Over the last several months, Google workers have organized and protested unfair labor practices, and while these efforts first started by pushing for change within their own company, they’ve since expanded to all workers. And on Monday, Google employees are urging people around the country to call Congress to end the practice of forced arbitration.
“On May 1st, 1886, Chicago workers went on strike to fight for the eight-hour work day we now assume as given,” Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration wrote on Medium on Monday. “One hundred thirty three years later, we are fighting for workers rights to the courts — rights that will not be given unless we demand them. Call your Congressperson on Wednesday May 1st and make your demand known.”
Forced arbitration is a common mechanism by which employers keep misconduct out of the public eye by requiring disputes to be settled behind closed doors by a third party, rather than heard in court by a trial by jury. It’s one that until February of this year, Google enforced in its own employment contracts. Just a week after that, Google employees headed to Capitol Hill to throw their support behind the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act), which effectively prohibits these types of agreements for both employees and contractors and prevents companies from prohibiting class-action lawsuits.
Now, Google employees, as well as Harvard law students from Pipeline Parity Project, have set up phone banks for people to call their Congressional leaders to throw their weight behind the FAIR Act. They’ve compiled the phone numbers of each congressperson, their position on the FAIR Act, and call scripts in a publicly accessible Google Doc. To participate, you can find your congressional leader, call them up, and ask for their support for this bill. From there, you can log your calls in a phone bank tracker online.
Organizers want you to take three minutes to make three phone calls to Congress on Wednesday in support of this bill.
Tanuja Gupta, one of the organizers for Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration, noted in an email to Gizmodo that while Google did end forced arbitration for its full-time employees, this change didn’t fully extend to its massive workforce of contractors. “And even if all of that had been addressed, how could you ignore all the other workers who shared their stories with us after the walkout about how private arbitration silenced them?” Gupta said. “We had to use our privilege and speak up. This practice is going to [affect] multiple generations of workers too, given how long it has already lasted. So yes, we started with Googler workers, then linked arms with other workers ... and today we’re joining forces with future workers by teaming up with the students of the Pipeline Parity Project.”
Gupta also referenced the Google employees who recently spoke up about the retaliation they experienced from Google after their involvement in the walkout. Google employees Meredith Whitaker and Claire Stapleton both alleged that the company retaliated against them professionally, and Gupta said that at the company, “there’s a lot of anger right now about retaliation - which often persists because people can be wrongfully terminated, but never hold their employers accountable for it because victims are silenced through forced arbitration. And right now, sixty million workers don’t have that right.”
“If people turn that anger into action, we can fix this for everyone.”