The National Labor Relations Board has launched an investigation into Google following the firing of the so-called “Thanksgiving Four” — Google employees who were prominent in their attempts to organize a labor union before Google terminated them days before the Thanksgiving holiday — a spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends.
The four former employees in question — Rebecca Rivers, Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, and Sophie Waldman — were prominent in the Google community for their union-related activism. In a statement after their firings, they alleged they had been let go for “engaging in protected labor organizing.”
When asked for comment, Google provided a rehash of the statement it sent out when the news originally broke about the firings: The company said the individuals that were terminated “were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our long-standing data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees’ materials and work. No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company’s activities.”
The four have denied these charges, and even said in their statement that Google had acknowledged they had not broken these rules. In the charge, the plaintiffs, also allege that Google specifically targeted these four employees for investigations and interrogations by retroactively applying new “data protection rules” to their actions. The four could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Communications Workers of America union and the AFL-CIO filed the complaint on December 5 against Google. In the charge, the CWA wrote, “Google engaged in … unlawful conduct in order to discourage and chill employees from engaging in protected concerted and union activities.”
The NLRB taking up the investigation is not a guarantee that the four individuals in question will receive any kind of settlement. The NRLB investigators will have to talk to Google as well to see if the case has “merit”: Whether there is reasonable enough evidence to proceed with the charges, or if it does seem that Google had reasonable cause to fire these individuals that isn’t related to their union-organizing work.
It’s not great timing for Google, which has been in the spotlight for recent actions that seem very anti-union, including hiring a firm, IRI Consultants, described in the New York Times as “anti-union.”
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