A group of Google engineers and other workers announced Monday they have formed a union, creating a rare foothold for the labor movement in the tech industry.
Representatives said the Alphabet Workers Union-which is now backed by around 200 workers, a tiny fraction of the tech company's more than 132,000 employees-will be affiliated with Communications Workers of America Local 1400 and is the first one open to employees and contractors at any Alphabet Inc. company.
Obviously, that's only a tiny fraction of Alphabet's workforce of more than 130,000 employees.
"This is historic-the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers", said Dylan Baker, Software Engineer. CWA's membership includes some workers, such as public university employees in Tennessee, who engage in collective action while lacking legal collective bargaining rights. Instead, the union's focus will be on activism within the company-pressuring Google leadership to implement workplace changes.
When asked for comment, Google's Director of People Operations Kara Silverstein said in a statement that the company will respect the rights of employees to organize.
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The rift between employees and executives at Google has been widening over the last few years. Workers stated that it was primarily an effort to give structure and longevity to activism at Google. Later in 2018, thousands of Google employees walked out to protest how the company handled sexual misconduct allegations against executives.
That same month, Google fired four employees who were active in labor organizing for violations of "data security policies".
Formation of the new union, which will be affiliated with the Communication Workers of America, was part of a "growing techlash" against very wealthy tech giants, said Darrell West, governance studies director at the Brookings Institution in Washington and prize-winning author of books on AI and the future of work. Many work at Google's Silicon Valley headquarters, while others are at offices in Massachusetts, New York and Colorado.
"That got them a long way", Allen said, but workers have increasingly realized they need "to come together and build power for themselves and have a voice in what's going on". Union members say that Google has strayed from its original "don't be evil" mantra, and that the company must be held to account.