News & Commentary

March 22, 2022

Iman Masmoudi

Iman Masmoudi is a student at Harvard Law School.

Following months of litigation in front of the NLRB, Google has settled its case with four former Google engineers over claims it fired them for union organizing. The terms of the settlement are undisclosed, but over the past months the administrative law judge had ordered Google to produce over 1,500 documents it had previously sought to protect as privileged. One of the fired engineers, Kathryn Spiers, expressed qualified joy at the victory, expressing that, “this is not what worker power looks,” and adding, “Google can fire whoever they want if they’re willing to put up a fight in court. There is no real recourse.”

Over the past four years, Google has experienced significant employee activism and organizing around labor issues as well as sexual harassment, immigration enforcement, and the company’s billion dollar contract with the Israeli Defense Forces. As the internal documents reveal, Google spent significant company time and resources monitoring these efforts and creating materials for distribution to discourage unionization and other worker organizing. For their part, Alphabet Workers Union also settled privately with the employees, who felt that both AWU and the Communication Workers of America, mishandled their cases as union members and did not fully support their litigation costs.

Yesterday morning, over 500 workers at a Chevron-owned oil refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area went on strike after stalled negotiations with USW Local 5, ABC reports. United Steel Workers negotiated a national contract, but about 200 individual bargaining units have yet to negotiate over local issues. Workers were asking for increased hiring to lessen burdens on individual workers and higher pay. Local reps stated that the cost of living in the Bay Area, particularly for blue-collar workers, was uniquely burdensome, and workers were coming in for up to 70 hours a week just “to make ends meet.” Chevron claims the contract it offered was reasonable and in line with other USW contracts. The company offered a 2.5% pay increase, but the union had asked for 5% to keep up with inflation and Bay Area living, “We asked for a 5% bump to help us out a little bit with our medical at Kaiser, which went up 23% last year,” B.K. White, a refinery operator who has worked for the company for 29 years, said.

Chevron has already brought in over 100 replacement workers who are receiving on-job training, amid safety concerns. Chevron states that the employees operating the refinery during the strike have received the necessary training and the refinery will continue to run without expected supply chain delays. The refinery is one of the largest in the State of California and processes 240,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

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