#GoogleWalkout organizers face backlash at work, tech workers show solidarity

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Google Employees who helped organize the worldwide Google Walkout are now facing troubles for doing so. Per a report by Wired, roles of two Google employees, Claire Stapleton, YouTube Marketing Manager and Meredith Whittaker the head of Google’s Open Research were changed dramatically several months after the Walkout including calls to abandon AI ethics work, demotion, and more. Both employees posted about their retaliation in a letter shared internally with co-workers on Monday.

In November last year, 20,000 Google employees along with Temps, Vendors, and Contractors walked out to protest the discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment that they encountered at Google’s workplace. The Walkout was planned after The New York Times brought to light the shocking allegations against Andy Rubin’s (creator of Android) sexual misconduct at Google.

Meredith Whittaker leads Google’s Open Research Group and the Google Measurement Lab. She is also the co-founder of the AI Now Institute, and a renowned figure working to eliminate AI bias and discrimination and incorporate workplace diversity. In the letter, Meredith says, that after the announcement of Google disbanding it’s AI Ethics council, she was informed that to remain at the company she will have to abandon her work on AI ethics and the AI Now Institute.

Claire Stapleton, another walkout organizer was told she would be demoted from her role as marketing manager at YouTube. After escalating the issue to human resources, she said she faced further retaliation. “My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Stapleton wrote in the letter which was seen by Wired. Her demotion was only reversed after she hired a lawyer, and the company conducted an investigation. She adds, “While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.”


“More than 300 other employees have shared stories of retaliation since the walkout,” Ms. Stapleton and Ms. Whittaker wrote in their letter.

Google has a long history of retaliation, particularly to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities. The suffering that these people face include but not limited to icy conversations, gaslighting, project cancellations, transition rejections, and demotions. Ms. Stapleton and Ms. Whittaker wrote in the letter, “On reading the 350 collected stories after the walkout, a sad pattern emerges: People who stand up and report discrimination, abuse, and unethical conduct are punished, sidelined, and pushed out. Perpetrators often go unimpeded or are even rewarded (Andy, Amit, “I reported, he got promoted”).”

They urge Google to end retaliation against the people who speak honestly about these problems in order to foster a culture free of discrimination, harassment, and unethical decision making.

In regards to this, both women plan to host a Retaliation Town Hall to share their stories and strategize on Friday. They will also be live-streaming the meeting. The ladies also urge people to share their stories if they have been retaliated against.

Google put up another ignorant statement in response to this letter. A Google spokesperson told Wired, “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and investigate all allegations. Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here.”

It is worth noting that Googlers had a special place in Google’s S-1 filing made almost 16 years ago on April 29, 2004, which states:

“Our employees, who have named themselves Googlers, are everything. Google is organized around the ability to attract and leverage the talent of exceptional technologists and business people. We have been lucky to recruit many creative, principled and hard-working stars. We hope to recruit many more in the future. We will reward and treat them well.”

On Twitter, people blasted Google’s response.

They have also spoken in solidarity with Ms. Stapleton and Ms. Whittaker and condemned Google saying the company only wants to mint money instead of taking care of its employees.

François Chollet, who heads Deep learning at Google and is the creator of Keras, neural networks library, also spoke in favor of Meredith.

Meredith Whittaker also took to Twitter to thank people for supporting her.

Google’s retaliation isn’t about me, or Claire. It’s about silencing dissent & making us afraid to speak honestly about tech & power.

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Content Marketing Editor at Packt Hub. I blog about new and upcoming tech trends ranging from Data science, Web development, Programming, Cloud & Networking, IoT, Security and Game development.