The four workers fired by Google during Thanksgiving week due to their attempts to unionise workers plan to file federal charges against their former employer, alleging the search engine monopole violated federal labor laws.
In an email circulated to its 100,000 staff 25th November, Google said the quartet had been fired for “clear and repeated violations of our data security policies” - but speaking to the Guardian 3rd December, they rejected the company’s characterisation.
“Google fired us not just to target us, but send a message to other employees in the company,” said Sophie Waldman, a fired software engineer - Laurence Berland, another of the four, concurred the effort was aimed at “intimidating everyone else” and making employees “afraid” and “cynical”.
— mcmillen (@mcmillen) November 26, 2019
“We used to be able to engage in these issues and give feedback. At some point that stopped. The faith hasn’t been broken with all of the workers, it’s been broken with executives. People are more geared up and ready to fight. We’re all going to continue to fight and we’re going to win,” Berland explained.
Berland, along with Waldman and Rebecca Rivers, identifies as LGBT, and notes some of their past activism involved organising within employee resource groups for trans or gay Googlers – known as “Gayglers” – to pressure the company on issues such as equal benefits for same-sex partnerships.
“From the beginning, queer and trans people at Google have banded together to make sure we have great benefits and a strong community. A lot of us feel very directly that it’s us and people like us that are on the line…Google is a lovely place to work if you are transgender and don’t care what’s going on in the world,” said Waldman.
Rivers first became involved in activism at Google when the company appointed Kay Coles James, Heritage Foundation President, who has strong anti-trans political stances, to its AI ethics council. When she was suspended from Google her personal phone was wiped, erasing many months of photographs documenting her gender transition.