Commentary: Legislators should support whistle-blower protections to prevent limitations on collective action
Author: Jack Poulson, New York Times, Published on: 30 April 2019
"I Used to Work for Google. I Am a Conscientious Objector.", 23 April, 2019
Collective worker action has been a constant... check on questionable projects at Google. The trend... began when a group of engineers... [refused] to build "air gap" technology needed for federal security requirements... [Th]is inspired the... internal effort to end Google’s work on applying artificial intelligence to Pentagon drone footage for targeting insurgents as part of Project Maven. The internal turmoil led to the creation of Google’s A.I. Principles, which committed the company to not “design or deploy” technologies that violate “widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” The combination of Maven’s cancellation and the inability to complete the required federal certifications led to Google’s withdrawal from a $10 billion contract to build the Pentagon’s cloud computing effort called Project JEDI.
... Direct action from tech workers has been undeniably effective. Human rights organizations must... continue to advocate the legal protection of whistle-blowers and conscientious objectors, including protecting the organizing required for an effective collective action... the broader civil society could increase the frequency of whistle-blowing by creating a dedicated legal defense fund...Tech companies are spending record amounts on lobbying... quietly fighting to limit employees' legal protections for organizing. North American legislators [should]... answer... human rights organizations and research institutions by guaranteeing explicit whistle-blower protections... Ideally, [legislators] would vocally support an instrument that legally binds businesses — via international human rights law — to uphold human rights. [also refers to Alibaba, Alphabet, Cisco Systems, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Verizon]