Google illegally refused to bargain with YouTube workers union, says federal labor board

on Jan5
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By Jennifer Korn | CNN

Google’s refusal to bargain with unionized YouTube Music workers is illegal, a Wednesday ruling from the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found.

After a group of Texas-based contract workers for YouTube Music unanimously voted last April to join the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), Google refused to bargain over return to office complaints, a move the NLRB deemed illegal.

At the center of the issue is a fight over who’s the boss. Google, which owns YouTube, claims it is not legally the employer of contract workers, but the NLRB says otherwise. It ordered Google to both “cease and desist” refusal to engage with the union and said Google must “bargain on request.”

A three-member NLRB panel found the tech giant, along with its subcontractor company, Cognizant, to be joint employers of the workers. As such, Google must bargain with their representing union, a decision Google says it will appeal in federal court.

“As we’ve said before, we have no objection to these Cognizant employees electing to form a union. We simply believe it’s only appropriate for Cognizant, as their employer, to engage in collective bargaining,” a Google spokesperson said in statement to CNN. “We’re appealing the NLRB’s joint employer decision to federal court as Google does not control the employment terms or conditions of these Cognizant workers.”

Wednesday’s ruling is in line with AWU claims that Google plays a highly active, employer role in contractor work and should be responsible for union dealings as a result.

“After a unanimous union election victory, and consistent rulings from the NLRB determining that Alphabet significantly shapes our working conditions and is in fact our employer, the company has refused to meet us at the bargaining table,” YouTube Music worker and AWU member Katie-Marie Marschner told CNN in a statement.

“Any future appeals by Alphabet are just an attempt to avoid collectively bargaining with the union and pad the pockets of shareholders and executives,” Marschner said.

Google’s adamance that it is not the employer of its contract workers is a stance it has taken before without success.

A group of contractors for Search and Bard (the company’s artificial intelligence chatbot) voted to unionize in November after the NLRB ruled to classify Google as a joint employer with contractor company Accenture. Google is appealing the decision.

A December rule from the NLRB replaced a Trump-era standard to make it much easier for contract employees to organize and much harder for companies to avoid joint-employer status.

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