Activist group wants Code Conference to show solidarity with 'silence breaker'

Megan Rose Dickey
Activist group wants Code Conference to show solidarity with 'silence breaker'

Tech Workers Coalition, an organization that consists of labor organizers and tech employees, is asking Recode to change the location of its annual Code Conference this May. The coalition wants the conference to show its solidarity with Sandra Pezqueda, a low-wage worker who said she was sexually harassed while working at the Terranea Resort, which is where Recode has hosted its annual conference for the last few years.

Vox Media, the parent company of Recode, says it will not be changing the location of the event this year, but may consider changing it for next year.

In 2016, Pezqueda filed a lawsuit against the resort and the staffing agency, alleging her supervisor pursued her for months and, when she declined his offers, changed her schedule and cut her hours. In December, Time Magazine named her Person of the Year as a "silence breaker," alongside countless other women who experienced sexual harassment.

"What kind of message does it send to the tech community if our bosses and coworkers spend several days and thousands of dollars to wine and dine and celebrate themselves at the Terranea Resort while these allegations remain outstanding?" the TWC wrote in its open letter to Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher, Recode Senior Editor Peter Kafka and the organizers of the Code Conference. "Is it enough to challenge patriarchy and racism in our industry, but not support the people challenging these structures who clean our hotel rooms, wash our dishes, or cook our food?"

The Terranea Resort has previously hosted Dow Jones' D Conference, as well as the MAKERS Conference put on by our parent company Oath. As a matter of disclosure, I plan to attend the conference this year at the resort to cover it for TechCrunch. The coalition goes on to write that it's time for those in the tech industry to "use our power and privilege to support those struggling for respect on the job and oppose bad bosses with all the means at our disposal."

In the letter, the TWC acknowledges the difficulty of changing location for the conference, but says it needs to be done. Recode parent company Vox Media, however, says it's not going to happen this year due to "logistical constraints," a Vox spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch.

"Both Vox Media and Recode support safe and inclusive workplaces, and we take all labor-related matters seriously," the spokesperson said. "We have expressed our strong concerns about issues at the resort that have arisen in recent months to Terranea management, and are urging Unite Here Local 11 union and Terranea management to reach agreement in their ongoing negotiations. Due to logistical constraints, Code 2018 will continue as planned in May, but we are actively exploring alternatives for Code 2019 should these issues not be resolved."

Update with statement from Terranea Resort:

As part of an organizing campaign began in late 2017, a trade union – UNITE Here – began pressuring guests and event planners to cancel forthcoming functions based on false allegations, exaggerations and innuendo. Guests and customers overwhelmingly have dismissed the union’s efforts, recognizing the motives behind the attacks and appreciating Terranea’s long-standing commitments to its associates and their families.

“The union’s irresponsibility both saddens and angers us, because we know the impact that any cancelations will have on our associates and their families,” Terranea President Terri A. Haack said. “When the union is successful in pushing guests away from our resort, it is our associates and their families that pay the price. It’s not fair to them, and it disrespects their hard work and commitment.”