On October 10, 2022, we proposed to write a letter to Mikhail Mishustin with a request to provide reservations to IT specialists from the mobilization call. Reading the comments to the article, it seems that many do not understand why this is necessary.

If you think that you need to relocate and make political demands, and the union should only strike instead of writing any letters, then it’s time to tell you:

  • what union political struggle is;
  • why the union is not a political organization, but at the same time, without it, politics are basically impossible.

We’ve heard your expectations from the union. Now examine the union’s expectations of you. But to make our position more clear, let’s start from the very basics - the model of union struggle.

Model of union struggle

Imagine that you work for a company and you don’t like it. For example, because of low wages. For some reason, you cannot change this job, but if you ask for a raise, the company will simply fire you. In such conditions, you see that the salary increase is only possible with the support of the majority of your colleagues. But they are all afraid of losing their jobs. Let us consider two options of the struggle for higher wages in such conditions.

Option 1. Political

You loudly declare the criminal behavior of the management concerning the team. You make a number of statements discrediting your bosses and expect that your colleagues will support you en masse. You expect that the new management will replace the old one and increase everyone’s salary.

If you have good oratory and leadership skills, at best 1% of your colleagues will heroically oppose the “criminal” leadership.

There are contradictions within each company’s management. One of the disgruntled deputy heads wants to take the place of your boss. The best case is the deputy head can take advantage of your uprising. Your salary will be increased by 1%, and the day after the “revolution” you will reach the starting point. You are still working for the company you don’t like.

The worst case is the rioters will be fired or silenced, and colleagues will be even more frightened. You are still working for the company you don’t like.

There is still an option when competitors will take advantage of the “rebellion”, but this will lead to unpredictable consequences for everyone.

Option 2. Union

First, you create a meme-chat within your company. Invite as many people as possible. In this chat you are just having fun, but occasionally you throw in work-related questions: about working conditions, about fighting for them in collective ways.

Gradually, add those who are interested in work issues to a separate chat. As soon as, for example, 1% of the employees of the company are there, you collectively ask the management for something reasonable from their point of view. For example, a new water cooler. After all, your boss just recently declared how important labor safety is, and allocated N billion for the VHI program for employees. And you need to drink more water, but the existing coolers are either very far away, or old, or they don’t exist at all.

It is important that the demand is collective and achievable. Write a letter to management or just come to him in a crowd.

At best, this demand is met. Then you share your positive experience in a meme chat, and next time you ask for something more serious. For example, paying for a fitness room for employees of an enterprise. Organize more people for this demand.

If the employer fulfills your requirements over and over again, wait until the number of united colleagues exceeds 50%. You can now collectively ask for a raise without fear of being fired. But it is more likely that at some point the management of your enterprise will decide to not make concessions and refuse to fulfill the collective demand. Your next steps will depend on the answers to two questions:

  1. How justified was your demand for the employer?
  2. What percentage of the team is united at this stage?

Let’s consider how these questions affect your next steps.

​​Reasonableness of the demand

If you demanded a massage in the office on Fridays after work, then the management’s refusal would be logical. You will not be able to use this requirement to unite a team.

The demand for a cooler fits perfectly into the logic of the employer. The bosses don’t want to buy it? This is a reason to remind them about the cooler at every meeting. Your employer forms the budget for the next year with a “Labor protection” column in it? Remind them about the cooler. Your bosses declare that you are in the same boat with them and you are a family? Remind them about the cooler. Write articles about the cooler, release videos about the cooler, hold meetings about the need for a cooler. Rally around the cooler, the cooler must be delivered!

A justified demand is a reason to unite.

Even if management at some point decides to “ban talks about cooler,” this will hit the reputation of the employer. This act will decrease their rating, and, therefore, even more push your team to action. Take on a new challenge, but with even more people.

Management is not omnipotent and is forced to follow the established rules of the company. Catch the bosses on the contradictions and put forward the demands that these contradictions reveal. And then any decision, even silence, will be in your favor.

Number of people who supported your demand

Many inexperienced colleagues, who have stood on the path of union struggle, create union cells of 3 people and declare this in the manner prescribed by law1. This is the wrong way. Management will just fire the cell, discrediting the collective struggle. The first rule of union struggle is you don’t talk about union struggle.

Making justified demands is a tool to attract your supporters. If the number of such colleagues exceeds 50%, and the management does not comply with your reasonable demands, then the union struggle may temporarily take the form of a political struggle.

What is political struggle

Politics is a struggle for power. A union does not fight for power; it fights for the rights of workers under the existing government, putting forward reasonable demands on the employer. However, if the demand of the majority is ignored, it is possible to announce the formation of a union and begin a strike. In this case, the employer either makes concessions, or a political moment arises.

The political moment is the state of the company, in which the struggle for power goes beyond the confrontation within the employer. For some reason, the management does not fulfill the request of the employees, but at the same time, most of the employees are ready to fight for this demand. Only at such a moment a political question can be raised. However the union will continue to fight for the workers, not for political change. It doesn’t matter who fulfills your demands.

A political moment is possible at the companies of England, France and even the USA. But this is impossible here, in the CIS countries, because the politicians of the post-Soviet countries prefer to increase their political weight by wasting their activists and discrediting the collective struggle, thereby destroying the union struggle.

Gentlemen of “politics”, are you satisfied with your result? In response to the proposal to present a reasonable demand to the government of the Russian Federation, we received about 800 comments on how we should equip the world, and very “valuable” recommendations on what we need to do. But in practice, it turns out that experts in political struggle prefer to “vote with their feet” at the slightest local problems. They cannot even fight for a cooler, but simply go where it is already better or where good conditions have already been created by the results of the union struggle.

Our union experience

In order for the activists of our union to join the struggle for the rights of workers at a particular enterprise, it is necessary to fulfill the conditions:

  1. The number of complaints against the employer is at least 5 on the same issue.
  2. Everyone who has addressed the problem is ready to write complaints and apply to the relevant authorities, which we will indicate.

Our union exists since 2013. During all this time, we only had a handful of cases when IT professionals were ready for a union struggle.

Recently, such a case was the situation with Game Insight. The employer announced its liquidation and staged the “Hunger Games” among employees. The first who wrote a statement of their own volition were promised, at best, the payment of wages at the time of the liquidation.

The Union is not a service. You must fight for your rights on your own. Most of the colleagues who contacted us refused to fight. But the initiative group of Game Insight employees was ready to go all the way. Thanks to their perseverance, we were able to:

  1. Involve politicians who wrote deputy requests (from the State Duma and the Moscow Duma) addressed to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Igor Viktorovich Krasnov.
  2. Spam the Moscow prosecutor’s office with complaints.
  3. Contact the government of Moscow with a problem.
  4. Announce the situation in the media.

All these measures led to the fact that the Moscow prosecutor’s office itself took up the protection of employees, and about 100 lawsuits totaling 70 million rubles are being considered in court.

The Game Insight case has not yet been closed, but it is already clear that it will end in favor of the plaintiffs. But this story became possible only because there was a group of employees who did not “vote with their feet.”

Before writing a new comment about fighting the system, honestly answer yourself: what would you do in this situation? Every time you decide to change your place of work or residence, you reduce the chances of a collective struggle. Politicians in the CIS countries nullify these chances by discrediting any collective action and increasing the general fear and sense of helplessness. At this stage, the demand to organize a relocation, hold a strike or make a political statement does not bring change closer, but works to maintain the existing system.

What’s next

We have posted our letter on Github. If you support our position, we expect you to:

  1. Fork the letter, even if you don’t intend to propose changes. If you do not know what a “fork” is and how to do it, ask your colleagues for help.
  2. Share this post and call for a fork of our letter.
  3. Write a support comment below the post.

We encourage the IT community to participate in editing and supplementing the text of the letter through pull requests. At the same time, we offer the following rules for the successful completion of a pull request review:

  1. Political statements are not allowed in the letter.
  2. Additions that reinforce the argumentation of the letter are welcome.

When we collect more than 10 thousand forks, we will send this letter to Mikhail Mishustin officially.

If you want to help us, then send an application to participate in the work of our union.

And why are IT professionals better than others?

They are not. An initiative group of scientists addressed our union, concerned about the mobilization of candidates and doctors of science. With the help of a State Duma deputy and several corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the group wrote an open letter to draw the attention of the authorities to the problem. We hope that similar letters will begin to appear in other industries, and we are ready to support them. If you are interested in other industries, the best thing you can do is to give workers in those industries a link to our feedback bot. The paradox of our situation is that before we can unite we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation.

  1. Russian labor law says that only 3 people are required to unionize ↩︎