New York, NY – On Monday, Dec. 6, tech workers at Big Cartel, an e-commerce company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, won voluntary recognition of their union, Local 1010 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union [OPEIU], making the Big Cartel Workers Union the first tech union in a Right-to-Work state.
OPEIU, part of the AFL-CIO, represents more than 103,000 working people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Representing employees in nonprofit organizations, technology, credit unions, hospitals, insurance agencies, colleges and universities, hotels, administrative offices and more.
Local 1010 is a local union within OPEIU created for and run by tech workers. Local 1010 is formed around a core of engineers, community support agents, designers, trust and safety analysts, product managers, salespeople, operations specialists, finance administrators and every other person that makes tech companies run.
A supermajority of Big Cartel Union workers signed authorization cards and publicly signed onto the voluntary recognition letter that was delivered to company co-founders Matt Wigham and Eric Turner.
The Big Cartel Union was prepared to file for an election with the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] if it was denied or ignored by Dec. 6. Instead, they expect to see contract negotiations begin shortly.
LaborPress spoke with three union organizers, RV Dougherty, Lauren Fazah, and Andrew Shaw about the process and more.
LP: How many employees are there at Big Cartel?
AS: We have 30 people who are currently in the proposed bargaining unit. So, we have a supermajority of those colleagues – 77%. I think that’s 23 of the 30, that have signed union authorization cards and have signed onto the voluntary recognition letter.
LP: What are the biggest concerns this group has regarding workplace issues?
LF: Some of our biggest concerns are about pay and our benefits, transparency and equity around hiring and firing. Leadership accountability has been a big one. We particularly want to make sure that we, as a bargaining unit have, a voice in decision making so there’s a more transparent process for all.
LP: Have you seen this at other tech unions such as Kickstarter and Code for America? Did they have those same concerns?
RVD: Within tech organizing as a whole, we’re seeing tech workers really want to hard code a lot of the great benefits that they get and make sure everyone is getting those benefits equitably across the company, so that no matter what team you’re on or what you look like, everyone is having a positive experience at work. A lot of tech workers want to have more of a say over the products and tools that they’re building. So, at Kickstarter that’s been a big piece, and at Code for America as well, there’s been a lot of interest in transparency as to how company decisions are made. We’re also seeing this across a number of other campaigns that are active with organizing within Local 1010.
LP: What is diversity and inclusion like within the company?
LF: I think as with most tech places there’s always room for improvement. We at Big Cartel are a majority white company. We like to amplify the voices of artists of color and creators who use our platform, and promote social justice as much as we can as a company, but there’s still work internally that needs to be done and the company recognizes that. We’ve been working with a third party called McKenzie Mack Group. They’re a big leader in priority equity inclusion work at workplaces in general and they’ve done one-on-one interviews with the company and gotten a real sense of what our DI efforts are currently, and given us tools and suggestions on how to improve that. Outside of our union work we’re actively working on that as a company, but we’re really hoping that this union will push Big Cartel to be a place where everyone is safe and feels like they can speak up and lift up some more marginalized voices that do exist within our company. And we will work to take those values that we do sort of vocalize externally and take those into our company – solidify those.
LP: Big Cartel’s website seems progressive. Do you think there’s any hypocrisy there, given your concerns regarding transparency, equity, etc.?
LF: I wouldn’t say hypocrisy, but again, there’s always room for improvement. I would say that compared to other tech companies out there, we are progressive, based on the history of where I worked and folks that I know. But I would say there’s always going to be that extra mile push. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s just continued work that needs to be done.
LP: What’s your reaction to your win as far as recognition?
AS: We did hear from our founders…saying that they plan to grant us voluntary recognition and so we’re currently communicating with them to get the voluntary recognition agreement worked out, but hopefully that’s just going to take a day or so, and we’re really excited about them voluntarily recognizing us. We think it’s the right thing to do and we’re excited that they saw that too.