On Monday, more than 200 workers from Google and other Alphabet divisions formed unions in the U.S. and Canada offices. This was based on years of protests against working conditions and business practices, but it was far from enough to force the tech giant into the negotiating table. .

Proponents believe that the “Alphabet Workers Union” composed of informal radical employees will better protect members from dismissal or other forms of retaliation. Internal leaders and external labor experts say this will also enable the organization to collect dues to hire support personnel and attack the company more aggressively than in the past.

The union will be part of the American Communications Workers Labor Group, which also represents Verizon and AT&T employees. Alphabet members will pay a membership fee of 1% of their total compensation.

Kara Silverstein, Google’s director of personnel, said in a response on Monday that the company supports employees’ “protected labor rights” and will “continue to have direct contact with all of our employees.”

Unlike traditional unions in the United States, Alphabet Group is a so-called “minority union” that will not be able to force companies to bargain collectively on wages or other issues.

According to US labor law, Alphabet can ignore the union’s requirements until most employees support it. In addition, the union plans to represent third-party contractors, which are a category of workers, and Alphabet’s requirements can also be ignored.

The union leaders admitted that it will not be possible to gain widespread support soon. High-paying jobs, coupled with benefits such as free meals and gyms, have mostly separated unions from the technology industry.

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However, as workers and regulators struggle to cope with the power of giant Internet companies including Alphabet, labor activism is quietly penetrating the technology industry.

Chewy Shaw, vice chairman of the Alphabet union, said that in recent years, a small number of workers have successfully protested fair and ethical business practices in the workplace. These actions prompted Google to introduce a new policy on workplace investigations and abandon its drone software project with the US military.

Xiao said that the purpose of the alliance is to carry out similar campaigns, and the new funding and structure can provide greater legitimacy and resources.

Google has been under fire from the US labor regulator, which accused the company of illegally questioning several workers who were subsequently fired for protesting company policies and trying to organize a union. Google has stated that it is confident of taking legal action.

Georgetown University labor historian Joseph McCartin said that for more than a century, non-traditional contractor unions or companies, a small number of employees in universities and government agencies, have successfully demanded change.

Shaw, a reliability engineer at Google, said he studied the union activities of small groups including Chicago public school teachers and faculty and staff at Tennessee State College.

Recently, the Independent Drivers Guild, established for four years, represents 80,000 ride-hailing app contract drivers in New York City. The organization has won benefits for members in terms of tips, disciplinary actions, and rest periods.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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