Union at Google Parent Company Forms International Alliance

The new coalition, called Alpha Global, includes unions from 10 countries, and it is affiliated with the UNI Global Union, a federation whose members represent around 20 million people globally.

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A sign is posted on the exterior of Google headquarters on January 30, 2014 in Mountain View, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)
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(TNS) — Workers at Google parent Alphabet have announced an international union alliance after a group of employees in the U.S. and Canada formed a union this month.

The new coalition, called Alpha Global, includes unions from 10 countries, including the U.S.GermanySwitzerlandSweden, and the U.K. It is affiliated with the UNI Global Union, a federation whose members represent around 20 million people globally.

Several hundred Alphabet workers created the Alphabet Workers Union earlier this month. Affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, it is open to employees and company contractors alike. Members pay dues, but it is at present what's known as a minority union, which means it can't bargain with Google for a contract.

Unlike majority unions with bargaining power, the new labor groups' organizing efforts are geared toward holding Google accountable to its "Don't be evil" founding ethos.

Unlike traditional organizing focused on better wages and working conditions, the unions have said their goal is to hold the company accountable for its actions as one of the largest and most powerful companies in existence.

Unions have been historically rare in the tech world, where employees are often well compensated and showered with perks. The Alphabet workers' use of a minority union organizing model potentially provides a model for other tech workers unhappy with their companies' direction and culture to apply pressure internally and in public.

The CWA also created a tech organizing arm shortly after the Alphabet Workers Union
 announced its plans, signaling a renewed focus on organized labor in an industry that has rarely had card-carrying union members.

The Office and Professional Employees International Union, an AFL-CIO affiliate, announced Monday that it too had formed a tech organizing arm. That move comes after the union successfully organized workers at crowdfunding site Kickstarter last year, becoming the first white-collar tech workforce to successfully organize in the U.S.

"We know that organizing for justice at a global company like Alphabet does not stop at national boundaries, and that is why it is so important to unite with workers in other countries," said  Parul Koul , executive chair of the Alphabet Workers Union and a Google software engineer.

"In a world where inequality is tearing apart our societies and corporations are hoarding more influence than ever, reclaiming our power through our unions has never been more important," Koul added.

"The problems at Alphabet — and created by Alphabet — are not limited to any one country, and must be addressed on a global level," said  Christy Hoffman , general secretary of UNI Global Union.

Hoffman said the union efforts are workers "using their collective muscle to not only transform their conditions of employment but also to address social issues caused by increasing concentration of corporate power."

"We've always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace. We'll continue engaging directly with all our employees,"  Kara Silverstein , Google's director of people operations, said in an emailed statement.

Some Google employees feel the company has drifted away from its founding principles, triggering employee walkouts and protests in recent years.

Controversial firings have led to ongoing disputes with company management. Pay equity and harassment in the workplace have also become points of contention for workers who have spoken out publicly.

Google's government contracts, particularly work on drone technology with potential military use, also have created internal uproar and caused the company to abandon some projects.

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