Some people are lucky enough to have jobs where they feel heard — where they can raise issues with their workplace and trust managers to keep their best interests in mind. Others aren’t so lucky.
Chicago-based startup Frank wants to make sure that every worker has a voice. On Tuesday, the company announced its launch from stealth and that it’s opening up its private beta to the public.
People have fought endlessly for workers’ rights throughout the history of this country, and many good things have come from that fight. The 40-hour work week, an end to child labor, sick leave and many other things you may take for granted were the result of hard-fought battles against powerful organizations. And although many laws and regulations have been put in place to protect workers in the past century, there is still much work to be done.
There’s still a wage gap between men and women workers. Sixty-nine percent of women and 61 percent of men who have experienced sexual harassment say it happened in the workplace. People of color are often vastly underrepresented in high-paying industries and leadership roles. The list goes on.
These are big problems, but they should be easier to solve on an individual workplace level, and one way to do that is through collective action. Frank aims to create the tools to make this collective action possible.
“We are focused on providing a safe space for workers to organize, talk about workplace issues and help them win better outcomes,” Frank co-founder Logan LaHive told Built In. “We believe in the ability for workers to drive more bottom-up decision making. We believe that there are opportunities for workers to use community to learn from and engage with one another. And we believe in the ability to apply those findings across a wider set of companies to try to create better workplaces.”
Frank has built a private platform where coworkers can discuss workplace issues discreetly. Coworkers can also create polls, store files, access templates to write their own documents about workplace issues and more. It isn’t Slack or a company-owned email, so employers don’t have access to discussions. In fact, Frank says that people who are part of a company’s management team aren’t allowed to join.
Frank takes this last part very seriously. Frank verifies the first person to join from a specific company, and from there each Frank user must vouch for new coworkers to join the platform. Frank has also built in company organizational charts, so users can map out who works for whom.
All this precaution is built in to help ease workers’ fears of retaliation. Although labor laws protect against retaliation, many workers experience it anyway. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that retaliation is the most commonly alleged form of discrimination.
For decades, unions have granted some form of protection against retaliation by providing strength in numbers, but many large corporations still engage in union-busting techniques. Frank states that it’s not trying to compete with unions, instead, it hopes to supplement unions by providing them with a secure tech platform to organize without scrutiny.
“We believe that our tech can be helpful too, but we hope that there will be hundreds of new tools that start to address these worker issues.” LaHive told Built In. “And we believe that tech can be a positive contributor, or at least can help move worker causes forward faster and make them more accessible.”
Frank was founded in 2019, raising a $2 million pre-seed round in November of 2019. The company launched its private beta in April of 2020, and then spent the following months readying its platform for a wider audience. Frank states that it will never take money from companies or sell worker data. Instead, Frank plans to charge users a subscription fee when the company feels it provides enough of a service to justify doing so. In the meantime, Frank is free to use. The company is also a registered B Corp.
Frank is available through signup on its website. Frank suggests that users sign up with their personal email, not their work email.