Around 280 Google and Alphabet employees have announced plans to form a union, one of the first created at a major technology company.
The declaration follows years of conflict between employees and management at the Mountain View, California-based tech behemoth.
Dubbed the Alphabet Workers Union, it will be an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America Local 1400, which looks after workers’ interests in the US and Canada’s telecommunications and media industries. Alphabet Workers Union recently elected Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw executive chair and vice chair, respectively. Initial member dues will be 1% of their salary.
“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Google program manager Nicki Anselmo in a statement to the press.
“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.”
The union’s focus will be employee activism following employee walkouts, protests, and dissatisfaction over what they claim are unfair labor practices and immoral business deals.
In 2018, staff walked out in protest at huge payouts given to executives accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google, alleging it violated labor law through surveillance, intimidation, and illegal firings.
In a statement published in the New York Times, Koul and Shaw said: “For far too long, thousands of us at Google — and other subsidiaries of Alphabet, Google’s parent company — have had our workplace concerns dismissed by executives.”
“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,” they added.
The new union will be open to full-time employees and contract workers who aren’t entitled to the same perks as regular staff. As a members-only union, it won’t seek collective bargaining rights to negotiate a new contract with Alphabet and Google, but it will represent employees who voluntarily join.
The Alphabet Workers Union still has an uphill battle ahead of it. The over 200 members it has now is a start, but it needs strong majority support from the over 130,000 Alphabet workers to force the company to recognize it.
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Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.