Despite six-figure salaries and unlimited vacation time, many tech workers have been questioning the effects of their work and joining forces with more blue-collar, service and contract-worker counterparts, pressing for better work conditions and pay.
“It’s unprecedented, both the magnitude of the power of these companies and the willingness of white-collar employees to shake themselves of the privilege that they have and to really see the impact of the work they’re doing,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who has interviewed dozens of tech workers involved in organizing.
They’re feeling emboldened because of national and global “existential crises” and the realization that tech companies “have more power than any multinational corporation has had in a long time,” Dubal said.
Among the broader activism: Amazon and Microsoft employees demanded the companies stop providing services to software company Palantir, which provides technology to federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Army; Amazon employees urged the company to transition to renewable energy and confronted CEO Jeff Bezos at a shareholder meeting; and, after last year’s walkouts over Google’s handling of sexual misconduct cases, employees signed a letter protesting Project Dragonfly, a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.
The phenomenon has been particularly strong in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Salesforce, Google and Palantir, among others.
The bastion of activism and progressive culture has been hit hard by the tech boom’s housing affordability crisis.
“There’s a lot of power (that) people are being asked to build for the shareholders of these companies and the management of these companies,” said Ian Busher, 28, a former contract analyst for Google and an organizer with the Bay Area chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. “If you want to make the world a better place, you should exercise judgment and democracy with the people you’re working with to build these tools.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.