YouTube Music Workers Just Unanimously Won A Union Vote

This is the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA’s second election victory, though the union is not yet recognized by the National Labor Relations Board.
youtube music strike
YouTube Music workers on strike earlier this year. Image Credit: Getty Images

YouTube Music contract workers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing on Wednesday, according to a statement released by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The workers will join the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, which represents all Alphabet- and Google-affiliated workers who choose to organize.  

Out of 49 total eligible workers, 41 voted in favor of the union, and zero voted against. This is the culmination of a months-long organizing effort, the AWU-CWA wrote in a press release. 


The workers are contracted by Cognizant, one of the many subcontractors which works with Google and its parent company Alphabet. They’re responsible for “ensuring music content is available and approved for YouTube Music’s 80 million subscribers worldwide,” the union said in the release. 

“Even as workers contribute to the success of the YouTube platform, valued at over $180 billion dollars, workers are paid as little as $19 dollars an hour and receive minimal benefits. Many workers are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.” 

This is the union’s second election victory since its inception in 2021. The AWU-CWA is not yet federally recognized by the National Labor Relations Board, though workers filed for recognition on Oct. 21, 2022. That means the union does not have the power to collectively bargain on behalf of all Google or Alphabet workers. 

Earlier this year, other Google contract workers, who work on training the company’s search algorithm by rating the results it provides, won a historic pay raise by the efforts of the AWU-CWA. 

The union said that YouTube music workers faced prolonged union-busting efforts and even went on strike to protest a return-to-office policy that they say was unfair and retaliatory, since it was implemented only after workers first filed for an election in October of 2022.


“In response to workers exercising their right to organize, Cognizant announced a retaliatory Return-To-Office mandate which would have forced dozens of workers to “voluntarily terminate” from their jobs,” the AWU-CWA stated in a press release. “Due to their low wages, workers cannot afford the relocation, travel or childcare costs associated with in person work. A majority of workers were hired remotely and nearly a quarter of workers are not based in Texas,” where the YouTube Music headquarters are located. 

“No one working for a multi-billion dollar platform should have to juggle three jobs to make ends meet, and no one should have to give up their livelihoods due to a retaliatory Return-To-Office mandate,” said Maxwell Longfield, a YouTube Music contract worker and union member, in the release. “We hope other tech workers join us by standing shoulder to shoulder with their coworkers and flexing their power on the job.”

A Google spokesperson told Motherboard in an email, “We have no objection to these Cognizant workers electing to form a union. We’ve long had many contracts with unionized suppliers. However, as we made clear in our active appeal to the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board], we are not a joint employer as we simply do not control their employment terms or working conditions—this matter is between the workers and their employer, Cognizant.”

The NLRB ruled in March that Alphabet is in fact a legal employer of the contract workers, and must bargain with them if they have a successful election.

“The National Labor Relations Board has informed us that a majority of Cognizant associates voted in support of unionizing,” a Cognizant spokesperson wrote in an email to Motherboard. “Our philosophy remains that we are better together through open dialogue and collaboration. We are committed to continuing our mission as a team and delivering for our client.”

Update: This article has been updated with comments from Google and Cognizant.