Alphabet Workers Union hits Google data center contractor with labor complaint: We were banned from discussing wages, say staff

Modis also accused of suspending techie for criticizing working conditions

The Alphabet Workers Union on Wednesday filed a labor complaint against Google contractor Modis, claiming that for the past six months the staffing firm has prevented workers from discussing wages and job conditions as allowed under US law.

The complaint, filed with the US National Labor Relations Board by CWA Local 1400’s Alphabet Workers Union, alleges that Adecco Group subsidiary Modis, which provides staff for Google's data centers, suspended contact worker and AWU member Shannon Wait for complaining about working conditions and questioning pay.

The AWU, formed last month, claims that a Modis supervisor, prior to the suspension, questioned Wait about a personal Facebook post she'd made in which she criticized management for failing to replace damaged water bottles and voiced support for the union.

Wait, according to the AWU, works at the Google data center in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and has seen repairs double during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating concerns about safety.

People working in what looks like a Googlesque office

Techies start growing an Alphabet-wide labor union: 200-plus sign up, only tens of thousands more to go


Wait's supervisor, it's alleged, previously directed Wait not to talk about wages with co-workers after she asked why some workers did not receive bonuses.

AWU contends that numerous Alphabet workers are unfairly classified as temps, vendors, or contractors (TVCs), a designation that allows the company to pay less in benefits than it would for a full-time employee.

"These are the conditions that we face as TVCs – we’re paid less, we’re laid off when needed, and we often don’t have access to safe, transparent working conditions," said Wait in a statement. "Alphabet and Google can do better to ensure that all workers, including their contractors, are treated fairly. Google became a trillion dollar company last year. They can afford to treat us right."

Other labor complaints related to the ad giant's temp firms and to Google itself suggest different priorities. IT services biz HCL America (HCL Technologies), which provides contract workers to Google in Pittsburgh, was the subject of a series of labor complaints last year for resisting unionization attempts.

In December, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board accused Alphabet and Google of violating labor laws by spying on employees, interfering with protected activity, and retaliation.

Google, Modis, and Adecco Group did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement emailed to The Register, Parul Koul, executive chair of AWU, saud, "We hope the NLRB finds Modis in violation of federal labor law so that TVCs employed by Modis at this and all data centers know they have recourse when their managers engage in illegal activity."

Companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have in recent years increased their use of non-employee labor while frequently opposing unionization.

A 2016 paper by economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, found, "The percentage of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements – defined as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers – rose from 10.7 percent in February 2005 to 15.8 percent in late 2015."

How workers get classified affects both the amount they get paid and the legal rights available to them. It also affects the tax revenue paid to states and the federal government, funds that affect public services and programs.

What's more, reliance on third-party contracting firms reduces in-house positions that might find unionization appealing as a defense against overly demanding or unsafe work.

Last year, California enacted Assembly Bill 5 to clarify when workers can be classified as independent contractors, in an effort to push back against the trend toward TVCs. Five "gig economy" companies – DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, Lyft and Uber – subsequently shelled out over $200m to pass California Prop. 22 in November 2020, exempting them from the law. ®

Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022