At 11 a.m. on Nov. 2, 2018, 20,000 workers walked out of 50 Google locations around the world. The response to the protest came to a head after The New York Times wrote about misconduct and payouts among high-ranking executives, as outlined by several participants in a essay published by The Cut. However, the issues run far deeper.
Meredith Whittaker, the founder of Open Research Group, stated:
Google paying $90M to Andy Rubin is one example among thousands, which speak to a company where abuse of power, systemic racism, and unaccountable decision-making are the norm.
An organizer for the protest, Celie O’Neil-Hart, said that they were building upon the work of others who are advocating for structural change at Google for years. Many others who have raised alerts and concerns about the culture at Google are not longer with the company. The ones who remain will see how the executives respond to their demands:
- An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for current and future employees. Additionally, the employees reserve the right to bring a co-worker, supporter, or representative of their choosing when meeting with Human Resources, especially when filing a harassment claim.
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality. For example, hiring women of color at all levels of Google and accountability for not meeting this commitment. This is to be accompanied by transparent data on race, gender, and ethnicity compensation gap, across both level and year of industry experience, accessible to all Google and Alphabet employees and contractors. The data must include, but not be limited to, information on relative promotion rates, under-leveling at hire, the handling of leaves, and inequality if project and job ladder change opportunities. The methods by which the data is collected and the techniques by which it is analyzed and aggregated must be transparent.
- A publicly-disclosed sexual harassment transparency report that includes the number of harassment claims at Google over time and by product area, the type of claims submitted, how many victims and accused have left Google and any exit packages and their worth.
- A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. Today’s process is not working. This is largely due to the fact that Human Resources’ performance is assessed by senior management and directors forcing them to put management’s interest ahead of the employees who are reporting the harassment and discrimination. The improves process should be accessible to full-time, part-time and temporary employees, vendors, and contractors. Accountability, safety, and an ability to report unsafe working conditions should not be dictated by employment status.
- A commitment to elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. Additionally, appoint an Employee Representative to the Board. Both the CDO and the Employee Representative should assist in allocating permanent resources for demands 1-4 and other equity efforts, ensure accountability to these demands, and suggest changes when goals in equity are not met.
According to organizers, as of Sept. 30, Google had 94,372 full-time and contract employees worldwide. That means that 20 percent (20,000) of the entire company participated in the walkout.
An investigation by The New York Times sparked the protest. The New York Times revealed that Android co-founder Any Rubin was paid $90 million upon his exit from the company after it learned of sexual assault allegations against him.
Google employee Tanuja Gupta said that many companies are watching the tech giant. “We’ve always been a vanguard company, so if we don’t lead the way, nobody else will.”
According to organizers, Google employees participated in the walkout from the U.S., Brazil, Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan, the U.K., India, the Netherlands, Ireland, Philippines, Switzerland, Singapore, and Sweden.
Walkout for Real Change organizers blogged about the protest and yesterday, Nov. 2, 2018, they were told that Google SEO Sundar Pichai will meet with his leadership team on Monday. The goal of the meeting is to review a plan that would address the employee demands.
By Jeanette Smith
Engadget: Google Walkout protest included 20,000 participants Friday
The Verge: Over 20,000 Google employees participated in yesterday’s mass walkout
Image Courtesy of Shawn Collins’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License