Googlers to Board: It’s Time to Change

Google workers, along with shareholders, are continuing to pressure Alphabet's board to act on their concerns.
By: | February 1, 2019 • 2 min read
Red "Complaint" buttons a computer keyboard.

Remember the walkout by thousands of Google workers from about 20 offices around the globe last Nov. 1?

Googlers in locations such as New York, Seattle, Singapore and Berlin, just to name a few, staged a widely publicized protest last fall to help draw attention to the company’s handling of sexual-harassment complaints. The walkout was spurred by a New York Times story a week earlier that “revealed that Google had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to male executives accused of misconduct, while staying silent about the transgressions.” (See this related story.)

Well recently, employees at Google, along with company shareholders, turned up the heat (again) by issuing a written resolution to the board of Alphabet (Google’s parent), calling for reform in areas such as racial and gender diversity, and asking the board to consider tying these metrics to executive bonuses.

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“The resolution claims Alphabet ‘has not responded adequately to key demands’ made by workers in a massive walkout in November, such as adding a worker representative to its board and ending forced arbitration for its entire workforce, rather than only for direct employees and only for cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault,” according a recent Bloomberg story titled  “Google Shareholders and Workers Call on Board to Fix ‘Diversity Crisis’ ” posted earlier this week. “It also asks the board’s compensation committee to look into including ‘sustainability metrics’—such as executive diversity—into its bonus system or stock-vesting protocols.”

Pat Tomaino, director of socially responsible investing for Zevin Asset Management LLC, told Bloomberg:  “We believe executives are out to lunch on several key social risks facing the company.” Zevin collaborated with the employees in crafting the proposal, which is similar to one raised at last year’s shareholder meeting.

In response to the resolution, an Alphabet spokeswoman emailed Bloomberg the following statement: “We’re working hard to make Google more representative and build an inclusive workplace where employees feel respected, supported and valued. We report our progress extensively every year, including hiring and attrition rates across lines of race and gender.”

The events at Alphabet represent just the latest example of employee activism, which some predict will become even more visible in the months and years ahead.

What was once a concern for industries such as tobacco, oil and pharma is now affecting fields such as tech, retail and entertainment, says David Greenberg, special advisor to LRN, a global company with offices in New York, London and Mumbai that provides advice in areas such as ethics, regulatory compliance and corporate culture.

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