Alphabet, the parent company of Google, failed to pass several proposals to address sexual harassment, antitrust issues and diversity policies at its annual shareholder meeting, despite hundreds of employees protesting outside the event.
The annual meeting comes as Alphabet faces growing pressure from shareholders and employees, including over its handling of sexual harassment allegations, ethical concerns surrounding its artificial intelligence systems, its widespread reliance on and treatment of contract workers and its operations in China.
But the company’s board voted down all 13 proposals shareholders had put forward, which encompassed a wide range of social concerns surrounding the company. They included efforts to change employment practicesand end forced arbitration.
Google removed its policy of forced arbitration regarding sexual assault claims for full-time employees in November 2018, following a walk-out of roughly 20,000 employees over the company’s responses to sexual misconduct.
A representative from Verily, a research organization owned by Alphabet and staffed largely by temporary workers, on Wednesday asked why contractors like himself did not have the same protections.
“Are worth less than other engineers at this company? Do we not all deserve the same rights and protections?” he said. “I came here today because I believe in an equitable Alphabet for employees and contractors, for people of all backgrounds.”
The Alphabet board also voted down a proposal that would require the company to employ “equitable employment practices”.
Other proposals voted on during the meeting included a measure that would require the company to put forward a report on human rights concerns over a search engine in China.
Outside the meeting, Google employees and shareholders demonstrated in favor of abandoning non-disclosure agreements and allowing employees more public forms of redress for harassment and discrimination. The action represented the first time stakeholders and employees joined to protest against the company as backlash to big tech firms grows.
Alphabet on Wednesday also announced new Google products, including Google Lens, a search feature that will allow users to highlight items using their smartphone camera to glean more information; a new job search feature called Pathways; and new emergency services on its Maps tool to warn users about natural disasters.
The company also touted Tuesday’s announcement that it will contribute $1 billion to help build homes in the Bay Area amid a housing and homeless crisis exacerbated by large tech firms there.