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Google High-Tech Employees Global March: A New Kind of “Labor Movement?”

Are we are on brink of a new kind of  workplace “labor movement”?

Consider this from the AP News on the Google global walkout:
Tech elite stages a Revolt of the Haves against employers 

“When Google employees staged a global walkout Thursday to protest the company’s treatment of women, they made themselves the most visible example of a surprising trend: high-paid engineers emerging from their comfortable bubbles to speak out.

“For much of the past two years, elite technology employees have been stirring and in some cases organizing – first in workplace meetings … then in signed protest letters and ultimately in company walkouts such as Thursday’s street demonstrations.

“Among the issues they’ve championed: Better handling of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, opposition to the Trump administration’s travel ban, and avoiding harmful uses of their products.”


To be fair, some of these controversies involve seemingly no-win decisions for employers — issues such as products and systems applicable to national security.

And this revolt is by no means a ‘labor revolution”. These Google employees, the so-called “tech elite,” don’t represent the many millions of assembly-line workers, retail employees and others around the world who don’t have “tech elite” clout. See: The decline of unions is part of a bad 50 years for American workers  

Nevertheless, the AP story explains the Google walkout significance:  

“It is, in many ways, a Revolt of the Haves. One that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago…

” Tom Kochan, professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,, said the protests ‘were a sign of the times’,  pointing out that the walkout was globally coordinated. ‘Workers are saying they want a voice over this broad range of issues, not just wages and compensation but protections against  harassment and discrimination and getting rid of sham arbitration agreements they’re forced to sign.'”


 NBC  coverage, Google employees stage walkout over handling of sexual misconduct by executive

captured the essence of the Google employee demands with this:

                           “organizers used a bullhorn to lead such chants as:

                                        ‘women’s rights are workers’ rights'”


And Axios, in its report,  1 big thing: The tech elites are revolting, waxed prophetic:

“This won’t go away:[emphasis in the original] Elite U.S. Tech workers, some awakened to political organizing by the election of President Trump, are increasingly giving their own CEOs a painful wakeup call via internal dissents on company decisions and politics …

“The bottom line: [original emphasis] The midterms are Tuesday, but these political earthquakes look like they’re just getting started.”


Agnes Uhereczky, a Change Management consultant, may well have identified the thinking of this influential segment of the  workforce:

“Can we expect more employees at other companies to follow suit [of the Google walkout]? We sure can! Employees today have a voice, and they will use it to express what they want in exchange for their talent and hard work. They want organizations to be responsible, decision-making to be transparent and leadership to be trustworthy.”


Clearly,  employee relations/industrial relations has come a long way from the days of powerful labor unions — especially as unions have declined significantly during decades of state legislation such as “right to work” laws and, now, the prospect of a National Right-to-Work Act.

The nature of work has changed. The workforce and workplace has changed. Social issues have changed. The global society is changing, almost daily.

Employers — especially in high tech companies with an informed, articulate and motivated workforce — had better take note.