Google contractors in Pittsburgh vote to join union


Activists at Google organized a global walkout last year.

James Martin/CNET

Google contractors in Pittsburgh voted Tuesday to join the United Steelworkers Union.

The group of about 80 workers, who are employed by the digital services company HCL Technologies, are “seeking a voice on the job and the opportunity to bargain over wages and working conditions,” the union said

The move is a major win for TVCs — temps, vendors and contractors, in Google parlance — as tech workers have increasingly embraced organized labor. Google in particular has been the poster child for activism in Silicon Valley. Workers at the search giant have spoken out against the company’s initiatives in China, artificial intelligence projects and workplace culture. Last November, more than 20,000 workers held a massive global walkout to protest sexual harassment allegations against key executives at Google.

TVCs, who reportedly make up more than half Google’s workforce, have also protested to gain more rights at the company. Google in April said it’ll require temp companies that supply the search giant with temporary and contract workers to provide its staff with full benefits. Those benefits include health care, a $15 dollar minimum wage and paid parental leave.

“They deserve to have their voices heard,” Thomas Conway, president of USW, said in a statement. “Together, we’ll make sure that they are.”

Google on Thursday said it’ll continue to partner with HCL.

“We work with lots of partners, many of which have unionized workforces, and many of which don’t,” a Google spokeswoman said. “As with all our partners, whether HCL’s employees unionize or not is between them and their employer.”

HCL didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Google’s relationship with its contractors has gained national attention. In July, 10 Democratic senators, including presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that the company promote its contract workers to full-time employees. 

This isn’t the first time Google has received pressure from a well-established union. In August, a group of YouTube creators said they joined forces with IG Metall, a German metal workers union, to demand more transparency from the Google-owned video platform. YouTube said it would meet with the group but that it wouldn’t negotiate on the union’s demands.  

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