Google Refused to Bargain with YouTube Music Contract Workers—Breaking Labor Laws in the Process

Google broke labor laws YouTube Music contract workers
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Google broke labor laws YouTube Music contract workers
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Photo Credit: Alvaro Reyes

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Google’s refusal to bargain with YouTube Music’s unionized contract workers is illegal.

Both Google and its sub-contractor Cognizant denied any wrongdoing after the contractors joined the Alphabet Workers Union. The argument cropped up over Google’s mandate to return to work for hourly professionals. Many of these contractors were hired remotely during the pandemic and argued that additional expenses for childcare and transportation meant they could not return without a significant pay raise.

Meanwhile, Google argues that it contracts Cognizant to deal with the workers and so it has no role in the collective bargaining process. How businesses determine who are joint employers of contract and franchise workers has been murky since the Obama administration. The NLRB used a rule adopted during President Trump’s administration that says businesses must exercise direct control over workers to be required to bargain with them.

A panel of three members of the NLRB agreed that Google directly supervises the YouTube music contract workers, who perform data-related tasks.

They’re Google’s first line of defense against finding errors in its charts algorithm. “At all material times, Respondents Cognizant and Google have co-determined the essential terms and conditions of employment of employees employed at the E. Parmer Lane facility and have been joint employers,” the board writes in its decision.

In a statement made to Bloomberg, a Google spokesperson confirmed the company plans to appeal the ruling in federal court. “As we’ve said before, we have no objection to these Cognizant employees electing to form a union. We simply believe it’s only appropriate for Cognizant, as their employer, to engage in collective bargaining.”

Meanwhile, YouTube Music workers Katie-Marie Marschner says any appeals are Alphabet’s attempt to avoid collective bargaining to “pad the pockets of shareholders and executives.” Google was ordered to cease and desist from refusing to recognize and negotiate with these union workers under federal labor law.