A New App Is Taking Labor Unions Out of Union Organizing

Unit is among several new digital platforms that aim to ease the unionization process and empower workers to stand up to their bosses, but some union organizers have their doubts.

By Lauren Kaori Gurley

Union members
https://video-images.vice.com/articles/61142b446e90e6009b027e0a/lede/1628711751901-gettyimages-1232479226.jpeg

PHOTO BY LOIC VENANCE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In July, a group of cell tower technicians who work for an AT&T contractor in the Philadelphia area approached the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for help unionizing. The technicians’ wages were stagnant, they didn’t receive sick days, and had been urinating and defecating in trash bags and water bottles because their contractor wouldn’t provide port-a-potties. 

The IBEW never responded to the technicians—so they took a chance on a new startup for union organizing called Unit, which launched in December 2020 with $1.4 million in funding from various venture capital firms. Unit is “a platform that helps you and your coworkers form a labor union” by offering a set of tools, including a web app and a team of advisors that help clients facilitate and expedite the unionization process. It is designed to help with everything from inviting coworkers to join and sign union authorization cards, certifying the union, and negotiating a union contract with the aid of lawyers, accountants, and union organizers. Notably, it allows workers to do this as an independent union, without the aid of an established or nationally recognized union. 

The AT&T technicians aren’t far along in the unionization process, but one of the lead worker organizers says Unit has been a big help so far. “It’s been great,” the technician told Motherboard. “They helped me set up meetings with workers to explain the unionization process, provided legal advice, and gave us access to digital union authorization cards. You can send a text and the person follows the link, and they sign the digital card. It’s so easy.”

The technician told Motherboard that the main benefit of joining Unit is that the dues are less than many national unions charge. “Unit only takes 0.8 percent of your income. Most unions take a lot more,” he said. 

Workers begin paying fees to Unit after they ratify their first contract, which often includes pay increases that are larger than union dues. 

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Derek Chauvin’s Murder Trial Is Smashing Cops’ ‘Blue Wall of Silence’

Cops are testifying against a cop. That almost never happens.

By Trone Dowd

Left: Lt. Zimmerman testifies during the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in Hennepin County Court in downtown Minneapolis (CourtTV). Middle: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is escorted from the rear of the Hennepin

LEFT: LT. RICHARD ZIMMERMAN TESTIFIES DURING THE TRIAL OF FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER DEREK CHAUVIN IN HENNEPIN COUNTY COURT IN DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS (COURTTV). MIDDLE: DEREK CHAUVIN IS ESCORTED FROM THE REAR OF THE HENNEPIN COUNTY FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER FRIDAY, SEPT. 11, 2020, IN MINNEAPOLIS. (DAVID JOLES/STAR TRIBUNE VIA AP). RIGHT: MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO TESTIFIES DURING THE TRIAL OF DEREK CHAUVIN IN HENNEPIN COUNTY COURT. (COURTTV).

The unspoken bond among police to defend each other, often no matter the circumstances, has continuously hindered investigating and prosecuting officers accused of wrongdoing. But that so-called Blue Wall of Silence is now crumbling around Derek Chauvin, who’s facing up to 65 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.

“In no way, shape, or form is what Officer Chauvin did part of our training, ethics, or values,” Minneapolis’ first Black police chief, Medaria Arradondo, said plainly in front of the jury Monday.

In the last four days of Chauvin’s murder trial, several high-ranking police officers have taken the stand and openly condemned his actions, which reignited a national movement against police violence last summer. Law enforcement witnesses have repeatedly testified that Chauvin never should have kneeled on Floyd’s neck, and certainly not for more than 9 minutes when the 46-year-old Black man wasn’t actively resisting. They’ve also said that doing so violated their training, department policies, and moral promise to serve. 

“To rally around Chauvin and say, ‘This is policing as normal, this is acceptable practice,’ would risk greater harm to the reputation of the police than basically just coming forward and saying, ‘This is not who we are, and this is not what we do,” Daniel Medwed, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University’s School of Law, told VICE News. “I think all of them are aligned with coming forward and saying Chauvin is outside of our group: that he is a bad apple but we are a good tree.”

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