SAN FRANCISCO — Customer service employees at etown.com have become the first dot-com workers to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.
Workers will vote Jan. 12 on whether to make etown the first unionized dot-com.
“It’s a bellwether case,” said Erin Tyson Poh, of the Northern California Media Workers Local 39521, which will represent the workers if they vote to unionize. “It’s very important to labor in general.”
Etown, which provides online reviews of consumer electronics, is the first but not the only dot-com to be faced with a unionizing effort bringing the old economy concept of collective bargaining into the heart of the every-man-for-himself new economy.
Workers at Seattle-based Amazon.com also are pushing a union drive. Activists hope that if they are successful there, others in the Internet economy will follow.
“We are committed to resolving the issues and concerns our employees have raised,” Steve Ramirez, etown’s vice president of communications and marketing, said Thursday. But workers said the only way to address their concerns over pay and promotions, among other complaints, is through a union contract.
“No matter what, there’s going to be a showdown,” said Chase Rummonds, 31, a former customer service representative at etown who was one of two employees fired in October after workers staged a sickout.
Rummonds said he believes the issue has everything to do with traditional workplace concerns of respect and equity.
“The cracks would have formed in this situation no matter what,” he said.
The union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint about Rummonds’ firing with the NLRB, which is scheduled to hear the case Friday. It also has filed complaints about two other instances when employees were fired or laid off after union activities.
Ramirez blamed cost cutting for the layoffs and said the four fired employees were unhappy with their jobs. The company was unaware of any unionizing effort until he got a call from the media last week, Ramirez said.
The Northern California Media Workers and the Wire Service Guild, which represents employees of The Associated Press, both are affiliated with the Communications Workers of America.