Labor group accuses Google of sacking workers to deter unionism

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The Communications Workers of America union filed a federal labor charge against Alphabet Inc’s Google on Thursday, accusing the company of unlawfully firing four employees to deter workers from engaging in union activities.

The complaint, seen by Reuters, will trigger a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation into whether Google violated the four individuals’ right to raise concerns about working conditions. When violations are found in such cases, the NLRB typically tries to help accusers and companies reach a settlement.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing but it has said the four workers were let go last month for violating the company’s data-security policies.

The CWA union, which represents 700,000 workers across several industries in North America, has been trying to organize workers at Google, said Laurie Burgess, an attorney at Messing Adam & Jasmine who worked on the NLRB filing.

The union stepped forward to make the charge against the company “because it has been harmed by Google’s actions,” she said.

Google investigated and fired the four named employees “to discourage and chill employees from engaging in protected concerted and union activities,” the filing states. “Its actions are the antithesis of the freedoms and transparency it publicly touts.”

Google has long prided itself on listening to employee feedback and even adjusting course on the spot based on ideas at companywide meetings. But it now serves more than 3 billion consumers and business customers across search, navigation and health technology, and it faces fierce competition in advertising and increased regulatory scrutiny.

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The company in the last year has reeled in elements of its unorthodox culture, such as by cutting back on companywide meetings next year, as it deals with its much broader influence.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Stephen Coates



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