Negotiating with Our Values at the Center

Code for America remains committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that works for our incredible staff and allows us to uphold our mission

For more than a decade, Code for America has been working to transform government and address community needs by leveraging insights and ideas to find real solutions that break down barriers. This is the case with every project and initiative that we work on—whether related to rebuilding the safety net, making tax benefits more accessible, or finding ways to make progress on criminal justice reform. We listen first, include those who have been excluded, and act with intention.

As the management committee negotiating on behalf of Code for America, we’ve taken this same approach and values to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations with the CfA Workers United Union. 

In late 2021—consistent with our values and this approach—Code for America voluntarily recognized the union, and we’ve been working in good faith to become the first organization in our space to reach a collective bargaining agreement. 

We are strongly committed to the CBA negotiation process, and so far, we’ve addressed a number of those issues with tentative agreements on eight proposals.

And yet, there are still major outstanding issues which directly impact the viability of our organization going forward—from defining which Code for America team members should be in the bargaining unit to the core economic questions related to compensation, benefits, PTO, and even how many days should be in the work week.

Code for America has put forward a comprehensive package of economic proposals that are best-in-class for nonprofits. This package builds on the very strong benefits that current employees already receive—including highly competitive salaries, 401k matching, wellness programs and beyond. 

Code for America has grown significantly over the past two years, and we are now an organization of more than 200 people. We are in agreement with CfA Workers United that more than 80 positions are union-eligible, but almost 50 positions—nearly one quarter of the organization—are in dispute as to whether they should be part of the bargaining unit. How these roles are resolved has a major impact on the economics of the CBA. The reality is that many of the outstanding questions and proposals are difficult, if not impossible, to address as long as we don’t have certainty over the size and shape of the bargaining unit. 

In the negotiating process, the union recommended that we could go to the National Labor Relations Board to resolve these definitional issues, and after learning more about the process, we believe that’s the right approach. But in the meantime, we want to continue negotiations with the union on the remaining non-economic issues, and we are exploring ways to engage on these as early as next week. As we’ve said before, we believe in, and are committed to, this process.

But it is with some dismay that in the wake of this considered decision, that the union has decided to use incendiary language that only serves to drive the two sides apart. They have leveled the charge that we are “union busters.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of us in Code for America leadership come from union families or have been in unions ourselves. We respect the role that unions have played over our nation’s history to secure increased compensation, fair benefits, and safe work environments.

It’s also important to name (and it will come as no surprise) that the process of negotiating with the union hasn’t been smooth.There are strongly held views on both sides. And negotiations have been direct and at times confrontational in ways that are not common in our organization. The reality is that these are thorny issues. They take time to work through. We believe that it is important that they be resolved in a way that works for the long-term viability of our organization—for our mission and for the people we serve—and for the incredible staff at Code for America. 

And despite the bumps along the way, we remain optimistic that we can, and will, work through this. So we will continue to work with our counterparts across the table to reach an agreement in a timely manner. At the same time, we will continue to uphold our mission of making government work well for everyone.

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