The tech industry has been in an uproar for the past year. Remember last year when YouTube employee Claire Stapleton publicly revealed that former Google Executive Andy Rubin had gotten away with numerous claims of sexual misconduct after their board of directors decided to funnel a whopping $90-million into his bank account? Stapleton wasn’t too happy about that — and neither were a number of other Google employees.
Before long they demanded that Google’s board do something to make such cases more transparent. They asked for an end to mandatory arbitration, an involuntary clause included in many companies’ employment contracts. It guarantees that employees with a bone to pick cannot take their complaints to civil court. Arbitration occurs outside court and behind closed doors, and both parties are forced to abide by whatever the outcome.
Not long thereafter, Google showed no sign of having heard these calls for change — so 20,000 workers walked out of the company doors for a short-lived strike. But the implications have been felt all over the world.
And the demands didn’t stop there.
One of the most important side effects of the protests was the demand for Google to put a halt to facial recognition sales, the software for which had been handed over to law enforcement in what some people believe to be a major invasion of private citizens’ privacy.
Protests like these have also occurred at other big tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft. Apple had allowed access to one of its more controversial apps to those protesting in Hong Kong, and the company CEO Tim Cook was ripped apart for it during a vain effort to defend himself.
Right now, workers at Google aren’t yet unionized — but that could change soon. Protesters within the company are asking the federal government to step into the arbitration fight, and it’s anyone’s guess where that could go. Especially with Trump’s pro-business government still in power.
Before these back and forth interactions between employers and employees at Google became hostile, both groups believed it was a great place to work. Not only did Google provide their greatest minds space and time to develop on their own, but people were proud of the company’s fondness for taking controversial stances on contemporary issues facing the whole of society.
Today, the mood has shifted a great deal.
According to a Google spokeswoman, “We’ve heard that employees want clearer rules of the road on what’s OK to say and what’s not. Our culture of open discussion has mostly worked well for us, and it’s something we want to preserve as we grow, so we are evolving to make sure our open discussions are still serving their original purpose and bringing us together as a community.”