Alphabet Workers Union exemplifies the vibrancy and power of pre-majority union organizing

An official union might be years away, but worker organizing can lay the institutional and — even more critically — cultural foundations.

AWU workers
Photo credit: AWU

The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), colloquially known as “the Google union,” just celebrated its three-year birthday and continues to demonstrate the opportunity of pre-majority worker organizing at megacorporations. You can read more about AWU in the new case study we just added to our pre-majority unionism report.

AWU emerged after several years of worker organizing among white- and blue-collar workers at Google, including petitions and a historic walkout, as well as some recognized unions, and alongside a burgeoning worker movement across the tech industry, typified by industry-wide Tech Workers Coalition. This lively history that preceded the only wall-to-wall union at a tech megacorporation demonstrates the great potential of the kind of organizing that EWOC does. An official union might be years away, but worker organizing can lay the institutional and — even more critically — cultural foundations. It’s hard to imagine AWU without the years of worker organizing that came before.

AWU is a wall-to-wall pre-majority union, meaning that our membership includes any worker at Alphabet (Google’s parent company), regardless of job title or employer. Indeed, many of our members are employed by third-party contracting agencies. On AWU’s structure, Chris Schmidt, former AWU secretary, says: “You need to have a formal structure that people can slot into, one to two to three to ten people at a time, with the idea of growing and connecting … our structure allows for that.”

Photo credit: AWU

AWU’s strategies and tactics have been diverse.

As one might imagine, organizing 150,000 workers at a surveillance megacorporation has its challenges. Worker leaders with whom I spoke cited focus as a key challenge in the effort, as well as maintaining coherence within such a massive organizing effort. You can see some of AWU’s “union day” events, which function to maintain coherence and highlight efforts and victories within our union, on our YouTube channel.

Alphabet is of course fighting back. Most recently, Google cut an enormous swath of its search quality workforce after they had started to organize.

Want a more in-depth discussion of AWU’s history, structure, and strategy? Check out the case study! Want to know more about pre-majority union organizing in general? Have a look around the rest of the pre-majority unionism report!

Want to talk with a workplace organizer? Get in touch.

Ike McCreery is an organizer, researcher, and engineer. They chaired the organizing and steering committees of the Alphabet Workers Union and were a founding member of Tech Workers Coalition Seattle. They worked as a senior site reliability engineer at Google.

Talk with an Organizer

An EWOC organizer is ready to help you and your co-workers get the benefits and respect you deserve.

Recent Posts