LGBTQ+

Google’s Union Is Fighting For All Workers’ ID Badges To Display Their Chosen Names

A union of Google workers launched a campaign for Pride to demand subcontractors reflect Google’s supposedly inclusive culture.

A view of the Google sign displaying pride colors at their office building in Chelsea on June 21, 2020 in New York City.
A view of the Google sign displaying pride colors at their office building in Chelsea on June 21, 2020 in New York City.

Phares Lee, a trans man and Google contract worker, has requested multiple times that his bosses at third-party company G4S provide an ID badge that displays his chosen name. Every time, G4S has denied Lee’s request, and his badge still displays his deadname.

On the first day of Pride, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) launched a petition calling on Google and G4S to institute a “chosen name policy” that applies to all workers. AWU, which formed in January 2021, represents more than 800 Google full-time employees and temporary, vendor, and contract workers (TVCs). 

“It is a big relief [to have AWU’s support], and it gives a feeling of community and acceptance that I wasn't getting from the so-called inclusive culture that Google proclaims to have,” Lee told NowThis, adding that the union support has made him feel comfortable to speak out. 

AWU’s petition demands the policy “ensures publicly displayed names reflect a chosen name where it differs from their legal name; allows pronoun stickers to be displayed on name badges, and protects the right to privacy of dead names.” The petition also calls on Google and G4S to permit TVCs, like Lee, to participate in Google employee resource groups just like full-time employees.

A Google spokesperson told NowThis that the company allows all workers to use chosen names on IDs, which a union spokesperson said “contradicts what’s happening” in practice. TVCs can also participate in ERGs with a contractor’s approval, according to the Google spokesperson.  G4S did not respond to a request for comment.

“A corporation like Google that publicly claims to value inclusion, can and must do better by its TVCs,” the petition reads.

Lee, who is a member of AWU, started working at a Google site in South Carolina as a contract worker with G4S in 2018. He was later given an ID badge with his deadname on it. “I asked specifically multiple times to have that badge updated,” Lee said, adding that he believes he most recently requested his badge be updated in August 2019, when he was promoted. Lee said after those initial requests, it didn’t seem “feasible” to continue pressing his bosses.

Lee has also experienced issues updating his name in Google’s internal system, where most of the communication for his job takes place. Lee said his name in the internal system reflects his chosen name at present, but that it has taken “a lot of effort to get it to stay that way.” Lee said he knows of at least two other trans people who have experienced issues displaying their chosen name on ID badges and through the company’s internal system.

“In my opinion, G4S holds a little more of the blame than the client,” Lee said. “It can be complicated for a large corporation, like the client, to enforce their intentions across so many sites and things get dropped by the wayside.”

NowThis asked Google what happens when a contractor denies a worker’s requests for a name change on an ID badge but has not yet heard back.

Lee’s experience fits into a broader pattern of how Google treats TVCs, Shannon Wait, a former contractor who worked at the same Google site that Lee works at, said on Twitter.

“At Google, TVCs are treated like third-class workers when it comes to pay and benefits,” Wait tweeted on Tuesday. “I was told I was not allowed a replacement water bottle because I was a contractor. It is clear that Google continues to not create a ‘sense of belonging for everyone,’ this time with Phares.”

AWU’s petition has more than 800 signatures as of Thursday. Lee said seeing the swell in support has been “absolutely fantastic.”

“I do love my job,” Lee said. “I just feel like this has gone on far enough. I'm no longer willing to have my deadname utilized in ways that are hurtful to me.”

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