Google employees hold signs during a walkout to protest how the tech giant handled sexual misconduct in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.
Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images
More than 200 Google employees have come together to form the Alphabet Workers Union amid increasing disagreements with company executives.
News of the union was announced Monday in a New York Times op-ed by two employees, Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, who serve on the board of the Alphabet Workers Union as executive chair and vice chair, respectively.
Koul and Shaw said they have signed cards with the union Communications Workers of America, which represents workers from companies including AT&T and Verizon. They said 226 employees have joined the union. The union will be open to all Alphabet workers, they said, including temps, vendors and contractors. Alphabet has several subsidiaries including Google, YouTube and the self-driving car company Waymo. Alphabet has more than 130,000 employees worldwide.
“For far too long, thousands of us at Google — and other subsidiaries of Alphabet, Google’s parent company — have had our workplace concerns dismissed by executives,” the two said in the op-ed. “Our bosses have collaborated with repressive governments around the world. They have developed artificial intelligence technology for use by the Department of Defense and profited from ads by a hate group. They have failed to make the changes necessary to meaningfully address our retention issues with people of color.”
Tensions have risen between employees and executives in recent years. In 2018, Google employees wrote a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai asking him to end a partnership between Google and the Pentagon. Later that year, employees around the world staged a walk-out to protest the company’s handling of executives accused of sexual misconduct, including a $90 million exit package for former Android lead Andy Rubin. Protests were also held in in 2019 to support two employees who were being investigated for retaliation claims. Most recently, employees created a petition to support departed AI researcher Timnnit Gebru, who said she was fired over a research paper dispute.
In a statement to CNBC, Kara Silverstein, Alphabet’s director of people operations, said the company supports workers’ labor rights, but she didn’t directly address any of the group’s complaints.
“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,” Silverstein said in the statement.
In the op-ed, Koul and Shaw alleged that Alphabet punishes internal critics on topics important to the public, like the antitrust lawsuits against the company. They also said Google executives consolidate their power at the cost of minority groups like Black, trans, queer and disabled workers.
“Our union will work to ensure that workers know what they’re working on, and can do their work at a fair wage, without fear of abuse, retaliation or discrimination,” Shaw and Koul wrote.