This union is open to any worker at Alphabet regardless of political stances. We believe in democracy, not ideology. All we ask is that new members commit to building worker solidarity, and to democratic decision-making.
Our articles are built on a democratic model. While we do have elected representatives, their job is to listen to union members, and they can be held accountable and recalled if they fail to do so. Alphabet’s current management structure is extremely top-down; it’s not our goal to replicate that.
We’re building a culture of care that puts last first, first last. It’s easy for democratic systems to lead to a tyranny of the majority, but we’re building these values through the organization, and our operating rules make it easy for small groups to get a say. Additionally, having more people who care about this within our union is an important way to prevent this from happening—if this is an issue that concerns you, please work with us to keep it front and center! Our mission statement also speaks to this point.
What recourse would you have if the things that make you happy with your job were removed tomorrow? Many of us see a long-term pattern of things getting worse for even the best-treated Alphabet employee, including top-down decision making and reduced internal openness. Our union is about having effective options and mutual support for when that trend catches up with each of us, and working together to reverse it.
Alphabet historically is a place where workers have made a difference. When workers applied pressure against the real names policy and Project Maven, execs eventually backed down. As a union, we can be proactive and strategic about how to put pressure on the company to change its decisions. Alphabet is also a place where a polite email or conversation with the right person can change an important decision. Not everything we do has to be protests and pickets, often it’ll just take getting organized and putting our heads together to send the 10 emails it takes to move the needle.
We shouldn’t have to choose between our values and being well-paid for doing valuable work. It’s not either-or; we can have both.
If it’s not perfect, then it can be better! And nobody should have to fight against or tolerate the imperfect parts alone. The purpose of our union is to support each other.
Alphabet is routinely treated as a leader and pioneer for industry working conditions. Improvements we make here can make working in the industry as a whole better. Whether you stay here or go elsewhere, that’s a good thing.
There are unions for professors, reporters, and software engineers. Many Alphabet employees are “blue collar” workers, not paid a living wage—and more than half of Google employees are TVCs, not FTEs. FTE engineers make up well under half of Alphabet’s employees.
Staff organizers (the people paid salaries by AWU) are not members of AWU, and don’t have the power to set their salaries. Our executive council and other union members are employees of Alphabet, and draw no pay of any kind from AWU. All budgets, including how much money is spent on staff, are democratically approved by the membership body.
We all want our coworkers to be good at their jobs, and our lives are harder if they’re not. Keep in mind that other countries with big Alphabet offices (Ireland and France, for example) have laws that make it much harder to fire employees than in the U.S./Canada, and our coworkers there are just as competent and hardworking.
We’ve seen a downward trend in the effectiveness of “working within the system” at Alphabet, and believe we need something better. Our union can still work “within the system,” but now our engagements with management will be on more equal footing, and we will be heard more clearly and consistently. Think of it as guaranteeing that we, the employees of Alphabet, have a real seat at the table that will actually be listened to.
That’s not a realistic option for all of our members. For those of us who could, it’s because we still believe in Alphabet. Alphabet hired us with the promise of doing good in the world. Many of us choose to apply to Alphabet because we appreciated its publicly stated values. We’re holding them to those promises. If everyone who is dissatisfied with the decisions taken by Alphabet left, it would make Alphabet more likely to make unethical choices.
It’s true that AWU is overwhelmingly comprised of FTEs at the moment, but we are committed to the principle of “nothing about us without us”, and elevating the voices of less powerful workers. We’re taking steps to reach out to more TVCs. Our union and Executive Council both contain FTEs and TVCs. We try our best to keep the concerns and circumstances of all workers in mind, and welcome criticism when this doesn’t happen.
For FTEs in our union, think about it as using the increased safety and privilege of an FTE position to fight for equality with our colleagues. It’s important to do that by listening to TVCs about their actual needs and desires and working for those, not what FTEs expect or think they should want.
Alphabet has historically been responsive to movements that are initiated by even a small number of workers. For example, most petitions at Google have only been organized by a small number of workers, but working together across Alphabet, we can make help make a difference for all workers. We think that this still holds even today, and believe we can build a better structure to help us raise up the voices of all workers.
Our union is focused on holding Alphabet to its ideals, including ensuring that Alphabet’s products don’t impact marginalized people negatively, not just improvement of pay/benefits. Our goal is to build an organization that can fight for all of our workplace concerns. This includes things like more money and benefits for low-paid TVCs and more ethical decisions from executives. In general, unions don’t just fight for pay, but improvement to all elements relevant to the conditions of members' work. For instance, the Chicago Teachers' union went on strike to demand better treatment of the students.
This dynamic is already present for many of our coworkers, but our union’s goal is not to be adversarial. Because upper management is reasonable, as long we are reasonable as well it can actually decrease tensions. A negotiation on more equal footing than any individual alone can ever have can result in more acceptable decisions. We’ve all seen (what we believe to be) poor decisions made by executive leadership and wondered why there didn’t seem to have been any worker-level input taken into account. Together, we can have that voice.
We’re Alphabet workers! We want the company to do well because it means that we do well! To quote Larry and Sergey: “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served… by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”