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(Bothell, WA)—Today, Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 9AM PDT, Google Maps contract workers with Cognizant, based in the Google office in Bothell, WA, informed management that they planned to go on strike due to the unsafe working conditions imposed by the June 6 return to office (RTO) date. Shortly after, workers received an email that “Cognizant has been granted a 90-day extension on our return to office date.” This is another historic victory for Google temporary, vendor, and contract workers and for Alphabet Workers Union - Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA), which has been closely supporting their members’ organizing efforts in order to secure all workers the flexible, safe, and fair working conditions that they deserve.
“We are ecstatic, this is what collective organizing does—for weeks we have individually been raising concerns about the threat of COVID as 200 of us were being forced to return to office, along with the logistical challenges presented to those of us struggling to find childcare or those working across state lines. Our individual concerns were ignored until we met with our coworkers and collectively took action to raise our shared demands and leverage our power. We love the work we do for Google Maps and will continue to organize until we can secure the flexible, safe, and fair working conditions we deserve,” said Shelby Hunter, a policy trainer at Cognizant and member of Alphabet Workers Union - Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA).
Despite previous assurances from management, the RTO announcement came on Wednesday April 27, 2022, giving workers little notice and requiring fast action. Alphabet Workers Union-CWA agreed to provide organizing, strategic, and financial support to all workers forced to strike due to the unsafe working conditions posed by the June 6 RTO date. Workers pointed to the fact that they have been able to successfully work from home during the pandemic and the imposed RTO date would be disruptive to Google Maps as many workers would not be able to meet the new in-office work policy.
“We are calling on Cognizant and Google to submit their new Return to Office proposal in writing to workers and sit with us to directly negotiate the terms of a safe, flexible, and fair return to office transition. It is thanks to our work that Google Maps provides billions of users with up to date mapping information, while also making billions more in profits for Google. In order for us to effectively move forward and maintain the quality of Google Maps, Cognizant and Google must work directly with us to shape a return to office policy that does not threaten our safety or livelihoods, but rather works for all of us,” said Monika Moore, a GIS specialist and member of the Alphabet Workers Union - Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA).
Today’s victory underscores the growing organizing momentum within tech and the strength of wall-to-wall union models that allow all workers to join together, regardless of employment classification, to secure concrete wins for workers. Workers are taking a stand against the growing use and abuse of temp, vendor, and contractor workers that enforces Google’s two-tiered workplace. Compared to Google’s full-time employees, these critical workers receive worse pay, inferior benefits, poor management, arbitrary policies, and inflexible RTO expectations. This is in stark contrast to the experience of many full-time Google employees. Currently, over 80% of Google full-time employees have received approval for requests to continue to work from home due to the ongoing dangers posed by COVID. Temporary, vendor, and contract workers have not been granted this same privilege, even as many of them complete similar or the same work as Google full-time employees.
This is the second instance in recent months where Alphabet contract workers, with support from members of AWU-CWA, collectively organized, issued demands, and were ultimately successful in forcing management to meet worker demands. In November 2021, Google datacenter contractors came together to win back the pandemic bonuses they had been promised. Within a few short weeks, workers successfully won back thousands of dollars in pandemic bonuses from Modis management.
“These Google Maps contract workers provide critical infrastructure work to Google and the public by constantly updating and growing Google Maps. It is thanks to these workers that the public has up to date information on traffic disruptions, the safest routes to take during natural disasters, and the latest COVID testing site locations. We have seen Google provide full-time employees with flexibility regarding returning to the office and it is time that Google sets a new standard for all contract workers to ensure every worker has access to safe, flexible, and fair working conditions. That is why we as AWU-CWA will continue to support all ongoing and emergent worker organizing at Google and Alphabet,” said Ashok Chandwaney, Google software engineer and member of the Alphabet Workers Union’s executive council.