Google Contractors Vote To Unionise Given Company's Track Record Of Crappy Treatment

Photo: Alastair Grant, AP

Contractors working at Google’s Pittsburgh office recently announced they’re aiming to unionise, marking the latest contingent of employees to begin pushing back against Silicon Valley for a voice at the bargaining table.

Of the 90 data analysts and tech workers employed at HLC America, a contracting agency Google uses, roughly two-thirds of eligible employees voted to move forward with unionisation efforts, per an announcement from the United Steelworkers union this week.

The employees are part of the Pittsburgh Association of Tech Professionals, a project sponsored in part by the traditionally blue-collar steelworkers union. These results are now off to the National Labour Relations Board to organise a formal union vote pending verification, which would only need a simple majority to pass.

“Workers at HCL deserve far more than they have received in terms of compensation, transparency and consideration, and it has gone on like this for much too long,” said HCL employee Renata Nelson per the statement. “While on-site management tries to do what they can, where they can, their hands are often tied by arbitrary corporate policy.”

HCL employees “work side-by-side with those of the giant corporation for far less compensation and few, if any, of the perks,” according to the press release. They’ve been called Google’s “shadow workforce”: A contingent of temps, vendors and contractors that, by some estimates, make up half of Google’s total employees.

Despite this, this group’s only recently been able to secure basic benefits and a $US15 ($22) per hour minimum wage, and many of the employees who fought for these improvements will never get to enjoy them.

That’s because Google purportedly limits contract employees to a maximum two-year stint at the company, and most of these benefits don’t go into effect until at least 2020.

The tech giant has also landed in hot water for how much it pays these workers. Recode looked into self-reported salary information on Glassdoor, and found Google contractors typically made 42 per cent less than their full-time counterparts. That’s an average of roughly $US38,000 ($56,426) per year.

And while Google promised to review its sexual harassment and assault reporting process after a mass employee walkout last November, Google’s contract workers apparently aren’t seeing any of these improvements. According to several contractors Gizmodo spoke with, these contractors feel more vulnerable than their full-time counterparts because of their separate and confusing process for reporting harassment, one that Google doesn’t appear to plan changing any time soon.

There have been so many damning reports about how Google treats its contract workers, US senators have even called the company out. Gizmodo reached out to both Google and the United Steelworkers union but had not heard back at time of writing.

These recent unionisation efforts come shortly after similar initiatives among Uber and Lyft drivers, who staged a strike alongside international protests to advocate for improved working conditions in May.

Earlier this week, California’s state legislators voted to move forward on a bill that would force gig economy giants to reclassify their contractors as employees despite companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash pledging $US90 million ($134 million) to fight the measure. The bill, AB5, will likely be up for a full state Senate vote next month.

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