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谷歌不作恶?有些员工不同意|谷歌内战纪实

柯问思(Beth Kowitt) 2019年06月09日

一些员工说,谷歌正在逐渐远离“不作恶”的口号。当拥有自主权的科技行业员工集体抗议时,将会发生什么?

事情开始于谷歌在东京的办公室,2018年11月1日当地时间上午11点10分,100位员工走出谷歌办公室。13个小时后,谷歌位于纽约市的总部的电梯塞满了人,员工们从楼梯下楼到街上抗议。奥斯汀的谷歌员工在示威时,还为性侵犯受害者集体沉默了两分钟。在旧金山,数百位员工从历史悠久的渡轮大厦乘船聚集,高呼“谷歌是时候行动了”,还举着“员工权利也是女性权利”和“免费食物不等于安全”等标语。

在悉尼的谷歌员工罢工抗议后,也是亚洲加入抗议的25小时后,全球50个城市的20000名谷歌员工加入了罢工行动,集体抗议公司对性骚扰的处理。

引发本次罢工的导火索是一周之前《纽约时报》的报道,文中称尽管面临谷歌认为对前执行官安迪·鲁宾的性骚扰指控属实,还是支付了9000万美元的离职补偿。(鲁宾发给《纽约时报》的声明中称,报道“对工作状况描述有多处失实”。)

这是科技行业巨头第一次出现如此大规模的员工抗议,显然也是外界第一次了解到谷歌员工是多么的愤怒和沮丧。其实在谷歌内部,导致罢工的各种问题已经积攒数月。随着员工与管理层就私自做有争议的商业决策、边缘化员工群体的待遇以及公司内部平台上对员工的骚扰和羞辱发生冲突,紧张局势不断加剧。“这是美国文化战争在微观层面的体现。”今年2月离职的工程师科林·麦克米伦表示。

在许多观察人士看来,向来以高薪和待遇优厚出名的科技从业者似乎没有资格抱怨。尤其谷歌一直是硅谷巨头,崇尚精英主义和乌托邦式的技术未来主义,员工集体抗议实在令人震惊。但在过去几年里,有人质疑科技行业号称要改变世界的宣言(一边改变一边赚钱!),认为在科技改变世界的同时破坏力也倍增,从干扰大选到社交媒体平台有害内容泛滥,到侵犯隐私,再到科技成瘾。说起对科技行业强大力量的感知,以及道德上的困惑,没有人比科技行业的员工体会更深刻。“人们开始说:‘我不想再助纣为虐。’”梅雷迪思·惠特克表示。她负责领导谷歌的开放研究小组,也是罢工的组织者之一。她说,员工们开始承担责任,“目前还没有发现能控制科技业力量的组织架构存在。”

It started in Tokyo on Nov. 1, 2018, when 100 employees walked out of Google’s office at 11:10 a.m. local time. Thirteen hours later, the elevators at the company’s New York City headquarters were so packed that workers took the stairs down to the street to protest. Google employees in Austin observed two minutes of silence for victims of sexual assault as part of their demonstration. In San Francisco, hundreds of employees gathered across from the historic Ferry Building and chanted “Time’s Up at Google” and held signs with slogans like “Workers’ Rights Are Women’s Rights” and “Free Food ≠ Safe Space.”

After Googlers in Sydney walked out, 25 hours after Asia had kicked things off, 20,000 Google employees in 50 cities around the world had joined their colleagues to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment.

The spark that ignited the walkout was a New York Times article that had appeared a week earlier, reporting that Google paid former executive Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package, despite facing a sexual misconduct accusation Google deemed credible. (In a statement to the Times, Rubin said the story contained “numerous inaccuracies about my employment.”)

It was the first time the world had seen such a massive worker protest erupt out of one of the giants of the technology industry—and certainly the first time outsiders got a glimpse at the depth of anger and frustration felt by some Google employees. But inside the Googleplex, the fuel that fed the walkout had been collecting for months. Tensions had been on the rise as employees clashed with management over allegations of controversial business decisions made in secret, treatment of marginalized groups of employees, and harassment and trolling of workers on the company’s internal platforms. “It’s the U.S. culture war playing out at micro-scale,” says Colin McMillen, an engineer who left the company in February.

To many observers, the tech workforce—notoriously well-paid and pampered with perks—hardly seems in a position to complain. And it’s a surprising tune to hear from employees of one of the titans of Silicon Valley, a place that has long worshipped at the altar of meritocracy and utopian techno-futurism. But in the past few years, the industry’s de facto mission statement—change the world (and make money doing it!)—has been called into question as examples of tech’s destructive power multiply, from election interference to toxicity on social media platforms to privacy breaches to tech addiction. No one is closer to tech’s growing might, as well as its ethical quandaries, than the employees who help create it. “People are beginning to say, ‘I don’t want to be complicit in this,’?” says Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research group and is one of the walkout organizers. Workers are beginning to take responsibility, she says: “I don’t see many other structures in place right now that are checking tech power.”

插图:Nicolas Ortega

所谓的科技业罢工潮为全行业蒙上了一层阴影,有组织的员工抵制逐渐蔓延。亚马逊的员工要求公司采取更多行动应对气候变化;微软的员工表示不愿意为战争开发技术;Salesforce内部一个团队游说管理层结束与美国海关和边境保护局的合作。与此同时,各公司在某种程度上都倾向男性程序员文化,导致科技行业变成了女性和有色人种受到歧视的重灾区。

但其他公司都没有谷歌一样大声抗议,而且坚持公开。在硅谷内部人士看来比较正常,因为谷歌的架构原本就适合员工发声。谷歌高举“不作恶”的口号,带头开创了科技繁荣的乐观氛围。“谷歌有意识地营造了这种形象。”斯坦福大学的一位计算机科学名誉教授特里·温诺格拉德说,他是谷歌联合创始人拉里·佩奇的研究生院顾问,也继续在谷歌技术咨询委员会任职。谷歌的两位联合创始人是现年46岁的佩奇和45岁的谢尔盖·布林,两人曾经有意开创质疑权威和现状的企业文化。在2004年的IPO信中,他们写道:谷歌不是传统公司,以后也不会变成传统公司。

谷歌的一些员工表示,谷歌打破传统的承诺已经受到质疑。在采访了32位谷歌现员工和前员工之后,能够看出“老谷歌”和“新谷歌”之间的界限。1998年,佩奇和布林还在斯坦福大学读博士期间,在加州门洛帕克的一个车库里开始创业,至于公司前后两个阶段是否存在明显界限,取决于问的是谁。不过各人在描述前后变化时有个相同模式,都说“老谷歌”时期的员工在公司运营方面有发言权。在“新谷歌”时期,普通员工和高管之间的沟通和信任正在下降。有人说,现在谷歌的决策权集中在高层,追求的指标越来越接近于传统公司。

如今,谷歌正在努力缓和过去20年煽动的激进文化,处境十分尴尬。谷歌和母公司Alphabet的员工已经超过10万名,高管们承认既要维持规模又要坚守倾听员工呼声等基本原则很艰难。“如果没有坚持之前的文化,很难实现高速增长。”谷歌的高级副总裁兼首席执行官桑达尔·皮查伊领导团队成员珍·菲茨帕特里克说。(皮查伊拒绝了《财富》杂志的采访请求。)谷歌称,针对视角和项目多元化不断增长将加强管理,也将努力预测员工要求透明处理的各种问题。然而公司也补充说,员工中的积极分子人数不多但声量很大,其意见并不能代表全体员工。

“2018年对我们来说不同寻常,其中某些问题的严重性和性质并不一样。”谷歌的人事分析副总裁布莱恩·韦勒表示。在今年2月泄露给媒体的公司内部谷歌精神调查的结果中,能够看出骚动的原因。2017年关键指标出现了两位数百分点的下降。举例来说,74%的受访者表示对皮查伊和管理团队抱有信心,比之前一年下降了18个百分点。

对谷歌来说,最具挑战性的是员工拒绝将不满情绪隐藏在公司内部,而且由于员工积极分子对媒体工具运用熟练,加上全世界对顶尖公司的迷恋,效果得以放大。从某个层面上看,谷歌罢工跟普通工厂罢工差不多,都是劳动力发挥集体力量向掌权人传达信息(在谷歌,目标是首席执行官皮查伊)。但即使谷歌内部的活跃员工也要依靠传统的劳工组织策略,诉求也不仅是典型的工资或福利方面。关键不是工资单,员工明显想对研发的产品掌握更大的发言权和控制权。

谷歌已经改变了当今工作的许多方面。本次罢工是一个转折点,表明谷歌准备破坏经济体系中更为基础的部分,即劳动力和资本之间的关系。这种转变或许只能从硅谷开始,因为一直以来硅谷自认为高于传统的商业问题,而且或许只能从谷歌开始,因为谷歌向来以“不作恶”的前提招聘和留住员工。现在,员工似乎下定决心通过自己的视角看待这个口号,毫不妥协地加以应用,即使代价是公司的发展。“谁决定了谷歌的灵魂是什么?谁决定了谷歌是什么?”谷歌的前高管陆克曼·崔问道,此前他是公司内部亚太平洋地区言论自由和审查问题专家。“是领导还是员工?公司灵魂方面,正进行一场真正的战斗。”

As the so-called techlash has cast a pall over the entire sector, organized employee pushback is slowly becoming part of the landscape: Amazon workers are demanding more action from the company on battling climate change; at Microsoft, employees say they don’t want to build technology for warfare; at Salesforce, a group has lobbied management to end its work with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Meanwhile, there’s not a company in the sector that isn’t grappling at some level with the ways bro-gramming culture has made tech a toxic space for women and employees of color.

But nowhere has the furor been as loud, as public, and as insistent as it has been at Google. That’s no surprise to Silicon Valley insiders, who say Google was purpose-built to amplify employee voices. With its “Don’t be evil” mantra, Google was a central player in creating the rosy optimism of the tech boom. “It has very consciously cultivated this image,” says Terry Winograd, a professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford who was Google cofounder Larry Page’s grad school adviser and would go on to serve on the company’s technical advisory board. “It makes them much more prone to this kind of uprising.” Page, now 46, and cofounder Sergey Brin, 45, intentionally created a culture that encouraged the questioning of authority and the status quo, famously writing in their 2004 IPO letter that Google was not a conventional company and did not intend to become one.

Some workers say Google’s promise to remain unconventional is in question. Interviews with 32 current and former employees revealed a demarcation between what several called “Old Google” and “New Google.” Whether there’s a clear-cut line between these eras—the company got its start in a Menlo Park, Calif., garage in 1998, when Page and Brin were still Ph.D. students at Stanford—depends on whom you ask. But there is a pattern in how they describe the change: At Old Google, employees say they had a voice in how the company was run. At New Google, the communication and trust between the rank and file and executives is in decline. Decision-making power, some say, is now concentrated at the very top of a company run by executives who are increasingly driven by conventional business metrics.

Now Google finds itself in the awkward position of trying to temper the radical culture that it spent the past 20 years stoking. Boasting more than 100,000 employees between Google and its parent company, Alphabet, executives acknowledge that the company is struggling to balance its size with maintenance of the principles, like employee voice, that were so foundational. “You can’t go through that kind of growth without the culture needing to evolve,” says Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google SVP and a member of CEO Sundar Pichai’s leadership team. (Pichai declined Fortune’s requests for an interview.) The company says it is trying to manage its ballooning diversity of perspectives and projects, as well as do a better job predicting the kinds of issues for which employees will demand full transparency. However, it adds that the activist employees are a small but vocal group, and that their opinions don’t represent those of employees at large.

“Twenty-eighteen was a different year for us—the magnitude and the nature of some of these issues is just different,” says Brian Welle, VP of people analytics at Google. The tumult was reflected in the results of the annual companywide Googlegeist survey, which was leaked to the press in February. Key metrics were down double-digit percentage points over 2017. For instance, while 74% of respondents said they had confidence in Pichai and the management team, that’s an 18 percentage point drop from the previous year.

Most challenging to Google is employees’ refusal to keep their discontent within the company’s walls, a strategy that’s been bolstered by activists’ sophisticated use of the media and the world’s fascination with the iconic company. The scene that played out at the walkout was, on one level, as familiar as a factory strike—a ?labor force flexing its collective power to send a message to The Man (in this case, CEO Pichai). But even as activists inside Google are relying on traditional labor organizing tactics, their demands are not just the typical wage or benefits ask. It’s about much more than a paycheck; employees, it’s clear, want a say in and control over the products they build.

Google has already transformed so many aspects of the way we work today. The walkout was an inflection point, a sign that the company is now poised to disrupt something even more foundational to our economic system: the relationship between labor and capital. It’s a shift that could perhaps begin only in Silicon Valley, a place that has long believed itself above such traditional business concerns—and, more to the point, only at this company, one that hired and retained employees on the premise of do no evil. Now employees seem determined to view that manifesto through their own lens and apply it without compromise, even at the cost of the company’s growth. “Who decides what is the soul of Google and what Google is?” asks Lokman Tsui, formerly Google’s go-to executive on issues of free expression and censorship in Asia and the Pacific. “Is it leadership or employees? There’s a real battle for the soul of these companies right now.”

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谷歌的远大使命是组织全世界的信息方便获取,所以谷歌将书本数字化,在汽车顶上安装摄像头通过图像绘制世界地图,还用硬纸板为用户提供虚拟现实体验。

但随着公司规模不断壮大,其野心也随之增加。2018年,谷歌的员工发现两个新项目在秘密进行,有些人质疑谷歌为了扩张远超正常业务范围。

第一个是五角大楼的“马文”项目,利用人工智能分析无人机拍摄的画面。2017年谷歌成为国防部“马文”项目的分包商之类,但直到第二年一位员工在谷歌内部社交平台上发表帖子写到该秘密项目,多数员工才终于得知。高管告诉表示担心的员工,“马文”项目主要出于防御目的,并非为了攻击。尽管如此,一些工人仍然担心谷歌的技术会被用来提升无人机的杀伤力,而且“马文”项目之后谷歌与军方可能达成更多协议。此外还有人担心,管理层的说法是该合同为了支持“我们的”军队,而谷歌的员工来自于全球各地,很难产生共鸣。

当时在爱尔兰工作的工程师劳拉·诺兰认为,“这是严重的背叛。”她说。“表面看上去是一家快乐的公司,组织令人愉快的信息,然后突然发现离杀人无人机没有几步。” 诺兰说,她的工作未来将推动“马文”项目发展,所以选择离职。诺兰之类的员工并不希望谷歌像雷神公司一样变成国防承包商,甚至像亚马逊一样跟军方合作还毫不掩饰也不羞愧。

其实在公司多数人了解“马文”项目之前,几位高级工程师私下里便越发担心。“马文”项目传开之后,抵制行动也不断蔓延,一群员工写信给皮查伊要求取消该项目。2018年3月,公司想在每周召开的全体会议,也就是广为人知的TGIF上解决问题。自成立之初,该会议就一直是谷歌文化的核心,很大程度上因为任何人都有机会在会上质疑高管。开会时一位员工告诉高管层,她曾经在国防部工作,就是为了避免为军事技术做贡献才离开。她问道,要怎样才能让管理层知道此举不可行?布林告诉她,你能在这里提出问题,本身就是强大的声音。在某些公司,高管如此回应就算完事。但在谷歌却不行。

管理层继续组织论坛,努力解决员工的疑问,解释为什么他们认为“马文”项目很有价值,还在办公室组织了三场集体会议谈论人工智能的伦理问题。

一群组织者持续施加压力,每周的TGIF会议上都有关于“马文”的问题。他们统计了因该项目辞职的员工人数,发放贴纸,利用谷歌内部的表情包生成器制作有关“马文”的表情包。2018年4月,内部争论终于公之于众,当时一封员工联名发给首席执行官皮查伊的信泄露给了《纽约时报》,后来该信征集了近5000名员工的签名。

当年6月,谷歌宣布不再续签“马文”的合同,并发布了一套人工智能原则,为该技术的未来制定了指导方针,其中包括承诺不使用该技术制造武器等。多数活跃员工都认为这是一次胜利,但当年晚些时候,在《纽约时报》的一次会议上,皮查伊淡化了内部压力的影响。“我们不靠公投管理公司。”他解释说,做决定时找搭建人工智能的人们征询了意见。不过,他强调说网络安全等领域公司将继续与军方合作。

Google’s broad mission of organizing the world’s information and making it more accessible has led the company to digitize books, mount cameras on the top of cars in order to map the world through images, and design virtual reality viewers made of cardboard.

But as the company has grown ever larger, so have its ambitions. In 2018, as Google employees found out about two new secretive projects that were underway, some questioned whether the tech giant had stretched too far beyond the bounds of its mandate in the name of expansion.

The first was the Pentagon’s Project Maven, which uses artificial intelligence to help analyze drone footage. Google became a subcontractor to the Department of Defense for Maven in 2017, but most people inside the company didn’t learn about it until the following year, when an employee wrote an unsanctioned post about the clandestine project on Google’s internal social media platform. Executives told worried employees that Maven was defensive rather than offensive. Still, some workers were concerned that Google’s technology could ultimately be used to make drone strikes more lethal, and that Maven would lead to additional deals between Google and the military. What’s more, some say management’s argument that the contract was in support of “our” military did not always resonate with a global workforce.

For Laura Nolan, then a Google engineer working in Ireland, “It was such a betrayal,” she says. “We’re pretending to be a happy company that does lovely information organizing, and then you’re building several steps toward killer drones flying around.” Nolan, who says her work would have enabled future stages of Maven, quit the company over it. Employees like Nolan didn’t expect Google to be a defense contractor like Raytheon—or even like ?Amazon, which has been open and unapologetic about working with the military.

Even before the bulk of the company learned about Maven, several senior engineers were escalating their concerns internally. Once Maven became more widely known, the resistance spread, with a group of employees writing a letter to Pichai asking that he cancel the project. In March 2018 the company tried to address concerns at its weekly all-hands meeting, known as TGIF. The gathering has been core to Google’s culture since its early days, in large part because it gives anyone the chance to question senior management. At the meeting, an employee told executives she used to work for the Department of Defense but left to avoid contributing to military technology. What, she asked, were her avenues for letting management know this was not okay? The fact that you can ask that question here is a powerful voice, Brin told her. At some companies this would have been a sufficient answer. At Google it was not.

Management continued to put together forums to try to address employee concerns and explain why they believed Maven was a worthwhile project, holding three town halls to discuss the ethics of A.I.

A group of organizers kept up the pressure, making sure there was a Maven question every week at TGIF. They tracked the number of employees who quit over the issue, handed out stickers, and made mocking memes about Maven on Google’s internal meme creator. The debate turned public in April 2018 when the original letter sent to Pichai, which would eventually garner nearly 5,000 employee signatures, was leaked to the New York Times.

In June, Google announced that it would not renew its contract for Maven and released a set of A.I. principles laying out guidelines for the future of the technology—including a vow not to use it to create weapons. Most of the employee activists viewed the announcement as a win, but speaking at a Times conference later that year, Pichai played down the influence of the internal pressures. “We don’t run the company by referendum,” he said. He explained that he had listened to people actually working on building A.I. in making the decision. He stressed, however, that the company continued to do work with the military in areas like cybersecurity.

“这样不行,谷歌”:全球2万名谷歌员工参加了2018年11月的罢工。图片来源:Michael Short—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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但随着谷歌管理层越发用保密当成控制决策的手段,谷歌一些活跃员工转而采取了相反的态度,向媒体表达担忧。

丽兹·方-琼斯说,这对谷歌来说是巨大的文化转变,之前如果未经批准就跟媒体交流就会“遭到唾弃”。方-琼斯此前在谷歌担任网站可靠性工程师,向来大胆批评谷歌,不过范围限制在公司(虚拟)墙之内。

不过在2018年1月,她的观点发生了变化。催化剂是2017年7月谷歌工程师詹姆斯·达摩尔臭名昭著的备忘录,内部发表的10页文件中认为,之所以科技行业内女性人数较少,是因为生理差异而不是偏见等社会因素,还认为谷歌的多元化努力具有歧视性。达摩尔后来被解雇,他的这篇文章在谷歌的自由留言板和邮件群里激起了众怒。各种内部沟通渠道也是谷歌文化的独特之处,公司内部有数万种沟通渠道,主题从工程到所谓“猫奴”关注的喵星人百科无所不包。

达摩尔的支持者向右翼新闻网站泄露变性女性方-琼斯和谷歌多元化倡导者在留言板上的评论后,情况变得更糟。方-琼斯说,抗议组织遭到骚扰和暴力威胁,尽管多次请求帮助,但管理层也无力阻止。“我们请管理层阻止恶意泄密行为。”她表示。方-琼斯与管理层交流方面有过成功案例。她曾经成功地让公司废除了一项规定:要求员工在社交网站Google Plus上使用真名。她说服高管,该政策将使最易受攻击的员工受到网络暴力攻击,导致情况恶化。但她感觉事到如今管理层和员工之间的沟通已然破裂。

她意识到问题无法内部解决,这就够了。2017年10月,方-琼斯和其他一些被盯上的员工见了通常跟低工资工人合作的“工友网站”,一起思考公关和内部组织策略。“很明显,公司不会采取任何行动,要通过媒体施加压力。”方-琼斯说。今年1月,她和其他14名现任和前员工接受《连线》杂志采访,讨论了骚扰事件和谷歌对此事的回应。

要知道,未获公司批准就接受《连线》采访触碰了谷歌的大忌,团体成员在内部发表了文章解释动机,明确表示讨论工作条件(劳动法规定的受保护权利)与泄露谷歌产品以及其他保密信息不是一回事,他们认为泄露产品信息之类是过分行为。不出所料,并不是所有同事都同意。“我看到一些负面评论,比如,你们真是太差了,为什么要把谷歌的‘丑事’公开呢?”麦克米伦说,他是接受《连线》采访的谷歌员工之一。

方-琼斯说,她之所以坚守底线不可泄露产品信息,原因是一旦泄露,管理层便有强大理由跟员工共享更少信息。有人指出,去年8月发生的事就是个典型的例子。每周的TGIF会议上布林和皮查伊发表讲话时,很明显,现场的某人或观看直播的某人向《纽约时报》的一位记者泄露了讲话内容,该记者在推特上实时发布了讨论情况,传遍全世界。

一个员工站起来对匿名泄密者骂道:“去你妈的!”同事们响起掌声。“这件事彻底毁了TGIF会议。”麦克米伦说。“TGIF上再也不会说什么重要的事了。”

在鲍尔森离开谷歌时,公司曾经警告他不要跟媒体谈。“有人明确告诉我,如果以后我还想回公司,可以忽视我的政治主张,主要看技术贡献,前提是我不跟媒体说公司情况,那样的话就不可原谅了。” 他告诉《财富》杂志说。“老实说,如果他们知道我们在打电话交流,肯定会很生气。”

But where Google management has increasingly used confidentiality as a tool to maintain control of decision-making, some of Google’s activist employees have gone in the opposite direction—turning to the media to amplify their concerns.

That’s a dramatic cultural shift for a company at which talking to the press without approval once guaranteed you’d be “viewed as a pariah,” says Liz Fong-Jones. A former Google site reliability engineer, Fong-Jones had never had a problem criticizing Google, provided it stayed within the company’s (virtual) walls.

But in January 2018, her perspective changed. The catalyst: Google engineer James Damore’s infamous July 2017 memo, an internally published 10-page document arguing that women are underrepresented in the industry owing to biological differences rather than societal factors like bias, and that the company’s diversity efforts were discriminatory. The posting by Damore, who was ultimately fired, created a furor on Google’s freewheeling message boards and mailing lists. These internal communication channels are one of the oddities of Google’s culture: The company has tens of thousands of them dedicated to everything from engineering to all things cats—run by the so-called Mewglers.

Things got even uglier when Damore sympathizers leaked comments made on the message boards by Fong-Jones, a trans woman, and other Google diversity advocates to right-wing news sites. As a result, Fong-Jones says, the group was besieged by harassment and violent threats, which, despite their repeated pleas for help, management was unable to halt. “We were asking them to stop these malicious leaks,” she says. Fong-Jones had a proven track record of getting management to listen to her. She’d successfully spearheaded an effort to get the company to end its policy requiring people to use their real names on its social media site Google Plus, convincing executives that such a policy would expose the most vulnerable users to trolling and worse. But now she felt like the lines of communication between management and employees had broken down.

It was enough for her to decide that this was a problem that would not be solved internally. In October 2017, Fong-Jones and a group of other targeted employees met with Coworker.org, an organization that usually works with low-wage workers, to help think through a PR and internal organizing strategy. “It was clear to us the company wasn’t going to do anything, and we needed to apply media pressure,” Fong-Jones says. In January she and 14 other current and former employees talked about the harassment—and Google’s response to the issue—with Wired.

Understanding that going to Wired without company approval had broken a Google taboo, members of the group published an internal post explaining their motivation—and making clear that they drew a distinction between discussing working conditions (a protected right under labor law) and leaking information about Google products or other confidential company information, which they continued to believe was off limits. Unsurprisingly, not all of their fellow employees bought the justification: “I got some negative comments along the lines of, this really sucks for you, but why did you air Google’s dirty laundry?” says McMillen, one of the then-Google employees who spoke to Wired.

One reason Fong-Jones says she takes a hard line against product leaks is that they provide management with a strong justification for sharing less information with employees. Some point to what happened last August as a prime example. Brin and Pichai were addressing the weekly TGIF meeting when it became clear that someone in the room or watching the livestream of the event was leaking what was being said to a New York Times reporter—who was tweeting the discussion, in real time, to the world at large.

One employee stood up and said “Fuck you!” to the anonymous leaker, to the applause of his colleagues. “That ruined TGIF forever,” says ?McMillen. “Nothing of interest is going to be said at TGIF anymore.”

When he left Google, Poulson says he was warned against talking to the media. “I was explicitly told that should I ever want to come back to the company, they could ignore my politics and focus on my technical contribution as long as I didn’t do something as unforgivable as speak to the press,” he told Fortune. “To be blunt, I don’t think they will be happy I’m having this phone call with you.”

****

罢工之前,皮查伊向员工发了一份备忘录表示支持,在当天的一次会议上,他承认谷歌也并非事事都做得对。“公司内部有人愤怒和沮丧。”他说,“大家都能感觉到。我也感觉到了。”在谷歌山景城总部,首席财务官露丝·波拉特和团队一起参与了罢工。其他高管都拒绝回答有没有参与。菲茨帕特里克告诉《财富》杂志,当天她不在办公室,被问到如果公司会不会参加时,她拒绝回答。

企业的一些反应让组织者感到不对劲。他们认为一些高管的支持态度只是想把罢工变成某种经公司批准的野外聚餐。有些人会问,如果波拉特真心支持罢工,为何不利用身为高管的地位实现员工的诉求?

不久之后麦克米伦和方-琼斯都选择离职,他们发现公司的反应非常迟缓。对方-琼斯来说,最大的失望在于公司不愿意回应组织者的要求,即让一位员工代表加入董事会。“员工对于公司面临的问题方面理解其实非常深刻。”她表示。让她很高兴的是还有很多人继续斗争,但她已然筋疲力尽。

谷歌管理层已经显露出倾听员工呼声的意愿,在某些情况下也愿意改变。谷歌表示之前过度依赖TGIF,现在公司规模太大业务也太广,不可能靠每周一小时的会议解决每个问题。目前公司正在尝试添加不同的论坛,比如集体会议主要解决单个主题,比如最近发布的多样性报告。“发现有人举起手说:‘没有人认真倾听我的意见。’公司才意识到。”菲茨帕特里克说。为了制止内部平台上不文明交流的增多,新制定的“社区指南”禁止在工作文件中有侮辱言辞和提及性行为,要求每个在线小组配备一位主持人,主持人要经过培训。公司还针对性骚扰等问题修改了内部报告渠道。

谷歌员工也开始在公司外灵活发挥力量。员工罢工诉求之一便是取消强制仲裁,该规定要求员工私下解决与公司的纠纷。一群谷歌员工已经将战争推到了华盛顿,积极推动立法禁止该行为。“国会议员与谷歌员工开会,之前可没有跟墨西哥餐厅Chipotle的员工开会。”谷歌里的存在论者维姬·塔尔迪夫表示,她在公司已经工作了八年。她表示,如果这些行动真能做成一些事,“那么我们实现了来谷歌工作时的理想。”

今年4月,两位策划罢工的关键女性惠特克和克莱尔·斯台普顿发表了一封公开信,指责谷歌因为两人组织罢工采取报复,公司内部冲突也达到新水平。惠特克写道,人工智能协会解散后,有人告诉她要想留在公司,就得放弃她在谷歌从事的人工智能伦理方面工作,也要退出她联合创办的外部组织“现在人工智能研究所”。斯台普顿说,她在谷歌工作了近12年,但在罢工两个月后公司通知她被降职,之后又告诉她应该休病假,虽然她没有生病。后来她聘请了一名律师,谷歌才进行调查撤销了降职。“我们触及了威胁谷歌生存的东西。”斯台普顿对《财富》杂志表示。当天公司就回应了对两人的指控,发表声明称不存在报复,禁止“在公司采取报复行为并调查所有指控”。

对一些员工来说,指控公司报复已经是最严重的情况。许多组织工作均由网站可靠性工程师领导。他们的职责是运营谷歌最关键的服务,哪里出现问题就要赶去修理。他们排查和诊断问题,而且人们希望他们提出意见和问题。“你得寻找弱点。”曾经担任网站可靠性工程师的方-琼斯说,“如果你认为某些事情不对劲时,就要提出质疑。”在网站可靠性工程师的世界里,有个概念叫“无可指责的验尸”,这是一种回顾错误但不用惩罚任何人的方法。“这是谷歌文化的基本组成部分。” 隐私工程师塔里克·优素福说,他已经在谷歌工作近五年。“如此一来人们才能大胆指出错误。”他表示,报复行为消除了安全提出问题的核心保障。“整个流程都崩溃了。”

组织者开始将策略称为劳工组织,之前有些人曾经避免这么叫,担心过去经常支持管理层的员工对此产生偏见。在“马文”项目期间,一些员工采取了“面试罢工”,即拒绝参加面试和招聘候选人,这也抗议报复行为的回应。5月1日是国际劳动节,罢工六个月后,员工接受了另一个老派的劳工组织战略,静坐示威抗议报复。在纽约静坐时气氛阴沉,像守夜一样。几百名员工聚集在一起,讨论遭受不同类型的报复,有的是因为组织抗议,有的是因为控告性骚扰。有些人哭了。甚至有人讨论成立工会。“我们不会放弃利益诉求。”惠特克说,“我们也不会闭嘴。”(财富中文网)

本文另一版本登载于《财富》杂志2019年6月刊,标题为《谷歌内战》。

译者:Ms

Ahead of the walkout, Pichai sent out a memo to employees voicing his support and acknowledged at a conference that day that Google had not always gotten it right. “There’s anger and frustration within the company,” he said. “We all feel it. I feel it too.” At headquarters in Mountain View, CFO Ruth Porat joined the walkout with her team. Other executives simply avoided the question of whether to participate. Fitzpatrick told Fortune she had been out of the office that day and declined to revisit it when asked if she would have participated had she been on campus.

Parts of the corporate response rubbed organizers the wrong way. They viewed executives’ embrace as an attempt to recast the walkout as some sort of sanctioned company picnic. And if Porat supported the walkout, some asked, why didn’t she use her power as a C-suite executive to implement their demands?

Both McMillen and Fong-Jones quit not long after, saying they found the company’s response lackadaisical. For Fong-Jones, the biggest disappointment was the company’s unwillingness to comply with the organizers’ demand to put a worker representative on the board. “Employees are in a really good position to understand the issues,” she says. She was happy people were staying to fight, but she was burned out.

Google management has shown a willingness to listen to employees—and, in some cases, to change. The company says it had become over-reliant on TGIF and is now too big and sprawling to address every issue in the weekly one-hour meeting. It’s experimenting with adding different forums, like town halls focused on single topics, such as its recently published diversity report. “That was a realization that we came to as we started to see people raising their hands and saying, ‘My voice isn’t getting heard enough,’?” says Fitzpatrick. And in an attempt to quell the increase in uncivil interactions on its internal platforms, its new “community guidelines” ban slurs and references to sex acts in any work document and require every online group to have a moderator, who must go through training. The company has also revamped internal reporting channels for issues like sexual harassment.

Google employees have started to flex their power beyond the company too. The one walkout demand Google met was doing away with forced arbitration, which required employees settle their disputes with the company behind closed doors. A group of Googlers has taken the fight to Washington, where it is pushing for legislation that would ban the practice. “Congress?people take meetings with Google workers that they didn’t take with Chipotle workers,” says Vicki Tardif, an ontologist at Google, who has been with the company for eight years. If they’re able to help push something through, she says, “then we’ve done that greater good that we came to Google to do.”

In April, the conflict inside the company reached a new level when Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, two women instrumental in planning the walkout, published an open letter accusing Google of retaliating against them for their organizing activities. Whittaker wrote that after the A.I. council was disbanded, she was told that in order to remain at the company, she would have to abandon her work on A.I. ethics at Google as well as at the AI Now Institute, an outside organization she cofounded. Stapleton said that after almost 12 years at Google, she was told two months after the walkout that she would be demoted and later that she should go on medical leave, even though she wasn’t sick. It wasn’t until she hired a lawyer that Google conducted an investigation and walked back her demotion, she wrote. “We’re tapping into something that’s an existential threat to Google,” Stapleton told Fortune. The company responded to their accusations that day with a statement saying there was no retaliation and that it prohibits “retaliation in the workplace and investigates all allegations.”

To some employees, the charges of retaliation are the most serious yet levied against the company. Much of the organizing efforts have been led by site reliability engineers (SREs). Their remit is to operate the most critical services Google runs. When something breaks, they’re the ones who get paged to fix it. They troubleshoot and diagnose problems, and they are expected to have opinions and questions. “You have to go probe for weaknesses,” says Fong-Jones, who was an SRE, “and also challenge people when you think something that they’re trying to railroad through is not okay.” Within the SRE world, there’s a concept called blameless postmortem—it’s a way of looking back at mistakes made without throwing anyone under the bus. “It’s a fundamental part of the culture at Google,” says Tariq Yusuf, a privacy engineer who’s been with the company almost five years. “It’s an ability to say this is a thing that’s wrong.” Retaliation, he says, removes the core barrier of being able to safely raise issues. “The whole process breaks down.”

The organizers have started to label their tactics as labor organizing, which some had previously avoided, fearing that it would be off-putting to a workforce that had traditionally aligned itself more with management. During Maven, a few employees went on “interview strikes,” declining to participate in interviewing and recruiting candidates—a form of protest they accelerated in response to the retaliation claims. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, six months after the walkout, employees embraced another old-school labor organizing strategy, staging a sit-in to address retaliation. In New York, the mood was somber, almost vigil-like. A couple hundred employees gathered to talk about the different kinds of retaliation they said they had faced: for organizing, for reporting sexual harassment. Some cried. There was even talk of forming a union. “We’re not walking back our gains,” says Whittaker, “and we’re not going to shut up.”

A version of this article appears in the June 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Google’s Civil War.”

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