Google fires 4 workers active in labor organizing

Friday, 29 Nov, 2019

Since the massive employee-led walkout last November, organizers say Google has tried to undermine further attempts to organize.

Google terminated four employees on Monday, citing "clear and repeated violations" of its data-security policies, according to a memo obtained and published by Bloomberg's Gerrit De Vynck, Mark Bergen, and Ryan Gallagher. The e-mail, sent on behalf of the Google security and investigation team, indicated that the dismissed employees had mis-accessed the employees' agenda. containing information about their location and shared it with external sources.

On Monday, the company fired four Googlers, who have come known as the "Thanksgiving Four", telling staff that they had been let go for reasons of "data security" and "employee safety".

Google employees held a mass protest outside the company's San Francisco office on Friday against its action of putting employee activists on administrative leave where both Berland and Rivers spoke up.

One of the employees, Rebecca Rivers, notably criticized the firm's work with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is under fire for its family separation policies in the Trump administration.

"With these firings, Google is ramping up its illegal retaliation", the statement continues.

"This is a classic trade union dressed in technical industry jargon, and we won't stand for it", they stated. Other critics voiced their support for the fired workers online, saying the company's decision was in retaliation of protests rather than for security reasons.

As a result of the activism of Rivers and Berland, almost 1,500 Google employees had signed a petition demanding that the company "publicly commit not to support CBP, ICE, or ORR with any infrastructure, funding, or engineering resources, directly or indirectly, until they stop engaging in human rights abuses".

"We've seen a recent increase in information being shared outside the company, including the names and details of our employees", the Google email reportedly said.

Laurence Berland, a Google staffer suspended alongside Rivers, acknowledged viewing the calendars of people on different teams at Friday's demonstration, but said such calendars were visible to all workers. Google introduced numerous office perks that are now common across Silicon Valley, and its embrace of transparent relations between workers and management has influenced a generation of startups. She confirmed her firing in a message posted on Twitter.

"When they did, Google took revenge on them".

Workers have also questioned Google over a secret project to develop a search engine for China, created to aid in its censorship regime. Google claims that the workers who were fired accessed privileged information without permission. However, Katie Hutchison, the spokesperson of Google declined to name the employees.

"They think this will crush our efforts, but it won't", the Google workers statement distributed on Monday added.

Workers were also naturally drawn by a sense that, despite being a corporation, employers like Google were on a mission to make the world a better place, said James Bailey, a management professor at George Washington University.