6 min read

The Google Walkout for Real Change group tweeted out their protest against the news of ‘Google confirming that it paid $135 million as exit packages to the two top execs accused of sexual assault, on Twitter, earlier this week. The group castigated the ‘multi-million dollar payouts’ and asked people to use the hashtag #GooglePayoutsForAll to demonstrate different and better ways this obscenely large amount of ‘hush money’ could have been used.

The news of Google paying its senior execs, namely, Amit Singhal (former Senior VP of Google search) and Andy Rubin (creator of Android) high exit packages was first highlighted in a report by the New York Times, last October. As per the report, Google paid $90 million to Rubin and $15 million to Singhal. A lawsuit filed by James Martin, an Alphabet shareholder, on Monday this week, further confirmed this news. The lawsuit states that this decision taken by directors of Alphabet caused significant financial harm to the company apart from deteriorating its reputation, goodwill, and market capitalization.

Meredith Whittaker, one of the early organizers of the Google Walkout in November last month tweeted, “$135 million could fix Flint’s water crisis and still have $80 million left.” Vicki Tardif, another Googler summed up the sentiments in her tweet, “$135M is 1.35 times what Google.org  gave out in grants in 2016.” An ACLU researcher pointed out that $135M could have in addition to feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and pay off some student loans, It could also support local journalism killed by online ads.

The public support to the call for protest using the hashtag #GooglePayoutsForAll has been awe-inspiring. Some shared their stories of injustice in cases of sexual assault, some condemned Google for its handling of sexual misconduct, while others put the amount of money Google wasted on these execs into a larger perspective.

Better ways Google could have used $135 million it wasted on execs payouts, according to Twitter

Invest in people to reduce structural inequities in the company

  • $135M could have been paid to the actual victims who faced harassment and sexual assault.

  • Google could have used the money to fix the wage and level gap for women of color within the company.

  • $135 million could be used to adjust the 16% median pay gap of the 1240 women working in Google’s UK offices

  • $135M could have been used by Google for TVC benefits. It could also be used to provide rigorous training to the Google employees on what impact misinformation within the company can have on women and other marginalized groups.  

  • For $135M, Google could have paid the 114 creators featured in its annual “YouTube Rewind” who are otherwise unpaid for their time and participation.

Improve communities by supporting social causes

  • Google could have paid $135M to RAINN, a largest American nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, covering its expenses for the next 18 years.

  • For funding 1800 school psychologists for 1 year in public schools

  • To build real, affordable housing solutions in collaboration with London Breed, SFGOV, and other Bay Area officials

  • $135M could provide insulin for nearly 10,000 people with Type 1 diabetes in the US

  • To pay for the first year for 1,000 people with stage IV breast cancer

Be a responsible corporate citizen

  • To fund approximately 5300 low-cost electric vehicles for Google staff, and saving around 25300 metric tons of carbon dioxide from vehicle emissions per year.

  • Providing free Google Fiber internet to 225,000 homes for a year

  • To give $5/hr raise to 12,980 service workers at Silicon Valley tech campuses

  • $135M could have been used for the construction of affordable homes, protecting 1,100 low-income families in San Jose from coming rent hikes of Google’s planned mega-campus.

#GooglePayoutsForAll: Another initiative to promote awareness of structural inequities in tech  

The core idea behind launching #GooglePayoutsForAll on Twitter by the Google walkout group was to promote awareness among people regarding the real issues within the company. It urged people to discuss how Google is failing at maintaining the ‘open culture’ that it promises to the outside world. It also highlights how mottos such as “Don’t be Evil” and “Do the right thing” that Google stood by only make for pretty wall decor and there’s still a long way to go to see those ideals in action.

The group gained its name when more than 20,000 Google employees along with vendors, and contractors, temps, organized Google “walkout for real change” and walked out of their offices in November 2018. The walkout was a protest against the hushed and unfair handling of sexual misconduct within Google. Ever since then, Googlers have been consistently taking initiatives to bring more transparency, accountability, and fairness within the company.

For instance, the team launched an industry-wide awareness campaign to fight against forced arbitration in January, where they shared information about arbitration on their Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout the day. The campaign was a success as Google finally ended its forced arbitration policy which goes into effect this month for all the employees (including contractors, temps, vendors) and for all kinds of discrimination. Also, House and Senate members in the US have proposed a bipartisan bill to prohibit companies from using forced arbitration clauses, last month.   

Although many found the #GooglePayoutsForAll idea praiseworthy, some believe this initiative doesn’t put any real pressure on Google to bring about a real change within the company.

Now, we don’t necessarily disagree with this opinion, however, the initiative can’t be completely disregarded as it managed to make people who’d otherwise hesitate to open up talk extensively regarding the real issues within the company. As Liz Fong-Jones puts it, “Strikes and walkouts are more sustainable long-term than letting Google drive each organizer out one by one. But yes, people *are* taking action in addition to speaking up. And speaking up is a bold step in companies where workers haven’t spoken up before”.

The Google Walkout group have not yet announced what they intend to do next following this digital protest. However, the group has been organizing meetups such as the one earlier this month on March 6th where it invited the tech contract workers for discussion about building solidarity to make work better for everyone.

We are only seeing the beginning of a powerful worker movement take shape in Silicon Valley.

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