The federal labor board alleges that Google unlawfully declined negotiations with the union representing YouTube workers

A decision from the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday determined that Google’s refusal to negotiate with the unionized YouTube Music workers is against the law. Last April, after contract workers in Texas for YouTube Music voted unanimously to join the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), Google declined discussions regarding return-to-office concerns, a move deemed illegal by the NLRB.

The crux of the matter revolves around the question of who holds employer status. While Google, as the owner of YouTube, asserts that it is not the legal employer of contract workers, the NLRB disagrees. The board has directed Google to halt its refusal to engage with the union and mandated that the company must negotiate upon request.

A three-member panel from the NLRB determined that both the tech giant and its subcontractor, Cognizant, are joint employers of these workers. Consequently, Google is required to engage in negotiations with the union representing these workers. Google, however, intends to appeal this decision in federal court.

In response to the ruling, a Google spokesperson stated, “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. We’re appealing the NLRB’s joint employer decision to federal court as Google does not control the employment terms or conditions of these Cognizant workers.”

The ruling aligns with AWU’s assertions that Google actively assumes an employer role in contractor work and, consequently, should be held accountable for union negotiations.

“After a unanimous union election victory, and consistent rulings from the NLRB determining that Alphabet significantly shapes our working conditions and is in fact our employer, the company has refused to meet us at the bargaining table,” YouTube Music worker and AWU member Katie-Marie Marschner said in a statement.

Marschner stated that any forthcoming appeals from Alphabet are simply an effort to evade engaging in collective bargaining with the union and to benefit shareholders and executives financially.

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