alphabet workers union members on strike


Google axes unionized YouTube Music workers

The timing seems a little suspicious, to say the least.


Grace Stanley


Posted on Mar 5, 2024


Last Thursday, Feb. 29, a group of YouTube music workers, unionized under the Alphabet Workers Union, testified to the city council in Austin, Texas. The council was considering a resolution calling on Google to bargain with the workers, who had gone on strike in 2023.

One unionized YouTube Music worker, Jack Benedict, was in the middle of issuing a statement in gratitude for the council when a coworker interrupted.

“To be supported by the city of Austin and also our allies in the labor community gives us the motivation to keep this fight going,” Benedict was saying. A coworker, Katie Marner, walked up to the podium to stop him.

“Not to interrupt, but they just laid us all off,” Marner said in a live stream of the event. “Our jobs are ended today. Effective immediately.” 

Google had apparently decided to end the workers’ contract abruptly. A troubling ensemble of Pinkerton guards and HR goons showed up at the workers’ office. They handed out cardboard boxes and told people to pack up their things.

“Everyone gets their paper box and starts packing. They have about 20 minutes to pack up. While under threat of having the cops called on them for trespassing,” Marner described in a video

As her coworkers were finishing packing, Marner says she returned to the office to collect her own things. At that point, Marner says the security agents told her she was trespassing.

Company reps said they would have to mail her things to her. One HR representative even ripped a box from her hand, leaving her bruised.

Though Google said in a statement to Passionfruit that the decision was due to the workers’ contract “routinely” coming to an end, the timing feels a little suspicious. To say the least.

Why did Google target these workers?

That day, the council passed a 9-1 resolution to call on Google to bargain with the workers in “good faith.”

“Now, many of the workers feel that they could lose their homes due to the sudden and unexpected layoff,” a statement from the Austin City Council reads, “which some of them believe could be retaliation for standing up today.”

Back in January 2024, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a decision that Google, YouTube’s owner, illegally refused to bargain with these YouTube Music content operation workers after they went on strike in February 2023.

These workers voted to unionize in April 2023 with the Alphabet Workers Union. The Alphabet Workers Union is a 1,400+ member organization for employees of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

The group of workers included music experts, writers, graphic designers, and content launch coordinators. According to a press release from the Alphabet Workers Union, the workers were responsible for “ensuring music content is available and approved for YouTube Music’s 80 million subscribers worldwide.” Many were creators and musicians who contracted with the company for their day jobs, according to the Austin Chronicle.

The Alphabet Workers Union filed a complaint on behalf of these workers with the NLRB. The NLRB is the the federal agency that protects employees’ rights to collectively bargain for better working conditions and wages.

The Alphabet Workers Union argued that Google violated federal labor laws prohibiting employers from retaliating against their employees for organizing efforts. Specifically, after the workers unionized, Google implemented a suspicious return-to-office mandate that forced many employees to “voluntarily terminate” their jobs. …

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*First Published: Mar 5, 2024, 4:30 pm CST