Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Google employees unionize, increasing tensions with management

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Employees of Google and parent company Alphabet Inc. on Monday announced the creation of a union, deepening years of confrontation between workers and management at the internet giant.

The Alphabet Workers Union has said it will be open to all employees and contractors, regardless of their role or classification. It will collect membership fees, pay the organizing staff and have an elected board of directors.

The organizing effort, a rare campaign within a large US tech company, is supported by the Communications Workers of America as part of a recent tech-focused initiative known as CODE-CWA. Google employees who join the Alphabet Workers Union will also be members of CWA Local 1400. The group, which represents more than 200 workers in the United States, plans to tackle issues such as compensation, employee classification and the types of work that Google engages in.

“We will hire qualified organizers to make sure all Google employees know they can work with us if they really want to see their business reflect their values,” Dylan Baker, software engineer at Google, said in a statement.

A letter from union organizers published in the New York Times said workplace concerns at the company have been dismissed by executives for too long. Google has clashed with some employees in recent years over contracts with the military, thedifferent treatment of contract workersand onerich output packagefor an executive ousted for alleged sexual harassment.

“We have always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding work environment for our people,” Kara Silverstein, director of human operations at Google, said in a statement. “Of course, our employees have protected labor rights which we support. But as we always have, we will continue to engage directly with all of our employees. “

A successful Alphabet union could limit the authority of leaders, while inspiring similar efforts in Silicon Valley, which has largely avoided unionization so far. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union filed documents in November to represent frontline workers Amazon installation in Alabama. Employees at the company’s US warehouses are currently not unionized. A vote among the more than 5,000 workers at the site is expected in the coming weeks.

The announcement did not say whether the new organization will seek majority support among Alphabet’s workforce, formal recognition by Alphabet, or collective bargaining with the company, a process that US companies have strongly opposed. . CWA members include some workers, such as employees at a public university in Tennessee, who engage in collective action without having legal rights to collective bargaining.

Protests by Google workers in 2018 forced the company to let a Pentagon artificial intelligence contract expire. Employee uprisings also led the company tolimit recourse to forced arbitrationthat same year.

CWA has supported Google activists since at least 2019, when the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Council, alleging that workers had been sacked for taking collective action. In December, the agency’s attorney general took up some of these allegations,accusingGoogle for firing, interrogating and illegally monitoring militant employees. Google has denied the wrongdoing, saying it supports workers’ rights and that the employees in question have been punished for “a serious breach of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trust responsibility.”

More to read absolutely technological coverage of Fortune:


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