Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Greg Casar have thrown their support behind members of YouTube Music’s Content Operations team that are currently on strike.
The two lawmakers sent an open letter to Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the strike on February 21.
The 58 striking workers are technically employed by Cognizant, a third-party contractor to Google, and argue that they were subject to what amounts to union busting by the tech giant.
On February 3rd, YouTube Music workers went on an unfair labor practice strike. More than two weeks later, they are still picketing—sometimes even playing music—and protesting what they say is an illegal return-to-work order.
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) February 18, 2023
“Less than three weeks after 58 YouTube Music workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election in October, Cognizant, their employer and a contractor with Google, issued a return-to-office mandate,” the Austin Chronicle reports. “In response, the workers filed two Unfair Labor Practice complaints with the NLRB and have gone on strike; this will mark their third full week of picketing. They, like Sanders, see the RTO mandate as an illegal union-busting tactic. Many of their workers live outside of Austin and can’t afford to relocate; others work extra jobs to make ends meet.”
In the letter to Pichai, the politicians said that “while employers sometimes shift working conditions in response to changing public health and economic conditions, under the National Labor Relations Act, employers may not interfere with or restrain workers in exercising their right to join a union. The abrupt ‘return-to-office’ policy change does not appear to be in response to changing public health or economic conditions, and we are disheartened to hear about the anti-union posture of Cognizant for these workers who make Google successful.”
Our own YouTube Music members are engaged in the 1st EVER strike at Google.
The @Google & @Cognizant RTO mandate is worker retaliation as most workers were hired remotely, far from the Austin office.
Join us in NYC as we say NO to Google union-busting.https://t.co/XyrrsrONNn pic.twitter.com/asTIji83JI
— Alphabet Workers Union (AWU-CWA) (@AlphabetWorkers) February 20, 2023
“These workers have stated that these positions were advertised as fully remote and that many were hired regardless of their location,” the letter continued. “Now, despite offering these workers fully remote jobs and having them work remotely for years, these workers are being told that failing to work from the Austin office would result in termination. Many of these workers do not live in Austin, and therefore cannot return to the Austin office. Further, there are several YouTube Music workers who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, including jobs that require them to regularly to travel across the country, and therefore rely on the remote work arrangement originally advertised and offered by Cognizant.”
Sanders and Casar argued that they believe Cognizant suddenly imposed these “impossible requirements” on the workers in response to them deciding to form a union.
“When these workers went out on strike to protest against this reported anti-union retaliation, instead of reversing course, recognizing the union, and bargaining in good faith over ‘return-to-work’ and other policies, Cognizant doubled down and has reportedly offshored this work to workers in India,” the letter says.
“Mr. Pichai: your $60 billion in profits last year enables you to not only treat your workers fairly, but also recognize the invaluable contributions YouTube Music workers bring to your company and our community,” the letter concluded. “Our request to you is simple: Ensure that all Google workers, including YouTube Music workers, are able to freely exercise their right to join a union as guaranteed by federal law. We look forward to your prompt response as we continue to monitor this situation closely.”
This morning, I joined the picket line with YouTube Music workers (@AlphabetWorkers) in #ATX, who are on strike.
All workers must be able to freely exercise their right to join a union, as guaranteed by federal law! #TX35 pic.twitter.com/eKUkX4Dm3p
— Congressman Greg Casar (@RepCasar) February 21, 2023
The striking workers, joined by Rep. Casar, met at City Hall on Tuesday morning and marched to Google’s Headquarters to conduct speeches and publicly read the letter.
Out in front of the @Google office downtown supporting YouTube Music workers (@AlphabetWorkers) on their ULP strike. Awuuuuu ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/MkXmi3PwFY
— Restaurant Workers United Austin (@RWU_austin) February 21, 2023