AWU statement on retaliation against Margaret Mitchell


January 20, 2021 at 2pm ET

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The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) is concerned by the suspension of the corporate access of Margaret Mitchell, AWU member and lead of the Ethical AI team. This suspension comes on the heels of Google’s firing of former co-lead Timnit Gebru; together these are an attack on the people who are trying to make Google’s technology more ethical.

With AI permeating every aspect of our world—from criminal justice, to credit scores, to military applications—paying careful attention to ethics within the industry is critical. As one of the most profitable players in the AI industry, Alphabet has a responsibility to continue investing in its ethical application. Margaret founded the Ethical AI team, built a cross-product area coalition around machine learning fairness, and is a critical member of academic and industry communities around the ethical production of AI.

Regardless of the outcome of the company’s investigation, the ongoing targeting of leaders in this organization calls into question Google’s commitment to ethics—in AI and in their business practices. Many members of the Ethical AI team are AWU members and the membership of our union recognizes the crucial work that they do and stands in solidarity with them in this moment.

Google’s earlier statement to Axios is a notable departure from Google’s typical practice of refusing to comment on personnel matters. In this case, they have directly attacked Margaret and attempted to tarnish her reputation by making claims that they’re allegedly still investigating. We know that Alphabet frequently pushes against the limits of legal protections for workers with regards to their termination decisions. Being an individual targeted by one of the world’s largest corporations is terrifying, and reinforces the need for unions in the workplace.

AWU is committed to supporting our members when they face harassment, retaliation, and discrimination. We will be vigilantly monitoring this situation as it progresses.

We are Alphabet Workers who stand united.

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