YouTube Music contractors have successfully unionized with the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA after winning a historic vote through the National Labor Relations Board. The victory has meaningful implications for Google, which must now bargain with the union to ratify its contract. As most Google workers are contractors, this could set a precedent for other divisions to unionize. The vote comes after 40 workers went on strike in February, alleging that both companies leveraged unfair labor practices to interfere with union organizing.
YouTube Music contractors have made history by winning a union vote through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 41 out of 49 eligible voters supported unionization with the Alphabet Workers Union (CWA), making it the clear winner of the poll. This unionization is important for Google overall as well as for YouTube Music. If this precedent-setting decision is upheld, Google, which hires the majority of its staff as independent contractors with other businesses, might see other departments take a similar course.
The NLRB’s decision in March that Google was their employer—even though they were Cognizant contractors—was a huge victory for the union. Under this ruling, Google must negotiate with the YouTube Music workers to finalize their union contract. This ruling sets a precedent for other divisions to organize as well, which could have significant implications for Google’s workforce.
However, Google is attempting to challenge this ruling, which could set the stage for a protracted legal battle. If this NLRB ruling holds, then the YouTube Music workers would become the first officially recognized union of tech workers at Google.
In advance of the union vote, 40 workers went on strike in February, alleging that both companies leveraged unfair labor practices to interfere with union organizing. The workers felt that this return to office mandate was unfair since most of them were hired remotely, and about a quarter of them aren’t even based in Texas, where the office is.
Cognizant, the contractor that employs the YouTube Music workers, claimed that these workers had been reminded about returning to offices since December 2021 and that these positions were accepted with the knowledge that they would not always be remote.
During the strike, 15 workers who live out of state or cannot go to the office remained on strike, since it protects them from voluntary termination. Other workers returned to the office to help organize new contractors who had been hired after the strike.
The unionization of YouTube Music contractors has significant implications for Google, which employs most of its workers as contractors with other companies. If this precedent-setting NLRB ruling holds, then other divisions of Google could follow suit, resulting in a significant change in the company’s workforce.
Despite the successful union vote, Alphabet reported a $191 million operating income gain on its quarterly earnings call, which is a significant jump from last year’s $706 million loss. Google Cloud is also turning a profit for the first time, earning $7.4 billion this quarter. However, the company laid off 12,000 people in January and is buying back $70 billion in stock.