In Surprise Move, Google Workers Form a Union

It's seen as a Silicon Valley first
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2021 9:20 AM CST
Silicon Valley Rarity: Google Now Has a Union
Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The words "labor union" and "Silicon Valley" don't usually go together, but that has just changed in a notable way. More than 200 workers at Google have formed a union affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, reports CNBC. The Hill sees it as a "historic first at a major technology company." While scattered, localized unions have sprung up within the company, this is the first companywide effort. It's called the Alphabet Workers Union, after the name of Google's parent company, and the New York Times explains that this is a "minority union" because it represents (for now) only a small fraction of employees. While a larger union might negotiate on behalf of all workers for, say, better pay, this union will only represent those who choose to join, and pay isn't the sole motivation. Rather, the leaders say it's about addressing a wide range of issues.

“For far too long, thousands of us at Google ... have had our workplace concerns dismissed by executives," write Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, newly elected union leaders, in a New York Times op-ed. "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 say temps and contractors make up roughly half of the current membership, and the Verge notes that contractors have long complained about unfair treatment at the company. Another hot-button issue mentioned: Google recently ousted artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru, a decision that led to widespread criticism. (More Google stories.)

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