- Google employees are praising the announcement Monday that more than 200 Google workers have formed a union.
- The Alphabet Workers Union will be open to all 120,000 Alphabet employees in the US and Canada, and is intended to promote inclusivity and ethics at Google.
- Employees have taken to Twitter to explain their motivations for joining the organising effort, with one software engineer describing AWU as “a long time coming.”
- Raksha Muthukumar, a software engineer at Google, tweeted that the union came together because “it’s time for tech workers to stand together & say we won’t prop up a world made for the wealthy, the privileged, the white, the male, the heteronormative.”
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Google employees are applauding the announcement Monday that more than 200 workers from the Silicon Valley tech giant have formed a union.
The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), named for Google’s parent company, is the first of its kind at Google and is a rare organising effort for employees at a major tech company. The union, which currently has 226 members, will be open to all 120,000 Alphabet employees in the US and Canada, and is intended to promote inclusivity and ethics at Google rather than organising around a list of demands.
AWU says it has been in the works for more than a year and was formed as a result of issues dating back as far as 2011, when Google instituted a “real names only” policy on its now-defunct social network, Google Plus.
In the years since, Google employees have publicly criticised the company over issues like Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine Google was designing for the Chinese market; and Project Maven, which worked with the Department of Defence to provide artificial intelligence tools. And beginning in 2018, multiple sexual harassment allegations rocked the company, leading to a global walkout of more than 20,000 employees.
The organisers also noted turmoil surrounding the firing of artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru, an incident that left Googlers “seriously pissed,” one employee told Business Insider’s Hugh Langley.
In the wake of AWU’s announcement, Google employees across the country are cheering the organising effort, which software engineer Christopher Schmidt described as “a long time coming.”
I am proud to announce that I am a member of the newly formed Alphabet Workers Union, a wall-to-wall union across Alphabet and its subsidiaries, including FTEs + sub-contracted employees.
This is a long time coming, and I'm happy to finally be here! https://t.co/emhvRQkHeE
— Christopher Schmidt (@crschmidt) January 4, 2021
Google software engineer Andrew Gainer-Dewar tweeted that “tech workers need unions.”
— Andrew Gainer-Dewar (he/him) (@agdphd) January 4, 2021
Raksha Muthukumar, a software engineer at Google, tweeted that the union came together because “it’s time for tech workers to stand together & say we won’t prop up a world made for the wealthy, the privileged, the white, the male, the heteronormative.”
Software engineer Eric Lewis posted a selfie with the union logo, a hand holding a lollipop, writing that a union will make it safe for employees to have a say in their work.
— Eric Lewis (@ericandrewlewis) January 4, 2021
Alex Hanna, a research scientist at Google, tweeted that workers can’t rely on “the good graces of tech leaders” to do right by them or society.
I'm a Google employee and, now, a proud card-carrying member of the Alphabet Workers Union.
Tech workers need a union because we can't rely on the good graces of tech leaders to do right by us and society. https://t.co/u9Q4CDRqDP
— Dr. Alex Hanna (@alexhanna) January 4, 2021
Auni Ahsan, who serves on the union’s executive council, wrote that participating in the Google walkout in 2018 opened their eyes to the power of organising.
More and more workers understand the fundamental problems of Google every year, but we can’t wait for the perfect thesis everyone can unite behind. We have power because we are necessary for production, and we’re gonna show this by live demonstration! (11/n)
— Auni A (@trombauni) January 4, 2021
The new union was also praised by former Googler Meredith Whittaker. Whittaker was one of the organisers of the walkout and was outspoken about the company’s short-lived AI ethics board. Whittaker said she experienced retaliation from the company that prompted her departure in 2019.
In a tweet on Monday, Whittaker described the union as “an incredible next step in building worker power.” Nicki Anselmo, a program manager for Google Students, praised Whittaker and said the union’s organisers are “standing on the shoulders of giants.”