SAN FRANCISCO — The terminated Google workers who staged protests at two company offices earlier this month over the company’s contract with Israel have filed a formal complaint alleging the company violated their labor rights by firing them.

The charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private sector employees, on Monday evening, according to a spokesperson for No Tech for Apartheid, the group that organized the protests.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The action comes as university campuses have erupted with student occupations in protest of Israel’s war against Palestinians, a sentiment that could tip over into corporate America, especially among the younger generation of workers.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Israel in October, tech workers have been escalating a years-long push to get their employers, Google and Amazon, to cancel a contract dubbed Project Nimbus, which is a cloud computing deal with various branches of the Israeli government, including the Israel Defense Forces. The workers involved have repeatedly said the project makes the companies complicit in what they say is Palestinian genocide.

Earlier this month, Google workers in New York and Sunnyvale, Calif., held sit-ins on two Google campuses. Nine participants were arrested after they refused to leave, and 50 employees so far have been fired, participants said.


The day after the firings began, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent out an email to staff saying that work is not a place to “fight over disruptive issues or debate politics.”

But the fired workers said they weren’t debating politics, but discussing their working conditions, which include building software that is sold to governments including Israel’s.

“That’s legally protected activity,” said one of the fired workers, a software engineer who spoke on the condition of anonymity for legal reasons. “Sundar can say he doesn’t want that, but the National Labor Relations Act says otherwise. Google is probably the most powerful company in the world, and the work the workers do every day has an incredible impact. To pretend it’s objective and you can’t talk about the effects of that is absurd.”

In the document filed with the board and obtained by The Washington Post, the workers specifically say that Google violated their rights “by terminating and/or placing them on administrative leave in response to their protected concerted activity, namely, participation (or perceived participation) in a peaceful, non-disruptive protest that was directly and explicitly connected to their terms and conditions of work.”

“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,” said Zelda Montes, one of the Google workers who was arrested for protesting and then fired, in an email statement. “We, the workers, will not stop organizing our collective power to ensure an end of technology for apartheid and genocide.”

Some of the fired workers accusing Google of violating their rights said they weren’t actually involved in organizing the protest at all.


The fired software engineer was one of those workers. He said he decided to attend the event the morning it happened when a friend who was involved texted him about it. When he stopped by to observe the event around noon for 25 minutes, he said a security guard asked for his badge and those of other attendees. Then he went back to work. He stopped by the event again that afternoon for about five minutes, then left.

The next day, he was leaving dinner with colleagues in New York City around 9 p.m. when he got an email saying he’d been fired for violating Google’s code of conduct and harassing employees.

There was “no HR meeting, no questions about my involvement, and since then, only automated emails about health insurance and how to send back my laptop,” said the worker, who is a leader in the Alphabet Workers Union.

The fired workers see Google’s response to the protest as a major shift in how the company engages with its staff. In the past, the company sat down with employees who held a sit-in in protest of a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense and ultimately decided to back out of the deal. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were initially outspoken in their distaste for President Trump after he was elected in 2016, with Brin joining a public protest over Trump immigration policies at the San Francisco airport in 2017.

But current Google leadership is making it clear that era of embracing open discussion is over, the fired software engineer said, and the company seems willing to violate labor law to do it.

“They say Google is a place where you can bring your whole self to work,” he said. “I don’t know if that was true three years ago when I got hired, but it certainly isn’t true now. I brought my whole self to work, and I got fired for it.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: