Following U.S. Trend, Employees at Startup Crime App 'Citizen' to Unionize

A group of employees at the crime-watch app Citizen voted to unionize, a report from Bloomberg revealed on Monday. This follows a trend of unionization among large companies seen across the United States.

Around 70 employees of the company were eligible to vote, and majority support was won by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications union in the United States. Citizen will be legally required to negotiate with the union if the election results are certified by a federal labor agency, said CWA spokesperson Beth Allen.

The unionized employees would be members of the app's central operations, who monitor local police scanners and send out news alerts to the app's users.

Citizen said in a statement that it would "move forward in our mission of making our users' world a safer place."

"While we are assessing next steps on this initial tally, what we know now is that we've grown through this process, learning how we can better work together to deliver for our users," the company continued.

Labor Union
Employees of the crime-watch app Citizen voted to unionize on Monday, becoming one of a limited number of tech startups that have chosen to do so. The push to unionize within Citizen reportedly began in 2020. iStock/Getty

A free mobile app that sends real-time safety and emergency alerts to its users, Citizen has grown significantly over the last few years. It has sent over 10 billion mobile alerts and is active in 60 American cities, according to the app's website.

The push to unionize within Citizen reportedly began in 2020 during the summer-long Black Lives Matter protests after the app saw a significant increase in downloads, according to a former employee that spoke to Bloomberg.

Anger toward the non-unionization of the company reportedly spiked after many central operations jobs were outsourced overseas, the employee added. This included major positions that were normally controlled by the app's central operations.

Calls for change also came after Citizen CEO Andrew Frame reportedly offered a $30,000 bounty in Los Angeles for someone who was wrongly accused of a crime.

The unionization effort comes as the company has reportedly raised $133 million in venture capital from a variety of large backers.

The app is one of a slim number of tech startups that have chosen to go the way of the union in a historically non-union industry, although they are not exclusive in this category.

This includes workers at the app Mobilize, a community-organizing app whose employees unionized this past March. That effort was also organized by the CWA.

Earlier this year, Amazon, a company known for its strong anti-union stance, allowed 5,000 warehouse employees in Alabama to participate in its first union election in seven years this past February. However, this push for unionization was shot down by the company.

Another high-profile unionization effort also occurred at Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. This led to the creation of the Alphabet Workers Union in January 2021, which currently has over 800 members—although this is a minute number compared to the over 100,000 total employees at Alphabet.

Outside of tech, coffee giant Starbucks made headlines after employees at a single franchise in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize this past Thursday. The store became the first Starbucks with union workers in the country and could represent a shift in the company moving forward.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, the CWA said that "the protections of a collective bargaining agreement will allow us to advocate for editorial standards that prioritize the safety of Citizen users without fear of losing our jobs."

"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," the CWA said.

Updated 12/14/2021, 4:18 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the CWA.