Former Google workers file labor board complaint, say protest-related firings were illegal

Dive Brief:

  • A group of former Google employees, who were fired last month for protesting against the company’s $1.2 billion Project Nimbus contract with Israel, filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against the company Monday, alleging that their terminations violated labor law.
  • At least 28 Google employees were fired in April for participating in protests against the tech giant which, along with Amazon, provides the Israeli government with cloud services — a contract protesters say is aiding Israel in its war on Gaza. On Tuesday, the Intercept reported that at least two of Israel’s leading state-weapons manufacturers are required to buy any needed cloud services from Google and Amazon.
  • The ex-employees argued that the company’s firings were retaliatory and violated their rights to advocate for better working conditions, Reuters reported Tuesday. A Google spokesperson said in an email to ESG Dive, HR Dive’s sister publication, that the former employees’ behavior was “completely unacceptable,” and the company is “confident” in its position and stands by its actions.

Dive Insight:

Nine Google workers were arrested across the tech giant’s offices in New York City and Sunnyvale, California, on April 16 for participating in sit-ins, organized under the No Tech For Apartheid campaign backed by Muslim- and Jewish-led Palestinian rights organizations MPower Change and Jewish Voice for Peace. The next day, Google fired dozens of workers, which a company spokesperson said it has since “carefully confirmed and reconfirmed” were “directly and definitively involved in disruption inside our buildings.”

“This is a very clear case of employees disrupting and occupying work spaces, and making other employees feel threatened and unsafe,” the spokesperson told ESG Dive.

Last month’s protests demanded the company pull out of its Nimbus contract, amid Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza following an Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel that killed more than 1,200 citizens. The Gaza health ministry estimated Wednesday that Israel’s response campaign has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians in the seven months since, with upwards of 77,000 wounded. An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced, and global organizations like the World Food Programme have warned that more than 1 million people “are suffering catastrophic levels of hunger,” Reuters reported Wednesday.

Zelda Montes, one of the nine arrested and subsequently fired Google employees, said in an emailed statement to ESG Dive that the company is attempting to scare employees by “illegally punishing and retaliating against those expressing dissent about Google’s profit and complicity” in the campaign.

“We must resist Google’s repression of worker organizing, and demand that Google be held responsible for their retaliatory actions against employees asking for ethical applications of their labor,” she said.

Through the NLRB complaint, the fired workers are seeking reinstatement and back pay in damages, along with affirmation from Google’s leadership that it will not retaliate against its workers for lawful collective protest, No Tech for Apartheid said in an emailed release to ESG Dive.