FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2023 3:15 PM
(San Francisco, CA)—Today, in a remarkable victory for organized Alphabet workers, the fired Google raters were informed by Google subcontractor Appen that they will be reinstated and receive back pay. Raters are often invisible human workers that train, test, and evaluate Google Search and Bard results. Google and Appen fired the workers after they publicly spoke out about their poor working conditions and the danger of faulty AI products that are developed and tested under these inadequate conditions.
The half dozen Google raters across Appen’s AI projects received notice that they had been terminated on May 31, 2023. Minutes before workers were fired, they received a copy of an unsigned non-disclosure agreement. On Wednesday, June 14, 2023 the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA (AWU-CWA) filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of the workers. The charges alleged retaliation for organizing, a prohibition against discussing said terminations publicly, and threats that wages may decrease with the union.
“Holy cow! This was unexpected. What more can I say that I feel vindicated. I’m glad workers’ rights to organize were not infringed. It’s clear when workers organize that we have real power and I encourage more colleagues to join us so that we continue to ensure all Google workers have the protections we need on the job. Remember this: In union there is strength.” said Ed Stackhouse, one of the reinstated workers and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.
Even though these subcontracted raters provide critical support to Google’s most profitable products, workers are still denied access to the company’s own purported established minimum standards for contractors ($15/hour, health care, tuition reimbursement, etc.) leaving thousands of workers in poverty. Previous organizing by these workers has secured their first ever pay raise in January 2023. Yet, workers will still be earning under $15 an hour. One of the fired workers, Ed Stackhouse, submitted a letter to the Senate hearing on “Oversight of A.I.: Rules for Artificial Intelligence” raising concerns about working conditions for AI workers.
Today workers received correspondence from Appen Human Resources informing them they will get their jobs back and receive back pay.
“I am absolutely thrilled that we are being reinstated and getting back pay. I am also very happy for my co-workers because getting fired for speaking out caused a lot of stress and anxiety. We’re ready to get back to work and to continue building our union. It’s clear to me that if I acted alone, I would not have gotten my job back. The fact we got our jobs back demonstrates there’s way more power when we act collectively as a group of organized workers.” Michelle Curtis, one of the reinstated workers and member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.