Crime-watch app Citizen Employees Vote to Unionize

Citizen employees announced that they decided to unionize, marking a rare case of effective labor organizing at a venture-backed technology business.

According to Citizen union spokesman Beth Allen, Communications Workers of America received overwhelming support in a National Labor Relations Board election. 

According to the labor board, 51 of the bargaining unit’s approximately 90 eligible voters voted in support of unionization, while 22 voted against it. The bargaining unit will include central operations staff who are in charge of sending out news alerts and listening to police scanners.

Citizen, which has garnered $133 million in funding from investors like Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Sequoia Capital, has a presence in more than 60 locations across the United States. 

The unionization effort is the latest step forward for organized labor in a year that has seen a surge in job resignations and strikes authorizations across a wide range of industries. CWA has led many of these initiatives in the historically nonunion tech field, recently earning recognition at a few corporations and launching campaigns at Alphabet Inc. and the New York Times Co. for tech employees.

According to a former employee who asked not to be identified since the material is confidential, unionization attempts at Citizen began amid Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, which drew a rush of people into the site. 

The former employee noted that the movement escalated when the corporation outsourced several positions and after Chief Executive Officer Andrew Frame placed a $30,000 prize on a man who was presumably wrongfully accused of arson in Los Angeles. The app’s users targeted a homeless man, who was ultimately freed by authorities due to a lack of evidence.

Several employment functions formerly done by Citizen central operations, such as monitoring emergency scanners for noteworthy things, were recently outsourced to offshore contract employees. Citizen has experimented with private security and subscription-based services in addition to local crime notifications.

Citizen has also recruited renowned big tech attorney Matthew Heckman as its first-ever legal head last month.

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