German content moderators strike a blow against Facebook’s union-busting

Area of work: Justice for tech workers

Tagged with: content moderators, facebook, germany

Good news from Germany!

A few weeks ago, Facebook moderators in Essen held a ‘works council’ election in the content moderation office run by outsourcing company Telus. In case you’re not familiar with a works council, it’s a group of elected employees who work to represent the interests of the workforce with company management. 

In a landslide, moderators elected a majority of workers who are members of the German labour union that supports content moderators, ver.di. Out of 18 available places, 14 were elected from the ver.di slate.

That number includes Cengiz, the brave works council elections committee leader who Facebook and Telus tried to fire for speaking to the German parliament about the awful work conditions he and his colleagues were facing inside the content moderation office.

Now Cengiz is an elected member of the works council he receives special protections under German law that prevent him from being fired except for exceptional circumstances.

This is a huge victory against Facebook’s union-busting, aided and abetted by their outsourcing cronies, and sends a powerful message that you can’t punish content moderators simply for telling the truth about the horrible reality of moderation work – or for exercising their right to collectively organise in their workplace. 

It’s also a strong mandate from content moderators in the Essen office for a works council that will act swiftly to change conditions inside the office, making it a safe, fair and dignified place to work. 

Foxglove sends massive congratulations to Cengiz and the rest of the elected members of the works council, as well as to ver.di and our wonderful partners in Germany, Superrr Lab, who have supported the Essen moderators in this victory every step of the way.

We’re so proud of what we’ve managed to achieve in Germany, along with our partners, including helping to launch the first-ever content moderators’ manifesto, which was presented to the Bundestag in June.

That manifesto came out a landmark content moderators’ summit in Berlin in March, which brought together moderators from across Germany and beyond to meet for the first time, discuss their experiences – and organise.

We followed this up with a second summit in Nairobi, Kenya, for African content moderators last month.

It can’t be emphasised how important it is to tear away the cloak of silence big tech companies try to cast over their workers, whether it’s at Facebook, TikTok or Amazon. These summits are a big step in achieving that.

Once that Omerta is removed, it’s much easier for tech workers to take control of their power, agency and human rights. 

The days of Big Tech riding roughshod – over all these things – are numbered.

To keep up to date on the latest in this fight, hit the button below: