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Technology Google employees at protest: 'They want us afraid. They want us silent'

01:30  23 november  2019
01:30  23 november  2019 Source:   cnet.com

Protesters accuse Google of retaliating against organizing workers

  Protesters accuse Google of retaliating against organizing workers Tensions between Google and its employees aren't about to ease up any time soon. Staff held a protest in San Francisco on November 23rd that accused Google of retaliating against two workers, Laurence Berland and Rebecca Rivers, for workplace organizing. The two were placed on indefinite leave earlier in November for allegedly violating company policy through improper document access, but Berland, Rivers and supporters believe that was really just a pretext for punishing activism.Rivers in particular had been involved in petitioning Google to avoid bidding on contracts for both Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I just wanted to make sure that we provided space for Dublin Googlers to come together and show solidarity for anyone who may have faced any form of Outside Google ’s European headquarters in Dublin, employees walked off the job on Thursday to protest the treatment of executives accused of

“ They want us silent .” The rally lasted nearly an hour with speeches from both Berland and Rivers as well as other organizers. The protest is just the latest escalation of employee pushback over a host of policies, products and personnel matters.

Google employees on Friday accused the search giant's management of retaliating against some of its workers and showing a lack of transparency as the company tries to rein in Google's famously open culture.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Rebecca Rivers, a Google employee who was placed on leave, speaks at a rally Friday. James Martin/CNET© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Rebecca Rivers, a Google employee who was placed on leave, speaks at a rally Friday. James Martin/CNET

Employees gathered for a rally in the courtyard of one of Google's San Francisco offices near the city's waterfront. Attendees held up signs that said, "Shame on Google," "This is OUR company," and "Solidarity Forever." Speakers stood on a bench as they addressed the crowd, with views of the Bay Bridge in the background.

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What the Google Protests Really Need to Achieve. Employees have to act as Alphabet’s watchdog If employees are afraid to speak out when they ’re mistreated, speaking out about the ethics of Google ’s Technology companies, like Google , deliver the information that we need to participate

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Google headquarters in Mountain View, California© Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California

The protest was spurred by administrative actions Google took against two employees, Laurence Berland and Rebecca Rivers. The two were placed on indefinite leave earlier this month while the company investigates alleged policy violations, including accessing documents and calendar information that Google says was outside the scope of their jobs. Activists at Google, though, said the move is punishment for workplace organizing.

"They want to intimidate everyone who disagrees with leadership," Berland said at the rally. "They want us afraid. They want us silent."

a group of people standing in front of a sign: Attendees held up signs in support of the employees placed on leave. James Martin/CNET© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Attendees held up signs in support of the employees placed on leave. James Martin/CNET

Google workers at the protest urged the company to reinstate Berland and Rivers. At one point, the crowd chanted "Bring them back" and "Shut it down," if their demands were not met.

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They want us to bury our love and burn our hope. Their aim is to take all our light! They think their bricked walls will separate us . They are so ignorant they don’t understand that we will never be afraid , we will never hate and we will never be silent for life is ours!”

A Google spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment Friday. Earlier this week, though, a spokeswoman defended the decision to put the workers on leave, adding that it's common for the company to do so during an investigation.

Tensions rising

The rally comes as tensions escalate between Google management and rank-and-file employees. Activists within the search giant have protested several decisions by leadership, including the signing of an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon, Google's work in China, and leadership's handling of sexual assault allegations.

Relations between Google management and some workers have grown more intense in recent weeks. The company has hired an outside firm with a history of anti-union efforts, as Google deals with uprisings from workers. The company last week said it would scale back its TGIF town hall meetings, a long-standing company tradition. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the meetings will be held monthly, instead of weekly or bi-weekly, because of a "coordinated effort" to leak comments made at the internal meetings.

Former Google employees plan to file labor complaints with government

  Former Google employees plan to file labor complaints with government They allege the search giant of terminated them for engaging in labor organizing.Google last month fired four employees for what it said were violations related to data security, according to a staff memo published by Bloomberg. The terminations came just days after approximately 200 Google workers and other supporters held a rally outside one of Google's San Francisco offices. The activists at the rally alleged that Google management was retaliating against employees for speaking out against the search giant.

Google employees held a protest in San Francisco days before the company ended its long-held TGIF meetings, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC. Workers are calling for the company to reinstate two employees who were suddenly placed on administrative leave, the memo says.

However, identifying your employees wants and desires will greatly benefit your company and the bottom line. By providing simple solutions such as flexibility, a focus on wellness and working with a purpose, employers can significantly improve the satisfaction of their employees .

"TGIF wasn't perfect, but at least we got the chance to ask the questions," Berland said.

"They want to intimidate everyone who disagrees with leadership...They want us afraid. They want us silent."
Laurence Berland

Google workers have also taken issue with a calendar tool the company has required employees to install on their computers. The software, an extension for the company's Chrome browser, is designed to flag meetings with more than 100 attendees or more than 10 rooms. Google employees accused the company of spying on activist or organizing efforts. The company said it was only trying to cut down on calendar spam.

Rivers, who works at Google's Boulder, Colorado office, had previously been involved in creating a petition urging the company not to bid on contracts to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On Friday, she said she was placed on leave while the company looks into her access of internal documents. But she said many of the questions Google's investigations team asked her were about her creation of the petition.

Google says it fired four employees for breaking data security rules

  Google says it fired four employees for breaking data security rules Some workers at the search giant, though, said management retaliated against employees for workplace organizing.The terminations come days after approximately 200 Google workers and other supporters held a rally Friday outside of one of Google's San Francisco offices. The activists alleged that Google management was retaliating against employees for speaking out against the search giant.

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a group of people standing in front of a building: Attendees gathered outside one of Google's San Francisco offices. James Martin/CNET© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Attendees gathered outside one of Google's San Francisco offices. James Martin/CNET

"I'm proud of what I did," she said. "And I believe everyone has a right to know what their work is being used for."

Google workers have held rallies before. Last November, 20,000 employees walked out of the company's offices around the world in response to Google's handling of sexual harassment claims against key executives. Six months later, employees held a sit-in to protest what they said was a "culture of retaliation" at Google. The company at the time denied the claim.

Employees at the rally also called out Google's treatment of the company's temps, vendors or contractors, called TVCs in Google parlance. Workers say TVCs, who make up about half of the company's workforce, are treated like second-class citizens at the company, with wage disparities and less access to information. At the rally, one full-time employee read statements from three TVCs, who declined to speak at the rally themselves out of fear of retaliation. "It's easier to fire us than an employee," one TVC wrote.

Attendees at the rally also said Google has lost touch with its workforce.

"Leadership doesn't know us anymore. They thought we would take this lying down," Berland said. "I don't know why they thought that."

Leaked audio captures Sundar Pichai discussing leaks at Google .
Tonight the Washington Post has published audio from a Google all-hands meeting that took place on Thursday, as execs responded to employee questions about a number of issues. Those include the hiring of a former Department of Homeland Security staffer who publicly defended a later version of the administration's "travel ban" on citizens of several predominantly Muslim nations, as well as a recent Chrome extension for employees it rolled out that staffers considered a "spy tool."While Pichai called trust "one the most foundational things for the company," he called out the trouble with "transparency at scale, how to do it.

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