Google employees outline plans to unionize

Google employees outline plans to unionize
Source: Dado Ruvic, Reuters
The “Alphabet Workers Union” is the culmination of years of growing union activism both inside Google and in Silicon Valley where unions among tech workers are still a rarity.

Workers at one of the United States’ biggest multinational tech giants, Google (Alphabet Inc), have announced plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The “Alphabet Workers Union” is the culmination of years of growing union activism both inside Google and in Silicon Valley where unions among tech workers are still a rarity.

Some 230 Google employees have formed a “members-only” union that, as a consequence of representing a minority of Google workers, lacks the collective bargaining common to other, larger unions.

Despite representing only a small percentage of Google’s 260,000-strong workforce, the union’s formation nonetheless represents an important moment in worker activism in Silicon Valley, arriving as it does at a time of growing scrutiny of big tech and other tech companies’ record on worker rights and their impact on society more broadly.


The formation of a union within Google has been a longtime coming.

According to Nicki Anselmo, a Google program manager involved in the union, “this union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers” who have “seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively.”

Controversy over Google projects have, in large part, helped to spur union activism and criticism of Alphabet.

Before allowing its contract to lapse in 2018, Google worked intimately on “Project Maven,” a project with the US Department of Defense to develop artificial intelligence to interpret video images, with the possible deployment of this technology to improve the targeting of US unmanned drone strikes.

Google has also been criticized by workers in the past for its policies on sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

In 2018, some 20,000 Google workers staged a walkout, demanding Google change its policies concerning how those involved in workplace harassment disputes are treated, ending a longtime company policy requiring that disputes be settled in private arbitration.

For its part, Alphabet has not stood idly by while union activism has grown within the company. In late 2019, the Mountain View, California-based tech giant hired IRI Consultants, a consulting firm well-known for its anti-union activism expertise.

That same year, two Google workers were unlawfully fired after their union activism was “spied” on by the company, according to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board in December.

Google is not alone in facing growing scrutiny of its stance on worker’s rights and its crackdown on worker activism. Fellow tech giant, Inc. has received widespread scrutiny for its efforts to track and neutralize union activism within its large workforce.

Amazon has long been criticized for, among other things, advertising job positions whose responsibilities include analyzing labor threats to the company, training videos that seek to delegitimize union movements and for allegedly firing and smearing workers as a result of their public activism.

The union

The Alphabet Workers Union represents a rising tide of union and worker activism within the tech industry.

Employees at the company have organized in secret for almost a year, but have now gone public with the support of the Communications Workers of America labor union.

As a “members-only” and minority union, the group will lack the collective bargaining that is typical of larger, traditional unions. But the Alphabet Workers Union has greater flexibility in representing contractors and temporary workers alongside full-time employees of the company who would otherwise be excluded by labor laws from traditional collective bargaining.

Temporary workers outnumber full-time employees at Google and have long complained of irregular treatment and lack of benefits compared to their salaried counterparts.

Speaking to The Guardian, union member Alex Gorowara pinpointed the disillusionment that some workers feel with the company.

“We have seen Google lose its ethics over time – and at the same time, it has become more hostile to people trying to conduct themselves ethically,” Gorowara stated.

According to union organizer and Google engineer Alan Morales, the union aims above all else to “ensure that tech companies use their technology to make the world a better place.”

Despite its small size, the formation of the union nonetheless represents an intriguing moment for Silicon Valley.

In an interview with TMS, attorney Andrew Jezic, founding partner of the Jezic & Moyse law firm, reported that Google workers will now, at the very least, “have an avenue to be heard when they have grievances with the company and legal protections that guarantee their freedom to speak.”

Furthermore, should membership continue to rise, the Alphabet Workers Union “could grow to a point where the company would have to address grievances and be forced into making concessions,” more akin to a traditional “collective bargaining” union that represents all members of a particular workforce.

Lacking a solid comparison in Google’s big tech counterparts, the Alphabet Workers Union represents a bold first step toward unionization in Silicon Valley.

It is likely that the success of this singular effort will serve as a bellwether for the future of workers’ rights activism in the American tech industry.

Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at