Google employees held a #NotOKGoogle sit-in on Monday (May 1) at offices around the world to protest against the so-called “culture of retaliation” being pursued by the company against workers for staging a #GoogleWalkout last year.
“From being told to go on sick leave when you’re not sick, to having your reports taken away, we’re sick of retaliation,” organizers of the ‘Google Walkout For Real Change’ tweeted. “Six months ago, we walked out. This time, we’re sitting in. 11am tomorrow.”
“Today, Googlers from around the world are gathering at 11 am local time to sit together and show retaliation is #NotOkGoogle,” the organizers said in another tweet.
“The stories we’ve been collecting will be shared, our demands will be read, and all will be in solidarity with those withstanding this chilling practice.”
The sit-in comes a week after the organizers released a letter, accusing the Sundar Pichai-led company of pursuing a “culture of retaliation, which too often works to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities.”
Signed by Meredith Whittaker, Claire Stapleton, and 10 others, the letter goes on to say: “Retaliation isn’t always obvious. It’s often confusing and drawn out, consisting of icy conversations, gaslighting, project cancellations, transition rejections, or demotions.”
Whittaker is the head of Google’s Open Research Group and the Google Measurement Lab, while Stapleton is the marketing manager at YouTube.
The Mountain View tech giant, however, declined to comment on the sit-in when approached by Tech Crunch and Fox News other than give a standard scripted statement, which said:
“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy. To make sure that no complaint raised goes unheard at Google, we give employees multiple channels to report concerns, including anonymously, and investigate all allegations of retaliation.”
Last year, more than 20,000 Google employees around the world staged a walk-out, following a damaging New York Times report on the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software.
The en-masse walk-out was also a protest against pay inequality and abuse of power to victimize employees that did not tow the company line.
“We were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power,” the #GoogleWalkout organizers told Fox News at the time.
“Sadly, this is part of a longstanding problem, one further amplified by systemic racism. We know this culture well,” the statement said.
Both Whittaker and Stapleton have allegedly been victimized for organizing the #GoogleWalkout, leaving them with no option but to call for the #NotOKGoogle sit-in to protest the injustices meted out to them and others, since.
In fact, last month, Whittaker posted a message to a number of internal Google mailing lists, accusing the company of disbanding its external AI ethics council earlier in the month.
She was allegedly told that she would lose her job if she didn’t “abandon” her role at AI Now Institute and her work on AI ethics.
Stapleton said she was threatened with demotion two months after the walk-out and faced even more retaliation when she brought the matter to the notice of Human Resources.
“My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Stapleton wrote
Although the company was forced to conduct an investigation and reverse the demotion decision after she hired a lawyer, the environment remained “hostile.”
“While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day,” she wrote.
Employee protests at Google appear to have become a recurrent feature of late, as there was another protest between the #GoogleWalkout and the #NotOkGoogle that comes to mind.
About a month after the #GoogleWalkOut, an employee backlash over the company’s clandestine ‘Dragonfly’ search engine project in China snowballed into near- unmanageable proportions for the tech giant.
Ever since the company’s secret and highly questionable project in China was exposed in August, the search engine titan had faced fierce criticism from investigative journalists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, in addition to mounting dissent among its own workforce.
An open letter demanding the immediate scrapping of the controversial tailored-version of Google’s popular search engine for China was published online late last year.
What started off as a 10-signatory letter entitled “We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly,” was later backed by hundreds of signatories, which kept growing as murkier details continued to emerge.
The letter started with a categorical demand to halt Dragonfly, calling the project “Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.”
“We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months,” read the letter.
“International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project,” it continued. “So far, our leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory.”
“Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits,” the letter read.
“After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google’s support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we’re taking a stand.”