Enlarge /. Exterior view of a Googleplex building, Google headquarters and parent company Alphabet, May 2018.
More than 225 employees at Google have officially joined the company as a union after the organization has been promoted within the company in recent years.
All of the 120,000 people who work for Google's parent company Alphabet, including temps, contract workers, and part-time workers, are eligible to join the Alphabet Workers Union, according to a joint statement by the union and Communications Workers of America it is part of.
"Our company's motto used to be" Don't be angry, "" the chairman and vice chairman of the new union wrote in a statement for the New York Times. "An organized workforce will help us to cope with that."
They added, "For too long, thousands of us at Google – and other affiliates of Alphabet, Google's parent company – have had our workplace concerns rejected by executives … We've both heard from colleagues – some new, some with over a decade in the company – who have decided that working at Alphabet is no longer a choice you can make with a clear conscience. "
By the time the Alphabet Workers Union went public on Monday, 226 employees had signed union cards, the management announced.
"Of course, our employees have protected the labor rights we support," said Kara Silverstein, director of people operations at Google, in a statement responding to the union movement. "But as always, we will continue to work directly with all of our employees."
It will take a long time
In both their statement and press release, union leaders cite several incidents over the past three years in which Alphabet employees came together to protest corporate management decisions. For example, in 2018 more than 4,000 Google employees objected to the company's "Project Maven" drone deal with the Department of Defense, including at least 12 who resigned. Google finally decided not to renew the contract.
Later in 2018, around 20,000 Googlers staged a strike to protest the company's (incorrect) handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. Several executives who left the company on charges of misconduct were forced to retire with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation packages, which eventually led to a shareholder lawsuit against Alphabet.
The final straw for many employees seems to have been Google's recent firing of respected AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru, who described the company's decision to block the publication of its research paper as part of a pervasive stance within Google, marginalized voices, including women and men Women, silencing people with color (Gebru itself is black).
Google has not received organized opposition from its workforce well in the past. In 2019, the company enlisted the services of the infamous anti-union company IRI Consultants. Later that year it laid off several technicians who were prominent in-house organizers.
The National Labor Relations Board recently found that several of the layoffs in 2019 were unlawful retaliation against proprietary efforts of the workforce organization, alleging that Google had "interfered, detained and coerced" employees in protected organizational activities in the past.