The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Google workers around world protest harassment, inequality

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DUBLIN/NEW YORK: Over 1,000 Google employees and contractor­s in Asia, Europe and the United States staged brief midday walkouts Thursday, with more expected to follow at California headquarte­rs, amid complaints of sexism, racism and unchecked executive power in their workplace.

Hundreds of women and men filed out of Google’s office in New York City and silently walked around the block for about 10 minutes around 11:00 a.m. EDT. A few held sheets of paper with messages including “Respect for women.”

Two blocks away, a larger crowd of people that appeared to number a thousand or more, including Google employees and New Yorkers not working for the company, filled a small park. Some held larger signs than those at the Google office, with more confrontat­ional messages including “Time’s up Tech.”

“This is Google. We solve the toughest problems here. We all know that the status quo is unacceptab­le and if there is any company who can solve this, I think it is Google,” said Thomas Kneeland, a software engineer who said he has been at Google for three years.

Google employees have been getting a lot of emails from managers and colleagues to participat­e in the walkout recently, he said. Just around 11 a.m., people started forming groups to leave the building. “We had engineers on our team bring their pagers since they were on call, but that’s how we thought of the walkout. It’s important.”

The demonstrat­ions follow a New York Times report last week that said Google in 2014 gave a $90 million exit package to Andy Rubin after the then-senior vice president was accused of sexual harassment.

Rubin denied the allegation in the story, which he also said contained “wild exaggerati­ons” about his compensati­on. Google did not dispute the report.

The report energized a monthslong movement inside Google to increase diversity, and improve treatment of women and minorities.

In a statement late Wednesday, the organizers called on Google parent Alphabet Inc. to add an employee representa­tive to its board of directors and internally share pay-equity data. They also asked for changes to Google’s human resources practices intended to make bringing harassment claims a fairer process.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a statement that “employees have raised constructi­ve ideas” and that the company was “taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

Hundreds more filed out of its European headquarte­rs in Dublin shortly after 11 a.m. local time, while organizers shared photograph­s on social media of hundreds more leaving Google offices in London, Zurich, Berlin, Tokyo and Singapore.

Irish employees left a note on their desks that read: “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractor­s to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparen­cy and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone,” national broadcaste­r RTE reported.

Google employs 7,000 people in Dublin, its largest facility outside the United States.

The dissatisfa­ction among Alphabet’s 94,000 employees and tens of thousands more contractor­s has not noticeably affected company shares. But employees expect Alphabet to face recruiting and retention challenges if their concerns go unaddresse­d.

Much of the organizing earlier this year was internal, including petition drives, brainstorm­ing sessions with top executives and training from the workers’ rights group Coworker.org.

Since its founding two decades ago, Google has been known for its transparen­cy with workers. Executives’ goals and insights into corporate strategy have been accessible to any employee. But organizers said Google executives, like leaders at other companies affected by the #MeToo movement, have been slow to address some structural issues.

“While Google has championed the language of diversity and inclusion, substantiv­e actions to address systemic racism, increase equity and stop sexual harassment have been few and far between,” organizers stated.

They said Google must publicly report its sexual harassment statistics and end forced arbitratio­n in harassment cases. In addition, they asked that the chief diversity officer be able to directly advise the board. –

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