Labor Board Accuses Google Contractor of Violating Union Rights

A federal company issued a grievance this week towards a contractor employed by Google and accused it of violating its staff’ labor rights, marking the newest flash level in a long-running wrestle between staff and know-how firms.

In the grievance, the National Labor Relations Board asserts that HCL America, a subsidiary of an Indian contracting large, illegally discouraged staff from belonging to a union, and of failing to cut price with the union in good religion.

HCL and Google didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark. The case doesn’t accuse Google of wrongdoing.

A gaggle of about 90 HCL staff in Pittsburgh who do work comparable to knowledge evaluation beneath a contract the corporate has with Google voted to unionize final fall. They affiliated with the United Steelworkers union.

According to the grievance, managers on the firm interrogated staff in regards to the organizing actions of their colleagues, informed them that promotions and wages have been being delayed as a result of of the union marketing campaign and threatened to implement work guidelines extra strictly if the union was created, in violation of federal labor legislation.

After the staff voted to unionize, the labor board asserts, the corporate started shifting some of the work that they carried out to Poland. HCL additionally restricted their skill to take part in coaching periods and required staff to take periodic “quick check” quizzes, in response to the grievance.

“Sending work out of the country during a pandemic was especially kind of an unconscionable action,” mentioned Joshua Borden, an HCL employee energetic within the union. “They were trying to take jobs away from us in retaliation for organizing to have a fair workplace.”

HCL additionally unilaterally altered insurance policies referring to breaks, trip, household depart, and 401(okay) contributions, in response to the grievance, regardless that it’s presupposed to cut price over them with the union. And it “unreasonably delayed” in offering details about pay and job titles that the union requested to assist it cut price, the grievance says.

Last yr’s profitable union marketing campaign at HCL was broadly seen as a big improvement within the tech business, which has aggressively resisted labor organizing. Blue-collar workers in the industry, such as security guards whose employers have contracts with giants like Google and Facebook, have formed unions. But the HCL union was believed to be the first group of white-collar tech employees to organize while doing work for a major company.

The HCL workers, echoing a refrain common among Google’s tens of thousands of temporaries and contractors, complained that while they often sat alongside direct Google employees and worked on projects together, they typically received lower pay, fewer benefits and less job security.

The organizing effort came at a time when employees across the industry, including at Microsoft, Amazon and Google, were protesting over a variety of issues, including trying to discourage their employers from working with certain federal agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security.

Several months after the HCL workers unionized, employees at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter also formed a union, appearing to become the first group of direct employees of a prominent tech company to do so.

Google in particular has been in the spotlight over labor unrest. Its workers have protested the company’s efforts to help the Defense Department identify targets in video footage and have walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct.

Last year it abruptly disbanded a team of contractors working on Google Assistant, its voice-activated tool. After employees protested, Google agreed to require firms it contracted with to pay full-time employees at least $15 per hour and provide health insurance.

The company has also brought in a consulting firm known for helping employers fight union campaigns, and last fall it fired several employees who were active in organizing colleagues. Google said it fired the workers because they violated company policies.

The labor board’s case against HCL is scheduled to go before an administrative law judge next February, unless the company settles with the government beforehand.

If the judge were to rule against HCL, he or she would likely order the company to undo all the changes it made unilaterally and bargain over them with the union, said Wilma Liebman, a former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board. It could also require HCL to compensate workers for any losses they suffered as a result of those changes.

The labor board issued the complaint on Monday, but the steelworkers union announced it on Thursday, after it had a chance to review it, a union spokesman said.

Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed reporting.

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