On Monday, over 2000 Google employee staged protests over President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, revealing rising tension between the technology industry and new administration.
Google employees of Google parent Alphabet Inc. all over the country, including at campuses in Mountain View, San Francisco, New York and Seattle, were rallying against the immigration ban.
Using the hashtag, #GooglersUnite, employees posted photos and videos on Twitter of the walkout actions around the world. This employee-led rally was also attended by Google co-founder, and now the President of Alphabet Inc, Sergei Brin and Google CEO, Sundar Pichai. Even on Sunday, Brin was down to protest at the San Francisco International Airport.
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) January 30, 2017
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At Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters, Pichai and Brin – both immigrants – spoke to the crowd, voicing concerns over Trump’s order that limits travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Pichai said, “I see many leads from Google here today. We spent two hours this morning talking about all of this. There’s a lot of work which remains to be done. I think it’s important we stay the course and achieve an outcome. I think to do that we all need to learn to reach out and communicate to people from across the country. And I think it’s really important with anything like that we take the extra step to reach out, to have a dialogue and that’s what leads to right outcomes too. But really I think today is about hearing from other voices. We’ve spoken up but I think it’s great to hear the stories so hopefully there will be more and the fight will continue.”
Brin, who is a son of an immigrant, shared his experience with the crowd that his family moved to the USA at the height of the Cold War as a refugee from the USSR when he was only six years old, “yet, even then, the U.S. had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees.”
He said that he was glad to see the energy around the world and to know that people are fighting for what’s right. Ultimately, Brin made the point that it’s important not to frame this debate as being liberal versus republican.
He said, “I think it’s important to not frame this debate as being ‘liberal’ versus ‘Republican’ and so forth. It’s a debate about fundamental values, about thoughtful policymaking and many of the other things that I think are – apparently not universally adored – but I think the vast majority of our country and of our legislators and so forth support. And I think it’s important to frame it in that way and to be inclusive in that way. and sometimes think that might be really difficult because I know we have many many different values here that might not be universally shared. But I think these are really special times and i think it’s important to form friendships with many different people. I hope this energy carries forward in many different ways, beyond what just our company can do, beyond just what company can do, but as really a powerful force and really a powerful moment.”
— Claire Tauziet (@ClaireTauziet) January 30, 2017
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The rally at Google’s Mountain View headquarters also featured Google employees talking about their experiences as a result of the ban. The keynote speaker, Google Assistant Product Manager Soufi Esmaeilzadeh, shared her story about being on a plane from SFO to Zurich when rumors first started circulating about the executive order. Esmaeilzadeh, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen who has lived in the U.S. for the last 15 years, didn’t know what to make of the order, which was enacted the day she landed in Switzerland. After a federal judge ruled in favor of the ACLU’s request to hold off on the implementing the ban, Google flew her home right away.
Many tech companies criticized the order, which was signed late Friday. Pichai sent a note to Google staff that day, saying 187 employees were potentially affected. Google asked those employees overseas to return immediately, pledging to help with the logistics and handle the cost.
Just yesterday, Google has created a $2 million crisis fund that can be matched with up to $2 million in donations from employees, totaling up to $4 million crisis fund to help affected employees with legal and living costs. Pichai wrote, “it’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues” in a leaked email to Google employees. These donations will go towards four organizations, namely the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee and UNHCR.
The disruption comes at a delicate time for Google. The company, which had close ties to the Obama administration, is determining its broader policy approach to Trump on a myriad of issues, including ne neutrality, taxes and competition law.