In a recent New York Times op-ed, two Google employees who recently formed the Alphabet Worker’s Union outlined their reasons for doing so and their issues with the tech giant.
In a recent New York Times op-ed titled “We Built Google. This Is Not the Company We Want to Work For,” Google employees Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw explain why they joined the recently formed Alphabet Workers Union and the issues they’ve faced with the company in recent years.
Breitbart News recently reported that more than 225 Google engineers and other workers have banded together to form a union, following years of growing activism at the tech giant.
The union is quite unusual in Silicon Valley which has largely resisted efforts to organize its workforce. For years Google employees have demanded policy overhauls on pay, harassment, and ethics, publishing multiple open letters to upper management over issues such as government contracts and allegations of sexual harassment at the company.
The new union is called the Alphabet Workers Union and was organized in secret for the better part of a year, electing its leadership last month. The group is linked to the Communication Workers of America, a union representing workers in telecommunications and media in the United States and Canada.
Koul and Shaw were recently elected executive chair and vice chair of the union. Koul and Shaw stated in their op-ed:
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. 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.
Most recently, Timnit Gebru, a leading artificial intelligence researcher and one of the few Black women in her field, said she was fired over her work to fight bias. Her offense? Conducting research that was critical of large-scale AI models and being critical of existing diversity and inclusion efforts. In response, thousands of our colleagues organized, demanding an explanation. Both of us have heard from colleagues — some new, some with over a decade at the company — who have decided that working at Alphabet is no longer a choice they can make in good conscience.
Workers have mobilized against these abuses before. Organized workers at the company forced executives to drop Project Maven, the company’s artificial-intelligence program with the Pentagon, and Project Dragonfly, its plan to launch a censored search engine in China. Some of Alphabet’s subcontractors won a $15 minimum hourly wage, parental leave, and health insurance after an employee outcry. And the practice of forced arbitration for claims of sexual harassment was ended after the November 2018 walkout — albeit only for full-time employees, not contractors. A few months later, Google announced that it would end forced arbitration for employees for all claims.
The two added that for those that are skeptical of unions, Alphabet has continually cracked down on employees that speak out about the companies issues including antitrust and monopoly power and union protection would allow employees to speak more openly about these issues.
Read the full op-ed at the New York Times here.