Google Workers Unionize, Addressing Years Of Contention

Alphabet employees have broken new ground, announcing the formation of a high-tech workers union. The move follows similar moves in industries including education, steel, public service, auto, and electrical.

Google workers on Monday announced plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400, which represents workers in California, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

The new union, Alphabet Workers Union, will be open to all employees -- temporary or full time -- and contractors and vendors at Google. The goal is to “protect” Alphabet workers struggling with issues such as pay disparity, retaliation, and controversial government contracts.

“We believe that neutrality never helps the victim, and we prioritize the needs of the worst off,” according to the union’s website.

More than 225 Google employees formed the union, but sign-ups still have a way to go to reach majority.

As of September 30, 2020, Alphabet had 132,121 employees (The New York Times cites 260,000 full-time employees and contractors), of which more than 100,000 worked for Google. 

Google's 2020 diversity report states that 32% of its workforce are women and 68% are men, and that 51.7% are Caucasian and 41.9% are Asian.

Although Google's website has extensive information that explains many aspects of employees' decisions, there are more unanswered than answered questions.

These questions include whether there are repercussions if employees do not join, and whether dues are taken directly from their paychecks. Other unanswered questions include whether or not an employees will receive guidance to find a lawyer in the event of arbitration.

The New York Times also calls attention to a few small unions that have had success in tech.

Workers at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and at app development platform Glitch won union campaigns in 2020, and a small group of contractors at a Google office in Pittsburgh unionized in 2019. Employees at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama also are scheduled to vote on a union in the coming months.

Forming the Alphabet Workers Union is an accumulation of years of work by Google employees to seek fair and just working conditions and compensation. In 2019, Google employees held a sit-in at individual offices worldwide to protest what they called retaliation against employees who spoke out against the company and their managers.

The sit-in was promoted by two employees -- Meredith Whittaker, who led Google’s Open Research team, and Claire Stapleton, social media marketing manager at YouTube -- who helped organize earlier walkouts.

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