A few hundred Google employees announced this week that they were starting a union — an unusual move in big tech.
Alphabet, Inc., the parent company of Google and subsidiaries such as Sidewalk Labs, Waymo and YouTube, has more than 120,000 full-time employees and 130,000 contractors, The Verge reported. On Jan. 4, 226 of Google’s employees in the U.S. announced that they had formed a union.
The Alphabet Worker’s Union will be open to all full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors and contractors of Google and any other Alphabet companies. According to the union’s website, the organization’s purpose is to protect Alphabet workers, global society and the world by promoting solidarity, democracy and social and economic justice.
According to a tweet by the union’s Twitter account, its membership nearly doubled the first day.
“We started today with 200+ #AWU members, the result of more than a year of intense discussions, one-on-one’s, & other organizing,” Alphabet Workers Union tweeted. “We ended today, our first day as a public group, with over 400 members. It’s the first Monday of 2021. We’re going to keep it up this whole year.”
We started today with 200+ #AWU members, the result of more than a year of intense discussions, one-on-one's, & other organizing.
We ended today, our first day as a public group, with over 400 members.
It's the first Monday of 2021. We're going to keep it up this whole year.
— Alphabet Workers Union (@AlphabetWorkers) January 5, 2021
On Jan. 5, the union tweeted that more people had joined, and it now had more than 530 members.
The workers have signed union cards with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has more than 700,000 members.
According to a CWA press release, the organization is the first of its kind in Google’s 23-year history.
“This is historic — the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” software engineer and union member Dylan Baker said in the press 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 company has been accused of unethical and illegal practices, such as hiring thousands of workers as temps, vendors or contractors who do not receive benefits; instances of sexual harassment; entering unethical government contracts; intimidation, suppression and illegal firings.
In a New York Times op-ed piece, Parul Koul, the Alphabet Workers Union’s executive chair, and Chewy Shaw, vice-chair, said the group has had enough and that the company’s structure needs to change. They believe that an organized union can start the process.
“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,” they wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.
“Alphabet is a powerful company, responsible for vast swaths of the internet. It is used by billions of people across the world,” they continued. “It has a responsibility to prioritize the public good. It has a responsibility to its thousands of workers and billions of users to make the world a better place. As Alphabet workers, we can help build that world.”
The Verge reported that there’s probably little a minority union can accomplish, but that the union hopes to draw more members.