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Google’s workers unionize, launching the Alphabet Workers Union

The union hopes to give structure to the increasing activism among employees against Google’s more questionable actions.

Google’s workers unionize, launching the Alphabet Workers Union
[Photo: denvit/Pixabay; OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay]
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The first new thing out from Google in 2021 is something you wouldn’t expect—a union. However, Google the company isn’t responsible for it. Rather, Google’s new union was launched by hundreds of its workers who planned its birth for over a year, reports The New York Times.

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Called the Alphabet Workers Union (after the name of Google’s parent company, Alphabet), the new union was formed by 225 engineers and other workers at the company who had become disillusioned with some of Google’s questionable actions in recent years, including everything from working on the U.S. government’s controversial Project Maven program to the firing of respected AI ethicist Timnit Gebru last month.

But unlike traditional unions, the Alphabet Workers Union is structured as a “minority union” that will not include all of Google’s 260,000-strong workforce. While any Google employee or contractor is invited to join, those that do most likely won’t find the union at the bargaining table to agree to their contract terms. Instead, the union’s focus will be on activism within the company—pressuring Google leadership to implement workplace changes. Such changes could be anything from the third-party institutions, such as governments, Google agrees to work with to the compensation packages executives charged with misconduct are entitled to get.

As Chewy Shaw, a Google engineer and the vice chair of the union’s leadership council, told the Times, “Our goals go beyond the workplace questions of, ‘Are people getting paid enough?’ Our issues are going much broader. It is a time where a union is an answer to these problems.”

Reached for comment, Kara Silverstein, Google’s director of people operations, sent the following statement:

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“We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our work force. 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.”

About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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