Press contact: [email protected]
(Bothell, Washington)— On Friday, May 20, 2022 a group of over 123 Alphabet contract workers, with support from the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, sent a letter to Cognizant management demanding that workers continue to retain the option to work from home and be involved in the creation of a flexible return to office plan. As temporary, vendor, and contract (TVC) workers for Alphabet, these workers are hired by Cognizant to provide critical infrastructure work to Google by constantly updating and growing Google Maps. Even though their work has been uninterrupted by the current work from home arrangement, over 200 workers are being forced to return to the Bothell office on June 6. With many workers hired during the pandemic, and living across state lines or far from the Seattle area, the hourly rate workers are paid ($16 to $28 dollars) makes the current RTO policily entirely inaccessible. Workers were also given such short notice of the new RTO expectation that many cannot find childcare or get off waitlists in time to return to work on June 6. Today, the letter sent to Cognizant management was shared with all Alphabet workers as a petition for other workers to show their support.
“Our work is critical to Google’s brand and infrastructure. As the over 200 Google contract workers tasked with updating and growing Google Maps, we ensure that every political border is updated and correct, we work with 911 operators to find the safest routes for first responders during emergencies, we update traffic flow information in key areas like the Eiffel Tower and Manhattan Bridge, and during the election season we provided the public with updated locations for valid ballot drop-off locations. We’ve done all this work safely from home—and now we are being unfairly forced back to the office without proper COVID procedures in place, adequate time to arrange for childcare, or even dignified wages to afford the astronomical travel costs many of us would face. We hope Google and Cognizant recognize our overwhelming support from impacted workers and partner with us to create RTO and WFH policies that work for all of us. We deserve the same decision making power that Google has provided full-time employees when it comes to where we work,” said Quinn Oksoktaruk, Geospatial Data Specialist with Cognizant and member of AWU-CWA.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2022 Google announced that full-time employees were expected to return to the office and participate in a “hybrid working approach” starting on April 4. Full-time employees continue to face many needless challenges during this transition including a lack of desks for workers and rising COVID exposure rates. Full-time employees, however, have had a greater range of options regarding their work arrangements. Google has approved 85% of full-time employees’ requests to continue working from home. The posted Google policies for RTO for TVC workers are at times contradictory, leaving contract workers with inconsistent expectations regarding returning to office. Workers at Cognizant were told contradictory anticipated RTO dates and given minimal notice to adjust to the new in-office work expectation.
“It is entirely unjust that the Google Maps contract workers at the Bothell, Washington office are being forced to return to office even as thousands of full-time employees are able to ask for and receive work from home privileges. It is even more egregious that these workers are paid as little as $16 to $28 an hour while their labor impacts millions of Google Maps users everyday. No worker should be paid so little that they cannot afford gas to show up to work and Google can and must set a higher standard regarding pay and policy transparency for TVC’s. AWU-CWA is proud to stand with these workers as they organize to win better RTO policies that actually work for workers,” said Ashok Chandwaney, Google software engineer and member of the Alphabet Workers Union’s executive committee.
The Cognizant workers at the Bothell, WA Google office are committed to working with management to shape a return to office plan that is flexible and meets the needs of all workers by ensuring worker safety and the continued quality of Google Maps.