The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) passed 700 members on Monday, growing from roughly 230 at launch on January 4th. The group, which is open to employees and contractors at Google’s parent company, includes workers from 35 offices in the US and Canada.
AWU organized in secret for almost a year, before going public with an op-ed in The New York Times last week. The news prompted an outpouring of support from tech workers in Silicon Valley. “We were excited to see the response of the public and employees,” says Alan Morales, a Google engineer. “Now we’re welcoming all of our new members and hearing their motivations for joining.”
As a minority union, AWU can’t force Google management to come to the table to negotiate. But it can try to pressure executives by rallying members toward a cause. That’s exactly what happened last week, when AWU called on YouTube to permanently ban Trump in the wake of a raid on the US Capitol on January 6th.
“YouTube refuses to hold Donald Trump accountable to the platform’s own rules by choosing only to remove one video instead of removing him from the platform entirely,” they wrote. The company “is avoiding the proactive action called for by both their workers and the broader public.”
The union categorized the letter as a public statement. So far, it hasn’t put out a list of demands, as it wants to hear from new members before settling on major initiatives.
As of this morning, YouTube hasn’t changed its stance.
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a former labor organizer, tells The Verge that AWU’s minority union structure could provide a template for workers at other tech companies. “I’m excited that it’s a little bit different,” she says. “One of the challenges we’ve faced in organizing the tech sector is that it might not be achievable in the standard National Labor Relations Board format.”