Google ex-employees demand retribution for Thanksgiving massacre

Fired four threaten to file complaint with National Labor Relations Board

The four engineers fired by Google just before Thanksgiving for allegedly e-stalking co-workers have said they will file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming they were subject to an illegal intimidation campaign.

Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers and Sophie Waldman, who worked at the tech giant for between two and 11 years claim that they were fired for questioning the company’s “unethical business decisions” and helping to organize a labor union.

“We participated in legally protected labor organizing, fighting to improve workplace conditions for all Google workers,” the four argue in a blog post.

“We joined together to hold Google accountable for the impact on our workplace of its business decisions, policies, and practices on a range of topics.”

As such, they argue that “as a first step, Unfair Labor Practice charges will be filed with the National Labor Relations Board. We look forward to hearing the NLRB’s findings, which we expect will confirm that Google acted unlawfully.”

Google said it fired the workers for “data security violations,” saying they electronically stalked colleagues working on technology for US Customs and Border Protection. The company says they tracked fellow Googlers suspected of working those projects and leaked confidential information about their targets.

It is “flatly untrue” that they leaked confidential information, the fired engineers argue. Instead they complain of having “our reputations smeared in the press as Google spread rumors that we were rule-breaking troublemakers.” The real reason they were fired, the four claim, is that they were “engaging in protected labor organizing.”

Wide range of concerns

It wasn’t just union organizing however. As the four make clear in their post, they were bitterly opposed to a significant number of projects that Google was working on, including its work with border protection, drone technology with the Defense Department, and a project with the Chinese government to offer a censored search service.

They also actively opposed a number of other decisions including the hiring of someone who spoke in favor of the Trump Administration’s travel ban while working at Homeland Security, the placing of someone who had made controversial comments about immigrants on the now defunct Google’s AI Ethics council.

They also raise a number of internal issues, including the payoff of a senior executive accused of sexual assault, claimed retaliation against other employees that had organized walkouts, and efforts to established unions at various Google locations.

These actions were not only justified but should be supported by Google, the four claim: “Google explicitly encourages us to pursue exactly these goals. The company’s code of conduct states unequivocally: ‘Don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!’ And we did.”

They were disappointed by the reaction: “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.”

Rally cry

The four also use the post to rally other employees to support their stance: “To all of the current employees who have reached out asking how they can help: Thank you! Our answer is the same for everyone working across the tech industry: Now is the time to organize, to join with your colleagues, and hold the bosses accountable!"

Google's Sundar Pichai, speaking at Google I/O 2015

Larry leaves, Sergey splits: Google lads hand over Alphabet reins to Sundar Pichai


"Until we all come together in solidarity, for our workplace, for our communities, and for our world, nothing will change. But every one of us knows what we need and what the world deserves, and together we can make a difference. We WILL fight, and we WILL win. Join us.”

The four are being assisted in their effort by another former Google employee, William Fitzgerald of The Worker Agency.

In September, Google was ordered by the National Labor Relations Board to post statements reminding employees of their rights as part of a settlement with employees who claimed the tech giant had retaliated against them for speaking out about many of the same issues as the fired four.

The statement noted that employees are allowed to speak out on political and workplace issues publicly. But Google also noted that it has its own rules and code of conduct. And a month later, it fired the four engineers that has been central to internal and external protests. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022