Why Tech Workers Need a Union: a Q&A with the CWA’s Emma Kinema – New York Magazine


Workers at Riot Games stage a walkout. Photo: Dania Maxwell/LA Times via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the Communication Workers of America launched a new initiative: the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, or CODE-CWA, an organizing effort focused on workers in the tech and video-game industries. It’s among the highest-profile such efforts in these industries, which, until relatively recently, tended to be seen as rewarding workplaces offering lucrative careers, fun office environments, and plenty of perks. As it turns out, that’s infrequently the case. A spate of news reports over the last few years have shown the extent to which digital employees suffer from many of the same workplace problems as other workers — including discrimination, pay gaps, outsourcing stressful labor — plus some new ones like moderating disturbing content, and, in the gaming industry, the all-too-common “crunch.” In addition to these bread-and-butter workplace issues, tech workers in particular have an added concern: the ramifications of their work. Employees at Google recently protested the use of their work in military contracts, while Amazon employees recently protested the company’s role in climate change.

Intelligencer spoke with Emma Kinema, a game-industry veteran and one of CODE-CWA’s organizers, about what they hope to achieve with the initiative.

What was your background before you joined the CWA?

There’s been two main threads that I’ve been up to. One has been my career in game development, where I’ve worked on a variety of different disciplines ranging across indie game development, freelancing, mobile games, VR, AAA, whatever. And for the past nine years or so I’ve been engaged in labor organizing in one way or another. In the last two years in particular, those two aspects of my life came together, especially after the founding of Game Workers Unite and very much became a part of my daily work to do the labor organizing in games, in addition to my career.

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