On November 1, Google employees around the world staged a coordinated walkout to demand that Google take meaningful steps to end sexual harassment in their offices. Workers walked out by the thousands at exactly 11:10 a.m. in their respective time zones and were encouraged not to return to work until the following day. Over 40 different offices in as many cities are reported to have participated in the walkout, with total participation estimated by some to have reached 20,000 worldwide.
One participant in Seattle estimated that the crowd assembled outside their office numbered in the hundreds. This employee, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Liberation News “I was pretty excited to see so many people came, and surprised at how much the company emphasized their support of it. I’m expecting the test of how honest that support was will be if they meet the demands.” The brief rally that followed there included speakers who reaffirmed their common commitment to the six core demands of the protest and promised future actions as part of a movement to change the predatory culture in their workplace once and for all.
These protests come in the wake of a New York Times article published on October 25 that detailed a long history of racial and gender discrimination at Google, as well as efforts on the part of executive management to protect those responsible for sexual harassment and other serious misconduct from facing any negative repercussions. More than one speaker at the Seattle rally ended their testimony about the abuses that they endured, reported to the company and saw summarily dismissed, with the bitter refrain “…and that manager still works here.”
While corporate representatives and individual high-level executives have voiced their support for the walkout, it remains unclear what commitments, if any, Google employees can expect from the company moving forward. Internal discussion of the event on company discussion forums and email has been generally positive, according to employees. The intense public scrutiny that Google finds itself under as a result of this action has undoubtedly forced upper management to take their current mildly supportive stance, but such progressive goals will undoubtedly be won only through a consistent struggle on the part of employees and their supporters.