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What Amazon’s first union means for Google, Activision Blizzard, and other tech companies

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Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley joins the Live show to discuss what Amazon’s first union means for Google, Activision Blizzard, and other tech companies.

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: That's what unions are about, in my view-- about providing dignity and respect for people who bust their neck. That's why I created the White House task force on worker organization empowerment to make sure the choice to join a union belongs to workers alone. And by the way--

[APPLAUSE]

By the way, Amazon, here we come.

[CHEERING]

Watch. Watch.

AKIKO FUJITA: President Biden yesterday throwing his support behind those unionization efforts over at Amazon. This comes, of course, on the back of a historic win for Amazon workers over in Staten Island, who voted to unionize last week. Now, other tech companies are watching closely.

Let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley on the very latest on this front. And, Dan, you know, I'd imagine the word is unease when other tech companies saw what played out over in Staten Island.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, it's really interesting, Akiko. And some of the experts that I spoke to, professors who deal with labor relations and employee management, really said that this should help bolster some of the employee activism that we've seen in Silicon Valley, though one warned that this doesn't necessarily mean that we're seeing this kind of huge wave of kind of unionization efforts in that area.

Basically, what they're pointing to is the fact that if one warehouse-- Amazon warehouse, by the way, where they've done a lot of union-busting can overcome Amazon-- and this wasn't some kind of large labor union that was putting this together, it was just a bunch of people who worked at the warehouse who decided that they wanted better wages and better treatment.

If they can pull that off, then surely workers at other facilities can do the same. So we know that workers at some Apple stores are reaching out to the National Labor Relations Board to seek union recognition. We know that there is others at Apple stores that are doing the same, or at least exploring that.

We know that Google has its own unrecognized union at their Alphabet parent company. And they are seeking to have more input into the kinds of projects that they work on at Alphabet, as well as pay parity and dealing with things like forced arbitration or harassment from coworkers. And then we've heard discussions from Activision Blizzard employees who are looking to unionize.

It's at their Ravensoft subsidiary, the QA testers there are looking to unionize. Now, there has been obviously pushback. We've heard that at the Apple stores, there's been managers who are discouraging talks about unions. Google has been accused of union-busting. And we know that at Activision Blizzard, they've broken up the QA testing group into individual units so they wouldn't otherwise be able to then unionize.

So there really is a concerted effort in Silicon Valley to ensure that these companies are still able to hold on to their power position over employees. But, look, if someone-- if a group of people can overcome Amazon's efforts, then that means that, more than likely, they can overcome any other company's efforts as well.

BRIAN CHEUNG: And, Dan, what's interesting is that, obviously, this is affecting a lot of the kind of warehouse jobs, in-person, retail jobs-- but what about the white collar jobs inside of these tech companies as well that makes up a huge base of the workforce for these companies? Are they also maybe taking a stand with some of the return to office pressures and the like?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah. We're seeing that for sure, especially at Apple, in particular. There's been a lot of pushback from some employees who don't want to necessarily be forced to go back to work. They figure they've been doing this work for two years, Apple had some of its most successful quarters in those two years, released a slew of great products, and they've managed to do that all remotely.

The other thing that some employees will point to is the fact that these companies, a lot of these tech companies, sell products to encourage working from home. So why are they putting their money where their mouth is where they basically will sell these products, say, to other companies that you can have your employees work from home, but they're not necessarily allowing it themselves. And the employees find that hypocritical.

And over at Alphabet, that is the white collar jobs that are making up that union. They want to see improvements, as I said, to pay disparity. And they want to see contractors treated the same as employees. And actually, there is now a recognized bargaining unit within that Alphabet union-- it's some of the Google Fiber employees. It's about 10 people who've formed their own collective bargaining unit.

And they'll be able to go to the NLRB with any kind of complaints they have and kind of negotiate with Alphabet and that kind of order. So we are seeing this pushback from some of these white collar employees. And you know, you've got to imagine as more momentum builds behind this larger unionization push, we could see them start to take shape at these larger companies from the people who are doing the engineering of these products.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Yeah. And that's the thing-- these companies are so large, every division, I'm sure, has their own unique issues that they want addressed by the company at large. Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley, thanks so much for the breakdown there.