More than 225 Google engineers and other employees announced the creation of a union on Monday, marking the first to be formed at a major technology company.
The announcement comes after years of escalating tension between staffers and management at the tech giant based in Mountain View, California.
The Alphabet Workers Union, which refers to Google’s parent company, registered itself with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents workers in telecommunications and media sectors in the US and Canada.
This union will focus on employee activism in the wake of staffer walk-outs, protests, petitions and criticism over the company’s deals with the government, antitrust lawsuits, and handling of sexual misconduct.
More than 225 Google engineers and other employees announced the creation of the Alphabet Workers Union on Monday, marking the first union to be formed at a major technology company
So far among Alphabet’s 120,000 workers, 226 Google employees have signed union cards. The group is open to all Alphabet staffers from coders to food servers, bus driver and cleaners, as well as temps, vendors and contractors.
The union will have an elected leadership and members will pay dues.
‘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,’ Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, the executive chair and the vice chair of the Alphabet Workers Union, said in a New York Times piece published Monday.
‘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.
Google workers have a history of collective action and protests against the company’s actions.
In 2018 thousands of workers signed a petition to protest Google’s contract with the Department of Defense called Project Maven, that would help track individuals captured in drone video footage. Google later conceded and the contract was terminated.
That same year 20,000 workers staged a walkout to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct and afterwards Google announced it would end its practice of forced arbitration.
That protest came after Google paid tens of millions of dollars to two executives who had been accused of sexual misconduct towards co-workers and stayed quiet about the alleged abuse.
Most recently, Google’s management has been slammed for dismissing Timnit Gebru, a top artificial intelligence research who was one of the few women of color in the field. Thousands of Google employees signed a petition to protest her dismissal.
She said she was fired for being critical of large-scale AI models and of the company’s existing diversity and inclusion efforts.
A view of a Google employee walk out in San Francisco protesting the male-dominated culture at the company and management’s handling of sexual misconduct cases on November 1, 2018. One person held a sign that said ‘Don’t Be Evil’, which was Google’s old motto
The Google sexual harassment walk out pictured on November 1, 2018 in New York
A Google employee holds a sign that says ‘Not Ok Google, #DontBeEvil’ during the November 2018 ‘women’s walkout’ to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases in Mountain View, California
Google employee Coleen Elliot addresses the crowd at the Boulder Colorado Google Campus denouncing how the company handles sexual harassment cases on November 1, 2018
On top of that Google is facing at least three antitrust lawsuits including one filed in October by the Department of Justice alleging the tech giant unlawfully eliminated competition by reaching deals with phone makers Apple and Samsung to be the default search engine on their devices.
The company is facing antitrust issues regarding their dominance in web search, digital advertising and smartphone software.
In 2019 the CWA filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging workers at Google were fired for taking collective action. In December the agency accused Google of illegally firing, interrogating and surveilling activist employees, but Google denied any wrong doing.
The development of the union was kept secret for about a year and their leaders were elected last month.
‘This is historic – the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,’ Dylan Baker, a Google software engineer 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,’ he added.
Most recently, Google’s management has been slammed for dismissing Timnit Gebru, a top artificial intelligence research who was one of the few women of color in the field. Thousands of Google employees signed a petition to protest her dismissal. She said she was fired for being critical of large-scale AI models and of the company’s existing diversity and inclusion efforts
Koul and Shaw wrote in the Monday article that at Google ‘discrimination and harassment continue.’
‘Alphabet continues to crack down on those who dare to speak out, and keep workers from speaking on sensitive and publicly important topics, like antitrust and monopoly power…Each time workers organize to demand change, Alphabet’s executives make token promises, doing the bare minimum in the hopes of placating workers,’ they said.
The union says that it will live by the motto Google used to hold – ‘Don’t be evil.’
‘Right now, a few wealthy executives define what the company produces and how its workers are treated. This isn’t the company we want to work for. We care deeply about what we build and what it’s used for. We are responsible for the technology we bring into the world. And we recognize that its implications reach far beyond the walls of Alphabet,’ Koul and Shaw said.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Google for comment on the formation of the union.