In Response to Worker Demands—Thousands of Alphabet Contract Workers Secure Historic Pay Raise
(Kirkland, Washington)—On Wednesday, December 28, 2022 thousands of Alphabet contract workers were informed that they had won the first ever raises in the history of RaterLabs, an AI training vendor whose only known client is Google. The raises were announced by Appen, RaterLabs’ parent company. Workers, known as raters, are responsible for training, testing, and evaluating Google’s search algorithms. While Alphabet reports 81% of its total revenue from Search ads, the workers responsible for rating the quality of these ads were previously paid as little as $10 dollars an hour. This directly contradicts the standard minimum pay and benefits Google had announced for its extended workforce workers in 2019. Starting on January 1, 2023, workers will now be making $14.00 or $14.50 an hour, based on years of experience. Alphabet Workers Union-CWA (AWU-CWA) estimates that between 3,000 and 5,000 workers have been impacted, resulting in about $10 million in collective salary increases for workers.
“The work we do as raters for Google is critical to their success. Yet, since I started as a rater eight years ago, I have not received a single raise. Through organizing with AWU-CWA I have found hundreds of fellow coworkers who were struggling to make ends meet, some being paid as little as $10 an hour. I am proud to see our organizing win the first ever raises for workers. While $14.50 is a step forward, it is still not the $15.00 minimum set by Google for its extended workforce, and does not include the multitude of other benefits currently denied to us. We call on Google to ensure every worker receives their promised baseline benefits, and to hold Appen accountable for upholding their end up of that responsibility,” said Michelle Curtis, Alphabet contract worker with RaterLabs and member of AWU-CWA.
In May 2022 workers began a petition to Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President at Google responsible for Google Search, Assistant, Geo, Ads, Commerce and Payments products. The petition, on behalf of AWU-CWA, demanded that Alphabet ensure that raters with RaterLabs and all other workers who are a part of Alphabet’s extended workforce were included in Alphabet’s standards, and that these standards themselves are just. Additionally, workers sent multiple emails to RaterLabs management and Appen management. Following these efforts, AWU-CWA members met with RaterLabs management on October 26, 2022. In this meeting workers raised concerns, including the poor wages and lack of access to HR for basic benefits questions. It was following these efforts that Appen held conversations with RatersLabs and Google and announced the new salary increases on December 21, 2023. The exact new hourly rates were announced via email on December 28, 2022.
“Whenever we raised questions regarding our low pay we would receive contradictory responses from Google and RaterLabs regarding who was responsible for our livelihoods. At the end of the day, the only reason workers received this long overdue pay increase is because we overcame multiple hurdles to our organizing and banded together to uplift our shared demands. This recent pay increase will significantly improve the living conditions of thousands of workers. Yet, we are not done. We demand that Google hold all of its contracting companies accountable to fulfilling the baseline pay and benefits we’ve been promised as members of Google’s extended workforce,”said Jay Buchanan, Alphabet contract worker with RaterLabs and member of AWU-CWA.
The recent victory is the second instance in which members of AWU-CWA received their fair share with support from AWU-CWA. In 2021, AWU-CWA members organized and led workers at Modis data centers to win back hundreds of thousands of dollars in hazard pay. The most recent victory is the first ever salary increase to be won by AWU-CWA workers.
“AWU-CWA is proud that our members have helped their coworkers secure their first ever salary increase with the Alphabet subcontractor, RatersLabs. AWU-CWA began as a union open to all workers, both full time employees and temporary, vendor and contract workers. Victories like this one make it clear that workers refuse to remain separated by lines of employment classification and can achieve so much more when we band together. We celebrate the powerful organizing by our RaterLabs members and call on Google to ensure that every worker within their extended workforce receives the promised pay, benefits and resources they justly deserve,” Parul Koul, software engineer and AWU-CWA Executive Chair.
Alphabet Workers Union - CWA 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 1,200 workers across Alphabet. Learn more at alphabetworkersunion.org or follow us at @AlphabetWorkers.
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