Google workers call on the company to expand abortion and privacy protections

A group of more than 600 Google employees is pressing the company to expand worker health benefits, divest itself of some political ties and bolster user privacy in light of the Supreme Court decision to strip federal abortion rights.

The Google workers demanded the changes in a petition led by the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), a labor union that formed last year at the company and now has around 1,100 members. The AWU advocates on behalf of both full-time employees and temporary workers, vendors and contractors (“TVCs”) at Google — a less visible slice of the company’s workforce that’s estimated to be more than 100,000 workers.

In the petition, the group of Google workers asks the company to broaden its reproductive healthcare travel assistance to cover its non-full-time workforce and to add additional sick days and more generous reimbursement stipends for that travel. The workers also request that the company expand its support and language around reproductive healthcare to include transgender and non-binary workers who aren’t women but might need the same services.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a number of companies announced that they would pay the costs associated with traveling across state lines to obtain an abortion. In an internal letter in late June, Google reaffirmed that its U.S. health benefits would cover out-of-state medical procedures not available to an employee in the state where they live.

“The conversation I’ve had, personally, with coworkers is definitely one of concern,” AWU member and Google Data Center Technician Bambi Okugawa told TechCrunch. “Many are anxious about their own wellbeing and financial hardships they may endure if they need to seek out reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare in other states without having the same safety net that full-time employees are offered.”

The petition also calls on Google to make a transparency report detailing how well the vendors that directly employ its contract workers comply with a set of enhanced standards for wages and benefits that include a provision for reproductive healthcare.

Beyond worker protections, the signees ask Google to take additional steps to protect the people who use its products “from having their data used against them,” like in the recent case of law enforcement wielding Facebook data to prosecute a Nebraska teen and her mother. The petition calls for Google to immediately implement new data privacy protections for any activity on the company’s products and platforms related to health.

“… For example, searching for reproductive justice, gender-affirming care, and abortion access information on Google must never be saved, handed over to law enforcement, or treated as a crime,” the petition states. It also calls on Google to prevent further instances of Maps search results pointing users toward anti-abortion centers instead of abortion providers after Bloomberg reported on the phenomenon.

“I feel if any tech company, be it Google, Facebook, Apple, etc., chooses to pride themselves on user privacy then they should back that up with actions aligned with that cause,” Okugawa told TechCrunch. “I feel this is a wonderful opportunity for Google to take initiative and be a role model to other tech companies to take user privacy seriously and really set the bar on superb user experience and relations.”

To implement the changes, the signees ask that Google form a dedicated task force akin to the team the company assembled to address the COVID-19 crisis.

The full text of the petition the AWU sent to Google executives is embedded below.

Protect our worker’s rights
We, the undersigned, recognize that all Alphabet workers, of all genders, are impacted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and are disappointed in Alphabet’s response and influence on this ruling.

Alphabet has continued to make access to reproductive and gender affirming healthcare a “women’s issue” by only providing women@ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with listening sessions, and using gendered language in their communication with workers when this is an issue that affects all of us.

In order to align with Google’s core values (go/3-google-values), we demand that Alphabet acknowledges the impact this Supreme Court ruling has on all its workers and to immediately do the following:

1. Protect all workers’ access to reproductive healthcare by setting a reproductive healthcare standard in the US Wages and Benefits Standards (go/alphabet-tvc-benefits-standards) including:

a. Extending the same travel-for-healthcare benefits offered to FTEs to TVCs.

b. Adding minimum of 7 days of additional sick time because workers will need to travel for significant periods to obtain health services.

c. Increasing FTE & TVC reimbursement amounts for travel to $150 per night. $50 is NOT a viable reimbursement for a hotel stay in most states, and does not address childcare or lost wages.

d. Publishing a TVC transparency report, detailing vendors’ compliance to the Alphabet/Google US Wages and Benefits Standards. For example, details on why certain roles are exempt, and timelines for vendors to come into compliance.

2. Protect our government from corporate influence. Alphabet must stop lobbying politicians and any political organizations, through NetPAC or any other means because these politicians were responsible for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade and continue to infringe on other human rights issues related to voting access and gun control.

3. Protect our users and customers from having their data used against them and addressing the disinformation and misleading information as it pertains to abortion services and other reproductive healthcare services on all Alphabet platforms and products by:

a. Instituting immediate user data privacy controls for all health-related activity, for example, searching for reproductive justice, gender-affirming care, and abortion access information on Google must never be saved, handed over to law enforcement, or treated as a crime.

b. Fixing misleading search results related to abortion services by removing results for fake abortion providers.

c. No longer working with publishers of disinformation related to abortion services who violate AdSense’s publishers policies related to unreliable and harmful claims about a major health crisis.

d. Providing transparency into ad revenue sharing with Google custom search so that abortion services that pay for Google ads don’t inadvertently have their ad revenue go to organizations that are actively working against them.

In order to meet these demands, we call on Alphabet to create a dedicated task-force with 50% employee representation, responsible for implementing changes across all products and our company, just like Alphabet did for handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

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