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谷歌不作惡?有些員工不同意|谷歌內戰紀實

柯問思(Beth Kowitt) 2019年06月09日

一些員工說,谷歌正在逐漸遠離“不作惡”的口號。當擁有自主權的科技行業員工集體抗議時,將會發生什么?

事情開始于谷歌在東京的辦公室,2018年11月1日當地時間上午11點10分,100位員工走出谷歌辦公室。13個小時后,谷歌位于紐約市的總部的電梯塞滿了人,員工們從樓梯下樓到街上抗議。奧斯汀的谷歌員工在示威時,還為性侵犯受害者集體沉默了兩分鐘。在舊金山,數百位員工從歷史悠久的渡輪大廈乘船聚集,高呼“谷歌是時候行動了”,還舉著“員工權利也是女性權利”和“免費食物不等于安全”等標語。

在悉尼的谷歌員工罷工抗議后,也是亞洲加入抗議的25小時后,全球50個城市的20000名谷歌員工加入了罷工行動,集體抗議公司對性騷擾的處理。

引發本次罷工的導火索是一周之前《紐約時報》的報道,文中稱盡管面臨谷歌認為對前執行官安迪·魯賓的性騷擾指控屬實,還是支付了9000萬美元的離職補償。(魯賓發給《紐約時報》的聲明中稱,報道“對工作狀況描述有多處失實”。)

這是科技行業巨頭第一次出現如此大規模的員工抗議,顯然也是外界第一次了解到谷歌員工是多么的憤怒和沮喪。其實在谷歌內部,導致罷工的各種問題已經積攢數月。隨著員工與管理層就私自做有爭議的商業決策、邊緣化員工群體的待遇以及公司內部平臺上對員工的騷擾和羞辱發生沖突,緊張局勢不斷加劇。“這是美國文化戰爭在微觀層面的體現。”今年2月離職的工程師科林·麥克米倫表示。

在許多觀察人士看來,向來以高薪和待遇優厚出名的科技從業者似乎沒有資格抱怨。尤其谷歌一直是硅谷巨頭,崇尚精英主義和烏托邦式的技術未來主義,員工集體抗議實在令人震驚。但在過去幾年里,有人質疑科技行業號稱要改變世界的宣言(一邊改變一邊賺錢!),認為在科技改變世界的同時破壞力也倍增,從干擾大選到社交媒體平臺有害內容泛濫,到侵犯隱私,再到科技成癮。說起對科技行業強大力量的感知,以及道德上的困惑,沒有人比科技行業的員工體會更深刻。“人們開始說:‘我不想再助紂為虐。’”梅雷迪思·惠特克表示。她負責領導谷歌的開放研究小組,也是罷工的組織者之一。她說,員工們開始承擔責任,“目前還沒有發現能控制科技業力量的組織架構存在。”

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.”

插圖:Nicolas Ortega

所謂的科技業罷工潮為全行業蒙上了一層陰影,有組織的員工抵制逐漸蔓延。亞馬遜的員工要求公司采取更多行動應對氣候變化;微軟的員工表示不愿意為戰爭開發技術;Salesforce內部一個團隊游說管理層結束與美國海關和邊境保護局的合作。與此同時,各公司在某種程度上都傾向男性程序員文化,導致科技行業變成了女性和有色人種受到歧視的重災區。

但其他公司都沒有谷歌一樣大聲抗議,而且堅持公開。在硅谷內部人士看來比較正常,因為谷歌的架構原本就適合員工發聲。谷歌高舉“不作惡”的口號,帶頭開創了科技繁榮的樂觀氛圍。“谷歌有意識地營造了這種形象。”斯坦福大學的一位計算機科學名譽教授特里·溫諾格拉德說,他是谷歌聯合創始人拉里·佩奇的研究生院顧問,也繼續在谷歌技術咨詢委員會任職。谷歌的兩位聯合創始人是現年46歲的佩奇和45歲的謝爾蓋·布林,兩人曾經有意開創質疑權威和現狀的企業文化。在2004年的IPO信中,他們寫道:谷歌不是傳統公司,以后也不會變成傳統公司。

谷歌的一些員工表示,谷歌打破傳統的承諾已經受到質疑。在采訪了32位谷歌現員工和前員工之后,能夠看出“老谷歌”和“新谷歌”之間的界限。1998年,佩奇和布林還在斯坦福大學讀博士期間,在加州門洛帕克的一個車庫里開始創業,至于公司前后兩個階段是否存在明顯界限,取決于問的是誰。不過各人在描述前后變化時有個相同模式,都說“老谷歌”時期的員工在公司運營方面有發言權。在“新谷歌”時期,普通員工和高管之間的溝通和信任正在下降。有人說,現在谷歌的決策權集中在高層,追求的指標越來越接近于傳統公司。

如今,谷歌正在努力緩和過去20年煽動的激進文化,處境十分尷尬。谷歌和母公司Alphabet的員工已經超過10萬名,高管們承認既要維持規模又要堅守傾聽員工呼聲等基本原則很艱難。“如果沒有堅持之前的文化,很難實現高速增長。”谷歌的高級副總裁兼首席執行官桑達爾·皮查伊領導團隊成員珍·菲茨帕特里克說。(皮查伊拒絕了《財富》雜志的采訪請求。)谷歌稱,針對視角和項目多元化不斷增長將加強管理,也將努力預測員工要求透明處理的各種問題。然而公司也補充說,員工中的積極分子人數不多但聲量很大,其意見并不能代表全體員工。

“2018年對我們來說不同尋常,其中某些問題的嚴重性和性質并不一樣。”谷歌的人事分析副總裁布萊恩·韋勒表示。在今年2月泄露給媒體的公司內部谷歌精神調查的結果中,能夠看出騷動的原因。2017年關鍵指標出現了兩位數百分點的下降。舉例來說,74%的受訪者表示對皮查伊和管理團隊抱有信心,比之前一年下降了18個百分點。

對谷歌來說,最具挑戰性的是員工拒絕將不滿情緒隱藏在公司內部,而且由于員工積極分子對媒體工具運用熟練,加上全世界對頂尖公司的迷戀,效果得以放大。從某個層面上看,谷歌罷工跟普通工廠罷工差不多,都是勞動力發揮集體力量向掌權人傳達信息(在谷歌,目標是首席執行官皮查伊)。但即使谷歌內部的活躍員工也要依靠傳統的勞工組織策略,訴求也不僅是典型的工資或福利方面。關鍵不是工資單,員工明顯想對研發的產品掌握更大的發言權和控制權。

谷歌已經改變了當今工作的許多方面。本次罷工是一個轉折點,表明谷歌準備破壞經濟體系中更為基礎的部分,即勞動力和資本之間的關系。這種轉變或許只能從硅谷開始,因為一直以來硅谷自認為高于傳統的商業問題,而且或許只能從谷歌開始,因為谷歌向來以“不作惡”的前提招聘和留住員工。現在,員工似乎下定決心通過自己的視角看待這個口號,毫不妥協地加以應用,即使代價是公司的發展。“誰決定了谷歌的靈魂是什么?誰決定了谷歌是什么?”谷歌的前高管陸克曼·崔問道,此前他是公司內部亞太平洋地區言論自由和審查問題專家。“是領導還是員工?公司靈魂方面,正進行一場真正的戰斗。”

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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谷歌的遠大使命是組織全世界的信息方便獲取,所以谷歌將書本數字化,在汽車頂上安裝攝像頭通過圖像繪制世界地圖,還用硬紙板為用戶提供虛擬現實體驗。

但隨著公司規模不斷壯大,其野心也隨之增加。2018年,谷歌的員工發現兩個新項目在秘密進行,有些人質疑谷歌為了擴張遠超正常業務范圍。

第一個是五角大樓的“馬文”項目,利用人工智能分析無人機拍攝的畫面。2017年谷歌成為國防部“馬文”項目的分包商之類,但直到第二年一位員工在谷歌內部社交平臺上發表帖子寫到該秘密項目,多數員工才終于得知。高管告訴表示擔心的員工,“馬文”項目主要出于防御目的,并非為了攻擊。盡管如此,一些工人仍然擔心谷歌的技術會被用來提升無人機的殺傷力,而且“馬文”項目之后谷歌與軍方可能達成更多協議。此外還有人擔心,管理層的說法是該合同為了支持“我們的”軍隊,而谷歌的員工來自于全球各地,很難產生共鳴。

當時在愛爾蘭工作的工程師勞拉·諾蘭認為,“這是嚴重的背叛。”她說。“表面看上去是一家快樂的公司,組織令人愉快的信息,然后突然發現離殺人無人機沒有幾步。” 諾蘭說,她的工作未來將推動“馬文”項目發展,所以選擇離職。諾蘭之類的員工并不希望谷歌像雷神公司一樣變成國防承包商,甚至像亞馬遜一樣跟軍方合作還毫不掩飾也不羞愧。

其實在公司多數人了解“馬文”項目之前,幾位高級工程師私下里便越發擔心。“馬文”項目傳開之后,抵制行動也不斷蔓延,一群員工寫信給皮查伊要求取消該項目。2018年3月,公司想在每周召開的全體會議,也就是廣為人知的TGIF上解決問題。自成立之初,該會議就一直是谷歌文化的核心,很大程度上因為任何人都有機會在會上質疑高管。開會時一位員工告訴高管層,她曾經在國防部工作,就是為了避免為軍事技術做貢獻才離開。她問道,要怎樣才能讓管理層知道此舉不可行?布林告訴她,你能在這里提出問題,本身就是強大的聲音。在某些公司,高管如此回應就算完事。但在谷歌卻不行。

管理層繼續組織論壇,努力解決員工的疑問,解釋為什么他們認為“馬文”項目很有價值,還在辦公室組織了三場集體會議談論人工智能的倫理問題。

一群組織者持續施加壓力,每周的TGIF會議上都有關于“馬文”的問題。他們統計了因該項目辭職的員工人數,發放貼紙,利用谷歌內部的表情包生成器制作有關“馬文”的表情包。2018年4月,內部爭論終于公之于眾,當時一封員工聯名發給首席執行官皮查伊的信泄露給了《紐約時報》,后來該信征集了近5000名員工的簽名。

當年6月,谷歌宣布不再續簽“馬文”的合同,并發布了一套人工智能原則,為該技術的未來制定了指導方針,其中包括承諾不使用該技術制造武器等。多數活躍員工都認為這是一次勝利,但當年晚些時候,在《紐約時報》的一次會議上,皮查伊淡化了內部壓力的影響。“我們不靠公投管理公司。”他解釋說,做決定時找搭建人工智能的人們征詢了意見。不過,他強調說網絡安全等領域公司將繼續與軍方合作。

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.

“這樣不行,谷歌”:全球2萬名谷歌員工參加了2018年11月的罷工。圖片來源:Michael Short—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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但隨著谷歌管理層越發用保密當成控制決策的手段,谷歌一些活躍員工轉而采取了相反的態度,向媒體表達擔憂。

麗茲·方-瓊斯說,這對谷歌來說是巨大的文化轉變,之前如果未經批準就跟媒體交流就會“遭到唾棄”。方-瓊斯此前在谷歌擔任網站可靠性工程師,向來大膽批評谷歌,不過范圍限制在公司(虛擬)墻之內。

不過在2018年1月,她的觀點發生了變化。催化劑是2017年7月谷歌工程師詹姆斯·達摩爾臭名昭著的備忘錄,內部發表的10頁文件中認為,之所以科技行業內女性人數較少,是因為生理差異而不是偏見等社會因素,還認為谷歌的多元化努力具有歧視性。達摩爾后來被解雇,他的這篇文章在谷歌的自由留言板和郵件群里激起了眾怒。各種內部溝通渠道也是谷歌文化的獨特之處,公司內部有數萬種溝通渠道,主題從工程到所謂“貓奴”關注的喵星人百科無所不包。

達摩爾的支持者向右翼新聞網站泄露變性女性方-瓊斯和谷歌多元化倡導者在留言板上的評論后,情況變得更糟。方-瓊斯說,抗議組織遭到騷擾和暴力威脅,盡管多次請求幫助,但管理層也無力阻止。“我們請管理層阻止惡意泄密行為。”她表示。方-瓊斯與管理層交流方面有過成功案例。她曾經成功地讓公司廢除了一項規定:要求員工在社交網站Google Plus上使用真名。她說服高管,該政策將使最易受攻擊的員工受到網絡暴力攻擊,導致情況惡化。但她感覺事到如今管理層和員工之間的溝通已然破裂。

她意識到問題無法內部解決,這就夠了。2017年10月,方-瓊斯和其他一些被盯上的員工見了通常跟低工資工人合作的“工友網站”,一起思考公關和內部組織策略。“很明顯,公司不會采取任何行動,要通過媒體施加壓力。”方-瓊斯說。今年1月,她和其他14名現任和前員工接受《連線》雜志采訪,討論了騷擾事件和谷歌對此事的回應。

要知道,未獲公司批準就接受《連線》采訪觸碰了谷歌的大忌,團體成員在內部發表了文章解釋動機,明確表示討論工作條件(勞動法規定的受保護權利)與泄露谷歌產品以及其他保密信息不是一回事,他們認為泄露產品信息之類是過分行為。不出所料,并不是所有同事都同意。“我看到一些負面評論,比如,你們真是太差了,為什么要把谷歌的‘丑事’公開呢?”麥克米倫說,他是接受《連線》采訪的谷歌員工之一。

方-瓊斯說,她之所以堅守底線不可泄露產品信息,原因是一旦泄露,管理層便有強大理由跟員工共享更少信息。有人指出,去年8月發生的事就是個典型的例子。每周的TGIF會議上布林和皮查伊發表講話時,很明顯,現場的某人或觀看直播的某人向《紐約時報》的一位記者泄露了講話內容,該記者在推特上實時發布了討論情況,傳遍全世界。

一個員工站起來對匿名泄密者罵道:“去你媽的!”同事們響起掌聲。“這件事徹底毀了TGIF會議。”麥克米倫說。“TGIF上再也不會說什么重要的事了。”

在鮑爾森離開谷歌時,公司曾經警告他不要跟媒體談。“有人明確告訴我,如果以后我還想回公司,可以忽視我的政治主張,主要看技術貢獻,前提是我不跟媒體說公司情況,那樣的話就不可原諒了。” 他告訴《財富》雜志說。“老實說,如果他們知道我們在打電話交流,肯定會很生氣。”

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.”

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罷工之前,皮查伊向員工發了一份備忘錄表示支持,在當天的一次會議上,他承認谷歌也并非事事都做得對。“公司內部有人憤怒和沮喪。”他說,“大家都能感覺到。我也感覺到了。”在谷歌山景城總部,首席財務官露絲·波拉特和團隊一起參與了罷工。其他高管都拒絕回答有沒有參與。菲茨帕特里克告訴《財富》雜志,當天她不在辦公室,被問到如果公司會不會參加時,她拒絕回答。

企業的一些反應讓組織者感到不對勁。他們認為一些高管的支持態度只是想把罷工變成某種經公司批準的野外聚餐。有些人會問,如果波拉特真心支持罷工,為何不利用身為高管的地位實現員工的訴求?

不久之后麥克米倫和方-瓊斯都選擇離職,他們發現公司的反應非常遲緩。對方-瓊斯來說,最大的失望在于公司不愿意回應組織者的要求,即讓一位員工代表加入董事會。“員工對于公司面臨的問題方面理解其實非常深刻。”她表示。讓她很高興的是還有很多人繼續斗爭,但她已然筋疲力盡。

谷歌管理層已經顯露出傾聽員工呼聲的意愿,在某些情況下也愿意改變。谷歌表示之前過度依賴TGIF,現在公司規模太大業務也太廣,不可能靠每周一小時的會議解決每個問題。目前公司正在嘗試添加不同的論壇,比如集體會議主要解決單個主題,比如最近發布的多樣性報告。“發現有人舉起手說:‘沒有人認真傾聽我的意見。’公司才意識到。”菲茨帕特里克說。為了制止內部平臺上不文明交流的增多,新制定的“社區指南”禁止在工作文件中有侮辱言辭和提及性行為,要求每個在線小組配備一位主持人,主持人要經過培訓。公司還針對性騷擾等問題修改了內部報告渠道。

谷歌員工也開始在公司外靈活發揮力量。員工罷工訴求之一便是取消強制仲裁,該規定要求員工私下解決與公司的糾紛。一群谷歌員工已經將戰爭推到了華盛頓,積極推動立法禁止該行為。“國會議員與谷歌員工開會,之前可沒有跟墨西哥餐廳Chipotle的員工開會。”谷歌里的存在論者維姬·塔爾迪夫表示,她在公司已經工作了八年。她表示,如果這些行動真能做成一些事,“那么我們實現了來谷歌工作時的理想。”

今年4月,兩位策劃罷工的關鍵女性惠特克和克萊爾·斯臺普頓發表了一封公開信,指責谷歌因為兩人組織罷工采取報復,公司內部沖突也達到新水平。惠特克寫道,人工智能協會解散后,有人告訴她要想留在公司,就得放棄她在谷歌從事的人工智能倫理方面工作,也要退出她聯合創辦的外部組織“現在人工智能研究所”。斯臺普頓說,她在谷歌工作了近12年,但在罷工兩個月后公司通知她被降職,之后又告訴她應該休病假,雖然她沒有生病。后來她聘請了一名律師,谷歌才進行調查撤銷了降職。“我們觸及了威脅谷歌生存的東西。”斯臺普頓對《財富》雜志表示。當天公司就回應了對兩人的指控,發表聲明稱不存在報復,禁止“在公司采取報復行為并調查所有指控”。

對一些員工來說,指控公司報復已經是最嚴重的情況。許多組織工作均由網站可靠性工程師領導。他們的職責是運營谷歌最關鍵的服務,哪里出現問題就要趕去修理。他們排查和診斷問題,而且人們希望他們提出意見和問題。“你得尋找弱點。”曾經擔任網站可靠性工程師的方-瓊斯說,“如果你認為某些事情不對勁時,就要提出質疑。”在網站可靠性工程師的世界里,有個概念叫“無可指責的驗尸”,這是一種回顧錯誤但不用懲罰任何人的方法。“這是谷歌文化的基本組成部分。” 隱私工程師塔里克·優素福說,他已經在谷歌工作近五年。“如此一來人們才能大膽指出錯誤。”他表示,報復行為消除了安全提出問題的核心保障。“整個流程都崩潰了。”

組織者開始將策略稱為勞工組織,之前有些人曾經避免這么叫,擔心過去經常支持管理層的員工對此產生偏見。在“馬文”項目期間,一些員工采取了“面試罷工”,即拒絕參加面試和招聘候選人,這也抗議報復行為的回應。5月1日是國際勞動節,罷工六個月后,員工接受了另一個老派的勞工組織戰略,靜坐示威抗議報復。在紐約靜坐時氣氛陰沉,像守夜一樣。幾百名員工聚集在一起,討論遭受不同類型的報復,有的是因為組織抗議,有的是因為控告性騷擾。有些人哭了。甚至有人討論成立工會。“我們不會放棄利益訴求。”惠特克說,“我們也不會閉嘴。”(財富中文網)

本文另一版本登載于《財富》雜志2019年6月刊,標題為《谷歌內戰》。

譯者: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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