Being a big corporation guarantees no immunity from bad press and Google, a tech industry giant, is no exception. Perhaps its sheer size and global perception causes most people to view the search giant through rose-tinted glasses but recent revelations have been nothing short of a reality check.
No doubt, the corporation’s big wigs would prefer to be known for delivering the best online search experience for the burgeoning internet community. However, impressions are being reshaped by recent demonstrations and written letters to Google executives.
Protest Culture Developing?
Certainly shocking to read about Google employees protesting as the company’s rather [outwardly] progressive employee policies seem to place it above issues that could drag its high-profile name in the mud. In just a space of months, Google has had to contend with written and open protests. Regardless of the form of protest, the causative factors are just two; employment conditions and sexual harassment claims.
TVCs vs FTEs
Like many corporation its size, Google has two very broad categories of employees; Full-Time-Staff (FTE) and Temps, Vendors and Contractors (TVC).
Just two days ago, Google TVCs otherwise known as contract workers wrote an open letter to its CEO, Sundar Pichai, demanding wages and conditions commensurate with their duties. According to them, “We do essential work, from marketing to running engineering teams, to feeding you and the rest of the Google staff — all without fair benefits or recognition,” They conclude that “Google cannot function without us.”
In what seemed like a blow to the midsection, the aggrieved employees drew attention to Google’s mission to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible’ while highlighting its failure to do so internally. They were referring to an earlier incident in April where FTEs received realtime updates during a shooting incident at the YouTube Campus while the TVC received no information, effectively leaving them vulnerable.
Google Walkout, not Hangout!
Just a few weeks ago, more than 20,000 Google employees, both FTEs and TVCs staged an unprecedented walkout. Drawn from over fifty Google offices globally, employees expressed solidarity, listening to their colleagues share experiences of sexual harassment against Google executives. The protest was actually aimed at compelling the tech corporation to scrap employee-unfriendly policies such as forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Apparently miffed by Google’s seeming reward of a key executive’s corporate rascality, the protesters demanded stiffer measures. Famed for being the creator of the phenomenal Android OS, the executive, Andy Rubin was accused by a former employee of being coerced to perform an unpalatable sexual act on him in 2013. Investigations proved the veracity of her allegations.
However, according to a New York Times report on the matter, Google merely asked him to resign then gave him a generous severance package of $90million while redacting any reference to his misconduct from his departure announcement.
Determined to have the last word, Rubin responded to the NY Times article by tweeting that, “These false allegations are part of a smear campaign.” He also tweeted that, “the story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation.” Nevertheless, the murky and slipshod handling of this matter had a significant impact on the protesters.
The Latest Letter
Aggrieved employees of the tech industry giant seemed to have declared open season on the company; a season of letters. The latest account came via a Facebook post by Masheika Allen, a former employee who had sent a 1,500-word letter to the executive staff at Google back in 2016 challenging her unceremonious dismissal from the company. According to her, she was dismissed merely because she applied for an FTE job at the company while working as a TVC.
Allen’s allegation is certainly a disturbing one, not just for Google but for the tech industry. Perhaps, these are just a few incidents that have taken place while many remain buried under legalese or outright ignorance and fear.
This letter actually reinforces the one written directly to Sundar Pichai as it alleges, among others, that Google TVCs “…can be left unemployed and potentially homeless at any time if we rub our POC [point of contact] the wrong way, shine too brightly, or indicate frustration at the carrot of conversion being dangled but never materializing.” according to her.
While this may be a case of the chickens coming home to roost for a giant corporation, it exposes a rich vein of disturbing practices that happen because employee supply seems to outstrip demand exponentially. Better yet, it presents an opportunity for concerted action on employee protection and definitive punitive measures against overreaching corporate executives.