At a time when unions are fighting for workers' rights across the country and companies are responding by using tried-and-true union-busting techniques, the LGBTQ+ dating app Grindr has reportedly issued its employees an ultimatum: Move across the country to work in an office or lose your job.
Right on the heels of the workers announcing they were unionizing two weeks ago, Grindr sent out a new return-to-work policy that requires workers to either move within 50 miles of the company’s new offices or their jobs will end on August 31, according to Vice, who obtained a copy of the certification form sent to workers on Monday night.
“We announced our union on July 20 and then we heard literally nothing from Grindr management until Thursday, when they announced that we all had two weeks to decide whether we were going to move across the country or get fired,” Quinn McGee, a trust and safety product manager and organizer at Grindr United CWA, told the outlet. “As soon as George [Arison, Grindr’s CEO] stopped talking, one of my colleagues began to ask a question about all of us suddenly having to uproot our lives — and they cut the call.”
The return-to-office certification form instructs workers to confirm whether they lived within 50 miles of their designated “Hub office,” and if not, whether they were willing to relocate by October 3. Workers will have to agree to work in person “at least two designated days per week” at one of the new offices in Chicago for the engineering team and Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area for the product and design teams. However, if employees don’t want to move then their jobs would end on August 31 and they’ll receive COBRA healthcare and severance pay for six months.
Although the certification form says that “Grindr is excited about its hybrid work model and in-person operations” that will “foster the inclusive culture and community we so deeply believe in,” employees are skeptical that this was the long-term plan the company claims it was and not the anti-union maneuvering it looks like.
“It's not even a well-drawn-out plan,” McGee told Vice. “They have not told us where the office in the Bay Area is going to be. If this was indeed planned for months as they're claiming, why isn't there a lease? They’ve sublet a WeWork space that I would wager, given the WeWork space that we have in New York, is not big enough for the entire product design team that they've told to move to California. So where do they expect us to be working?”
Employees at the queer dating app launched their union in part because of the company's CEO George Arison's prior backing of anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and because it would offer workers protections and allow for partnerships with local governments in the hopes of providing protections for queer Grindr users as well. This is especially important given the anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been passed recently and the hundreds more that have been proposed in state legislatures across the country.
“I've been a proud member of the Grindr team for almost two years, and honored to enjoy the incredible vibrant queer culture we've built together,” Erick Cortez, knowledge specialist and member of Grindr United, told The Advocate last month. “Through our union we will preserve and expand the things we love about Grindr, like trans-inclusive health care and remote work options.”
McGee echoed this, pointing to trans people as being most at risk by forcing workers to move. “To tell me that I have two weeks to decide whether or not to uproot my family's life, for a job that won't come to the table and speak with me as an adult—it’s dehumanizing,” McGee said. “This is a very, very difficult time in the country right now for trans people. This is hard for anybody, but particularly for trans people. That they have to uproot themselves from where they have found safety and security and family is appallingly cruel. Telling us to move to cities where we don't have medical providers. It's appalling. I'm lost for words.”
In response to the return-to-work order, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Grindr for using this policy to retaliate against employees seeking to unionize.
McGee said that when they were trying to create Grindr United they asked for voluntary recognition — this allows an employer to recognize a union once the majority of workers have signed union cards — but the company “ghosted” them.
“We want a strong Grindr. We want a successful Grindr that works for all the people who use it as a welcoming place for the whole LGBTQ community,” McGee said. “And we want to build it together. There's still time to do the right thing. All they have to do is say yes, and it would be that easy.”