42 votes

Google employees form union

15 comments

  1. Gaywallet
    Link
    Promising news, hopefully we can see more unions popping up in tech.

    Promising news, hopefully we can see more unions popping up in tech.

    13 votes
  2. [6]
    stu2b50
    Link
    I've been reading more through their website and I think it's an interesting org. It's not a traditional labor union in that doesn't handle wage negotiation, or contract negotiation, or really...

    I've been reading more through their website and I think it's an interesting org. It's not a traditional labor union in that doesn't handle wage negotiation, or contract negotiation, or really anything about fair compensation. The mission seems to be mostly focused on ethics at Google, as well as transparency and discrimination.

    And to be fair, I don't think Google has many issues with not paying enough - new grads get like 150-180k, and I've seen offer matches up to 220-230k, and senior engineers get like 300-500k/yr.

    It's a fairly small group right now, only 200 members when Google has 100k+ employees, but glancing through the people involved there's a decent amount of senior and above engineers, such that it would be an incredible PITA to just get rid of them. Those are hard to replace!

    12 votes
    1. [3]
      MimicSquid
      Link Parent
      But Google isn't just those well-paid engineers. More than half of the people who labor on behalf of Google do it through a third-party company. That's precisely why this is a minority union, so...

      But Google isn't just those well-paid engineers. More than half of the people who labor on behalf of Google do it through a third-party company. That's precisely why this is a minority union, so that they can collaborate with all of those contractors.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        Yeah, that's the part that's somewhat weird. I wonder how much of that mission the union really cares about, since... y'know they explicitly say they don't do comp negotiations. It also includes...

        Yeah, that's the part that's somewhat weird. I wonder how much of that mission the union really cares about, since... y'know they explicitly say they don't do comp negotiations. It also includes almost no temp workers at the moment - if you look on the about me page it's basically all software engineers.

        I suppose they can do broad stroke demands of better treatment for the temp workers, but honestly from what they said there's not a lot of mechanisms for it.

        3 votes
        1. Tardigrade
          Link Parent
          The subset of people with the safety net to be the founding members in a union that isn't formed from direct confrontation will probably be the well payed software engineers who have other...

          The subset of people with the safety net to be the founding members in a union that isn't formed from direct confrontation will probably be the well payed software engineers who have other companies to fall back on should they get fired for this sort of activity. I wouldn't be surprised if this expanded now its actually formed.

          6 votes
    2. [2]
      Good_Apollo
      Link Parent
      The fact that it doesn’t cover labor and focuses on “ethics” makes me think this is actually a corporate ploy. Like just another official “unofficial” HR to stifle actual employee organization. Or...

      The fact that it doesn’t cover labor and focuses on “ethics” makes me think this is actually a corporate ploy. Like just another official “unofficial” HR to stifle actual employee organization. Or it’s just a brownie points org for the company...either way color me suspicious and unimpressed.

      3 votes
      1. tindall
        Link Parent
        I seriously doubt this. It's supported by a lot of people who were previously fired for attempting or succeeding in organizing Googlers against unethical corporate policy and harassment.

        I seriously doubt this. It's supported by a lot of people who were previously fired for attempting or succeeding in organizing Googlers against unethical corporate policy and harassment.

        8 votes
  3. Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    To add sources for a bit more information: The new union was formed with support from the Communications Workers of America (site and wiki) as a part of CODE-CWA, a campaign to unionize more...

    To add sources for a bit more information:
    The new union was formed with support from the Communications Workers of America (site and wiki) as a part of CODE-CWA, a campaign to unionize more workers in different communications fields. Some more info about that can be found here.

    I'm not too sure what to make of this yet. Partially it will depend on what they do and how effective they are at their goal and how much they are able to expand. That said, if you asked me a couple years ago if I could see any tech company having a union I'd have said no, but this happened. So I'm crossing my fingers that maaaayybbbbeeee people (especially in tech) are realizing that Unions are not as bad conservative governments suggest.

    5 votes
  4. [6]
    skybrian
    Link
    It seems like, at least for now, this is essentially a political advocacy organization, much like the EFF, except that it's focused on advocating changes to Google policies? I'm not seeing why...

    It seems like, at least for now, this is essentially a political advocacy organization, much like the EFF, except that it's focused on advocating changes to Google policies?

    I'm not seeing why they would want to limit donations to those from Google employees and contractors, since there is a lot of anti-Google sentiment in the general public. But on the donor side, there is the question of why you should spend your money to oppose Google specifically, versus supporting an organization like the EFF that has a broader scope.

    There's also a question of governance. For charity work, I'm generally of the opinion that donations shouldn't have any strings attached. Usually you choose an organization because you already agree with their priorities and trust them to make good decisions. For a brand-new organization it might be a harder sell, but hopefully their reputation will improve with time.

    But, if it's really a union, governance is more important, since they claim to represent the workers. Apparently they have an executive council, but it's unclear how they're chosen and how they decide what to do. Would an employee donating money get any more say than someone donating to the EFF or any other charity?

    2 votes
    1. [5]
      stu2b50
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think you're misunderstanding what it is. While it's not a traditional labor union - it's not registered as a labor union, it's doesn't cover the majority of employees yet, and it doesn't do...

      I think you're misunderstanding what it is. While it's not a traditional labor union - it's not registered as a labor union, it's doesn't cover the majority of employees yet, and it doesn't do comp negotiations - it's still a union, as opposed to a charity organization or a non-profit. It's not an org that people donate to - if you're a member, you must pay dues, and you also join the CWA. Those dues probably end up fairly hefty - at 1%, for most Googlers it's going to be over $2000/yr. I also don't think they take donations at all?

      As to

      But on the donor side, there is the question of why you should spend your money to oppose Google specifically, versus supporting an organization like the EFF that has a broader scope.

      1. As a Google employee, of course you care more about what the company you work at, the company you spend 1/3 of your day working for, is doing, than the broad scope of "tech ethics".

      2. Also as a Google employee, you honestly probably have more impact than the EFF would. If Google is merely doing something unethical, rather than illegal (which is usually the case), the EFF can only lobby for new laws to make it illegal. And you know how the US government is. While a walkout by a bunch of senior or staff level engineers is a huge pain in the ass for Google.

      3. Many of the "demands" are pretty Google employee specific. Like transparency on what the projects you're working on are for. I don't think the public gives 2 shits about whether or not Google employees know what they're working on.

      Tech exploded in just a few decades, so the number of engineers with 10+ YoE in #BigTech is really quite low, and they're also expensive AF.

      16 votes
      1. [4]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        Perhaps they could do some good helping individual workers in trouble. Maybe it would be a good option, versus trying to go to HR or finding a lawyer on your own? It seems to me that if you’re a...

        Perhaps they could do some good helping individual workers in trouble. Maybe it would be a good option, versus trying to go to HR or finding a lawyer on your own?

        It seems to me that if you’re a senior engineer with a decade of experience at Google, you could easily find another job and are probably wealthy enough so you could take a few years off if you want, if not retire like I did. If your goal is to have a job you like with a team you’re happy working with, political confrontation seems unlikely to succeed, and you’d only do that if you were in some way trapped.

        But there are people who are trapped, and this might be a good way of helping them. Including finding other work.

        The announcement is all about political advocacy though, so it’s not clear if they plan on offering that sort of help?

        2 votes
        1. stu2b50
          Link Parent
          That's exactly why they can do something like form this union. Many people actually do like the companies they work for and root for them, especially if they haven't been particularly mistreated...

          you could easily find another job and are probably wealthy enough so you could take a few years off if you want, if not retire like I did.

          That's exactly why they can do something like form this union. Many people actually do like the companies they work for and root for them, especially if they haven't been particularly mistreated at any point. I'm sure many senior and staff engineers like Google, and therefore want to try and make it the Google "they remember" - the Union website specifically mentions events like Google hiding their "Don't be Evil" slogan.

          It's not about finding a team you're happy with, it's about changing the course of the company you like.

          And they can do this kind of activism because they are likely in the millions for net worth and have such a rare and valuable skillset that they can quite easily hop into another job. They're not as worried about job security.

          As to what they'll do, presumably what their website says.

          10 votes
        2. [2]
          thundergolfer
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Doing this just accepts the status-quo of management and shareholders having nearly all the power in the workplace. This is essentially the "love it or leave it" sentiment some people say when an...

          you could easily find another job and are probably wealthy enough so you could take a few years off if you want

          Doing this just accepts the status-quo of management and shareholders having nearly all the power in the workplace. This is essentially the "love it or leave it" sentiment some people say when an individual citizen or group of citizens in a nation advocates for change. Somewhat of an aside, but this sentiment is particularly targeted towards ethnic minorities, and can turn into the ugly "go back to where you came from" racism when minorities challenge unethical status-quo political structures. If employees don't have meaningful control of their corporate workplaces, then we have corporate tyranny. If citizens don't have meaningful control over their country, then we don't have democracy but tyranny.

          If the only option to those existing within an unethical system is to exit that system, we're in a bad place. Only the privileged are actually free to escape, so as u/stu2b50 points out it is actually most incumbent on wealthy Software Engineers to 'hold the line', as Google's contracted dishwashers have comparatively no hope.

          8 votes
          1. skybrian
            Link Parent
            There are alternatives you might not be considering. You can advocate for changes in the usual way it's done within a company, which is by finding out who can make decisions and attempting to...

            There are alternatives you might not be considering. You can advocate for changes in the usual way it's done within a company, which is by finding out who can make decisions and attempting to persuade management. This probably involves writing design docs and doing presentations.

            This is different from activism since it involves accepting that someone else has the decision-making authority and attempting to convince them, using your powers of persuasion, with arguments that are likely to appeal to them. It doesn't always work, but you typically get a chance to try again some other day, because it's not challenging decision-making authority. An advantage is that you can have disagreement while still having mutual respect.

            Another possibility is a grass-roots effort. This is for something management isn't opposed to, but might not explicitly allocate much headcount to. When I joined Google there were was a grassroots effort to convince everyone at the company to write automatic tests for their code and you can see some results publicly with the Testing on the Toilet series.

            Another example was the Google Data Liberation Front which was an internal organization devoted to making sure that all personal data in Google services could be migrated out. (This was before the GDPR made it a matter of law.) I don't know how much of that was by volunteers but I think it partially was.

            In the early years, Google was very open internally and there were a lot of initiatives like this. It was one of the reasons I was happy to be there. Later, things got much more politically fraught.

            Another alternative, when a company's culture gets worse and internal reform seems unlikely, is to leave and start over. This is why we're on Tildes, right? You could try to make Reddit a better place, or you can do your own thing.

            1 vote