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Hundreds of Unionized Google Staff Push for More Abortion Protections

The Alphabet Workers Union sent a petition to execs demanding they give contract workers abortion access benefits and stop sharing maternal user data.

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Unionized Google employees across the U.S. signed a petition arguing the company needs to do more to protect workers’ abortion access.
Unionized Google employees across the U.S. signed a petition arguing the company needs to do more to protect workers’ abortion access.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

More than 650 members of the Alphabet Workers Union, the recently-established minority union made up mostly of Google engineering folks, demanded in a letter to company execs that their company change its broad policies in the wake of the end of Roe v. Wade.

In a release sent to Gizmodo, the union made three main points. First, unionized employees said Google needs to extend protections and benefits for those seeking abortions to contract and temp workers. Second, the union demanded Google stop supporting politicians or lobbying groups, particularly for those that have advocated for curbs to reproductive rights. Lastly, workers said Google needs to stop gathering maternity-related data on users, which many fear can be used to prosecute women for abortion, or otherwise target them with anti-abortion advertising.

Google declined to offer comment, instead pointing a number of links regarding their stated policy after the end of Roe. The union’s letter called on Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to create a task force made up of 50% employees to make these changes, “just like Alphabet did for handling the COVID-19 pandemic.” Reports show the company has previously told employees their benefits plan will cover out-of-state procedures, and they can apply for relocation “without justification.”

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That union’s last concern is shared across the space of the tech and advertising sectors. Recent reports showed just how bad most pregnancy or period-tracking apps (the vast majority hosted on Google Play Store as well as Apple’s App Store) are at protecting user data. A recent report from Gizmodo showed there are dozens of companies selling data points on millions of users who are pregnant, or even interested in maternity. With how present this danger is, the bare minimum that Google has enacted so far is not enough, union leaders said.

The workers cited recent reports that Meta handed over messages to cops over an alleged “illegal” abortion in Nebraska. The social media monolith vehemently denied they knew Nebraska was investigating an abortion crime, though documents like the affidavits of the case showed that the investigation was related to abortion. It’s unclear if Meta ever saw those affidavits.

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On the front of employees access to safe abortions, the AWU called their company a “two-tiered workforce,” advocating that any benefits offered to staff trying to relocate to states to access abortion should be offered to Google’s contract workforce. Google is partnered with a multitude of agencies that either work alongside the company or hire contract workers, doing work like creating content on the company’s help pages or coding support tools. They’ve often struggled to get many of the same benefits as their full time compatriots.

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“They emailed us right after the ruling to affirm their support for their full time employees getting abortions, but did not address how contracted workers, who tend to have more marginalized identities, would be supported in trying to exercise their right to choose,” said Alejandra Beatty—a technical program manager at Alphabet subsidiary Verily and the union’s southwest chapter lead—in the release.

As for their last point, of ending support and lobbying for any and all politicians through the company’s political action committee NETPAC. Beatty told The Guardian that the union originally discussed demanding they end support only for anti-abortion politicians, but would rather say that “the whole entire system is broken,” arguing further that any kind of lobbying in this space is “participating in a fundamentally broken system.”

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In the release, a retail associate at Google, Emrys Adair said “Google says they support abortive access for all people but that means very little when they are bankrolling politicians who continue to infringe on human rights issues not only concerning abortion, but voting access and gun control as well.”

The letter was addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, alongside several other execs like the Chief Diversity Officer Melanie Parker and Jerry Dischler, the VP and general manager of ads. The union said they sent the petition on Monday, but had yet to hear back from execs by the end of Wednesday.

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The union was created last year primarily to drive the company’s broader social policy, and its membership is mostly made up of software engineers upset over how Google often lacks accountability for its message and doesn’t always match its actions. Google, of course, wasn’t so thrilled about having this union causing trouble on the side, and secretly worked to fight against it. Though AWU says it’s affiliated with the Communications Workers of America and does claim to have more than 11,000 members across the breadth of the company, Google does employ 130,000 people worldwide, so the AWU does not have the power of collective bargaining and isn’t registered with the National Labor Relations Board.