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How tech workers are coming together to fight forced arbitration

Last week we wrote about a pair of new lawsuits against Google’s parent company, Alphabet, alleging that the board acted improperly in which it agreed to pay out tens of millions of dollars to executives who had been found to have committed sexual misconduct. The plaintiffs are seeking a variety of internal reforms at Google, starting with an end to the forced arbitration agreements that limit employees’ legal rights when they are the subject of workplace discrimination.

The plaintiffs — who represent shareholders — have a natural ally in Alphabet employees. And those employees will pick up the baton today when the mount a new public awareness campaign, along with a daylong protest on social media. Nitasha Tiku has the details in Wired:

In part, the move comes out of Googler frustration that the the company has not ended arbitration agreements as it promised to after November’s Google walkout, organizers wrote in a Medium post today:

Tiku says the anti-arbitration campaign represents a watershed moment for tech’s budding labor movement, because it involves multiple companies. Googlers crowdsourced employment contracts from Facebook, Uber, and other companies, she reports, as well as contractors. They found that none of the companies surveyed made arbitration optional, allowed employees to bring class-action suits, or permitted them to discuss their cases.

So much of the past two years has been about reckoning with the power that the biggest tech platforms have over their users. The Googlers’ work here offers a reminder of how much power tech workers — by virtue of the high demand for their skills — have over their companies. And if the movement to end arbitration proves successful, that power could ripple across whole industries.

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