Labor News

January 11, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

Hundreds of Google Employees Unionize with Communications Workers of America

On January 4, following over two years of sustained activism and organizing, hundreds of Google employees went public with the announcement that they had formed a union. The new organization, the Alphabet Workers Union (Alphabet is Google’s parent company), is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has pushed to organize workers in the tech industry over the last year.

While the initial members of the Alphabet Workers Union only make up a fraction of the 260,000-plus people who work at Google as employees and contractors, the new union is focusing on building membership over the long term and operating as the home for activism and organizing within the company to force positive changes. The efforts to organize at Google began in earnest in 2018, when 20,000 employees held a one-day walkout to protest the company’s payment of million-dollar settlements to former executives accused of sexual harassment. Since then, workers have come together to fight against the company’s contracts to develop surveillance technology for the Pentagon and a censored search engine in China.

The new union is open to all workers at the company regardless of their classification as employees or contractors. While white-collar employees at Alphabet tend to have among the highest wages in the industry, many temp workers – including janitors, bus drivers, and food servers – are often paid low salaries and receive fewer benefits than their full-time colleagues. The demand for equitable and fair wages and benefits for these workers – about 50 percent of the company’s workforce – is a core principle of the new union.

“Everyone at Alphabet — from bus drivers to programmers, from salespeople to janitors — plays a critical part in developing our technology. But right now, a few wealthy executives define what the company produces and how its workers are treated. This isn’t the company we want to work for,” wrote Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, the Executive Chair and Vice Chair of the Alphabet Workers Union, in a New York Times op-ed.

“We care deeply about what we build and what it’s used for. We are responsible for the technology we bring into the world. And we recognize that its implications reach far beyond the walls of Alphabet,” Koul and Shaw continued. “Our union will work to ensure that workers know what they’re working on, and can do their work at a fair wage, without fear of abuse, retaliation or discrimination.”

Filipino Workers Inspire Solidarity in Global Day of Action

On November 30, workers and organizations from around the world joined a Global Day of Action in solidarity with workers in the Philippines, who are currently engaged in the struggle against the brutal anti-worker and anti-union policies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The dictatorial Duterte government is attacking the poor in the Philippines, where over 27,000 people have been killed under the regime. It has ruthlessly targeted government dissidents, unionists, teachers, farm workers and journalists, falsely justifying their actions as a “War on Drugs.” Additionally, the government recently enacted a new “Anti- Terror” law that allows suspects to be detained without a warrant and under surveillance for up to 60 days. The government has used this law to “red tag” unionists as terrorists and violate the labor and human rights of its people.

In solidarity with the struggle of Filipino workers, the Council of Global Unions called a Global Day of Action on November 30. The Global Unions encouraged workers and organizations to gather in solidarity and write letters to the Philippine ambassadors of their countries to demand the end to these brutal and deadly policies. UNI Global Union, which the APWU is affiliated with, joined the Day of Action.

As part of the Day of Action, President Dimondstein, wrote a letter to Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel G. Romaldez: “We express our solidarity on this global day of solidarity with the Filipino workers’ demand to uphold their rights to secure jobs, health and safety, union rights and for government accountability.”

Amazon Workers at Alabama Facility File for Union Election

In November, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), asking for a union election at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, AL. Though Amazon argued to push back the date of the election during hearings, the NLRB allowed the election to move forward. As this issue goes to press, the election is expected to happen in early 2021. The union drive – organized under the name BAmazon Union – is significant on multiple levels. The election – held among approximately 5,600 workers at the Bessemer warehouse – will be the first at the notoriously anti-union company since 2014. It is also a test of union power in Alabama, a “right to work for less” state where only 8.5 percent of workers are union members.

The election also comes at a time when Amazon is recording record growth and profits through massive mistreatment of its workers. The company phased out its COVID-19 hazard pay in May, while hiring over 2,800 people a day since July. While the company made $6.3 billion in profits the third quarter of 2020 alone – giving CEO Jeff Bezos a personal fortune of over $200 billion – the company’s lack of safety precautions for its warehouse workers has led to at least 20,000 Amazon workers contracting the virus. The union drive in Alabama follows multiple worker-led actions since the start of the pandemic, including at facilities in Staten Island and Minnesota.

Following the RWDSU’s filing, Amazon immediately began hostile union-busting tactics ahead of the Amazon Workers at Alabama Facility File for Union Election election. The company hired Harry Johnson, a former member of the NLRB and lawyer at the anti-union law firm Morgan Lewis, to fight the election. The company also successfully pushed to have seasonal workers included in the total employee pool, increasing the number of workers needed to vote yes to win the election.

“When we stand together, we can fight back against global corporations and anti-worker managers. We do it because we continue to believe that people are more important that corporate profits, and that all working people can build better lives when they have the power of a union behind them,” said RWDSU Mid-South Council President Randy Hadley in a letter to the Bessemer warehouse workers. “Organizing for collective power in the south to uplift workers’ voices during this challenging time is a priority for the RWDSU, and we welcome Amazon workers to find their voices and become part of the RWDSU.” Updates on the election will be provided on

Public Radio Workers Unionize in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

In the fall of 2020, workers at Minnesota Public Radio and Washington, D.C.’s local public radio organization WAMU voted to unionize with SAG-AFTRA. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) workers won a union election after more than 80 percent of workers signed cards, and WAMU workers unanimously voted to join the union in December. MPR’s union includes all content-creation staff at the organization’s multiple stations and news publication The Current. WAMU’s union also represents all hosts, reporters, producers, editors and engineers who create content for the news, programming and digital units, according to SAG-AFTRA.

Both union drives came as workers dealt with unfair treatment from management and mishandling of sexual harassment claims. One Current reporter, Marianne Combs, broke a story that the classical station’s only Black host resigned after management attempted to force him to adhere to strict playlists. She then resigned days later as Current management refused to publish another of her stories reporting on claims of sexual harassment at MPR. At WAMU, women of color left the organization in 2020 and workers demanded the general manager’s resignation following reports of the mishandling of dozens of sexual harassment accusations against a reporter, according to the Washingtonian.

Now, workers at both organizations will have the ability to negotiate and demand accountability at the bargaining table.

“WAMU’s content creators, as a collective bargaining unit represented by SAG-AFTRA, are thrilled to advance our shared beliefs in transparency, accountability, fairness and most importantly, the truth,” said WAMU Morning Edition host Esther Ciammachilli.

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