Alphabet Workers Union-CWA Call Out Culture of Retaliation Against Workers at Google Data Centers with Filing of Two Unfair Labor Practice Charges
On Wednesday, October 5, 2022, Alphabet Workers Union-Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA) formally filed two Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Both charges reveal a culture of harassment facing temporary, vendor, and contract (TVC) workers 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. These workers have been denied access to their livelihood in retaliation for organizing. In the second charge, a Modis Data Technician faced harassment and intimidation following an attempt to collectively organize. In both filings, Google and the relevant contractor companies are charged. 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 participating in protected, concerted activity of discussing workplace conditions.
When Allied Universal replaced the former security contractor for Google Data Centers, workers were informed that they were no longer entitled to the minimum standard of benefits Google guarantees for all extended workers. Workers organized petitions to both Allied Universal and Google and collectively won back the benefits they are owed on September 9, 2022. Since then, workers—particularly women—have faced retaliation for demanding their fair share. Both Allied Universal and Google have been charged as joint employers.
“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.
In the second case, several Modis contract workers faced intimidation after attempting to collectively organize. In one example, a worker suggested a walk out in a private worker chat to protest a concerning new time clock policy that was proposed by management. Workers currently use an online software to clock in, and a physical time clock would provide needless disruption to the workday. A manager later pulled the worker aside and claimed that “Google and Modis management” were unhappy—an attempt to intimidate the worker for suggesting collective action.
At the same worksite, two other workers were effectively fired when their contract was not renewed, for their affiliation with AWU-CWA, in violation of Google’s commitments following the NLRB settlement in the case of Shannon Wait. The fired workers were the first to be dismissed for affiliation with their union. Both Modis and Google have been charged as joint employers.
“I just want for 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.
Both these Unfair Labor Practice charges exemplify the trend of TVC exploitation at Google Data Centers across the country. In November 2021, Modis data center workers were denied pandemic attendance bonuses and had to organize to win back their promised hazard pay. Shannon Wait was illegally suspended for speaking out against working conditions as a worker at a Google Data Center. Phares Lee, a trans security officer at a Google Data Center, was denied a badge with his proper name. Alphabet TVC workers across Google Data Centers have had to constantly organize for basic workplace rights and often face retaliation.
“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
Alphabet Workers Union-CWA will continue to organize workers and support them as they fight against exploitation and retaliation.
The Alphabet Workers Union-Communications Workers of America unites full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors at Google and other Alphabet companies in the United States and Canada in collective action to ensure that our workplace is equitable and that Alphabet acts ethically. We are members of Communications Workers of America Local 1400 and currently represent over 1,100 workers across Alphabet. Learn more at alphabetworkersunion.org or follow us at @AlphabetWorkers.