Google Workers Launch an Unconventional Union

After staying mouth agape yesterday as an eccentric mob stormed the US Capitol, unionizing Google would make the perfect atonement (as far as Masse und Macht goes, at least).

Except that it doesn’t. And indeed, in an essay that goes by the ominous title Il tuo capo è un algoritmo (Your boss is an algorithm, in Italian), Antonio Aloisi and Valerio De Stefano do suggest some forms of “collective autonomy” whereby workers coordinate to fight their algorithmic master.

However, in the case of Google I wonder whether this initiative will have a real impact beyond the catchy headlines, given that Googlers, the well-paid and post-Fordism-ridden software engineers and managers who make 250,000$ on average and enshrine the most sought-after hard skills out there, are hardly ever disadvantaged workers.

They stand on the opposite side with respect to gig workers, they are the chosen ones, so much so that they can even afford to take position against their employer on ethics and values. Which is great, of course, as Google standing on ethics has been anything but true to their old tenet about don’t being evil.

Yet the real battles for workers’ rights will be fought elsewhere.

First published on Eventual Consistency