The neighbourhood vigilante app Citizen is on the verge of getting a union, an outcome Citizen’s chaotic leadership very much preferred to avoid. According to the Communications Workers of America, a supermajority of analysts in Citizen’s intelligence agency-evoking “central operations department” voted to join the CWA. Those roughly 70 employees listen in on police scanners and race to generate real-time incident alerts such as car accidents, shootings, fires, and lost dog reports to broadcast to users.
“The protections of a collective bargaining agreement will allow us to advocate for editorial standards that prioritise the safety of Citizen users without fear of losing our jobs,” workers said in a statement which the union shared with Gizmodo.
“We are looking forward to bargaining a contract without delay that addresses the serious issues we face, including the mismanagement of Central Operations and our product’s power, pay discrepancies, subcontracting, and the removal of benefits,” they added.
During the union drive, employees reported that Citizen hired 200 workers from Nairobi to listen in on scanners. Current and former employees told Motherboard earlier this year that Citizen pushes workers to pump out as many incident reports as possible, one describing the atmosphere as an “anxiety sweatshop” designed to hook users on fear. Motherboard, which reviewed Slack messages and meeting notes, also reported that most employees disagreed with CEO Andrew Frame whipping up a city-wide bounty hunt for a man who was erroneously identified as being responsible for starting the Los Angeles Pacific Palisades wildfire.
Citizen was not immediately available to comment, but a spokesperson told Gizmodo at the outset of the union drive that “we are best positioned to address challenges and grow together as a Citizen team without meddling from an outside union.”
Citizen’s union now needs certification from the National Labour Relations Board, after which point it can begin bargaining.