Empowering the Freelance Economy

Google and Alphabet workers form union – what will it mean for its 60,000 temps, vendors and contractors?

Alphabet Workers Union will be the first open to all employees of Alphabet, regardless of their role or classification
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Google and other Alphabet company workers have created a union. What makes it different is that it will be open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company. The union will have dues-paying members, an elected board of directors, and paid organizing staff.

“This is historic—the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” said Dylan Baker, Software Engineer.

“We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values,” said Baker.

The logo of the new union will represent union members across all employee classifications and at all Alphabet companies

Half of Google’s 120,000 workers at Alphabet companies are hired as TVCs—temps, vendors, or contractors—without benefits afforded to full-time employees.

The Alphabet Workers Union, announced this week, will have the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The new union is part of CWA’s CODE-CWA (Coalition to Organize Digital Employees) project, and the workers will be members of CWA Local 1400.

It follows union drives by other Google workers— such as HCL contract workers in Pittsburgh and unions formed by workers at other tech companies including Kickstarter and Glitch.

Biden loves unions – but is that good for freelancers?

With 59 million Americans freelancing, the future of freelance work is a key concern for these workers. But not all contractors and freelancers want to unionise as was the case with California’s Prop 22 vote, as previously reported by The Freelance Informer.

Democrat President-Elect Joe Biden has expressed support for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act on his campaign website, which could be bad news for the majority of US freelance workers that may not want to be forced into joining unions, paying dues, etc.

It is expected that Biden will revisit the legislation, despite the Prop 22 vote. However, the lumping of all contractors into one pool does not sit well will those not working in the app-based gig economy.

Project Maven

Organizing is nothing new at Google. Project Maven, an artificial intelligence defence project with the US Pentagon, was cancelled by Google in 2018 when thousands of Googlers pledged they would not work on what they saw as “unethical tech”. Forced arbitration was ended when ‘Googlers’ walked out across the globe on the 1st of November 2018.

“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Nicki Anselmo, Program Manager.

According to a press statement, the union structure will ensure that “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. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members.”

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