It is not so much that the employees of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are socially privileged – they obviously are if we compare them with their subcontractors – but they consider themselves as such because they are living the dream. of Silicon Valley. In these cities so expensive that engineers have to live in tiny studios, or even in trucks fitted out in the company’s parking lot, they would have legitimate wage demands. But that’s not what the creation last Monday of Google’s first workers’ union, the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU).
Its primary mission is explicit: “Our union works to protect Alphabet workers, our company and our world. We are aware of our power as Alphabet workers. “ A clearly ethical positioning which is rooted in past conflicts. In 2018, more than 3,000 employees had fought a victorious struggle when they realized that their work around image recognition by artificial intelligence was actually going to be used in the drone strikes of the American army, work known as the project name Maven.
End the culture of harassment
“There is no room for harassment, bigotry, discrimination or retaliation. We prioritize the needs and concerns of marginalized and vulnerable people ”, then adds the AWU. Also in 2018, 20,000 Google employees left work, without accepting the word strike, to protest against the company’s culture of harassment and sexism. Thirteen senior leaders, accused of sexual assault or harassment, had been very discreetly sacked with beautiful golden parachutes and the instruction not to make waves.
It is impossible not to think of the scandal that rocked the French video game giant Ubisoft in 2020. A wave of damning testimonies against very high-ranking company officials led to their dismissal, leading in their wake to the creation of several union sections (notably the STJV, Solidaires informatique or CFE-CGC), delegates who are particularly aware of gender equality issues in this industry where female executives are as rare as trade unionists.
Increase in the minimum hourly wage
A new substantive protest took place across the Atlantic at the end of 2019, also at Google, around wage inequalities, under the prism of discrimination, sexist as well as ethnic. The gigantic gap between the lowest incomes and the fortunes accumulated by the group’s bosses, around 60 billion euros each, poses less of a problem for the very young American union. These are the same issues of discrimination that have mobilized, in recent months, employees at Salesforce, Pinterest and Kickstarter, without them yet passing the course of creating a union.
More traditional social struggles are not completely absent from Silicon Valley, however. The task workers and subcontractors of these digital giants are leading the way. Google and Facebook security personnel, as well as those at Intel’s canteen, have formed unions to carry out social demands. But they fought in the almost total indifference of the engineers of the company giving the orders. Google’s 130,000 subcontractors will be able to join the AWU, which already has their main demands: a minimum hourly wage of $ 15 and Alphabet’s support for their health insurance.