Google fired us for organizing. We’re fighting back.
We come from different offices. We have different roles, managers, and life stories. What brought us all together is that we’ve stepped up to help organize our colleagues, to work together for a better, safer, fairer, and more ethical workplace.
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.
We spoke up when we saw Google making unethical business decisions that create a workplace that is harmful to us and our colleagues. We participated in legally protected labor organizing, fighting to improve workplace conditions for all Google workers. 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. Some of these topics, such as demanding Google improve its treatment of our temp, vendor, and contractor colleagues (“TVCs”), supporting our TVC colleagues in Pittsburgh through the process of successfully forming a union earlier this year, challenging the protection of executives who sexually assault employees, opposing its retaliation against employees who have complained about, or protested against, mistreatment and discrimination, and supporting our colleagues in Zurich who held a labor law educational meeting despite the company’s attempts to cancel it, are entirely internal to our workplace. Other topics, like Google’s work with Customs and Border Protection, the decision to place an anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant think tank leader on the company’s AI Ethics council, developing drone technology for the U.S. Department of Defense, the unequal and unethical treatment of harassment and discrimination on YouTube, a secret project to work with the Chinese government to launch a censored search engine in China, and the hiring of one of the architects of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, extend far beyond, impacting not just our workplace, but also Google’s users and customers, and indeed the entire world.
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. Last week, Google fired us for engaging in protected labor organizing.
We’ve all been subjected to interrogations, some of us for hours, and all of us had our reputations smeared in the press as Google spread rumors that we were 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. A careful reading of their statements will only confirm this.
Google’s crackdown on organizers came right before the holiday, less than a week after news broke that they’d hired a notorious union-busting firm. It’s clear that their draconian, pernicious, and unlawful conduct isn’t about us. It’s about trying to stop all workplace organizing. Google wants to send a message to everyone: if you dare to engage in protected labor organizing, you will be punished. 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.
But what they didn’t count on is the strength, the resolve, and the solidarity of Googlers and our allies. 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. Our coworkers have heard Google’s excuses, and they aren’t buying it. Meanwhile, we too will continue the fight, alongside a broad coalition of those who understand the stakes of Google’s power, and the company’s lack of accountability. 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 fails to understand that workers are the ones who built the company and its most successful products. And that we can stop building them. No company — tech giant or otherwise — should be able to interfere with workers’ rights to organize for better working conditions, including ethical business practices.
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! 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.
Laurence Berland (Senior Site Reliability Engineer, 11 years at Google),
Paul Duke (Software Engineer III, 8+ years at Google),
Rebecca Rivers (Software Engineer II, 4 years at Google) and
Sophie Waldman (Software Engineer II, 1 year 10 months at Google)