Pilot Course for Union Leaders in California: Understanding and Governing Digital Technologies

Unions hold the key to ensuring that workers are not harmed by and instead benefit from a slew of new digital technologies being introduced in the workplace — such as collection of worker data, electronic monitoring, algorithmic management, and artificial intelligence. The UC Berkeley Labor Center, together with other leading experts, invites you to join a pilot course that will equip you with information and strategies to ensure that technological change works for workers.

Building a strong foundation for strategy and action

This pilot course consists of four interactive workshops for union leaders. Each workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Christina Colclough of The Why Not Lab, together with the Labor Center team. The first two sessions will provide a foundation of knowledge about digital technologies, their many workplace applications, and the impacts on workers. The next two sessions will discuss goals and strategies for union co-governance over technology, and policy change to regulate tech in the workplace.

Workshop 1. Unpacking the Myths and Realities of the New Tech
The course begins with an introduction to digital technologies inside and outside of the workplace, and a discussion of the myths and realities of data-driven tech. We will walk through the data collection ecosystem, and take an in-depth look at electronic monitoring. We will also explore workplace applications of digital technologies and start to examine what types of technologies are affecting workers in your industry.

Workshop 2. Data and Algorithms at Work
Next, we dive in deeper on the topic of data and algorithms. We will introduce the fundamentals of algorithms and how they are applied in different types of workplace situations. We will then examine the many different effects these systems can have on workers. This session will orient you to the building blocks of digital systems, and help you understand how they may be used in the context of your industry.

Workshop 3. Tools to Start on the Path of Governing Algorithms at Work
The third workshop discusses the core principles of workers’ collective data rights across what we call the Data Life Cycle, and why unions must push for the co-governance of algorithms at work. In this session we will explore how unions can work toward achieving ambitious goals to defend workers’ autonomy and hold management accountable for the digital systems they use.

Workshop 4. Workers’ Legal Rights & Provisions around Digital Technologies
The final workshop will introduce new policy frameworks that are being developed at the state and federal level to establish worker rights around digital technologies. In particular, we will highlight the leading-edge work of California advocates.

About the workshops

Who should participate?
This course is designed for union leaders and senior staff who are or will be leading their union’s engagement with digital technologies. Ideally, each participating union would select 2-3 individuals to attend the full workshop series. We anticipate a cohort of 20-25 people total.

What to expect:
The workshops will be highly interactive, with a mix of presentations, discussions, and activities. The material will draw on examples from a wide range of industries. Each workshop will include a practical assignment, which may involve a short reading or video, as well as exercises designed to apply core concepts to each participant’s workplaces. We will also provide additional resources as optional supplemental material. The content of each workshop builds cumulatively, so we hope participants will be able to attend every session, and participate fully in discussions and activities.

Dates and times:
Please hold the following Fridays this fall, 9:30am-12pm (PST) – we will decide shortly about whether to hold the workshops virtually or in-person:
Workshop 1. September 10
Workshop 2. September 24
Workshop 3. October 8
Workshop 4. October 22

After the pilot course: putting strategies into action
In the future, we would like to develop a second series of workshops that will be more hands-on and practical, aimed at organizers, researchers, and trainers. Feedback from participants in the first series of workshops will be critical in developing the content for the second.


Christina J. Colclough
Regarded as a thought leader on the future of work(ers) and the politics of digital technology, Christina J. Colclough is a globally sought-after keynote speaker and workshop trainer. She created the Why Not Lab as a dedication to improving workers’ digital rights. She has extensive global labour movement experience, where she previously led UNI Global’s future of work policies, advocacy, and strategies. She was the author of the union movement’s first principles on Workers’ Data Rights and the Ethics of AI.

UC Berkeley Labor Center
The UC Berkeley Labor Center’s Technology and Work Program is led by Annette Bernhardt, along with Lisa Kresge, Jessie HF Hammerling, and Reem Suleiman.