Not OK, Google

Google terminated the contracts of 34 writers responsible for the voice of the Google Assistant. We’re asking for respect. We’re asking for our contracts to be upheld.

Google Walkout For Real Change
4 min readApr 2, 2019

A Google worker holding up a sign at the Google walkout in 2018 that reads “Not Ok Google".

As of April 2, 2019, over 928 people and counting have signed this letter internally at Google. Most are full time employees. This is an historic show of support. There are nearly 122,000 TVCs (temps, vendors, and contract workers) at Google — 54% of the workforce.

UPDATE: Google sent an email to their employees a few hours ago informing us about changes they are making to improve working conditions for TVCs. These changes are significant and we're inspired by the thousands of full-time employees and TVCs who came together to make this happen. It proves that when we overcome what divides us, even a company as big as Google can be moved! However, even though these changes are an important step forward to acknowledging some of the needs of TVCs in general, there's still a long way to go. For us on the Personality Team, we are still waiting to hear back about whether the company will respect our current contracts or convert us to full time positions.

We’re the Personality Team. We’re responsible for the voice of Google — the Google Assistant — across the world. We are the human labor that makes the Assistant relevant, funny, and relatable in more than 50 languages.

Most of us are contractors (TVCs), a group that makes up 54% of Google’s workforce. We work on two- to six-month contracts that are regularly renewed. Our term limit is two years. Many of us work without paid holidays or health care.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, nearly 82% of our 43-person contract team were told that by April 5 (in a few cases July 31) they would no longer have a job. Our existing contracts were nullified, contracts we’d been depending on as we planned our personal and financial futures. As an international team, changes in income and job status often mean uprooting our lives and our relationships to return to wherever home might be.

In prior all-hands meetings, our leads assured us that even if the budget was cut, our contracts would be respected. Our senior manager wrote, “No one else should be concerned for their own position as a result of [redacted] leaving or the reasons that have led to this. Also, moving forward, I want to emphasize that we focus on the three respects [respect the user, respect the opportunity, and respect each other] to ensure that each and every one of us feels that this is a team where you can bring your best selves to work and feel supported and included.”

But in the face of this reassuring messaging, our layoffs started in Seoul and moved by time-zone from London to New York, and finally to California. In some locations, our teammates were notified of their termination in group calls rather than individually. The only information the staffing agency delivered was that there had been a “change in strategy.”

During the process, our managers and the full-time workers on our team were silent. Google told them that offering support or even thanking us for years of work would make the company legally liable. Our teammates were told to distance themselves from us at the moment when we were most in need — just so that Google could avoid legal responsibility.

For years, Google has boasted of its ability to scale up and down very quickly, and has been vocal about its ability to “navigate changes with agility.” A whole team thrown into financial uncertainty is what scaling down quickly looks like for Google workers. This is the human cost of agility.

We believe that ethically scaling the growth of this company would require converting TVCs to FTE roles, not hiring and firing TVCs whenever it’s convenient. Workers, whether full time or on a contract at Google, deserve to have their agreements, rights, and dignity respected.

As one of the most powerful companies in the world, Google plays a crucial role in setting global workplace standards. To truly be the company it claims to be, Google must live up to its values.

We demand that Google respect and uphold our existing contracts. For those whose contract was shortened, we demand payment for the remaining length of the contracts.

We also demand that Google as a whole respect the work of contractors like those on the Personality Team. Convert contract workers to full-time employees, give us the benefits and stability we deserve.

Finally, we demand that Google respect our humanity. Implement a policy that allows our FTE colleagues to openly empathize with us; allow our FTE colleagues to say thank you for the work we’ve done.

This is our team’s story, but we know the cycle of financial insecurity affects thousands of others: tell us your story:

— Coalition of FTEs and TVCs at Google



Google Walkout For Real Change

#GoogleWalkout 11/1 11:10am to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone. Views ≠ Google.