More than 400 Google engineers and other workers have formed a union to protest issues such as the pay gap and controversial government contracts.

Unions are highly unusual for the tech industry. Organizers say it is the first union in the company’s history to be open to all Alphabet employees.

Google employees organized unions to demand the settlement of pay inequality and other issues

The Union, the AU (Alphabet Workers Union), named after Google’s parent company, has been organized in secret for much of a year and elected a leader last month. Google software engineers Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw will serve as executive chairman and vice chairman of the AWU, respectively.

Now that the union’s efforts have been made public, organizers are likely to launch a series of campaigns to win over Google employees. Before the announcement, about 230 Google employees and its outsourcers had chosen to join the union.

Google’s outsourcing staff have long complained of unequal treatment compared with their full-time counterparts.

Chewy Shaw says unions are a necessary tool to maintain management pressure so workers can force changes to workplace problems. “Our goal is not just to ask in the workplace, ‘Are people paid enough? Our problems are much broader. In this day and age, unions are the answer to these problems.”

The tech industry is hard to unionize, and this is a powerful experiment

In 2018, more than 20,000 employees at Google went on strike to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment. Others object to business decisions they see as unethical, such as developing artificial intelligence for the Defense Department and providing technology for Customs and Border Protection.

But none of these unions has gained much support because many tech workers feel that organized labor is focused on issues like wages, which are not the most important issues in high-paying industries, and that they are incapable of addressing their concerns about ethics and the role of technology in society.

Traditional labor unions typically recruit most of the work force and petition state or federal labor boards, such as the National Labor Relations Board, to hold elections. If they win the election, they can bargain with employers over contracts. Minority unions allow employees to organize without a formal vote before the TUC.

The structure also gives unions freedom to include Google outsourced workers, who outnumber full-time workers and will be excluded from traditional unions. Some Google employees have been considering forming a minority or Solidarity union for several years.

Labour experts said that while the Alphabet unions were unable to negotiate the contract, they could use other means to force Google to change its policy. Minority unions often use public pressure campaigns and lobby legislation or regulators to influence employers.

Veena Dubal, a law professor at Hastings College, says the Google union is a powerful experiment because it brings unions into a major technology company and circumvents the barriers that prevent them from organizing. “If it develops – and Google will do everything in its power to stop that – it could have a huge impact not just on workers, but on broader questions about the technological strength of society that we are all thinking about,” she said. .