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Google Contract Workers Win First Labor Deal After Nearly 2 Years Of Negotiations

HCL workers celebrating.jpeg
Liz Reid
90.5 WESA
In this file photo from Sept. 24, 2019, Google contract workers Gabrielle Norton-Moore (left) and Fran Baisden share a hug after finding out their co-workers had voted 2-to-1 in favor of unionizing.

Nearly two years after unionizing, contract workers based at Google’s Bakery Square office have ratified their first labor contract. In a 51-4 vote tallied Wednesday night, employees of HCL America approved the agreement, ending an unfair labor practices claim against the company that had been pending before the National Labor Relations Board.

“We’re super proud that we were able to achieve this contract — it’s a fair contract,” said Amanda Parks, a senior analyst at HCL who was involved in the bargaining process. “The wage increases and job security that we’ll be enjoying has definitely made the past two years more than worth it.”

“We’re definitely coming out of this feeling good that we have a solid base floor to build off,” added Parks, who has worked at HCL for more than seven years.

Rachael Davis, a United Steelworkers union technician, represented HCL workers in the contract negotiations. She called the union’s first contract “a huge step.”

“I hope other tech workers … see the success that this group has really fought so hard for and see that they can have a voice in their workplace and get decent pay by getting together and doing collective action,” Davis said.

When they voted in September 2019 to affiliate with the United Steelworkers, HCL’s Pittsburgh employees were believed to be the first white-collar employees to unionize while performing work for a major tech firm.

In the intervening two years, the workers alleged that HCL had failed to bargain in good faith while also implementing stricter workplace policies without the union’s consent. The employees, who primarily work as analysts on the Google Shopping platform, also accused the firm of transferring unfilled positions in Pittsburgh to Poland.

HCL denied the workers’ claims in a filing with the National Labor Relations Board last year. The company did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on the newly ratified contract.

Davis acknowledged that she was surprised when the firm accepted the union’s latest offer July 21. Until then, Davis said, the company repeatedly delayed a hearing set to take place before the labor board.

Under the new agreement, HCL is required to employ at least 70 unionized workers full time at Google’s Pittsburgh office — a concession to employees’ concerns about the work that had been moved to Poland, Davis said. She noted that there are 64 people in the bargaining unit today, meaning that HCL will need to hire more workers.

The contract guarantees an average wage increase of about 9% over the next three years, while maintaining existing benefits, according to a summary of the contract distributed to union members ahead of this week’s vote. The summary, prepared by the United Steelworkers, said that past raises had averaged less than 1% a year.

The contract will also boost the wages of the lowest-paid employees in order to reduce pay disparities among workers with the same job position. In the next month, for example, the minimum pay for analysts will increase to $40,000 a year. The agreement will also require HCL annually to promote 17% of eligible analysts who apply to become senior analysts.

The agreement also grants employees more paid holidays, as well as more paid time for bereavement and parental leave. In addition, workers will no longer be forced to participate in HCL’s private dispute resolution process if they bring complaints about workplace discrimination, harassment, or labor practices.

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at aherring@wesa.fm.
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