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On November 17, 2018, I appeared as a guest on the Future Left podcast, alongside Ben Tarnoff, Casey Rogers and Adam Simpson. The episode was released on November 26. Below you can find the audio (embedded from SoundCloud) as well as an abridged transcript (questions from the hosts are summarised).

We have Wendy Liu and Ben Tarnoff here to talk with us about organisation in the tech industry.

Wendy Liu’s a former Google employee and current economics co-editor at the New Socialist and web editor at Notes From Below.

Ben is a founding editor of Logic Magazine whose work on technology and politics you can also find in the Guardian and Jacobin magazine.

Current state of the tech industry

Ben: We’ve seen a number of tech worker mobilisations over the past several months. A few of the most significant have been Project Maven, which was a Pentagon project to enhance drone targeting with machine learning. Google had a contract with the Pentagon; a number of Google workers organised to force Google management to not renew that contract.

That was a very big win, and that mobilisation inspired workers at a number of other companies - workers at Amazon, for instance, are mobilising to try to shut down the facial recognition service that Amazon is selling to law enforcement agencies across the country and is also trying to sell to ICE.

Similar mobilisations have taken place now at Salesforce, Accenture (actually a consulting firm, which has a big customs and border patrol contract) and Microsoft. And then most recently we’ve had the Google walkout, which was an extraordinary global mobilisation involving 20,000 Googlers at offices all over the world who were demanding changes in response to a pattern of sexual harassment. In particular, sexual harassment conducted by upper management.

There was a particularly explosive story that appeared in The New York Times of a Google [employee] who management itself had found credible accusations of sexual harassment against, and then left with an enormously lucrative pay package. So that was certainly one of the triggers for that mobilisation.

We’re definitely in a moment of rising militancy and mobilisation in the tech industry, particularly at some of these bigger elite tech firms.

The desired outcome of tech organising

Wendy: The way to situate the answer to this question is in the context of the larger landscape of organized labour in the US especially, just because a lot of these tech companies are headquartered in the US. And the problem that we see in the US is that labour law is not favorable to workers. What I think is really exciting about the tech industry - especially the whole Silicon Valley variant, that hasn’t really had any class consciousness [or unionising] … if the tech industry were to organize, then it could, in a sense, bypass some of the problems that are facing unions today.

For example, a lot of unions in many states are hampered by contracts where they don’t have the right to strike, and they have long (five or six year) contracts where they have to progressively accept worse conditions, and are not able to bargain and exert power in a substantial sense. And so what we’ve seen is the weakening of organized labour across the country (and in many other many other parts of the world as well).

With the tech industry, because it’s an industry that hasn’t really seen any sort of mobilisation (especially software engineers, people at the highest echelons of the industry, who are paid the most and given the most power), then there’s a sense where the mobilisation could actually leapfrog what’s happening in many other parts of the world. Instead of just bargaining for slightly better working conditions/wages/benefits, the conversation could shift to one of control.

Because that is the fundamental thing that people are missing in the tech industry. Even though a lot of workers have great wages and great benefits and autonomy to some degree, they don’t really have control over the products that they’re building. And this is something that has definitely triggered a lot of the actions we’ve seen in the last few months, especially Project Maven and contracts with border patrol. Workers don’t really get to control what they’re building and what it’s used for.

A really nice utopian guiding light that would be relevant here, is that of the Lucas Plan, which was something drawn up by workers at Lucas Aerospace (an arms manufacturing company, essentially). When they were told that they would be getting sacked - their plants would be closed because their company wasn’t able to sustain the same level of contracts - they decided, well, we don’t want to manufacture arms anymore, but we want to use our factory and our know-how to build something socially useful.

So they drew up this plan where they could convert the plants into manufacturing technology that was more eco-friendly, for example - anything that they thought would be more useful than selling weapons. That could be a great guiding light for tech workers who are mobilising now, where the goal is not just slightly better working conditions, but instead to repurpose the skills that they have, and the technology that they themselves are creating. [They’re] creating all the value, but they don’t really have any control over what it’s used for (like that quote about spending their time trying to figure out how to make people click ads).

For me, that is the direction that worker organisation should be moving towards: towards getting more control over what they build.

Why has class consciousness been so low historically?

Wendy: I think a lot of it comes down to the way that people working in tech are treated by the company. It’s a matter of them not being treated as workers - they’re treated as if they’re team members, or members of a family.

I remember when I was at Google, and I did the whole Noogler [an internal portmanteau meaning “new googler”] indoctrination ritual. It feels like a cult: they put this hat on your head - the hat that has all the Google colors on it and a propeller on top. It’s like a fun thing, they’re welcoming you into the family. And you all stand up at TGIF [weekly “town hall”-style sessions with the founders] and they’re like “welcome on board, we’re so glad to have you”.

It doesn’t feel like you’re a regular worker, going to work and collecting a paycheck. Everyone there is supposed to be working for more than the paycheck: they’re working to use their skills in a way that is making the world a better place. That is kind of the image that you’re taught to believe in.

That definitely makes it hard [to develop class consciousness], but it’s not something that specific to tech. Look at the last 40 years under neoliberalism - the ideology that has prevailed, and that’s been most concentrated in the professional class, has been that we’re not workers - we’re all entrepreneurs of the self. There’s no such thing as capital/labour; there’s no such thing as class struggle; it’s all about you, the individual, investing in yourself and trying to make yourself the most productive person ever, and amassing money in the process.

This ideology is super concentrated in tech, partly because it is kind of true, in a way. The culture of entrepreneurship within the tech sector has actually paid off for a lot of people.

If you’re a programmer, and you’re looking at people around you who are similar to you and making tons of money because they happened to be one of the first employees at a big tech company, or they started a start-up, then you’re like, “Okay, cool, this is a place where anyone can get rich.” As a result, it’s hard to identify as a worker. It’s hard to identify as someone who has a different class interest to the people on top.

Another part of it is the fact that labour history is not really being taught anymore, especially if you work in tech and never took any social science courses. [For me personally] I didn’t even know that this was a thing - I didn’t know what a picket line was until quite recently. So it’s not hard to see why people in tech just don’t have any class consciousness, because where would they get that from?

Unless they happen to have been treated badly and then started looking for alternatives. [But] if everything is working out for you, then you’re not going to look for explanations as to why you don’t deserve your position. If “meritocracy” is working out for you, you’re going to believe in it.

Ben: echoing what Wendy was saying, I think it’s important that we see class consciousness in tech as something more complicated than just an ideological mystification. It’s sometimes phrased as if, oh, there are all these engineers in an office, why don’t they understand they’re workers. And obviously there are a lot of ideological mystifications happening, but I think there is something genuinely contradictory about their class location.

Erik Olin Wright has this idea of contradictory class locations, of people who occupy spaces between classes. And for a lot of tech workers, they belong to this professional managerial strata where they have aspects of their work that do feel relatively autonomous. If you’re a senior software engineer at Google, chances are you have a fair degree of autonomy and even a degree of control over your work. On the other hand, there are other aspects of your work that feel pretty proletarianised.

One of the elements that has been so encouraging about these mobilisations is that it’s forced people to confront the more proletarianised aspects of their workplaces. Because even if I’m that senior software engineer, at the end of the day, I as an individual don’t get to have input on whether Project Maven goes forward, or whether Dragonfly (the censored Chinese search engine that Google has been building) goes forward.

What’s been interesting to see with class consciousness in the tech sector is folks are pushing up against those parts of their workplace where they actually don’t have any control. Where they are being proletarianised, and where they can, through that experience, find solidarity with other workers and other sectors - often more exploited workers, but who share the same sense of powerlessness in their workplace.

Wendy: Just wanted to add to that - I definitely agree with what Ben is saying. In terms of the blurring of where tech workers are in the hierarchy, there’s the economic factor as well: a lot of them are paid in stock. Some of them are paid primarily in stock. As a result, they’re invested in the company’s success. They’re a member of the propertied class in a way that most workers are not. If most of your income is coming from Google stock, then you’re going to feel a degree of ownership in Google that you wouldn’t if you were a cleaner at Google, who doesn’t get any stock.

But in another sense, your position in this [hierarchy] comes down to how you behave. It’s a matter of choice. Tech workers can choose to align with management - can choose to align with the capitalist class more generally - but then, the question is, is that going to be in their best interest? And is it going to be in the best interests of the society around them?

Because no one makes decisions in a vacuum - they always have to think about the people around them: the people they care about, the community they live in, and the world they live.

On the potential for tech mobilisation to bypass labour law restrictions

(Question about American labour law limiting the role of unions and collective bargaining to wages, hours, and working conditions, and whether the tech industry has the potential to bypass that just based on recent mobilisations around the common good and larger societal impact.)

Wendy: I think this is a case where because the tech sector isn’t traditional (in the sense that a lot of the workers in it don’t think of themselves as workers, and aren’t inclined to act in any militant sense) there could almost be an advantage. Even though it means it’s hard to get people to agitate around pay or benefits, they are more inclined to agitate around ethical issues.

If the union structures that exist now aren’t inclined to support that, then maybe there is a silver lining to that. Maybe that means that tech workers can imagine a more radical kind of union - one that isn’t necessarily crippled by the labour laws as they exist now, but can push for something greater.

This goes back to the Lucas Plan that I mentioned earlier. The plan itself was revolutionary, and it inspired a lot of people, but at the same time, it was ruled illegal, and it wasn’t implemented. But that doesn’t have to be the end of it. Because what’s permissible under the law now - that could change as a result of political struggle.

If tech workers are going to be at the forefront of this, pushing for a different kind of union structure that enables workers to take more control - that could affect other industries as well. And because tech workers have a lot more power in some ways - because at least some of them are seen as harder to replace, and it costs a lot more money to replace them in any case - then maybe they could push for changes that workers in other industries haven’t been able to, because they just haven’t built up enough power.

On the tendency to view tech through the stories of billionaires

Wendy: I think a lot of it comes down to this myth of wealth creation as being done by individuals. There’s this heroic entrepreneur who’s the one who creates all the value. Even if they end up making billions of dollars and turn into villains (as in the case of someone like Jeff Bezos) we still need to glorify them; we still need respect them.

To me, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how value is actually created. But it’s not an innocuous misunderstanding - it’s one that is completely created by the current environment, and one that ultimately serves the interest of the ruling class.

Because if you think that all the value is created by someone like Jeff Bezos, then you can ignore the fact that the workers at Amazon who are working in the warehouses or delivering packages are getting paid terrible wages, have terrible conditions, and have no control over their work. It just feels normal that some people are barely making minimum wage, and others are worth a hundred billion dollars.

This really points to the central pillar that capitalism rests on, in an ideological sense. That there are those who are deserving, and those who don’t deserve any more than the pittance handed out by capitalists.

It’s ultimately a sleight of hand, but you can see where it comes from. It’s there because it benefits the ruling class; it’s not there by accident.

The way the tech press is so fascinated by these individuals who create all the value - whenever you read about any startup that has succeeded, you always read these gushing profiles about the founders. It’s always about the founders: the founders took so much risk, and they’re the only reason that company existed. To some degree, that is true, but I think we have to question why, because this founder was responsible for the company’s origin, that they should be the one who controls everything about it going forward, and that they deserve to amass all that wealth.

I’m speaking as someone who has founded a start-up. It took me a long time to come to terms with this, because you’re definitely fed this [story] that as a start-up founder, you are the greatest thing in the world. You’re the hero of your own story.

But eventually, you start to realize that it’s a really dangerous ideology, especially when it comes to thinking about what society needs and how you make entrepreneurship something that generates social value. Because in a way, being an entrepreneur is actually this huge privilege. You have the privilege of being able to start something from scratch - being able to have autonomy and control over what you’re creating in a way that most people never do. That itself should be the privilege, not amassing tons of money as a result.

I think if we find a way to delink this idea of creating something from scratch and being able to amass hundreds of billions of dollars, that would be a huge achievement. At the same time, that would also require rethinking all the principles behind entrepreneurship in a capitalist system, and so it’s not exactly a simple task.

Cross-sectoral organisation

(Question referring to Ben’s article in The Nation about engineers organising against the Trump administration, and the potential for cross-sectoral mobilisation and connections to broader labour movement.)

Ben: I think the important thing to note about the tech mobilisations is that they’re deeply informed and inspired by mobilisations happening in other industries, and political struggle that’s happening throughout the wider society.

That Amazon workers are organising against the facial-recognition software - that is informed by a lot of the reporting on the social & human costs of these technologies, around a new political mood around the Trump administration, about the human rights abuses of ICE and law enforcement. So workers at these companies are absorbing and responding to these signals that are appearing elsewhere (outside their companies).

At the level of organising tactics, they’re also inspired by the service workers who have been unionising within the tech industry. There have been a number of victories of unions organising with cafeteria workers, shuttle bus drivers, security guards at big campuses in Silicon Valley. And those struggles - which many so-called white-collar tech workers have participated in and provided solidarity to - have, in turn, been a source of real inspiration to these white-collar tech workers, as they think about how to have their own voice on the job.

To your point about how we build a coalition or solidarity between workers and the communities whose work they affect: teachers and nurses are another major inspiration, being among the most militant workers in the United States today, who often take action in solidarity with/in coalition with their communities. If you think about nurses organising for safer staffing limits so that they can take care of their patients; teachers organising for more funding for better resourced schools, for more teachers … these are cases where the communities and workers can be aligned, and can work in solidarity with one another.

On the Google walkout and the #MeToo movement

(Question about tech being very white-male-dominated, and the Google walkout as a response to that.)

Wendy: I first encountered tech criticism through the context of feminist critiques of tech. This was when I first started programming, and I was still new to tech. I think feminist critiques of tech can act as a bridge towards larger critiques of the tech industry and capitalism.

[More generally,] if you look at any sector, it’s the people for whom the system is not working who are most likely to start critiquing it. In the case of tech, there are a lot of structural reasons why women are finding it much harder to succeed, and who are marginalized. People who are marginalized in the tech industry - they’re most likely to start to question its central tenets: that it’s [actually] meritocracy.

The fact that tech has been overwhelmingly white and male - they’re not experiencing racism or sexism the same way that those on the margins are. They don’t really get those critiques that the people on the margins are making. But what that means is that the people on the margins are more likely to be politicised quite rapidly, as a result.

I remember reading a lot of criticism of people like Paul Graham, venture capitalists, founders. That got me thinking more about the connection between wealth/power and race/gender. It takes a while to get from there towards an understanding of worker power and the problems with capitalism, but it’s a start.

I think the Google walkout is a good example. I remember seeing signs like, “Workplace hierarchy enables predators - workplace democracy now!” Which is a great recognition of the fact that when you have a system of hierarchy, you are going to have people who abuse that hierarchy. And the fact that tech is overwhelmingly male does have a lot to do with the fact that there’s so much sexual harassment.

[Ultimately,] the people in positions of power are the ones who conform to existing ideas [by the already powerful] of who deserves this power. People who fit the power structure are most likely the ones who are going to strengthen it and preserve it.

On changing compensation in tech

(Question about compensation levels currently being high, but will that change? Will precarity in the sector rise, and could that spur more organising?)

Ben: the first answer may have to do with the difficulty of defining the tech sector. We often talk about tech as a shorthand for the handful of the big tech companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon and so on). Of course, the tech sector is much broader than that. When we think about tech professionals, or people who work in a technical capacity, it’s even broader.

There are a lot of people who work in so-called mid-tech. They might be an IT worker at a hospital or college or a mid-sized company, who have already experienced a lot of the proletarianisation that we’ve been talking about: relatively little autonomy or control over their work; a decent professional salary but not the type of salaries that we’re talking about for a technical contributor at a place like Google. So the tech sector, very broadly, has a lot of people who are in positions that we would recognise as more obviously working-class.

As for those higher elite echelons - places like Google - I think it’s fair to say that there are forces developing in the near to medium horizon that will contribute to the proletarianisation of roles that are now fairly well-compensated and have a degree of prestige and control, like a senior software engineer at a place like Google. These include advances in technology that allow new kinds of automation for creating code. There’s a number of these so-called “low code” or “no code” platforms, that allow people with relatively little technical training to develop software.

That’s one possibility. Another much-discussed possibility is the influx of new of people with technical skills through the teaching of CS in public schools and coding boot camps.

I should say that all of this is somewhat speculative, because it’s unknown how that will actually play out. In fact it’s conceivable that there will be a number of low- or medium-skilled roles that require those technical skills, so that those upper/elite roles don’t get displaced. So it’s a speculative picture, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s on the horizon in some form.

The last thing I would add: this is something that the industry has been trying to do for a very long time. Since the creation of software engineering in the 1950s, there’s been an attempt to industrialise it, rationalise it, proletarianise it. In fact, the invention of programming languages themselves was supposed to automate away a lot of the labour of software engineering. Of course, it did the opposite; it’s created this huge new source of highly skilled labour that was required.

The last caveat that I’ll add: you’ll see management trying to depress labour costs by trying to proletarianise these roles. It’s not clear whether they’ll always succeed; it could backfire and produce the opposite result.

Wendy: I agree with that. I want to add: I think we’re going to see the bifurcation of these roles. You see all these reports about companies fighting over AI engineers - they’re willing to pay millions of dollars for these AI engineers. So people who have skills in certain fields, who have a good resume and had the chance to develop their skills with these technologies - they’re going to be fine. They’re probably going to see their wages go up.

If you look at the racial and gender dynamics of who gets to be in these coveted roles: it’s the people who managed to get in the industry a long time ago, who’ve had the connections, who’ve been promoted over and over. There are very strong gendered and racialised elements to that.

That could maybe serve as an organising point for people who are starting to realise that, as inequality widens in the industry, it’s only certain people who are going to benefit. And it’s the people who are already benefiting from the system.

You’re [already] seeing this in the rise of contractors at these big tech companies. The case of Google as reported by Bloomberg a few months ago was eye-opening: the fact that you have more contractors on these companies than actual full-time employees. And some of these contractors are working technical roles - they’re doing the same sort of thing that full-time employees at Google might be doing. It’s just that they don’t have as good pay, as good benefits, job security.

That’s something that could hopefully wake up people who haven’t really noticed [the other problems with tech]. Seeing that the people who they work with on an everyday basis are getting treated in a very different way, for reasons that are not entirely clear … Except once you look into it, you see that it’s a way for the company to save money, to shift liability, to have a smaller workforce. Hopefully the end result is to get people to realise that their class interests are opposed to the company’s.

On parallels to migrant workers

One analogy is that of migrant workers. The rise of migrant workers in any workforce - some people use that as a way to shift blame from the boss to migrants, by saying, “oh, our wages are going down because of these migrant workers”. But really, where does power lie? Who has the power to actually change wages? It is the company. As a result, who to blame becomes a lot more clear. It’s not the migrants, who don’t have much power; they’re just responding to the situation they’re in.

Likewise, with people who are going through coding boot camps. A lot of the time, it’s because they’re trying to find a job in a world that is increasingly pushing them towards the tech industry, because jobs in other sectors are not appealing. And as a result, there is the potential to build solidarity across these roles - I think that is what we have to hope for.

The problem is that a lot of people who are talking about this - who are talking about this increasing stratification of roles - they’re individualising the problem. They’re saying that if you want to still have a job in five years’ time, you’ve got to constantly reinvent yourself. You have to spend your evenings working on side projects; you’ve got to learn all these new technologies, go to conferences. You have to find a way to personally invest in yourself, so that you benefit. Rather than saying, well hold on, maybe the situation isn’t something that we should be tackling on our own. Maybe instead of competing with each other, Hunger Games-style, for the ten good jobs that remain in ten years time, we should be collectively trying to find a way to make some changes.

Ben: I’d just add: that’s why it’s so important that tech workers are organising now, to get ahead of some of these trends. Because if tech workers can build organisation and power now, they’re going to be in a much better position to respond when those trends do appear on the horizon, and to respond in a way that’s genuinely solidaristocrat. Instead of pulling up the drawbridge, pulling up the ladders, and saying, it’s just like 10 software engineers forever … actually creating something that works for this broader layer of workers.

And that, as Wendy is saying, names the true enemy: not other workers, but the people on top who are trying to run down wages.

On learning to code

Wendy: Definitely. Just to add to that - I think it’s amazing that people are learning to code, and in some ways have a much easier time learning to code now than they did maybe 10-15 years ago, because the technology’s there now. The problem is that we’re seeing the whole learn-to-code phenomenon being posed as a solution to [wider] economic stagnation. It’s being posed as an individualistic thing, [suggesting that] if you want to get ahead, if you want a job, you just have to learn to code. Rather than it being this sort of democratisation of technology, which is really what we need.

Because if we want a world where technology is developed for the common good, then there does need to be some sort of broader accountability [of how it’s developed]. And maybe that’s a world where more people are familiar with how these systems work. It’s not necessarily a requirement, but I think more people should [have the chance to] learn to code if they want.

But it’s so hard to have this conversation right now, because the way we talk about it, it’s just like, you have to learn to code so you can make a living. So you can survive. And that is so far from the way we should be talking about it.

(Question about initiatives to teach former coal miners to code, which would increase diversity of class backgrounds in the tech sector. But would that just pull down wages?)

Wendy: I think that would be great. I think anyone who wants to learn to code should be given the resources to. The caveat is: that has to come simultaneously with this greater push to organise the tech industry. To collectively demand better conditions for everyone across the board, and more control over what they’re building.

Let’s say a bunch of coal miners learned to code and then go straight to work at Google or Facebook, making ads slightly more appealing. That’s not really a great scenario for society as a whole.

I want to share this anecdote about a talk I gave recently to a bunch of masters students at LSE in the Data and Society program, who are fairly critical of the tech industry. But they still need jobs, and they’re trying to figure out where should they work. One of them asked, should we get jobs at these tech companies, on an ethics or policy-related team, and try to change things?

This is actually something I considered myself when I first applied for my master’s degree - I thought I could get a job at Google as a policy adviser or something, and it would magically fix all the ethical problems I’d identified. [Since then,] I’ve come to the realisation that this is not something you can change on an individual level. But if you organize, then you might be able to change it on a collective level.

That was the answer I gave: if you want to change anything about the way these companies work, or the way wages are being pushed down, then that can only be done by organising on a collective level, and building solidarity with other people in the industry. And learning lessons from labour history, and other industries, like the teachers’ strikes in West Virginia and other parts of the US.

On worker representation on corporate boards

(Question to Ben about co-determination, i.e., worker representation on corporate boards, and tech workers’ hiring halls, which are seen as potential avenues of worker power in addition to unionising.)

Ben: The demand for employee representative on the board has been raised within Google, in particular, in response to the Dragonfly campaign, and the walkout campaign as well. This is a demand that Google management, for obvious reasons, has not been eager to concede.

I think it does gesture towards this larger tradition in the labour movement (which exists in several European countries) of co-determination: of having worker representatives on the board who are able to influence the overall direction of the company. What’s particularly exciting about it is that it gets to this issue of worker control that Wendy raised earlier.

At root, these various mobilisations are about control. Control over your workplace, in order to be safe from various forms of racialised, gendered and sexual oppressions. Control over your workplace so that you can determine how the technologies you’re building are being built, and in some cases, whether they’re even being built in the first place.

So the question then becomes, what are the mechanisms that you can implement in order to solidify that control? One [strand of] thought is that a worker representative on the board, who potentially could be elected by the rank-and-file, would at least be a foot in the door of exerting that type of control.

I suspect we want to see that as one step towards something a bit more radical, but it’s an exciting idea of a way to institutionalize this basic principle of workplace democracy, and hopefully create something that we could build on to get more things in the future.

Closing thoughts on organising the tech industry

Wendy: I think a good way of seeing organising the tech industry is as part of this broader attempt towards societal transformation.

Part of the reason people are becoming so politicised in the last couple of years is because we’re realising just how bad things are. Because of a collapse of the liberal center ground - look at everything that the Democrats have been doing lately, like Nancy Pelosi saying we need to compromise with the Republicans.

[People are] realising that the systems that we’ve set up just won’t save us. Especially when we’re dealing with new challenges, like climate change being so catastrophic on a level that’s hard to imagine. And people are starting to realise that we need to change a lot of things about how society works.

Tech worker organising is one of those avenues. There are lots of other avenues that need to be explored as well. For me, the hope is that tech worker organising will raise class consciousness in a way that spreads throughout the rest of society. It’s a way of tackling the concentration of wealth in general, because so many of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful companies are tech companies today.

And this is a situation that does not feel sustainable. But the question is, how is it going to be tackled? I think part of the answer has to be worker power from below, trying to change the conditions of the world that they’ve helped create.

Ben: I might just add to that: just as it’s important to see these tech worker mobilisations within the wider context that Wendy is describing of the social, political moment that we’re in, I think it’s also really important to place them within the history of the labour movement.

The types of actions that folks at Google and other companies are taking places them firmly within the tradition of the labour movement, which has always been about control. Power, autonomy, dignity.

Adam, you mentioned earlier the conservative labour law regime that the United States implemented with Taft-Hartley, where we can only bargain over wages, hours and working conditions. And of course, that was an attempt (and a very successful one) to constrain the orbit of organising to these bread-and-butter issues, that would never get at the deeper issue of who actually controls the productive process.

And that has always been at the heart of the labour movement. So in a sense, it’s a very old idea. These these tech workers organising today can take inspiration from the fact that they belong to this long and proud tradition of the labour movement, in the United States and around the world - it’s also very much an international tradition.