On Monday, over 200 workers at Google and other Alphabet Inc units announced that they have formed a labour union for the US and Canadian offices. The workers in the group have claimed that they have been protesting over business practices and working conditions in the tech giant for years. However, they were unable to get the needed support to force the company to the bargaining table.
We’re Alphabet workers. We’ve been organizing for over a year, & we’re finally ready to share why.
This morning, we’re announcing #AWU, the first union open to *all* workers at any Alphabet company.
Every worker deserves a union—including tech workers.https://t.co/m2Qmjwz32V
— Alphabet Workers Union (@AlphabetWorkers) January 4, 2021
Those who are in support of the “Alphabet Workers Union” say that this union will help in shielding members from firing or other forms of retaliation. Also, it will help the workers to collect dues to hire support staff. Due to the lack of support, workers were unable to attack the company aggressively, which will now be possible with the formation of the union.
Communications Workers of America labour group represents employees from AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc. The union will be a part of this group. Alphabet workers will pay 1% of the total compensation as dues to the group.
The Alphabet can ignore the union’s demands
As per the US labour law, Alphabet will have the right to ignore the demands put up by the union until a majority of employees support it. Reports suggest that the Alphabet group is a so-called “minority union” different from the traditional labour unions in the US. It will not be able to force the tech giant to collectively bargain over issues, including wages.
The widespread support is unlikely to happen anytime soon
Union leaders acknowledge that it will take time to gather widespread support. Those who work at Google know that it is a high paying job with perks such as gyms and free meals. Unionization has not been a priority for the majority of the workers at Alphabet. However, labour activism is slowly entering the tech industry as workers and regulators are continuously locking horns with the increasing power of internet companies, including Alphabet.
Chewy Shaw, the Alphabet union’s vice-chair, said that in the recent years small fractions of the workforce had raised voices over workplace equity and ethical business practices. Google has listened to some of them and brought new policies around workplace investigations. The company also dropped a drone software project with the US military after an uproar among the workers. Shaw further added that the union would raise similar campaigns, and with the new structure with adequate funding, they will bring legitimacy and resources to the union.
In the past, the US Labour Regulator has accused Google illegal questioning of several workers who were later terminated as they protested companies policies and tried forming a union. Google then had said that it took action as per the regulations and followed the process as per their legal stand.
Different perks for employees and contractors is a significant issue at Google, says Union member
In an interview with Yahoo, Raksha Muthukumar, a software engineer at Google and part of Alphabet Workers, said that classification system is one of the main points the union wants to raise. While full-time employees get benefits, the contract workers do not get perks like health benefits etc. which they feel is wrong.
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) January 4, 2021
She further said that they have noticed Google has been shutting down such contractors recently putting them out of a job. “We just generally feel like that stratification is really divisive in the workplace, when the work and the responsibility is shared equally,” she added.
Support poured in for the union
Bernie Sanders, US Senator, has shown support for the newly formed union. In a tweet, he said that he stands in solidarity with the Alphabet Workers who are organizing to form a union at Google.
I stand in solidarity with @AlphabetWorkers who are organizing to form a union at Google. What these workers are fighting for is not radical. They want fair wages and a workplace free from abuse, retaliation, intimidation and discrimination. And that is exactly what they deserve.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 4, 2021
Congresswoman Marie Newman said that she is thrilled to hear the formation of the union. She further added that this union would help in democratizing the tech industry as a whole.
This will not only create a more just and equitable workplace but also help democratize the tech industry as a whole. Thank you for your advocacy! https://t.co/VEKQMsJsd0
— Congresswoman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) January 4, 2021
Rep Ro Khanna (Rohit Khanna), a Democratic Socialist in the same vein as Bernie Sanders, said that he stands with the Alphabet Workers who are bravely speaking out for their rights.
Standing with the Alphabet workers bravely speaking out for the rights and transparency every employee should have in their workplace. https://t.co/q1NCuoG7fm
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) January 4, 2021
Congressman Donald Norcross called it great news for the tech industry.
This is great news for big tech workers.
— Donald Norcross (@DonaldNorcross) January 4, 2021
Senator Sherrod Brown called it an essential step in the fight for a fair workplace.
I stand in solidarity with the workers at Google who today launched the @AlphabetWorkers labor union –
an important step in their fight for a fair workplace.
Google needs to recognize this union, and fire the union-busting “consultants” they hired to intimidate employees. https://t.co/65dox9PixD
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) January 4, 2021
Senator Tammy Baldwin recognized it as an important day for the tech workers of the US.
This is an important day for tech workers across our country. I’m standing in solidarity with @AlphabetWorkers, @CWAUnion, @CODE_CWA and all of the organizers and workers whose hard work and perseverance made this union possible. https://t.co/IVFnSuy6yV
— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) January 4, 2021
Alphabet Workers demand respect from the employer
In a tweet threat, Alphabet Workers said they formed the union as they want to work in a company that respects them. It reads, “We deserve a workplace that respects us, where we can work for a fair wage without fear of abuse or discrimination. We deserve meaningful control over the projects we work on & the direction of this company.”
That isn’t the company we want to work for. We deserve a workplace that respects us, where we can work for a fair wage without fear of abuse or discrimination. We deserve meaningful control over the projects we work on & the direction of this company.
— Alphabet Workers Union (@AlphabetWorkers) January 4, 2021
Director of people operations at Google, Kara Silverstein said that the company supports its workers’ protected labour rights. She further added that the company would continue to engage directly with the employees.