Jess Kutch is co-founder of Coworker.org, a platform that deploys digital tools, data, and strategies to help workers experiment with power-building and win meaningful change in the 21st century economy. We discuss the importance of worker voice, organizing in the digital age, and practicing democracy in the workplace.
Democracy at Work
Our work lives are an important place to practice democracy. Union members learn negotiation and problem solving skills to determine wages and working conditions. They have a voice when voting on a contract. The decline in union participation coincides with the decline in American civic life. Promoting more workplace democracy also increases civic engagement in America.
Digital Labor Organizing
Coworker.org offers digital tools to help non-union workers mobilize around the country. Digital organizing has successfully won wage increases, scheduling reform, and parental leave benefits. Digital advocacy is meant to work in tandem with more established trade unions and regulatory bodies. Organized labor has a long history of experimenting with different paths to success, and digital organizing represents an exciting new chapter.
Workers should have a say in their working conditions, industry standards, mechanisms for whistleblowing, and in negotiating their wages. Making worker voices heard, especially in the gig economy, is key to eliminating precarity in the workplace. Almost all Americans are currently “at-will” employees, meaning they can be fired at any time without cause. Removing this status would create more stable work environments and give workers agency.
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Jess Kutch is the co-founder of Coworker.org, a platform for people to advance solutions in the workplace.
Since its founding in 2013, Coworker.org has catalyzed the growth of global, independent employee networks advancing wins like paid parental leave benefits at Netflix, scheduling reform at Starbucks, and wage increases for workers at a Southern restaurant chain. In 2015, Coworker.org hosted the first-ever digital townhall at the White House on the future of worker voice with President Obama.
A digital innovator, Jess has 15 years’ experience working at the intersection of technology and social change. Prior to launching Coworker.org, Jess led a team at Change.org in raising the company’s profile around the world and inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to launch and lead their own efforts on the platform. Jess also spent five years at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where she pioneered digital strategies for the labor movement. Jess is an Echoing Green Global Fellow and J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize winner.
You can follow Jess on Twitter @jess_kutch.