San Francisco (AFP) – Google on Monday fired four employees on the grounds they had violated data security policies, but the tech titan was accused of persecuting them for trying to unionize staff.
The dismissals of the quartet — dubbed the “Thanksgiving Four” on social media — deepened staff-management tensions at a company once seen as a paradigm of Silicon Valley freedoms but now embroiled in numerous controversies.
A memo to employees titled “Securing our data” sought to correct what Google contended was misinformation about the purported wrongdoing, saying it involved “systematic searches for other employees’ materials and work.”
Google, the money-making engine of parent company Alphabet, confirmed a copy of the note published by Bloomberg News but declined to comment further to AFP.
The memo said the information accessed by the individuals, “along with details of internal emails and inaccurate descriptions about Googlers’ work, was subsequently shared externally.”
But the Tech Workers Coalition said the employees had been fired for “organizing at work” and urged others at Google to speak out.
“This is meant to scare workers, don’t let it,” the campaign group tweeted, appealing for other employers to step in and hire the four. At least one job offer came through in response.
One of the workers fired was connected to a petition condemning Google for working with the US customs and border patrol agency, which has been involved in President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
“Four of our colleagues took a stand and organized for a better workplace,” read a Medium post by Google Walkout for Real Change, which organised a staff protest last year over the issue of sexual misconduct.
“This is explicitly condoned in Google’s Code of Conduct, which ends: ‘And remember … don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up.’
“When they did, Google retaliated against them.”
Authors of the post contended that Google policies on data security were tightened simply to provide cover for getting rid of the workers.
“This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon, and we won’t stand for it,” they said.