YouTube music companies win major union battle against Alphabet

Photo credit: Alexander Shatov

YouTube Music contractors have partnered with the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that the YouTube Music Content Operations team has won the election for a union overwhelmingly – 83% of the unit’s 49 workers voted. These workers are subcontracted by Alphabet through Cognizant. They are responsible for ensuring that music content is available and shared with YouTube Music’s 80 million subscribers around the world.

In March 2023, the NLRB ruled that Google could employ these workers even if they were subcontracted by another organization. Google is currently appealing the ruling, but if it stands, these YouTube Music workers will be the first officially recognized union of tech workers at the search giant. Workers went on strike in February over unfair labor practices and attempts to interfere in union organization.

“My colleagues and I have spoken time and time again – we want and have gained a protected voice at work to bring both Alphabet and Cognizant to the negotiating table so we can achieve the fair working conditions we deserve.” says Maxwell Longfield, YouTube Music contract worker at Cognizant and member of the AWU-CWA. “No one working for a multi-billion dollar platform should have to juggle three jobs to make ends meet, and no one should have to give up their livelihood on a retaliatory mandate to return to office.”

“We have demonstrated our power as workers on the strike line and now in our union elections. Today’s win puts us on the path to earning our fair share, and we hope other engineers will join us, standing shoulder to shoulder with their peers and unleashing their power at work.”

Workers submitted their union election in October 2022. Following that organization, Cognizant announced its RTO mandate, which would have forced workers to “voluntarily resign” their jobs. The majority of these workers were hired remotely and more than a quarter are not based in Texas. Currently, 15 workers are still on strike.

Alphabet exercises control over these YouTube Music contractors, including with respect to day-to-day work assignments, performance reviews, and more. The workers are confident that the NLRB ruling will be upheld and that Alphabet and Cognizant will be brought to the negotiating table to negotiate a contract for these workers.