In the last decade, YouTube has established itself as the largest video sharing platform worldwide. Content creators on YouTube work to act, film and post-produce their content. Their success, and thus revenue, is dependent on their visibility on the platform. YouTube is in full control of the terms upon which videos appear on the platform.
Grievances among content creators started to increase when YouTube enforced a strict regime of (mostly) automated content moderation on the platform. This served as the catalyst for self-organisation by a group of YouTubers in March 2018. Collective action by professional content creators, aspiring professionals, viewers and supporters on YouTube resulted in the creation of the YouTubers Union. The group sent introductory letters to YouTube headquarters, conducted internal membership surveys and launched a collective «warning strike».
As talks with YouTube proved unable to produce lasting agreements, the YouTubers Union entered into a cooperative venture with the German trade union IG Metall – the largest union in Europe. This coalition with a traditional union resulted in the joint FairTube campaign launched in July 2019. The campaign attracted a high level of attention to the situation of content creators and is slowly forcing the company to react.
In the first session of our «Trade Unions in Transformation 4.0» series on 8 October 2020 register here, we want to discuss what leverage can be applied to bring a global Big Tech company to the bargaining table. How do self - or precariously-employed workers - organize themselves? How do such grassroots initiatives or new workers’ organisations cooperate with established trade unions? What are the respective power resources used to represent workers’ interests?
Join us for our discussion with labour scholars and union activists: Live-Stream
A novel case of platform worker organising. YouTubers have organised and brought the company to the bargaining table. The YouTubers’ Union and its cooperation with IG Metall provides insights into successful organising in global digital capitalism.
No time to read the whole study? Then take time to read the short version: In English. ¿No tienes tiempo para leer todo el estudio? Ahorra tiempo y mantente informado con este resumen: En español. Keine Zeit, die ganze Studie zu lesen? Dann nehmen Sie sich die Zeit, die Kurzfassung zu lesen: auf Deutsch.
«Trade Unions in Transformation 4.0» is a FES-initiated project that aims to understand workers’ agency in digital capitalism. This project examines how trade unions and new organizations of workers build workers’ power to confront and shape the emerging new world of work in which capital uses digital technology to re-organize the production process and increasingly imposes ultra-flexible, precarious work models. FES aims to contribute to workers’ and trade unions’ reflections and strategies and offers cooperation for union transformation.
Subsequent sessions will explore how workers and unions shape transformations in banking and industry, how tech workers start to become an exciting player in the labour movement, how transport workers resist the restructuring of their sector by platforms and what new tools and apps unions develop to increase their power in the digital economy.