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- Staff working for YouTube Music protested on Friday in Texas over a return-to-office requirement.
- Cognizant workers said most were hired to work remotely and a quarter were not even based in Texas.
- “It’s unfeasible for me to move back to Austin,” one worker now based in Florida said.
More than 40 contractors working for YouTube Music workers protested Friday outside Google’s office in Austin, Texas, against a return-to-office order.
The workers were calling for management at their employer Cognizant, a major contractor for YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet, to create a return-to-office policy that is “fair” and “flexible.”
Cognizant workers are paid an hourly rate close to $19 an hour, according to Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, whose members say is not enough to cover the cost of relocating, commuting, and childcare that working from the office will entail.
The workers were notified in November they would have to all start working from the Austin office from February 6, Axios reported. But a majority of Cognizant’s workers joined the company remotely and nearly 25% are not based in Texas, the union said.
“The upcoming return to office date threatens the livelihoods of workers who do not live in the Austin area,” Alphabet Workers Union-CWA said in a statement.
Greg Mobley, a subject-matter expert at Cognizant and union member, called the mandatory notice to return to office on February 6 “abrupt,” in a video shared on the union’s Facebook page.
Florida-based Mobley, who joined the company two years ago, said: “It’s unfeasible for me to move back to Austin, especially with the rising cost of living and no assistance from Cognizant or Google to relocate.”
Neil Gossell, another YouTube Music contractor employed by Cognizant, said: “No workers should be paid so little that they cannot afford to go back to work in the office, and no worker should be forced to return to the office when it is clear we can effectively accomplish our work from home.”
When asked to comment, a Cognizant spokesperson told Insider an impending return to office “has been communicated to them repeatedly since December 2021,” adding it was “disappointing some of our associates have chosen to strike” over it.
The spokesperson added: “Associates working on this project accepted their employment with the understanding that they were accepting in-office positions, and that the team would work together at a physical location based in Austin.”
The spokesperson added: “Cognizant also wants to make clear that individuals who want to pursue alternate jobs where they may be able to work remotely have the option to do so.”
Google workers also staged protests on Wednesday and Thursday in both California and New York over pay and amid the recent layoffs after the company decided to cut 6% of its workforce, or 12,000 employees.
Approximately 50 employees protested over low wages outside a Google store on Thursday in New York, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the protests, minutes after parent company Alphabet released its fourth-quarter results. It followed a protest that took place the day before at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Some of the protesters in California, which included dozens of contractors, denounced what they called “poverty wages and no benefits,” according to Bloomberg.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.