Google sit-in: Workers protest alleged company retaliation after walkout – CNET


Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Last November, Google workers staged a massive walkout. Now, six months later, their protest is taking a different form: a sit-in.

On Wednesday, employees at the search giant will hold a demonstration to fight against what they say is systemic retaliation at the company.

In particular, two longtime Google employees say they’ve been unfairly targeted by the company because of their roles in organizing the Google walkout. That protest saw 20,000 Google workers march out of their offices in response to the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegation directed at high-level executives. The worldwide event drew international media coverage.

One organizer, Meredith Whittaker, said she was asked to give up her work at the AI Now Institute, a research center she co-founded at New York University that examines the societal effects of artificial intelligence. Another organizer, Claire Stapleton, said she was told after the walkout she’d be demoted and lose half of her reports. She said she was also told to go on medical leave even though she wasn’t sick.

Wednesday’s event is being held across the country on May Day, which celebrates the rights of workers and laborers. It starts at 11 a.m. local time.

In addition to the sit-in, some workers plan to call in sick and others will use their out-of-office email response to highlight the protest, organizers said in a series of tweets Wednesday. Other workers may join local May Day marches.

Organizers also said during the sit-in they will share stories of retaliation and their demands will be read.

In Silicon Valley, Google workers have led the way for organized protest in the tech industry. In the past, they’ve rebelled against the company’s work in China, military contracts and treatment of contract workers. The sit-in comes after Google workers held a town hall meeting last week to discuss responses to the alleged retaliation. 

Google says retaliation is prohibited and that it investigates all allegations.

“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy,” said a Google spokesperson in an emailed statement 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.”

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