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Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, illegally terminated contract workers’ access to a pay transparency spreadsheet, according to a union in a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board.

The Alphabet Workers Union said in a statement Thursday that Alphabet and two of its staff providers have violated federal labor law, which protects employees’ right to discuss their working conditions and organize themselves. By withdrawing workers’ access to an online spreadsheet that compares wage rates, companies “interfered, held and coerced” employees, the complaint said.

The treatment of contract workers, who became the majority of Alphabet’s global workforce in 2018, was a turning point for corporate activism and a major focus for AWU, part of the Communications Workers of America. The AWU has enrolled both Alphabet employees and subcontracted personnel as members.

The latest complaint names Alphabet a “joint employer” of subcontracted staff, which means it exercises sufficient control over working conditions to be legally responsible for the treatment of employees.

Alphabet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alphabet’s subcontracted staff have maintained a spreadsheet for several years where workers employed through various staffing agencies anywhere in the world can compare their pay, a way to identify systemic inequalities and to help individual employees to understand if they are underpaid, according to the union.

Like a similar document for Alphabet’s direct employees, the Google Sheet was hosted on the company’s internal internet system. Google contract worker Laura Greene learned about the spreadsheet in July from the AWU and quickly shared the link with colleagues on her team, who had previously had some success in getting raises after comparing informally. their pay between them, he said in an interview.

But the next day, everyone found that their access to the spreadsheet had been interrupted. According to the union, subcontractors in other offices also lost the ability to view the document, which had received contributions from hundreds of workers.

“We just want freedom of information, I mean, it’s our money,” said Greene, an Accenture Plc employee who works on a team that creates articles and graphics for the Google Customer Support Center. “We should be able to know that the sweat equity we’re putting into this stuff is actually being compensated fairly.”

Although the AWU has no formal collective bargaining relationship with Alphabet, it has used tactics such as advocacy petitions and legal complaints to address workplace issues in the company. Last month, he asked the labor council to hold a union vote among a group of subcontracted YouTube Music workers and to consider Alphabet as a joint employer in that case. That designation, if workers voted for the union, would require the Internet giant to negotiate with the union group for the first time.

Last year, an AWU complaint to the NLRB led to a deal in which Google and one of its staffing agencies agreed not to silence workers discussing their pay. Google did not admit wrongdoing in that case, which involved a data center in South Carolina where the union said management did not allow wage discussions and suspended a female worker for writing a Facebook post in favor of the union. . The AWU argues that cutting contract workers from the wages spreadsheet violates that agreement.

The NLRB has repeatedly shifted its stance on employee rights to fidget online using their companies’ email systems, expanding those protections under President Barack Obama and then limiting them under President Donald Trump. The agency’s current general counsel, nominated by President Joe Biden and former CWA attorney Jennifer Abruzzo, has signaled that he will address cases that could expand workers’ rights once again.

While Trump was president, Google was one of the companies that urged the NLRB to tighten legal protections for workers organizing themselves online.

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Citation: Alphabet has excluded workers from pay transparency data, union says (2022, November 4) retrieved November 5, 2022 from

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