Google contract workers claim they were fired due to union ties

Google contract workers claim they were fired due to union ties

Data workers at Google’s data centers claim to have been fired for supporting a union.

Contract workers at Google’s data centers claim they were fired for supporting a union and faced retaliation after pushing for better benefits, according to a pair of complaints filed this week with the US National Labor Relations Board.

The Alphabet labor union, whose members include direct employees and subcontract employees of parent company Google, alleges that workers at a data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, were terminated because of discussing their working conditions and because of their association with the labor organization, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.

Another worker at the site faced retaliation for his role in the union, according to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday against Google and Modis, an information technology company acting as a subcontractor.

Labor groups have been pushing for progress this year at big tech companies, which have long been seen as resistant to unionization. In addition to Google and Amazon. The com Inc. and Apple Inc. Labor campaigns in recent months – the results were mixed.

In another complaint filed with the NLRB on Wednesday, two contract security guards working at Google data centers in North and South Carolina claimed they lost their security clearances after discussing working conditions. Workers said they spoke out about the lack of benefits such as sick and parental leave and were unable to work without their security clearances.

These cases appear to be the first in which Alphabet Inc workers have been fired. Because of their union membership, according to Parol Cole, a Google software engineer and CEO of AWU, a so-called minority union that has no collective bargaining power. But advocates on behalf of the workers. Google is named in the complaints as a “joint employer,” or a company with sufficient control over a group of workers to be legally responsible for their treatment.

Google had no immediate comment. Modis, which is owned by Adecco Group AG, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Claims submitted to the NLRB are investigated by regional officials. If they find merit in the allegations and are unable to secure a settlement, they issue a complaint on behalf of the General Counsel of the Labor Council, which is considered by an agency judge. These judges’ rulings can be appealed to NLRB members in Washington and then to the Federal Court.

The agency has the power to order companies to reinstate fired workers and change policies, but generally cannot hold executives personally responsible for alleged wrongdoing or issue any punitive damages.

Last year, another NLRB complaint filed by AWU on behalf of a subcontracted Google data center employee in South Carolina led to a settlement. As part of this agreement, the tech giant promised to comply with federal law by not silencing workers about their salaries.

AWU claims that the treatment of workers at Council Bluffs violates that settlement. In June, one of the workers, Eli Keefe, who uses both their own and their own consciences, suggested pulling out to protest the new timekeeping system they fear would lead to lost wages. Shortly thereafter, a manager said Cave’s actions “could be considered insubordination” and threatened to put Cave on a plan to improve performance, according to a statement of facts in the case seen by Bloomberg.

In July, two other workers on the site, Dustin Somers-Hane and Lilliani Morton, met in the common area of ​​the data center to discuss working conditions, according to the factsheet. Later that week, management gave Somers-Hane a “final warning” for holding a “union meeting” and told Morton that discussion of unions was prohibited, the document said. Somers-Hane and Morton learned in August and October, respectively, that their contracts would not be renewed.

The other complaint filed Wednesday is related to security guards at Google Allied Universal contractor. Earlier this year, Allied workers realized they were not receiving key benefits, such as sick days, special Covid-19 leave and parental leave, even though they are guaranteed under Google’s minimum standards for US contractors, according to the complaint.

Allies offered some benefits in September after a petition circulated by employees attracted hundreds of signatures, workers said. Cynthia West, who used to work as a security guard in North Carolina, said she helped organize the petition, but feels she paid a heavy price. Soon after accepting a new job with another Google contractor on the site, she learned that she had lost her security clearance.

The Allied representative had no immediate comment.

Although she worked for companies under contract with Google, West said the customer is responsible for working conditions on the site.

“The customer has or should have some of the blame for that,” said West, 37, who was cited by the AWU complaint. “If they don’t know, they should know.”

Another worker who is part of the complaint against Google and allies, Heather Smith, said she spoke about the lack of benefits and also advocated on behalf of a pregnant colleague.

In late September, she learned that she had lost her security clearance. “It was a blow out of nowhere,” said Smith, 31. “My job was done without them actually saying ‘work done.'”

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