Google workers stage rallies against job cuts, low wages

Members of the Alphabet Workers Union (CWA) hold a rally outside the Google office in response to recent layoffs, in New York on Feb 2, 2023. Google’s parent company Alphabet announced in January it will cut about 12,000 jobs globally, citing a changing economic reality. — AFP

Google employees staged protests on both US coasts this week to call attention to labour conditions for subcontracted workers and support thousands of co-workers who were recently laid off.

Rallies, one held on Feb 1 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, and another on Feb 2 near Google’s corporate offices in New York City, came after the company announced the largest reduction in its history – 12,000 positions, or 6% of its global workforce. Other major tech firms including Microsoft Corp, Salesforce Inc and Inc have also recently announced layoffs.

The protest in New York, which drew about 50 employees outside a Google store on Ninth Avenue, began just minutes after parent company Alphabet Inc reported fourth-quarter results, including US$13.6 billion in profit.

“Today, Google has debunked its own rationale for laying off 12,000 of our co-workers,” said Alberta Devor, a software engineer. “It is clear that the menial savings the company is pocketing from laying off workers is nothing in comparison to the billions spent on stock buybacks or the billions made in profit last quarter.”

Both demonstrations were organised by the labor group Alphabet Workers Union – a “minority union” that doesn’t have collective bargaining rights, and whose members include Google subcontractors as well as employees.

“Today shows that some of the issues we’re talking about affect all workers regardless of what their actual job title or job status is,” Devor, who has worked at Google for more than three years and is an AWU member, said in an interview.

At Wednesday’s rally in California, dozens of subcontractors spoke out against what they called substandard conditions, including what they said were “poverty wages and no benefits”. Their tasks include reviewing content to help train the company’s AI-powered algorithms, as well as screening YouTube clips and searching ads for offensive or sensitive material. But the workers say their pay and benefits fall far below Google’s own minimum standards and benefits for its direct contract workers.

“We would like to at least be able to have some chance of survivability with this job,” Zai Snell, one of the subcontractors at the protest in California, said in a phone interview. – Bloomberg

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