A group of 40 YouTube Music employees went on strike on Friday. The striking workers, who are employed by Alphabet subcontractor Cognizant, allege management of both companies used unfair labor practices to hinder their union action.
“At this point, the vast majority of our chapter is ready to vote yes in a [National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)] election,” said YouTube Music generalist Sam Regan during a strike in Austin, Texas, viewed via Facebook live stream. “In retaliation to our organizing efforts, our employer is forcing an end to remote working before the vote, which would dramatically disrupt the fair voting conditions mandated by federal law.”
YouTube Music’s content operations team is expected to return to the Austin office on Monday. But according to the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), the majority of workers were hired remotely, and nearly a quarter aren’t even based in Texas. Cognizant said these jobs were always meant to get back to the office.
“Employees are paid only $19 an hour and thus cannot afford the relocation, travel or childcare costs associated with in-person work,” the AWU said in a press release.
On January 23, the AWU – affiliated with the Communications Workers of America – filed an unfair labor practice suit with the NLRB. Per national lawis it illegal for employers to interfere in organizing employees, or to retaliate against employees participating in organizing efforts.
“Cognizant respects the right of our employees to disagree with our policies and to lawfully protest against them,” the company wrote in an emailed statement. “However, it is disappointing that some of our employees have chosen to strike due to a return to office policy that has been communicated to them repeatedly since December 2021. Employees working on this project accepted their jobs with the understanding that they accepted in-office positions, and that the team would work together at a physical location in Austin.”
Two weeks ago, the company laid off 12,000 people, or 6% of its global workforce. $13.6 billion on profit. While Alphabet delivered its results, about 50 employees protested the recent layoffs outside a nearby Google store.
Another group of Google employees, a group of “search evaluators” — who train, test, and evaluate search algorithms — held a protest at Google headquarters on Feb. 1. Alphabet has stated that all members of the expanded U.S. workforce would be paid $15 per hour or more, plus other benefits such as health care, tax-free tuition reimbursement, and employee support programs. But say search reviewers they “earn poverty wages, with no benefits.” The group delivered a petition to senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, calling for leadership to include these workers in Alphabet’s expanded workforce.
Google did not respond to the request for comment.
Update, 2009-04-23, 09:45 ET with commentary from Cognizant.