Google Fiber Workers vote for union

Color String Needle Google Alphabet Workers Union Election Business 1319717843


Retail employees at a few Google Fiber stores in Kansas City, Missouri voted to unionize Friday, making them the first group represented by the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) to gain collective bargaining rights and National Labor Relations recognition Board (NLRB).

After a campaign that subjected workers to anti-union rallies and messages despite a call for neutrality, workers voted 9 to 1 for representation by the AWE. Several of them huddled around a computer to watch the votes count on Zoom. When the decisive vote was counted, they grinned and threw their arms in the air.

Although the unit is small, AHU hopes this is the start of something big. “I definitely think this will be the first of many,” said AKU President Parul Koul. The employees are employed by BDS Connected Solutions, an employment agency that Google contracts to provide customer service for its broadband offering. The union filed a petition to designate Google as a joint employer, which would require it to negotiate with the employees, but the company resisted. Rather than engage in a lengthy battle that would delay the election, the AHU and workers decided to forfeit Google’s incorporation, meaning the workers will negotiate only with BDS.

Last summer, when the workers asked BDS management about compensation for additional work they had done, they were told the budget was not available. When the new Google contract came out in October, they got a four percent increase. “That wasn’t even an increase in the cost of living for 2021 to 2022,” said Eris Derickson, an employee at the Westport Road store and a member of the organizing committee. In addition, they had waived pay raises and bonuses in 2020, despite the company appearing to be doing well. “Everyone was understandably quite upset about that. So the decision to form a union came from that.”

“As time went on, it became increasingly clear that if we wanted to protect the things we loved about our jobs, we had to form a union,” Derickson says. She was inspired by the wave of labor activity that arose during the pandemic, including the high-profile union campaigns in Starbucks stores. “We felt like we could be next in the chain,” she says.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson wrote: “We have many contracts with both union members and non-union suppliers and respect the right of their employees to choose whether or not to join a union. The decision of these contractors to Joining the Communications Workers of America is a matter between the workers and their employer, BDS Solutions Group.” BDS did not respond to requests for comment.

Derickson learned about the AGU shortly after the group went public in January 2021. Later that year, she saw a union petition circulating, calling on Google to fairly compensate its temps, suppliers, and contractors (TVCs). TVCs comprise more than half of Google’s workforce and typically have lower wages, inferior benefits, and less job security than full-time employees. The practice has been rife in the tech industry since Microsoft popularized it in the 1990s, says Laura Padin, an employment attorney for the National Employment Law Project who co-authored a 2021 report titled “Temps in Tech.” It allows companies to avoid paying stock options, retirement contributions and health insurance and avoid employer responsibility. After Microsoft settled a lawsuit over the practice in 2000, companies, ironically, turned their approach to an even more precarious one, often requiring temps to take six months off before returning to a similar position.

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