Issue 25: Google Walkout Ripples Across the Industry

09 Nov 2018

When the boss “reaches out” to ask if we want to help build facial recognition for ICE, we say no. When the boss says shipping is “free” when in fact it is a costly, dangerous burden carried on the broken backs of workers, we say no. When the boss squashes workers with surveillance, union-busting and exploitation, we fight back with collective action. 

Save this rejection letter to your clipboard for the next time you need to tell the boss NO.

Screenshot of a Medium post titled 'Letter to an Amazon Recruiter'

A template for turning down recruiters. / Source

Hi James,

Thanks for reaching out to me. It sounds like there are a lot of interesting technical opportunities at Amazon for someone with my skills. Normally, I would be thrilled to interview with Amazon, but in the past year, I’ve realized that the current ethical positions of Amazon and Jeff Bezos are not aligned with my own. I am declining this opportunity for the following reasons:

  1. Through its contracts with Palantir and other companies that enable ICE, Amazon is contributing to the oppression of the most vulnerable people in our society. The below letter outlines my concerns in more detail:

  2. Amazon is a horrible corporate citizen in Seattle. Seattle has been experiencing a housing crisis over the past few years, and the city has a declining stock of affordable housing. When the city council was drafting up its head tax policy this past year, Amazon was given numerous opportunities to come to the table and help shape the law. Instead, Amazon sat on the sidelines, and after the law was passed, Amazon actively contributed to the repeal campaign. Since the repeal, there have been no meaningful attempts by Amazon to help address the homelessness issue in Seattle. As the biggest company in this city, Amazon should be contributing more to the prosperity of everyone who lives here. One very democratic way of doing this is to be supportive of progressive tax initiatives at the state and city level.

I can’t in good conscience contribute to the success of a company that has little consideration for anything other than its own profits. Until Amazon meaningfully addresses the above issues, I must respectfully decline any opportunities to interview or work there.


Upcoming Events

NW Marxism Conference 2018 
Sunday, 11/11 8:45AM at University of Washington in Seattle
Register Here

Lyft: Give Drivers a Voice
Wednesday, 11/14 10:30AM at Willie Mays Plaza in San Francisco

Learning Club: How to Kill your Tech Industry
Thursday, 11/15 6:30PM at West End Library in Washington D.C.

Who’s Behind ICE?
Friday, 11/16 6PM at The Women’s Building in San Francisco

Learning Club: Science for the People Archive ‘70-‘89
Saturday, 11/17 4PM at TBD location in the Bay Area
Register Here

The Code of Conduct is in effect at all TWC events.

In The News

Screenshot of a tweet from the @GoogleWalkout Twitter account

Collective action works! One week after 20k Google employees and contractors walked off the job, Google has responded by ending the policy of forced arbitration. Google’s PR machine tried their best yesterday to regain control of the narrative about the walkout, but even mainstream media acknowledged “however Google responds, little at the internet search giant — and, perhaps, little in Silicon Valley — will be the same again.”  Workers set the record straight about the ways execs have done nothing for the contractors who make up more than half of Google’s workforce and that the company should get little credit for improving sexual harassment policies. Read more from the walkout organizers on why the executives’ announcement falls short here, and TWC’s statement below.

Sundar ignored the demand for a worker to be represented on the board and TVCs continue to have no adequate protections from sexual harassment, who make up over half the google workforce and are disproportionately women and people of color. TVCs didn’t receive this email this morning, and have been excluded from the town hall. This deliberate slight demonstrates the caste-like system deployed by Google, which fails to protect its workers and our colleagues. For a company that likes to innovate, it’s striking to see such a lack of vision for treating all of their workforce with basic dignity. We take inspiration from all who work at Google to keep fighting to build worker power.

“What if Google unionized?” We love that last weeks’ headlines have been riding the wave of worker power, but the “Union 2.0” language and tech exceptionalism doesn’t do anybody any good. Any formal structures these workers decide to build will ultimately stand or fall based on the strength of their worker power. “The issues that contributed to the walkout at Google — the company’s controversial work with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence, its apparent willingness to build a censored search engine for China and above all its handling of sexual harassment accusations against senior managers — proved too large for any worker to confront alone, even if that worker made mid-six figures. They required a form of solidarity that would be recognizable to the most militant 20th-century labor organizers.”

And we’re already beginning to see significant ripple effects across the industry. This afternoon Facebook jumped on the worker-led bandwagon and also signed up to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment.

Business Insider is right that Alphabet leadership is abysmal, but Alphabet isn’t an anomaly in the industry—the workers’ resistance is. This is why deep structural changes are needed, not just a new suit in the CEO’s office.

Tesla’s in-factory medical clinic is designed to protect the company, not injured workers. “When a worker gets smashed by a car part on Tesla’s factory floor, medical staff are forbidden from calling 911 without permission. The electric carmaker’s contract doctors rarely grant it, instead often insisting that seriously injured workers – including one who severed the top of a finger – be sent to the emergency room in a Lyft.”

“A group of Silicon Valley executives went to China and discovered a parallel tech universe that can be equally impressive, alienating and dystopian.”

A complicated look into the daily work of the subcontracted algorithm trainers for Google, Salesforce, Microsoft who live in Kenya’s largest slum, Kibera.  

Prisoners in Washington are undergoing a hunger strike to fight for more nutritive and just food.

Strikes and picket lines explained by TeenVogue. Related listening.

Successful ballot measures raised minimum wages in Missouri and Arkansas.

“Workers in the berry fields of the United States and Mexico have the same transnational employers. Now, farmworker unions in those two nations have begun to work together.”

Remember the last time you were in a hotel and a sign encouraged you to make the “Green Choice” of forgoing a freshly washed set of sheets and towels each day? These “Green Choice” programs sound like a great idea on their face, but they have devastating consequences for cleaning staff, per a new report published by UNITE HERE. Hotel cleaners end up having to clean dirtier rooms, and have less time to do it. It’s also resulted in 91% of housekeepers being left off the schedule or lost hours.

Screenshot of a tweet from the @unitehere Twitter account

@unitehere on Twitter / Source

Song Of The Week

What a bastard the world is - Yoko Ono [Lyrics]

Most of us were taught not to shout our will,
Few of us are encouraged to get a job for skill.
And all of us live under the mercy of male society,
Thinking that their want is our need.