Code for America management seeks extra time in union recognition talks

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Code for America’s management team has requested extra time in discussions over formal recognition of a staff union, FedScoop understands.

Both sides discussed eligibility criteria for union membership late Thursday in a meeting that sources described as “amicable and constructive.”

The meeting was the latest in a round of talks between Code for America staff organizers and management in recent weeks over voluntary recognition of the union, which sources initially suggested could take place within weeks.

Leaders at the nonprofit are seeking to delay a final decision on eligibility of union membership until the beginning of October, citing a desire to ensure senior staff are adequately trained on working with a unionized workforce. They are also seeking to delay because of the absence of a senior leader currently on a six-week sabbatical.

It is understood that unionizing staff will consider whether to accept the request or to push ahead with a ballot organized by the National Labor Relations Board.

Under U.S. labor law, formal recognition of a union can be either granted voluntarily by an employer or through a secret-ballot election organized by the NLRB.

Earlier this month, staff revealed their intention to organize through the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 1010. So far, 62 people at the organization have signed union authorization cards, which is understood to represent about 77% of its workforce.

Management at the nonprofit have previously signalled their readiness to learn more about the union recognition process and readiness to engage with staff.

Code for America is among the first technology nonprofits to forge ahead with unionization. New York-based Kickstarter unionized in February 2020 over the course of about three months.

Three-quarter of private sector workers and about two-thirds of public employees have the right to collective bargaining in the U.S.

Employees inside the federal government and the wider technology sector have received a boost from the prioritization of rights to collective action under the Biden administration.

As part of its budget proposals, the administration in January proposed a pay raise for employees and said it would encourage union activity and collective bargaining.

A Code for America spokesperson said: “We support our staff having a collective voice and look forward to working together in this new space, especially as OPEIU is moving to the tech arena. We appreciate the constructive conversations we’ve just started and look forward to learning together to thoughtfully navigate this process.”

A spokesperson for Code for America Workers United said: “We are disappointed at Code for America’s decision to delay recognition until October. We also believe they are acting in good faith.”

“CfAWorkersUnited will continue to work with CfA management to push for union recognition as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added. “We don’t want to lose momentum, and postponing everything until October risks grinding that to a halt.”

Code for America is currently working on federal government contracts including the launch of a child tax credit portal for the IRS.

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Code for America, IRS, NRLB
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