Google Fiber contractors vote to join union

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A group of workers for a Google Fiber subcontractor in Missouri has voted to unionize, the first of its kind at Google’s parent company Alphabet. The votes were counted Friday in a Zoom hearing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The workers are employees of Google contractor BDS Connected Solutions, a staffing agency in Kansas City. Ten of the 11 workers signed union cards in January to organize under the purview of the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), which is part of the larger Communication Workers of America union. On Friday, the official count found there were nine votes in favor of joining the union, with one vote against.

The AWU will be a members-only union, representing those workers who join voluntarily, rather than going through the NLRB to hold a vote to convince a majority of employees to sign on. The workers originally sought to have Google parent company Alphabet and BDS listed as joint employers on their petition to the NLRB but later changed the petition to include only BDS. The structuring will let AWU represent any Alphabet employees who want to participate, including contractors, vendors, and temps, who typically wouldn’t be included in traditional collective bargaining under current US labor law.

Even though they make up a majority of its workforce, contractors for Google have complained for some time that they’re not treated equally to the company’s full-time employees. In 2019, around 80 Google contractors in Pittsburgh voted to join the United Steelworkers union.

“Our campaign faced many efforts to discourage us from exercising our right to a collective voice on the job. Yet it was always clear to all of us that together we can positively shape our working conditions to ensure we all have access to the quality pay, benefits and protections we have earned,” Eris Derickson, a retail associate at BDS Connected Solutions and Google Fiber, said in a statement. The union looks forward “to sitting at the negotiating table with BDS Connected Solutions to set a new standard for our workplace to improve both worker, customer and company experience.”

Google spokesperson Angie Welling said in a statement emailed to The Verge that the company has “many contracts with both unionized and non-union suppliers, and respect their employees’ right to choose whether or not to join a union. The decision of these contractors to join the Communications Workers of America is a matter between the workers and their employer, BDS Solutions Group.”

BDS did not reply to a request for comment Friday.

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