NLRB: Google broke multiple labor laws by spying on and firing employees

One year later, vindication for Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers

(Meta: after roughly two months on hiatus, the Alphabetworkers list is back, at least for some occasional news updates. There was this little thing called an “election” in the U.S. that had a lot of us rather busy. And in fact, the election process is still underway — one of the best things that you can do to support labor rights in the U.S. at this moment is to help flip the Senate blue by donating to the Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff campaigns, or to a Georgia voter empowerment organization such as Fair Fight. NLRB nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, so if Biden is to begin to undo the damage of the past 4 years, he needs a Democratic Senate. - Bruce)

Multiple media outlets are reporting this morning that the National Labor Relations Board is about to file a formal complaint against Google for multiple violations of U.S. labor law in 2019, in the wake of the firing of the Thanksgiving Four: Laurence Berland, Sophie Waldman, Rebecca Rivers and Paul Duke. The NLRB action is the outcome of a grindingly slow process that began in December 2019, when multiple employees first filed their complaint with the NLRB, alleging illegal retaliation by Google. Today’s NLRB action appears to be specific to Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, who was also fired in 2019 after she launched a browser pop-up that informed Google employees of their rights under U.S. labor law.

The video of the public employee town hall / protest held at Google’s San Francisco office on November 22, 2019 remains available for those who’d like to see more of the history that’s led us to this point, and Laurence Berland is one of the speakers at that event. This anti-retaliation protest was held soon after the Thanksgiving Four were put on involuntary “administrative leave”, but just a few days before they were fired, so as of November 22, there was no knowledge that firings were part of Google management’s plans.

It’s worth noting that today’s NLRB is extremely labor-hostile, so the fact that even this anti-worker NLRB has chosen to level these allegations at Google is significant.

Here are some links to today’s story in various outlets:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/google-wrongfully-terminated-employees-and-spied-on-them-nlrb-complaint-says-11606932455

https://www.theverge.com/2020/12/2/22047383/google-spied-workers-before-firing-labor-complaint

https://www.businessinsider.com/us-labor-board-says-google-illegally-spied-on-fired-employees-2020-12

And some extracts from the Marketwatch article:

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Google wrongfully spied on and terminated employees, NLRB complaint says

National Labor Relations Board set to file complaint against tech giant, finding it violated various labor laws

The National Labor Relations Board is set to file a complaint against Google, finding it violated various labor laws last year, including engaging in unlawful surveillance of employees who were organizing and wrongfully terminating two of them…

According to the employees and their counsel, the complaint asks the company to reinstate site reliability engineer Laurence Berland and security engineer Kathryn Spiers. Berland was fired in late November last year for what the company said were “repeated violations” of data-security policies, but what he said was his activism over issues such as YouTube’s LGBTQ policies and his organizing work related to Google’s hiring of IRI Consultants, which is known for its anti-union work. Spiers was fired last December for creating a browser pop-up that could be seen by the company’s employees, which read: “Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities.” …

The firings of Berland, Spiers and other employees last year came soon after Google hired IRI, whose website says it helps”organizations navigate workplace challenges.” For the past few years, Google employees have protested the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against its leadership; its treatment of temporary and contract workers; its various contracts and bids for government work, including with Customs and Border Patrol; and more. […]

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