Years of activism finally manages to get a structure and platform as for the first time in the history of Google, a formal union has been formed by its white-collar employees on 4th January 2021. Startling, isn’t it? Folks, meet Alphabet Workers Union!
Crux of the Matter
The Formal Announcement
- On 4th January 2021, about 230 Google workers came forward and announced Googles’ first-ever Alphabet Workers Union.
- Affiliated by Communications Workers of America and is open to company’s employees & contractors working in the USA & Canada.
Events Leading to Union Formation
(A) Project Maven:
- The most controversial project with USA’s defence ministry that involved analyzing drone footage by AI.
- It can further be involved in carrying out assassination operations overseas.
(B) Andy Rubin’s Payment:
- Google paid its former executive $90 million as an exit package after he was accused of sexually harassing a woman co-worker.
(C) Project Dragon Fly:
- A huge hit on ethicality, DragonFly involved designing a ‘censored search engine‘ for China.
- Information on individuals searching for concepts like democracy, human rights, or protests would be shared directly with the Chinese authorities.
(D) Firing of Timnit Gebru:
- On of the raging reasons of the union formation, Google abruptly fired their leading AI ethicist Timnit Gebru.
- Gebru had been working on a research paper but ran into resistance from her superiors.
- Thereafter she expressed her frustration in that email which Google found “inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager.”
Read about Timnit Gebru in detail here:
Purpose Of The Union
- Would provide a platform to workers (both contractual and permanent) to raise their concerns on discriminatory work practices.
- To unite the interests of all the workers from janitors to project managers.
- To give a sustainable structure for ensuring that the shared values as employees of Alphabet are respected.
What is So Unique About The Union?
- It is one of the first attempts of unionizing activism efforts by white-collar workers in a tech giant as Google.
- It allows contract workers to join the Union.
- It aims for employee activism rather than negotiating a contract.
- Forming a union at Silicon Valley that is staunchly hostile towards the same is definitely worth noting.
We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. 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.Kara Silverstein, Director of People Operations
Although too soon to commit upon the union’s success, it definitely is a breakthrough event of such unionization amongst Google’s white collar employees.
- Andrew E. Rubin is the co-founder and former CEO of both Danger Inc. and Android Inc. He was nicknamed “Android” by his co-workers at Apple in 1989 due to his love for robots, with the nickname eventually becoming the official name of the Android operating system.
- Essential Products was an American technology company and manufacturer founded on November 9, 2015, by Andy Rubin. The company developed, manufactured, and sold Essential Phone and accessories for it but closed its doors on February 12, 2020, stating that it was developing a new handset, but that there was “no clear path to deliver it to customers“.
- The HTC Dream is a smartphone developed by HTC. First released in September 2008, the Dream was the first commercially released device to use the Linux-based Android operating system, which was purchased and further developed by Google.