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Google Walkout Organizer Claire Stapleton Resigns (theguardian.com)
215 points by geodel 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments

You can read Claire's reasons for leaving Google in her own words here: https://medium.com/@GoogleWalkout/why-a-googlewalkout-organi...

> Fast forward a few years and I’d moved to New York, cycled through Creative Lab and landed at YouTube. As I neared the ten-year mark, my first boss, Sally Cole, who’d left Google many years before, joked that I was surely due for an existential crisis. But when I got back to work after having my son Malcolm in 2017, it wasn’t me who was having an existential crisis. It was Google itself.

A Star Trek TNG tag line comes to mind: "If there is nothing wrong with me, then there must be something wrong with the Universe".

"The short explanation for my decision is my health: I’m having another baby in the fall (I acknowledge that there’s incredible privilege in being able to walk away from a job like this)."

Cherry-picking the first sentence is a bit dishonest:

"I made the choice after the heads of my department branded me with a kind of scarlet letter that makes it difficult to do my job or find another one. If I stayed, I didn’t just worry that there’d be more public flogging, shunning, and stress, I expected it."

... are the next two sentences, and sounds like this weighed on her just as heavily as a pending childbirth.

You make it sound like having a child is the main reason (which would, admittedly, be pretty normal anywhere other than at a progressive tech company - motherhood is hard), whereas the article suggests that the main reason is internal retaliation and gaslighting, and the baby is just the straw that broke the camel's back.

The commenter I replied to left out this important detail that is also somewhat buried 3/4 of the way into the letter. Definitely read her original statement and form your own opinion based on the source material.

I haven't worked at Google in a while. Is this the same Claire Stapleton that was responsible for doing the quirky Company weekly update / TGIF email? If so, it's a bit sad because when I worked at Google (2009 - 2012) she was one of the voices of the company (kind of like Victoria for Reddit AMAs).

Ah that's where I recognized the name. I remember her being a minor Google celebrity, to the point that Manu made her into a comic book character.

It's her. She had a loyal following, second only to the guy that used to email the NYC office menus in 2007.

Yes, I think so. (xoogler myself).

These companies are so huge and such an integral part of society that they need to be made more accountable to the public, and forcing them to be more accountable to their workers is part of that. I think the recent proposal to require employee representation on the board of directors of $1B+ companies is a good start.

Eventually if they tarnish their image sufficiently the good workers will move on. However we here and elsewhere on discussion sites vastly over estimate how unhappy workers are at a particular job. Just because we would not want to work there or heard anecdotally on an issue does not mean the company is doing things incorrectly.

A company this large is bound to have employee conflicts all over the place and it is up to their HR system to resolve it. If they cannot to the employee's liking then they should move on. We only see one side of a story here and the company certainly is not permitted to dump the results of the investigation into the public forum.

Arbitrary decisions about who should and not should be regulated are inane. They are the field day work of politicians who rely on jealously, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, to get you to empower them over more facets of your life. They exploit and exaggerate issues by repeating them over and over, enlist PACs to do the same, the Press, and more, until you believe the issue is insurmountable without their intervention.

Yes the person who is quitting had a rotten time, it does not mean everyone else there had the same experience. If it was that bad up and down the chain surely it would be out in news by now

Well it literally is in the news and loads of people walked out on google until they listened. Also they have a global pool of talent they can hire if they don't want to meet demands. Executives I can see being a big hit if they left in protest. But with 90 million dollar reward for forcing a subordinate to give oral sex as your punishement, I'm doubting they'll leave because they've likely got it pretty cushy. What's the reward for standing up and changing policy for the company better? Yay Culture Award.

> But with 90 million dollar reward for forcing a subordinate to give oral sex as your punishement

You say that as if the author of Android should be given no compensation for making Google billions of dollars. While that may feel like justice, it would absolutely guarantee that nobody brings their open source project to Google ever again.

I think one of the problems is that they're still seen as having a "good" work environment compared to Amazon (which has a reputation for being hard on its employees) and Facebook (which these days is seen as having an ethical "cloud" over it).

Whether or not these reputations are deserved is irrelevant, it seems like Google will have to do a lot of damage to its reputation before labor market forces push back. More meat for the grinder!

(As a side note, as I've gotten older I've noticed that every fresh batch of graduates who come into the workforce are equally terrible at advocating for themselves. There's a never-ending supply, and a never-ending task of educating/empowering workers.)

> every fresh batch of graduates who come into the workforce are equally terrible at advocating for themselves

cough the problem is further up the pipeline cough.

The way you've phrased it, it sounds like you think what you're saying is obvious, but it's not obvious to me. What are you saying?

If universities are producing graduates who can't advocate for themselves, can we fix that while they're still in university? Or maybe even secondary/primary education?

I think that’s the assumption, but it takes a lifetime to do that. Being an advocate for yourself is the defining characteristic of adulthood, to me. I don’t think it’s something you pick up in the classroom, it’s very experiential. So I would be happy if people did things like work and live on their own during a gap year, then go back to college.

I definitely think this skill shouldn’t be tied to university.

Graduates have a problem: massive debt. FAANG offer a solution: high salary. Until this situation changes, you'll see a steady flow of fresh meat into the grinder.

Public accountability is a slippery slope. How do you accomplish that? Legislation? New legislation pitched as a solution to a problem tends to be a rat's nest of rules that no one understands, that doesn't often have the intended impact, that can have unintended consequences, and, after some public shaming of the offender, lets them conduct business as usual.

Not sure employee representation on the board is a solution to anything. Not that I think it's necessarily a bad thing either. It's just that if you're looking to that as a solution to the problem of big companies that are too big I think you will be disappointed. Employees on the board can be as corrupt and unaccountable as anyone else.

The solution to Google is to stop using their products. Stop using Android, stop using search, stop using Chrome, ditch as much of the ecosystem as possible. It makes a difference even if you can't get away from them completely and it starts with the individual.

There are too many people bitching about Google and still using their products. Hit them where it hurts because it's the only way they will learn. Before Google was evil Microsoft was evil. Antitrust largely failed against them. It took the early adopters being completely fed up with them and using other products to make a difference. Microsoft missed out on mobile, nearly missed out on cloud, ceded a massive chunk of the server market to Linux, saw a resurgence of Mac on the desktop, had their own failures in the OS market and were basically washed up before they finally decided to do something different. Frankly, they are doing a pretty darn good job lately. They are making good products and embracing interoperability.

I think Microsoft is a better company today than they would have been had the antitrust case been more "successful". We put up with their crap for as long as we did only because there weren't very good alternatives for much of that time. Ironically, the rise of Google helped break the stranglehold. Google doesn't have the same invincibility that Microsoft did. There are alternatives for every product they have. If we want them to change then it's time to start using these alternatives.

So I'm a moderate libertarian and the "don't tell them what to do, society's hidden hand will decide" is an argument used by libertarians frequently and one I disagree with. One, specifically for this case, the issue at hand doesn't affect the user's. Two being a global company, quitting at Google will just open a slot that they need to fill and they have plenty of people lining up for the job. So really any sort of grass roots effort wont work because there are plenty of people who don't give a shit about the employee woes.

Another problem is that Google has contracts with the government, which belongs to us, so actually we do have a say if our taxes directly fund them. Also there are many companies they have deals with or that use services of theirs, many of which we won't know of the partnership. You are essentially asking for a globally coordinated boycott. But their service is so fundamental that you will find few people giving up the products because they can't. I've had my Gmail account since Gmail came out as invite only when you had to send those links. Too many of my accounts are linked to it and too many people know that's a for sure thing to contact me by. Samsung runs on android and there are other companies and developers that have built businesses around android or Google services. You aren't going to see these companies or individuals, sad as it is, make the pivot away for moral reasons. In some cases sure it's just tedious and annoying, like mine, to change but in other cases it's too much of a cost and risk.

I think the easiest way as I have mentioned in other posts is to break Google up, and other too big to fail/drop tech companies as well. We do it with other types of companies but I think the problem is legislators consider all tech companies as equal competitors to one another. Just because I can make a search engine doesn't mean Google has meaningful competition. I say break them up and let real competition dictate what society wants from them.

I dislike Google the company as well as their products. If someone wants to break them up then you’ll find me smirking on the sidelines when it happens. But how do you talk about breaking up Google without addressing Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.? They basically all compete in the same markets. What are you going to do? Break up Google and let one of the others take their place? Break them all up? Then what? Outlaw tech conglomerates so no one takes their place? This makes no sense. Or impose regulations so stringent that you’d have to be a massive conglomerate to be able to comply? How does that make anything better if it raises the bar for a newcomer to enter the market and compete?

And if the vast majority don’t give a shit about privacy and actually like what these companies have to offer then who are we to say the rules need to change? Google is as big as they are because they make things a shitload of people want. We are in the minority. As long as we can largely avoid doing business with these companies and there’s someone else who serves us then what’s the big deal? Go use something else.

Well, I actually mention other "too big to fail/drop" tech companies. All four that you mention I think fall under that category. A lot of tech companies touch everything. Google isn't just a search engine company, its AI, it's telecommunications, its software, its hardware. It's not a vertical monopoly its a horizontal one. The same with several of the others you mention. So of course they are going to "compete" with one another. But it's actually not competition if you think about it.

Apple hardware specifically only works with Apple stuff for example. Microsoft back in the day was getting all sorts of crap for not allowing removal of of IE and other anti competitive practices. But today we see whole business built up around even more egregious anti-competitive practices. That's not competition that's literally a new market. I think that what has happened is that tech has exploded so rapidly and our congressional members (in the US) so out of touch with the tech industry that many of these companies operate mostly unhindered. This is a new age where thoughts can be typed up on a computer and the very next day you can start defining the future. Just look at bitcoin, barely 10 years old and already as the market cap of a small nation's GDP.

When a company's actions directly impact the well being of a nation, either economically, physically, socially, or politically, it is the government's job to step in and ensure that the best course of action is taken to protect citizens. We setup farming subsidies to ensure predictable quantities of food are available for the population at predictable prices. When oil and steel were vital for our nations growth, we broke them up and invented laws to ensure that no single entity could influence the health of the nation. I happen to believe we just need to break them up. They have enough products that each can become their own companies. Now I might be wrong, this is kind of a new situation, but we do have to do something, I think that is pretty clear. But I don't think normal market forces will fix this by itself.

I do agree with what you are getting at though, it is messy and there are a lot of unknowns. What I don't agree with though is that it can just be ignored by switching to another product or service and it will go away.

Slippery slope is an informal fallacy.

Why not legislation? It’s THE way for organizing our society. Do you really think it’s a free market and meritocracy? No. There are laws that incentivize and offer protection for starting corporations.

Our society is not built on objective principles but on what’s good for it. And it’s never lurched forward in ways that move the needle to the benefit of the masses without top down rejiggering.

Here’s an objective fact: neoliberalism and so-called free market capitalism are not owed deference and fealty by the masses. Either it works well enough for enough people or it encounters a tipping point where it needs dramatic change in guiding principles.

What you’re arguing for is not increased freedom for the masses an accountability, but sitting still politically. Same old same old. How’s that working out?

Pretty well for the privileged crowd on HN. Better not mess with it!

The people who work at Google who wanted to stage a walkout are free to leave for another job. They are free to start their own companies. We are free to use other products or create our own. How is legislation the best solution here?

People need to stop with the excuses and the expectation that someone else will change the rules to fix their problem and be the change they want to see in the world. Google will eventually be displaced by someone else who does a better job just like every other toxic company that came before them. Anybody can do it. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft all started (and in some cases reinvented themselves) that way. And if the newcomer sticks around long enough they'll probably become toxic too. It's the way the world works.

We don't need legislation to fix this. We need someone to do a better job. They're not out killing people. Just stop using their shit.

Get a non-techie android owner off Google, even for just a week. I dare you. No search, No Maps, No calendar, No search, No gmail, No YouTube, no drive, no docs.

Do you really think they can function? Even if they switch to Apple they still have to interface with calendar and gmail to function in society.

Can they even avoid sites hosted by Google?

You make it sound like it's all easy choices. "Just don't buy brand X."

These companies are so large and so ingrained the the web and modern society that they are unavoidable.

You’re right about non-techies switching from Android. They don’t like trying to switch. Many of them like the products. Many of them don’t care that Google is in the business of sucking up data because they place more value on the fact that the products work better for them as a result. There are plenty of people who don’t mind some highly targeted, unobtrusive ads because it’s better than the shitty banners and pop ups that used to be all over the place. Why are they supposed to switch? Because their nerd friend says Google is evil? This is like convincing someone to use Linux back in the day because Microsoft is bad.

To each their own I guess. We have more choices in technology than we’ve ever had. I haven’t used Google search in 10 years. It’s been longer since I used gmail. I used Android on and off and got rid of it permanently after downloading my google archive and seeing what’s in there. I watch videos on YouTube because there isn’t anything better. It’s not just a philosophical choice to avoid Google. That’s part of it but I think many of Google’s products are pretty lackluster as well. Search and gmail are the only ones that they really nailed. Both are phenomenal. The rest of them are mediocre defensive moves to protect the brand from a competitor, neat experiments that don’t become a must-have product, acquisitions or just another thing they’ll kill off. I used search and gmail until the the invasive tracking wasn’t worth it. I avoid Google web properties when I can. I know they still track me as much as they can. I make efforts to minimize the ability for someone to effectively build a profile and I make larger efforts to prevent them from successfully delivering targeting ads or converting.

If enough people stop using Google products, even if they can’t avoid indirectly touching something, Google will eventually want to figure out why and start making things that sell better. They don’t do what they do because they decided to be evil. They do it because it makes money. And people don’t continue to use it because they can’t switch. They use it because they like it or because they don’t have enough of a problem that they’re willing to switch. Instead, they bitch and moan a little bit and then go about their business. Maybe the more vocal ones are clamoring for regulation. That group is essentially saying they don’t like the way the product works even though they’re not the target market and we should make a law to change the product to their liking.

The reality is there is a a huge market where people are willing to trade information for product. I don’t like it but is it that bad that we need to break up companies? It’s put smartphones in places where they wouldn’t be otherwise. It’s connected people. It’s done more to level the playing field in terms of technical literacy and availability than anything anyone has ever done. There are homeless people who still have an android phone and everything that comes with it and that opens doors which would otherwise be shut. Would the world be a better or worse place if none of that came into existence?

We need to start with education. If the masses don’t understand it and the lawmakers don’t understand it we can’t exactly expect them to fix it. Apple is doing a little bit on this front with privacy-oriented products and requiring clear privacy policies from developers. I’d like to see more of this. If they truly differentiate themselves as the privacy (even at a premium) company then we’ve got a couple decent models to choose from. That’s really the key because more than the size or scope of these companies, it’s the homogenization of the industry that concerns me. But first, people need to understand enough about how it works that a company can effectively differentiate their product.

If there has to be legislation then I’d like to see something that requires more transparency of what is collected, how it’s used, give the individual some more control, etc. Something in the spirit of GDPR that isn’t such s shit show.

Sundar Pichai is an employee and board member. He's not a "regular" employee, but I don't think a regular employee gets enough perspective to make effective decisions across the company. They would have to take their board position more seriously than their full time job, which would make them not a regular employee anymore.

I am not sure what you did there, an Ouroboros argument about a continual and inseparable membrane between the owners and the workers?

Is it _really_ not possible to have employee representation? I find that hard to believe.

I think the claimed conflict is fundamental, not coincidental. When people talk about employee board representation, the central example of the representative they're talking about is someone paid to be involved in day-to-day, on-the-ground operations. Someone on the board of a large company would be worse than useless without dedicating a decent amount of time with understanding the complexities of the company's operation, which means they won't have time to be spending on the factory floor (or whatever) like a regular Joe.

This isn't insurmountable, as none of these constraints are inherent to the concept of employee representation. But it does require some more detail, or you end up with a decidedly non-central case like the one described elsethread, where Sundar Pichai counts as employee representation.

Look into work councils. Its one solution that does work. Employees are elected by all employees to represent them in the council.


I have some experience with work councils in Germany and they have some significant downsides, including for employees, that we need to be honest about. Yes, employees get credible representation at the most senior levels of management, but that comes at a cost. My experience may not be universal but from what I gather it is representative.

First, works councils are strongly biased toward the organizational status quo by default. They can deny/delay opportunities to individual employees against the wishes of that employee and even though the works council has no credible claim to skin in the game. I've seen it happen and it demotivates employees it happens to. Companies use a lot of hacks to informally let people reorganize themselves without the consent of the works council to get around this.

Second, many trivial and inconsequential operational decisions become glacially slow because works councils tend to micromanage all of them at ponderous speed. Even obvious employee issues which would be resolved in 30 seconds at an American company can take months when the works council is involved, all to the benefit of no one really. This takes a very visible toll on speed of execution. It creates interesting dynamics when the company is global because the rest of the company may not be able to wait for the works council, so the employees under the works council may feel like they are on the outside looking in as the rest of the company moves forward.

The loss of autonomy over my own career would bother me as an employee. The loss of operational agility and execution speed would bother me as a business.

Sounds like your company wasn't familiar with how to handle a works council and treated it as an annoying necessary evil. AFAIU works councils are not supposed to be handled like that. They are supposed to be an integrated part of management, so them blocking something after a decision has been made just won't happen. If you do it that way, they won't like you.

The usually decent working relationship between management and works council is part of unions not being seen as petty (e.g. "employee X is strictly forbidden to do work Y even for a second, consequences be damned") and greedy here in Germany. Wal-Mart tried union busting here and it didn't go well at all.

All that being said, a well handled works council is probably going to slow down a company, but not after decisions have been made as you described. It is also going to help make better decisions sometimes.

This was at a large, established German company with German management. It wasn't as extreme as you are reading it but these dynamics did exist. Having large American offices working closely with the German ones made the impact of the works council on the operation of the company quite obvious because the Americans on a team were not subject to it (and there was a directive to operate "west coast style"). My other American friends that worked many years for German companies observed the same patterns.

I'm not saying works councils are bad per se, but they do have an effect on flexibility and execution speed that is significant enough that many Americans notice, especially in the western US where fast and flexible is the native mode of business (eastern US traditionally has a bit more rigid and European-like business culture).

Well if you're right, that works both ways the: if an employee can't take the company's interests into perspective, the board can't take the employees'. Of course, the premise is wrong. Both "worlds" are perfectly compatible, if you can come off the greed horse and compromise on the quarterly profits.

I'm sure some companies can benefit from employee representation on the board, but I don't think Google is one of them. Google is possibly the cushiest company to work for in the entire world. I and I imagine most shareholders would rather Google spend more money on self-driving cars than solving every little grievance employees have.

> Google is possibly the cushiest company to work for in the entire world

It has an enduring reputation for having been cushy in the past - and it might still feel cushy if you happen to mesh well with the prevailing company culture. But many people don't see it that way, apparently - to the point where they feel that their work itself is being impacted. And the way the whole Rubin story has been handled is also indicative of very real problems, to be sure. Many people want to work in a thoroughly professional environment, some place they can feel genuinely proud to be within - I can't blame the Google folks for walking out.

>And the way the whole Rubin story has been handled is also indicative of very real problems, to be sure.

Maybe Google has gotten worse, but the way the employees reacted to this "scandal" leads me to believe that they're acting entitled. Rubin was accused of harassment and asked to leave. That's all that should matter from an employee's perspective. The $90 million payout was a hedge to ensure that Rubin doesn't sue Google and cause negative publicity. It's not coming out of the employee's paycheck, so it's none of their business.

If an individual doesn’t mesh with the company culture, should the company change the culture or the employee change companies? I don’t mean to sound glib, but I don’t see any reason to think that every company should be a great fit for every employee.

The point of having employee representation in the board isn’t putting a janitor in the board room, it’s putting someone on the board who represents the interests of employees first. She doesn’t have to be a regular employee.

I think it’s the kind of idea that sounds good on paper, but it’s trivially easy to corrupt someone once they’re in that sort of position of power.

An employee council could provide a person to the board, with the power to replace that person as they see fit.

Make it so the representative is paid directly by the workers via a mandatory fee (whatever sum is necessary to pay their salary), and then make it illegal for the company to pay or reward that board member in any way. If the latter is breached, put the company's CEO in jail. No weaseling out with "fines" or "settlements" -- straight to jail.

Maybe my version is slightly too extreme, but I think we can be creative enough to find a good solution for this. It doesn't sound impossible to me at all. Other countries already have similar laws in place.

So, a Union? Isn't this basically what a Union is? Paying fees (dues) for continued employee representation.

Sounds like Unionizing is what people are looking for, but not calling it that.

I don't see a distinguished difference between any ideas of employee representation like this and a professional/labor union.

Who would would you suggest represent the employees exactly. The majority? That doesn't always work out the way you would like.

Work councils are working really well in Germany.

Elect Employees to be in that council and the council has the right to make proposals/be heard by the management, often also have one or two people on the board of directors. They also need to be consulted about some areas that affect the employees (like work hours etc)

Can you cite a source on this or explain your reasoning here, I'm a little unclear on the implication

Why should you wait until the company is worth a billion. Why not a function of employee/contractor count?

For startups decisions need to be made quickly and definitively in order to survive.

You might reduce entrepreneurial success and make the economy correspondingly more inertial/monopolistic/feudalistic if you raise compliance overhead and management friction for young startups.

Sure, I think that would be a good proposal as well. Ideally all companies would have some degree of worker representation / control.

I'm not familiar with Google's employee stock plan, but since -- I presume -- most employees are shareholders, don't they already have a say at the board level?

I'm a Google employee. The stock I receive as a part of my compensation is GOOG which is non-voting. GOOGL is voting stock. There are some details here: https://investorplace.com/2019/02/goog-google-stock-split/

google is actually a 3-class stock: class B has 10 votes and is not available publicly (owned by larry, sergey, eric), class A has one vote and trades as GOOGL, class C is nonvoting and trades as GOOG. Employees only get grants of GOOG and thus have no votes

Oh wow. TIL! I (and the rest of HN, and even S&P[1]) was screaming bloody murder about Snapchat IPOing and only releasing non-voting shares. I didn't know Google worked the same way!

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14904946

I thought for Snap, any investor can only buy non-voting share? For Google, you (or I during the open window) can buy GOOGL and have voting share?

Disc: Googler.

Ah, sorry, misread it -- that is different from Snapchat, although still similar in that only a sliver of voting shares are publicly traded.

Well, if you were employed before/during the 2014 split, you do have a mix of GOOG/GOOGL. Not that it ever made a difference in practical terms.

unless you had a very weird vesting schedule, your GOOGL long since vested (mine finished in '17)

Yeah, but did you sell them all?

An important distinction is that companies like Google and Facebook have dual class structures for shares: The founders still hold all the power in any shareholder vote.

Case in point, 68% of Facebook shareholders voted to remove Mark Zuckerberg, but since Zuckerberg's shares are a lot more powerful, it's completely irrelevant: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-68-percent-of-facebook-in...

Dual class shares seem like a perversion of what the stock market and stocks were initially intended to do. If you can’t vote on important decisions made by the company, do you actually own the company, or is a stock just a fancy piece of paper to gamble on? (I call it gambling because any return is based purely on stock price; there are no dividends paid out for FB and GOOG).

It's designed to provide employees an incentive to go above and beyond in their particular area of employment by providing future financial incentives, without having a say in the overall direction of the company.

Or put another way, it's a possible bonus if you and others like you do well.

That intention is still a perversion of the actual intention of stocks and the stocks market, though. If you wanted to tie bonuses to share price, you can just do that instead of issuing these fake stocks. Plenty of people get paid with bonuses tied to share price or EPS.

It's a tax thing. It's apparently cheaper to give someone $100k of stock versus $100k of cash.

It is, but not for tax reasons: giving employees stock is cheaper because it is the shareholders who pay for it, while cash comes from actual company account. Stock that is awarded to employees as stock-based compensation is typically new-issuance stock that's added to the total number of outstanding shares, thereby depressing the share price. Thus, the company doesn't have to pay anything, it is the shareholders who suffer dilution (albeit a very minor one).

you don't have to work there and you don't have to buy their stock. end of story. hell, you don't even have to use their products...

They're in the Nasdaq and S&P 500. Even if you don't own them they do have systemic impact on the rest of the market, given that lots of money tracks those indices and they're used as a measure of economic health.

Not investing in banks didn't make people safe from the financial crisis.

This is hardly a legitimate measure of power compared to actually having a worker with a seat at the table.

Employees are a meaningful constituency of any company, as meaningful as shareholders IMHO. Totally agree with you.

Sorry if I'm out of the loop, but which proposal are you referring to, and who proposed it?

There are many, but one recent bill from Elizabeth Warren:

> Empowers workers at United States corporations to elect at least 40% of Board members: Borrowing from the successful approach in Germany and other developed economies, a United States corporation must ensure that no fewer than 40% of its directors are selected by the corporation's employees.

- https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/warren...

heavy-handed central planning at its finest.

no one is forced to work at these companies and no one is forced to buy the stocks. if you don't like the way the company is run don't work there or invest.

imagine the opposite heavy-handed intervention. what if it was proposed that companies are banned from allowing employees reps on the board...

Forcing people to commit murder is bad, therefore the opposite -- forcing people to not commit murder -- must be equally bad, because they are both forced.

This is not a strong argument.

On Day One, the entire workforce of every company becomes "contractors".

Labor does not have the leverage in most industries as it does in large tech. Even in tech it is cyclical. Younger readers here, who missed out on the 2001 and 2008 crashes, are going to have an eye-opening experience when the next recession gets here.

There are laws that determine who is and who isn't a contractor. The entire workforce of every company will not be reclassified. Under the proposal, the employees will thus get board representation and thus a big piece of leverage that you correctly say they currently do not have.

On a broader note, your comment falls into one of the very annoying category of constructing a hip-shot theoretical model to explain why something won't work when it has actually already been implemented for decades in some places. YOUNGER READERS may not remember that Germany required codetermination for all companies over 2000 employees back in 1976.

Not sure it will be the same. 2008 was not just a regular business cycle recession. That was a huge event that I agree would be devastating.

Tech work is much more diversified now, right? Did capital one, starbucks, nordstrom, Walmart, Target, car makers and just about everyone have a sizable SWE team in 2001? They do now and a lot of those are probably in profit center roles.

That sets aside that big tech really got even more cemented into daily lives after both of those crashes. 2013 onward IMO. Just looks at how Tinder has changed relationships.

That said, I'm still proceeding with caution and don't have a self-assurance that I'm correct. I've set myself up to be able to peace out for a year in Vietnam or another cheap place if, somehow, the floor falls out.

> Did capital one, starbucks, nordstrom, Walmart, Target, car makers and just about everyone have a sizable SWE team in 2001?

Yes - and 1991 for that matter. They weren’t building mobile apps and the trend has become stronger but almost every large organization has been building software for decades.

Building software wasn't what I was talking about. They've obviously done that.

I'm talking about the sheer amount of software and people that support those efforts now, in addition to how much profit comes from it. Surely it has grown by more than say...5x.

> On Day One, the entire workforce of every company becomes "contractors".

This is going to be increasingly difficult in Europe as they focus on “disguised employees” or “perm-tractors”. The UK has already implemented this rule (IR35) for the public sector, with the private sector set to follow suit in 2020. And the EU are beginning to consider how to clamp down on the practice.

It seems a lot of Americans think well the rich will just find loopholes let's just give up. I don't get it.

The rich here spend an awful lot of money encouraging us to think that way.

Cynicism is one of the most effective tools of the powerful.

Nitpick: IR35 was announced in 1999, and came into force in 2000.

There has been a recent tightening of the interpretation of IR35 by HMRC which has been applied to the public sector first. I imagine it’s to this that the comment you’re replying to is referring.

(Essentially as I understand things they’re no longer allowing contractors to make the decision as to whether they’re inside IR35 or not, but making the companies paying them make that decision & bear the liability for getting it wrong.)

I don’t believe the new rules around perma-contracting were ever applied to the private sector. Even the public sector guidance is dated 2017[1].

[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/off-payroll-working-in-the-publi...

if employee representatives are on the board, these sort of unilateral decisions by management become a lot harder

This would have major consequences, and some not good possible outcomes for the companies.

The concept of a salaried workforce is embedded in our society at a fairly deep level, and upending that to prevent workforce representation might not be that easy.

Labor always has leverage. The question is whether or not it is organized enough to use it.

Atomation does fundamentally change this, even if it's only by a little so far.

Automation shifts labor; it does not eliminate it.

Sometimes that happens, but why always? And that's a bug not a feature in my book to the extent it is true.

Perhaps, but someone still has to build and maintain the automation, no?

Oh sure, but as many people as before?

You can’t just be a contractor. There’s rules for who is a contractor. No one except the smallest companies would be able to get away with it.

Google also recently terminated the maintainer of the republicans@google list.

No politics talk at work seems to be the rational and only solution here.

The Google status quo circa 2016 was the worst of all worlds. Political discussion was tolerated up to a point, but the point was ill-defined, and (naturally) enforcement tended to be based on how many people disagreed with your opinions. Generally, more liberal employees could get away with much broader and more aggressive proclamations than more conservative employees (not sure if that's still true), but that wasn't consistent, and consequences seemed largely random.

It wasn't totally random. They were mostly ok with assholes as long as they were good engineers -- my manager and skip-level manager were two of the ten or so loudest far-left types at the company. But both were very good engineers, and my manager actually got promoted even while devoting a substantial amount of time to antagonizing random people on mailing lists and G+.

I remember one guy though who was far-left, very obnoxious, and useless. And he got fired/pushed out a little while after I left.

Can you think of any obnoxious right wing people who survived any length of time? Not even far-right, just further right than the nationwide center.

Without that, it sounds like either left-wing activists are far more common at Google, that right-wing activists are afraid to act in similar ways, or that Google enforces such policies in an ideologically slanted manner. (My bet would be on all three)

> left-wing activists are far more common at Google,

Yes, and I think this is common knowledge. Good place to look is Code of Conducts for all kind of technical groups. Their language is pulled straight from identity politics of left.

Not sure why this comment is controversial? Let's be clear here, you can agree with the broader goals of a CoC while still thinking that the language being used in many such "codes" is highly problematic, unprofessional and prone to equivocation and abuse.

Our elders really knew how to do some things right.

It's always entertaining when Silicon Valley companies learn that hundred-plus year companies have these stiff adult things called "rules" around for a reason. I can't imagine seriously engaging in significant political discussion at work, and can't imagine a positive outcome to it.

Well, when a company actively tries to make its employees private life a service provided by the company, that's inevitably going to include their activism as well.

The bigger companies in particular are your employer, your restaurant, your gym, your laundry service, your transportation, your social life...

> The bigger companies in particular are your employer, your restaurant, your gym, your laundry service, your transportation, your social life...

What companies besides Google and Facebook could qualify as all of those?

Let's see...Genentech has: onsite child care, car wash facilities, haircutting, spa treatments, bike repair, a gym

United Shore: their own starbucks, a gym, outdoor basketball courts.

Commvault has: ping pong, foosball, pool tables, a gym, a softball field, a basketball court, a walking trail

Procore has: a gym, catered lunches, bring your dog to work policy, fitness _classes_, massages & haircuts onsite.

Adobe: a gym

Tesla: employee lease program, shuttle services

Intel: gyms, fitness classes, spas, dry cleaning, banking.

It's easy when you've made sure the entire company leans the same way though. It would be odd to be a right-winger and work in Google--knowing that they're doing everything they can to hurt me. But of course money is money and everybody has a price.

I'm a right-winger in a leftist workplace. The key is just to keep your head down whenever politics comes up, and never participate in discussion about controversial topics. Generally I would act the same in a right-leaning atmosphere if one ever existed anyway, but at least then I wouldn't hear my coworkers' rants.

People should stick with religion talk! And of course the Tabs vs Spaces thing. Do that instead, yeah.

Googlers can have civil discussion about politics, but Tabs vs. Spaces? There'll be riot on the streets!

That stance means everyone just has to abide by whatever invisible political ideology permeates the company. Most typically, that’s unfeeling “man in a gray suit” corporate capitalism.

Where you work, who you work with, and what you do, it’s all political.

Beg to differ. The attitude came as a response to a typical corporate practice (here in the US) of your employer telling you who to vote for and taking the entire company to the polls to make sure you voted for that person.

This was the norm in the late 19th and early 20th century when we had party bosses. Parties/Candidates promised companies contracts, so your financial interest became your political interest.

You're lucky today that you can vote for whoever you damn well please.

Except that dude boasted about leaking internal conversations. That’s a firin’.

And what was the reasoning about that?

She walked out for good. Gotta admire her integrity! Also this from her post just hits the nail on the head:

> [Google leadership] are talking to everyone who thought my story sounded familiar, anyone who’s been Through It in some form: pushed out or punished for speaking up, gaslit, discriminated against, isolated, harassed. People are telling each other their stories. Refusing to acknowledge our humanity and engage with the deeper issues being raised - well, that's not very Googley.

'Nuff said. Google is going to have serious problems in the future unless they start addressing the obvious flaws in their company culture - their vulnerability to upstarts and competitors can only increase going forward!

Their arrogance and ignorance is already affecting them as many people I know no longer use Google search.

Also check out DuckDuckGo on Alexa ... its now the 100th most popular site in the US and continues to increase its reach; 167 globally.

Love to get away fully from Google myself! They are horrible and personally their arrogance and ignorance is catching up to them!

> Their arrogance and ignorance is already affecting them as many people I know no longer use Google search.

You're kidding yourself. Those people you know who are switching are having no material effect whatsoever:


If anything, their market share is going up.

Google won't be the same company in a few years or so! They are no longer the same company (not run or driven by it's founder's ethos)... most recently saying they will block ad blockers.

Apple is all in on privacy ...Apple is as big or bigger then Google and makes it's money off of hardware & software not invasive/intrusive ads. Those who ride their same wave will no doubt see huge and or continued success!

Check back on that counter in a few years! It will be a different story I guarantee you!

The only problem is Duck Duck Go and every other search engine sucks ass compared to Google. Even DDG has turned to Bing (which sucks) for their searches.

It must not suck if more and more are using it and talking about it.

I use to bang google fairly frequently when I first started using it but my use of that command has become a lot less; now 10 to 20 percent of the time.

I don’t hear ppl talking about Bing. Also I hear people talking about privacy including Apple. It’s now seems to be apart of their branding and those who are on the same bandwagon I’m sure will find continued success.

I forwarded this story to my HR department with the suggestion that we find a way to expedite our company's transition away from GSuite.

I've been using GSuite (and Gmail) since they launched, so when even a long-term user thinks Google isn't worth it anymore--to the point of actively evangelizing against the use of Google services--Google's got serious issues.

If they can't resolve this soon, they'll be the new IBM. IBM was able to survive because nobody got fired for using IBM. But Google doesn't make anything integral to business: search is a pale shadow of what it used to be; GSuite is still just a dumbed-down 365 wannabe, and none of Google's other products are kept around long enough even if successful to justify any sort of personal or business investment in them.

I don't know what is more hilarious: the fact that you would pass judgement on a ~$1TN company based on the experience of a disgruntled employee [1], or that HR makes technical decisions in your company.

[1] mind you, I feel Claire is honest in upholding her views and doesn't have an agenda.

1) In my company, IT is organized under HR. Also, in most companies, IT exists to implement the technical needs of the rest of the company, not to decide what tech the rest of the company uses.

2) I get to pass judgments on Google because I'm a customer and I'm voting with my wallet, and because in the nearly 2 decades that I've been a customer they've gone from being a bastion of idealism and representing the possibility of the internet to being one of the fundamental problems. They're very close to embracing "be evil" as a motto.

3) Google's not going to be a $1 trillion company for long if it keeps this shit up. People vote with their wallets.

A big part of the problem is probably that the people that could force a change, the ones in power, view Google as an income stream for themselves, and since they have already accumulated a lot of personal wealth aren't particularly concerned with it slowly running out.

Have we really reached the point where HR departments decide which email provider to use?

Any predictions about whether the Google Walkout ends up feeling, five years from now, as the beginning of a movement or a flash in the pan?

5 years? I think it already has mostly been forgotten

What are you talking about? It comes out like often in my world?

> often in my world?

I work in tech and have friends in the Bay area that work in tech and it never comes up. I honestly had forgotten Google had a walkout until this Hacker News post today. Your online search bubble / real life bubble might be heavily biasing you.

It comes up at work consistently in "future of the industry" kinds of discussions or when I get drinks with old coworkers and we talk about parts of our jobs we don't like. I've worked at pretty major companies, but also not saying my experience is universal here.

What is "your world" - no one here has even heard of it, or cares. If you take the time to think about it - swapping one incredibly high-paid job for another does not make you a martyr.


"You seem pretty upset" is a pretty passive aggressive statement. In fact, it's openly hostile since it's tantamount to stating that I am not in control of my (perceived by you) emotions (of which there are actually none). Coupled with you pretending to be the aggrieved, polite party, the irony is thick. In fact, needing to write this reply is pretty comical, thanks for the entertainment, I guess.

Edit: The more I think about it the funnier it gets. Do you think I am "not in the tech world" and upset by it? Or that I don't earn a lot of money and am upset at that? I am genuinely curious in the assumptions you made to arrive at the conclusion that I am upset/offended.

"You seem pretty upset" in this context is basically the same as saying "you mad bro?"

I hate when people say that during a discussion or argument.

It was probably your aggressive "no one cares" that got people thinking you're in a bad mood...

Comes up often in my day to day, too. I work in tech (and invest in startups around the future of work). People wonder whether it's the beginning of something more widespread... and nobody's crying a river for Google employees, it's more that sometimes change begins with people in the best position to bargain...

Not too surprising. Organizations expect loyalty of their members, and particularly of their more senior members. Open protest, such as organizing a walkout, is an act of disloyalty, so it's not surprising that Claire suffered for what she did. She's lucky, I suppose, that she wasn't kicked out right after the walkout.

I don't get what she's on about. that the guy who led Android received some millions? really? he should have received billions. larry page screwed him over by offering only 50m and he said himself he felt guilty. and all of this for an alleged assault that was never proved, only labelled credible after an internal investigation? feel bad for the guy, he developed the most popular os and is not a billionaire.

He kept every penny of his compensation for his role in Android, and is a third of the way to being a billionaire. The walkout was over a separate, additional $90 million he received just to resign.

and you think 90m is enough? he got only 50m when google bought android. whatsup and ig got billions. I think he deserved much more. 90m is peanuts compared to what he did for google and how important is android for them.

And I don’t get what you’re on about!

This comment is amazingly emblematic of how shitty and toxic the comments have gotten on this site. You dismiss outright the story of someone you could easily research, all for some pet pity party for some Google exec? Not only is this incredibly lazy rhetoric but it serves literally zero purpose other than to make you feel good about not understanding the reasons other people make decisions.

the google exec who started android and then led it until it was installed on 2b devices. and he received only a couple of millions for that while whatsup and instagram founders are billionaires many times over.

is the issue that he received millions instead of billions? if that's it, I'm behind her.


Would you please not post unsubstantive comments here? You've done that repeatedly, and we ban accounts that do that repeatedly.

Also, please don't use HN for ideological battle.

Also, please eschew flamebait.


Sure thing, but I don't see how this story can possibly be discussed without engaging in an ideological debate.

People use 'debate' to mean different things. What we want here: thoughtful conversation where people manage to hold space for the other side even when they strongly disagree. What we don't want: name-calling, fiery rhetoric, denunciation, shallow dismissals.


The far left activists I know were openly gay in the 90's and some of the most resilient people I know. What an absurd comment

It's unfortunate.. I'm pretty sure this story is getting buried. It's insane GOOG would do these things, include threats of demotion. Who gets demoted these days anyways?

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