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Google is downsizing its contract workforce that supports YouTube shortly after one contractor team's union victory

Thomas Maxwell,Hugh Langley   

Google is downsizing its contract workforce that supports YouTube shortly after one contractor team's union victory
  • Google is reducing its contract workforce that supports YouTube operations.
  • Workers in Austin recently formed a collective-bargaining group with the Alphabet Workers Union.

Google is ending some business with contracting firms including Cognizant and Accenture, which employ workers who support various YouTube services. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.

The workers impacted by these cuts support YouTube TV and YouTube's social-media accounts. Most of the workers who will be cut are based in Austin, according to four people familiar with the matter. Cognizant workers began hearing about the cuts at the start of May, with effective end dates ranging from May 31 to the end of July, according to three workers.

It's unclear exactly how many Cognizant workers were affected. At Accenture, roughly 120 to 150 workers will lose their positions, two sources estimate. Insider was not able to verify an exact number in that case, either, though one Accenture worker said their effective end date is today.

The move comes shortly after a group of Cognizant workers supporting YouTube Music voted 41-0 in favor of unionizing with the Alphabet Workers Union, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, a larger trade union. The National Labor Relations Board certified the vote on May 5. The cuts did not impact the YouTube Music team, which helps curate themed playlists and review song metadata.

The Cognizant team supporting YouTube TV had been in early talks to form their own union following the group at YouTube Music, according to three workers there.

In a statement, Google confirmed the changes to its contract workforce and denied it is related to union efforts.

"As we've said, we are managing our spend with our suppliers and vendors more effectively to create durable savings where possible," a spokesperson said. "This work has been happening for well over a year across Alphabet and spans dozens of our major suppliers in the U.S. and abroad. Any suggestion that these changes are due to reasons beyond increasing our efficiency and cost savings is untrue."

Cognizant also confirmed in an email that its contract supporting YouTube TV is ending.

"As a professional services company, ramp-downs and ramp-ups of projects are a normal part of Cognizant's work with clients," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We do have a ramp down in our YouTube TV project; although this specific project has come to an end, those affected by this change remain Cognizant employees."

Workers affected by Google's decision to end business with Cognizant will be placed on a "bench" policy, giving them five weeks of paid time to receive training and find a new job internally before they are let go, the spokesperson added.

An Accenture spokesperson wrote in a statement, "From time to time, we adjust our workforce on ongoing projects to meet the needs of our clients. We are fully committed to supporting our people through this transition."

Google and Cognizant have been appealing an NLRB ruling that deemed the search giant as a "joint employer" of Cognizant's workers who support YouTube. Cognizant HR representatives previously told workers that even if the ruling was upheld, Google would only have minimal involvement in union negotiations.

Cognizant contractors for YouTube Music in Austin first announced their intentions to unionize last year to seek a guaranteed remote-work policy, as well as other changes. Contract workers for Google at other agencies have also been organizing to demand better treatment from the search giant.

Many workers at Appen, who are referred to as "raters" because they rate the quality and relevance of search results, recently visited the Google headquarters to demand better wages, among other changes to their working conditions. Google started layoffs of 12,000 full-time employees in January, citing changing economic conditions.

Other companies like Apple, Starbucks, and Wells Fargo have been pushing back against a rise in union efforts. Even though interest in unions is near all-time highs, only about 10% of US workers are union members.

Got a tip about Google? You can reach Hugh via encrypted email ( or encrypted messaging apps Signal/Telegram (+1 628-228-1836). You can reach Thomas via email at, Signal at 540.955.7134, or Twitter at @tomaxwell.

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