Google's 'raters' are pushing for $15 an hour

The company raised wages for some vendors, but RaterLabs wasn't one of them.

SOPA Images via Getty Images

Part-time employees at RaterLabs — an AI vendor whose only known client is Google — are campaigning to qualify for the $15 hourly minimum wage the tech giant promised to its "extended workforce" back in 2019.

Yahoo Finance reported that the quality raters whose sole job is evaluating Google’s search and ad results for accuracy don’t qualify for sick leave, PTO or other benefits the company provides for its TVCs (temporary workers, vendors and independent contractors). Google increased base pay following critical reporting of its treatment of TVCs in 2018 — the same year it was revealed the majority of Google's workforce was not directly employed by the company.

A number of RatersLabs employees believe the work they do is vital enough to Google that they should receive the higher pay and benefits of their peers. Christopher Colley, who has worked for the Google vendor since 2017, told Yahoo Finance that he only earns $10 an hour, and hasn’t qualified for a raise over the five years he’s worked at RaterLabs. Colley is also part of the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU-CWA), a subgroup of the Communications Workers of America focused on organizing full-time and part-time workers of Alphabet.

“The raters work from home, use their own devices, can work for multiple companies at a time, and do not have access to Google’s systems and/or badges,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget. “As noted on the policy page, the wages and benefits policy applies to Alphabet’s provisioned extended workforce (individuals with systems and/or badge access to Google)."

Among the hurdles workers need to jump in order to qualify for the pay bump afforded to some TVCs is a minimum 30-hour workweek. As AWU-CWA was quick to point out, RaterLabs contractors are capped at only 26 hours.

Employee accounts on RatersLabs’ Indeed profile describe low morale, low pay and an unclear feedback process. “Reviews are monthly, with one bad review potentially costing you the job [...] Guidelines can change the week before the review and you can be 'graded' based on them despite doing the work way before," wrote a former RatersLab employee in January 2022. "The job is very flexible, pay is mediocre, and you have no chance for advancement.”

This isn’t the first time that Google’s army of raters have spoken out about low pay, no opportunities for advancement and subpar working conditions. In fact, RatersLabs was formed by the CEO of Leapforce, a company that also hired raters for Google search and ad products. Back in 2017, Leapforce raters spoke out about chaotic working conditions, resulting in at least three contractors being fired, two of whom claimed their separations from the company were acts of retaliation. As Ars Technica notes, a number of Leapforce workers filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board which were eventually resolved via settlement. Appen — which acquired Leapforce in May of 2017 — is also the parent company of RatersLabs.