The union is likely to exacerbate tensions between Google engineers working on autonomous cars, artificial intelligence and internet search and the company’s management. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, and other executives have tried to confront an increasingly activist workforce – but have made missteps.
Last month, federal officials said Google wrongly fired two employees who protested its work with immigration services in 2019. Timnit Gebru, a black woman who is a respected artificial intelligence researcher, said last month Google fired her after criticizing the company’s approach to minority attitudes and the prejudices built into AI systems . Her departure sparked a storm of criticism of Google’s treatment of minority employees.
“These companies find it very difficult to have a small group of people who say, ‘We work at Google and we have a different point of view,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for Labor Studies. Work and Democracy at the University of California at Santa Barbara: “Google could well manage to decimate any company that has their say.”
The Alphabet Workers Union, which represents workers in Silicon Valley and cities like Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Seattle, provides protection and resources to workers who join. Those who choose to join will contribute 1 percent of their total compensation to the union to fund their efforts.
Last year the C.W.A. has urged white-collar workers to be unionized. (The NewsGuild, a union representing the New York Times, is part of C.W.A.) The initiative initially focused on video game company employees, who often work long hours and face layoffs.
At the end of 2019, C.W.A. The organizers began meeting with Google employees to discuss a union action. Some employees were receptive and signed cards to officially join the union last summer. In December, the Alphabet Workers Union held elections to select a seven-member executive council.