Hundreds of Googlers Unionize

Nearly 230 employees have formed a new tech workers union at Google and parent company Alphabet Inc., the new Alphabet Workers Union said Monday.

The effort follows other unions established at places like Kickstarter and Glitch last year, but the AWU, created in conjunction with the Communications Workers of America, represents the first of its kind at Google.

“This is historic — the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Google software engineer Dylan Baker said in a statement. “We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values.”

Once established, AWU will be part of CWA Local 1400.

The unionized workers — which are mostly based in the San Francisco Bay Area, plus one location in Cambridge, Mass. — have all pledged to put 1 percent of their annual salary toward union dues and keep the Alphabet Workers Union open to all employees and contractors at Google and its parent company.

In its announcement, the AWU pointed out that “Google began as a small tech company with a ‘Don’t Be Evil’ mantra, but has quickly become one of the most influential companies in the world…[with] more than 120,000 workers.”

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The group raised the point that Google is “responsible for vast swaths of the internet, controlling tools used by billions of people across the world, with subsidiaries as varied as Waymo, Verily, Fitbit and Wing.”

The group’s goal is to address pay disparity, retaliation and controversial government contracts, with a few key matters outlined — including Google’s penchant of relying on contractors, a workforce that has no benefits but constitute more than half of the people who work for Alphabet businesses, as well as large payouts enjoyed by executives accused of harassment, and controversial decisions to take up government or military contracts.

“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Google program manager Nicki Anselmo in prepared remarks.

“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multimillion-dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen firsthand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively,” she said. “Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade.”

The pressure on Big Tech seems to be coming from all sides now, at home and abroad, in addition to from within, with a string of highly publicized walkouts or public disagreements from current and previous employees.

Google, like others including Facebook and Amazon, have a fraught history addressing dissent among its employees over a range of issues, from workplace policies to broader business decisions made by their employers, with apparent efforts to discourage workers from organizing.

Comments from Kara Silverstein, Alphabet’s director of people operations, sidestep such tensions, characterizing the company as one that has “always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce.”

“Of course our employees have protected labor rights that we support,” she continued. “But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

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