Following the firing of AI researcher Timnit Gebru in December, more than 225 Google employees in the United States have announced that they have formed a union, a first within Alphabet’s umbrella.

The Google and Alphabet employees revealed their self-formed union in an op-ed in the New York Times that is a direct response to harassment and ethically questionable decisions from Google’s management. This union, however, is not like a typical one.

Unions on their own are not common in Silicon Valley, and they’ve never been in place at Google. Through this new one, Google employees don’t aim to bring management to negotiate a contract, but rather to stand up for workers and “create a formal structure.” At this point, 226 Google workers have signed union cards with the Communications Workers of America.

Concluding the New York Times article, executive and vice chairs of the Alphabet Workers Union Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw write:

 When Google went public in 2004, it said it would be a company that ‘does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains.’ Its motto used to be ‘Don’t be evil.’

We will live by that motto. Alphabet is a powerful company, responsible for vast swaths of the internet. It is used by billions of people across the world. It has a responsibility to prioritize the public good. It has a responsibility to its thousands of workers and billions of users to make the world a better place. As Alphabet workers, we can help build that world.

The “Alphabet Workers Union” is open to all Alphabet employees including the temporary and contracted workers. One goal for the union is to undo the “grave inequity” where those employees often see lower pay and are “more likely to be Black or brown.”

In response to this, Google’s Kara Silverstein, director of people operations, said to the Times:

We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our work force. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.

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