our contract. Our members need time to heal and regroup from the poor treatment and gaslighting management engaged in today. We will say more publicly as information becomes available to us. In the meantime, we ask our supporters to consider donating to a mutual aid fund (Venmo @CfAWorkersSolidarity) we’ve established for our colleagues who have been laid off.
This is a blow from which we will all collectively recover by employing the values of our organization, even as our management abandons them. We are here to listen, act intentionally, and build a table big enough for everyone to pull up a chair and be included.
In solidarity, now and always,
Want to help our workers that have been directly impacted by these layoffs? Donate if you’re able to and share our solidarity fund, check our worker support list to see workers looking for new roles, and check out our new zine to see how wlse you can support.
The holiday, ironically, being Labor Day. ↩