After a year of employee conflict, regulatory scrutiny and public spite, Google has asked its shareholders to vote against proposals that seek to examine some of its recurring problems. Alphabet Inc., Google‘s parent company, is asking shareholders at its annual meeting to vote against eight shareholder proposals seeking answers or changes related to content removal, anti-competitive actions and diversity. Following the company’s recent public discussions with employees, Trillium Asset Management called for a third-party review of the effectiveness of Google’s whistleblowing policies, specifically citing the departure of co-head of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence team, Timnit. Gebru, on your proposal.
Most companies urge a “no” vote on shareholder proposals, and this is the second year in a row that Alphabet has opposed this particular proposal. In the year since, the tech giant has weathered waves of labor disputes, including some high-profile exits; a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board about dismissals of employees involved in the organization; and the formation of a minority union, a rarity for white-collar tech companies. Jonas Kron, Trillium’s director of promotion, told MarketWatch that “the problem is that things keep happening. I have a hard time getting the company to say not to worry about these things that seem to happen every month. “Trillium’s proposal referred to other layoffs and departures over the years, but was not fully up to date. Earlier this year month, a couple thousand Google workers wrote a letter asking the company to “stop protecting bullies” less than three years after a major employee strike over the same problem. See: Google employees demand a Better Protection Against Internal Harassment Kron also pointed to an NBC News report last month that Google tends to advise its employees to go off leave and seek mental health care when they complain about racism or sexism. A Google spokeswoman said that the company had no comment Monday. In its possession released last week, Google said it already prohibits retaliation against employees who raise policy violations and other types of i concerns, including about the company’s commitment to human rights. The company also said it has intensified its investigation processes since September and is analyzing its investigation data “to ensure that the lessons learned are captured and trusted to further improve our policies, training and investigation results.” The departure of Gebru, who has said her access to email and work systems was cut off after she asked management to discuss the decision to withdraw an AI research paper in which she and her team had worked, has had more public repercussions. His co-leader, Margaret Mitchell, who spoke in support of Gebru, has since been fired. Both women have also said they had expressed concern about race and gender bias in the workplace. Additionally, Google Research Manager Samy Bengio, who had said he was not informed of Gebru’s firing, resigned earlier this month. “Shareholders will see this and say that we were here a year ago and the problems are getting worse,” Kron said, noting that last year’s resolution got 4.9% of shareholder votes, but added the caveat of that the founders of the company have majority voting control. Google opposes all shareholder resolutions. Here’s the rest: A proposal that asks the company to give each share an equal vote. Class B shares have 10 times the voting rights of Class A shares, giving co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin 51% of the voting power despite owning less than 12% of the shares. A resolution urging the company to include a civil or human rights expert on the board. Shareholders cite the “extraordinary impact of the company on human and civil rights” considering its dominance of the search market, the reach of YouTube and the trove of data it has on Internet users. A proposal requesting a report on sustainability metrics related to diversity and inclusion. “According to Google’s 2020 Diversity Report, underrepresented people of color represent only 7.9 percent of Google’s technology workforce and only 6.8 percent of leadership,” the resolution says. A resolution asking for more transparency and details on takedown requests in different jurisdictions, with shareholders requesting to compare Google’s actions with its stated commitment not to pursue technologies that cause harm. A proposal requesting a report on the charitable contributions of the company, especially in light of many recent political and social events. A resolution that asks the board to report on how it monitors risks related to anti-competitive practices. This occurs when the company faces antitrust scrutiny from legislators and regulators. A proposal that calls for the company to become a public benefit corporation, considering its enormous reach and influence throughout the world. Alphabet’s annual shareholders meeting is scheduled for June 2 at 9 a.m. M.