US Labor Board Mandates Collective Bargaining between Google and YouTube Worker Union
Alphabet Inc’s Google has been found in violation of U.S. labor law by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for refusing to engage in collective bargaining with a union representing contract workers for YouTube Music. The NLRB’s decision, issued on Wednesday, rejected Google’s claims that it should not be deemed the employer of workers provided by staffing firm Cognizant Technology Solutions.
The dispute centers around a group of YouTube Music content operation workers who voted 41-0 in favor of joining the Alphabet Workers Union last April. Despite Google’s assertion that it lacked sufficient control over the contracted workers to be considered a “joint employer,” the NLRB upheld the election results in July, affirming the union’s legitimacy.
Unable to appeal decisions in election cases, Google refused to bargain with the union to bring the case back before the NLRB. In response, the NLRB stated on Wednesday that the company had not presented any new issues warranting a review.
Google, however, remains steadfast in its position. The tech giant released a statement saying it would seek a review of the ruling from a federal appeals court. The company emphasized that it does not object to Cognizant employees forming a union but believes collective bargaining should be conducted with Cognizant, as their direct employer.
Katie-Marie Marschner, a YouTube Music worker and union member, accused Google and Cognizant of making unilateral changes to working conditions without bargaining, citing examples such as mandating a return to the office and eliminating sick pay. She asserted that any future appeals by Alphabet are merely attempts to sidestep collective bargaining and prioritize shareholder and executive interests.
This ruling is part of a broader trend of increased labor organizing within Google. In recent years, the company has faced protests from workers over various business and employment policies. In November, approximately 120 employees of Google contractor Accenture, working on artificial intelligence applications, voted to unionize. Google disputes being their joint employer and is challenging the election results.
The labor landscape for determining joint employers has been evolving since the Obama administration. A new NLRB rule set to take effect in February, challenged by major business groups, asserts that companies can be considered joint employers even when their control over working conditions is indirect, potentially impacting labor relations across various industries.