The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) has filed an unfair labor charge against Adecco, a subcontracting firm that provides data center services to Google. The union says managers tried to stop Google contractors from discussing pay, which is illegal. Shannon Wait, a union member and contractor, was suspended after posting about working conditions on Facebook. The news was first reported by Bloomberg.
The charge is the first legal action the Alphabet Workers Union has taken to protect employees. Since the union went public in early January, it’s called on YouTube to ban Donald Trump and voiced concern with the treatment of AI ethics researcher Margaret Mitchell, but both of these actions took the form of open letters and had no legal force.
Now, AWU is alleging that Adecco and Google retaliated against Wait after she posted about working conditions at a data center in Berkeley County, South Carolina. The complaint classifies the two companies as joint employers.
Wait’s Facebook post centered in part on management’s refusal to replace broken water bottles at the facility. She said she’d joined the union to fight for better treatment for contractors, according to an interview in Bloomberg. “We are the backbone of Google,” she added. “We are doing the hard work.”
The charge also alleges Wait was retaliated against for her union support.
After Wait published the post, she was questioned by a supervisor. This same individual previously asked her not to talk about pay with colleagues after she inquired about some workers not receiving a promised bonus. Shortly after, Wait was suspended. Management said she was being investigated as a possible security risk, according to Bloomberg.
“I want other TVCs [temporary, vendor, and contract employees] to see this and know they have recourse if they see something illegal or unethical in their workplace,” said Parul Koul, executive chair of the Alphabet Workers Union, in a press release. “Alphabet’s segregated, two-tiered employment system will not stand in the way of worker solidarity. We will continue to support Shannon and all Alphabet workers against unjust working conditions and fear mongering from management.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.