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“Don’t be evil: unionise” – Alphabet, Google workers form historic union amid rising staff discontent

Workers at Google and other Alphabet companies have unionised for the first time in the US – January 4 announcing the creation of the Alphabet Workers Union.

Google has faced accusations of union-busting by staff in the wake of mass employee walkouts over sexual harassment in 2018 that saw 20,000 staff down tools. The NYT in November 2019 meanwhile reported that Google had hired an anti-union consulting firm, as worker activism mounts in the face of disquiet at management perceived by many to be remote, tin-eared, and inflexible.

The new union is backed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA); the largest communications and media union in the US, with 700,000 members.

Alphabet describes the “existence of works councils and labor unions” as among the “additional risks that could harm our business, our financial condition, and operating results” in its annual report.

Responding to the union’s launch, Kara Silverstein, Director of People Operations suggested Google will sidestep dealing with it, saying: “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course our employees have protected labour rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Nicki Anselmo, the union’s programme 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.

“Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade.” [Ed: Our hyperlinks]

Alphabet Workers Union, google workers unionize
Some of the new unionists. Credit: Alphabet Worker’s Union

The new union is part of CWA’s CODE-CWA (Coalition to Organize Digital Employees) project, it said in a release today, adding that “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.”

“We are glad to welcome the Alphabet Workers Union as members of CWA Local 1400,” said CWA Local President Don Trementozzi, adding: “We are a democratic, member-driven union, with experience building and sustaining worker power at some of America’s largest corporations… This is an historic step toward making lasting improvements for workers at Google and other Alphabet companies.”

See also: The WHO Academy: From sexual health to hackathons, the pressure is on to deliver.

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Ed Targett

Ed Targett is founder of The Stack. He has previously served as editor at Tech Monitor, Computer Business Review, and Roubini Global Economics.

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