Hundreds of Google employees at the tech giant’s offices in Seattle walked off the job on Thursday as part of a worldwide, coordinated effort to show unity and demand accountability for the way the company has been dealing with sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Shortly after 11 a.m., workers began streaming into a plaza centered among Google buildings along the Ship Canal in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Many women and men held large and small handmade signs with a variety of messages, including “Believe Women,” “Don’t Be Evil,” “Did the Payoff Pay Off?” and “WTF.”
Workers also walked out of the company’s offices in Kirkland, Wash. Google employs about 3,000 people in the Seattle area.
In Fremont, several speakers addressed the crowd through megaphones.
“Time is up in tech. Time is up at Google. This is what Googley looks like,” said Google employee Alice Lemieux, one of a number of event organizers. “Time’s up on sexual harassment, time’s up on abuse of power, time’s up on systemic racism. Enough is enough.
“We demand structural change in the name of transparency, accountability and equity,” Lemieux added.
The walkout comes in the wake of an investigation by The New York Times that found Google has protected top executives accused of sexual misconduct. Some, including Android creator Andy Rubin, have been paid huge sums of money on their way out the door — $90 million in the case of Rubin, according to the Times.
“Time is up in tech. Time is up @google. This is what Googling looks like.” Hundreds of Google workers in Seattle walk off the job to protest sexual harassment policies. #GoogleWalkout pic.twitter.com/yeaC1qyF72
— GeekWire (@geekwire) November 1, 2018
“A lot of us are not going to go back to our desks today. Don’t let this be the end of it. We can change Alphabet and Google.” #GoogleWalkout #seattle pic.twitter.com/fXiO78TVE5
— GeekWire (@geekwire) November 1, 2018
Walkout organizers released a set of “demands” Thursday morning, which are detailed in this story.
“For every story in The New York Times, there are thousands more, at every level of the company,” organizers said in a statement. “Many have not been told. We are part of a growing movement, and we are not going to stand for this anymore.”
In an internal email earlier this week, obtained by Axios, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees that he is “deeply sorry for the past actions and the pain they have caused employees.” The New York Times reported that company management was aware on Wednesday the walkouts were coming and employees would “have the support they need if they wish to participate.”
“Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes,” Pichai said in the Times story. “We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
For about 20 minutes Thursday, speakers read from prepared notes and shared stories from workers who say they have been the victim of harassment at the company. At the conclusion, the crowd was encouraged to turn the walkout into a movement and not necessarily return to their desks today.
“Don’t let this be the end of it,” Lemieux told the crowd. “We can change Alphabet and Google.”
I’m terrible at crowd estimates but looks like a few hundred people at #GoogleWalkout in Seattle pic.twitter.com/HLIKY95AnG
— Karen Weise (@KYWeise) November 1, 2018
#GoogleWalkout #Kirkland pic.twitter.com/IOztGWxG6R
— Aileme Omogbai (@ailemeo) November 1, 2018
“When women’s rights are under attack, what do we do? stand up, fight back,” the crowd chanted to conclude the rally.
With their Google badges visible, many employees huddled in small groups after the walkout. None would speak to GeekWire on the record, but one worker flipped through the message she brought with her. Watch here:
Others referred us to the official press statement, which in part addressed why “privileged Google workers” were walking out.
“This is part of a growing movement, not just in tech, but across the country, including teachers, fast food workers, and others who are using their strength in numbers to make real change,” the statement read. “We know that it can be more difficult for other workers to stand up which is why we stand in solidarity with the temporary and contract workers here at Google, but we encourage everyone who feels this injustice to take collective action.”
Ellen Anderson, who is not a Google employee, said she attended because it is “super powerful to see workers organizing against sexual harassment.” Anderson’s hope is that the effort spreads across the country and industries beyond tech.