Google is a much admired company. It is financially successful. It is also claimed to be one of the best places to work because of its culture of openness, ethics and creativity. It is a non-unionized company.
Management claim they treat employees well and, as a consequence, there is no need for union representation for its staff. Instead, employees are provided with internal voice mechanisms. One such mechanism is the active internal boards where employees’ concerns can be aired. These boards are broadly of two forms.
One is operated by management and is provided as a means for hearing employees’ views and concerns. The other is a grass-roots board which is operated and overseen by employees, albeit management provide the technological means for its operation.
Another voice mechanism is the grievance filling system through which employees can report issues to their manager, the HR department or an anonymous helpline in an attempt to resolve their concerns. In the last two years, Google’s employees have become increasingly concerned with aspects of the management of the company and have expressed their desire for having more voice over their company’s business model.
There have been a series of public campaigns pursued by them in an effort to shape the company’s strategies and policies. Their objections include a request of the company to withdraw from engaging in military contracts with the U.S. Pentagon which involved the development of new technologies that could identify and kill human targets; to discontinue work on a censored search engine for the Chinese government; to demand that the company avoids working for the US Border agencies which were accused of abusing human rights; and finally, to end contracts with the oil industry.
Staff had other concerns, too, and we will address these in class discussion In November 2018, around 20,000 employees of its 94,000 workforce protested by engaging in a walk-out of their offices across the world. The walk-out was precipitated by the company’s shielding and rewarding of men who were accused of sexually harassing their female co-workers. The story made international headline news following an article published by the New York Times.
The protest included both full-time and contract employees, which make up more than 50 per cent of the company’s workforce. This level of coordination across countries designed to oppose management by some of the arguably best paid and highly skilled people in the economy was unprecedented.
Study the materials provided and answer the following questions:
1. Why did Google’s employees protest?
2. What form did their protest take?
3. What were employees’ demands?
4. How did the employees in Dublin respond? Discuss the developments that took place in the Irish context and their significance.
5. How did Google management respond to employees’ demands and actions?
6. Was employees’ action successful? Why? 7. What lessons can be drawn from this case?
8. What does the case tell us about the merits of direct versus indirect (representative) forms of voice?
9. Do you think management have responded to employees’ concerns in the correct manner? How might you advise them?
10. In summary, what do you think is the significance of the Google case for our understanding employee voice?
1. We’re the Organizers of the Google Walkout. Here Are Our Demands https://www.thecut.com/2018/11/google-walkout-organizers-explain-demands.html
2. Google Is Ending Forced Arbitration. Don’t Expect Your Own Employer To Follow Suit https://www.huffpost.com/entry/google-is-ending-forced-arbitration-dont-expect-your-ownemployer-to-follow-suit_n_5c702129e4b03cfdaa54a390
3. Google announces changes to sexual harassment policies after global employee walkout https://www.vox.com/2018/11/8/18075840/google-ceo-announces-sexual-harassment-policy
4. Google CEO Sundar Pichai discusses the walk-out planned by Google employees to protest company’s handling of sexual misconduct. VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeEh7X57uwY&feature=youtu.be 3
5. Two organizers on the walkout and its consequences –VIDEO
6. Google sit-in: Workers protest alleged company retaliation after walkout and engage in a sit-in
7. Most of the Google Walkout Organizers Have Left the Company https://www.wired.com/story/most-google-walkout-organizers-left-company/
8. Dozens of Google employees say they were retaliated against for reporting harassment https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/9/9/20853647/google-employee-retaliation-harassment-metoo-exclusive
9. Google staff condemn treatment of temp workers in ‘historic’ show of solidarity
10. Google contract workers vote to form a union amid employee discord over treatment
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