On January 4, a courageous group of workers at internet search giant Google announced that they had formed a union. The Associated Press reported that approximately 225 workers took the important step, “creating a rare foothold for the labor movement in the tech industry.” A foothold, but a small one out of the roughly 200,000 Google workforce. What’s going on?
Ordinarily, workers form a union by winning an election – supervised by the National Labor Relations Board — showing they represent the majority of workers in a given “bargaining unit.” If they win, their union is certified as the representative of all the workers in the unit, and the employer is legally required to bargain with them toward a contract. But that’s not the only way workers can form a union.
This group of techs, sales reps and others decided to form a union even though they are a small group in a large workforce. They are a “minority union” – a group of workers who have chosen to band together to negotiate together about terms of employment. It’s a tough road to follow. Without being certified as the bargaining agent by election, they must persuade or force their employer to negotiate with them.
The Alphabet Workers Union (Alphabet is the parent company of Google) will depend on its ability to recruit additional members and on the support of the Communications Workers of America, the large union rooted in the telecommunications sector that is supporting the group. And it will be especially dependent on the solidarity of the rest of us – Google users who speak up if the company cracks down and tries to strangle this new union in the crib.
Like Gideon’s three hundred marching against Midian (Judges 7), these brave souls have stepped forward to stand against one of the nation’s largest corporations. May they find the same success!