Employees of Citizen, the app that dispatches rogue nightcrawlers to broadcast crime scenes, are unionizing. As Vice first reported, a National Labour Relations Board filing shows that 69 employees from the on-brand “Central Ops Department” have petitioned to join Communications Workers of America (CWA).
Central ops workers are the ones who, among other things, directly communicate with users through the app’s dubiously reliable crisis hotline. According to LinkedIn, Citizen has between 51 and 200 employees.
We have little additional detail, and the CWA declined to comment. But Citizen is strongly opposed to the organising effort, and in a statement shared with Gizmodo, a spokesperson characterised union representation as intruding on company turf. “As a dynamic, high-growth, and innovative company leveraging technology in moments of crisis,” they said, “we are best positioned to address challenges and grow together as a Citizen team without meddling from an outside union.”
It also used the common tactic of insisting that Citizen already gives employees plenty, providing “above market compensation, full benefits, stock options, and career opportunities.” But those aren’t reasons not to unionize; the point is that the employer shouldn’t have sole power to decide what employees do and don’t get, subject to change at will.
Management has made some questionable decisions recently — setting off a manhunt, for instance. Earlier this year, Citizen put out a $41,121 bounty for anyone who hunted down a (wrongly-accused) suspected arsonist behind the Pacific Palisades brushfire, broadcasting a photo. Motherboard reported that CEO Andrew Frame told employees via Slack to “FIND THIS FUCK,” and “LETS GET THIS GUY BEFORE MIDNIGHT HES GOING DOWN.” According to Recode, the broadcast accumulated over one million views.
Employees speaking to Motherboard described the atmosphere of the company that livestreams shootings, fires, and car wrecks as “an anxiety sweatshop” and reported that it prioritises freaking out users over checking the particulars. They also worried that Citizen plans to outsource their jobs to workers abroad who listen to police scanners and add them to the app’s incident map.
Citizen employees now await an NLRB election. If they get 50% plus one vote, they’ll win the right to bargain with Citizen through the union.