The Alphabet Workers Union is a voluntary organization open to all workers and contractors. The Alphabet Workers Union will unionize with CWA Local 1400. (Image credit: Alphabet Workers Union)
Over 400 Google workers have revealed plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The Alphabet Workers Union, named after Google’s parent company, was started in secret and has been in the works for about a year. The group, which is a members-only union, plans to tackle ongoing issues such as controversial government contracts, pay disparity, and questionable work practices.
“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Nicki Anselmo, a Google program manager. “From fighting the ‘real names’ policy to opposing Project Maven to protesting the egregious, multi-million-dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively.”
Unlike traditional unions, the Alphabet Workers Union isn’t out to seek collective bargaining rights to negotiate a new contract with Google. Rather, the union represents those who voluntarily join, which includes temporary workers, vendors, and contractors who would normally be excluded by labor law from conventional collective bargaining.
The Alphabet Workers Union will unionize with CWA Local 1400, which represents workers in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and California. Those who become members will contribute one percent of their annual compensation to the union to pay for legal fees and organizing staff.
This is a rare move for the tech industry, which has resisted union efforts and one that is sure to send ripples through Silicon Valley. Many at Google have been making their voices heard prior to unionization. In 2018, over 20,000 employees walked out in protest of how the company handled sexual harassment. The company’s business practices, such as illegally firing two workers organizing protests, working with IRI Consultants, and developing artificial intelligence for the Defense Department, have all come under fire in recent years.
Google workers aren’t the only ones forming unions. Last year, Kickstarter workers won union campaigns and a small group of contractors at Google’s Pittsburgh office unionized in 2019. Thousands of employees at Amazon’s Alabama warehouse are set to vote on a union in the coming months.
Kara Silverstein, director of people operations at Google, said in a statement to Verge: “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”
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