A vast majority of customer service representatives for Google Fiber, which operates out of a store in Kansas City, Missouri, have signed union cards in hopes of negotiating their first contract with their superiors. They are organized under the auspices of the Alphabet Workers Union, a year-old division of Communications Workers of America that seeks to represent employees and contractors at all levels of Google’s parent company.
The 11 workers – 10 of whom have signed cards since the union’s campaign began in October – are employed jointly by Google and a recruitment agency called BDS Connected Solutions. This is not out of the ordinary, as employment arrangements with Alphabet go: the story of 2019 in The New York Times It found that temporary employees and contractors make up the majority of the tech giant’s workforce, while a Recode A report in the same year indicated that this second category of workers earn significantly less than full-time Google employees. According to two BDS employees who spoke to Engadget, customer representatives were feeling left out of key conversations about staffing and safety protocols, and communication with management had deteriorated.
“We just started by asking, ‘Hey, how do you feel about this idea?'” Do you feel you have enough say in the conditions in which you work? It wasn’t always like this,” Emris Adair told Engadget. The general relationship between management and employees. It was closer.” Kansas City was the first market in which Google Fiber was launched, nearly a decade ago.
What makes this push to form a negotiating unit somewhat unusual, however, is the decision to skip directly to petitioning the National Labor Relations Board. This is usually the longest and most difficult option when an employer refuses to voluntarily recognize a union. But, according to Adair, Alphabet and BDS did not attempt to suppress the union’s campaign, nor did they express a willingness to admit it. And they said, “There was no acknowledgment, no retreat. No response whatsoever.” Google and BDS did not respond to requests for comment from Engadget.
Like many workplaces in recent years, these service representatives have cycled through lockdowns, reduced hours and the occasional need to isolate and work remotely when a colleague tests positive for COVID-19. While they haven’t been keen to give much detail about what they hope to secure in their first decade, one of the benefits they are seeking is the risk pay. “In terms of the actual COVID precautions, they have done a very good job,” Adair said. “Our main concern is that we can still operate the store personally in the event of a pandemic, which is a risk in and of itself, no matter how we do it.”
It may be months or years before the NLRB issues a decision on the right of these workers to form a bargaining unit. In the meantime, Knox hopes it may spur others within Google Fiber to take action. “We really hope this is an inspiration in that regard,” he said. “Hopefully this will be a hot spot where others can see this and decide to push for more input.”
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