Hundreds Of Google Staff Protest Vaccine Mandate

Staff push back. At least 600 staff at Google sign manifesto opposing firm’s widened Covid-19 vaccine mandate on workforce

Alphabet’s Google division is once again facing unrest among its workforce – posing a fresh challenge to senior management.

Hundreds of Google staff have signed and circulated a manifesto opposing its widened Covid vaccine mandate, according to internal communications viewed by CNBC.

The protest comes after Google in September confirmed that its staff would only return to the office for three days a week on Monday 10th January 2022, as the Coronavirus pandemic continues around the world.

Vaccine mandate

But before that in July this year, Google (and Facebook/Meta) became the first two tech giants to require their staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19, when they return to offices or campuses.

This vaccine mandate has since been adopted by other tech firms as well, and it comes after the Biden administration ordered American companies with 100 or more staff to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid-19 by 4 January.

In response to this, Google asked its 150,000 employees to upload their vaccination status to its internal systems by 3 December, whether they plan to come into the office or not, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC.

And Google’s global security VP told all staff members, working directly or indirectly with federal government contracts, that they will require vaccinations – even those working from home.

“Vaccines are key to our ability to enable a safe return to office for everyone and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in our communities,” Chris Rackow, Google VP of security, reportedly wrote in an email sent near the end of October.

Rackow said Google had already implementing requirements, so the changes from Biden’s executive order were “minimal.”

His email gave a deadline of 12 November for staff to request exemptions for reasons such as religious beliefs or medical conditions. He also said exceptions would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Protest manifesto

But this has not gone down well among a small section of Google’s workforce, after 600 staff members signed and circulated a manifesto opposing the company’s Covid vaccine mandate.

According to CNBC, the manifesto asks company leaders to retract the vaccine mandate and create a new one that is “inclusive of all Googlers.”

The manifesto also calls on staff to “oppose the mandate as a matter of principle” and tells employees to not let the policy alter their decision if they’ve already chosen not to get the Covid vaccine.

However it should be noted that in reality this is a small protest, as only 600 of 150,000 Google employees have signed the manifesto opposing the vaccine mandate.

And a spokesperson for Google has said the firm backs its vaccine mandate.

“As we’ve stated to all our employees and the author of this document, our vaccination requirements are one of the most important ways we can keep our workforce safe and keep our services running,” the spokesperson told CNBC. “We firmly stand behind our vaccination policy.”

Previous protests

Google staff are of course not shy about making their opinions known, and management have had to confront a number of staff protests in recent years.

In January for example, staff at Google for the first time ever formed their own trade union after years of issues among its workforce.

The ‘Alphabet Workers Union’ was launched with the existing ‘Communications Workers Union of America’, and began by ‘demanding change at work’.

One of the complaints by staff was about former executives who were awarded tens of millions of dollars in exit packages after documented sexual harassment against fellow Googlers.

This prompted mass walk-outs in Google offices around the world in previous years.

Another bone of contention came when Google took “unethical government contracts”, such as drone targeting for the military, yet kept the nature of that technology secret even to the Googlers working on those projects.

Google staff protested against a number of Google projects, including a censored search engine in China (Project Dragonfly) and a contract with the Pentagon to analyse drone footage (Project Maven).

And staff were deeply unhappy over the ‘firing’ of Dr. Timnit Gebru, a leading artificial intelligence researcher, last year.

Google management have also been accused previously on spying on staff, and hiring IRI, a notorious anti-union firm, to suppress the creation of a trade union.

Indeed in December 2019 the Communications Workers of America union filed a federal labour charge against Google, alleging it unlawfully fired four employees (the Thanksgiving four) to deter workers from engaging in union activities.