Hacker News Re-Imagined

Google hired union-busting consultants to convince employees “unions suck”

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  • 11 hours ago

  • @60654
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  • • 309 comments

Google hired union-busting consultants to convince employees “unions suck”


@flerchin 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Everyone can benefit from a union IMO. The Googlers that most need one are probably contractors (ie, not actually Googlers).

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@johncena33 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙



@captainredbeard 8 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Is changing someone's mind wrong?

Is it wrong to belief that unions aren't all ponies and rainbows?

If the answer to both of those questions is "no" then I don't see a problem here.

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@exabrial 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

This whole debacle is sort of humorous. I fully support the rights of workers to unionize. The problem is in "Non Right to Work States" the unionized can clobber people that choose not to unionize and coerce them into participation. This is incredibly unethical, immoral, and unconstitutional and violates a person's right to self-determination and other human rights.

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@0xbadc0de5 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

A related topic would be collective bargaining - which is often (but not always) associated with a unionized workplace. If you're a sub-standard employee, you win big through collective bargaining because pay bands will move toward the mean. If however, you are a high-performer, you will likely be under-compensated in a collective bargaining environment because your excess effort will be used to compensate those who contribute less. In a non-collective workplace, you will be evaluated and compensated on your personal contribution and negotiation skills.

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@Melatonic 6 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

All major corporations have been doing this since the 1970's - you can see it reflected in popular culture today. Tons of people will parrot stories about some lazy union employee not doing any work (and then if you dig deeper you often find it was not a first hand story - just something "they heard"). I always find it funny when someone identifies as progressive and then talks about how mega corporations are screwing all of us and then seconds later is talking shit about unions.

The propaganda has been very successful it seems with certain segments of the population.

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@VirusNewbie 8 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Unions are helpful when you have a homogeneous workforce all doing similar work with similar outputs.

We have studies showing how different software engineering is, where some workers vastly outperform others, some workers are interchangeable, some are specialists, and some underperform.

This is exactly the wrong type of work that benefits from collective bargaining and gatekeeping.

Unions help subpar workers. They do not help anyone else (other than their power structure that they themselves carve out using other workers wages).

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@fallingknife 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

If I were to join a union it would have to have the following:

1. No protection for incompetent people

2. No seniority based pay or privileges

3. Narrow focus on comp and quality of life

Any of these would be a deal breaker for me. And I just don't see it happening. The people who seem to be into unions are the type of people that can't STFU about politics at the office. And if I hear one word about pronouns instead of a raise, I'm out.

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@brezelgoring 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

I'd like to open a thread to discuss the optics (?) of unions as an organization, and see what you all think.

A bit of context, I come from a region in which unions are looked at fondly from the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, as they can help avoid the meat grinder and can make shaky jobs stick for longer and have better pay/benefits. However, as you educate yourself and can land better jobs, unions start being more redundant as the jobs are the ones trying to get you to stay for longer and compete with better pay and benefits. Our labor laws are very strong so ideally you don't even need unions, just knowing what your rights are.

All that being said, unions have this undercurrent of mafia going on where politically connected unions have the power to shut down an entire sector of the economy and their leaders use this power to wring money out of big companies, you can call it union donations or extortion but its quite common around here. There's allegations of being affiliated to narco guys, ties to Venezuela and Cuba (their leaders travel there frequently, and all have been photographed with Maduro and Diaz-Canel), and some other stuff related to hiding millions of dollars in their leader's homes (why does a union have this kind of capital? 1M USD is a ridiculous amount of cash here). Some of them follow up this questionable life by straight up becoming senators, on the lists of bigger, more popular left-leaning politicians.

This worries me, it doesn't help that they all seem to look like Richard Stallman after climbing a flight of stairs and have a terrible attitude to boot.

So, you've heard me, now I want to hear you. How are unions seen in your country? Are they worth it, in your opinion?

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@ambrozk 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

This conversation makes me crazy. People talk about the merits of unions in the abstract, with no reference to the actual, very specific union at hand: the Alphabet Workers' Union, or "AWU".

AWU is not a traditional workers' union. It is a political advocacy organization. AWU's mission statement is explicitly and emphatically not to further full-time employee's interests. Rather, it is organized primarily as a vehicle for achieving a broader political end ("social justice", as that term is construed by AWU's organizers), potentially at employees' expense. Almost none of AWU's projects have focused on Googlers' work conditions or pay. Instead, they have focused nearly exclusively on modifying Google's products and policing its contracts, often in ways I find extremely objectionable. For example, they have lobbied heavily for Google to increase censorship of YouTube and Search, and to demonetize "problematic" content creators. They consistently advocate increasing institutional support for DEI efforts, and it was their efforts which led to the creation of Alphabet's Chief Diversity Officer position. They agitated on behalf of ex-employee Timnit Gebru against Google's ML work, which is obviously a threat to the hundreds of Google workers whose jobs depend on the models that Gebru's research criticized. Why should ordinary Google workers support such a "union"?

I want to add that I agree with some of AWU political stands. For example, they opposed Project Dragonfly, a censored version of Google Search intended for the Chinese market. They opposed Google contracts with the DoD and CPB. I think these are all worthy causes and I hope that employees continue to agitate against them! But as a former employee of Google, I am under no illusions that AWU would have represented my interests as an employee. Primarily, they are a political action committee set up by an extremely vocal minority of Google's employees to further those employees' political goals.

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@mihaigalos 8 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Shame. Shame. Shame.

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@sanxiyn 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Unions don't suck, Google sucks.

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@papito 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

It's a testament to how fraudulent this "trickle down" argument is. The contractors in security, the kitchen, cleaning - they get peanuts, while working in one of the most decadent centers of wealth on the planet.

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@yeah_well 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

As a matter of principle, in a big company, if my boss tells me that something is not good for me, I want that thing !

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@b8 8 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Amazon hired Pinkerton to try and prevent unions.[1] There was an article about some of the people who organized the Google Android dev/DoD project walk out being targeted/fired from Google.[2] Maybe it'll take employees leaving these companies/not going to work there to get them to change. On teamblind people talk about bad it is to work at Amazon and so folks have been declining offers to work there etc.

1. https://www.npr.org/2020/11/30/940196997/amazon-reportedly-h...

2. https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/25/20983053/google-fires-fo...

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@dang 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Google Had Secret Project to ‘Convince’ Employees ‘That Unions Suck’ - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29876068 - Jan 2022 (385 comments)

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@nerbert 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Seeing comments from previous posts on this forum, I'd say they kind of succeeded.

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@beiller 8 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

I was a member of a union where i.t. was involved in that union and I was a software developer. We shared an emergency iPhone that we swapped every 2 weeks. When it rang and DevOps called, we were paid time and a half and recorded each hour worked 'on call'. Double time on holidays. No one was significantly lazier than my experience working in non union shops. People sometimes complain others "only do the status quo". I guess those people never saw someone work on a refactor project before that goes on 2 years and is eventually thrown away (negative contributors). Just an acecdote for you all to say I think unions _can_ work in i.t. and I had a positive experience.

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@baybal2 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

I keep recalling, Microsoft once seen a unionisation action back in 200X. What has come out of that?

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@nimbius 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Reminder that Alphabet, the parent company of Google, already has a union. AWU-CWA Local 1400

https://alphabetworkersunion.org/

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@andrewon 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

What's wrong with letting employees to hear both sides of the argument, from professionals? Both unions and "consultants" are resourceful organizations. Perhaps they can keep the good and take out the bad practices in their unionization, if they ever choose to.

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@sanxiyn 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Learn from South Korea: all top tech companies are unionized. #1 search engine (Naver), #1 messenger (Kakao), #1 game company (Nexon), etc.

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@seany 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Unions do suck, so that shouldn't be too hard of a job.

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@fleddr 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

The American idea of a union seems worlds apart from what I know in western Europe.

Over here, jobs are not favorably handed out to union members just for being a union member. It's completely irrelevant if you're a union member. Not only does it not directly favor you in getting in, you also don't get any individual protection.

What a union over here does instead:

- Collective bargaining of salary increases, yearly. Mostly based on the macro trend of the economy. It's not even the goal to maximize the increase, above all the goal is maintain purchase power. So it aims to compensate inflation, and will leave the rest to markets and individuals.

- Protection is only collectively, for example when a mass firing of workers is pending. Or when terms are suddenly dramatically worsened for all workers at once. Here a union may step in. And it will engage in a large number of steps before going to the absolute last resort: a large strike. Which are rare. Even strikes are regulated and bound to federal terms.

The American version sounds like a bad movie.

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@literallycancer 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Lawyers unionize the moment they reach the required headcount. That tells you all you need to know about this particular facet of the game.

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@0xbadc0de5 10 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Having worked for both union and non-union employers - it's a mixed bag. Unions have advantages and disadvantages. They are great for worker representation - but that's a double-edged sword. Ideally, unions protects worker's interests. In practice, they often lead to abuse, stagnation and corruption. I've personally witnessed union employees who contributed nothing for years, get perpetually shifted from team to team to team and even promoted because it was too complex and costly to fire them. I've seen union stewards padding their own pockets with members dues through lavish "retreats" to five-star resorts. We must not forget that unions are made up of people - and people can be awful.

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@gunapologist99 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

At one place I worked, I discovered that an employee had intentionally broken a machine that resulted in more than $8m in losses, but because of union negotiations, no one would do anything about it.

At a different company, a union worker actually aimed a forklift at me, apparently because I was in IT.

Unions historically served an important role, but they're an anachronism in the U.S. -- especially for coders at Google who are literally in the 1% of top earners.

Google SWE's complaining they're not making enough is just breathtaking hubris. There's so much money sloshing around that they could, and should, go work for another startup or start their own, especially as an ex-Googler.

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@softsound 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

The US once had a rich history of unions for 100's of years since the 17th century, and plenty of wars over them where the US government literally attacked union workers in wars like Battle of Blair Mountain.

The US seems to have almost wiped out this history and few people know who died for these movements and few people realize we have had bloody battles, I never really learned it in school but it's pretty darn American to have unions and die for your rights.

Sure there is corruption but literally every system does, that doesn't make people stop using it. If we had better union power we would not see the poor treatment of Amazon workers, or game testers, or retail works. Heck, one day we may make a requirement to have a vacation day, imagine how crazy that would be if vacation time was written into a work law! Almost imagine that Russia, South Africa and many other countries have literally better labor laws then America not to mention the EU. I was quite shocked how bad our labor laws were when I looked into it further because I assumed a lot, makes it hard to be human in the US. At will employee with literally no time off is perfectly legal here, but I hope one day paid vacations (even just a few days) are requirement for all full time employees at least.

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@green_screen 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

There are a lot of comments here debating the merits of unions in general. I am interested in hearing peoples opinions on this particular situation at hand.

In the case of Google specifically, what problems or grievances would be addressed by unionizing?

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@motohagiography 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

A union at google would be sufficient for the unions to operate a single party state. It's not a workers rights issue, it's a national security one, imo.

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@excalibur 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Today's unions DO suck. In that they're becoming scarce and have grown largely ineffective at shielding workers from employer abuse. (Thanks in no small part to red tape introduced at the behest of corporate lobbyists.) And now that the corporations have beaten worker advocates into a useless bloody pulp they want them removed altogether so that they may exploit their workers with fewer constraints. Google, Amazon et al can fuck ALL THE WAY off.

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@marricks 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

Go figure the top comments on this thread echo how companies talk about unions.

“Oh unions can be good but those Americans don’t know their downsides…”

Or

“Unions are great but it’s awful people can be forced to join them!”

I’m just saying Google’s money was well spent.

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@cat_plus_plus 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

"Union hired consultants to convince employees that union rock" - would that even be news?

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@bena 9 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

And I'm just here like "Yes, and?"

Any non-unionized company would like to remain that way. It is in their best interest to do so. I would expect them to act like it. Way back in the day when I worked retail, there were training videos and at least one or two of them were pretty much "unions suck".

And this isn't to say that unions are good or bad overall. But I would expect any large corporation to do at least something to resist unions or other sort of collective bargaining units. Because whether or not unions are good for employees, they're always a negative for employers. Because at the very least, unions take some of the power away from the employer.

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@gargalatas 7 hours

Replying to @60654 🎙

This is how Sergey Brin and Larry Page have raised 30% their fortune the last years. They already did enough to their workers but even more and worse tactics I am expecting to see from them the next years.

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