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Senators demand Google's 120,000 temps and contractors get full-time status

Google says it's not misusing its contractors and temp workers.

Senators have a list of demands for Google. 
Future Publishing/Getty Images

Ten Democratic senators, including presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have sent a letter to Google urging the tech giant to stop its "anti-worker practices." The letter, dated July 25 and addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, said the company's 121,000 contract and temporary workers should be promoted to full-time status. 

Google's business model relies heavily on contract and temporary workers, so much so that the population is larger than its full-time employees, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said in the letter obtained by The New York Times on Monday. Google's temps and contractors outnumber full-time employees by 19,000 people.

The senators' demands for the workers also include prohibiting financial disincentives, wage and benefit parity, limit on the use of independent contractors and temporary workers to temporary or non-core work, prohibition of mandatory nondisclosure agreements, elimination of all noncompete clauses in contracts, and Google's acceptance of liability for any workplace violations that occur with independent contractors or temp workers. 

The senators requested that Google respond before Aug. 9. The company responded Monday. 

"We are proud to create economic opportunities for both the people we employ directly and our extended workforce of vendors, temporary staff and independent contractors, and believe that our practices in this regard accord with the highest industry standards," says a letter sent by Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations, to the senators. "Respectfully, we strongly disagree with any suggestion that Google misuses independent contractors or temporary workers." 

In the letter, Google said it engages "only a handful" of independent contractors when it wants to bring in highly specialized expertise. The company also said its temporary worker population makes up 3% of its total workforce. Along the same lines, vendors, which Google says accounts for the majority of its extended workforce, are hired for specialized uses too. 

"Being a temporary worker is not intended to be a path to employment at Google, and because we want to be clear and upfront, this is a part of our written policies and the training that all Google employees managing temporary staff must take," Naughton said in the letter.

In May, a group of temps who work on Google Assistant alleged wage theft against the tech giant. The group said Google pressured its contractors to work overtime without extra pay. After an internal complaint, Google fired the executive in charge of the project. 

In April, Google said it'd require the companies that supply the search giant with temporary and contract workers to provide them full benefits. The benefits would include health care, a $15 minimum wage and paid parental leave. The change came the same day 900 Google workers signed a letter demanding better treatment of the company's temps, vendors and contractors. 

In its Aug. 5 letter, Google said these policies will go into effect at the beginning of 2020. The company said it expects the majority of its temporary staff and vendors to be covered under the standard by mid-2020. 

Originally published Aug. 5, 12:27 p.m. PT.
Update, at 12:56 p.m. PT: Adds response from Google.