We, the workers of YouTube Music, employed by Cognizant Technology Solutions and Google, are on a ULP strike after both companies retaliated against our legal right to unionize.
The vast majority of us were hired remotely, from all over Texas and all over the country. After we filed for our union election, the companies announced a “return to office” plan, telling our coworkers that if they didn’t move to Austin and report to the office, they would lose their jobs. Our employers are now threatening to move our work overseas or take other actions against us if we support our union.
We decided democratically to strike to protect our coworkers' jobs and our union!
Our members are fighting back for their union and their livelihoods and they need YOUR HELP!
As a musically inclined group of workers, we have produced a Strike Party album, which can be purchased on Bandcamp. All proceeds support our strike fund!
Read below and sign at go.awu.fyi/YTMLetter
Or at go.awu.fyi/YTMSupport
Bernie Sanders throws support behind striking YouTube Music workers
How a YouTube Strike Could Set a Big Precedent for Workers' Rights
Exclusive: YouTube contractors to strike over forced return to office
YouTube Music contractors say they’re facing retaliatory moves from Alphabet after they voted to unionize
YouTube accused of using return-to-office policies to thwart union organizers
YouTube Illegally Uses Return-to-Office Push to Derail Union, Complaint Claims
YouTube Music contractors in Austin file to unionize
YouTube Music Contractors vote to unionize
(Austin, Texas)—On Tuesday, January 23, 2023, Alphabet Workers Union-CWA formally filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Alphabet, the Google parent company, along with Alphabet subcontractor Cognizant. The charge was filed on behalf of the supermajority of workers at YouTube Music Content Operations who filed for union recognition from the NLRB as members of Alphabet Workers Union-CWA on October 21, 2022. Workers are being forced to return to office on February 6, 2023 after two years of successfully working from home. A majority of workers were hired remotely and nearly a quarter of workers are not based in Texas. The upcoming return to office date threatens the livelihoods of workers who do not live in the Austin area. As this could result in the loss of jobs for members of the 58 person unit, workers are demanding no RTO policies be put in place until workers are able to negotiate such policies with Alphabet and Cognizant, following their successful union election.
“Right now, the vast majority of our unit is ready to vote YES in an NLRB election. In an act of retaliation against our organizing efforts, our employer is forcing an end to remote work before the vote, which would dramatically interfere with the fair voting conditions mandated by federal law. Many of us live out of state, and all of us are so underpaid that we cannot afford the gas, childcare, and skyrocketing local rent that would be required for us to work at the Austin Cognizant office. We have blossomed into a rich and wonderful remote culture, and done outstanding work from home for nearly three years. Our new CEO Ravi Kumar has publicly emphasized the effectiveness of remote work, and we are a clear testament to this view. We’re calling on Google and Cognizant to pause on RTO until we’re able to negotiate fair terms as a certified bargaining unit,” said Sam Regan, Music Generalist and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.
On Friday, January 20, 2022 workers submitted a letter to Cognizant CEO Ravi Kumar, demanding that he act on his previous statements in support of flexible and hybrid work arrangements. As Kumar did not respond, workers moved to file their ULP. The unit members are key personnel behind YouTube, which had a valuation of over $180 billion in 2022. As a part of the YouTube Music Content Operations team, workers ensure music content is available and approved for YouTube’s 2.1 billion monthly active users worldwide. As Alphabet contract workers, their labor is critical to YouTube’s success. However, workers make as little as $19 an hour, which makes the anticipated cost of gas, relocation and childcare untenable if forced to return to work at the Google Austin office. These low wages fall well below the average Google compensation of full time employees, which is an estimated $295,000 annually.
Separately, workers are awaiting an NLRB ruling that would recognize both Alphabet and Cognizant as joint employers and force both companies to the negotiating table. The anticipated ruling would ensure thousands of subcontracted workers across the tech industry would finally be able to hold major corporations accountable to their obligations towards workers.
Alphabet exercises control, directly and indirectly, over these YouTube Music employees, including supervision of their everyday work tasks, performance evaluations and more. However, Alphabet hides behind contracting companies like Cognizant so that they are able to give workers substantially less pay and benefits than workers employed directly by Alphabet, Google and YouTube.
“Alphabet attempts to distance themselves from contract workers by assigning sole responsibilities to contracting companies while exercising control over key elements of their working conditions behind the scenes. This shadow control can make contract negotiations difficult for TVCs as Google and their contracting companies can scapegoat each other to avoid worker demands. We’ve seen this with the issue of RTO as Cognizant has provided us with conflicting information regarding who was orchestrating the demand to return to the office. We know that we can continue to do our jobs successfully and remotely—without jeopardizing the livelihoods of our coworkers who were hired outside of the Austin area as well as our coworkers who need to hold multiple jobs in order to afford living in the Austin area. We will continue to organize to strengthen our union, and ensure that RTO is not enforced until it can be negotiated directly with the workers whose lives will be impacted by such a senseless decision,” said Katie - Marie Marschner, Subject Matter Expert and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.
Sign Our YouTube Music Solidarity Letter! go.awu.fyi/YTMLetter
We stand in solidarity with the workers at YouTube Music via Cognizant, and we celebrate their decision to unionize with the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA and bargain with you over the workplace conditions that affect their lives. We also support their decision to go on strike against recent unfair labor practices that would undermine their campaign and violate their right to organize.
Therefore, we call on you to immediately stop your return-to-office orders or orders to move bargaining unit work elsewhere that would prevent a fair union election and forces these workers into unfair, life-altering dilemmas.
Your decision to force the Music Content Operations team to report in-person to Google’s Austin offices is completely avoidable and unnecessary. For the last several years, these talented and dedicated workers have had no trouble making YouTube Music successful from their homes. In fact, you hired many of these workers knowing they were not even based in the Austin area. Other than the workers’ desire to bargain with you as equals, what makes this moment different for you?
Your current RTO plans demonstrate a cold and callous indifference to the people that work to make your products operate. These are among the lowest-paid workers at Alphabet, as part of Google’s Two-Tiered System. For many, relocating to the high-cost Austin area is not feasible. And for those already spending too much of their income to pay Austin rents, RTO presents a sudden increase in the cost of doing work for Google. For workers who are struggling under your current conditions, the sheer hope of negotiating a fair pay was enough to take the bold step of asking a tech giant to recognize their union. Instead of setting these workers up to be displaced, you should be preparing for good-faith bargaining. You will be placing already-struggling people into further risk of eviction, food insecurity, and overall distress. You can and must be better than this.
In the aftermath of Google’s terrible layoffs, you still have time to easily avoid yet another blunder with the people that make Alphabet possible. But if you give our fellow workers no other option but to strike, we will support their strike for as long as it takes.
Don’t sabotage workers. Don’t engage in union busting. Don’t be evil.
In Solidarity with Every Google Worker,