Over the last few years I’ve seen two very different complaints against tech companies.
Google is the most recent example.
- Workers Being Treated Poorly: I’m 100% in support of unionizing for this reason. Treating contractors like garbage, racism, sexism, other types of discrimination, poor working conditions, etc. These are all the types of issues that lead to the creation of unions in the first place, so…absolutely. I’m with you.
- Unhappiness With What the Company Is Working On: This one makes no sense. Most people weren’t hired to pick what the company works on. And even if you were, you still need the rank to act autonomously or the gravitas to convince others to support you. Being a coder, a PM, or some random manager doesn’t give you those abilities.
The operative issue here is compulsion.
This second situation reminds me of the free speech discussion, where the right-wing types claim censorship because they can’t spread drivel on Twitter without being banned. It’s not censorship because it’s not the government, and it’s the same with complaining about company mission.
Your right to complain scales with your compulsion to participate.
You can’t complain about the work a company is doing when it’s your choice to work there. That’s like walking into a shop that only sells hotdogs and filing a complaint that they don’t have hamburgers.
Not only do they not have to sell hamburgers, but they can be called “Only Hotdogs” and then suddenly one day decide to stop selling hotdogs and only sell Shawarma instead. That’s their choice, because it’s their business.
I wouldn’t be surprised, actually.
What are you going to do? Sue?
If you don’t like what a store sells—and yet you insist on staying there and complaining (loudly) about their inventory—you have some kind of disorder that’s probably hard to pronounce.
If you choose to work at Facebook, or Palantir, or the NSO Group—in the year 2021—you know damn well what they do. You’re not stupid, because if you were you wouldn’t have a job there.
You work there because they pay you a lot of money.
So don’t try to rub Activist Aloe on your bruised conscience by starting a club that complains about the work. That work pays your bills, and you are free to leave any time you want.
This is no different than the hotdog shop.
Walk away or shut the fuck up.
- There is a third case where someone might be genuinely concerned about privacy, or the environment, or whatever issue that said company could be violating, and so they want to oppose that company. No problem. But don’t take a job there, enjoy the free snacks, brag about the job to all your friends, and then one day decide from within that you’re a warrior for good causes. If you have genuinely learned something new about the company, and no longer want to support it, quit. And if you feel strongly enough to oppose them, do it from the outside. This crap about “it’s easier to change it from the inside” is usually what people with no power to actually make that change say when they don’t want to give up the paycheck.