Google is telling workers they are allowed to discuss pay and working conditions as part of a settlement agreement with the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), Bloomberg reports. The move settles a labor dispute brought by AWU in February.
The initial complaint alleged that managers at Adecco, a Google subcontracting firm, banned workers from talking about wages and bonuses. It also said that Adecco retaliated against contractor Shannon Wait after she posted pro-union messages on Facebook. The complaint said Google was a joint employer and should therefore be held liable for the treatment of contractors. Google did not admit to this classification in the settlement.
Wait, who’d been suspended from her job, was reinstated a week after the complaint was filed. She left the company shortly after, as her contract was only for two years, according to Bloomberg.
On Twitter, she credited the union with helping her get her job back. “The external pressure of our #union, which is only 3 months public, held both Google and its subcontractor accountable for violating labor law,” she wrote. “It’s 2021 — the year that tech companies like #Amazon and #Google stand face-to-face with workers.”
Google is posting signs at the data center in South Carolina as part of the agreement. “WE WILL NOT tell you that you cannot discuss policies with other employees,” the notice reads, according to Bloomberg. “WE WILL NOT discipline you because you exercise your right to discuss wage rates, bonuses, hours and working conditions with other employees.”
It’s a symbolic victory for the Alphabet Workers Union. The organization, which launched in January, is not currently recognized by the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint brought against Google and Adecco, however, shows the union still has teeth. Its status as a solidarity union also allows it to welcome contractors to the group. The treatment of these workers is a primary concern for union organizers.
News of the settlement comes as workers at Amazon face off with management in a union fight that could change the fabric of the tech industry. Warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama voted this month on whether to form a union. The vote count began yesterday.