SJ&G Attorneys Help Achieve Milestone NLRB Ruling for Google Content Creation Remote Employees

Nov 10, 2023

National Labor Relations Board decision recognizes Google and Accenture as joint employers, clears the way for employee unionization for collective bargaining

Stranch, Jennings & Garvey (SJ&G) member Karla M. Campbell and attorney Michael Iadevaia helped attain a landmark victory for the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU)-Communications Workers of America (CWA) with a groundbreaking decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Sept. 21. Campbell and Iadevaia represent the AWU-CWA.

The NLRB decision recognizes Google and Accenture as joint employers of the Google Content Creation Operations team, and ruled that all full-time and regular part-time employees working remotely in the U.S. constitute a voting group appropriate for collective bargaining. Google subcontracted Accenture for employees to work on their help support page.

According to the ruling by NLRB Region 20 director Jill H. Coffman, these employees include technical writing analysts, visual design analysts, technical writing senior analysts and visual design senior analysts.

The AWU-CWA publicly announced their filing of an election petition to the NLRB in June that sought to represent nearly 120 workers on the Google Help team. The petition was filed under Section 9(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act).

In early July, Google and Accenture announced layoffs of more than 80 of those workers between August and the end of November. In early August, the AWU-CWA filed an unfair labor practice charge against Google and Accenture. The charge asserted that they violated a federal labor law in laying off Google Help team members as a union organizing drive was underway.

“Under Section 103.40 of the Board’s Rules and Regulations, an employer may be considered a joint employer of a separate employer’s employees only if the two employers share or codetermine the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment,” Coffman wrote.

“To meet this burden, the alleged joint employer must possess and exercise such substantial direct and immediate control over one or more essential terms or conditions of their employment as would warrant finding that the entity meaningfully affects matters relating to the employment relationship with those employees. Section 103.40 defines essential terms and conditions of employment as wages, benefits, hours of work, hiring, discharge, discipline, supervision, and direction.

“Based on the totality of the relevant facts, I find that Google possesses and exercises such substantial direct and immediate control over the petitioned-for employees’ benefits, hours of work, supervision, and direction as to establish that it meaningfully affects matters relating to their employment relationship,” Coffman continued. “I therefore find that Accenture and Google are joint employers of the petitioned-for employees under Section 103.40(a) of the Act.”

Mail-in ballots for unionization voting were sent to Google Content Creation Operations team members in October, who voted on Nov. 6 to unionize with the Alphabet Workers Union.

The September NLRB decision marked the second time in 2023 that Google has been named a joint employer. In a March 2023 decision, NLRB Region 16 director Timothy L. Watson ruled that Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, and Alphabet subcontractor Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., were joint employers of workers hired through Cognizant to support Google’s YouTube Music Content Operations (MCO). In April 2023, YouTube MCO workers voted unanimously to unionize. Campbell and Iadevaia represented the union in that decision.

“This second NLRB ruling in favor of Google contract workers upholds the rights of these employees to form a union for collective bargaining,” Iadevaia said. “We are delighted that the NLRB has held Google accountable to these workers. Ninety-three percent of the votes were in favor of unionizing, and we are now able to move forward on contract negotiation with Google and Accenture. We look forward to providing these employees with the terms and conditions they are rightfully due.” 

The representation case is Accenture dba Accenture Flex and Google LLC and Alphabet Workers Union-Communication Workers of America Local 9009, case number 20-RC-319743, before the National Labor Relations Board Region 20.