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Workers at Google unionize, form ‘Alphabet Workers’, support pours in from Democratic Socialists: All you need to know

On Monday, over 200 workers at Google and other Alphabet Inc units announced that they have formed a labour union for the US and Canadian offices.

On Monday, over 200 workers at Google and other Alphabet Inc units announced that they have formed a labour union for the US and Canadian offices. The workers in the group have claimed that they have been protesting over business practices and working conditions in the tech giant for years. However, they were unable to get the needed support to force the company to the bargaining table.

Those who are in support of the “Alphabet Workers Union” say that this union will help in shielding members from firing or other forms of retaliation. Also, it will help the workers to collect dues to hire support staff. Due to the lack of support, workers were unable to attack the company aggressively, which will now be possible with the formation of the union.

Communications Workers of America labour group represents employees from AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc. The union will be a part of this group. Alphabet workers will pay 1% of the total compensation as dues to the group.

The Alphabet can ignore the union’s demands

As per the US labour law, Alphabet will have the right to ignore the demands put up by the union until a majority of employees support it. Reports suggest that the Alphabet group is a so-called “minority union” different from the traditional labour unions in the US. It will not be able to force the tech giant to collectively bargain over issues, including wages.

The widespread support is unlikely to happen anytime soon

Union leaders acknowledge that it will take time to gather widespread support. Those who work at Google know that it is a high paying job with perks such as gyms and free meals. Unionization has not been a priority for the majority of the workers at Alphabet. However, labour activism is slowly entering the tech industry as workers and regulators are continuously locking horns with the increasing power of internet companies, including Alphabet.

Chewy Shaw, the Alphabet union’s vice-chair, said that in the recent years small fractions of the workforce had raised voices over workplace equity and ethical business practices. Google has listened to some of them and brought new policies around workplace investigations. The company also dropped a drone software project with the US military after an uproar among the workers. Shaw further added that the union would raise similar campaigns, and with the new structure with adequate funding, they will bring legitimacy and resources to the union.

In the past, the US Labour Regulator has accused Google illegal questioning of several workers who were later terminated as they protested companies policies and tried forming a union. Google then had said that it took action as per the regulations and followed the process as per their legal stand.

Different perks for employees and contractors is a significant issue at Google, says Union member

In an interview with Yahoo, Raksha Muthukumar, a software engineer at Google and part of Alphabet Workers, said that classification system is one of the main points the union wants to raise. While full-time employees get benefits, the contract workers do not get perks like health benefits etc. which they feel is wrong.

She further said that they have noticed Google has been shutting down such contractors recently putting them out of a job. “We just generally feel like that stratification is really divisive in the workplace, when the work and the responsibility is shared equally,” she added.

Support poured in for the union

Bernie Sanders, US Senator, has shown support for the newly formed union. In a tweet, he said that he stands in solidarity with the Alphabet Workers who are organizing to form a union at Google.

Congresswoman Marie Newman said that she is thrilled to hear the formation of the union. She further added that this union would help in democratizing the tech industry as a whole.

Rep Ro Khanna (Rohit Khanna), a Democratic Socialist in the same vein as Bernie Sanders, said that he stands with the Alphabet Workers who are bravely speaking out for their rights.

Congressman Donald Norcross called it great news for the tech industry.

Senator Sherrod Brown called it an essential step in the fight for a fair workplace.

Senator Tammy Baldwin recognized it as an important day for the tech workers of the US.

Alphabet Workers demand respect from the employer

In a tweet threat, Alphabet Workers said they formed the union as they want to work in a company that respects them. It reads, “We deserve a workplace that respects us, where we can work for a fair wage without fear of abuse or discrimination. We deserve meaningful control over the projects we work on & the direction of this company.”

Director of people operations at Google, Kara Silverstein said that the company supports its workers’ protected labour rights. She further added that the company would continue to engage directly with the employees.

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Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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