Push to unionize tech workers gets more momentum as Google Fiber subcontractors in Kansas City join their ranks

March 25, 2022, 10:20 PM UTC

Google Fiber subcontract workers in Kansas City voted today to join the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), part of the Communications Workers of America’s (CWA) broader push to organize tech workers.

The election results add a small number of Google Fiber retail workers, subcontractors of BDS Connected Solutions, to the budding union movement at Google’s parent company. That union formed a year ago after a series of disputes between Google workers and management, including the firing of Black AI ethics researcher Dr. Timnit Gebru.

“Today we are elated to see the NLRB reaffirm what we have already known — that we enjoy overwhelming support for our union,” said Eris Derickson, a retail associate at BDS Connected Solutions and Google Fiber in a statement.

The Google Fiber workers filed their petition for their election with the National Labor Relations Board on January 4, 2022 — the one year anniversary that Google workers launched the AWU. The NLRB petition names BDS Connected Solutions, not Google, as the employer. 

The Kansas City Google Fiber workers, who voted 9 to 1 in favor of unionizing, hope to advocate for equal protections and benefits across Google for subcontract workers and full-time employees. With formal recognition from the NLRB, they’re now the first AWU-CWA members with bargaining rights. Prior Alphabet union members had not gone to that length and therefore could not bring their employer to the bargaining table to negotiate labor contracts.

“Since our founding we have been committed to tackling Alphabet’s segregative, two-tiered employment system,” said Andrew Gainer-Dewar, a software engineer and member of AWU-CWA based in Cambridge, Mass., in a statement. “We are proud to stand with our fellow Alphabet workers as they head to the negotiating table to secure the pay, benefits and rights they have earned.”

The rights of temporary workers were central to AWU’s mission from the start, which opted not to pursue NLRB recognition in order to include all Alphabet employees, regardless of classification as contractors or full-time employees. Other issues include wages and compensation and the effort to hold the company accountable to being a positive force in society. 

“We have many contracts with both unionized and non-union suppliers, and respect their employees’ right to choose whether or not to join a union,” said a Google representative in a statement. “The decision of these contractors to join the Communications Workers of America is a matter between the workers and their employer, BDS Solutions Group.”

Today’s election result is part of a greater wave of labor organizing activity playing out in workplaces across the country that are not traditionally unionized, including in retail and food service sectors at companies like REI and Starbucks and at tech behemoths like Amazon. Earlier this month, tech workers at the New York Times voted to join NewsGuild alongside their editorial colleagues.

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