Google worker, San Francisco Bay area, US
The #MeToo movement hit the tech world as hundreds, possibly thousands, of Google employees, led by women, organised an historic walkout from work on 1 November at 11.10am.
Spurred on by a 25 October New York Times article highlighting that Google “systematically allowed senior executives accused of sexual misconduct to leave the company with massive severance packages,” employees began organising an action to let Google executives know that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
And to demand structural changes to end discrimination and harassment of women workers.
Employees started organising on 29 October. By 31 October, 1,500 had joined an email group to discuss demands and organise the walkout. Flyers for the action have been posted at offices across the country and even internationally.
While posting flyers around one office, co-workers who had never spoken to each other before began talking, organising to help divide the work and get as many posters up as quickly as possible.
Employees began excitedly messaging each other about the developments, spreading the news and encouraging each other to join the walkout on 1 November. By noon, it was the only topic of conversation.
Workers began changing their social media profile pictures to support the walkout and discussing how to continue fighting for the demands afterwards. One employee changed the default desktop background for thousands of machines across the company to include a message about the walkout. Another posted it to the front page of the corporate intranet for the entire company to see.
All of this was done without ‘asking permission’ or checking with management. There clearly is an underlying mood to fight back, and to organise independently of management. This event has provided an outlet for that energy. Local leaders stepped up to organise the walkout at 31 offices around the globe and more joined all the time. Zurich, Toronto, Sydney, London, Dublin, Munich, Tokyo are just some of the international offices which participated. In the US, walkouts were held across the nation in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Mountain View, Los Angeles, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and many more.
The employees have come together around a set of demands that will be presented to Google executives. They are demanding an end to forced arbitration on complaints, a transparent process for reporting sexual misconduct, the right for every employee to bring a third party representative of their choosing when filing a harassment claim, and for management to release pay data broken down by gender and ethnicity.
Not only are Google workers taking aim at sexual harassment in the workplace, but they’re pointing toward equal pay for equal work and an end to the gender, and racial, pay gap.
Google workers are following McDonald’s workers who walked out in ten cities on 18 September to force the company to seriously address sexual harassment in the workplace.
We are witnessing some of the first concrete steps toward workplace self-organisation among tech employees. The tech billionaires will want to put an end to this incredible movement by throwing some crumbs its way, but the critical issue is for Google’s workers to remain organised and united around common demands.
This movement has already begun to widen its scope, and has from the beginning attempted to unite Google employees and contractors. For Google workers to succeed, we need to form a permanent trade union organisation, independent of management, to democratically shape this developing movement.