Alphabet Workers Union alleges that leaders at Google and YouTube parent company Alphabet are using return-to-work policies to chill unionizing efforts. Per a Jan. 24 National Labor Relations Board filing obtained by HR Dive, supervisor Priya Ramani allegedly told employees that their work “can be easily transferred to other offices in the case of an ‘emergency.’” AWU claimed Ramani said this in the context of “meeting with workers to discuss the organizing effort.”
In the three months since AWU filed a petition for an NLRB election, Ramani allegedly has said that that a union would “stifle her relationship with employees,” that it has created a “brick wall” and she was unsure that a union victory was “going to work for everyone,” the filing reads.
The employers — the two named are Google, LLC/Alphabet, Inc. and Cognizant — have reportedly shifted workplace policy and subsequent enforcement “in response to the union effort.” Ruben Alaniz, who is listed on LinkedIn as a YouTube vendor manager, is named as the employer representative for Google and Alphabet. Ramani is named for Cognizant; she is listed as the company’s deputy general manager of operations on LinkedIn.
AWU claims the employers specifically stated that “failure to comply with the newly-promulgated return to office policy will be treated as ‘job abandonment’ and a ‘voluntary termination.’” The filing alleges that this shift in policy enforcement is “a clear departure” from employers’ past behavior.
A spokesperson for Cognizant told HR Dive that the employer had communicated return-to-office policies “repeatedly and consistently” to all of its workers since December 2021 via email, the company’s internal website and team meetings, the spokesperson said.
“The employees in Austin were fully aware of the intention to return to the office prior to the filing of a [NLRB] petition. Moreover, all associates working on this project were hired with the understanding that the jobs were based in an Austin office location,” the spokesperson said. “The small number of associates who voluntarily left the Austin area, and are unable or unwilling to return have the opportunity to be considered for assignments on other client projects at Cognizant. There is simply no merit to these claims.”
Google did not respond back to HR Dive’s request for comment.