Meet the Google engineer getting its workers ready to strike

On November 1, round 20,000 Google workers walked out of labor to call for systemic alternate in how the corporate handles workers’ rights problems corresponding to sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination.

And on November 29, the prospect of a much-longer walkout arose when outspoken engineer Liz Fong-Jones began a strike fund. The inciting level was once the corporate’s newest scandal: a record that a workforce of Google managers had unnoticed the corporate’s generally rigorous privateness overview procedure so as to jam thru a mission to construct a censored, snooping seek engine for China, code-named Dragonfly.

i-1-90275462-google-strike-fund-leader-says-itand8217s-time-for-a-long-walkout-609x457 Meet the Google engineer getting its workers ready to strike Inspiration
Liz Fong-Jones [Photo: courtesy of Liz Fong Jones]

Fong-Jones promised that if workers in combination pledged $100,000 for a strike fund to lend a hand give a boost to workers whilst picketing, she would fit it with $100,000 of her personal. Within about three hours, Googlers met her problem, and the fund lately sits at about $250,000.

“I’m aiming to lift cash for the strike fund,” Fong-Jones tells me, “in order that other people really feel empowered to talk up about problems in the long term, whether or not they be safety and privacy-related or place of business conditions-related.” Though lately on sabbatical, the engineer remains to be very engaged in Google issues–with a prolific activist Twitter feed that ceaselessly makes information headlines (and has 14,000 fans).

“I’m coming round to the perception that that moves are possible in Silicon Valley, that picketing may also be vastly a success, as we noticed in the Google walkout,” she says. “Perhaps the friction focused on happening strike is not up to the friction focused on quitting, so long as [strikers] really feel that persons are going to have their again.”

“If I hadn’t [started the fund], there’d be other people that might doubtlessly be keen to installed, possibly 5% in their wage or part in their bonus, that didn’t know to communicate to every different,” she says. (Employees knowledgeable her in their pledges by way of Twitter direct messages.)

1 / 4 million greenbacks would possibly no longer move a long way if a sizeable bite of Google’s greater than 80,000 international workers (plus contractors) come to a decision to stroll. But only a small collection of other people in key positions can critically affect the corporate, says Fong-Jones. And the maximum vocal phase of workers is most likely additionally the one with the biggest affect: engineers.

Fong Jones is consulting with the employee advocacy group Coworker.org on hard work rights and regulations, and the way to administer the strike fund and a conceivable strike. But having given an ultimatum to quickly go away the corporate if sure reforms from the first walkout aren’t enacted, she says shouldn’t be the one to plan a strike. Aside from refuting the newest tale about Dragonfly, Google has no longer spoke back to my questions on a conceivable strike and the way it would reply. Fong-Jones says she hasn’t heard the rest, both.

The tipping level

Fong-Jones, a transgender lady, has basically all for selling variety, inclusion, and tolerance as an inner worker recommend–and ultimately, one of 15 whistleblowers who took the tale of body of workers bullying to the press. But it was once the newest reviews about Drgonfly that satisfied her workers had to take the subsequent step in protest.


Related: The inclusion recommend–Liz Fong Jones


Dragonfly was once first printed via the Intercept in August. But a November 29 article was once particularly galling. The Intercept reviews that control even threatened the few other people running on Dragonfly with being fired in the event that they such a lot as discussed it to someone.

You do not fuck with the Google Security and Privacy workforce. They’re extremely well-respected, such a lot in order that I used to be ready to lift $89okay in an issue of hours to again a team spirit strike supporting that workforce. https://t.co/TUuwl1o5oi

— Liz Fong-Jones (方禮真) (@lizthegrey) November 29, 2018

(“We strongly dispute the allegations made in [the] tale ultimate week,” a Google PR consultant instructed me via e mail, linking to a tweet via the corporate’s director of safety and privateness, Heather Adkins, refuting the article.)

On November 27, a few dozen workers signed a letter tough that Google scrap Dragonfly. Fong-Jones didn’t paintings on the letter, however she added her title in a while after it printed, along side loads of different workers. By December 3, over 700 other people had signed the letter. Five hundred 80 record their identify as “engineer,” and 29 record “program supervisor.”

Just going public on a petition is a dangerous transfer in an trade that workers worry is beginning to keep in mind of troublemakers. But a number of engineers and scientists have risked a lot more via resigning in protest. About a dozen left in April, in opposition to Google offering AI products and services for the Pentagon’s Project Maven drone program. (In August, analysis scientist Jack Poulson turned into the first reported to renounce over Dragonfly.)

About 4,000 workers additionally signed an inner letter opposing Maven. Management ultimately dropped plans to renew the protection contract, in addition to pageant for a $10 billion cloud-computing mission for the Pentagon.

The day of the Dragonfly letter, Fong-Jones introduced that she would renounce in February if the corporate didn’t appoint a rank-and-file worker to the board of administrators–one of five calls for of the authentic walkout. “I feel that the worker consultant on the board is a mechanism of making sure all the different ones are met,” she says. “I might unquestionably run for it if it have been an issue of elections,” she says of the doable seat.

But Fong-Jones has come to acknowledge the price for workers taking a center place between signing a petition and resigning a place. “When you give up, you’re sending a message to the corporate,” she says, noting the massive price of recruiting and onboarding a substitute.

“At the identical time, you’re additionally depriving the corporate of your inner voice,” she says. “You are giving this corporate a chance to eliminate its maximum vocal organizers via merely denying calls for till they give up, after which there’ll be no one left to arrange.”