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, AFP reported.
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.”
The company declined to comment further.
The memo said the information accessed by the individuals, “along with details of internal e-mails 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.
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 US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, the report said.
“Four of our colleagues took a stand and organized for a better workplace,” read a Medium post by Google Walkout for Real Change, which organized 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.
The Google workplace has been disrupted by employee opposition to top-level decisions ranging from forging contracts with the US military to tailoring a version of the search engine for China.
A year ago, Google employees poured out of premises at its Mountain View campus and around the world to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.
The changes are a remarkable turn for a company that has been considered a standard for the modern workplace, The New York Times reported.
Google introduced many of the office perks that are now common across Silicon Valley, and its embrace of transparent relations between workers and management has influenced a generation of start-ups