A group of Google contract workers voted to unionize on Tuesday, showcasing the growing tensions between tech workers and Silicon Valley giants.
Employees with the contractor HCL Technologies, who work at a Google office in Pittsburgh, Pa., decided in a 49-24 vote to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union.
“I’m honored that HCL workers chose to join our union and our fight on behalf of all working people,” Thomas Conway, USW’s president, said in a statement. “They deserve to have their voices heard. Together, we’ll make sure that they are.”
The move could embolden other Google workers, who have grown more outspoken with their criticisms of the company and have even helped to torpedo the internet giant’s effort on a Pentagon artificial intelligence project.
Google said that it would continue to use HCL’s services.
"We work with lots of partners, many of which have unionized workforces, and many of which don't,” the company said in a statement. “As with all our partners, whether HCL’s employees unionize or not is between them and their employer. We’ll continue to partner with HCL."
HCL Technologies, which is based in India, is one of many contractors that Google relies on for staffing. Contractors make up about half of the internet search giant’s workforce and don’t receive the same benefits as Google’s full-time employees.
Tuesday’s vote came in the face of significant opposition from HCL that included “mandatory meetings and the use of a controversial management consultant,” according to USW.
“Over the past few months, management has implied – and in some cases outright told us – that it’s better to just be quiet than fight for what’s right,” Johanne Rokholt, an HCL employee, said in a statement. “Today we have proved that we are not willing to do that.”
A spokeswoman for HCL did not immediately respond when asked for comment.