NYC Council Digital Divide Testimony

The following is written testimony given by NYC-DSA Tech Action Working Group organizer Will Luckman to the New York City Council Committee on Technology & Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchise hearing concerning oversight – Broadband and the Digital Divide. Will also gave testimony live during the October 13 remote hearing.

Good afternoon, my name is Will Luckman, I’m a Brooklyn resident in the 36th district, and a volunteer organizer with the New York City Democratic Socialists of America Tech Action Working Group. Tech Action fights for democratic control of technology in an effort to develop universal, equitable tech that serves a common good. Thank you, Chairperson Holden, for calling this hearing today. I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss the City’s efforts to bridge the digital divide and the need for a publicly owned and operated municipal broadband network in New York City to effectively do so.

As we’ve heard today, New Yorkers—and all Americans—increasingly rely on the internet to obtain education, housing, and healthcare, and for basic economic participation. Internet access is not some luxury commodity, rather it is a fundamental requirement for participation in contemporary daily life. As such, internet access must not be contingent upon someone’s ability to pay, or on whether it is profitable for a private company to connect them. The onus is on the government itself to ensure everyone is connected. Revealingly, at present, internet access in New York City is unevenly distributed along economic lines. According to the City’s own research, “over 40% of the households [in NYC] without broadband live below the poverty line.”1 Market-based solutions and past public policy have failed the neediest New Yorkers, further disadvantaging them, and reinforcing existing inequality.

The current health crisis has only served to ratchet up the stakes of this divide. Without the ability to attend remote classes or complete assignments, many students are falling behind. New Yorkers with no alternative to in-person services are being forced to venture out and expose themselves and others to risk of infection. The growing numbers of unhoused and unemployed are finding it that much harder to get back on their feet. To effectively respond to COVID-19, we need the City to act immediately to expand access. Then, we need to rethink our future approach to connectivity.

We commend the current administration for correctly identifying the need for universal broadband to address this issue, as outlined in “The New York City Internet Master Plan” released by the Mayor’s Chief Technology Officer this past February. We are enthusiastic about the suggested estimated $2.1 billion outlay to achieve this goal.2 But our endorsement of the Mayor’s “master plan” ends there, and we strongly encourage the City not to throw good money after bad.

The fatal flaw of the prescription offered by the Mayor’s Office is that it replicates the same failed core strategy employed by the City in all previous attempts to provide high speed internet to underserved New Yorkers: subsidize private providers. In the past this has taken the form of backroom franchise agreements with cushy tax breaks and rights-of-way baked in.3 In the present—as with the 5G franchise rules being discussed this afternoon and with the EDC- administered NYCHA broadband RFEI issued in June4—public assets and infrastructure are again being handed over to private companies without any price controls, labor considerations, meaningful oversight, or guaranteed return. Going forward, the Mayor’s plan calls for a variation on the same tactic: the construction of massive new municipal infrastructure to ultimately facilitate privately operated, for-profit provision of service.

Private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have proven time and again they are terrible partners. The main reason low-income New Yorkers lack internet access is because it is not profitable to provide it to them. Yet even when the City has dipped into the public coffers to ensure maximum profitability for these corporate ISPs, they have gone out of their way to stiff the City and its residents.

In 2017 the City was forced to sue Verizon for failure to honor its agreement to provide high- speed fiberoptic connections throughout all five boroughs.5 Charter-Spectrum was caught lying about the speeds of the service it was providing to New Yorkers6 and lying to regulators about the expansion of its service to underserved communities across the state.7 CityBridge, the private consortium operating the LinkNYC system meant to provide New Yorkers with “free” (advertising-supported) WiFi currently owes the City tens of millions of dollars and has built only a fraction of the kiosks we were promised.8

Instead of getting back into bed with corporations who have shown a willingness to repeatedly defraud New Yorkers, flaunt regulations, and crucially, who have failed utterly to provide the coverage that we need, the City should take a new approach. We encourage the Council to fight back against all new subsidies for private ISPs in whatever form they take. We further encourage the Council to take steps towards developing a publicly owned and operated alternative—e.g. assessing current network assets and federal rules on direct provision—as outlined by your fellow councilmember CM Brannan in his recent op-ed on the subject.9 A municipal model for broadband has three major advantages over the current system. First and foremost, the City can directly provide access, free-of-charge, where it is most needed—starting with publicly owned properties like NYCHA housing, city shelters, and our public schools.

Second, the City will retain control and oversight of such a system and can guarantee low costs, high speeds, net neutrality, data privacy, and environmental resiliency. Third, as we face the prospect of a severe economic downturn and continued social distancing combing to slow construction in NYC for the foreseeable future, investing in this system would also guarantee a number of good public jobs building out this much-needed infrastructure.

The cost of constructing such a system will not be cheap, which is why we were heartened to hear that the Mayor’s office is willing to deploy upwards of $2.1 billion to address this problem. Where there is a will, there is a way! But instead of blindly handing it over to corporations with a proven track record of failure as suggested, let’s take that $2.1 billion seed and invest it City- owned and operated infrastructure. City agencies like the NYPD have already proven that they can effectively build and deploy massive publicly owned networks.10 And other cities where municipal broadband systems have been deployed, like Chattanooga, Tennessee, are already netting financial returns while providing excellent service and coverage to their residents.11

As has been demonstrated today, we need universal broadband coverage in NYC as soon as possible—but it is clear we won’t get there by repeating the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. We need to simultaneously expand our imagination and reign in our credulity. In the short term, let’s ensure that any immediate solutions being deployed are accompanied by strong, enforceable price guarantees and labor protections, and that retain public ownership of any City assets involved. In the long-term we encourage the Council to embrace a new strategy that prioritizes the needs of New Yorkers over the profits of a cartel of ISPs who have already shown a willingness to defraud the City.

The digital divide is exacerbating the economic inequalities already crushing millions of New Yorkers. We can’t rely on profit-seeking corporations to solve this problem. It’s past time the City of New York treated broadband like a basic utility and right, and stepped up and provided internet service directly.

  1. The New York City Internet Master Plan, Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, January 2020, 

  2. Emily Nonko, “New York’s New Broadband Plan Hopes to (Finally) Address the Digital Divide,” Next City, January 29, 2020, 

  3. Juan Gonzalez, “Verizon Deal could finally offer real competition in cable TV service,” The Daily News, January 23 2008, 

  4. Universal Solicitation for Broadband: NYCHA, 

  5. Jon Brodkin, “NYC blasts broadband competition shortage as it pursues suit against Verizon,” Ars Technica, April 20, 2018, 

  6. Jon Brodkin, “NY sues Charter/Time Warner Cable, alleges false promise of fast Internet,” Ars Technica, February 1, 2017, 

  7. Jon Brodkin, “New York threatens to revoke Charter’s purchase of Time Warner Cable,” Ars Technica, June 14, 2018, 

  8. Kim Lyons, “The consortium behind New York City’s LinkNYC kiosks is ‘delinquent’ and owes the Ctiy millions,” The Verge, March 5, 2020, 

  9. Justin Brannan, “Give NYC universal broadband now,” New York Daily News, September 21, 2020, 

  10. About NYPD, Technology and Equipment, Infrastructure and Communications, 

  11. Evan Malmgren, “The New Sewer Socialists Are Building an Equitable Internet,” The Nation, November 28, 2017, 

Defund Police, Dismantle Police Technology

The following is a perspective from the organizing committee of NYC-DSA’s Tech Action Working Group on the relationship between technology, policing, and the people’s protests in response to the death of George Floyd and countless others at the hands of the police:

First and foremost, Tech Action stands in unconditional solidarity with protestors and all those organizing to abolish the police and prison system across this country and internationally. As technologists and as socialists, we strive to strip the police of their tools of enforcement, and to attack the profitable relationship between private tech firms and public law enforcement agencies. Tech Action reaffirms the NYC-DSA call to defund the NYPD and we further demand an immediate halt to all of the NYPD’s surveillance technology programs. Lastly, we ask tech workers to organize internally to stop their employers from collaborating with the police.

Despite their public funding and stated public safety mandate, the primary function of municipal police forces is to protect private wealth and reinforce an oppressive capitalist economic system. The police use surveillance and violence to manage “unproductive” members of society, disproportionately targeting, criminalizing, incarcerating, and murdering low-income people, Black people, and other people of color, while also forcefully suppressing social movements for equality, democracy, and justice.

The tools that police use to execute this heinous agenda are sold to them by private vendors at maximum profit. High-tech tools developed and sold to law enforcement agencies include, but are not limited to: “cloud” storage and computing, facial recognition and other biometric surveillance, algorithmic decision making systems, geolocation trackers, consumer surveillance platforms with police-accessible back ends (e.g. Ring, NextDoor, Citizen), and video networking, editing, and analysis software for use with body-worn cameras, cctv, and other recording devices. As police budgets have skyrocketed so too have the profits of their tech industry suppliers. And even when budgets are cut, the money keeps flowing, as automated predictive policing and surveillance systems are pitched as efficient alternatives to uniformed officers.

Yet, tech CEOs and their venture capital backers benefit from more than just direct sales. These firms are often eager to work directly with law-enforcement agencies—providing warrantless data sharing for instance—in exchange for a continued absence of regulatory oversight. And, since the market for instruments of surveillance and control goes beyond the police, tools initially developed for law-enforcement use are soon repackaged for landlords, bosses, and advertisers to surveil and subjugate us in our homes, our workplaces, and our day-to-day lives.

This all amounts to a direct transfer of public wealth into private hands through an institution—the police—designed to terrorize and brutalize. The police depend on the tech industry to supply them with the tools to more effectively implement their authoritarian control and violence. And private tech firms have a vested interest in enabling police abuse and brutality as long as it remains profitable. We need to act to disrupt this perverse symbiotic relationship now!

  1. Tech Action supports the ongoing protests and direct action happening across the country. To the extent we are able, all of us must vocally and physically reiterate that Black lives matter and condemn police violence and oppression. In addition to bringing much-needed attention to the issues at hand, these actions are taxing the resources of the state and providing the leverage we need to win concessions from elected officials, employers, and more.

  2. Tech Action rejects a New York City austerity budget that makes deep cuts to social services while leaving the NYPD budget untouched. We demand our elected officials invert that equation, defunding the police and reinvesting in services that keep our communities safe like education, housing, and healthcare.

  3. We further demand the dismantling and outright banning of high-tech NYPD enforcement tools and systems including, but not limited to, facial recognition software, the “gang database,” the Domain Awareness System, cell-site simulators, aerial drones, geolocation trackers, and body-worn cameras.

  4. We call on tech workers in particular to organize internally against employer collaboration with law enforcement agencies. Leverage your unique position within this system to stand in solidarity with Black lives and dismantle these tools of oppression at the point of production. We commend recent statements by workers at Microsoft, Amazon, and Google to this effect, and encourage more workers to embrace their demands and to go further:

  • Demand your company drop all contracts with law enforcement agencies, and cease bidding on new contracts.
  • Demand your company cease business with other firms who contract with law enforcement.
  • Demand your company refuse to collaborate voluntarily with law-enforcement requests not accompanied by a subpoena.
  • Demand stronger user data encryption, so no useful information can be shared even when legally compelled.

Withhold your labor until these demands are met. The collaboration between tech firms and the police is motivated at its base by shareholder profits. These companies can not and will not act against their financial interests. By stopping work on these tools and systems, or stopping all work outright until your demands are met, you can make it unprofitable for the relationship between tech firms and the police to continue.

We cannot allow this moment of anger and energy to pass without yielding deep systemic change. Through collective action in the form of sustained protest, direct attacks on funding, and workplace organizing, we can significantly roll back police power, dismantle the technology of oppression, and create a world that values Black lives over profits!

In solidarity,

NYC-DSA Tech Action Organizing Committee

Danny, David, Kristen, Raksha, Robbie, & Will

Tech Labor Organizing Panel Pt 2

About the panelists:

  • Laurence Berland was an engineer at Google before he was fired with three of his coworkers over the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday. He advocated for the rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, the end of Google’s contracts with the Dept. of Defense and Border Patrol, and other issues of equity in the workplace. He remains active in the organizing efforts at Google and elsewhere.
  • Jordan Flowers works at the JFK8 Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, where he has been increasingly involved in the protests and walkouts over Amazon’s treatment of frontline workers. He has been fighting to win greater safety measures for other warehouse workers and the right to remain at home for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Flowers puts his health and his job on the line everyday that he engages in his work because he has seen firsthand the power and necessity of worker engagement.
  • Grace Reckers is an organizer with the union OPEIU. She focuses on new organizing campaigns with workers at tech companies and nonprofits, having most recently been on the Kickstarter campaign and currently working with employees at a few other tech companies. Reckers is on the steering committee of the NYC Tech Workers Coalition, where she seeks to bridge the labor movement with the rising organizing efforts in the tech industry.

Tech Labor Organizing Panel Pt 1

This panel will bring together for the first time reps from the first 3 successful white-collar tech worker unionization efforts in the U.S. Join us for a retrospective on the past year of tech labor organizing with folks from the frontlines.

NYC-DSA Tech Action is partnering with Tech Workers Coalition, CWA, and OPEIU to bring you a panel featuring organizers from the frontlines. Join moderater, Raksha Muthukumar, for a panel featuring organizers from unions at Kickstarter (Toy Vano), Glitch (Steph Monette), Google (Ben Gwin).

We’ll learn about important worker organizing campaigns across the tech industry and discuss the impact of the pandemic on our movement. The panel consist of 30 min of questions from the moderator and 30 min of open floor questions.


Last week, on Wednesday 10/02 Tech Action held a special general meeting where we heard from Gustavo G from the Ecosocialist Working Group and discussed how tech issues could tie into a socialist Green New Deal.

Notes from our brainstorming session can be found here. Feel free to add your own comments if you missed the meeting.

Be sure to check out our readings on the overlap between tech and climate change.

And you can find out more about the Ecosocialist Working Group and their ongoing Public Power campaign by emailing and following them on Twitter @DSA_Enviro.


Tech Action had a conversation with two organizers from DiEM25, Kate McCurdy and Christoph Schneider, about DiEM, Tech Action, the GND, European tech sovereignty and more—and we recorded the whole thing.

Here is a link to a Google Drive folder with both video and audio of the call. We found both organizationally and politically we had much in common, and hope to coordinate with them going forward where it makes sense.


2019 DSA Convention

Last Thursday, from August 2-4, over 1,000 delegates from 139 DSA chapters gathered in Atlanta for our biannual national convention. While the primary purpose of the convention is to make decisions about the political and organization direction of DSA for the next two years, it’s also a great opportunity to make connections to socialist organizers from across the country.

Towards that purpose – and with two members of our Tech Action OC (Organizing Committee) present as delegates from the NYC chapter – Tech Action was able to organize a discussion titled “A Socialist Response to Big Tech”, which took place Saturday evening August 3rd following the end of the parliamentary session that day. What followed was an inspiring conversation on strategies to agitate against the power of Big Tech, bringing together a diverse group of artists from Silicon Valley, university workers from Indiana, computer scientists from Boston, labor organizers in Minnesota, journalists from Wisconsin, and more.

We used the following prompts to guide our conversation; if you’re interested in hosting something similar where you are, these could be good starting point!


  • Who here works for a tech company?
  • Who works a tech job for a “non-tech” company?
  • Anyone not in a tech job?
  • Anyone in a union?
  • Anyone in a co-op?
  • Anyone make money using a platform app?

Tech (Power) in Politics/Gov

  • What kind of relationships do Tech companies have with your local/state government?
    • Do any organizations exist where you live to further the cause of “Tech Innovation”?
    • Or Access to Internet/Broadband?
    • Or Data privacy?
  • Who funds these organizations?
  • Do tech companies and your local/state government collaborate on any partnerships?
  • How have tech business interests or products affected your organizing around other issues?

Tech and Work

  • How has technology changed the way you work?
  • How does technology make your job easier?
  • How does technology make your job harder?
  • To what degree do you get to choose the tech you use at work?
  • Do you know about any of your employer’s data collection policies?
    • What are some examples?
  • Those of you who work in tech:
    • How much autonomy do you have in your workplace?
    • What would you change about your workplace?
    • Do you have any coworkers who share, or might share, these concerns?

Tech and Society

  • To what degree are people in your community aware of “automated decision making” affecting their lives?
    • What are some examples of this?
  • What about data/digital surveillance more broadly?
  • How else do we think working people perceive their interactions with the tech industry?
    • What material effects does it have on their lives?
    • What would be politically salient to them?
  • What are some strategies to connect tech issues to more popular, ongoing fights for justice?


Our general meeting was held last Monday 7/22 despite torrential downpours and extensive flooding citywide! Thanks to all who were able to make it out, and apologies to anyone who couldn’t.

In a continuation of our work building a tech policy document to inject into the conversation around the 2020 presidential election, at this meeting we discussed what socialists should do about data. In a stirring speech last week, DSA-endorsed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders outlined his vision of democratic socialism, and paired it with what he described as an “Economic Bill of Rights.” As tech socialists, we understand there must be some sort of collective approach to data regulation. But what would a “Data Bill of Rights” look like?

In Europe, the GDPR has made steps in the right direction, but is largely insufficient—leaving individuals to navigate the “marketplace of data” as independent and isolated brokers of their own data. Meanwhile the progressive left DiEM25 political movement/organization has recently released a policy doc advocating for European tech sovereignty that seems to share many of our ideals, if not our firmly anti-capitalist class consciousness.

The Tech Action OC (Organizing Committee) has worked to consolidate some of the most popular, important, and resonant ideas developed at that meeting into a first draft of a socialist Data Bill of Rights. That document can be found here.

We believe this is a strong first draft, but our work is far from over. We need your input! Please read what we came up with and contribute your comments to the document. What did we miss? What can be added? How can we increase clarity and tighten up our language?

We will eventually fold this into the federal tech policy document we have been working on—with the goal of influencing the debate around these issues in the 2020 election cycle.


2020 Tech Policy Showdown

The 2020 campaign season has begun in earnest. The DSA has officially endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. What would we like to see out of his yet to be revealed national tech policy? And what do we think of the plans being put forth by Elizabeth Warren, Andrew “UBI” Yang, and (former hacker) Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, among others?

For our general meeting last week, we tried to come up with some answers, applying our socialist analysis to topics such as universal basic income, automation, monopoly power, data collection, platform censorship, tech unionization, and nationalization. We discussed these issues together and brainstormed others that we would like to see addressed on a national level.

Ahead of the meeting, in order to provide some context for the discussion, we put together some background readings here. We will continue to update this document over the next couple months. Take a look and comment with links to more readings or other topics to consider!

The outcome of the meeting was our very own 2020 Tech Policy draft, a living, policy brainstorm document that’s linked here.

Any positive contributions are welcome to the document, including ideas that may be in opposition with others’ opinions, as well as links to arguments or data published by others online. The Tech Action OC (Organizing Committee) has populated the document with ideas from the conversations in our last meeting, but that starter content is far from comprehensive of what everyone discussed. If you have ideas, share them! As always, be respectful of your fellow comrades.


Yes, the Amazon’s HQ2 Queens campus deal is dead, but the fight against Big Tech continues.

In that effort, Tech Action – along with members of Tech Workers Coalition NYC and – has spun up a Github repo of rejection letters templates for tech industry recruiters.

So far we have rejection letter templates for Amazon, Google, Facebook and Palantir. Feel free to adapt these templates for your own uses, upload your own, or simply use them to quickly educate yourself on the unethical practices these companies engage in.

Politicizing Subcontracting


For our first meeting of 2019 we had a discussion centered on the labor process and how to effectively politicize the issue of subcontracting in tech.

We were joined by professor, technologist, and trade unionist Joan Greenbaum, a giant in the fields of technology, design, and labor studies. Fun fact: as an undergraduate she programmed one of the first computers in binary code (an IBM 650).

Joan Greenbaum opened the meeting with a brief survey of labor process in the tech industry: how firm’s have controlled and disciplined labor and how they’ve used subcontracting in every form of capitalism, from industrial to service to financial capitalism. She then posed a question to the group: “How, in your line of work, has management changed how you work?”

We then broke into smaller discussion groups to discuss the following political strategies for addressing the inequality between employees and subcontractors in the tech industry:

  1. M4A: Medicare for All, since subpar and extremely expensive health insurance costs greatly affect subcontracted workers.
  2. Limiting subcontracting: Force tech companies of a certain size to only contract out daily work to firms that are either publicly owned or cooperatively owned by their workers, in either case those workers must be unionized.
  3. Worker representation: A tech company of a certain size needs proportional representation of its own employees and the employees of any subcontracted firms that work daily in the workplace.
  4. Minimum industry wage and equalizing time off: Raise the minimum wage for all workers whose daily work is in a tech workplace to $25/hr and require that subcontracted workers receive the same companywide time off benefits as the company’s own employees, including for example vacation days and parental leave.


  1. Google Urged the U.S. to Limit Protection For Activist Workers. While Google publicly supported employees who protested company policies, it quietly asked the government to narrow the right to organize over work email.

  2. What It’s Like to Work Inside Apple’s ‘Black Site’. Contractors a few miles from the company’s spaceship-like headquarters live in fear of termination—and the bathroom lines.

  3. The Stark Political Divide Between Tech CEOs and Their Employees. Is Silicon Valley growing away from its liberal and libertarian origins?

Discussion Questions

  1. Since you began working in your field, how has management changed the nature of your work? How you work, where you work, when you work, what tools you use to work, etc.

  2. What are some workplace grievances you think would be shared between full-time and subcontracted workers? For example, quality of healthcare (or lack thereof).

  3. What are some concrete step you and your coworkers could take towards organizing around the political strategies outlined above?

  4. Can you think of any other strategies for politicizing and organizing around the role of subcontracting in tech?


No Amazon NYC

It’s official: Amazon has cancelled their plans to build their HQ2 in NYC

Today New York’s working class showed that big business and billionaires can’t buy our city. New York belongs to the many, not the few.

NYC-DSA Tech Action is proud to have played a part in that fight, and wish to commend all tech workers who stood in solidarity with our neighbors to stop Amazon’s plan to subvert democracy, and take billions in public money, as they crack down on unions and workers’ rights, increase deportations of our immigrant neighbors, and fuel gentrification, housing speculation, and skyrocketing rents.

While this is a big win, there is still work to do. Amazon still maintains a physical presence in NYC in the form of warehouses, Whole Foods, their corporate office in Midtown, and more, where they actively oppose unionization of their workers. They still dominate online retail, ad sales, and the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. We know Amazon will continue to make incursions into our public schools, our healthcare, our local government, and our daily lives.

The impending Amazon deal was far from the only way capitalism oppresses working-class Queens residents and New Yorkers. Millions of New Yorkers still lack any basic tenants’ rights and live with the threat of rent hikes, displacement, and evictions every day. Still only a quarter of our workers have union jobs. Our transit system is still broken; our public housing is still owed billions. Residents of color face systematic targeting by the police and ICE. These crises persist.

And our local government is still under the sway of neoliberal economic thinking that claims the only way to help the people of New York is by handing out money to giant corporations. The bulk of the billions of dollars in subsidies offered to Amazon were already on the books and can still be offered, through secret deals, to the next massive corporation. That must end.

NYC-DSA, Tech Action, and tech workers on the left will continue to fight Amazon—and any plan to turn New York into an unlivable Silicon Valley East—from both within and without, to push for the economic and social changes we all need to live with dignity.

But today was a victory for sure, and it should send a message to communities around the world: When we organize together we can beat back centi-billionaires and their trillion-dollar corporations and change the world.


The New Tech Worker Movement

On January 11th 2019, Tech Action helped organize a panel discussion on the past year’s wave of collective actions by white-collar tech workers. It was a huge success! Around 250 people stuffed into Verso Books for an incredibly lively discussion and Q&A on tech worker organizing in 2018 and beyond.

Thanks to all who came out, and a special shout out to all the volunteers who helped with check-in, tending bar, and recording. And of course thanks to all our great co-sponsors, including Logic Magazine,, Tech Workers Coalition NYC, and Science for the People.

The panel was moderated by Ben Tarnoff (Logic Magazine, The Guardian) and featured an incredible crew of tech organizers, like:

  • Joan Greenbaum, a CUNY professor who was an active organizer with Computer People for Peace in the computer industry in the late 60s and 70s; she had lots of wisdom and experience to share about all this stuff.

  • Liz Fong-Jones, who, until recently a longtime Google engineer, has been influential for internal organizing against the military and censorship systems built at Google.

  • Meredith Whittaker, also a longtime Googler, who has been very active writing and speaking about ethics in AI research and practice and more recently helped organize the 20,000-person Google Walkout.

  • A food service worker at Facebook, but she’s actually a contractor who’s employed by some food service company that Facebook hires. Not long ago she was diagnosed with cancer and her employer tried to fire her before she started expensive chemotherapy treatments. She was speaking on behalf of the often invisible workers like her who, unlike the white collar professionals in tech, don’t have anywhere near the same pay, benefits, security, or even employer, despite working in the same place as us on a daily basis.

Attendees also made sure to snap a solidarity pic with striking UTLA teachers in Los Angeles: tech worker UTLA solidarity pic

You can check out a recording of the event here.



In this meeting we met to discuss the role tech workers and socialists can play in challenging Amazon’s most recent incursion into NYC.

Amazon has announced it will build a new headquarters in Long Island City, aided by giveaways from the State and City estimated to be up to $3 billion. Meanwhile our city’s subway system, schools, and other public services are overburdened to the point of collapse. With Amazon’s expansion in NYC, we can only expect things to get worse. It’s sickening that profitable companies are able to extract billions from our government, and it’s particularly galling in the case of Amazon — a company with a well documented anti-democracy and anti-worker record — helmed by Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person on the planet. This deal – and all deals like it – must be challenged and Tech Action has an important role to play in shutting it down!

To spur our imaginations and for more background on the deal we heard from a variety of speakers inside and outside DSA — including Assemblyman Ron Kim, Zach Lerner of NYCC, and NYC-DSA Queens Housing Working Group rep Sam Feldman — on reasons why Amazon must be resisted and strategies for doing so. We heard about specific canvasing, petitioning, flyering, phone-banking, rallying, and opposition research efforts, and plugged our members into those actions.

We also broke into discussion groups to strategize what other ways Tech Action can uniquely contribute to this fight against Amazon. Some highlights from those groups were:

  • “Focus on social media strategy, make lots of anti amazon memes”
  • “Create “fuck off amazon map”, i.e. anecdotes from ordinary people against Amazon and where they are in NYC”
  • “Highlight the grassroots power of DSA to elected officials; be a threat”
  • “Find a way to advocate or craft policy for in-house/public cloud hosting on a city or state level”
  • “Appealing the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] records request for the deal; argument is: lots of conflicts of interest, public has a great interest in knowing the details of the deal”


  1. Do Amazon’s Opponents Have Any Hope Of Stopping Queens Campus?. Although many politicians and media outlets are saying this is a done deal, that is not quite true. This article from Gothamist has some info on what steps still need to be taken at the City and State level to finalize.

  2. Amazon told employees it would continue to sell facial recognition software to law enforcement. You may remember that many white-collar Amazon employees organized and spoke out against the company’s contracts with ICE and law enforcement. Despite the employee protests, Amazon has stated these contracts aren’t going anywhere. This move demonstrates that Amazon is a direct threat to the largely immigrant community of Queens, and shows that they have no respect for the concerns of their workforce whether white- or blue-collar.

  3. Google abandons Berlin base after two years of resistance. Concerted efforts by community activists can shut down these kinds of deals. In Berlin the #FuckOffGoogle campaign successfully kept a Google campus out.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do we convince coworkers not to work for Amazon (or any company with a similarly bad reputation, like say, Walmart) and to oppose their expansion in NYC?

  2. How do we convince friends and family that they shouldn’t patronize Amazon? What are the best arguments we can use to tarnish Amazon’s brand?

  3. Thinking more broadly, how can we challenge the idea that corporate tax incentives fuel growth? What alternatives can we offer that are determined by local needs and driven by local inputs?


Julia Salazar

On first day of September, Tech Action members turned out to support Julia Salazar in her campaign for State Senate. Julia’s a fellow NYC-DSA member who’s campaign recently solicited and adopted a “tech platform” developed by Tech Action members. Her campaign now includes tech policies like:

  • Require that high-speed affordable internet access be made available to all New Yorkers, at the expense of the Internet Service Providers (cable companies), and I would provide State funding for the build-out of neutral, high-speed, publicly-owned and operated municipal/rural broadband infrastructure.
  • Advocate for the rights of “gig” and contract workers by extending them collective bargaining rights, minimum wage, and other attendant protections and guarantees.
  • Provide resources for the formation of “platform co-ops”: apps to compete with Uber, Seamless, or TaskRabbit, but owned and operated by the workers providing services through them, to avoid extractive and exploitative conditions for both workers and consumers.
  • Help pass a modern NY-Electronic Communications & Privacy Act to reign in the electronic surveillance capabilities of law enforcement in conjunction with cable and social media companies.
  • Ensure that technology companies contracting with NY State abide by standards of algorithmic transparency and data privacy (e.g. requiring open-source code and bias screening), so we can be sure that no New Yorker is paying taxes to be discriminated against or spied upon.
  • Demand that tech companies pay their fair share in taxes. Instead of giving the tech industry tax breaks and incentives and getting little in return, these companies must contribute like the rest of us. We should then reinvest that money in public tech jobs, infrastructure, and tools that allow the State of New York to compete technologically with private companies and become self-reliant.

(See her campaign’s tech policy page for the full text of her position statement.)

Our canvas for Julia was a success not only for showing our support and helping to bring our politics to Albany; it was a chance to speak about our politics to new people in the neighborhoods of North Brooklyn, to talk about not just tech issues but all the issues NYC-DSA fights for like universal healthcare and universal rent control. For many it was their first time canvassing as well!

A bit more about Julia: she’s running for State Senate in District 18 (North Brooklyn) in the Democratic primary on September 13th. She was endorsed by the NYC-DSA chapter at our citywide convention last May, after a very enthusiastic and nearly unanimous vote among delegates. Since then she’s gotten the endorsement from the National DSA and from various other figures and organizations on the left: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cynthia Nixon, Our Revolution, and the Working Families Party to name just a few. To learn more about Julia’s campaign check out her recent interview on The Dig, this report in The Intercept, or this recent TV interview on NY1.



For this meeting we engaged with this summer’s news about actions of tech workers against ICE and CBP.

Whether at Amazon, Microsoft, or Salesforce, there’s no denying there’s been a surge in tech worker agitation against employer contracts with immigration agencies. Many of these actions are pressure campaigns against CEOs and managers, mainly in the form of circulating petitions.

At the meeting we reviewed the various actions of tech workers, outlined here in this background document. From there we discussed how, as members of DSA and Tech Action, we might view the effectiveness of these strategies, their strengths and limitations. We used the following statements as jumping off points in our discussion:

  • More important than challenging tech workers with the ethics of what they build is asking them why they have almost zero control over what their company builds, which contracts the company makes and with whom; in short, why that right belongs to the CEOs and shareholders instead.

  • We believe a primary goal for our working group should remain, as it has since the beginning, to build class consciousness in the tech industry that unites all the workers in the tech workplace, from software engineers to janitors.


  1. Tech Workers Versus the Pentagon. Ben Tarnoff’s interview with a Google worker about Google/Maven activism really shows how much organizing was going on at Google.

  2. Why Tech Worker Dissent Is Going Viral. Good overview in Wired about the recent tech worker organizing.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the strengths of pressure campaigns against management? What are the limitations?

  2. How can we link tech worker demands in the workplace to the needs of the broader working class, including victims of ICE harassment?

  3. What would it mean to build class consciousness and class solidarity in tech workplaces, and what would that look like?



In June we met to investigate “surveillance capitalism” i.e. How do big companies make money off our data?

Data collection and analysis is not new. It has long been practiced by banks, insurers, finance, and many other industries. But with the advent of increasingly complex networked tools and social platforms, data mining—and its conversion into profits—has ramped up significantly. What effects does this have on society? What will this landscape look like in the future? And how might we on the left put this technology to better use?

We were joined by two speakers to help us sort this out: Ingrid Burrington and Rob Horning.


  1. The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism: Google as a Fortune Teller. A long piece, but the best at defining what exactly we’re talking about, by Shoshana Zuboff, who coined the term “surveillance capitalism.”

  2. The Data Is Ours! Our friend, tech journalist and DSA-member Ben Tarnoff, extending the metaphor of “data-as-oil” to examine possible forms of regulation.

  3. Bonus content:

Discussion Questions

  1. What is surveillance capitalism?

  2. Where is data being collected? How?

  3. How is this surveillance being turned into profits now? How might that change in the future?

  4. How can we implement public, democratic control over corporate/government data systems?

  5. What might the public hope to gain?



For our March meeting we heard from Bob Master, the District 1 Political Director of the Communication Workers of America (CWA)—the union representing Verizon FiOS technicians, and the largest union to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016. He’s also a co-founder of the NY Working Families Party and a longtime socialist labor organizer.

We asked him:

How did neoliberalism in the 80s tip the balance of power in favor of cable/fiber providers and what have labor unions done to fight against them?

(The anti-trust break-up of Bell Telephone gave way to de-regulation and reconsolidation starting in the 80s and on through to today. For the most part, the unions have fought for better contracts for their workers, but not against expansion.)

How did the city’s deal with Verizon to install fiber internet service (“FiOS”) across the entire city come about, and how has Verizon’s profit motive led to crappier, unequal service?

(It came about under the Bloomberg administration in an attempt to bridge the digital divide. It did not take into account affordability, so low-income residents have not benefited from “access.” Installation is unequal, but not in the way you would expect—wealthier, historic, less-dense neighborhoods have proven more difficult to wire.)

How does the feasibility of a hypothetical citywide public broadband internet service in NYC compare to that of the program in Chattanooga, and would organized labor support such a program?

(A. There is no preexisiting grid to lay a new system over in NYC. Chances of the City expropriating broadband infrastructure from Verizon or another bad actor are slim and pretty much unprecedented. B. Unions would fight against a public option that would compete with their employer, and potentially jeopardize their jobs with hard-won salaries and benefits.)


  1. 1 million NYC homes can’t get Verizon FiOS, so the city just sued Verizon. News article from a year ago about the city’s lawsuit against Verizon for breach of the FiOS contract.

  2. The New Sewer Socialists Are Building an Equitable Internet. All about the wildly successful municipal broadband program in Chattanooga, written by Tech Action member and previous guest speaker Evan Malmgren.

  3. Municipal Fiber Networks and Public Private Partnerships for Fiber Deployment: A Summary of the Evidence. CWA research summary, dated a few years ago, on municipal broadband programs around the US and the union’s view of their strengths, weaknesses, and feasibility.

Discussion Questions

  1. Now that we’ve heard the labor perspective, how can that guide our thinking on municipal broadband in NY?

  2. Is it still a goal we might try to fight for as DSA?

  3. What are some steps we can take in that direction?

  4. What reforms can we fight for that the union might like to see as well?

  5. If the prospects for local muni-broadband are slim, how can we be involved in this fight on the state level? National level?

From Net Neutrality to Public Internet


In January 2018 “Net Neutrality” was on everyone’s minds. Our goal for this meeting was to shift our thinking about net neutrality away from liberal tech regulation and toward the conflict between public and private ownership of the internet infrastructure.


  1. Backbone Bullies. An oldie but goodie for understanding some of the outcome of the public vs. private tension in the earlier days of the internet.

  2. Nationalize the Networks. By Evan Malmgren, writer and Tech Action member. Making the case for public internet ownership.

  3. Koch Brothers Are Cities’ New Obstacle to Building Broadband. Get a taste for how capital organizes to politically oppose the kind of public internet we want.

  4. Bonus readings:

Discussion questions

  1. We’re interested in going “beyond net neutrality.” But as both an end goal, and political campaign, what what are the pros and cons of the fight for “Net Neutrality”?

  2. Could broadband internet access be seen as a public good?

  3. Why might the left be interested in the infrastructure of the internet (as distinct from the platforms and corporations who currently dominate and mediate our online experience)?

  4. What are some of the advantages to municipal broadband programs?

  5. What role can the federal government play? What might a national campaign for public internet infrastructure look like?

  6. How can the left motivate people to care about public broadband, alongside bread and butter issues like healthcare and income? What can we do to get this issue widely adopted?

  7. How does the fight for Medicare for All compare to a hypothetical fight for public internet?


The Internet We Want

Our first Tech Action event was a success! On December 17, 2017 we co-hosted a panel with Logic Magazine called “The Internet We Want”.

The focus of discussion was on the pitfalls of Big Tech and how the Left can seize new opportunities in the wake of its failures to advance a more radical vision for digital democracy. The panel happened to fall on the same week as the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality so people were eager to get together and discuss a new radical vision for The Internet.

The panel featured:

  • Cathy O’Neil — mathematician, data scientist, and author of “Weapons of Math Destruction”.

  • Trebor Scholz — scholar, activist, and leading proponent of “platform cooperativism”.

  • Astra Taylor – filmmaker, writer, and author of “The People’s Platform”.

  • Evan Malmgren — writer, author of an article in Logic’s new issue on municipal broadband.

  • Moira Weigel — postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, cofounder of Logic, and author of a recent Guardian Long Read on tech worker organizing.

If you missed it, check out the video here!

And check out Logic’s photos from the event here.



This meeting was centered on a group discussion about the many issues surrounding the case of James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired after internally publishing an anti-diversity memo. We did not discuss the ideas put forth in the memo or Damore himself, per se – that’s been covered elsewhere – but rather the political questions surrounding them. We asked a few participants with first-person experience facing workplace descrimination to speak first before opening the discussion to the group.


  1. Why Can’t Silicon Valley Solve Its Diversity Problem? The tech industry has pervasive issues with hiring—and retaining—women, black, and Latino employees. Now a bevy of startups hopes to expand the recruiting process.

  2. Silicon Intersectionality. How big business came to love sounding progressive while protecting status and privilege.

  3. Corporations are cracking down on free speech inside the office — and out. With the firing of James Damore, Google reignited longstanding debates about speech and work.

Discussion Questions


  1. What forms of discrimination are prominent in the tech industry, and what recourse is there when it happens?

  2. What are the limitations of relying on HR and the industry itself to address discrimination?

  3. What motivates Google to oppose Damore’s discrimination against women in tech? What motivates socialists to oppose it? How do those motivations differ?

  4. With a stronger Left presence in tech, like labor unions or the threat thereof, what could be done about cases of discrimination in the tech workplace?


  1. How are tech companies adopting diversity efforts to advance corporate interests?

  2. How or why is this concept particularly pervasive in the tech industry, in comparison to other industries?

  3. What’s the significance of the fact that diversity efforts in the tech industry often speak only to professional and managerial workers?

  4. Workers must often adhere to a nebulous “corporate culture.” Who creates this culture? Who enforces it? How much influence do workers have?

Labor Rights and Organizing

  1. How does Damore’s memo relate to debates around free speech? To what extent is his memo political speech?

  2. What are some examples of bosses firing workers for their political views? How do labor unions mitigate that?

  3. Do Alt Right sympathizers in the tech workforce, like Damore, pose a problem for potential labor organizing efforts? How should a union position itself with respect to such workers (who may themselves be members)?

  4. Should socialists defend Damore and others like him when their companies fire them?

Biological Determinism

  1. Damore’s pseudoscientific claims about biology, a kind of biological determinism, were used to justify discrimination against women in tech. What are other examples of such biological determinism being invoked by the Right?

  2. What are the limitations of opposing the Right’s biological determinism by meticulously debunking their claims?



In this meeting we discussed how organized workers make demands, and what those demands might look like in the tech industry.


  1. As temp sector grew, so did appeal of union: Microsoft campus labmates bargain for benefits. On the organizing efforts by Microsoft contractors that do bug testing.

  2. Chronicle of a Strike. On the successful 2016 strike by CWA-affiliated Verizon technicians and wireless workers (which NYC-DSA played a significant role in).

  3. Italian IBM workers strike. A fun little historical note. Sorry about the image quality. Check out their slogan “Blue Collar, White Collar, Same Fight!” – a great example of what we talked about in our last meeting!

  4. Reasons to be Skeptical of Silicon Valley’s ‘Never Again’ Pledge. On the “Never Again” pledge by individual tech workers not to build a so-called Muslim registry for Trump.

  5. Optional Readings:

    1. The Long Road to Victory. A (long-ish) interview highlighting a recent (almost-) strike by the Chicago Teachers Union, a democratic union fighting for education justice in Chicago, with a strong leftist caucus helping guide it. Read about all the ways in which the union is fighting for broader leftist goals in Chicago beyond just workplace concerns (which are inherently student concerns too).

    2. Tech Workers: Friends or Foes? A recent Jacobin essay that’s a wonderful addition to our last meeting! The gentrification discussion is particularly interesting.

    3. Rumblings of Organizing in Silicon Valley. Another fun historical article, on (the pitfalls of) an organizing attempt by research technicians in Silicon Valley in the 70s. Lots to learn about organizing within tech, not all of it good.

    4. To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now. An interesting piece examining the role of blue-collar workers in the tech industry, and specifically how contract work allow for big companies to sidestep regulation and inflate their value.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do the Microsoft workers’ status as contractors affect their demands and their organizing?

  2. What from the CWA strikers’ problems and demands might be relevant in the tech industry?

  3. How do IBM strikers’ demands take into account an inequality in the workplace?

  4. In what ways does the ‘Never Again’ pledge differ from the others kinds of demands we’re talking about?

  5. Are the demands universally applicable to the workers in a particular tech workplace? How might demands be made in solidarity with contractors?

  6. Do the demands appeal to (material) self-interest or to compassion? In cases of fighting for a minority group (e.g. women in tech), how can that gap be bridged?

  7. Do the demands address only the workers themselves, or do they have a political reach beyond the workplace?

  8. Most importantly: Think about your own demands! 🤔 What would you like to see changed in your tech (or tech-esque) workplaces?



In July of 2017 we held a meeting to begin thinking about what constitutes labor in the tech industry, who “tech workers” are, and how we might think about organizing these workers.


  1. Trump’s Tech Opposition. Tech employees who increasingly see themselves as workers will be an important sector of resistance to Trump’s agenda.

  2. Programmers in India Have Created the Country’s First Tech-Sector Union. Responding to an Indian tech economy in flux, workers are demanding representation.

Discussion Questions

  1. What kind of work is done in the tech industry?

  2. What do blue collar and white collar workers have in common? What distinguishes them?

  3. What role does both white- and blue-collar contracting play in this?

  4. Why do socialists focus on workers?

  5. Why should we organize the tech industry specifically?

  6. What might a strike in the tech industry look like? What kinds of work, if stopped due to strike, would result in lost profits?

  7. Matt Schaefer lists some problems faced in the tech industry: “Ageism, unequal pay, discrimination, and data privacy concerns.” How might an organization of tech workers mitigate these problems?

  8. Kristen Sheets says that (white-collar) tech workers are, “Understanding that their conditions are actually those of a worker. They’re realizing that they have a specific relationship to production that’s extremely different than that of an entrepreneur or a CEO.” What’s a relationship to production and what is the distinction she’s making here?

  9. Kristen Sheets also mentions that tech workers, “Have a strategic position with regard to our place in production that we can leverage to stand in solidarity with other workers.“ What do you think she means?

  10. What do tech workers in India have in common with tech workers in the US?

  11. Michelle Chen writes: “With good jobs evaporating on both sides of the Pacific and the labor visa supply potentially dwindling, only organizing, not fighting each other for jobs, can stop the ‘race to the bottom’ on a global scale.” What’s the “race to the bottom” in this context? What enables that race between the US and India?

  12. On one hand, the elite owners of the tech industry (Zuckerberg, et al) want to expand the H-1B visa program through which many Indian and other immigrant workers get tech jobs in the US. On the other hand, Trump wants to reduce the program and “reshore” jobs in the US, a goal that is exacerbating the predictions of job losses in India as described in this report. Between a rock and a hard place, where should socialists stand on the issue of H-1B visas? (Hint: reject them both)