Last week, Google fired four employees in what they claim was a targeted effort to curtail labor organizing efforts at the company.
The engineers leveled the allegations in a statement Tuesday, accusing the Silicon Valley giant of retaliating against them for speaking up about a range of both internal and external issues they say are fostering employee discontent.
That includes having supported a successful unionization effort by “temp, vendor, and contractor” workers at Google’s office in Pittsburgh, and a less-successful effort in Zurich, Switzerland, where Google’s attempt to cancel a union meeting provoked backlash. They also protested the company’s links with “anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant” organizations, support for militarized technology, and Google’s attempts to build “a censored search engine in China.”
As a result, the four engineers who were terminated ― Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers and Sophie Waldman ― said Tuesday they plan to file unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
(The four are not to be confused with the organizers of last year’s Google Walkout, who also say they were retaliated against for their efforts.)
The engineers were fired less than a week after news broke that Google had hired an anti-union consulting firm to advise management, and about a month after Google installed mandatory software on employees’ computers that alerted managers about meetings involving large groups of employees.
“Google wants to send a message to everyone: if you dare to engage in protected labor organizing, you will be punished,” the group wrote in their statement. “They count on the fear, the sadness, and the anger that we are all feeling to stop us all from exercising our rights, and to chill all attempts to hold one of the most powerful organizations in history accountable for its actions.”
Federal law prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against employees who collectively seek to improve their working conditions.
A Google spokeswoman denied the allegations in an emailed statement to HuffPost, saying the individuals were fired for violating data security policies.
“We dismissed four individuals who were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees’ materials and work,” the Google statement read. “No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company’s activities.”
The group, meanwhile, disputes this. They say any claim they “leaked” sensitive information is “flatly untrue” and that in private meetings with Google leadership, the company has acknowledged this.
″[Google’s] code of conduct states unequivocally: ‘don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!’” the group wrote Tuesday.
“So we spoke up, and how did they respond? Google didn’t respond by honoring its values, or abiding by the law. It responded like a large corporation more interested in revenue growth than in ensuring worker rights and ethical conduct.”