Across the country Google has announced hiring freezes and engaged in “shadow firings,” giving workers an impossible window to transfer jobs or be laid off. Yet, these practices haven’t extended to Durham, where Google is still looking to fill hundreds of job postings. While this may seem like a promising development, as Google workers, we have some concerns.
In 2021, Google announced both its plan to expand in Durham, North Carolina and its interest in hiring “with a key focus on historically underrepresented groups” here. As many applauded the announcement, those familiar with Google’s history of underpaying nonwhite workers compared to their white peers wondered if the new office would change that history or repeat it. We know it is not enough to simply hire workers of color; all workers need equitable compensation for their contributions. When we learned Google planned to change compensation here to the lowest level in the nation, a.k.a “discount,” we raised the alarm.
Google has historically struggled to hire and retain a diverse workforce. In 2021, Google’s U.S. workforce was more than 50 percent white, 42 percent Asian, 6.4 percent Latinx, 4.4 percent Black and 0.8 percent Native American. In that same year, Google announced that its parent company Alphabet was expanding to new locations across the U.S. as part of efforts to support the country’s economy during COVID and to build on the company’s racial equity commitments. One of North Carolina’s accomplishments is educating more HBCU students than any other state, so the Triangle was an obvious choice to achieve the company’s stated goals.
Like other tech companies, Google compensates many of its salaried workers in stock in addition to their pay. Prior to the new office opening, Google changed North Carolina workers’ pay to the lowest in the nation and also lowered all Triangle workers’ future stock compensation. This contrasts with the previous 15 years in which Google’s small Chapel Hill office of mostly white employees received “national” level salaries and stock compensation commensurate with their colleagues around the U.S. Not only is the new compensation structure lower than in comparable locations like Kenosha, Wisconsin and Atlanta, Georgia, it’s even lower than what remote workers in nearby counties like Alamance receive.
Google has refused to seriously engage with workers regarding this decision. Instead, management has celebrated Google “getting two for one”— two workers for the price of one. Google appears less interested in “investing in long-term growth of sites,” in “holding (them)selves accountable”or in “creat(ing) a culture in Durham … that is diverse, inclusive, and collaborative” than it is interested in exploiting a workforce it thinks will make the company look good. Google should not be celebrated for hiring workers of color in the South if they are paying these workers less than anywhere else in the country.
Google has dismissed our valid concerns as a matter of regional economics, claiming the current salary offerings align with the local cost of labor. The truth is Google compensation here is not in line with comparable regions and in fact falls behind the salaries offered to workers by other major tech companies in this area. If Google is serious about playing a role in the Triangle, it must reject the practice of cheapening labor costs by denying southern and Black workers their fair share.
Google and its parent company Alphabet are valued at $1.7742 trillion. These corporations’ success is entirely due to their extensive and dedicated workforce that has established Google as one of the premier technology companies on the globe. Google has the resources to ensure North Carolina workers are compensated at a rate in step with their Google peers across the country and with their tech worker peers in this area. Fairly compensating all workers, whether Black, white, Latinx, Asian, Immigrant or Indigenous should be Google’s priority. We all deserve to be paid fairly for our work, and it’s time Google got serious about paying all workers their fair share.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.
Comment on this story at email@example.com.