As Americans across the country scrambled to mail off their W-2 and 1099 tax forms on Monday, April 18, a crowd of more than 75 gathered in the muggy drizzle at the Googleplex to demand that the search giant pay its fair share to Uncle Sam.
The protestors carried signs and marched from a far-flung corner of the campus near Highway 101 almost to the headquarters building, occasionally chanting slogans, such as: "Don't cut Medicare/cut corporate welfare!"
The demonstration was just one of many organized across the country by the progressive political group MoveOn.org. Tim Molina, a member of MoveOn, led the local protest.
Fueled in part by an email that was penned by Michael Moore and sent to all MoveOn members, the protestors at Google came from cities all around the Bay Area to accuse Google of dodging what it owes the federal government, and demand that it pay more taxes.
Len Fisher, another MoveOn member, came from Saratoga to protest. He said that he pays quite a bit in taxes and is happy to do so. "I think it's the duty of any citizen to pay taxes," Fisher said. "I think we owe it to our society."
Although Fisher and others at the protest didn't seem to have an entirely clear idea about how much Google paid in taxes this year, and some threw out enormously high numbers about how much the company should have paid (one protestor claimed Google owed trillions of dollars), they all seemed certain that Google and other major companies very often get out of paying taxes by engaging in tricky money-shuffling overseas, by retaining an army of lawyers and by cozying up to the government through lobbyists.
Google had no official comment on the protest, but according to a Bloomberg article published in October of last year, the company does move its money around overseas in order to garner lower corporate tax rates -- a strategy that got one protester particularly riled up.
Paul Buffalo Labont, who addressed the crowd with a charismatic southern drawl and forceful, pro-labor rhetoric said he had no patience for corporations that go to great lengths to avoid paying taxes.
"The taxpayers put this road in," Labont exclaimed, gesturing toward Garcia Avenue. "We put this sidewalk in! We put in their sewer system!" When asked what he thought about the idea that Google may have taken advantage of tax loopholes to lower the amount it owes, he said, "My blood pressure goes up!"
Sandy Spiers, who came from Sunnyvale with her daughter, said that she didn't suspect that Google was breaking any laws, and made sure to say that she is still a fan of Google's products.
"A lot of it is legal -- it's just not right," Spiers said. "I don't think it is Google that has created the problem. They are just playing by the rules. But we have to change the rules for everybody."