Why Code for America Wants the National Labor Relations Board to Provide Clarity on Unit Definition

The National Labor Relations Board started a series of hearings on Thursday to enable Code for America and CfA Workers United to gain clarity on unit definition—essentially laying the groundwork for which employees should be in the union and which should not. 

At Code for America, we view these hearings as a significant and important milestone on the road to reaching a collective bargaining agreement.

Throughout this process, we continue to act in ways consistent with our mission and be guided by our core organizational values. This is the case with every project and initiative that we work on—whether it’s 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. The decisions made on these matters are important because they impact our capacity to work shoulder to shoulder with our government partners to make lasting change for the people who use government services.

Ongoing progress

As we’ve recently noted, we’re making progress on outstanding non-economic issues—with 10 tentative agreements reached, including two just last week. We’re hopeful that more progress will be made on this front in the coming weeks.

The next step is to sort through these important definitional issues at the NLRB.

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.

Originally, roughly 50 positions—nearly one-quarter of the organization—were in dispute as to whether they should be part of the bargaining unit. Based on yesterday’s hearing, it appears that CfA Workers United is seeking to move the goalposts and assert that nearly all 200 positions in our organization should be included in the unit—including our VP of Design, who supervises a team of 18, our Interim Chief of Staff, and our Interim VP of People Operations who leads union negotiations for Code for America’s management committee.

We’re confident that the NLRB will reject this maximalist position and focus on the serious issues at hand—which have significant implications for our organization and others like ours.

How these roles are resolved has a major impact on the economics of the collective bargaining agreement. The reality is that many of the outstanding economic 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. 

What to expect from the NLRB hearings

The NLRB process is an administrative process similar to legal hearings—but instead of being adversarial, they are fact-finding in nature.

So Code for America and CfA Workers United will continue to have opportunities over the coming days and weeks to present our differing points of view from a big-picture perspective, as well as related to business functions and specific roles.

The NLRB will then decide which jobs are in the union and which jobs are not because of their supervisorial, managerial, or confidential nature, as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.

After those issues are resolved, and we understand the impact of unit definition on the economics, we can then proceed to the economic issues that are in front of us—compensation, benefits, length of the work week, and more.

It’s our hope that the NLRB hearings will continue to be constructive and cordial. That has been our approach throughout the negotiation process and will remain so going forward.

Despite recent suggestions to the contrary, Code for America is committed to this negotiating process, and we want to reach a CBA that works for our organization, our team members, and which sets a model for organizations like ours going forward.

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