A group of Google contractors just voted to unionize

Business Insider Technology 1 month ago

A group of about 80 contracted Google employees voted to form a union Tuesday afternoon.

The workers, based in Google's office in Pittsburgh, voted 49-24 in favor of joining the United Steelworkers Union, CBS Pittsburgh reported. They will organize using the name Pittsburgh Association of Tech Professionals.

The group of analysts are not direct Google employees, but rather contractors who work for HCL America, an Indian outsourcing firm. However, they work primarily on Google projects and their workplace is Google's Pittsburgh office. Google has a "shadow" workforce of 135,000 contracted employees in addition to its 115,000 direct employees, according to The Guardian.

HCL acknowledged the unionization vote and said in a statement that it would respect the workers' decision to join United Steelworkers. In a statement to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson characterized the union negotiations as an issue between HCL and its workers.

"We work with lots of partners, many of which have unionized workforces, and many of which don't. As with all our partners, whether HCL's employees unionize or not is between them and their employer. We'll continue to partner with HCL," the spokesperson said.

Maria Somma, a United Steelworkers organizer, told The Guardian that the union hopes HCL's vote will inspire more tech workers across the industry to unionize.

"The HCL workers are the first group that's daring enough – understanding the precarity of their situation – to say we've got to take a step," she said in an interview with The Guardian. "That to me is unbelievably brave. You want to see working-class heroes in today's modern world, look at them."

Workers seeking unionization have complained that Google does not offer paid sick leave and hasn't scaled wages to match inflation, Bloomberg reported.

HCL reportedly attempted to discourage workers from unionizing in the weeks leading up to the voice, according to Motherboard, which obtained emails sent by HCL deputy general manager of operations Jeremy Carlson.

"The Steelworkers are typically 'blue collar' workers, not workers in a tech industry like us," Carlson reportedly wrote in one email to staff. "Do you really think the Steelworkers understand our needs, our industry, our business, or even what you do on a daily basis? I don't." 

In 2014, 38 Microsoft contractors voted to form a union to negotiate with their temp agency, Lionbridge Technologies Inc. They were all fired by 2016, and ultimately reached a National Labor Relations Board settlement with Microsoft.

HCL workers underscored the need for union representation in a release published by the United Steelworkers in August.

"Workers at HCL deserve far more than they have received in terms of compensation, transparency and consideration, and it has gone on like this for much too long," said HCL employee Renata Nelson said in the release.

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