Top Stories of 2018: Employee activism

In the final installment of our 2018 retrospective, we look at one of the more interesting phenomena to occur this year - employee activism.
By: | December 21, 2018


One of the more interesting phenomena to occur this year was that of employee activism.

For instance, at Microsoft, workers implored their employer to re-consider a multi-billion dollar defense contract – all due to ethical concerns.

“When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of ‘empowering every person on the planet to achieve more,’ not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality,” wrote the anonymous employees in a letter posted on the online sharing platform Medium.

Over at Salesforce, hundreds of employees petitioned CEO Marc Benioff to reconsider contracts with the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP).

The CBP has come under fire this year for how it has enacted border policies in the US-Mexico border, including the separation of family groups.

Bloomberg, which received a copy of the employee letter, cites it as saying, “Given the inhuman separation from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should re-examine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices.”

In response, Benioff said that Salesforce products were not involved in the CBP’s border activities, and that he was “very proud of all our employees for organising actions supportive of families at the border”.

But the biggest gain in momentum for employee activism was seen at Google, with multiple protests, public and otherwise, over various projects at the company. Check out our roundup of these incidents, below:

  • Google employees protest China censorship project
    Some 1,400 Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s top-secret censorship project for China. The project, dubbed Dragonfly, involves the company building a special version of Google that blocks certain websites or keywords related to topics such as democracy and religion.
  • Google employees plan walkout against “workplace bro” culture
    Some 200 Google engineers planned to walk out in protest of the company’s seeming “workplace bro” culture. It was organised in response to the company protecting employees such as Andy Rubin – the so-called “Father of Android”, who had created and run the team behind the mobile operating system – when they faced allegations of misconduct.
  • In Pictures: Google employees around the world stage walkout
    More than 1,000 Google employees across multiple international offices staged a short walkout, more than five times the initially-predicted 200. The walkout occurred in Tokyo, Singapore, Dublin, and many more major Google hubs. Organisers called for the appointment of an Employee Representative to the board, among other demands.

For more of 2018’s biggest stories, click here: Top Stories of 2018