Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘walkout’

Workers stage a walkout to protest gun sales at Walmart stores

Friday, August 9th, 2019
“There’s an intense irony that Walmart continues to sell guns, despite the constant shootings in its stores.”

Dozens of Walmart workers at an e-commerce facility in San Bruno, California, walked out Wednesday to protest the retailer’s continued sale of firearms, despite two recent deadly mass shootings.

The 40 or so employees stood outside in a circle for 15 minutes, according to The Washington Post. Gathered together, the group hung their heads during a moment of silence for victims of the recent gun violence.

Among the group was e-commerce employee Kate Kesner, who helped organize the protest. “There’s an intense irony that Walmart continues to sell guns despite the constant shootings in its stores,” Kesner said.

While Walmart, the second largest retailer in the world, stopped selling assault rifles in 2015, it still sells firearms in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores. The retailer also continues to make headlines for its sale of a bullet resistant backpack.

Tom Misner, an operations manager at the San Bruno site, told the Post that he was a firm believer in the Second Amendment, but “I don’t understand how that has included weapons of mass destruction.”

He hopes that the company, which also donates to politicians who accept funding from the National Rifle Association (NRA), would use its might to fight for make-sense gun policy. “Congress will not do anything,” he told the Post.

The walkout at Walmart comes just days after Saturday’s mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that killed 22 people. Several hours later, a gunman opened fire early Sunday outside a popular nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people including his sister.

Mass shootings claim multiple lives and grab headlines, but account for just a small fraction of the deaths attributed to gun violence.

Days before the El Paso shooting, Walmart became the venue for another deadly shooting. In Mississippi, a disgruntled ex-employee returned to the store and shot and killed two managers before being shot and injured by police.

On Wednesday, two men were arrested at a Walmart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for an isolated incident involving a gun. After one pulled a pair of scissors on the other during an argument, the second brandished his firearm, sending nearby patrons into a panic.

Given the recurring violent incidents, Walmart removing firearms completely from its shelves would seem like a no-brainer to some. But another retailer, Dick’s Sporting Goods, experienced a decline in sales in an apparent backlash after removing firearms and ammunition from its stores in 2018.

Still, while Walmart could play a very important role in the fight to end gun violence, which side of history they will be on stands to be determined. So far, company officials have told the Post that they believe there are more constructive ways for workers to voice their concerns than staging a protest.

“There are more effective channels such as email or leadership conversations. The vast majority of our associates who want to share their views are taking advantage of those options,” said Randy Hargrove, a spokesperson for the retailer.

Organizers of the San Bruno protest also started a Change.org petition to call on company executives to stop selling firearms, and as of publication, it was just 5,000 signatures shy of its 50,000 goal.

This article appeared originally in Think Progress on August 8, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kay Wicker is the editorial assistant at ThinkProgress, and also covers gun policy.

Google employees demand company do something about sexual harassment and pay inequality

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

All over the world, employees at Google are demonstrating that they won’t tolerate sexual harassment, low pay, and other poor working conditions. Google workers in  London, Zurich, Dublin, Berlin, Tokyo, and Singapore organized walkouts on Thursday. U.S. workers in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Mountain View, California have also walked out.

Workers were responding to a New York Times article from last week that showed the tech company paid millions of dollars to male executives who were accused of sexual harassment and kept it a secret. One of these executives, Andy Rubin, was given a $90 million exit package despite a woman’s credible claims of sexual violence.

Google staff have decided to leave notes on their desks that read, “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone,” according to the BBC.

According to a 2017 Women in Tech survey, 53 percent of female tech employees said they had experienced harassment when working in tech and 63 percent of women said it happened two or three times. Twenty three percent of women who experienced harassment said they reported the incident to senior leadership and 16 percent reported it to HR. Thirty-five percent of those workers who reported said they suffered repercussions and only 9 percent said their harassers experienced consequences for their actions.

Workers also have a specific set of demands for management, including a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality, disclosure of sexual harassment to the public, an inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously, having the chief diversity officer answer directly to the CEO, appointing an employee representative to the board, and ending forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. The latter demand would apply to both current and future workers at Google. The chief diversity officer would also make recommendations directly to the Google’s board of directors.

Issues such as forced arbitration and nondisclosure agreements have received more attention after a slew of news stories broke last year showing powerful men had long histories of sexual harassment and violence — and that for decades, they got away with it.

In October, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced legislation that would ban mandatory arbitration and class and collective action waivers in labor matters. Earlier this year, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to prohibit certain kinds of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that aid to silence sexual harassment victims.

Brenda Salinas, a Google employee in London, told The New York Times that although she did not participate in the walkout due to an injury, she supported it.

“Last week was one of the hardest weeks of my yearlong tenure at Google, but today is the best day. I feel like I have thousands of colleagues all over the world who like me, are committed to creating a culture where everyone is treated with dignity,” she told the Times.

Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive, said on Wednesday that “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes” and that “We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

Google workers have been trying to address issues of inequality and gender and racial biases in their workplace for years. One example of this tension is the 10-page memo authored by James Damore that was circulated throughout the company last year and that opposed hiring that considered racial and gender diversity in tech. Damore suggested that women were biologically unsuited for advancement in tech and listed personality traits he said women have more of. Damore wrote, “Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance). This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.”

Damore was eventually fired in August of last year, after the memo was leaked to the press. Last year, the Department of Labor also reviewed a sample of compensation data for Google. The department  has accused the Google of “extreme” discrimination against female employees and said there is a “systemic” gap in pay between men and women at company. Google has resisted giving the department all the data it has on the matter, and in July of last year, an administrative law judge sided with Google and said the request was “unduly burdensome.”

Now there is a revised gender-pay class action lawsuit against Google that adds a complainant and says Google asked people for their prior salaries before hiring them, according to TechCrunch. California recently passed a law that doesn’t allow employers to ask applicants about their previous salaries. If someone discloses that information without being asked, the employer is not supposed to consider it when deciding how much they should be paid. On Friday, the class action moved forward with a hearing in San Francisco.

Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano told TechCrunch in January, “We disagree with the central allegations of this amended lawsuit … We work really hard to create a great workplace for everyone, and to give everyone the chance to thrive here.”

Across the world, employees are showing Google they disagree.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on November 2, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Casey Quinlan is a policy reporter at ThinkProgress covering economic policy and civil rights issues. Her work has been published in The Establishment, The Atlantic, The Crime Report, and City Limits.

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