The four Google employees who were fired during the Thanksgiving week after organizing personnel protests about working conditions and the company’s contracts with US customs and border protection have spoken out in their first interviews since they were fired.
Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers and Sophie Waldman were all fired on Google on Monday, November 25.
Now they speak out in new interviews with New York Times Magazine, in which they describe the controversial layoffs that ensured that they were quickly described on social media as the “Thanksgiving Four.”
All four were involved in organizing protests against the working conditions of employees or the CBP contracts – but Google insists that they have been terminated for violation of employee policies, including improper access to internal company documents.
The redundancies were caused by increasing unrest among employees at Google, where staff have caused a stir in recent years about sexual harassment policies, government contracts, and other hot button issues.
From left to right: Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Laurence Berland are three of the four Google employees who were fired on November 25
Google employees are seen during a strike in November 2018 to protest against the company’s complaint handling. Google’s workforce is increasingly affected by political protests and complaints about contracts with the Trump government
Although it has long been considered one of the nicest, most free-roaming workplaces, Google bosses are forced to work hard because the dissatisfaction of employees and political disputes in the workplace are increasingly threatening to disrupt the company.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com.
The saga of the “Thanksgiving Four” began last summer, when Google employees demanded one petition that the company does not participate in the bid process for a CBP contract for IT infrastructure.
Employees were encouraged by a series of protests in 2018, including a massive walkout on the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims and a revolt that stopped Google’s participation in the Project Maven of the Pentagon, which AI used to improve drone targeting systems .
Rivers says in the new interview that the petition against the CBP bid made her wonder if Google was already working with the agency. Rivers used internal search tools that provided evidence of three contracts with the agency that was sold through external suppliers.
One, a Google Maps contract for around $ 600,000, was overwhelming for Rivers, who had personally built various features for the Maps project.
“The worst thing I thought could be used was making rich people richer,” Rivers said. “It was complicated … It was the software I wrote about that I was most proud of.”
Rebecca Rivers (left and right) found information about three contracts that Google had with CBP through external suppliers and distributed the information to colleagues
Rivers passed on the information to colleague Waldman, who combined this information and disseminated it to other colleagues.
“If employees are not told what the real purpose of their work is, they have no freedom of choice to decide whether they want to help with those things,” Berland said. “They unknowingly become complicit.”
Berland and Duke also became involved in the organization of working conditions and the treatment of employees, and used internal tools to gather information to support their cause.
“In my orientation, I was encouraged to read all the draft documents I could find, to see everything about how decisions are made,” Duke said. “Now they say that’s no longer OK. That is a major shift in culture. ”
Berland has subscribed to the open agendas of various executives that he suspected had broken a consultancy firm.
Rivers and Berland were abruptly taken on administrative leave in November.
Rivers says her security badge didn’t work one day. “I called the badging office and they didn’t know; they reactivated me, “Rivers told NYT Magazine. “It was a very hurried business.”
Google site reliability engineer Laurence Berland addresses colleagues at a meeting in San Francisco on November 22, three days before he was fired from the company
Rebecca Rivers (left) and Laurence Berland (right) are seen at the November 22 protest
The Friday before he was fired, Berland had spoken at a meeting of his colleagues outside the Google offices in San Francisco, and accused the company of silencing divergent opinions.
The following Monday, Berland stepped out of the New York subway when he was fired by an email: “After a thorough investigation, the company found that you had done several actions that violate Google’s policies.”
“I thought they would do it if all the media attention decreased,” Berland said. “When the suspensions and the rally were no longer in people’s minds.”
Rivers, a software engineer from Boulder, Colorado, was fired by phone after access to internal documents.
Rivers had recently emerged as a transgender and sought a medical transition.
“I came to Google and expected to stay with Google for the entire transition,” said Rivers. “It’s frightening to think about going to a job interview because I’m so scared of how other companies treat trans employees.”
Waldman, a software developer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said she was notified 15 minutes of a surprise meeting and fired on the spot.
Although long considered to be one of the nicest, most free-driving workplaces, Google bosses are forced to work hard amid employee dissatisfaction
Duke, a New York engineer, said an invitation to a meeting appeared on his calendar exactly one minute in advance.
In an internal memo that leaked to the press, the company said employees were involved in “systematic” material search “out of reach of their work.”
It also quoted an employee’s efforts to keep track of colleagues’ agendas’ outside of their workgroup ‘.
“We fired four people who were involved in intentional and often repeated violations of our long-standing data security policy,” a spokeswoman told NYT Magazine. “No one has been fired for concerns or debates about the company’s activities.”
The redundant workers promise that their former colleagues at Google will continue to fight to improve working conditions and to protest against business units they consider immoral.
“Management can decide whether to go on board or not,” Berland told the magazine. “But Google employees are becoming increasingly aware of the power they have. They will continue to exercise that power and eventually they will prevail. ”