Unionised YouTube Music staff reportedly “laid off” in the middle of Austin City Council meeting

“It is disgusting that Google has taken this path when confronted with its workers’ modest demands to be treated fairly on the job,” says former staff member Jack Benedict.

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A group of YouTube Music staff were reportedly “laid off” in the middle of a meeting with Austin’s City Council, where they sought a resolution that would urge the company to negotiate with their union.

According to Complete Music Update, the workers have been embroiled in a year-long dispute with YouTube and its parent company Google (Alphabet) over new rules restricting remote work and a refusal to engage in negotiations with union representatives.

Jack Benedict, a data analyst for YouTube Music, said during the meeting, “It’s been over a year since we first went on strike over our employer’s return to office policy”. He added that employees opposed the mandate not because they didn’t want to work from YouTube’s Austin office, but because the post-COVID policy change was “essentially a lay off against a large percentage of our team who didn’t live in the Austin area”.

“Again in September we went on strike over our employer’s refusal to bargain with our union,” Benedict continued. “To this day they refuse to come to the negotiating table and Google still refuses to acknowledge us as their employees even after countless losses in court which say the contrary.”

The latter refers to Google’s insistence that the workers were contracted via third-party professional services Cognizant, and should therefore be bargaining with “their employer” instead. This is despite a January ruling by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which deemed Google’s refusal to bargain with unionised workers as illegal.

In the video below, Benedict, who’s a member of the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU-CWA), was speaking on the podium when his coworker walked up and said: “Not to interrupt but they just laid us all off”.

He later released a statement calling the move “devastating”, saying: “We have been fighting for years now to get Google, one of the most powerful and well-resourced companies in the world, to negotiate with us so that we could make a living in exchange for the work we do to make their products better. It is disgusting that Google has taken this path when confronted with its workers’ modest demands to be treated fairly on the job.”

In a statement to The Verge, Google spokesperson Courtenay Mencini said that the decision to fire the team was made by Cognizant, and that “Contracts with our suppliers across the country routinely end on their natural expiry date.”


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