On Friday, October 27, 2023, members of Code for America Workers United (CWU) voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement. In addition to across-the-board wage increases and expanded paid family and medical leave time, the contract includes new benefits like adoption and fertility support and gender-affirming care. The contract also breaks new ground by expanding worker protections to include protections against caste-based discrimination and intrusive monitoring, limiting the use of contracted and temporary workers in favor of full-time employees, and establishing a neutral arbitration process to resolve disputes between the union and management. With this contract, CWU members improve working conditions at Code for America and set new labor standards for civic tech, as well as the broader tech ecosystem.
Workers at Code for America began forming a union in the fall of 2020 with the goal of improving working conditions to increase retention and ensure the sustainability of the organization. Three years later, CWU accomplished these goals with a contract that creates more job security and gives workers a voice in the ongoing direction of the organization’s work. Most importantly, the contract helps ensure that Code for America will continue to meet its goal of improving the delivery of government services to the people who need them most.
“Members of CWU work tirelessly to help improve the social safety net for everyone; this contract is a safety net for us. We are excited about what we won in this contract, and I am also proud that we were able to hardcode Code for America’s values into the contract, from giving staff a role in making decisions that will impact them to ensuring criminal background checks will not put anyone’s employment at risk,” shared Matt Bernius, a principal researcher at Code for America since March 2020 and a member of the bargaining committee.
Code For America voluntarily recognized CWU in October 2021, and contract negotiations began in March 2022. After several starts and stops, a lengthy NLRB hearing, internal and external campaigning, and a significant lay-off, CWU members leveraged their collective power by standing in solidarity to make this contract victory possible. Together, the workers of Code for America held the organization accountable to its stated values, and in doing so, set a standard at the organization for what it means when workers have a seat at the table.
“I am so proud of my fellow union members and how hard we fought for this first contract. While it certainly was not an easy process, this contract ultimately will allow us to heal and recruit and retain the talent needed to uphold the mission and best serve our communities,” said Tanya Grinblat, an associate director of development at Code for America since 2020 and a member of the bargaining committee.
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