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Worker Organizations

USA in general

The basic labor law in the USA is the National Labor Relations Act. Its application is governed by the National Labor Relations Board which is an independent agency created by Congress in 1932.

The NLRA and NLRB missions:

  • encourage/promote the bargaining process between emplyers and workers
  • safeguard the worker's ability to strike
  • protect unionization of workers

Unionization in the USA is NOT COMMON and has been declining since the 1970s. Under Trump, the NLRB power has been weakened. (source: Economic Policy Institute, 2019)

The biggest labor union in the USA is the Communication Workers of America (CWA)

Google

Initial company culture

  • Google has no worker union
  • Google has internal mailing lists / listservs on a wide array of topics - sports, gay employees, housing, etc.
  • When an important topic arises: workers create a Google Doc and share it on the relevant mailing lists, generating massive support and mobilization

source: Theverge

May 2018: Project Maven protests

The case: in May 2018, Google workers protest against "Project Maven", a contract between Google and the Pentagon (developing military AI + drone vision).

The protest process:

  • The workers write an private open letter + petition to Larry Page and Sundar Pichai.
  • Professors and scientists also signed the petition
  • A dozen employees have been reported to resign in protest (source: cnet)

The result: in March 2019, Google stops working on Project Maven and doesn't renew the Pentagon contract

Nov 2018: Project Dragonfly protests

The case: Dragonfly is a search engine project, adapted to China's internet censorship & surveillance regime.

The protest process:

The result: in June 2019, Google confirms in a judiciary committee hearing that Project Dragonfly has been terminated. (source: senate.gov)

Dec 2019: The thanksgiving four

The case:

4 workers have been fired for taking collective action. This case causes outrage against Google executive practices, internally the 4 fired workers are called the "thanksgiving four"

  • case 1: taking collective action, trying to unionize
  • case 2 : creating a tool to remind coworkers of labor laws

The protest process:

The result: the hearings seem to be still in-progress

Jan 2021: creation of Alphabet Workers Union

Responding to CODE-CWA movement, Google/Alphabet workers create the Alphabet Workers Union