Over 1,000 Google employees participate in sit-in protesting alleged retaliation

Over 1,000 Google employees participate in sit-in protesting alleged retaliation
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More than 1,000 Google employees participated in a sit-in on Wednesday protesting the company's alleged retaliation against workers who have spoken up critically against the tech giant, a Google employee told The Hill.

Google employees in 15 offices around the world – including in New York, California and London – participated in the organized action, which involved a sit-in as well as employees calling in sick to protest.

More international offices are planning their own sit-in protests for after May 1.

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"Today, Googlers from around the world are gathering ... to sit together and show retaliation is #NotOkGoogle," the group organizing the protests, Google Walkout for Real Change, tweeted on Wednesday. "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."

Some employees set their "out of office" email replies to provide details about Google's alleged retaliation against its workers, and others set their profile picture to display support for the protest.

A Google employee told The Hill that management was "tentatively supportive" of the sit-in, with some managers explicitly telling their teams to attend. 

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the protest directly on Tuesday, saying in a statement that Google does not condone retaliation in the workplace.

The sit-in comes six months after more than 20,000 Google workers participated in walkouts at offices around the world, organized to protest the company's handling of sexual harassment as well as general working conditions.

Now, an increasingly vocal group of Google employees who helped organize and facilitate the walkouts say the company is retaliating against them.

Google employees have been at the forefront of a wave of activism by tech workers protesting their employees, which has continued to gain steam as groups of workers raise concerns about products produced by companies like Microsoft and Amazon, as well as working conditions at some of the country's largest tech companies.

The sit-in participants on Wednesday presented a list of "retaliation demands" to Google management, including a call for a "transparent, open investigation" of Google's human resources department and its "abysmal handling of employee complaints related to working conditions, discrimination, harassment and retaliation," according to a copy of the demands obtained by The Hill.

The organizers are also demanding that Google meet the list of demands presented by workers during the Google walkouts months ago.

Those demands include a commitment by the tech giant to offer equitable pay, release a sexual harassment transparency report and bring an end to all forced arbitration.

Google earlier this year announced an end to its forced arbitration policy for its full-time employees as well as its temporary workers, contractors and vendors — though the company said it would still enter into contracts with companies that have forced arbitration clauses.

"The Walkout was a turning point: a moment where Googlers called on the company to do right by its people," the list of demands reads. "Organizers issued a clear, articulate, and actionable set of demands. Google has had six months to meet these demands: in that time, they've partially met only one of them. Not only that, but the company has begun retaliating against some of the Walkout organizers."

Meredith Whittaker, the founder of Google's Open Research Group, and Claire Stapleton, who currently works for Google-owned YouTube, wrote in an internal message last week that they have both faced retaliation for organizing Google employees.

Their claims sparked a windfall of retribution claims from Google workers, who said Google has retaliated against them after they spoke up. "Google Walkout for Real Change" posted a compilation of those claims on Medium on Monday.

Anonymous Google employees have alleged that they faced retaliation from managers after speaking out about instances of discrimination and unethical conduct.

One of the sit-down's demands includes a call for Google to undo the recent changes to Whittaker and Stapleton's jobs.

The sit-in organizers posted new stories of alleged retaliation on Twitter and social media throughout Wednesday.  

 “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," the Google spokesperson said in the statement Tuesday.  

Whittaker in a tweet said the New York City sit-in involved "talk of unions."