In a recent ruling, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) mandated that Google must negotiate with the YouTube worker union. The decision comes after Google refused to engage in bargaining with the union representing contract workers for YouTube Music, a violation of U.S. labor law according to the NLRB.
Google, the parent company of YouTube, contested the idea that it should be considered the employer of workers supplied by staffing firm Cognizant Technology Solutions (NASDAQ:CTSH). However, the NLRB dismissed Google’s claims, asserting that the company has sufficient control over the workers to be deemed a “joint employer” obligated to negotiate with the union.
The Alphabet Workers Union, formed three years ago to organize the company’s employees, saw a unanimous vote (41-0) last April from YouTube Music content operation workers in favor of joining. Despite Google’s attempts to challenge the election results, the NLRB upheld the decision in July.
Unable to appeal decisions in election cases, Google chose not to bargain, aiming to bring the case back before the NLRB. On Wednesday, the NLRB stated that the company had not presented any new issues warranting a review.
In response, Google expressed its intention to seek a federal appeals court review of the ruling. The company emphasized its lack of objection to Cognizant employees forming a union but insisted that engagement in collective bargaining should be with Cognizant, their official employer.
A YouTube Music worker and union member, Katie-Marie Marschner, highlighted changes in working conditions made by Google and Cognizant without negotiation, such as requiring office returns and removing sick pay. Marschner dismissed any future appeals by Alphabet as attempts to evade collective bargaining and benefit shareholders and executives.
This ruling is part of a broader trend of increased labor organizing within Google, both in the United States and internationally. In November, around 120 employees of Google contractor Accenture (NYSE:ACN) working on artificial intelligence applications voted to unionize, a move contested by Google. The company claims it is not a joint employer and is challenging the election results.
The determination of joint employers for contract and franchise workers has been an evolving standard. The NLRB, under a rule effective from February, considers companies joint employers even with indirect control over working conditions, a stance contested by major business groups. In the case of Google, the NLRB applied a joint employment rule from the Trump administration, asserting that direct control over workers is necessary for mandatory bargaining with unions.
The NLRB’s recent ruling reinforces the obligation for Google to negotiate with the YouTube worker union, emphasizing the company’s status as a joint employer. This decision marks a pivotal moment in labor relations within Google, as the Alphabet Workers Union continues to advocate for the rights of contract workers.
What prompted the Alphabet Workers Union to form?
The Alphabet Workers Union was formed three years ago to organize Google employees, addressing concerns related to working conditions, employment policies, and collective bargaining.
How did the NLRB determine Google’s status as a joint employer?
The NLRB applied a rule established during the Trump administration, asserting that direct control over workers, including supervision and control over hours and benefits, qualifies a company as a joint employer.
What changes in working conditions have YouTube Music workers faced?
YouTube Music workers, represented by the union, highlighted changes imposed by Google and Cognizant, such as mandatory office returns and the removal of sick pay, occurring without proper negotiation.
What is Google’s response to the NLRB ruling, and what are their next steps?
Google intends to seek a federal appeals court review of the ruling. While expressing no objection to Cognizant employees forming a union, Google insists that collective bargaining should occur with Cognizant, their designated employer.