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Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

A group of more than 200 employees at Google's parent company announced on Monday that they've signed union cards with the Communications Workers of America, forming the Alphabet Workers Union.

Why it matters: This is the largest and most high-profile unionization effort among tech workers to date. The tech industry has historically eschewed unions, unlike other sectors like the auto industry.

  • Only a couple of small tech companies, like Kickstarter and Glitch, have recently unionized.

Details: The union would be open to all workers at Google and other Alphabet subsidiaries, regardless of their jobs. Some other small groups of Alphabet workers, like HCL contract workers in Pittsburgh and cafeteria workers in the Bay Area, have previously unionized.

  • The workers are seeking to form a minority union, which means it won't seek formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board, won't need to win a formal election and won't be able to negotiate a labor contract with Alphabet.
  • This also means that contract workers can join the union despite not having the right to formally unionize under U.S. labor laws.

The big picture: Alphabet has faced growing employee discontent over company practices in the last few years.

  • The company's handling of sexual harassment sparked a large walkout in 2018. It has also received pushback on plans to potentially roll out a search engine in China and its work with the U.S. government to provide artificial intelligence analysis of drone footage.
  • The NLRB recently filed a complaint against Google, alleging the company illegally spied on workers who had organized protests and fired two of them in retaliation.

The other side:

We've always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course our employees have protected labor rights that we support.  But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.
Kara Silverstein, Google director of people operations.

Go deeper: Read the union organizer's op-ed in the New York Times

Editor's note: The story has been updated with a statement from Google.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to attempt "emergency economic relief" by executive order

President Biden. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Biden will continue his executive action blitz on Friday, issuing two more orders in an attempt to provide immediate relief to struggling families without waiting for Congress.

Why it matters: In his second full day in office, Biden is again resorting to executive actions as he tries to increase payments for nutritional assistance and protect workers' rights during the pandemic.

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.

Dave Lawler, author of World
7 mins ago - World

Biden's Russia challenge

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Biden administration has already proposed a five-year extension of the last treaty constraining the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, announced an urgent investigation into a massive Russia-linked cyberattack, and demanded the release of Russia’s leading opposition figure, Alexey Navalny.

Why it matters: Those three steps in Biden's first week underscore the challenge he faces from Vladimir Putin — an authoritarian intent on weakening the U.S. and its alliances, with whom he’ll nonetheless have to engage on critical issues.