A former Google employee fired for protesting the Israeli deal filed a complaint alleging protected speech

A former Google employee fired for protesting the Israeli deal filed a complaint alleging protected speech

Dozens of former Google employees filed complaints with the US National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday after they were fired or placed on administrative leave last month for protesting the company’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

The complaint accuses Google of retaliating against employees for their “protected concerted activity, that is, participation (or perceived participation) in a peaceful and non-disruptive protest that is directly and clearly related to their terms and conditions of employment.”

The workers are seeking the reinstatement of their jobs and wages, according to No Tech for Apartheid, a group made up in part of Google and Amazon workers that organized protests last month.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the protest was “a very clear case of employees disrupting and occupying workspaces, and making other employees feel threatened and unsafe.”

“By any standard, their behavior is completely unacceptable – and widely seen as such,” the spokesman said. “We have carefully verified and reconfirmed that each person whose employment was terminated was directly and definitely involved in the disruption in our building. We are confident in our position and stand by the actions we have taken.”

Last month’s protests involved sit-ins by workers inside Google offices in New York City and Sunnyvale, California. In Sunnyvale, workers entered the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, according to No Tech for Apartheid.

No Tech for Apartheid said last week that 50 Google employees had been terminated in connection with the protest. The group claimed that some of the fired workers were “non-participating observers” and were not actively involved in workplace activism.

A Google spokesperson told CNN last month that the company was investigating “a physical disturbance in our building on April 16.”

“Our investigation into this incident is now complete, and we have terminated the hiring of additional employees who were found to be directly involved in disruptive activity,” a Google spokesperson said at the time.

But the affected workers said they should not have been fired for protesting the company’s actions.

“We must oppose Google’s crackdown on worker organizing and hold Google accountable for their retaliation against workers who ask for ethics in their work,” said Zelda Montes, a former Google software engineer who was fired for participating in the protest. in a statement.
“Employees, including Google employees, have the right to protest working conditions through concerted activity, and protests about the type of work requested of employees can be protected,” said Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School. “Even sitting in certain circumstances can be protected activity… Now, that’s not always true, it depends on the facts, and it depends on things like how disruptive the protest is, whether the employer’s property is confiscated [and] the duration of the stoppage.”

The protests by Google workers against the company’s cloud computing agreement with the Israeli government come more than six months since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants left about 1,200 dead in Israel, and as Israeli counterattacks in Gaza have now killed more than 34,183 people in Gaza, according to calculations from the Palestinian health ministry. More than 70% of those killed in Gaza were women and children, according to the ministry.

The ongoing massacre of civilians in Gaza has deeply divided Americans, and protests against the US government and business support for Israel have erupted on college campuses and across corporate America in recent weeks.

Following the protests at Google, CEO Sundar Pichai sent a company-wide memo urging employees to keep “politics” out of the workplace. Pichai told employees that “this is a business, and it’s not the place to act in a way that annoys co-workers.” Pichai went on to urge Googlers not to “fight over disturbing issues or debate politics” at work.

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