Google employees walk out to protest treatment of women
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Carrying signs with messages such as "Don't be evil," Google employees around the world walked off the job Thursday in a protest against what they said is the tech company's mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives.
Employees staged walkouts at offices from Tokyo to Singapore to London. Hundreds protested outside Google's office in New York, and others were expected to do so in California later in the day.
In Dublin, organizers used megaphones to address the crowd of men and women to express their support for victims of sexual harassment. Other workers shied away from the media spotlight, with people gathering instead, indoors, in packed conference rooms or lobbies, to show their solidarity with abuse victims.
Protesters in New York carried signs with such messages as "Not OK Google" and the company's one-time motto, "Don't Be Evil." Many employees outside Google's New York offices cited job security in refusing to talk.
In an unsigned statement from organizers, sent from a company account, protesters called for an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. They also want Google to commit to ending pay inequity and to create a publicly disclosed sexual harassment report and a clearer process for reporting complaints.
The organizers said Google has publicly championed diversity and inclusion but hasn't taken enough action.
The protests are the latest backlash against men's exploitation of female subordinates in business, entertainment, technology and politics. In Silicon Valley, women also are becoming fed up with the male-dominated composition of the technology industry's workforce — an imbalance that critics say fosters frat-house behavior by men.
The Google protest, billed "Walkout For Real Change," is unfolding a week after a New York Times story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about creator of its Android software, Andy Rubin. The report said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 even though Google concluded the sexual misconduct allegations against him were credible.
Rubin derided the Times story article as inaccurate and denied the allegations in a tweet.
2/2 to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle. Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts.— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 26, 2018
The same story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct of other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the same Google-affiliated lab that created far-flung projects such as self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons. DeVaul had remained at the "X'' lab after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him a few years ago, but he resigned Tuesday without severance, Google confirmed Wednesday.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the company's "past actions" in an email sent to employees Tuesday. "I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel," Pichai wrote. "I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. and, yes, here at Google, too."
The email didn't mention the reported incidents involving Rubin, DeVaul or anyone else, but Pichai didn't dispute anything in the Times story.
In an email last week, Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google's executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure workers that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Rubin's departure four years ago.
Among other things, Pichai and Naughton disclosed that Google had fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for "sexual harassment" in recent years without giving any of them severance packages.
But Thursday's workout could signal that a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent Alphabet Inc. remained unconvinced the company is doing enough to adhere to Alphabet's own edict urging all employees to "do the right thing."
A Silicon Valley congresswoman tweeted her support of the Google walkout using the "#MeToo" hashtag that has become a battle cry for women fighting sexual misconduct. "Why do they think it's OK to reward perpetrators & further violate victims?" asked Rep. Jackie Speier, who represents an affluent district where many of Google's employees live.