A group of dozens of full-time Google employees at the company’s largest mainland European office, which is located in Zurich, Switzerland, met to discuss unionization on Monday in defiance of their employer’s attempt to cancel the meeting. The tensions surrounding this meeting reflect Google’s growing struggles with employee discontent over workplace issues that go beyond just labor organizing.


Google leadership wrote in the note that it would host its own talks about labor laws and employee rights that bring – a diverse set of presenters and perspectives. – That upset many Google employees both inside and outside the Zurich office, who told Recode the company has been trying to block employees from hearing unfiltered information about workplace organizing. Despite management’s notice that the meeting was canceled, employees in Zurich met anyway in Google’s on-site meeting rooms. So far, management has not stated it will take any action against people who organized or attended the meeting.


Google declined to comment:

Historically, full-time white-collar workers at major tech companies like Google have been reluctant to unionize or even openly discuss unionization. But attitudes have been shifting as a growing group of tech workers at Google and other companies have become more vocal about demanding greater labor rights and input on important company decisions.

These workers have begun organizing over disputes around issues such as retaliation after reporting sexual harassment, pay equity, and company participation in controversial government contracts.


Last month, Google contractors in Pittsburgh, voted to form the first white-collar-led union at the company. Google management has so far stayed neutral in those efforts, but the company seems to have taken a more reactive stance in Europe by attempting to cancel this talk and a similar one about labor law and employee rights back in June.


In the end, Google’s attempt to cancel and reschedule Monday’s meeting ended up drawing more attention to it and riling up rank-and-file support for labor organizing, several sources say. The Zurich office is one of Google’s largest outside its main campus in Mountain View, with 2,000 employees who work on important products such as Google Maps, YouTube, and Gmail.


At this time, it’s not clear if Zurich employees will actually attempt to form a union; so far, discussions have been preliminary and educational. But nearly a year after 20,000 employees walked out of work over the company giving executives over a hundred million dollars in payouts after sexual misconduct charges, it’s a sign of continued employee dissent brewing beneath the surface at Google.


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