YouTube Music workers laid off on camera during labor rights testimony before Austin City Council

Austin, Texas - The Austin City Council passed a resolution in support of YouTube Music employees' labor rights, after a dramatic moment when workers found out they had been laid off mid-hearing!

The Austin City Council passed a resolution in support of YouTube Music workers fighting for fair wages and labor conditions on February 29, 2024.
The Austin City Council passed a resolution in support of YouTube Music workers fighting for fair wages and labor conditions on February 29, 2024.  © SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP

The resolution, passed on a 9-1 vote, urges Google to "engage in good-faith negotiations with the union representing the YouTube Music Content Operations Team" and to "prioritize fair compensation, job security, and workplace protections."

The City Council approved the measure amid an organizing campaign that has seen fierce backlash from the company.

In a dramatic moment Thursday, YouTube Music workers who showed up at Austin City Hall found out by text message in the middle of the hearing that they had been laid off.

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A video circulating on social media shows one of the workers testifying on the significance of the City of Austin's support for their organizing push when a co-worker approaches the stand to say: "Not to interrupt, but they just laid us all off."

"Our jobs have ended today, effective immediately."

YouTube Music workers' fight for labor protections

YouTube Music workers strike outside Google's office in Austin, Texas, on February 3, 2023.
YouTube Music workers strike outside Google's office in Austin, Texas, on February 3, 2023.  © SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP

Last April, the YouTube Music workers voted overwhelmingly to unionize with the Alphabet Workers Union-Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA).

The move came after the workers went on strike to protest Google's return-to-office policy and to demand higher wages, better working conditions, and the right to form a union free from retaliation.

Since that time, Google has refused to bargain properly with the union.

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In response to Thursday's scenes, both Google and staffing agency Cognizant said the workers' contracts had reached their planned expiry date.

"As we’ve shared before, these are not Google employees. Cognizant is responsible for these workers’ employment terms, including staffing. As is the case here, contracts with our suppliers across the company routinely end on their natural expiry date, which was agreed to with Cognizant," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The National Labor Relations Board in March 2023 deemed Google to be the workers' joint employer along with Cognizant.

Cover photo: SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP

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