More than 200 Google employees have signed with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) to form the Alphabet Workers Union after two Google engineers raised serious concerns in a New York Times opinion piece about worker mistreatment.
The movement was announced through the opinion section in the New York Times on Jan. 4. In the article, Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, two Google software engineers elected as the executive and vice-chair of the Alphabet Workers Union, emphasized cases of worker abuse under the employment of Alphabet’s subsidiaries, including Google.
Through the call to action, the duo–and its members–are hoping to establish a minority union. Typically, a formal unionization process requires at least 30 per cent of a company’s employees to join. A minority union doesn’t need to meet that status quo, but in turn, won’t be backed by the National Labour Relations Board.
So far, 226 workers from various branches of Alphabet have signed union cards with the CWA, a member-driven labour union. Although it’s gaining industry-wide attention, it’s but a small circle compared to the nearly 200,000 workers at Google alone.
The efficacy of a minority union is shaky. Without majority support, Alphabet doesn’t need to acknowledge it as a representative of its workforce. In order to gain more support, the Alphabet Workers Union is open to all Alphabet employees to join, including temporary employees, vendors and contractors.
In the New York Times piece, Koul and Shaw noted the 2018 walkout, which saw 20,000 Alphabet employees leaving their stations in protest over two executives’ alleged sexual misconduct. They also accused Alphabet of penalizing workers who spoke out against discrimination, harassment, and antitrust behaviours.
“We are the workers who built Alphabet. We write code, clean offices, serve food, drive buses, test self-driving cars and do everything needed to keep this behemoth running,” wrote Koul and Shaw in the Times article. “We joined Alphabet because we wanted to build technology that improves the world. Yet time and again, company leaders have put profits ahead of our concerns. We are joining together — temps, vendors, contractors, and full-time employees — to create a unified worker voice. We want Alphabet to be a company where workers have a meaningful say in decisions that affect us and the societies we live in.”
Alphabet has yet to release a response.