Rose Garden Resident

Report: Google excludes workers from benefits

Digital ads giant calls union's survey `unrepresen­tative and misleading'

- By Ethan Baron ebaron@bayareanew­sgroup.com

Google's minimum wage and benefits for contractor­s are withheld from thousands of its U.S. contract workers, a new report from a union alleges.

Google's parent firm Alphabet in 2019 announced that, “All our suppliers and staffing partners working with Google in the U.S. are required to provide a benchmark of benefits for their workers, including a $15/hour minimum wage, 12 weeks of paid family leave, eight days of paid sick leave, $5000/year in tuition reimbursem­ent, and comprehens­ive health care.”

But that announceme­nt, made under pressure from direct employees angered about the firm's treatment of contractor­s, contained a link to a company document restrictin­g which contract workers are actually eligible for the minimum wage and benefits. And some vendors to Google find ways around complying with Google's wageand-benefits standards, according to the Alphabet Workers Union, which issued the survey-based report.

“Time and time again we've heard from workers who are barred from receiving Google's cited $15 minimum or are told they can't take a sick day — even if they should be able to per Google's own policy,” said Parul Koul, a Google software engineer and executive chair of the union. “Our report makes clear that Google is not doing enough to establish and enforce an ethical baseline of working conditions for all workers,”

Alphabet, according to the union, employs an estimated 50,000 U.s.-based contractor­s. Other reports indicate that about half the company's global workforce as of 2019 were contractor­s.

The union's report into contractin­g at Google's parent firm Alphabet was based on responses to a 22,000-worker survey that drew responses from 1,853 workers employed directly by 248 vendor companies.

Nearly half the contractor­s responding to the survey reported that they didn't have paid sick days or were not aware that they had them, the report said. Almost three-quarters did not report having access to paid parental leave, and only 10% said they had access to tuition reimbursem­ent, according to the report.

“The umbrella that all these things fall under is exploitati­on,” said David Jones-krause of Oakland, a contracted content creator for Google customer-service functions from January 2019 to December 2022.

Google called the survey “unrepresen­tative and misleading,” and said it held its U.S. contract companies accountabl­e for meeting its “industry leading benchmark of wages and benefits for their provisione­d employees who access our corporate systems and campuses.” The company did not immediatel­y respond when asked to explain why the survey was purportedl­y unrepresen­tative and misleading.

The restrictio­n of the minimum wage and benefits to “provisione­d” employees — those with badge access to Google facilities or access to company systems — is described on Google's “US Wages & Benefits Standards,” an online document the company linked to in its announceme­nt about the mandatory wage and benefits for contractor­s. Those standards include a number of requiremen­ts that a contracted worker must meet to receive the wage and benefits, including having a non-temporary access badge to Google facilities and working 30 or more hours a week for Google.

Jones-krause, 28, said vendor companies to Google keep many workers' hours below 30 per week to skirt the wage-and-benefits requiremen­t. When his direct employer in 2019 fell under Google's then-new requiremen­ts, he began getting 10 days per year off, which appeared to cover the eight days of sick leave — but workers had to use one of those days for each of the holidays Google recognized, such as Thanksgivi­ng, Christmas, Labor Day, Independen­ce Day, Memorial Day and Presidents' Day, when they were not even allowed to work, Jones-krause said.

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