Google and Alphabet workers form the first ever union in US

Over 200 workers, largely from Google’s San Francisco Bay Area offices, have come together to form the company’s first ever due-paying union in the US

January 05, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
The 2018 Google walkout saw 20,000 employees protesting Google's handling of sexual harassment cases.

Workers at Google, and its parent company Alphabet, formed the company’s first ever union in the United States on Monday, January 4. The union, named Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), will be affiliated to the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and was established with the help of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA). At the outset the AWU has 227 members and is the first such union with a dues-paying membership in the tech giant.

Most of the union members are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, and some in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Members have pledged to share 1 percent of their compensation as dues to the organization.

In its newly-launched website, the AWU has stated that its objectives include fair and inclusive work environment, holding perpetrators of harassment, abuse, discrimination and retaliation responsible, equal benefits for all employees, and the right to refuse work that violates ones believes. Apart from full-time employees, the union also seeks to represent all kinds of workers, including vendors, temporary employees and contractors.

The membership numbers are still just a tiny fraction of the over 100,000 workers employed at Alphabet. The union is still far short of the threshold of 30 percent required by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to gain recognition as an official union with collective bargaining rights. But union leaders and the CWA do seek to gain recognition as of now, and hope that the move will be the first step forward to organizing the workers in the company.

AWU’s newly elected chair, Parul Koul, and vice-chair, Chewy Shaw, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times, that the “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.”

The move comes after years of activism by Google and Alphabet employees to hold the company responsible for its allegedly shoddy handling of sexual harassment cases and against its controversial contracts with the defense industry. The company is also currently accused of retaliation on workers who organized employees in global walkouts against workplace harassment, while the NLRB has also found the company of union-busting.

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