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'They Want Us Afraid:' Fired Google Workers Fight Back Against Tech Giant With NLRB Complaint

"They count on the fear, the sadness, and the anger that we are all feeling to stop us all from exercising our rights. But what they didn't count on is the strength, the resolve, and the solidarity of Googlers and our allies."

Three of the four Google workers who announced Thursday they would file a federal complaint against the tech giant for firing them in retaliation for labor organizing. (Photo: Medium)

With many former colleagues standing beside them in solidarity, four recently-fired Google employees on Tuesday announced an official complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming they were illegally terminated in retaliation for workplace organizing. 

Software engineers Laurence Berland, Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman, and Paul Duke wrote in a Medium post that they would file the Unfair Labor Practice claim with the NLRB a week after they were fired for what the company alleged was unauthorized accessing of documents—a charge the group, known as the Thanksgiving Four, vehemently denies.

"It's not about us, but intimidating everyone else. They want us afraid, they want us resigned, and they want us cynical."   
—Laurence Berland, former Google engineer

The group says their employment was instead terminated because they led their coworkers in vocally opposing Google's partnership with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and protesting hate speech on YouTube, a Google subsidiary.

The company, the engineers say, wanted to send a message to its approximately 100,000 staffers about its lack of tolerance for labor organizing at Google—contrary to its code of conduct, which directs employees to "speak up" if they see something happening in the company that they believe is wrong.

"It's not about us, but intimidating everyone else," Berland told The Guardian. "They want us afraid, they want us resigned, and they want us cynical."

In addition to unlawfully firing them, the group wrote, Google has in recent weeks hired an anti-union consulting firm and "smeared" the workers as "rule-breaking troublemakers who 'leaked' sensitive information."

"This is flatly untrue, and in the privacy of our meetings with HR and Google's internal investigations team, the company acknowledged this," they wrote.

At Medium, the workers highlighted a number of other high-profile incidents at the company which have made headlines in recent years, including its discriminatory treatment of employees classified as independent contractors, its retaliation against employees who report the misconduct of their supervisors, and its partnership with the Department of Defense to develop drone technology. 

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The company's actions have impacted "not just our workplace, but also Google’s users and customers, and indeed the entire world," wrote the engineers.

Google employees have protested all of the above actions, and the fired workers wrote that their former colleagues have not been intimidated into silence because of what happened to Berland, Rivers, Waldman, and Duke.

"They count on the fear, the sadness, and the anger that we are all feeling to stop us all from exercising our rights," the Thanksgiving Four wrote of Google's executive leadership.

"But what they didn't count on is the strength, the resolve, and the solidarity of Googlers and our allies," they continued. "Even as you read this, our coworkers are organizing with a renewed passion. More are joining in these efforts every single day, as the company shows its true face."

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) tweeted that the alleged firing of the four engineers for labor organizing represents "a far too common reality" for workers in all fields.

"We look forward to hearing the NLRB's findings, which we expect will confirm that Google acted unlawfully," the workers wrote. 

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