YouTube Contract Workers Are Going on Strike

Over 40 YouTube Music contract workers are protesting a return-to-office policy they say is unfair to remote workers.
youtube headquarters s
YouTube headquarters. Image Credit: Getty Images

A group of YouTube Music contract workers in Austin, Texas will go on strike on Friday afternoon protesting a return-to-office policy that “threatens the livelihoods of workers” who don’t live nearby, according to a press release. CWA says this is the first time any Google-affiliated workers have planned to strike, although workers have undertaken work stoppages in support of Black Lives Matter and over the company's sexual harassment scandals before.


The workers, associated with the Google subcontractor Cognizant, are being asked to return to the Austin office on Monday, Feb. 6. However, most of the workers were hired remotely and almost a quarter of them aren’t based in Texas at all, the union states. 

“Workers are paid around $19 an hour and thus, cannot afford the relocation, travel or childcare costs associated with in person work,” the press release reads. “The upcoming return to office date threatens the livelihoods of workers who do not live in the Austin area. Workers demand that Cognizant and Google management meet with workers to establish a new RTO policy that is fair, flexible, and does not threaten the safety and livelihoods of workers.”

A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Over 40 contract workers are planning to join the strike effort, which was first reported by Axios. They are affiliated with the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, the union representing any and all workers at Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The union is not recognized by the National Labor Relations Board, though workers filed for recognition on Oct. 21, 2022, the press release states. That means that the AWU-CWA cannot engage in collective bargaining on behalf of all workers at the company. 

But they’ve had some success already. The strike planned for Friday afternoon is the third in a series of actions across the country this week, including two protests at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California and New York City in response to Google’s massive layoffs in January.

“Google has debunked its own rationale for laying off 12,000 of our coworkers,” said Alberta Devor, a Google software engineer and AWU-CWA member, at the New York City rally on Thursday afternoon. “It is clear that the menial savings the company is pocketing from laying off workers is nothing in comparison to the billions spent on stock buybacks or the billions made in profits last quarter. We are outraged that our colleagues unceremoniously lost their livelihoods while Google continues to remain extremely profitable.”

Earlier this year, Google’s raters, who are responsible for training and evaluating the algorithm’s search results, won their first pay raise—from $10 an hour to around $14—thanks to the union’s negotiations with Google's contracting companies. But raters at the protest in Mountain View said they’re still not being paid what they deserve.

“Even though I’m working from home, I live tethered to my work computer,” said Zaidah Snell, a Google rater and AWU-CWA member. “Right now, I am forced to spend hours everyday refreshing my work computer to see if there are any new tasks for me to do—if there are, I have to immediately work on them. I’m not paid for the hours I spend refreshing my computer. If Google wants me to be on standby, I deserve the bare minimum for my time.”

Google declined to provide a comment on the record.