Google walkout women not so interested in talking to the press

On Halloween, we talked about the planned walkout by hundreds of women at Google. They were rightly incensed by the company’s treatment of accused sexual abusers and harassers among their management and planned to make their feelings known. The walkout happened as scheduled (good for them), but there was one curious aspect to the proceedings which the media picked up on immediately. Most of the participants had no desire to speak to reporters about their protest and many of them flatly refused with a curt, “no comment.” (New York Post)

Google is a tight-lipped company — and it’s got tight-lipped protesters, too.

Hundreds of Google employees — miffed that the search giant kept mum about fat severance packages it reportedly gave to execs despite sexual misconduct allegations — marched out of the company’s New York offices to protest on Thursday.

But when asked by reporters to talk about their gripes, dozens of Google workers refused — even as they held aloft signs that said “WORKER’S RIGHTS ARE WOMEN’S RIGHTS” and “TIME’S UP TECH.”

“Sorry, I’m not authorized to speak to press,” said one female protester who had gathered at nearby 14th Street Park in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Most of the quotes from these outraged protesters were along similar lines. One woman, holding a “Don’t Be Evil” sign, simply said, “No comment, I’m just walking out.” This seems rather out of character, doesn’t it? One of the reasons to hold such a walkout is to draw attention to a problem and getting the media involved is the best way to do that.

I already noted in the previous article how Google’s CEO had “approved” of the walkout. Was he also putting restrictions on how it could be conducted? In fact, rather than a protest of the company and its handling of sexual abuse allegations, this entire thing is looking more and more like a company approved public relations event.

But then again, perhaps not. Some employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post they had had it drilled into them by management for years to never speak to the media on pain of losing their jobs. And that’s a valid concern. While the walkout was still in the planning stages, Marketwatch published this list of tips for employees at other companies considering a similar action. The bottom line is that you need to look before you leap and be aware that you may have to be prepared for the consequences of your own decisions.

Thousands of Google GOOG, -1.14% employees walked off the job Thursday, upset over allegations the technology company’s gone easy on executives accused of on-the-job sexual misconduct — but workers ready to lace up their boots at other companies should think hard about copying the gesture.

They could be plastered all over the news one day, experts say, and sitting on their couch out of a job the next day.

That’s because private-sector workers can’t cloak themselves in free-speech rights, experts told MarketWatch. They might have other legal provisions and social forces behind them, but not the First Amendment.

In other words, you have tremendous protections against the government suppressing your right of free speech, but virtually none when it comes to your employer. If you walk off the job and the company fires you for it, there’s little chance that any court in the land will force them to reinstate your job. There’s always the possibility of some loud public backlash against the company for firing you, but this is Google we’re talking about. Everyone is already mad at them anyway. Why should they care?

The fact is that the damage to Google had already been done before Thursday. The media had gotten hold of the story of Android creator Andy Rubin and his alleged, “coerced oral sex” theory of employee relations, along with the details of his $90M golden parachute exit from the company. Whether the women’s walkout was more punishment for the company or just some window dressing allowing them to show they’ve learned their lesson, Google knows that people are watching. Hopefully, that fact will ensure there aren’t any more Andy Rubin episodes coming in the future.