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Alphabet union alleges contractors were banned from discussing wages

In a complaint to the US Labor Board, the union says Alphabet's staffing partner retaliated against a Google contractor.

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Richard Nieva/CNET

The Alphabet Workers Union on Thursday alleged that Google contractors were banned from discussing wages, according to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. 

One contractor, named Shannon Wait, was suspended last week after complaining about conditions at the South Carolina data center where she works, the union said. Wait said she was targeted after asking why some workers didn't receive promised bonuses. She said she was also questioned by management about a post on her personal Facebook page in which she shows support for the Alphabet union.

The complaint was filed against Adecco, the Google staffing partner that employs Wait, as well as Alphabet, Google's parent company. 

Adecco didn't respond to a request for comment. Google didn't immediately have a comment. The news was earlier reported by Bloomberg.

Google's temps, vendors and contractors, or TVCs in company parlance, reportedly make up more than half of the company's global workforce. They've complained of being treated like second-class citizens compared with Google's full-time employees.

"These are the conditions that we face as TVCs -- we're paid less, we're laid off when needed, and we often don't have access to safe, transparent working conditions," Wait said in a statement. "Alphabet and Google can do better to ensure that all workers, including their contractors, are treated fairly. Google became a trillion dollar company last year. They can afford to treat us right." 

Thursday's complaint to the NLRB is the first to be filed by the Alphabet Workers Union since it launched last month. The union, affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, has around 800 members. Unlike a conventional union, it doesn't have collective bargaining rights, and one of its main goals is to push Alphabet to act ethically, its founders say. 

"We, the Alphabet Workers Union, stand in full support of Shannon Wait and all Alphabet workers, who deserve safe and transparent working conditions," Parul Koul, executive chair of the AWU, said in a statement. "I want other TVCs to see this and know they have recourse if they see something illegal or unethical in their workplace. Alphabet's segregated, two-tiered employment system will not stand in the way of worker solidarity."

Google has dealt with other labor issues in the last few weeks. In December, the NLRB filed a complaint against Google for allegedly retaliating against activist workers. The complaint alleges that Google broke US labor laws by surveilling, interrogating and firing activist employees. 

The filing stemmed from terminations Google had made a year before, when the company dismissed employees who worked on responses to its hiring of a consultancy with a history of anti-union efforts. Google said the employees were fired because of violations to Google's data policies. The NLRB alleges some of those policies are unlawful.