According to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Google violated US labor laws when it surveilled and fired workers who were involved in organizing employee protests. The complaint was filed this past Wednesday after a year-long investigation launched in 2019 by two fired employees who filed a petition with NLRB.
This initial petition filing occurred after hundreds of Google employees carried out internal protests and public demonstrations against Google’s work with US Customs and Border Protection. In 2018, however, is when one of the larger initial employee walkouts occurred and that was in relation to the company’s mishandling of multiple sexual harassment allegations.
The recent complaint filed by the NLRB absolved the two terminated employees of any wrongdoing and found that “Google repeatedly violated US labor law by using terminations and intimidation in order to quell workplace activism.” Part of the complaint also found that Google was unlawfully spying on its employees by accessing their personal calendars and other internal documents that they shouldn’t be granted access to without at least asking the employee.
Laurence Berland is one of the fired workers involved in the complaint who recently spoke with the press about how it’s important that these major tech companies that run the world be held accountable for the way they treat their employees.
“The NLRB’s move is significant at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society.”
Berland specifically was fired while organizing a protest that would expose Goggle for their continuous effort to work alongside IRI Consultants, a firm that is known for union-busting. “Google’s hiring of IRI is an unambiguous declaration that management will no longer tolerate worker organizing. Management and their union-busting cronies wanted to send that message, and the NLRB is now sending their own message: worker organizing is protected by law,” said Berland.
Kathryn Spiers is the other employee who was named in the complaint, and she was terminated after creating a pop-up message that informed Google employees that they had a right to protest whenever they visited the IRI website. Google surprisingly was public about their accusation against Spiers of violating security policies; a statement which she claims is now hurting her reputation in the tech community. The NLRB agrees with Spiers and has found Google’s firing of her unlawful.
“This week the NLRB issued a complaint on my behalf. They found that I was illegally terminated for trying to help my colleagues. Colleagues and strangers believe I abused my role because of lies told by Google management while they were retaliating against me. The NLRB can order Google to reinstate me, but it cannot reverse the harm done to my credibility,” Spiers said, continuing on to claim that these massive tech companies with billions of dollars never realize the actual damage they’re inflicting on the workers that keep their platforms afloat.
The case itself is expected to be heard and decided by an administrative law judge within the next couple of months. The NLRB and Google have both remained relatively quiet regarding the case since it’s ongoing, however, Berland claims that he and his former colleagues will be appealing regardless because the board neglected to add several other worker allegations made within the past year in its filed complaint.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.