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Google Employees Protests Against Alleged Intimidation

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Google employees demonstrated outside the company’s San Francisco office Friday to protest it’s recent decision to put two staff members on leave.

The event is the latest sign of a growing rift between management and rank-and-file workers at Alphabet Inc. Google was once praised for its open corporate culture. Protesting staff believe the company is trying to quell internal activism and quash dissension about Google’s work. Above all work with the military and other potentially controversial customers and China.

Instead of listening to us, Google has chosen to silence us

Roughly 200 workers gathered about 11 a.m. local time Friday outside a Google office overlooking San Francisco bay.

“Over the past two years, many of my coworkers have asked the company to take meaningful action to curtail sexual harassment and systemic racism. Improve the working conditions of temps, vendors and contractors, and divest from harmful tech,” said Zora Tung, a Google software engineer.

The Google employees who protested also said the company had unjustly put Laurence Berland and Rebecca Rivers on indefinite administrative leave. They demanded that Google bring the employees back to work immediately.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that Google had put two workers on leave. “Allegedly violating company policies.” In an email, the Google protesters said neither Berland nor Rivers was given an explanation for their punishment.

Rivers was involved in internal protests against U.S. Customs, which is currently testing a Google cloud product. Berland was active in protests against YouTube for its handling of hate speech policies.

“It’s a brute force intimidation attempt to silence workers,” the employees said in an email.

Rivers said that Google’s official reason for putting her on leave was to investigate her document access at the company. Google’s management wanted to ensure “everything’s on the up and up.”

“However, many of the questions during this interrogation focused on my involvement in the Customs and Border Protection petition (CBP) and social media usage,” Rivers said. “I helped my coworkers learn about and act on Google’s collaboration with CBP.”

Google Employees Say Lost Culture

Google workers protest against Google’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company’s Mountain View officeBerland said Google punished him for his involvement in protests against YouTube. Also for demanding, with other colleagues, that Google not work with the CBP.

“Even though Rebecca and I are experiencing the full force of Google’s retaliation, this is not really about me. It’s not about Rebecca. It’s about us, all of us, and the open culture we built and treasure together,” Berland said.

“If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone, and that culture is lost forever.”

A Google spokesperson said its investigating the access of confidential documents is that made some employees feel unsafe.

Many Google Employees are against censored search engine for China

A security guard stands in front of Google’s booth at the China International Import Expo earlier this month in Shanghai.

“We have clear guidelines about appropriate conduct at work, and we’ve had a number of concerns raised,” Google said. “We always investigate such issues thoroughly.”

In the last 18 months or so, a divide has grown between Google’s leaders and outspoken staff. Employees have protested leadership’s handling of sexual harassment complaints and launched internal campaigns against some Google projects. Such as a censored search engine for China, a military contract and Google’s cloud deals with energy companies. These areas were seen as potential sources of revenue growth for Google.

More recently, some workers accused managers of attempting to censor internal discussions. And shut down meetings about labor rights. At least some of the tensions stem from new community guidelines Google introduced in August. The new guidelines were intended to curb incivility in the workplace.

Last week, Google scrapped its weekly all-hands staff meeting in favor of a monthly gathering. The gatherings will also focus on business and strategy topics.

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