Google’s search quality raters protest for higher pay

Google’s search quality raters protest for higher pay

Google’s search quality raters – the people who help evaluate Google’s search results – want a raise.

Dozens of Google’s raters, seeking raises and access to benefits, rallied at the Googleplex in Mountain View yesterday, with the goal of putting an end to “poverty wages.”

Why we care. Google has said it uses as many as 16,000 raters – and about 5,000 are based in the U.S. As a group, Google’s human raters help ensure the helpfulness, quality and relevance of search results by identifying potentially harmful results, spam, outdated information and all the other elements that go into what is now known as E-E-A-T. 

Protest in Mountain View. The goal was to deliver a petition, signed by more than 600 workers, to Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan (who is responsible for Google’s Search, Assistant, Geo, Ads, Commerce, and Payments products). 

They wanted Raghavan to meet and negotiate with the workers. The group, however, was stopped by security, according to KPIX, a CBS-owned Bay Area news channel.

Alphabet Workers Union tweets about the protest. In a Twitter thread, the Alphabet Workers Union laid out their case for the raters, noting they are “responsible for training, testing & evaluating search algorithms. Their work makes Google billions while they get paid pennies.”

The group noted that Google’s raters can’t get benefits, such as health insurance, paid sick leave or parental leave.

Raters provide an invisible service to Google, rating the quality of Google search & Google ads—products that make billions for the company. 

Yet, Google has denied these workers access to the company’s own “minimum standard” of pay and benefits for “extended workforce workers.”

@AlphabetWorkers

Raises for raters? At least some of Google’s raters reportedly were given a raise this year. 

Historically, we know U.S.-based raters (who are actually employed through subcontractors) were paid as little as $10 an hour up to $14.50, which is lower than the $15 an hour minimum Google pays to its TVCs (temporary, vendor and contractor staff). (For additional context, California’s minimum wage is $15.50 per hour and the U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.)

“We’re Google’s lowest-paid workers,” Michelle Curtis, one of Google’s quality raters, told MarketWatch in an interview. “But we play a vital role in its growing source of revenue.”

However, in an interview with Search Engine Land in 2012, we learned that one quality rater was making $14.50 per hour. That means that this most recent “raise” for today’s raters merely put them back to the same pay level some raters were earning over a decade ago. 

The bigger picture. The protest comes not long after Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced 12,000 layoffs that impacted employees and contractors. 

However, those layoffs followed a two-year period of massive hiring, as Google’s headcount went from 119,000 employees in 2019, to 150,000 by the end of 2021. As of September 2022, Alphabet had 187,000 employees.

Dig deeper. Google ‘rater’ contract workers rally at Mountain View headquarters to demand higher pay by Kelsi Thorud.


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