The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, should be considered a joint employer for a group of YouTube Music contractors. The workers are currently attempting to organize with the Alphabet Worker’s Union, and the NLRB’s decision could mean that the tech giant has to negotiate with them if they vote to unionize in an upcoming election.
The workers are directly employed by a company called Cognizant, which acts as an Alphabet subcontractor. However, the NLRB believes that Google has enough control over their “benefits, hours of work, supervision, and direction of work” that it counts as a partial employer, according to Bloomberg.
“We are proud to win a precedent setting victory not just for ourselves, but also for workers across the country,” said Sam Regan, a union organizer and YouTube Music contractor, who was quoted in a press release from the AWU. “Technology companies in particular have innovated new ways to deny responsibility for their workers’ livelihoods through subcontracting, gig work, and other poor employment practices.”
For its part, Alphabet intends to appeal the NLRB’s decision. “We simply don’t control these workers’ employment terms or working conditions,” spokesperson Courtenay Mencini told Bloomberg.
In addition to the union drive and fight to get Alphabet recognized as a joint employer, the contractors went on strike in February to protest return to office orders — the first strike at the company, according to the AWU. The dates for the union election haven’t been publicly announced yet.