Google early childhood education workers launch letter asking for transportation stipend


May 07, 2021 at 4pm ET

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Workers at four Google childcare centers in the Bay Area, alongside the Alphabet Workers Union, launched a petition today asking that transportation stipends be given to early childhood education workers who begin working from the office next week.

These workers—148 in the Bay Area—are full-time Alphabet employees who care for and educate the children of other Alphabet workers. During the pandemic, these workers have been meeting with children over Google Meets—reading books and leading activities, similar to what other teachers have experienced this past year.

They’ve been told to start working in-person starting Monday while the company’s shuttle transportation system remains suspended—and while most of the parents of the children they care for are still working from home. Workers who raised the issue of a stipend to offset transportation costs were told that transportation was a perk, not a benefit, and that assistance would not be provided.

“Transportation isn’t just a nice-to-have for us, it’s fundamental if we want to do our job,” said Denise Belardes, an educator at Google since 2017 and co-steward at the Alphabet Workers Union. “In this past year, educators have changed our roles, adapting from in-person to virtual programming to support our littlest of Googlers—our children, our future—supporting Googler parents so they and their children continue to thrive emotionally and educationally. Now, we’ve been told to return to normal office work without a way to get there. Options that cost money are not real options. We’re not the ones making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. We do not have the option to work from home as other Googlers. We need this stipend.”

“Early childcare educators are in general undervalued and invisible, even at Google,” said Katrina de la Fuente, who has worked in early childhood education for 16 years and at Google for 2.5 years. “It feels like Google has taken our role for granted, even though we’ve been caring for everyone’s kids in the middle of the most difficult year of our lives. All we’re asking for now is a reliable way to get to work.”

Many workers struggle to get to work without company shuttles: Some work tens of miles from the childcare centers due to the prohibitive cost of Bay Area housing while others face the prospect of spending several hours daily on transportation. One worker who signed the letter described feeling “invisible and less of a Googler” because transportation assistance was removed, while another said “not having a Google-provided commuting option adds so much more stress to an already stressful part of my workday.”

Alphabet is reportedly saving $1 billion annually because employees have been working from home during the pandemic. The company has been making hefty investments in new office perks for some of its workforce, like self-inflating balloon walls or spaced-out meeting rooms, to address the fallout of the pandemic. Yet, Alphabet’s early childhood education workers, who make an average of $20 an hour, have instead been told to return to the office without any transportation assistance.

The petition, which was started by Alphabet early childhood educators and members of the Alphabet Workers Union, was circulated within Alphabet starting this morning. It asks that $1,500 monthly transportation stipends be given to childcare workers until Google’s regular shuttle system returns to operation.

“Not all Alphabet workers are highly-paid software engineers with unlimited perks, who can easily afford to find transportation alternatives or continue working remotely,” said Parul Koul, the executive chairman of the Alphabet Workers Union. “Without early childhood education, so many of our coworkers would be forced to juggle not just their Alphabet job, but the full-time job of caring for their children. That’s a massive benefit for the company, and it’s going unrecognized. Alphabet must do right by these workers and ensure they can at least get to the office.”

We are Alphabet Workers who stand united.

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