Last month, FairTube—a collaboration between a group that calls itself the "YouTubers Union" and Europe’s largest trade union, IG Metall—sent Google a list of demands to achieve better working conditions. The letter gave YouTube with a deadline of August 23 to respond or else it would face “a shitstorm,” according to Jörg Sprave, the founder of the YouTubers Union who also has his own YouTube featuring custom-built elaborate slingshots. On the FairTube website, a countdown was set up and Sprave warned: "Tick-tock, the clock is ticking.”
On the last day, hours before the deadline, Google Germany sent a formal letter back to FairTube that said it had "a strong interest in the success and satisfaction of Youtube Creators" and “for this reason, we appreciate the recently expressed interest of the trade unions in supporting YouTube Creators.”
Sprave told Motherboard that Google wanted to "'discuss some fundamental questions about the future of work and won't negotiate our demands. Well, those demands will certainly play an important role anyway as they are designed to make sure that this 'future of work' will be transparent and fair for the workers."
Christiane Benner, IG Metall's chairwoman, said in a statement "the pressure we have made together with the YouTubers Union on Google and YouTube, has paid off. We have succeeded to bring Google to the table."
FairTube’s attempt to improve working conditions for YouTubers hinges on the GDPR, using the European Union regulation that ensures a person’s right to access their personal data. With the GDPR, FairTube hopes to shine a light on how YouTube chooses which videos to prioritize or demonetize, and change YouTube’s support system from an automated one to one staffed by humans.
A Youtube spokesperson told Motherboard that "we explained to the union in great detail what YouTube is doing in terms of transparency and support for YouTubers. But we have also made clear that we are not going to negotiate their demands."
FairTube's demands have the potential to radically transform Google’s platform in Europe, if not the rest of the world. "It goes without saying that we expect major changes, or else we will come back to the consequences we already explained. The clock is paused, not stopped."