Group of Google workers seeks union recognition vote in Kansas City
Google employees fill Harry Bridges Plaza during a walkout in San Francisco on Nov. 1, 2018. Workers were protesting the company's handling of sexual misconduct cases. They ended up sparking a company-wide activism and organizing drive. | Eric Risberg / AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (PAI)—When the nation thinks “Google,” and its renamed parent firm, Alphabet, the location that comes to mind is Silicon Valley, not the U.S. heartland.

But not for Communications Workers Local 1400, the 800-person-and-counting nationwide Alphabet Workers Union. Its first formal union recognition vote filing with the National Labor Relations Board occurred Jan. 20, covering workers in Kansas City, Mo.

There, 10 of the 11 workers at BDS Connected Solutions, a Google Fiber customer service subcontractor, submitted signed election cards to the NLRB regional office in St. Louis.

The key reason for organizing: Google isn’t living up to its own standards, both in treatment of its workers and in scrubbing out hate speech and incitement on its platforms.

That latter issue landed Google, even more than other social media platforms, in hot water on Capitol Hill. It also riles Local 1400. The union took its stand against hosting such hatred to Congress, last March.

For the Kansas City workers, working conditions top their concerns. That’s a key for Local 1400, the first union aiming to organize all Google workers: Full-timers, part-timers, temps, techies, and non-techies.

“Google Fiber actually began in Kansas City,” retail associate Eris Derickson explained on Local 1400’s website. “Some of us have been working here for years and want to make sure all of our coworkers have the power to keep the things we like about our job, but also continue to make our workplace better.

“We organized with AWU-CWA so we all get a seat at the table, a say in our working conditions, and collective bargaining power.”

“We are ecstatic to help Alphabet workers grow their worker power and finally have bargaining rights, ensuring their voices are not only represented within the tech industry but heard,” responded Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi.

“By ensuring both full-time Alphabet workers and contractors have a protected voice on the job, the Kansas City chapter of AWU-CWA is paving the way for industry-wide standards” to “better shared working conditions at Alphabet, Silicon Valley, and beyond,” the local said.

Though the Kansas City workers are the first to formally file for union recognition with the NLRB, they aren’t the first fight Local 1400 has waged. And that’s where the wider issues come into play.

Alphabet workers’ organizing efforts, in what CWA calls its CODE campaign, grew out of a notorious case almost four years ago, where top company honchos in Silicon Valley, exposed as sexual harassers on the job, walked away with $90 million in  “golden parachutes.”

Workers who complained were disciplined, and that in turn led to mass walkouts of 20,000 Google workers worldwide, in late 2018.

Google’s role in wider issues resurfaced for the workers when haters and hate groups used Google platforms to spread racism, xenophobia, sexism, and discrimination and to organize militarily.

Among the haters: The insurrectionist Trumpites who trashed and plundered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. They used Google platforms to construct and coordinate their coup attempt. The Alphabet Workers Union denounced that strongly.

“Workers across Alphabet,” Google’s renamed parent firm, “previously organized against the company’s continued refusal to take meaningful action to stop the proliferation of hate, harassment, incitement of violence, or harmful misinformation from YouTube and other Alphabet-operated platforms, without good-faith engagement from leadership,” Local 1400 told the House Commerce Committee in that prepared statement 10 months ago.

“Alphabet is responsible for directly contributing to harmful misinformation campaigns that fuel fascist, white nationalist and hateful movements that perpetrate violence in the United States and around the world. While much attention has been paid to YouTube and other online platforms’ role in radicalizing white supremacists…these technologies contribute to dangerous disinformation movements including QAnon, ‘Patriot’ militias, and anti-vaccine advocacy.”

That specifically included the Donald Trump-incited invasion and insurrection, the union said. Such dangerous disinformation continues from “an entire ecosystem of influencers and publishers who have profited from attacking the foundations of democracy on YouTube and Google Ads infrastructure,” Local 1400 added.

Despite pious pronouncements, and suspending Trump’s accounts after the invasion, Google has done little, the local told lawmakers in March. Company executives testifying before Congress wrapped themselves and their firm in the First Amendment’s free speech and free press guarantees as a defense—but without even the minimal restrictions (“You can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”) the Constitution and the courts allow.

“Alphabet has demonstrated a continued policy of reactive, selective, and insufficient enforcement of its guidelines against disinformation and hate. As a union that fights for, and welcomes the contributions of, every worker in Alphabet, we find it abhorrent that systems to which we have dedicated our work continue to profit from the hate and disinformation that harms so many of these same workers,” Local 1400 concluded.

Thanks to Judy Ancel, editor of Heartland Labor Forum on Kansas City’s KKFI-FM for tipping us off to this story.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

Comments

comments