Google Search and Bard Contractors Secure Union Victory in Landmark Vote

Tech / Wednesday, 08 November 2023 00:13

"Google Contractors Working on Search and Bard Secure Union Victory Amid Controversy and Layoffs"

A cohort of Google contractors, including those contributing to Search and the artificial intelligence chatbot Bard, has achieved success in their bid to unionize. Originating from Google contractor Accenture, the group initiated unionization efforts in June, citing concerns about the adequacy of their preparation for tasks related to training generative AI responses in Search and Bard, including the handling of "obscene and graphic" content.

Allegedly, after filing for unionization, more than half of the team, comprising 120 writers, graphic designers, coordinators, and others, faced layoffs, prompting accusations of retaliation by the Alphabet Workers Union. This union, which formed a partnership with the Communications Workers of America in 2021, sought recognition of Alphabet as a "joint employer" with Accenture, holding the tech giant responsible for workers' treatment.

As part of the recent ruling, the Regional Director of Region 20 – San Francisco affirmed that both Alphabet and Accenture are joint employers, necessitating negotiations on employment terms and conditions. The National Labor Relations Board confirmed that workers in the group voted 26-2 in favor of union representation on Monday night.

In response, Google contested the NLRB's decision, asserting that the classification as a joint employer is erroneous and filed an appeal. Google spokesperson Courtenay Mencini emphasized the company's lack of objection to Accenture workers forming a union, clarifying that the dispute lies in the assertion of joint employer status. Meanwhile, members of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA expressed satisfaction with the victory and eagerly anticipate negotiations with Google at the bargaining table.

"Jen Hill, a designer on Google’s support staff and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, celebrated the recent victory, emphasizing the collective strength of workers. Hill stated, 'Today’s victory proves what’s possible: when workers stand together, even Google cannot stand in our way. We organized so that we could have a say in our working conditions. In response, Google has tried to skirt its responsibility to us as our employer, while also laying off dozens of our team members. It is unjust that our jobs are being shipped off to workers who will be paid even less than us, and will have access to even fewer labor protections.'

This decision is the second instance where Google has been classified as a joint employer with its contractor for a specific group of employees. In April, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that members of the YouTube Content Operations Team were jointly employed by both Google and Cognizant Technology Solutions. Alphabet, Google's parent company, appealed the NLRB's decision in that case as well, highlighting the ongoing legal battles and tensions surrounding workers' rights and employment conditions within the tech giant."

"In the wake of the recent victory in unionizing efforts, Jen Hill, a designer and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, underlined the triumph of collective worker solidarity against Google. Highlighting the motivation to have a say in their working conditions, Hill criticized Google for attempting to evade its responsibilities as an employer and for laying off numerous team members. She expressed concern about the outsourcing of jobs to workers who may receive lower pay and fewer labor protections.

This marks the second time that Google has been designated as a joint employer with its contractor for a specific employee subset, following a similar ruling in April concerning the YouTube Content Operations Team. Alphabet, not unfamiliar with such challenges, has appealed the National Labor Relations Board's decision in both cases, underscoring the persisting legal disputes and tensions surrounding workers' rights and employment conditions within the tech giant."