In America anti-union sentiment is strong due to the marketing efforts of large business owners that don’t like paying workers. Amazon’s anti-union efforts are a great example of this. In recent years the pro-union movement has been growing and the recent push by Amazon workers to get respect is an example of this.
Over at Vice, of all places, they have an article about eight people explaining how they learned that unions are there to protect workers. The stories capture the reality, and benefits, of being in a union in the USA right now.
That strike helped us win free family health care. We don’t have to pay anything to cover our spouse or kids, and the copays are so low that I never need to worry about money when I go to the doctor. We also won retention rights, which protect us when our restaurants shut down or close temporarily for renovations—which happens all the time at SFO! With these retention rights, we get put on a priority list to be rehired at one of the other restaurants in the airport. My union contract gives me a sense of security that I’m always going to be able to provide for my family. Before I started as a union cook at SFO, my husband was working a job where he had to pay a big premium for health insurance, and it didn’t even cover the whole family. Nothing beats having a good job that feels really secure.
The workers behind the unionization efforts at Google are expanding to take on the whole Alphabet, the parent company of Google. They’ve formed Alpha Global to be a common voice for issues facing Google workers around the world and for people who are being negatively impacted by the actions of the Alphabet mega-corporation. If this union is like ones from a hundred years ago then all of us will benefit from the efforts to reign in the power and aspirations of a company that is practicing great overreach into all aspects of society.
“The problems at Alphabet — and created by Alphabet — are not limited to any one country, and must be addressed on a global level,” says UNI general secretary Christy Hoffman. “The movement launched by tech workers at Google and beyond is inspiring. They are 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.”
“The power of these global tech companies is such that they’re in every part of our lives,” says Fionnuala Ní Bhrógáin, an organizer with the Communications Workers’ Union in Ireland. “If they’re acting in this way nearly entirely unchecked by governments then there is no hold on what they can do. That power needs to be checked, and it’s only through collective action that workers are able to do that.”
Unions are a reaction to poor working conditions, and it’s clear that some Silicon Valley companies have created the need for unions. Google, which has been actively suppressing workers who stand up against injustices are now seeing their workers unionize. This is a symbolic victory for the labour movement in the tech world and a clear success for the people working at Google.
From afar it looks like the tech unions in the States are going to be modelling themselves more like the Screen Actors Guild than the more popular conception of unions like those at auto plants.
“This is historic—the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Dylan Baker, a Google software engineer, said in a statement.
“We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values.”
Google workers have some history of collective action. In 2018, thousands of the workers signed a petition protesting Project Maven, a contract to help the Department of Defense track individuals in video footage captured by drones. That pressure campaign was ultimately successful, as the contract was terminated.
If you work in a unionized environment you’re likely doing better than a person in a non-union environment according to a study done in California. You’re also less likely to make use of the state’s welfare system. What’s more this means that the whole state benefits from unions as more economic activity is happening as a result with less costs imposed on the social welfare system. The pandemic has really made it clear that unions can make a big difference in how workplaces react to the economic troubles.
Workers covered by a union contract in California earn an average of 12.9 percent more than non-union workers with similar demographic characteristics and working in similar industries.
Overall, we estimate that unions increase workers’ earnings in California by $18.5 billion annually through collective bargaining.
Unions decrease by 30.6 percent the likelihood that a worker is in a family where at least one member is enrolled in a public safety net program, compared to non-union workers with similar demographic characteristics and working in similar industries.
Educators in Ontario are currently on rolling strikes because the provincial Conservative government has chosen to weak havoc on the education system. Since they’ve been elected they’ve sliced and diced all that matters to ensure Ontario has a functioning education system (they’ve even cited chronically-underperforming Alabama as an educational state to follow). You can see a full list of cuts by the Conservatives here.
It’s clear that people are sick of the Conservative’s incompetence and are actively supporting the education system. The government launched a propaganda campaign to pay parents for days their kids missed school due to labour actions. This campaign has utterly backfired and parents receiving the money are donating it back to the school system and educators – where the money should go in the first place.
“It’s amazing that while the Ford gov. is trying to win a public relations battle against teachers, they essentially proved they could provide real childcare subsidies if they have the interest and willpower to do it,” wrote MPP Chris Glover on Twitter earlier today.
Some parents are even choosing to take the money and donate it back to the education system.
“Show our educators your support & Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford your displeasure. Let them know that as a province, we do NOT accept their decisions,” reads an online petition started by parent Amy Llewellyn.