(Photo: Liam Briese/Unsplash)More than 350 Intel employees are leading “the biggest unionization effort Intel has ever faced.”
During a company press conference last week, engineer and Oregon Congressional candidate Matt West called on the tech giant to agree not to interfere with his colleagues’ growing organizing force. The group, which has been meeting in private for more than a year, asked Intel to voluntarily acknowledge their unofficial union and sign a neutrality agreement (AKA a promise not to union-bust). Whether Intel signed the agreement is currently unknown.
West cited Intel engineers’ extremely unhealthy working arrangement as one of many reasons to organize. “For too long, my fellow engineers have worked 80+ hour weeks, transitioning at a whim between day shift and night shifts as management demanded. We are on call all of the time, to the point where you need a manager’s approval to be more than two hours away from the factory,” he said. West went on to say he once was required to work 80-hour weeks for more than three months straight, resulting in mental and physical suffering that prompted his doctor to put him on emergency medical leave. When West returned to work, he was issued a “formal notice” for not having warned his manager about the emergency leave in advance.
West accused Intel of hiring new college graduates specifically because they were less likely to push back against poor working conditions. This was especially concerning for employees on H1B visas, as they felt they couldn’t complain for fear of deportation. He also mentioned engineers’ promotion paths and compensation tiers were unclear (which negates most people’s incentive to work long hours in the first place).
“We think it is important for Intel to live up to its stated values,” West emphasized during the press conference.
A spokesperson for West told Engadget the organizers have been in contact with the Communications Workers of America, but otherwise it’s unclear whether the group will attempt to form their own union or join an existing one. Meanwhile, the United States’ widespread “labor shortage” has given workers the bargaining chip they needed to demand better working conditions and appropriate pay. If employees at massive companies like Amazon and Starbucks have managed to organize against all odds, workers at Intel might be thinking they can, too.