YouTube Music Workers Unionized with Alphabet Workers Union-CWA File ULP Against RTO Attempts that Would Disrupt Union Organizing


9AM PST Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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(Austin, Texas)— On Tuesday, January 24, 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.

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