Over 200 individuals employed by Google banded together and announced on Monday their intentions to form a union in order to better promote workplace equity and ethical business practices.
The newly-launched group, functioning as the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), is currently supported by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) labor union. In a Monday release, the AWU revealed the union would be open to any and all employees and contractors working under Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc.
Although the new union won’t have any collective bargaining rights and will only represent a fraction of the tech giant’s workforce, its creation marks a major step, as it is the first union open to all Alphabet-linked employees, including temps, vendors and contractors.
According to the New York Times, individuals who become members of the union will contribute 1% of their annual compensation to fund union efforts, such as paying legal fees and organizing staff.
“This is historic - the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Dylan Baker, a software engineer, remarked in a statement accompanying the release. “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.”
The Times reported that Google employees began meeting with the CWA in late 2019, but that “several” individuals who participated in petitions and protests against the tech giant had “objected to the CWA’s overtures.”
The outlet explained that “they had declined to join because they worried that the effort had sidelined experienced organizers and played down the risks of organizing as it recruited members.” Although CWA stated that it had not attempted to overtake the cause, one software engineer accused the labor union of being “more concerned about claiming turf.”
Relations between Google employees and company executives have been tense for several years.
In 2018, over 3,000 employees signed a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai to end a partnership between the company and the US Department of Defense over Project Maven, an effort to use artificial intelligence to improve targeted drone strikes by the US military. Google would later cut its ties to the project.
Google workers also sounded the alarm after the company gave a multimillion-dollar exit package to former top executive Andy Rubin, who was accused of sexual misconduct. Once the development came to light, the Times reported Google paid Rubin $90 million.
The latest development comes after the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint that alleged Google fired two workers who were organizing employee protests. It also follows the unexpected departure of AI ethicist Timnit Gebru from the company.