Union Busting Myths
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Alphabet is too powerful: a union can’t change anything.
Alphabet historically is a place where workers have made a difference. When workers applied pressure against the real names policy and Project Maven, execs eventually backed down. As a union, we can be proactive and strategic about how to put pressure on the company to change its decisions.
Alphabet is also a place where a polite email or conversation with the right person can change an important decision. Not everything we do has to be protests and pickets, often it’ll just take getting organized and putting our heads together to send the 10 emails it takes to move the needle.
I have issues with Alphabet, but they pay me a lot.
We shouldn’t have to choose between our values and being well-paid for doing valuable work. It’s not either-or; we can have both.
Alphabet’s not perfect, but it’s better than everywhere else.
If it’s not perfect, then it can be better! And nobody should have to fight against or tolerate the imperfect parts alone. The purpose of our union is to support each other.
Alphabet is routinely treated as a leader and pioneer for industry working conditions. Improvements we make here can make working in the industry as a whole better. Whether you stay here or go elsewhere, that’s a good thing.
Work within the system (ERGs, listening sessions, TGIF, Dory).
We’ve seen a downward trend in the effectiveness of “working within the system” at Alphabet, and believe we need something better. Our union can still work “within the system,” but now our engagements with management will be on more equal footing, and we will be heard more clearly and consistently. Think of it as guaranteeing that we, the employees of Alphabet, have a real seat at the table that will actually be listened to.
What do unions do besides negotiate pay and strike?
Historically unions have fought for issues from an 8 hour workday, to equal rights at work, to smaller classroom sizes. In general, a union puts workers on more equal footing with management to ensure that our voices are heard. We have paid staff to help organize campaigns and give legal advice where needed for this as well. A union is also about committing to be there for each other; to support each other, care about each others’ issues and concerns, and protect each other from retaliation and unfair practices. AWU-CWA is our union—if you want something to be different at work, AWU-CWA is about connecting you with like-minded people and making that happen!
This sounds like a lot of FTEs talking on behalf of TVCs.
AWU-CWA includes both full-time employees (FTEs) and temporary, vendor and contract workers (TVCs). We are committed to the principle of “nothing about us without us”, and elevating the voices of less powerful workers. Our union and Executive Board both contain FTEs and TVCs. We try our best to keep the concerns and circumstances of all workers in mind, and welcome criticism when this doesn’t happen. For FTEs in our union, think about it as using the increased safety and privilege of an FTE position to fight for equality with our colleagues. It’s important to do that by listening to TVCs about their actual needs and desires and working for those, not what FTEs expect or think they should want.
I’m happy with my job, I don’t need a union.
What recourse would you have if the things that make you happy with your job were removed tomorrow? Many of us see a long-term pattern of things getting worse for even the best-treated Alphabet employee, including top-down decision making and reduced internal openness. Our union is about having effective options and mutual support for when that trend catches up with each of us, and working together to reverse it.
Unions are undemocratic and very top-down.
Our articles are built on a democratic model. While we do have elected representatives, their job is to listen to union members, and they can be held accountable and recalled if they fail to do so. Alphabet’s current management structure is extremely top-down; it’s not our goal to replicate that.
A union is just another way to amplify cis white male voices at Alphabet.
We’re building a culture of care that puts last first, first last. It’s easy for democratic systems to lead to a tyranny of the majority, but we’re building these values through the organization, and our operating rules make it easy for small groups to get a say. Additionally, having more people who care about this within our union is an important way to prevent this from happening—if this is an issue that concerns you, please work with us to keep it front and center! Our mission statement also speaks to this point.
Unions create an us-versus-them dynamic with workers and executives.
This dynamic is already present for many of our coworkers, but our union’s goal is not to be adversarial. Because upper management is reasonable, as long we are reasonable as well it can actually decrease tensions. A negotiation on more equal footing than any individual alone can ever have can result in more acceptable decisions. We’ve all seen (what we believe to be) poor decisions made by executive leadership and wondered why there didn’t seem to have been any worker-level input taken into account. Together, we can have that voice.
Unions make us less competitive as a company.
We’re Alphabet workers! We want the company to do well because it means that we do well! To quote Larry and Sergey: “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served… by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”
Dues will be used to pay high salaries to do-nothing “leaders.”
Staff organizers (the people paid salaries by AWU-CWA) are not members of AWU-CWA, and don’t have the power to set their salaries. Our executive board and other union members are employees of Alphabet, and draw no pay of any kind from AWU-CWA. All budgets, including how much money is spent on staff, are democratically approved by the membership body.
Unions are for blue-collar workers.
Every worker needs a union. There are unions for professors, reporters, and software engineers. Many Alphabet employees are “blue collar” workers, not paid a living wage—and more than half of Google employees are TVCs, not FTEs. FTE engineers make up well under half of Alphabet’s employees.
The union is a tiny minority of the company, no one will listen to you.
Alphabet has historically been responsive to movements that are initiated by even a small number of workers. For example, most petitions at Google have only been organized by a small number of workers, but working together across Alphabet, we can make help make a difference for all workers. We think that this still holds even today, and believe we can build a better structure to help us raise up the voices of all workers.
Unions protect bad and lazy workers.
We all want our coworkers to be good at their jobs, and our lives are harder if they’re not. Keep in mind that other countries with big Alphabet offices (Ireland and France, for example) have laws that make it much harder to fire employees than in the U.S./Canada, and our coworkers there are just as competent and hardworking.
We reject the description of “solidarity union”—all unions have solidarity. Semantics matter: we are a real and valid union with real power.