Microsoft employees urge company to back protesting Chinese tech workers

Microsoft Logo at Ignite
Microsoft Logo at Ignite (Image credit: Windows Central)

A group of Microsoft employees today called on the company to stand in solidarity with Chinese tech workers who have adopted GitHub as a platform to protest unfair labor practices. In an open letter posted to GitHub in English and Chinese, the Microsoft employees urge their employer to resist any pressure to censor or remove the GitHub repository used by the Chinese workers (via Bloomberg).

The repository in question is called "996.ICU," which is a reference to the working hours that tech workers in China are protesting: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. The ICU refers to employees who work these hours eventually ending up in the Intensive Care Unit at hospitals from the grueling schedules. The repository serves as a place for workers to protest the working conditions and demand change.

Since its inception in March, a number of Chinese browsers have censored the repository. In their open letter, Microsoft employees are urging the company to resist pressure to remove the repository:

In response to these events, we, the workers of Microsoft and GitHub, support the 996.ICU movement and stand in solidarity with tech workers in China. We know this is a problem that crosses national borders. These same issues permeate across full time and contingent jobs at Microsoft and the industry as a whole. Another reason we must take a stand in solidarity with Chinese workers is that history tells us that multinational companies will pit workers against each other in a race to the bottom as they outsource jobs and take advantage of weak labor standards in the pursuit of profit. We have to come together across national boundaries to ensure just working conditions for everyone around the globe.We encourage Microsoft and GitHub to keep the 996.ICU GitHub repository uncensored and available to everyone.

The letter is signed by "30 tech workers."

The letter is another effort by the "Microsoft Workers 4 Good" movement, which has advocated for change on a range of issues related to Microsoft and the tech industry at large, including efforts to combat climate change and ethical concerns over work with the U.S. military on lethal technology.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl