By Chloe Aiello
Google employees worldwide staged brief walkouts on Thursday morning to protest the company's mishandling of in-house racism, sexism, and abuses of power.
By the time staffers exited Google's ($GOOGL) New York City offices at 11:10 a.m. ET, employees in Dublin, London, Singapore, and Zurich had already hit the streets with homemade signs, documenting the scenes on social media.
Cheddar's Kristen Scholer was at Google's Chelsea headquarters in New York City as employees began filing out of the building's main entrance. The diverse group of protesting men and women eventually totaled in the hundreds.
Natalia Giraud, who has worked in software engineering at Google for six years, told Scholer some employees emptied their calendars or even took a day off in anticipation of the walkout. Still, Natalia said she was impressed by the turnout.
"This is the first time [I've seen] such a response in my six years, and it's great ーI think it's awesome that people are actually doing something to speak up or protest in a physical way," she said.
About two-thirds of Google offices worldwide are expected to participate ー all are scheduled to walk out at 11:10 a.m. in each office's respective timezone.
"Cambridge — seems like the whole office is here. Can't get a photo that accurately expresses the magnitude," one Massachusetts participant tweeted on Thursday.
Late Wednesday, employees released a statement detailing demands for the walkout ー which the organizers are calling the Google Walkout for Real Change ー from a Twitter account. Among their demands: that the company put an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, commit to end pay and opportunity inequality, publicly disclose a sexual harassment transparency report, outline a clear, uniform and anonymous process for sexual misconduct reporting, and elevate the chief diversity officer so that person answers directly to the CEO and board.
Engadget associate editor Jon Fingas, who has been covering the walkout, told Cheddar on Thursday it's remarkable how organized the protests were ーand continue to be.
"In this case, they've had several days to organize this. I know they've been talking about this internally at Google, and so the day of, they were fully ready for this to happen," Fingas said.
The walkout comes in response to a story published in The New York Times last week exposing that the company gave Android creator Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package in 2014 after he was accused of sexual harassment.
In a statement, Rubin said the story "contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation." Google has not disputed the report.
"I think this kind of behavior is unacceptable — more so I think it's unacceptable that people who engage in this kind of behavior get monetarily rewarded in such an outlandish way," Google engineer Jaime Flores told Cheddar's Scholer at the walkout. "I think this is all part of being able to hold those people high up accountable."
He said he felt the demands made by the walkout organizers were a good place to start.
"I don't think this is a widespread issue within Google, but it's still an issue everywhere in the industry," Flores said, adding that he was impressed that management actively encouraged employees to participate in the protest.
Google's CEO Sundar Pichai expressed his support for the movement in a statement.
“Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate. Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action," Pichai said.
"It's easy for them to say, 'Oh yea, we totally support your action, we are listening to you,' but, of course, they actually have to implement meaningful policies to actually make these people happy," Fingas said.
Pichai's support is "a good thing, of course. The proof is going to be in the pudding," he added.
Google's walkout is hardly the first instance of tech employees protesting unfavorable policies at their companies. In June, Microsoft employees posted an open letter concerning the company's relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Days later, Amazon employees wrote an open letter to Jeff Bezos, protesting the company's policy of selling facial recognition software to the government. Vanity Fair technology reporter Maya Kosoff predicts protests like Google's will become more common moving forward.
"You are seeing way more riffs between labor and management at tech companies now, she told Cheddar. "It's easier when employees at other companies are speaking out, and walking out, and doing the work, so I predict that this is probably going to be part of a broader trend moving forward."