Google subcontractor fires 66% of staff for unionizing
Julie Jacobson/AP

SAN FRANCISCO —In the latest evidence that Silicon Valley bosses hate workers who stand up for themselves, a Google subcontractor, Accenture PLC, fired more than two-thirds of its Google Help staffers—80 of the 119—for their unionizing efforts with Alphabet Workers Union, Communications Workers Local 9889.

AWU promptly filed a labor law-breaking complaint of illegal retaliation with the National Labor Relations Board’s San Francisco regional office.

Accenture said the firings of Google Help launch coordinators, graphic designers, and writers in plants in the Bay Area and Austin, Texas started August 7 and will last through December. To add insult to injury, the remaining to-be-fired workers are being ordered to train their replacements, who will work from the Philippines and India, the union said.

“It’s interesting that Google claims they’ve got no responsibility to us as workers, even though we spend every day working on Google products, under conditions set by the company,” Accenture and Google general writer Tahlia Kirk told CWA.

“Google also claimed the decision to lay off workers was made before we announced our union. Yet in our recent joint employer hearing they couldn’t cite any documentation to prove this point. The timing is suspicious and shows a clear disregard for the organizing rights of workers.

“Despite their efforts, our union remains strong and we’re confident we’d win an election no matter what, but we’d prefer if all our coworkers had a chance to have their voices heard. We cannot force Google and Accenture to follow basic labor law, but we can and will continue to organize.”

The firings began two months after the workers announced their organizing drive and a month after they filed National Labor Relations Board union election authorization cards with its San Francisco office. Some 70% of Accenture workers had signed the cards.

In its illegal retaliation complaint to the board, AWU also made the point that by definition, Google and Accenture are joint employers. That means they’re both responsible for wages, working conditions—and for obeying or breaking labor law. Just two weeks before Accenture fired its workers, the NLRB ruled another subcontractor, Cognizant, was a joint employer with Google of YouTube music workers. They had voted 41-0 to unionize with AWU.

Working for subcontractors leaves Google workers, like other workers in similar situations, wide open to bosses’ exploitation. Not only are they pitched from pillar to post when they file labor law-breaking and any other job-related complaints, but they toil at much lower pay and with few or no benefits. Harvard’s OnLabor blog notes more than half of Google’s worldwide workforce actually toils for subcontractors.

The pillar-to-post pattern held in this case: Google sluffed off the labor law-breaking charge on Accenture, saying the subcontractor controlled everything. Accenture denied the charges and said it had planned the firings in July before the workers filed their cards. AWU and the workers, as Kirk said, respond the firings are retaliation for organizing, and labor law bans such retaliatory firings and other discipline for union organizing.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.