Workers Organize at Google
250 people are forming the Alphabet Workers Union
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is facing a challenge like they have never faced before, an organizing effort by their tech side workers. The organizing announcement was made through an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday.
The group, which is calling themselves the Alphabet Workers Union, is organizing with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and would become members of CWA Local 1400. However, instead of a company-wide organizing effort, the Alphabet Workers Union says they currently have 226 workers who have signed cards at half a dozen offices in the United States and Canada. According to their op-ed, they are not immediately looking to gain collective bargaining rights but are instead focusing on organizing “all workers at Google,” including temp workers, vendors, and contractors.
"Our union will work to ensure that workers know what they're working on, and can do their work at a fair wage, without fear of abuse, retaliation or discrimination," Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, software engineers elected to lead the Alphabet Workers Union, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. "Our bosses have collaborated with repressive governments around the world. They have developed artificial intelligence technology for use by the Department of Defense and profited from ads by a hate group. They have failed to make the changes necessary to meaningfully address our retention issues with people of color."
Organizing at Google and other tech companies has grown in recent years. While the workers, especially on the tech side, are often well paid, recent organizing has revolved around the company’s role in working with the Government and departments like ICE.
While Google does have some union workers on their campus, such as cafeteria workers represented by UNITE HERE, this would be the first union to represent the people who work on the programing side of the company.
In an effort to prevent organizing, Google has faced charges that they broke the law by firing two employees involved in labor organizing, by surveilling workers who viewed a union organizing presentation and maintaining policies that "discourage" workers from protected organizing activities, among other actions. There is currently a federal investigation into these charges.
The organizing effort is part of the CWA’s CODE, Coalition to Organize Digital Employees, campaign. According to the union, half of Google workers at Alphabet companies are hired as TVCs—temps, vendors, or contractors—without the benefits afforded to full-time employees. Executives have been awarded tens of millions of dollars in exit packages after documented sexual harassment against fellow Googlers. And the company has taken on unethical government contracts, like drone targeting for the military, yet kept the nature of that technology secret even to the Googlers working on those projects. It has removed its past motto from its mission statement.
Most recently, the company fired Dr. Timnit Gebru, a leading artificial intelligence researcher, for no reason whatsoever and causing outrage amongst the staff, including Black and Brown workers who are heartbroken by the company’s actions and unsure of their future at Google.
Instead of working with their staff, Google has used intimidation, suppression, and blatantly illegal firings, as recently confirmed by the National Labor Relations Board, the union claims. Instead of listening to workers, Google hired IRI, a notorious anti-union firm, to suppress their organizing.
“We are glad to welcome the Alphabet Workers Union as members of CWA Local 1400,” said CWA Local President Don Trementozzi. “We are a democratic, member-driven union, with experience building and sustaining worker power at some of America’s largest corporations. This is a historic step toward making lasting improvements for workers at Google and other Alphabet companies.”