Even though Cyberpunk 2077 is set over half a century into the future, in many ways we’re already living in that dystopian world. Billionaire executives largely call the shots in our society while workers are forced to deal with whatever decrees are handed down from above, whether that leads to mass layoffs or unfair working conditions.
However, we’re seeing some hopeful signs that workers are starting to fight for their rights. A group of 226 Google employees have formed the company’s first union in order to give a unified voice over issues such as diversity, pay discrimination, and a safe work environment.
“We are joining together — temps, vendors, contractors, and full-time employees — to create a unified worker voice,” wrote Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, the executive chair and vice-chair of the new Alphabet Workers Union. “We want Alphabet to be a company where workers have a meaningful say in decisions that affect us and the societies we live in.”
As reported by The New York Times, the Alphabet Workers Union (named after Google’s parent company, Alphabet) was formed in secret over the past year. Many employers fear unions for the simple reason that they often force them to pay out higher wages and provide better working conditions thanks to the threat of work disruptions. However, Alphabet Workers Union doesn’t have the membership for such actions yet, with only 226 employees representing a tiny fraction of Google’s 260,000 workforce.
Instead, Alphabet Workers Union exists to primarily give structure to more long-term activism within Google and to argue play foil to the massive power that Big Tech companies have in society.
Google isn’t the first tech company to have a union, but it is the largest Silicon Valley tech company to get one. Blizzard showed hints of forming a union last year after employees started sharing pay information on anonymous message boards, but so far that hasn’t led to greater organization.
Forming unions has been a hot topic in the games industry for the past several years as executive pay balloons while developer pay stagnates and work environments deteriorate. Long hours thanks to crunch and unfair contracts that protect executives from sexual harassment claims are hot-button issues that unions would be able to provide negotiating power if such unions were to form.
But that’s easier said than done. Paradox Interactive is so far the exception in the gaming industry rather than the norm. Studio heads will often take extreme measures to prevent employees from unionizing, such as Voltage firing its entire writing staff after they tried to form a union.
Hopefully, Google will provide a shining example of what other employees can do to form unions at their own tech companies, leading to a more equitable work environment for both tech and game developers.
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