Google’s union has filed two labor complaints against the company and several contractor companies, claiming union-affiliated data center workers are facing discrimination.
Alphabet Workers Union-Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA) has filed two Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming the search giant's temporary, vendor, and contract (TVC) workers face a “culture of harassment” across Google data centers in the United States.
In the first charge, a Google data center security officer with Allied Universal in Lenoir, North Carolina, and another security officer with Allied Universal in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, had their security clearances revoked following their involvement in a campaign to win back the basic benefits Google guarantees for all extended workers.
In the second charge, AWU said a Modis data technician faced harassment and intimidation following an attempt to collectively organize at the company’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Two additional workers, also listed in the charge, did not receive a renewal of their contracts, had their pay docked, and were ‘effectively fired’ for discussing workplace conditions.
“It is disheartening that we can organize for the benefits we are owed, win these benefits, and then face retaliation from Allied Universal because we chose to speak out and demand what we’ve earned. Workers deserve to organize and win without being punished for their success. We need greater transparency on the job and clear protections to prevent workers from retaliation at work. I am standing up for my rights, and the rights of my fellow officers to freely organize without retaliation,” said Heather Smith, Allied Universal Security Officer in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.
Despite Allied Universal telling security staff they were no longer entitled to the minimum standard of benefits Google guarantees for all extended workers, workers organized petitions and collectively won back the benefits they are owed on September 9, 2022. Since then, the AWU claims workers — particularly women — have faced retaliation.
In the second case, AWU says several Modis contract workers faced intimidation after attempting to collectively organize. After one worker privately suggested a walk-out to protest a new time clock policy being proposed by management, a manager later pulled the worker aside and claimed that “Google and Modis management” were unhappy. At the same site, two other workers were ‘effectively fired’ when their contract was not renewed due to their affiliation with AWU-CWA.
“I just for want the culture at my job to change. I know that a lot of people are very wary of working together and collectively bargaining for better treatment because a lot of us are afraid of retaliation. It doesn’t feel good to go to work and feel like I have to look over my shoulder. I want us to be able to express our grievances, whether something small like the time clock or something bigger like better salaries and know we’ll be taken seriously. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether we will lose our job whenever we speak up,” said Elissia Cave, Modis Data Technician and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.
Google/Alphabet workers formed a union in January 2021. DCD has previously covered the two-tier system Google seems to operate between its full-time staff and its contracted employees and its efforts to stifle workers’ right to unionize.
Another NLRB filing the same year saw the AWU file a complaint after a Google data center contractor was fired after nine days for being "ungoogley", again involving Modis at Moncks Corner. The case is still open.
In August of this year, the AWU filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against BDS Connected Solutions LLC, after the company told a Google Fiber worker in Kansas City, Missouri, that union members were no longer eligible for raises. The case is still open.
“It’s clear that the bureaucracy and lack of transparency across Alphabet and the countless temp, vendor, and contractor companies they work with make it impossible for workers to understand the basic benefits they are entitled to receive. Additionally, Google has refused to provide workers with clear, safe, and protected avenues to raise concerns when these TVC companies fail to do right by their workers, and their legal obligations to Google. The minimum standard of benefits that Google requires is just that — minimum. Google can and must take steps to ensure every worker, including all TVC workers, do not face retaliation on the job for exercising their right to organize,” said Parul Koul, Google Software Engineer and Executive Chair of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.