Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The tech industry was born largely union-free, but there are signs its long management-worker harmony may be ending.

Driving the news: Companies big and small have been making headlines more commonly associated with old-line manufacturing firms than tech giants.

  • This week, the New York Times reported that Google had hired an "anti-union consulting firm" as it navigates a rise in employee activism and protest.
  • A group of Google employees announced a rally Friday in San Francisco to protest the company's treatment of several activist workers.
  • Meanwhile, when Rev, a startup that farms out transcription work to freelancers, suddenly cut pay rates for its gig workers, they aired their complaint on social media and won an apology from the firm's CEO. (It helped that so many of their customers are journalists.)
  • Until recently, WeWork, the office-space rental giant, led the tech industry's "redefine work" crusade, but now, a wave of layoffs following a collapsed IPO is giving the company's employees a crash course in business realities. A group sent management a letter before the layoffs arguing that "employees need a seat at the table."
  • A union drive among employees at Kickstarter, the platform for artists to crowdsource project financing, has faced opposition from management.

The big picture: Silicon Valley's labor strategy has always aimed to replace the worker vs. management bargaining of the unionized industrial era with mission-driven, stock option-aligned unity.

Between the lines: That was always at best an aspiration, and at worst a fiction, but it helped keep large swathes of the tech industry union-free.

What's happening: Now several factors are opening big cracks in that model.

  1. Startups, where a handful of early employees often share camaraderie and generous options grants at low strike prices, find it easier to make the unity case. But mature public companies with tens of thousands of employees and vast profits can't count on mission statements or stock options to motivate workers.
  2. At the biggest, most successful companies, a two-caste system has evolved, with full-time employees enjoying lavish benefits while large armies of contractors get a much less generous deal.
  3. The rise of tech-driven gig economy platforms like Uber has given armies of workers freedom and flexibility but also stripped them of the rights and benefits employees have long enjoyed.

The catch: In each of these cases, an "in" group gets all the spoils, while everybody else gets a lot less.

  • The stock option system insures that early employees win much bigger than late arrivals.
  • At big companies, full-time employees win much bigger than contractors.
  • At gig-economy platforms, a small number of employees at the parent company win much bigger than the drivers, delivery people and other workers who use the platforms to find work.
  • All this inequality rankles in an industry whose mission statements are full of bold talk about "level playing fields."

The other side: Anti-union sentiment remains a powerful belief in much of the tech world, which sees organized labor as "friction" that reduces corporate agility and divides manager-employee teams. And labor organizing tends to come only slowly in industries like tech where pay and perks are competitive — typically, during downturns.

What's next: For decades federal administrative and legal support for labor has weakened. But if Democrats take the White House and Congress in 2020, that could shift — at the same moment that more tech workers are growing disgruntled.

Go deeper: Big Tech workers call out their companies

Go deeper

Mayors feel powerless to reduce homelessness

Expand chart
Recreated from 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

America's mayors know their constituents hold them accountable for homelessness, but many don't feel they have the tools or power to fix things, a brand new survey says.

Why it matters: While homelessness has become more acute during the pandemic, city leaders say they lack the money, staff or political support needed to make a meaningful difference.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard

Microsoft

Microsoft announced Tuesday it plans to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in cash.

Why it matters: The move comes as Activision Blizzard has faced a wave of accusations of workplace harassment.

4 hours ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.