Unions empower workers, advocate for change in the workplace

The creation of the Alphabet Workers Union emphasizes worker rights in Big Tech

By Ritaja Subrahmanya

In a historic event, employees at Google recently created the Alphabet Workers Union, the first union at a major tech company, according to ABC News. By the end of the day it was announced, the union had doubled in size, supported by over 400 employees. 

Unions in the tech industries are long overdue. Especially in a toxic environment like Google, it is important for workers to have protections to fight for what they believe in. 

After organizing a walkout in 2018 over Google’s handling of sexual harassment claims, an employee found herself demoted and pressured to take medical leave despite not being sick. It is dangerous for companies to have so much power over their employees. 

The Alphabet Workers Union allows Google employees to express their concerns about company policy without fearing repercussions from the tech giant. (Photo courtesy of the Alphabet Workers Union)

Without employees having the right to protest, tech companies will be allowed to do whatever they want without any restraints.  

The power tech employees hold is incredible. In 2018, Google dropped a contract with the Pentagon to use artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage after backlash from employees and the public, according to the Washington Post. Similar petitions made by Amazon and Microsoft employees were also successful. 

The tech industry does listen to pressure from employees. However, without protection, employees fear repercussions such as losing their jobs if they choose to protest against company policies. 

As the tech industry expands, companies have grown in power, sometimes holding more power than the government itself. This was seen through Facebook’s influence on the 2016 elections and the way tech companies control information on the internet

Additionally, social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have banned government leaders like former president Trump, limiting their power to communicate with the general public. Legally, these companies do not have to respect people’s first amendment right to free speech as they are privately owned, according to ABC News. 

These companies have been growing in power over the years. Particularly, five companies — Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — have made various ventures into other industries including artificial intelligence and hold a lot of the information on the internet, essentially making them monopolies. 

Governments can no longer control these giants, the voices of the employees are the only solution to keep these companies in check. 

Unions in the tech industry have been formed before, in small companies like Kickstarter. The protections of a union elevate the workers’ voices. While the public has power to pressure companies, it is the employees who truly understand the inner workings of the company and the implications of its actions. 

The Alphabet Workers Union is just the start of a new era for the tech industry. Tech companies need to be held accountable for their decisions. Despite stigma against unions in tech, it is time for a change. More unions should be created to give workers the power they deserve.