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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech's burgeoning new labor movement has its own class divide — between a conventional organizing push among blue collar employees and an effort among white collar employees that's based on a different set of concerns and goals.

Why it matters: The tech industry rose to power and wealth largely union-free. But a recent wave of labor organizing catches tech's biggest companies at a vulnerable moment, when they're being challenged by antitrust suits, hostile regulators and doubts among their workforce.

Driving the news:

  • A high-profile unionization campaign underway among Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama follows the classic model and will culminate in a vote count on March 30 — "the digital age's most important labor vote," per Axios Re:Cap's Dan Primack.
  • In Britain, Uber Tuesday agreed to reclassify 70,000 drivers as "workers," giving them access to government-mandated benefits, highlighting the challenge gig economy employers continue to present to labor-law worker classifications.
  • Meanwhile, a union effort among Google employees that began in January is taking an unconventional path — remaining a "minority union" for now, foregoing the possibility of collective bargaining but allowing the inclusion of contractors and even managers.

The divide in tech's labor movement is mapped in a new report from U.K.-based Access Partnership.

  • "Blue-collar workers often focus on higher wages, working conditions, hazard pay, and good welfare benefits," the report says.
  • Meanwhile, "White-collar workers seek to address a more expansive set of economic, social, and political issues such as social justice, climate change, workforce diversity, and how/by whom their technology is used."
  • Contractors and gig workers "challenge existing legal frameworks for structuring labor relations, motivating demands for new solutions and policy frameworks."

This divide shapes where and how tech's labor fights play out.

  • Amazon's battle is unfolding in and around its warehouses, as organizers try to win over workers while the company pushes back — including, organizers say, using illegal pressure tactics that the company denies.
  • The New York Times reported Tuesday on a previous failed unionization fight at an Amazon warehouse in Virginia. There, the National Labor Relations Board required Amazon to post notices with a long list of practices it vowed not to employ, like threatening to fire union supporters or surveilling union organizing efforts.
  • Organizing efforts at Google, by contrast, take place mostly digitally among office employees, including highly rewarded software developers, business and sales workers. They're less focused on salaries and benefits than on pressuring the company to live up to its ideals of improving the world.
  • A survey by Protocol released Monday shows 79% of tech employees feel the industry is too powerful.
  • Meanwhile, the conflict over the labor status of gig economy workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, is being joined at the government level, as legislators, regulators and even voters (in California last year) try to reconcile old laws with new business models.

Our thought bubble: Unions are all about worker solidarity, and the two wings of tech labor will achieve a lot more if they work together. But doing so would require breaking down a lot of barriers — not only social divides but also the industry's ingrained ideology of individualism.

Go deeper: Listen to the Axios Re:Cap podcast interview with author Alec MacGillis about the Amazon union drive in Alabama.

Go deeper

9 mins ago - Health

The psychology behind COVID-19 lotteries

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NBA season tickets. Scholarships. A chance at $5 million. The list of lotteries and raffles states are launching to drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates is growing, and some local officials are already reporting "encouraging" results.

Driving the news: The reason why, some psychologists and public health experts say, is that the allure of lotteries for many people is simply that the prospect of winning a great prize seems better than passing up the chance, regardless of the odds.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

NTSB probes deadly Alabama crash as storms lash Southeast and Midwest

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's sent a team to Alabama to help investigate a fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed 10 people, including nine children.

The big picture: Saturday's crash, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama. It triggered flash floods and tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" in the Southeast over the weekend, per AP. Parts of the Midwest were also badly hit, including Indiana and Chicago, where a tornado struck late Sunday.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee announced Monday that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.