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55

Solidarity Forever

Maciej Ceglowski from Tech Solidarity

by Maciej Ceglowski

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terms
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Ceglowski, M. (2017). Solidarity Forever. In Tarnoff, B. (ed) Tech Against Trump. Logic Foundation, pp. 55-72

59

The problem is that we don't have many levers of control over big tech companies. The traditional stuff doesn't work. Usually, if a company is doing something a lot of people think is unethical, you can boycott them. You can't really boycott Google or Facebook. You're not their customer to begin with. Their customers are advertisers and publishers. Also, they're monopolies. They're centralized and they benefit from network effects. Boycotting them means cutting yourself off from the online world. People just won't do it in numbers.

And shareholder revolts won’t work because these companies are structured so that the founders always have full voting rights. Zuckerberg is going to run Facebook no matter if he only has one share. That’s how it’s written. As for the media, the press isn’t going to say anything bad about Facebook or Google because those are the main outlets for journalism right now.

That really just leaves the employees. Tech employees have an outsize force because they’re very expensive to hire and it takes a long time to train people up. Even for very skilled workers, it takes months and months to become fully productive at a place like Google because you have to learn the internal tooling, you have to learn how things are done, you have to learn the culture. It’s a competitive job market and employee morale is vital. If people start fleeing your company, it’s hard to undo the damage.

So tech workers are a powerful lever. And knowing that fact, it seems unwise not to use the best tools at our disposal. The point isn’t to improve our economic well-being, but to pursue an ethical agenda.

Maciej on why a tech workers union is important

—p.59 by Maciej Ceglowski 1 year, 11 months ago

The problem is that we don't have many levers of control over big tech companies. The traditional stuff doesn't work. Usually, if a company is doing something a lot of people think is unethical, you can boycott them. You can't really boycott Google or Facebook. You're not their customer to begin with. Their customers are advertisers and publishers. Also, they're monopolies. They're centralized and they benefit from network effects. Boycotting them means cutting yourself off from the online world. People just won't do it in numbers.

And shareholder revolts won’t work because these companies are structured so that the founders always have full voting rights. Zuckerberg is going to run Facebook no matter if he only has one share. That’s how it’s written. As for the media, the press isn’t going to say anything bad about Facebook or Google because those are the main outlets for journalism right now.

That really just leaves the employees. Tech employees have an outsize force because they’re very expensive to hire and it takes a long time to train people up. Even for very skilled workers, it takes months and months to become fully productive at a place like Google because you have to learn the internal tooling, you have to learn how things are done, you have to learn the culture. It’s a competitive job market and employee morale is vital. If people start fleeing your company, it’s hard to undo the damage.

So tech workers are a powerful lever. And knowing that fact, it seems unwise not to use the best tools at our disposal. The point isn’t to improve our economic well-being, but to pursue an ethical agenda.

Maciej on why a tech workers union is important

—p.59 by Maciej Ceglowski 1 year, 11 months ago