Google contractor HCL America accused of retaliating against unionized techies by shifting US jobs to Poland

Pittsburgh workforce erosion, punitive policies cited in labor complaint


The US National Labor Relations Board has bundled a series of complaints alleging labor law violations against IT services firm HCL America (HCL Technologies), which supplies contract workers like data analysts to a Google office in Pittsburgh, into a case to be heard in February.

The NLRB complaint [PDF] is a consolidation of cases brought by aggrieved temps after approximately 90 HCL tech contractors agreed to unionize in September, 2019. The contractors joined the United Steelworkers union to negotiate as a group, as allowed by law, for better working conditions and wages.

The complaint alleges that HCL America transferred work done by its unionized employees to Krakow, Poland, and limited their ability to participate in training.

"Most egregiously, HCL has been eroding its Pittsburgh workforce by brazenly moving work done here to its facility in Krakow, Poland, to retaliate against workers for exercising their right to choose union representation," said Josh Borden, a member of the union's negotiating committee, in a statement. "Management would rather break the law than negotiate in good faith for a fair contract."

Amazon protest in Queens, NY 2018

Amazon says it fired a guy for breaking pandemic rules. Same guy who organized a staff protest over a lack of coronavirus protection

READ MORE

The complaint further claims that HCL punitively implemented various rule changes affecting workers, such as a "prohibition on wearing beads, hats, and other hair accessories," and policy changes that placed conditions on work breaks, vacations, bereavement, medical leave, and other workplace rules.

These changes, it's alleged, were put in place "because the Unit employees formed, joined and assisted the Union and engaged in concerted activities, and to discourage employees from engaging in these activities."

Though Google contracts with HCL America, it is not named in the complaint. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The search biz last year hired IRI Consultants, a firm known for its work to discourage unionization.

Unionization efforts have been relatively scarce in the technology sector, and have been actively opposed by companies like Amazon. The labor-supported Economic Policy Institute last year published a report stating that US employers spend $340m annually on "union avoidance."

A rare effort that succeeded, the 2014 unionization of Lionbridge Technologies temp workers who did bug testing for Microsoft, was eventually undone when Lionbrige eliminated their jobs two years later. The union's NLRB complaint dragged on so long the pay-deprived bug hunters had already settled by the time Microsoft's objection to their effort to investigate alleged union busting had been denied.

With the union membership rate at an all-time low of 10.3 per cent in 2019 since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track in 1983, interest in collective labor action appears to be ready to rise now, thanks to the uncertain economic climate, corporate waffling on the moral implications of technology, and increasingly visible employee activism, among other issues.

Workers at JavaScript library biz NPM, Inc, now a part of GitHub, tried to unionize last year, only to be fired.

In December, 2019, some 40 San Francisco-based workers at Ford-owned scooter startup Spin unionized, In February, 2020, a group of Instacart employees in Chicago did the same. Around the same time, Kickstarter employees unionized.

In March, employees at app platform Glitch voted to unionize. And three Spotify-owned companies – Gimlet Media, The Ringer, and Parcast – have seen employees join unions.

HCL Technologies also did not respond to a request for comment. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021