Google responds after staff form a union and voice concerns about company

Andrew Griffin
Monday 04 January 2021 13:51
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Google has responded after its staff announced the formation of a new union and voiced concerns about the direction of the company.

Organisers said that the new union would be open to all employees and contractors of Google parent company Alphabet, regardless of what they do.

In an announcement published in the New York Times, representatives of the new union said that it had come about after a range of controversies around Google’s activities, including growing workplace concerns about issues such as discrimination and harassment, and the use of its artificial intelligence technologies in military contracts.

Those behind the effort had been organising in secret for almost a year, the paper reported.

Google said in a statement following the announcement on Monday morning that it would “continue engaging directly” with staff.

“We've always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce,” said Kara Silverstein, Google’s director of people operations.

"Of course our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

Unlike a more traditional union, the Alphabet Workers Union does not demand the company produce a new contract, but instead will aim to represent workers and organise activists within the company.

“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues," organisers said in an announcement posted on the union’s website. "All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members.”

Because it represents Alphabet workers as a whole, workers at other companies under that umbrella – such as Fitbit and driving car company Waymo – will be invited to join, too.

Representatives said that the union was formed following a number of concerns about the way the company was acting, pointing to examples such as the controversial Project Maven project that was undertaken for the Pentagon and was abandoned in the wake of public criticism from staff.

“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Nicki Anselmo, Program Manager. “From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively.

"Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade.”

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