YouTube Music Contractors Laid Off While Speaking With Austin City Council

YouTube Music laid off unionized contract workers
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YouTube Music laid off unionized contract workers
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Photo Credit: Austin American-Statesman | YouTube

YouTube Music contractors who unionized were laid off while speaking to the Austin City Council after the contract between Cognizant and Google expired.

The YouTube Music workers organized under the Alphabet Workers Union, which represents workers at Google’s parent company laid off the entire YouTube Music team. The layoffs became public knowledge as they happened while speaking at an Austin City Council meeting in Texas, where the city council was set to vote on a resolution asking the company to negotiate with the union.

In a widely circulated video, the workers tell the city council “we just got laid off, our jobs are ending today—effective immediately. The YouTube Music team was based in Austin. One of the primary complaints the union expressed was that its members were working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“Even as workers contribute to the success of the billion dollar platform, they are paid as little as $10 dollars an hour and receive minimal benefits,” the union told the city council. After the Alphabet Workers Union was created in April 2023, Google staunchly refused to recognize or bargain with the union. Cognizant told KXAN in Austin that the workers were let go after their contract ended on its intended date.

Cognizant says those workers will receive seven weeks of paid time to “explore other roles within the organization.” Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson clarified that Cognizant ended the contracts—not Google. “Contracts with our suppliers across the company routinely end on their natural expiry date, which was agreed to with Cognizant,” the Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai warned of more layoffs hitting the company as it shifts its focus. In a memo titled “2024 priorities and the year ahead” sent to Google staffers, Pichai said Google needs to “make tough choices” to compete with burgeoning AI giants like OpenAI and Anthropic.

“We have ambitious goals and will be investing in our big priorities this year. The reality is that to create the capacity for this investment, we have to make tough choices,” the memo reads. For some teams that means the elimination of roles, which Pichai termed “removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity.” Google’s last round of layoffs in January 2023 saw 12,000 people laid off, or roughly 6% of its workforce.