Google Maps Contractors Get Return-to-Office Extension After Threatening to Strike

Members of the Alphabet Workers Union won a 90 day return to work extension after threatening to strike.

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A strike by Google Maps employees could have resulted in service hiccups for the software’s billion monthly users. 
A strike by Google Maps employees could have resulted in service hiccups for the software’s billion monthly users. 
Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY (Getty Images)

Contractors at Google have successfully pushed back their return to office mandate after threatening to go on strike. Google Maps contract workers secured a 90-day extension to return to the office after the company initially slated a return to work for June 6.

The Alphabet Workers Union took to Twitter to share the news. The Union stated that the contractors were concerned about “unsafe working conditions” related to Covid-19, and received the extension from Google only 3 hours after the contract workers threatened to strike. The Alphabet Workers Union represents workers employed by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. “Safety was the primary concern, as there were no clear commitments to basic COVID safety protocols,” a representative from the Alphabet Workers Union said in an email to Gizmodo. Google did not respond to our request for comment.

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The Alphabet Workers Union said there’s over 200 contract workers that contribute to Google Maps and that they’re paid anywhere from $16 to $28 per hour. These contractors are employed by Cognizant Technology Solutions and “do everything from providing up to date info on traffic disruptions, mapping out the safest routes to take during natural disasters and adding in the latest COVID testing site locations for Google Maps users,” the Union tweeted. The threat to strike comes after over 60% of the contractors signed a petition last month for a better policy for returning to their Washington State office amidst high housing costs and rising gas prices. The New York Times reported that full time Google employees could come into the office three days a week, and Cognizant contractors were looking for the same flexibility.

Google says that a billion people use Google Maps every month, which means a labor strike of some of its core contributors could be devastating for the app’s service. Google isn’t the only big company going through a labor reckoning as employees champion for better working conditions. A PR firm hired by Tesla was reportedly monitoring a push for a union by employees on Facebook in 2017, while CEO Elon Musk announced today that he may axe 10% of the company’s workforce. Apple office employees petitioned for a better return to work policy in May, while employees at Apple retail stores in Atlanta and Maryland began unionization efforts in April. Last month, Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls represented his union in a Senate Budget Committee hearing in Washington D.C.

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This story was updated June 6 at 9:30 a.m. with comments from the Alphabet Workers Union.