Onward! Another #GoogleWalkout Goodbye

  • Unionize — in a way that works
    There are good unions and there are awful unions, but building structural power that will allow Google workers to hold leadership accountable is something worth doing. And generally, this is called a union. This doesn’t mean letting an outside union “organize” Google and dictate worker concerns (this would be a bad model, in my view). In many places it’s quite possible to DIY a union. It does mean continuing to build strong relationships with each other, and doing this in a way that recognizes both prior art and the significant, specific concerns plaguing the tech industry — including its outsized influence on all other sectors. And it means continuing to place equity concerns at the center of organizing, and including TVCs at the helm of decision-making — the company (and “the future of work”) is moving in a direction where soon everyone but upper management will be a TVC. In considering which structure best accomplishes these goals, I would advocate boldness, remembering that the labor protections we have were won through organizing and collective action, not the other way around.
  • Protect conscientious objectors and whistleblowers
    We’ve seen too many reports of retaliation and punishment against those who speak up about unethical projects and toxic workplace conditions. This serves to prevent necessary change and to make accountability impossible. Google needs worker-led structures that can ensure it’s safe to speak about the darker side of the company. These should include protections for whistleblowers who alert the public to dangerous or unethical projects that put them at risk. The public deserves to know how, and where, powerful technical systems are shaping their lives and opportunities.
  • Demand to know what you’re working on, and how it’s used
    Too often, those designing and developing technical systems don’t know how they’ll be used, or by whom (see: Maven, Dragonfly, etc). The right to know what you’re working on, and how it’s applied, should be recognized as fundamental. And to uphold this right, Google’s infrastructures and processes need to adapt, providing a “chain of title” from design through to application. This is also a structural requirement for meaningful accountability and compliance. Such a demand should be at the core of ethical organizing, and could be extended to ensure that the public is aware of where specific technologies that impact their lives and communities are being applied, and by whom.
  • Build solidarity with those beyond the company
    The application of Google’s tech goes well beyond the relatively homogeneous Google campuses (“billions of users or none,” I’ve heard many an exec opine). As such, people living in contexts well outside of Google are often in the best position to speak to the true impacts of Google’s tech — whether it be the click-workers training data for AI models, or the communities most impacted by YouTube’s engagement-driven algorithm. Holding Google accountable and ensuring a safe workplace and will require that tech worker organizers form strong alliances with independent researchers, journalists, and communities on the front lines. This has the added benefit of building more powerful organizing structures.

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