From today’s Times:
Several teams of subcontracted YouTube workers went on strike on Friday, to protest a return-to-office policy that they say is an attempt by YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet, to bust their union. The case could have implications that reverberate across Silicon Valley.
Around 40 workers in total, who are directly employed by Alphabet’s outsourcing partner Cognizant, walked out on Friday in a formal strike against what they say are unfair labor practices. Their jobs include verifying musicians’ pages on YouTube, maintaining official music charts, and scrubbing the platform of copyright infringement, for a typical wage of $19 per hour.
The workers, who have been remote since the beginning of the pandemic, petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency tasked with protecting workers’ rights, this past October to join the 1,200-member strong Alphabet Workers Union. In a complaint in January to NLRB, the YouTube workers alleged that Alphabet and Cognizant announced a return to the Austin, TX, office only after workers campaigned to unionize. They say that a return to the office would force many union members to quit their jobs, as many of them live far away from Austin and work second jobs to cover their living expenses.
A copy of the workers’ NLRB complaint, reviewed by TIME, says the return-to-office policy is an attempt “to chill the union organizing effort.”
“Having the ability to be remote allows us, right at five o’clock, to jump into our other jobs that are necessary because we’re not paid enough,” says Katie Marschner, an organizer of the strike and member of the Alphabet Workers Union, which is representing the workers in their complaint to the NLRB. “In Austin particularly, the musicians and artists that are the backbone of the whole culture of this city are being forced out because of giant tech companies moving in and increasing the cost of living for everyone.”
Read the complete story here.