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NLRB: Google and Cognizant are joint employers

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Brett Peveto

(Texas News Service) Workers at Austin-based YouTube Music recently won a second victory at the National Labor Relations Board.

Union organizers at YouTube music, a streaming service owned by Google, are celebrating a decision by the board, reaffirming Google and Cognizant Technology Solutions are their joint employers. While workers are paid by Cognizant, the board's regional office in Texas found in March Google exercises substantial direct and immediate control over employees' supervision, benefits and hours of work.

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Google appealed the decision, and July 19 a three-member panel at the National Labor Relations Board refused to overturn the regional director's decision.

Neil Gossell, a music generalist for YouTube Music and a member of the Alphabet Workers Union, said the decision has union members excited. 

"Everybody that I've talked to in the union, we were all very excited to hear that the national level of the NLRB upheld the regional decision," Gossell reported. "We all knew that it was kind of a tactic by Google to not have to come to the table."

In a statement Google Spokesperson Courtenay Mencini said the company is not a joint employer and it disagrees with the board's decision, stating Google "does not control the employment terms or conditions of these Cognizant workers."

The board report said prior to COVID, YouTube Music employees worked at a Google owned, vendor-operated facility in Austin. During the pandemic workers were fully remote.

Katie Marschner, part of the chart team at YouTube Music and a member of the Alphabet Workers Union, said people hired during that time were brought on board as remote employees, but after the vote to unionize, workers were told to return to the office. 

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"Making us return to an office that a good portion of people in our unit don't even live near or live in the same state as," Marschner pointed out. "That's obviously going to impact our organizing effort. And so, yeah, it was completely retaliatory. They hired these people out of state knowing that they don't live in this state."

Marschner anticipated additional delay tactics by Google and said organizers will have to prepare union members for the long haul.

"We just have to continue to organize our unit," Marschner emphasized. "We need to continue to inoculate them against these kind of stall and delay tactics."

YouTube Music announced last year its subscriber base reached 80 million, representing an increase of 30 million over the year prior.