Google workers form a union


More than 200 Google workers have formed a union that aims to press the tech titan to live up to its former motto: “Don’t be evil.”

The Alphabet Workers Union, named for Google’s parent company, has so far attracted 226 card-carrying members who are fed up with bosses dismissing their concerns about discrimination, harassment and other workplace issues, the group’s leaders say.

“Each time workers organize to demand change, Alphabet’s executives make token promises, doing the bare minimum in the hopes of placating workers,” Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, Google software engineers who serve as the union’s executive chair and vice chair, wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Monday. “It’s not enough.”

The unionization effort follows years of employee activism at Google, which has drawn fire for failing to address internal problems such as sexual misconduct and retaliating against workers who speak out.

The Alphabet Workers Union, affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, represents a tiny fraction of the Silicon Valley giant’s workforce. Alphabet had roughly 119,000 employees at the end of 2019 and even more temps and contractors, who numbered about 121,000 in March of that year, according to The New York Times.

But the union’s leaders say they hope to create a “formal structure” for Alphabet workers of all stripes — “from bus drivers to programmers, from salespeople to janitors” — to voice their concerns.

One of the group’s goals will be addressing the inequities between Alphabet employees and contractors, who are paid less money and receive fewer benefits despite often doing the exact same work, Koul and Shaw said.

“They are also more likely to be black or brown — a segregated employment system that keeps half of the company’s work force in second-class roles,” they wrote.

Koul and Shaw criticized Google’s work with the US Department of Defense and “repressive” governments in places such as China, where the company scrapped plans to launch a censored search engine in response to internal activism, according to the op-ed.

They also cited the December ouster of Timnit Gebru, a black artificial-intelligence researcher who said she was fired after criticizing Google’s diversity efforts. Google disputed Gebru’s account of the ordeal and said she resigned.

“Our union will work to ensure that workers know what they’re working on, and can do their work at a fair wage, without fear of abuse, retaliation or discrimination,” Koul and Shaw wrote.

Google has a rocky history with union organizing. The National Labor Relations Board ruled last month that the company illegally monitored and then fired several workers who protested its policies and tried to organize a union.

“Our employees have protected labor rights that we support,” said Kara Silverstein, Google’s director of people operations. “But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

Alphabet shares were down about 0.5 percent at $1,742.23 as of 10:14 a.m. Monday.

With Post wires

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