LA Times: Google Employees ‘Sounding the Alarm’ on ‘Diversity’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The LA Times recently revealed how Google’s workers are “sounding the alarm” on diversity at the company with the help of some activist shareholders.

In an article titled “Google workers, shareholders ‘sounding the alarm’ on diversity,” the LA Times discusses how after already protesting over worker rights, military contracts and the handling of sexual misconduct allegations; Google workers are now aiming at fixing what they believe are issues related to racial and gender diversity at the company by asking the board to consider tying diversity-related metrics to executive bonuses.

The LA Times writes:

“The tech diversity crisis threatens worker safety, talent retention, product development, and customer service,” the shareholder resolution states. It also criticizes the treatment of contract staff and asks the company to address the displacement of poorer residents where it buys real estate.

“We believe executives are out to lunch on several key social risks facing the company,” said Pat Tomaino, director of socially responsible investing for Zevin Asset Management, who collaborated with the employees. His firm is the lead filer of the shareholder proposal. Talking to employees and community activists and following headlines about Google, he said, “it’s a picture of unmanaged risk.”

The latest protests claim that demands employees made in previous protests have not been fulfilled:

The resolution claims Alphabet “has not responded adequately to key demands” made by workers in a massive walkout in November, such as adding a worker representative to its board and ending forced arbitration for its entire workforce, rather than only for direct employees and only for cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault.

It also asks the board’s compensation committee to look into including “sustainability metrics”— such as executive diversity — into its bonus system or stock vesting protocols. Similar policies are in place at Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., IBM Corp. and other companies.

Activists attempting to enact change at the company believe that pressure from shareholders is really what will force Google to take notice of their demands:

A handful of employees worked on the proposal with the workplace activism group Coworker.org and the union-backed coalition Silicon Valley Rising. Along with Zevin, Boston Common Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management and the Friends Fiduciary Corp. are some of the co-filers. In December they sent the resolution to Alphabet, the initial step in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s process for shareholder proposals. The filers intend to have a Google employee present the resolution at Alphabet’s shareholder meeting this year.

“If shareholders say that this is something that is a priority, it’s signaling to the company that they have to take action, and that they can no longer just wait and see and just take small steps,” said Silicon Valley Rising’s campaign director, Maria Noel Fernandez.

The proposal is similar to one raised at last year’s shareholder meeting. Google employees attended the meeting to demonstrate support for it, and one presented it on behalf of Zevin. It failed.

The company said in a filing last year that the proposal would not “enhance Alphabet’s existing commitment to corporate sustainability,” noting that Alphabet chief executive officer Larry Page collected a salary of only $1. Alphabet Chairman John Hennessy said at that shareholder meeting that the company would consider diverse candidates for its board, and Google’s human resources head, Eileen Naughton, said the company aimed to increase its share of black, Latino and female workers by 2020.

Read the full article in the LA Times here.

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