Solidarity! Announcing the Action Squared Union
We at Action Squared (the organization powering the tools you know and love, Action Network and Action Builder) are proud to share that we’re now a unionized workplace!
Our organization was founded as a movement technology nonprofit by organizers with deep ties to the labor movement. In fact, the AFL-CIO (the largest federation of unions in the US) has been our anchor partner in our cooperative design model for both our toolsets. We believe deeply in the power of unions and look forward to a partnership that can be a model for what happens when we walk the walk and embrace the power and possibilities of working with unions in our own progressive organizations.
There are many myths and misconceptions about unions, so we’ve decided to share our experience of organizing our workplace and pass along resources for those of you interested in starting a union as well.
Seth, Action Squared Union Bargaining Committee:
We are thrilled to announce that we’ve joined the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU), also known as IFPTE Local 70. The significance of Action Squared becoming a unionized workplace is not lost on us. We are privileged to learn from and work alongside some of the best organizers from across the United States and Canada who use our tools to facilitate their work. When we started considering unionizing our workplace, we tapped into our networks, asked questions, and got to the hard work of organizing.
For some of us it’s an extra exciting time because this is our first time being a part of a union! As one of those people, I’ve learned so much and gained more camaraderie with my co-workers by going through the process of unionizing. Additionally, I have a stronger sense of solidarity and feel more empowered in my work. I’m looking forward to learning more as we strengthen and grow our unit.
Brian, President of Action Squared:
My first two jobs (in an earlier career in television) were in very similar workplaces with extremely similar external circumstances. But the first was non-unionized, while in the second a previous set of workers had gone out on strike to get recognition for their bargaining unit. As an IBEW member, I was treated SO MUCH BETTER in my second workplace. The huge difference between the two places brought home to me in a very personal way how important unions are and how much respect union organizers deserve. Our situation at Action Squared is obviously different — we all welcome a union! — but we have grown out of that deep respect for the role collective bargaining can play and are all committed to working together to make this a productive partnership going forward.
Nicole, Managing Director of Action Squared:
Our recently launched toolset, Action Builder, was designed to support this kind of on-the-ground organizing, using the insights of experienced organizers. Our goal was to provide a tool built by, with, and for organizers to help scale the deep, on-the-ground work that builds long-term power.
Interested in organizing with Action Builder? Check out an Action Builder demo to learn more!
Seth: If you and your co-workers are thinking of starting a union at your workplace, but are unsure where or how to start, I get how intimidating the process might seem at first. As someone who grew up with parents in unions, and as someone who has worked at progressive nonprofits, I understand the need and benefits of unions in regard to workplace equity. Although I hadn’t previously organized my workplace or been a part of a union, as a worker in the progressive nonprofit space, it’s something I’ve always been interested in. Even if you’ve experienced some false starts, are stuck, or simply don’t know the steps to get started, there are resources that can help you move forward. We highly recommend checking out the AFL-CIO’s ‘Form A Union’ page, which spells out the process step by step.
Here’s how the unionization process worked at Action Squared:
Seth: We started by reaching out to individual coworkers and asking them if they were interested in finding out more about starting a union. We discussed the benefits of joining together in a union through a series of one-on-one conversations with each staff member, which enabled us to assess where our coworkers stood on the question of whether to unionize or not. In our case, being at a mission driven, progressive nonprofit, all of us were pro-union — we recognize that’s not always the case!
Once we could tell the majority of staff wanted a union, we contacted a union organizer to guide us through the work we needed to complete before they got involved and for guidance as we inched forward. In this case, that meant meeting with organizers from NPEU in person and over video calls to ensure we were following the necessary steps for a successful organizing effort. We also started a Slack group, separate from our organization’s Slack, to keep everyone updated as we moved along.
After talking with a couple different unions, my coworkers and I had to decide which union was right for us. We agreed that NPEU was the best fit for our needs. That decision came down to a couple of factors:
1) Does NPEU have experience working with smaller units?
2) Does NPEU have experience working with units that are mostly remote and geographically spread out?
3) Does NPEU have the support of an international?
Yes, yes, and yes! We decided to move forward with NPEU.
From there, we established an organizing committee and made an action plan for getting all our other coworkers on board with signing union cards. After another round of one-on-one conversations, NPEU provided us with cards to present to coworkers who said that they wanted to start a union. We didn’t have to go with a majority rule, because everyone who said they wanted to start a union also signed their card! We were able to sign the cards electronically, which helps when you have a geographically diverse, distributed staff like we have.
Once we received everyone’s signed cards, we requested voluntary recognition of our union by presenting management with a letter in person and over our newly-created Action Squared Union email. Management agreed to voluntarily recognize our union.
Nicole: We were happy to voluntarily recognize the union! Once the process gets to this step, it’s the responsibility of management to send the union a list of eligible bargaining unit members — that basically means anyone on staff who doesn’t have supervisory duties, as laid out by the NLRA (see definition 11). We emailed the organizing committee that list and scheduled a time together for card check, which is a step in the process where a neutral third party reviews the list of eligible employees and the list of signed cards and verifies that a majority of eligible staff have signed union cards.
In our case, our neutral party was a person who works in our shared office space in Washington, DC. She compared the list of employees and the list of signed cards and verified that there was a majority. We treated the card check process as a bit of a celebration, with people from management, the staff organizing committee, and NPEU all there.
The next step is the bargaining process, in which management and the union will work together to make sure we have a workplace that is the best it can be and in which everyone has a voice.
Seth: Now, with our union recognized, we’re eager to work with management to collectively bargain our union contract. We strongly believe that joining together in a union is the first step toward creating a more equitable workplace. Feel free to reach out with any questions about our experience unionizing. You can email us at actionsquaredunion [at] gmail [dot] com. Solidarity!