Google workers have taken a major step toward unionizing this week, with help from the Communications Workers of America. A group of more than 400 workers from Alphabet, Google's parent company, launched an unconventional union with limited powers that will also support third-party contractors.
The "Alphabet Workers Union" is a minority union that will not be ratified through any federal agency and will not have collective bargaining rights. The group aims to better protect members from firing or other retaliation for speaking out against the company. It plans to collect dues to hire support staff to more aggressively pursue its agenda of protesting company policies. The union will be part of the Communications Workers of America labor group, which counts employees from Verizon and AT&T among its members.
Google has been criticized in the past for unlawfully questioning and terminating workers who protested its policies and attempted to organize a union. According to Chewy Shaw, vice chair of the new Alphabet union, small fractions of Google's workforce have successfully protested about workplace inequality and ethical business practices. That resulted in the introduction of new policies surrounding workplace investigations, and the company also dropped a drone software project with the U.S. military. Shaw said the union will pursue similar campaigns.
Google supports its employees' protected labor rights, according to Kara Silverstein, director of people operations. She said the company will "continue engaging directly with all our employees" in response to the union formation. Alphabet can basically ignore the union's demands until a majority of employees join. The company is also entitled to ignore the demands of third-party contractors.
Silicon Valley tech companies have long resisted unions, relying on high pay and cozy work environments with perks like free food and gyms to keep employees happy. But employee activism has been on the rise, and the Alphabet Workers Union may signal the beginning of unionization throughout the U.S. tech industry.
TechZone360 Contributing Editor
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