Who really influences big tech companies?
The Engelberg Center is devoted to the study of innovation law and policy. That is a broad area of study, and one that is influenced in a myriad of ways by large tech companies.
But who has influence on tech companies? There is a seemingly endless list of entities that are trying. Governments search for ways to regulate them. Advocates search for ways to push them. Consumers search for ways to have their voices heard.
Increasingly, it is the employees of these companies that have the power to make real change. An internal petition from Google employees pressured the company to terminate work on a Pentagon program using machine learning to improve targeting for drone strikes. A ‘climate strike’ by Amazon employees pushed the company to adopt a climate change pledge. Tech workers have organized hundreds of internal collective actions designed to influence their employers.
This means that, just as you need to understand large tech companies to understand the future of innovation law and policy, you need to understand tech worker movements to understand the future of large tech companies.
That is why we are so excited to introduce a new podcast series from Engelberg Center Fellow Clarissa Redwine. The Kickstarter Union Oral History (currently available as part of the Engelberg Center Live podcast feed) will bring you inside the one of the first successful company-wide internet tech worker unionization drives. You will meet the organizers of the drive - including Clarissa - and understand what happened at Kickstarter and why it worked.
We believe that this is a story worth telling for itself. We also believe that it is a story worth understanding because of what it can tell us about the future of worker organizing at tech companies more broadly. If innovation law and policy is impacted by large tech companies, and large tech companies respond to workers, then understanding how tech workers are organizing will be critical to understanding the next decade of innovation law and policy.
We hope you enjoy exploring this oral history with us. It is a story of what happened, as well as a harbinger of what may happen in the future. We invite your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also hope that you join in the conversation on twitter with us @NYUEngelberg and @ClarissaRedwine, as well as with the hashtag #ksru_oralhistory.