And Google fires her with the reasoning:
> “We dismissed an employee who abused privileged access to modify an internal security tool,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that it was “a serious violation.”
"Part of my job was to write browser notifications so that my coworkers can be automatically notified of employee guidelines and company policies while they surf the web"
Link to the popup: https://miro.medium.com/max/2000/0*1BTVYLTvuHiJVvp_.jpg
Yes, it's company policy, but this is more like running into a meeting and then interrupting it so you can start reciting NLRB policy than it is posting a flyer. Worse, it misappropriates a security tool in order to do that. And when it comes to intentional actions that violate or undermine security, Google, like most companies, takes a pretty hard line.
Disclosing that I'm a Googler, and speaking only on my own behalf, with no connection to anyone involved except the fact that the extension is running on my browser.
True, but it seems kind of shady to come down harder on an employee based on the content of the interruption, and that content notifying of the right to organize.
Like, imagine there's a documentation page for http cookies. Consider two scenarios:
A) Rogue employee adds to the bottom of the page: "Cookies are also delicious treats given as a reward on the internet."
B) Rogue employee adds to the bottom of the page: "Employees reading this are reminded of their right to organize under NLRA."
Let's say that in scenario A, an employee would typically get a written warning, and in B, you always got fired. In that case, I think it would be fair for B to say -- at least in common speech -- "I got fired for notifying employees of their right to organize."
This is true, even though there is a general policy of not adding non-topical messages to doc pages, because the punishment never escalates to firing unless it's something like scenario B. (In a legal context rather than common speech I don't know enough to say whether it would be legal.)
A) Rogue employee messages a bunch of internal email lists about having the right to organize
B) Rogue employee configures a security extension to issue a popup saying "Happy Birthday Sundar!" every time an employee visits google.com on June 10.
I am confident that A) wouldn't result in any formal adverse action (they'd mostly get a pile of nasty responses about spamming internal lists), and I am confident that B) would at the least earn the employee a reprimand and plausibly get them fired.
Yikes! That sounds like a dangerous place to work. If an employee with legitimate, assigned access to such a tool makes a change through normal procedures (not bypassing required code review or anything) and it's still a fireable mistake - well, I'm glad I don't work there.
Data is simultaneously Google's greatest strength and its biggest liability. If an employee uploads data to a not-known-to-be-secure third party, it can literally cost Google billions of dollars depending on the data locality. Or, it could plausibly cause a severe security breach (if e.g. an employee uploads a security token into a third party decoder).
And so the security team builds an extension in order to very loudly alert employees when they're on one of these known-to-be dangerous domains. And, as it happens, the implementation of the loud popups could make it a general browser notification platform whenever an employee visits a particular domain.
Is it a good idea for teams to start using it as a general notification platform?
No, not on any level. On top of being annoying for employees, it breaks the security UX. When someone sees one of these popups, they know they're important and that they should be very wary of whatever they're doing. But if it starts being a popup that can be triggered by anyone in the company who can convince themselves that they're providing value by sending out the popup, people start ignoring it. And there's no going back at that point, because employees have been trained to ignore the popup because of it staying stupid shit like "Happy Birthday Sundar!" and "Read these NLRB rights!" and "You can go grab a burger at the cafe today!" Everyone's been made worse off, and the original security problem has come back.
If you could concisely and cogently explain why this change is a bad idea in an HN comment, surely someone can do that in response to the change, revert it, and move on. If it's SOP for Google to fire people who make well-intentioned changes that have the side effect of alert fatigue, then one, I don't want to work there, and two, I would expect to see a lot more firings.
And surely they could explain the problem, revert it, and move on without calling her into a conference room and grilling her about who else she's organizing with. That makes it seem like it's about the content of the notification, not the alert fatigue.
Don't misunderstand, it's not that I'm really trying to defend google. This is to serve as a reality check and warning to those who don't understand the rules of employment. And I'm guessing the Engineer in question understood the risk full well.
I don't disagree with that either. I'm just saying that, if this is the company's choice of fireable offense if the company actually considers it normal to exercise the right to dismiss an employee (which they legally do have) for this sort of mistake, I'm glad I don't work there.
As I mentioned in another comment, I recently did something at work that you could spin in an equally sinister way, if you want. My company would be within its rights to fire me for it. My employer would be within its rights to fire me for sneezing at the wrong time, or even for no reason at all. I choose to continue working at this company because I trust that, despite their legal ability, they have no intention of actually doing so. If I ever lost that trust, I would leave.
(In fact, my employer and Google's also have very similar employment agreements about ownership of outside IP / personal open source, but I had reasons to trust my employer to act more reasonably than Google, which was part of why I chose my current employer when deciding about it and Google. In practice that trust has turned out to be well-placed, and there's now a thread on the front page about how Google loves to follow the letter of the employment agreement and arbitrarily deny IARC requests.)
"This kind of code change happens all the time. We frequently add things to make our jobs easier or even to just share hobbies or interests. For example, someone changed the default desktop wallpaper during the walkout last year so that the Linux penguin was holding a protest sign. The company has never reacted aggressively in response to a notification such as this in the past. It’s always been a celebrated part of the culture."
The fact that other employees have participated in pro-employee activism and not been disciplined speaks to that. Some things are fine, some things are not. Abusing security software is not.
Do you activism in your personal time. Don't use important company resources used to protect employees from harm to push your slogans. Regardless if those slogans are legally legitimate statements in a normal context, like handing out a leaflet on the edge of the property.
Correction: an internal message display tool.
> for your own pet activism
> push your slogans
Correction: a warning not to break federal labor law, which Google is actually required to provide.
> Do you activism in your personal time.
This is about Google. Apparently their company culture has been the opposite, and they have commonly had lots of political discussions on company time using company resources.
For the millionth time, it was not a general message display tool. It is a security tool to flag domains that run the risk of data leakage and malware. Trying to hijack a security extension to turn it into a general messaging platform is both stupid and bad for security.
Labor law requires that those notices be posted somewhere in a prominent place employees are likely to see. They definitely don't require them to be posted in arbitrary places at any employee's choice.
(Furthermore, the laws about protected concerted activity specifically permit you to do your activism at work, not just on your own time.)
Jeez, politics really does make people go funny in the head. As long as it's "their guy" everything is on the table to sidestep logic.
(I don't know enough of the history of Google's firings and this kind of violation to know either way.)
You can't fire a worker for organizing, or on the basis of sex, race, etc. But you CAN fire whoever you want for breaking even the most minor rules or even just poor performance. And the choice can be as politically motivated as google likes, doesn't change a thing.
Furthermore, google has a really easy time with "selective enforcement" They can show that people violating security rules and abusing administrative rights are always fired. Now, she can argue she didn't do this, but because of the nature of our legal system, it will be extremely hard to explain. I main, disgruntled employee abusing security? Whoever heard of such a thing. The civil judge will probably help google refer her to the FBI!
>They can show that people violating security rules and abusing administrative rights are always fired.
Yes, that agrees with what I was saying: if every message thusly inserted resulted in a firing, then it would not be fair to say she got fired "for notifying employees of their right to organize".
If you hijack the company's PR to inject your own personal opinion I'm pretty sure you'd be fired from any company.
I totally support googlers' right to unionize but it seems that some employees are in an all-out war with the company and think that all is fair in that war. I can't say I support that.
How is this like "running into a meeting"?? Do Googlers visit the IRI website every day? Is this pop-up really a distraction to core work for engineering?
Your party line here makes the change sound like Nest shutting down the house  but according to the evidence it looks more like that recruiting thing that gives you a pop-up for google.com/foobar when you enter certain search queries.
> For example, someone changed the default desktop wallpaper during the walkout last year so that the Linux penguin was holding a protest sign. The company has never reacted aggressively in response to a notification such as this in the past. It’s always been a celebrated part of the culture.
Is this accurate? If it's culturally acceptable to change everyone's desktop wallpaper (including of those who were anti-protest) to a pro-protest image, it seems reasonable that this falls in the lines of culturally acceptable too.
That was my question, her job literally to make extensions to inform employees on policies but I was doubting that it was to make any and all notifications but only a specific set of policies like, limit personal browsing activities, or that the computer is the property of google and you consent to blah blah by it’s use.
It’s clear to me that this employee knew this was more of a political notification and took matters into their own hands.
So if I hire you to email out my monthly company statement it’s reasonable that you add some of your own thoughts to said email.
It's was her personal judgment that it should be posted in a chrome add-on rather than only by poster like is typical in most workplaces. But assuming her job was to maintain an add-on that informs employees of company policy, and assuming her job typically lets her act with personal judgment, yeah I think that's perfectly reasonable
In fact, you can find further support of her action from the NLRB FAQ:
"The employer is also required to distribute the notice electronically to unit employees if it customarily communicates with employees in the unit electronically, either by email, by posting on an employer intranet site, or both"
Again, it's her judgment to add the notification (which links to the Google intranet posting of the NLRB poster), but considering that Google customarily informs employees of policy via notifications in this add-on, and she is in charge of maintaining said add-on, it doesn't seem like an unreasonable judgment to add this notification
Those are well defined roles. Specially in a company of that size.
She didn’t just make a judgement call. She went way outside her role imo.
She claims she's in a role to make judgment calls on adding content - and that this was reinforced by her previous stellar performance reviews, which made her confident in her judgment - but I don't personally have enough info to know if that's the truth. She very well could be stretching the truth that maybe every other addition she's made was under the direction of HR or product, in which case she is definitely out of line here - it would take the input of a Googler on her team to know for sure.
That having been said, this would still be considered an unusual call to have made. But had I been on the receiving end of this message, I suspect I'd have found it annoying unless she remembered to suppress it after first display---if she had, I wouldn't have been bothered by it.
That's not so much a matter of opinion as of what her role is, exactly. I don't know. Do you?
While they're at it, they should stop bending (and probably breaking) export controls regarding China, and stop doing immoral DoD and ICE projects.
And heck, why not implement a process by which all private contracts are approved by a company-wide vote? Including the guy that sweeps the floor. Oh, afraid that employees will leak the details of the project? There's always NDAs, but if you are so concerned about leaks, maybe that's not a project you should be doing then.
Now understandably the janitor has provided a lot less capital than deeply invested shareholder, so their votes are uniformly weighted according to their share of ownership.
I'm guessing the engineer might own about 1/10,000,000th or so of the company if she has a healthy 401K. So as long as she can convince 10,000 or so other employees and 49.91% of the rest of shareholders to go along...
Wait, what? How would this work? Who would take a Google bid seriously if, after awarding them the contract, they turn around and have to ask the employee population for permission to proceed?
The big issue I see with a lot of discussion around this issue is not a lot of thought is put into the practicality of running a large business concern. Stuff that works when it's two guys and a server does not (can not) fly when you have a large group of people to manage.
Whether or not it was her job has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it was protected activity.
Unless she was asked to do it by management, it was her thoughts. As much as the title makes this seem like David v Goliath this is really just employer v disgruntled former employee.
No matter your thoughts on "its required by law... Blah blah blah" it's not up to her to enforce the law on behalf of an employer. Google has the right to post or not, statements of its choosing. In fact it's absolutely within Google's right to ignore this law, doesn't mean there won't be consequences but it they can do it.
This is so cut and dry I'm surprised she found a lawyer willing to take the case. It's staggering there's even a discussion ok HN about this.
FTA, your personal assertion is quite wrong. Her line of work was security and at most she was tasked with posting content regarding privacy and security concerns regarding non-Google tools and services.
Her personal political views and opinions don't pass off as InfoSec topics.
She's an engineer, not someone working a type pool.
By any measure she's not an engineer.
Tbh it sounds like other ulterior motives are clouding your judgement here. She seems like exactly the sort of engineer who would benefit from unionization and while I might need it less, I fully support her and I'm disappointed in Google for firing her.
As I've said elsewhere, these sham reasons for firing folks adjacent to union activity are opening up the company to massive liability and imo the board and shareholders should hold more people accountable.
The board and shareholders will have to decide whether this action was, or was not, in their best interests. But history has shown that Wall Street would generally agree with this one. It's certainly not a "massive" liability. Should the employee prevail, years from now, in a wrongful termination suit the cost to google will be trivial compared to the employee.
That's why other companies often flagrantly intentionally ignore NLRB protections. It's a very limited civil liability with a very high burden of proof on the employee.
As opposed to... what? Do college degrees promise engineering discipline? Surely not. Many successful engineers have nothing more than a high school diploma and industry experience.
This has clearly gone into sexist territory now. She's a she, and therefore her experience and education is going to be audited by arbitrary and increasingly vague standards to make sure she's considered valueless.
> It certainly isn't evidence of any engineering discipline.
There is literally no credential that does this. It's a ridiculous standard to offer forward. Engineering discipline is a property of teams and organizations. On an individual level there is no distinct standard of it.
You are moving the goalposts outside the stadium.
> It's certainly not a "massive" liability. Should the employee prevail, years from now, in a wrongful termination suit the cost to google will be trivial compared to the employee.
I disagree. With the rash of these firings, we may start to see a collective lawsuit. Should systemic problems be found, Google is in genuine danger of both large fines (both the left and right in the US and other countries are eager to give Google a black eye for perceived wrongs) and of severe reputational damage putting it at a competitive hiring disadvantage.
> It's a very limited civil liability with a very high burden of proof on the employee.
Right up until you get enough claimants for various collective actions, I agree this is the sad case for American enforcement.
How insane to claim that simple negativity toward a member of a protected group is an -ism. I'm not saying she isn't an engineer because of ANYTHING related to her sex.
She's getting raked over the coals because what she did was stupid and shows incredibly bad judgement. To imply that this is less bad, or maybe we shouldn't discuss it, or maybe we'd have a different opinion if she was not female is itself far more sexist.
I fully support non-degreed engineers. Yes, I agree there is no litmus test for "Engineer".
I'm clearly stating that a CompTIA+ is not sufficient to call someone an engineer. Regurgitating questionable facts does not make you an engineer. I didn't move the goalpost. But I can recognize something that isn't one.
She screwed up bad, because if there is ever any collective action, her case won't be in on it. She gave google an ironclad excuse to be fired. I'm not even arguing right vs. wrong but the way employment lawsuits work, she has zero chance.
If the only way we can distinguish your actions from sexism is via your internal state, you have a problem larger than this conversation and you should expect pushback.
> I'm clearly stating that a CompTIA+ is not sufficient to call someone an engineer. Regurgitating questionable facts does not make you an engineer. I didn't move the goalpost. But I can recognize something that isn't one.
But just before this you said there isn't a clear test. So really, it's just your feelings.
> Yes, I agree there is no litmus test for "Engineer".
This is more arbitrary goal setting to gatekeep a word. The debate is not if she is somehow an amazing engineer or a mediocre engineer, a well trained engineer or a rushed training job, well paid or not. No, that's not the debate.
The debate is, "was she given an engineering position in which she had autonomy to make changes and when she made changes a union buster didn't like, she was fired in retaliation.
If her job was strictly to type things that were handed to her in a field, this might technically evade the law. But that's obviously not her job.
You're obviously eager to categorize her as a not-engineer because (despite protestations) you're obviously eager to shut down any pro-unionization messages, even legally protected ones.
> She screwed up bad, because if there is ever any collective action, her case won't be in on it. She gave google an ironclad excuse to be fired.
I don't think this is true. She acted within her job capacity. She wrote a true and (importantly) legally protected statement. It was in a system that was specifically mean to advise workers about rights, options and obligations.
And unless she was already being evaluated for poor performance, even a single infraction is an extremely rare circumstance for dismissal in modern corporate America.
If we want to make it harder for unions to organize, then she was rightly fired. But ff she was fired for union organizing and we want to protect that activity, then she was wrongfully fired.
The right and wrong I was talking about was with respect to the existing rules, policies, and ethics. And if you do believe these rules are morally wrong, then you change them from within the system.
The upside is there are multiple opportunities to do this without also getting fired. There are also opportunities to do as much union organizing as you like without getting fired. The Thanksgiving four played a very dangerous game, as did this individual, and they got the expected result.
Unfortunately, the other result is that if you want to find examples of blatantly illegal union busting, I'm sure they are out there but these are not them. This smacks of agitation and activism for it's own sake.
Why is that? Please give an example of what I said that is sexist or any other -ist.
> So really, it's just your feelings.
No, it's perfectly reasonable to object to points that were made that don't support the argument. I'm only stating that CompTIA+ does not provide evidence that you are an engineer because of the nature of the certification.
> You're obviously eager to categorize her as a not-engineer
I didn't categorize here as either way. Someone else did, I just object to assuming that a job title or a cert makes you one. It doesn't. I don't think it even matters to the argument at hand either.
> you're obviously eager to shut down any pro-unionization messages, even legally protected ones
I'm not. I'm neutral to whether googler's want a union or not since I don't have to work there and have no interest at all in google's future direction. I'm eager to inject some reality into some very dangerous idealism before more people think they will stand up to the man without understanding the not-so-nice realities.
It's well and good, from the safety of the narrative of her supporters to say things like "she had autonomy to make changes". But engineer or not, she doesn't have that kind of autonomy. No employee really does, including directors. And it's up to her to prove she did. For example: can she show her manager approved this specific action in writing? Who asked her to do this? It looks a lot different when google shows up to a hearing with logs, rules, job descriptions, and her manager's manager having not approved the labor message, corporate security policies, and on and on. Then she shows up with, "but I thought it was OK because I did other stuff similar before, but it didn't involve labor notices. Yes, I had no actual authorization, but I was trusted as an engineer". People need to think adversarially, not just "Oh the NLRB will magically protect me". Because it can't if they don't follow the rules to the letter, and even then only partially.
A company in google's position is just waiting for people to do what she did: combine legal organizing with breaking a verifiable rule. Something with proof, like security logs. Great! now they have plausible reason to make someone an example. Now - do you see why I think it was stoopid?
Because you are specifically supporting a narrative that declines to grant an arbitrary status to a woman even as you argue that there is no clear delineation of that status. You "know it when you see it" is a hell of a thing to say as you make a pronouncement about someone's termination from a job.
What's more, looking over the history of this thread, you've substantially changed your message depending on how forcefully people reply to you. You've gone from saying that she cannot be an engineer because she has no credentials (which you first try to claim is required, "That IS why (engineers are credentialed and regulated)." https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21822286); and eventually move to saying you're a fiat arbiter of: "[I] can recognize something that isn't one." (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21832089)
It's crystal clear you're not having a discussion. You're trying to push a narrative. You're writing anything you think you can get away with, and trusting the thread depth cutoffs of HN to hide that part of the thread.
> No, it's perfectly reasonable to object to points that were made that don't support the argument. I'm only stating that CompTIA+ does not provide evidence that you are an engineer because of the nature of the certification.
The assertion earlier was that she was untrained. She is clearly not.
> I'm not. I'm neutral to whether googler's want a union or not since I don't have to work there and have no interest at all in google's future direction.
This isn't really the question and I don't know why you think this statement is relevant. The question is "should people be fired for talking about unionization." Clearly, you now that some Googlers are friendly to unionization in at least some aspects of the workplace. You're reading a story about one right now.
> I'm eager to inject some reality into some very dangerous idealism before more people think they will stand up to the man without understanding the not-so-nice realities.
Oh? And those not-so-nice realities seem to be that you'll cheerfully throw in with discrediting a woman.
> But engineer or not, she doesn't have that kind of autonomy. No employee really does, including directors.
No technical organization I've ever encountered has to go and get every action stamped and filed by their manager to avoid being fired. That's so far beyond the norm I'm wondering if you've ever been a manager or run your own company.
Quite the contrary, Management has to constantly document directives in writing and carefully apply messages to employees because there is substantial legal risk in just letting managers do whatever they feel like.
> and her manager's manager having not approved the labor message, corporate security policies, and on and on. Then she shows up with, "but I thought it was OK because I did other stuff similar before, but it didn't involve labor notices. Yes, I had no actual authorization, but I was trusted as an engineer". People need to think adversarially, not just "Oh the NLRB will magically protect me". Because it can't if they don't follow the rules to the letter, and even then only partially.
"Thinking adversarially" is at this point collective action. As I've said, Google is making a stronger and stronger case for all its employees that they need to consider a defensive unionization strategy.
> A company in google's position is just waiting for people to do what she did: combine legal organizing with breaking a verifiable rule
If she goes to court, they're going to have to prove there was a rule in place and that it was communicated to her. We'll see then.
I'm supporting a narrative that declines to grant an arbitrary status to a PERSON based on a tech certification.
It is NOT sexist to say that CompTIA+ is insufficient evidence to be called an engineer. Not even CompTIA+ would say that. And I'm not pushing a narrative - you are pushing the narrative that if someone starts questioning a position, they must be sexist.
I don't think I'm changing my message - it's based on replying to the conversation. I'm not even saying she's not an engineer, just that people need to stop conflating tech certs with engineering. In many of these comments I'm still referring to her as an engineer, so now I'm not a sexist right? Good. Got it.
> technical organization I've ever encountered has to go and get every action stamped and filed by their manager to avoid being fired.
Yep, no engineer can or will get every action stamped and approved by management. They are expected to work independently. However, if you ABUSE that independence to bite the hand of your employer, you have absolutely no expectation of top cover. So if you are planning to do something dangerous like this, you better make sure you have it in writing that it was authorized. Because the burden of proof is now on you to show it was. Furthermore, if you go into a legal setting with your argument that engineers always act autonomously, you just sound like a bunch of cowboys to the bureaucrats that get to decide this.
If and when this goes to court, I agree we will see. But it won't. Of course that will be months and years from now either way.
Until then, if the goal was to inform her co-workers that it was safe to discuss union organizing without fear of reprisal, how's she doing at that?
You're definitely still saying and have been saying you believe she's not an engineer.
> However, if you ABUSE that independence to bite the hand of your employer, you have absolutely no expectation of top cover.
Again, your bias shows. If your employer is treating you well, why would talking about unionization be threatening? These conversations are happening precisely because people claim to be seeing abusive parts of the system and are looking for recourse.
Is that biting the hand of your employer? You clearly think so. Would that folks like you were more active in demanding action the collective action by corporate CEOs to illegally fix wages. Sadly, folks seem content to shrug and smile and pretend that's the right of their minders.
> Furthermore, if you go into a legal setting with your argument that engineers always act autonomously, you just sound like a bunch of cowboys to the bureaucrats that get to decide this.
No, but the idea that summary dismissal is normal for a simple message not approved by management on a legally protected subject is hogwash. I think you know this, but you'd prefer it's not so.
Thank you for the conversation. Goodbye.
I never said that, nor do I necessarily believe that. I replied to someone else in a one-liner which was to put forward a possible reason other people were questioning it.
> Again, your bias shows. If your employer is treating you well, why would talking about unionization be threatening?
Talking about unionizing is not threatening to me, or my company (which has a union), but it's pretty clearly very threatening to your company. You should be cognizant and careful about that.
> Is that biting the hand of your employer? You clearly think so.
What I think is that google and every other sufficiently large company will think so. It would be naive to think because your company has some zippy slogan like "don't be evil" (now retired) that they are somehow different.
It's interesting, btw., how you believe to know what I think based on not at all what I say. Novel way to run an argument.
> Would that folks like you were more active in demanding action the collective action by corporate CEOs to illegally fix wages. Sadly, folks seem content to shrug and smile and pretend that's the right of their minders.
There's a right and a wrong way to take action. Getting youself fired doesn't seem smart, but it could be a nice martyr move if you don't need the income.
If you are engineers, then you are not just wage slaves. You are independent people and can take - or leave - your employment at will. If you don't like company X, I'd suggest it's far better to simply leave.
Your problem is a bad employer, so you add a union, now you have two problems: a still bad employer and a union full of politicians.
So, I've enjoyed your interesting thought processes, and I leave you with this advice:
- read, carefully, the rights granted by the NLRB. Stick strictly and safely within them.
- for example, do you notice that it gives you the right to talk and distribute literature outside working areas (such as breakrooms or parking lots)? Do you notice how modifying a browser security extension isn't on that list? Nor is doxing your co-workers?
- don't use company time or resources to do it! A) it could easily be construed as not-protected and B) obvious opsec reasons
- martyrs for the cause might energize the base but they scare off those with mortgages.
- be mindful of who has your back:
January 2019, google pushes to overturn Purple Communications - https://onlabor.org/google-to-nlrb-shut-down-employee-email-...
December 2019, NLRB overturns Purple Communications - https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/board-restores...
Please explain why she's not an engineer; and please take care to include discussion of why anyone is an arbiter of the "engineer" title in a field which is largely unregulated and not credentialed.
Otherwise the most charitable reading of your comment is something like "ticmasta thinks security engineers are not real engineers," and the less charitable reading is something like "ticmasta claims this person is not an engineer because she is a woman," which is incredibly juvenile and misogynistic. It has no place on this forum.
That IS why (engineers are credentialed and regulated).
And where you got misogynistic is a mystery - simply using someones pronoun of choice in conjunction with something negative isn't implying anything.
The misogyny comes from the fact that this tends to only come up whenever a woman engineer is in the news. Nobody comments on HN threads saying “but he isn’t even an engineer”.
Doing this will get your main account banned as well, so please don't.
Or was she hired to add things she considered relevant?
In her Medium post she claims that "Part of what makes me a great fit for Google is that the company is always telling us to take initiative to deliver high impact work." and also that she received stellar (4/5, 4/5, 5/5, where 5/5 is apparently top 2%) performance reviews, which reinforced her view that she should act on her judgment.
For example, did her design record sufficient analytics for regulatory compliance reporting? If a regulated company can't verify they did it correctly, it didn't happen. Did it distinguish between contractors, part-time and full-time employees? How did it handle employees outside the U.S.? By IP address or did it look up their country of residence in HR records? What about interns? Did it count these different populations correctly or was it at risk of over-reporting and getting the company fined? Did her design meet the requirements for Spanish-speaking ESL employees based in the U.S. Did her design read-out the text for blind and vision-impaired employees or did it initiate notification via an alternate channel?
In my opinion, she's being extremely disingenuous with her claims.
Individual employees publicly embarrassing the company (https://mobile.twitter.com/jweise/status/491788092710199297?...) or accidentally disrupting the network fabric and costing the company $X in missed revenue don't get fired for first offense. The way this was handled seems unusual, suggesting either there's a piece of the puzzle we internet pundits aren't holding or Google has changed its tolerance policy for honest mistakes.
If someone deliberately goes around those checks to push something anyway then it could be a fire-able offense.
She might be naive enough to believe that this was actually protected concerted activity, but I don't think so. I'm not sure I think firing her was the right play, but I also don't have all the information. I will say that I don't think this outcome should surprise her. It should definitely been one of the likely outcomes she modeled when deciding to submit that code.
So if her goal was to cause disruption at Google, it sounds like management just gave her a major assist. Like a Falcon Heavy's worth of assist.
Also, FWIW, this may provide some interesting reading: https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/are-employers-required-to-...
If, indeed, this was not in the company policy, and it is indeed the employee's opinion, then yes, termination is apt.
Part of the right of free speech is correctness of attribution. Trying to speak as someone else, using someone else's communication channels isn't speech, it's fraud.
And I say that as (at least within the spectrum of folks on this site) a full on pinko commie unionizer. If this is the truth of the story, this just wasn't OK, and was a very reasonable firing offense.
Like most of the general public, I have no desire to associate with criminals. If you build your union on a foundation of illegal acts, there's no reason for anyone to believe you'll stop once it gets fully established. Existing unions in the United States provide ample proof of that.
(Oh, and by the way, the Teamsters, whose site you linked to, figure prominently in quite a number of those news stories. There really isn't a better example I can think of of why "Workers need to be willing to break the law in order to win victories against the people that make the laws..." goes down a bad path than them. The Wikipedia article for them contains the word "corrupt" 31 times.)
That's the cleverest counterargument you could manage?
I choose to interpret that, as most readers will, as conceding to my arguments.
Not if they want to win, they don't. Anarchism won nothing at the turn of the century. Organized (note the adjective!) Labor broke through when it became a political movement with representation in government.
Look, the point here is that if you want to win a unionization fight (which is a legal victory, it will happen in courts and with contracts) you have to fight using legal tools. Pulling anarchist tricks like this just makes you feel better, it does nothing but make management's position stronger.
If we leave rhetoric aside, what she's done is the equivalent of sending a leaflet or putting up a poster on company property. That's not strictly 'proper', but life does not happen in courtrooms. You actually have talk to people, let them know what's happening, organise, etc. Courtroom is where the fight is settled in it's last stages.
I disagree that only rights granted by courts are effective in winning labor struggles. Strikes, legal or not, are required for advancing labor's cause.
This worker was attempting to organize her colleagues in an extremely tame way. There was no property damage. We should show our unadulterated support to embolden the working class.
But in this case it appears to be a link to an internal notice.
This was purely a Moral decision on her part and not reasonable in my opinion to tag it as part of her job. She was not happy with how google was retaliating against her co-workers (right or wrong) and she took action using her own judgement. She did this not because this was part of her job but because she wanted to get back at google for their behavior (again right or wrong, thats not the point here).
Some may think a union drive is a company function. From what I remember about my experience with unions is you are allowed to put up notices in the employee breakroom that is done by the union rep who is voted in within each shop.
I would say what she did was more along the lines of blasting the union notice over speakers to everyone who entered the cafe.
Requiring Google to post a list at hq doesn't cover other locations and/or browser notification when visiting certain sites.
> did she add a company policy or guideline by adding what she added? I wouldn't classify a union drive as a company policy.
The answer is that it's a policy that must be posted (just not necesarily there). It wasn't a union drive.
I think there is a reasonable difference between security notifications and other corporate policies.
Were non-security notifications in scope for their job or the tool used?
Google has provided places for people to discuss things. When she didn't think that was good enough she chose to make unapproved code changes that went against corporate direction.
Personally, I'm against unionizing any software company, especially google. Unions were created to prevent systemic abuse of people that were seen as easily replaceable. If you think a recent college graduate making 120k+ that has been provided almost ridiculous perks and freedom unheard of in most of the industry is being abused when they could easily leave Google and expect to receive a similarly paid position virtually anywhere purely because they used to work at Google, then there's no helping you.
Google employees have more rights than at most companies, they can even spend up to 20% of their day working on personal projects and Google won't claim ownership. If they think they need a union when dealing with such a reasonable employer,then those fresh out of college lottery winners need a serious reality check. Let's talk about unionizing Amazon fulfillment centers where they frequently let people go because taking a bathroom break means missing your quota. Let's talk about unionizing virtually any company before we demand labor unions for the most highly privileged group of people in the world.
> This kind of code change happens all the time.
we have all been there.
i think she knew she wasn't following proper procedure. even if it's done "all the time".
Who assigned the jury that duty? And when did that happen?
Per http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/zenger/nullifi... and other sources that I have seen, the understanding of the law when the Constitution was written was that juries should judge both the law and the facts. The view that they should not judge the law only arose decades later in the late 1800s. The fact that the legal profession today sees jurors as having a duty to NOT judge the law I see as undermining the intent of having jury trials in the first place.
The understanding of jury trials when the Constitution was written was that juries had a right and obligation to judge both the law and the facts. The first laws
She’s not a victim. She made a choice (which I personally agree with and find admirable) but the firing seems justifiable.
She needs to understand this power isn't her own to wield.
And the risk of people abusing power to advance their personal agenda is NOT something that would get passed easily once discovered.
> And the risk of people abusing power to advance their personal agenda is NOT something that would get passed easily once discovered.
Yes, it is. It get discovered all the time and no one gives a sh*t about it.
Conversely, an employee's agenda can be left at home, please, if they agree to be employed. The "Engineer" is lucky she isn't brought up on misuse of computing system charges.
I don't like companies that invade employees and customers outside-of-work freedoms. Just as I don't like employees that abuse and undermine the relationship that they freely entered with their employers. If you don't like it - quit and go work somewhere else. Then become activist.
about stuff that will breach company security, not to alert people of dangerous opinions. The latter is not hers to decide.
"Part of my job was to write browser notifications so that my coworkers can be automatically notified of employee guidelines and company policies while they surf the web."
-With regard to what exactly? Context matters, if the browser notifications she was creating were only supposed to pertain to surfing the web then I think we can safely say she overstepped her bounds.
"So when I heard that Google had hired a union busting firm and started illegally retaliating against my coworkers, I decided to make sure that my coworkers knew about the posting."
-Again, it depends on what exactly her job was, but this seems to suggest she had motivation outside the bounds of her job description for doing what she did.
I don’t disagree with what she did. In fact, I think it’s kind of great. However, that doesn’t mean Google didn’t have a right to fire her for it.
> Spiers told NBC News that she was inspired to create a digital notification because “a poster in the cafeteria is not the best way of reaching the majority of Googlers.”
> The message included a link to a statement that the NLRB required the company to post for employees following the settlement of a complaint that was filed against Google in 2016.
> Spiers, 21, said she went through the standard approval process, which requires two co-workers to greenlight changes, before updating the Chrome browser extension. Another source at Google familiar with the update approval process confirmed to NBC news that those two approvals are standard practice for a browser extension update.
Any engineer with the freedom to make changes without manager approval knows that adding features or making major changes isn't not the sort of thing you just do on your own. You'd go through another process for that.
So I don't buy this argument at all. This was a knowing violation. That does not, however, mean that they punishment was warranted, I don't think that it was.
To say that it wasn't the union overtones that got her fired is naive.
Should she have done it? No, absolutely not. Not like that anyway. Should she have been reprimanded? Yes definitely. Should she have been fired? I don’t think so personally, not for a first time mistake at least (we don’t know if she did other things previously or not, of course)
On Google.com if you present a Vivaldi user agent and arrive via a redirect, the search text box will be misaligned
On Google Docs if you present a Vivaldi user agent you will receive a warning
You could tell them to stop instead of firing them after the first offense.
Security tools, and especially extensions that run with full browser access, are in an exceptionally trusted position. Employees who can inject code into arbitrary websites can in effect get administrator access to anything in the company, as Google is run almost entirely off of web apps of various kinds. It's actually hard to get more trusted than that: without a doubt this woman effectively had a greater level of access than Sundar Pichai or other senior executives.
If there's one thing you don't screw around with in any firm, its mis-using administrator access. Mis-use here means doing things that aren't related to your job description. You just don't do it! What she did would be like a logs engineer deleting internal access logs to cover up activity by political allies, or a GMail engineer spying on conversations between executives. It's complete madness to think you can abuse such a high level of trust in such a direct way and get away with it!
I used to have a certain type of Google account system administrator access. The way I used it was watched very closely, and deservedly so. Eventually it was removed because Google built better security systems that could restrict employee access more, and in my team were happy about this (for one, it meant we were less likely to be hacking targets). The idea of anyone abusing this sort of access for political reasons was unthinkable.
I honestly can't believe people here are defending this kind of behaviour. If Googlers feel it's OK to abuse root@chrome for unionisation related purposes, what else might they start doing? What about people perceived as 'bad'? Google needs to explain what happened here pronto, because apparently she was able to get this change through code review? So she had internal allies who approved her abuse of access? That is tremendously worrying.
Google is very rapidly burning the trust it requires for its business models to function. How can anyone trust the firm when 21 year old activists are able to manipulate Chrome for political causes and Google's own security procedures are unable to stop them?
I would not characterize this as evidence that this person is a security risk. It takes existing culture of google, including past incidents like changing the default desktop wallpaper for a protest that was happening, etc.
Also if this is true it is totally insane. Sounds like intimidation tactics to stop exactly what the pop-up warned against.
> They also dragged me into three separate interrogations with very little warning each time. I was interrogated about separate other organizing activities, and asked (eight times) if I had an intention to disrupt the workplace. The interrogations were extremely aggressive and illegal. They wouldn’t let me consult with anyone, including a lawyer, and relentlessly pressured me to incriminate myself and any coworkers I had talked to about exercising my rights at work.
Modifying the behaviour of people's web browsers isn't a channel intended for employees to push personal messages to each other and this should have been really obvious to her. She and her colleagues were trusted with a tremendous amount of power which could be readily abused (see my other comment on this thread), and the expectation was clear that it'd be used only within the bounds of what her management asked her to do, namely corporate security.
When she went outside those bounds and started using her immense technical privileges in ad-hoc ways, and (worse) making arguments like "I got a colleague to approve a code review so it was OK" she gave an extremely clear demonstration that management simply couldn't trust her. It's not about unionisation. It's about someone with the power to steal cookies from her own colleagues going rogue and deciding her own personal political priorities matter more than company policies she had agreed to follow.
All they received was a small rebuke. In fact, management praised the team for the end result of decimating IE6 usage, as intended.
Then one of the architects of the scheme blogged about it in retrospect years later.
> If this went at all wrong, a number of us would surely be fired.
This was absolutely off limits.
What? Granted, I've only worked for large businesses but that would be grounds for immediate termination at any company I've ever worked at.
> As a security engineer who worked on the Chrome browser’s use within Google, Spiers wrote browser notifications so that employees could be automatically notified of the company’s policies and guidelines as they browse the internet. Spiers said that engineers regularly implement such code changes to make their jobs easier and share personal interests.
But programming a popup to appear over a union busting law firm website with a message that such and such law exists was not.
> Spiers wrote a few lines of code that created a pop-up message asserting Google employees’ labor rights whenever her co-workers visited the consulting firm’s website or Google’s community guidelines. The message reads: "Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities." The pop-up would have been visible to anyone at Google.
The standard for whether a company is legally allowed to fire an employee for organizing isn't whether their action is in "good faith", but whether their action is concerted. The fact that it passed code review is therefore critical evidence.
The law already covers situations like this, in terms of whether or not employees are allowed to use the internal technology tools of their employers in order to organize.
Prefixing this by saying I'm not making an assumption about who you're siding with, but offering my opinion on the argument you're using.
> The standard approval process sounds like most merge review processes on any engineering team. There's a sort of assumed good-faith for this process. The fact that 2 coworkers were fine with your change doesn't mean it was made in good-faith and was within the bounds of normal types of changes.
Other people have already argued about whether what she added to the extension is in line with the purpose of the extension and whether it was within her purview.
Regardless of that, I would like to point out that we're not hearing that these two coworkers -- or anyone else involved in the process -- have been fired. Only Spiers. If the concern is really about the security and the trust, why is one person singled out?
With that said, the organization and orchestration problem for movements is a very real problem (finding the correct people and disseminating information). This is something businesses are well aware of and they use that to their advantage.
Change the words in the message, and I can't imagine it being anything but a reprimand, at worst. This is a message to other employees that organizing gets you fired.
I don't understand why two people sign off changes if they assume the person making the changes isn't going to make errors or be "malicious". And I'm not sure why two people sign off changes instead of just one. There's a well understood problem when you have more than one person inspecting product - they both assume the other person is competent and will catch anything they've missed, and they each do a lighter inspection.
Because more eyes catch more bugs. I work in a time like this where we have 2 or even 3 people review stuff; it's extremely common for one engineer to miss stuff that another one catches. It's particularly notable I think with junior vs. senior engineers: I think you really need at least one senior engineer reviewing everything before a merge, but you don't want to keep junior engineers out of the process because then they'll never learn. With trivial tickets, however, you can relax this rule and just have one person review before a merge.
But for product inspection we have pretty good evidence, from millions of human hours of factory work, that it's a bit more complicated.
X makes a widget, and sends it for inspection by Y and Z. Y has a look, but assumes Z will catch anything that Y misses. But Z also assumes that Y will catch anything that Z misses.
You end up with two people doing a superficial inspection and missing problems.
Of course, that's only if they're doing the same inspection twice. If they have different and clearly defined inspection roles the two inspector problem doesn't apply.
In my experience, you more often get the other phenomena where all reviewers (and some other people who get automatically CC'd) dogpile the review and you potentially have too many comments. Or someone ignores the review and it never gets approved. Cursory reviews were basically never a problem.
I've seen some pretty glaring stuff get through a review process, particularly with junior engineers.
A change like this, which was linking to an official policy document, wouldn't have raised any eyebrows.
That said, it seems kind of strange, if this was a better way to post something than the cafeteria, that she added it to the union buster's site, though. Wouldn't only execs and management hiring the union busters go there? Seems like it was a way to argue back with the execs who hired the union busters by essentially defacing the union busters site?
She probably pissed off a high level exec who hired the union busters in the first place and was fired by their order. She was making all the management who visited their site see her notice, and some management obviously support the union busters since they hired them in the first place...
And portrays that Google management is endorsing this instead of a grassroots poster.
IMHO this is at minimum a misrepresentation case. And I would be pretty pissed if it was used for Earth day. Don't mess around with crying wolf.
Working for Google.
It's warning of a legal obligation. Is that not enough of an "endorsement"? And it only pops up if you visit the website of a consulting firm that some say has breached these obligations in the past. It's hard to think of a better way of targeting this warning.
Also, this seems like it is policy rather than an isolated incident. I'd suggest fixing it by maybe correcting people up the food chain. Google is a long way away from their don't be evil motto when they were young, naive, and producing lots of cool new products and services because they weren't held back by corporate idiotism and political correctness.
I know somehow who got fired from Google for taking a half gallon on milk home, because it was late and he didn't feel like swinging by the grocery store.
Putting this into an internal tool does seem unprofessional in my opinion. Why bite the hand that feeds you?
Why the struggle, why the strain?
Why make trouble, why make scenes?
Why go against the grain, why swim upstream?
It ain't, it ain't, it ain't no use
You're bound, you're bound, you're bound to lose
What's done, what's done, what's done is done
That's the way the river runs
So why get wet?
Why break a sweat?
Why waste your precious breath?
Why beat your handsome brow?
Nothing changes, nothing changes, nothing changes
In response to it: You can't apply this to everything, you need to pick you battles. There might be better means to an end.
> Unionising is a pretty good means to improve your working conditions though.
Google has some of the best, if not the best working conditions out of nearly any job for the rank and file employee.
It appears to be from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadestown_(musical)
It looks like it's sung in the voice of the Fates from Greek mythology.
I would say that better you would ask , was this the right time to bite the hand? Because there are good reasons to do it, like if uber self driving cars developers would have done something instead of disabling safety features and lick the hand that feeds them.
Or would she have received a pat on the back, given that she went through the Standard Procedure for adding a feature to the browser plug-in?
i.e. if you work on a payment system, add you add code to siphon sub-cent rounding "errors" to a "settlement" account, said code may pass review (because it looks legit to code reviewers), but I bet management would be pissed at the change if not prior approved.
That sounds like code review approvals, not actual project/management approval of the 'feature'.
We have the same: Cannot commit any code change unless 2 other team members have reviewed it. That has nothing to do with having actual project/management approval for the change.
I don't really see how Google could be in the right here though. If they have an internal program for creating alerts/extensions for specific websites, and Spiers followed the normal procedure for adding such an extension, there doesn't seem to be a problem. The only problem is Google being anti-union, and retaliating against someone for quietly promoting unions in line with existing policies seems a lot like illegal retaliation.
I can't see how google is in the wrong. Unless google allows anyone to change this extension for personal reasons and they only flagged her. Could someone change it to let everyone know they are selling cookies or accepting donations to their church.
It's incredibly obvious this was a violation of her fiduciary duty.
The fact that the message was about employee labor rights means that Google might be in a precarious legal position
I have a poster here in my home office that was mailed to me by my employer's HR department. It advises me of all my rights under state and federal labor laws: equal opportunity, workplace safety, minimum wage, etc. In my mind, it is not at all inappropriate to advise employees of their rights. In fact, the only reason I have this poster is because state and federal labor laws require such notices. Those laws and those requirements are written in the blood of all the serfs, children, and laborers who couldn't earn living wages or who were forced to work at a tender age or who were injured due to corporate malfeasance. The freedom of association is likewise recognized as a right inherent to all people, and its protections were likewise bought with blood. We should all be reminded of our rights and the reasons we safeguard them. An employer who tries to interfere with its employees' freedom of association only seeks to exploit them. If it treated its employees well, it wouldn't need to worry about organized labor—and its employees wouldn't need to organize in the first place.
If Google allows any team member to freely push changes without formal change request, it has to be implied that changes must comply with the scope of the project, company policies, professional standards, etc.
In any case, my point would stand: It does not sound like she had actual project/management approval.
To play devil's advocate, the 'approval' she got does not absolve her (if we suppose that she did something wrong), it just means that the coworkers who approved the change are also in hot water.
I don't see how Google isn't in the right here. The approval process for this security tool was designed to minimize red-tape and maximize contributions because the goal was security, and the assumption was that the lax process wouldn't be abused. The clear intent of the tool is not to push the political agenda. It was there to warn about security-related issues while browsing. She abused the process and deserved to be reprimanded.
Here's an example .. like most companies we have a wiki that anybody can edit. The intent is to get contributions from everybody around product-related issues (e.g. debugging a particular problem, how to configure the product for a specific use-case). Nobody polices usage of this wiki, and the wiki has no specific access controls to bar any individual from editing any page. Certainly though if someone started putting in notes at the top of some of the pages to push a political agenda that would be an abuse of the process, wouldn't you say?
Just to be clear: the message she communicated wasn't about some divisive social issue, it was warning employees to not break federal labor law.
Then be clear. We both know what she was doing, why be obtuse?
This was an activist power-play. Every article that is written about this lists the action as activism. Again, why pretend otherwise?
But if you want more clarification: it's not her job as a SECURITY ENGINEER to send warnings about federal statue compliance through a security tool. I also have yet to have anybody demonstrate that Google was breaking any federal law, and I highly doubt they would. They have entire departments that deal with legal complience.
And you linked to a labour consulting company website, which I take is where this actvist decided to helpfully issue threats to senior management through the security tool she was tasked with maintaining so they think twice about contracting them.
This is a such a clear violation on her part that I am flabbergasted that you would actually defend the move. She deserved to be fired for her arrogant stunt. You don't get to dictate compliance policy (as an early 20-something tech-sister, who knows nothing) to a company employing 50,000 people.
When you use the words like activist and activism you evoke images of people pushing for new things that are politically decisive in some way.
The message she got fired over was expressed pretty settled interpretation of federal labor law that Google recently agreed to disseminate. It's like calling it an "activist power play" to remind the government of the First Amendment when if it tried to censor something or other. It's a stretch.
If anyone's being activist, it's the people who are trying to treat the expression of those rights as some kind of inappropriate activism.
> I also have yet to have anybody demonstrate that Google was breaking any federal law, and I highly doubt they would. They have entire departments that deal with legal complience.
Why do you "highly doubt" Google would break the law? In the past they've broken federal law in pretty obvious ways over labor practices.
They've also been forced to display the list of rights in question as part of a settlement with the NLRB:
Apparently that list is what the notification in question linked to.
> And you linked to a labour consulting company website, which I take is where this actvist decided to helpfully issue threats to senior management through the security tool she was tasked with maintaining so they think twice about contracting them.
I linked to a screenshot of the message we're actually discussing. You can see the so-called "threat" yourself:
> go/nlrbnotice Policy
> Do not violate go/nlrbnotice. Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities.
> View Policy
> This is a such a clear violation on her part that I am flabbergasted that you would actually defend the move.
Black people sitting at lunch counters was once "such a clear violation" of corporate policy, too, but it was pretty defensible, no? Sometimes you have to take a broader view of something than whether it violated policy or not.
I'm not saying this action is fully equivalent to a lunch-counter sit-in, however I do think Google's reaction here was unsupportably harsh. The worst they should have done was issue a reprimand. I'm also "flabbergasted" by the over-the-top condemnation of this engineer's actions.
Because that's what you are when you co-opt an internal tool to put up messaging over the web page of the consulting group that works with your employer. She knew what she was doing. She knew it was a political statement. She may even have even wanted to be martyred.
>The message she got fired over was expressed pretty settled interpretation of federal labor law.
She didn't get fired for her message even though you're trying to spin it that way. The medium matters here. You don't get to co-opt internal tools to post your interpretation of federal labor law, or to send a message to the management team, or whatever else her motivations were. That's why she got fired.
>What are you talking about? I linked to a screenshot of the message we're actually discussing. You can see the so called "threat" yourself:
I know exactly what she did. She made a political statement about a labour consulting group (that they can or do infringe on federal law) and that was directed at least partly at executive management (who else is going to work with IRI Consultants and browse their page). This was a purposeful activist power-play.
The gaslighting that you're engaging in is offputting. This kind of thing would have gotten her fired from pretty much every company in the country and for good reason - she's untrustworthy and cannot seperate her job as a Security Engineer from her activism, and I'm sorry you can't see that.
>Black people sitting at lunch counters was once "such a clear violation" of corporate policy, too, but it was pretty defensible, no?
She's not a black person during Jim Crow era. She's not oppressed, and it's offputing that you would even make that comparison. She's a bay-area engineer who was making a very good salary and betrayed the trust that her position entitled her to.
>I'm not saying this action is fully equivalent to a lunch-counter sit-in,
I hope not because that would be insane.
>The worst they should have done was issue a reprimand.
That's your opinion. I think she deserved termination. You don't want this kind of person on your security team. You cannot trust her to seperate activism from work.
And it is interesting that you can claim that she did nothing wrong, and at the same time understand why she should be reprimended.
> This kind of thing would have gotten her fired from pretty much every company in the country and for good reason - she's untrustworthy and cannot seperate her job as a Security Engineer from her activism, and I'm sorry you can't see that.
What Google-specific support do you have for this, than post-hoc rationalizations based on her firing? Every indication I've seen has told me that Google has developed a very unique corporate culture, which makes inferences from "every company in the country" suspect.
I can definitely see your position (which approximately seems to be: a worker's primary moral obligation is to serve his employers to their satisfaction during his employment. Assertion of his own rights on work time with work resources is a severe moral violation as it puts the workers' interest above the employers'.), I just disagree.
> She's not a black person during Jim Crow era. She's not oppressed, and it's offputing that you would even make that comparison. She's a bay-area engineer who was making a very good salary and betrayed the trust that her position entitled her to.
I'd say she is oppressed, just in a different, less-severe way than black people during the Jim Crow era.
> And it is interesting that you can claim that she did nothing wrong, and at the same time understand why she should be reprimended.
Really? I thought it was pretty widely understood that morality and law are not the same. You can have immoral things that are legal, and moral things that are illegal. Corporate policy is a weak kind of law that has even less claim to respect than federal and state law.
That's not post-hoc rationalization. That's the stated reason. That's also clearly the reason if you take an inventory of the facts on hand.
>Every indication I've seen has told me that Google has developed a very unique corporate culture
Yes, "unique" just like every snowflake is unique. And "Unique corporate culture" doesn't mean you can do whatever you want, as James Damore found out. And yes, her actions (not anybody elses) led to her termination, as would have been the case in every other company.
>I can definitely see your position (which approximately seems to be: a worker's primary moral obligation is to serve his employers to their satisfaction during his employment. Assertion of his own rights on work time with work resources is a severe moral violation as it puts the workers' interest above the employers'.)
That's not my position and I don't appreciate this distortion.
And no, she's not a moral arbiter of Google. She doesn't have the right to assert her interpretation of law and morality on the entire corporation. Maybe she thinks she was doing a moral action (though I would argue her action is narcissim and attention-seeking), but Google employs tens of thousands of people across the world, with different religions and politics and beliefs. You don't get to co-opt internal tools to advocate for Jesus Christ as your saviour (and what could be more moral than saving people from eternal damnation) just because you think that's the moral action.
>I'd say she is oppressed, just in a different, less-severe way than black people during the Jim Crow era.
Talk about an understatement of the century. She's as much oppressed as a grounded teenager, which, you're right, on the oppression scale is "less-severe way than black people during the Jim Crow era".
The stated reason can obviously be a post-hoc rationalization. It's entirely possible that she crossed a line her employer drew after the fact.
> That's not my position and I don't appreciate this distortion.
Well, if you could clarify, that would be great. It's clear to me that there's some moral component to your position, given your language:
>>> she's untrustworthy
>>> [she] betrayed the trust that her position entitled her to.
> She doesn't have the right to assert her interpretation of law and morality on the entire corporation.
(I should note that it's not her interpretation, it is the law.)
> I would argue her action is narcissim and attention-seeking
I does sound like you feel that her overriding moral obligation was to serve her employers to their satisfaction, and that it was a strong moral violation to take a fairly anodyne action that caused her employers some discomfort. No money was lost, no security systems breached, no confidential data exposed. The only thing that happened was a few people saw a required legal notice that her employers would rather have people forget about.
> Spiers' pop-up message was inserted into a tool that notifies employees of privacy and security concerns about using non-Google tools and services, like warning employees not to upload proprietary information to Dropbox, Spiers said. The tool is managed by the platform security team, for which Spiers worked for almost two years as a security engineer.
So, seems like the bulletin was pretty far outside the intended function and should have required more than a code review. I wonder what will happen to the people who accepted the patch?
I’m surprised how many people are jumping through hoops to defend this sort of thing.
I think a reasonable reaction would be to remove the message from the extension, put in place a better review process, better training and possibly some minor negative comments at review time.
No, but I think they'd similarly be fired if they had written an anti-union popup. (Indeed, if someone wrote an anti-union popup and weren't fired for it, I expect that would itself have made the news as a "Google hates unions" story.)
Yes, immediately and for cause. Internal business apps at large companies are not your personal playground.
Yes I do. 100%.
>put in place a better review process,
This is your solution? The process was intentionally lax so that you wouldn't have too much red-tape when soliciting contributions. The assumption was that this wouldn't be abused by your Security engineers(!!). Your solution to this is to make the process more onerous because one individual couldn't behave like an adult? How about you keep the process as is and you fire the individual who couldn't differentiate activism from security work.
Again with the jumping through hoops...
The application maybe, depending on how you set it up. Not the website itself.
Edit: Her warning literally said: "Do not violate NLRB notice. Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities." (see screenshot in article, bottom right.) This is something that Google is already obligated to acknowledge under labor law. They're simply shooting the messenger.
Comments having divided opinions on a divisive topic is the most common thing on the internet. There's no need to torture Occam.
To the extent that unions would make the company able to make profit less efficiently, for example by making it harder to fire poor employees, it would have been against my own interests.
I also totally never felt that there was a power imbalance between me and my employer. I got to work whenever I wanted, worked on whatever I wanted, left whenever I wanted, and when I got burned out and started disliking the job, I quite easily found a job somewhere else. Again, probably different for non-software-engineers, but it's not hard to understand why many of us feel no draw to unions.
It's hard for me to understand when you look at other similar industries. We're not talking about blue collar unions here: we're talking about white collar unions. They're very different.
Take Hollywood as an example. You have incredibly wealthy individuals who are all members of unions. Kevin Feige makes Disney billions of dollars, but he still pays his PGA dues.
The purpose of unions like the WGA, PGA, DGA, SAG, and Equity aren't to "make it harder to fire poor employees" - they're to provide equal protection to all members regardless of whether they're making millions upon millions of dollars or just getting started in the industry.
Sometimes I feel people in tech forget there is a highly skilled, highly unionized industry just a few hundred miles south of Silicon Valley that seems to be doing OK. Is it perfect? No, definitely not. Is the film industry better to work in with the unions than without? Almost certainly yes.
Yet demand for software engineers are higher than ever. It seems like market forces should counteract these issues, however SV is impervious to these issues.
If you want to start an industry wide programmer union, by all means, start one and then try and get people to join it. I'd love to hear what benefits you think I would get by joining an industry wide programmer union.
The WGA was grandfathered in with the law, but you’re not allowed in the US to create sector wide programmers union. It is cool to imagine what you could accomplish with sector-wide software strikes though.
Have you considered using the AMA or similar in your examples instead?
And so if someone wants to convince people how effective unions are at worker protection, Hollywood's unions aren't the most convincing example.
Another personal view - as somebody from Europe, I really don't feel any need for any unions. I am not trembling from fear that I will get fired. If I will, there will be good reasons (my poor performance or employer getting into financial troubles). For me, that's a good trade-off for extra pay and interesting work. When I was consulting, I had nano-fraction of current job security, but again it was offset by salary. Again, fair deal for me and for employer too.
Another reason - anytime I even remotely interfered with Union people in my previous jobs, they literally reeked of internal politic games, keeping their comfy jobs as safe as possible. You get this kind of folks in any company, even in my current one, although we don't have unions. They try different ways (ie managing pension fund or other 'political' positions that require little work but add friction to firing process). Needless to say they are never stellar performance workers.
This all obviously doesn't say anything about Google or generally SV culture, my experience is local to 3 European states only, and cca 6 companies.
We in IT are vastly overpaid compared to any other engineering degree holders. Not complaining, but its a fact. Just talk to other engineering folks. High salaries and positions can be achieved quickly, not over 30 years of gradual rise of staying within same company.
If/once market saturates and salaries go down significantly, there might be more need for unions. But most folks are not there I think.
It's hard to concevive of a more asymmetrical partnership, and a partnership in which one party uses all their power, legally and socially, to increase the intensity and duration of work, and dictates the method in which it is done.
Your employer doesn’t feel that way.
Understand: I make no claim that malevolently exploitative companies don't exist; of course they do.
But your position seems to be that any company that makes any profit is malevolently exploitative.
Going to work without a union is like going to court without a lawyer. Are there incompetent lawyers? Does it cost money to hire a lawyer? Of course, but that doesn't mean it isn't a stupid idea to try to represent yourself pro se.
Unfortunately, workers in the US have been the subject to the equivalent of a fifty year propaganda campaign bankrolled by prosecutors (business owners) to convince people they're really better off if they represent themselves in court pro se (without a union). The sad thing is the campaign has worked surprisingly well.
Dropping the analogy, I think many tech workers are treated relatively well for now by employers. Sort of like a well-treated personal assistant to the boss, who is comfortable and has their small privileges compared to those in the factory floor, and therefore feels like they're more like a boss than a worker, even though that's not at all the case.
The startup ecosystem has also encouraged tech workers to think of themselves as future bosses rather than present-day workers, so they favor the policies they imagine their hypothetical future selves benefiting from, even though it hurts themselves and their friends today.
That's stretching the analogy too far, and adding biasing details to force the impression that unions are bad.
Here's another analogy:
Going to work without a union is like going to war without any military organization. If your enemy is well-organized, how smart is it for you and your fellow soldiers to attack individually in an uncoordinated way without any overall strategy?
That is perhaps a better analogy indeed, but still lacks a bit since each 'soldier' has different goals and capabilities, which may be curtained by if they organise. And the 'enemy' still requires you to cooperate with them at the end, to come to their side and help them achieve their goals, which again, would probably mean you would be fucked if you were fighting alongside, and midway decided that the 'enemy' was actually right and you wanted to work with them.
The other thing is that I see a lot of criticism of some practice or other of some particular union inflated into a critique of unionization in general. I object to that because 1) it often echos management's anti-union propaganda talking points, and 2) it denies the possibly to innovate in the area of worker organization. I think there's a lot of value for workers in worker organization, even for high performers, and I think that needs to be the focus.
I have no horse in this race. But as a counterpoint, pretty much everything in New York is more expensive due to heavy unionisation, particularly around construction and public services.
Europe doesn't have this problem because they have good unions. We can't have those in America. I really don't know why, but that's just how it is.
Construction in NYC is far more expensive than anywhere else in the world, largely because of union contracts.
It's not just unions, but here is a taste:
There are “nippers” to watch material being moved around and “hog house tenders” to supervise the break room. Each crane must have an “oiler,” a relic of a time when they needed frequent lubrication. Standby electricians and plumbers are to be on hand at all times, as is at least one “master mechanic.” Generators and elevators must have their own operators, even though they are automatic. An extra person is required to be present for all concrete pumping, steam fitting, sheet metal work and other tasks.
In New York, “underground construction employs approximately four times the number of personnel as in similar jobs in Asia, Australia, or Europe,” according to an internal report by Arup, a consulting firm that worked on the Second Avenue subway and many similar projects around the world.
I don't know the answers. Some of them legitimately may be useless sinecures, but it's worth keeping in mind that what looks like redundant waste is sometimes an important guard against some kind of failure. Just because it isn't always used doesn't mean that it's not worthwhile.
Even more likely is that the redundancy exists because of something bad that happened in the past. That is how most regulation comes into existence.
In the public sector, unions and engineering firms/management contractors are not at odds as they are in the private sector, they collaborate to rip off the public.
Companies will want to save money and you don't need to force them to save money.
It's clearly a "job saving" argument and not a "money saving" one.
Unions at least in my country are all about political power, and little about workers' rights. The major ones are composed of mostly retirees from an era and a work modus operandi that is no longer the case there.
They argue for a model that is equal for everyone - yes, everyone equal at the bottom. They insist that every contract should be handled mostly at the national level (for political bargaining power) and discourage local agreements between unions and employers.
Also the public transportation seems to enjoy the "special" privilege of having a strike (not necessarily for workers' rights) at least once every month, "by chance" almost always on a Monday or a Friday.
Oh, and when an acquaintance of mine tried to get a union to help her file her retirement papers, they basically left her to her own devices (she was a retiree, no longer a worker, so "tough luck") and she had to fix the many problems that emerged by herself.
If we need unions, they need to be nothing like the one I hear about every day in the news.
EDIT: And for this reason I also refuse to take part in any union (last time someone wanted to do so, all I heard were "marches" and "strikes": people, it's not the 1970s anymore).
Unions are good for private companies, as there is a balance of powers - if the owners pay employees too little, employees quit, whereas if the employees protest too much, the company doesn't sell anything - both scenarios lead to collapse / bankrupcy, so both sides are motivated to cooperate and find a compromise.
In public services, there is no such balance - the state isn't constrained by market forces, and it won't collapse no matter how much employees protest. In addition, state employment usually comes with other benefits (e.g. job & pension security), so really the employees shouldn't be complaining and holding the whole country hostage.
-FDR Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service
I think we've seen this play out in how public unions now dominate policy discussions putting the public good as an often secondary consideration.
Because they, like any other organization, tend to become corrupt and exercise their power to the benefit of the "party insiders", at the expense of the everyday member. And I, for one, don't feel any need to have my pay rate negotiated based on some group average or least common denominator. And union dues.
I personally fully support the right of people to bargain collectively, but being a member of a union is not something I'm particularly interested in.
> Because they, like any other organization, tend to become corrupt and exercise their power to the benefit of the "party insiders", at the expense of the everyday member. And I, for one, don't feel any need to have my pay rate negotiated based on some group average or least common denominator. And union dues.
I'd join a union if one were available to me, then I'd work in it to make sure it was well-run and effective.
And while the company may not be "on your side", companies are still bound by market forces, on both sides of the equation. You can't compete (for now!) without people, and if you constantly run your best people off by mistreating them, you aren't going to be very successful in the long run.
Its not true.
Real life isn't that simple. These things aren't binary, "it's true" or "it's false". There is a continuum along which things vary. The extent to which companies are compelled by market forces to treat their employees well is obviously something that varies by sector / geography / profession / etc.
I'm not saying that nobody is justified in joining a union, or that unions have no reason to exist. I'm just saying that relative to my combination of the above factors, I do not find any appeal in the idea of joining a union, when you balance it against the associated negatives.
EDIT: Let's read the second paragraph of the article again:
"each time Google employees visited the website of IRI Consultants — the Troy, Michigan, firm that Google hired this year amid a groundswell of labor activism at the company"
You see that phrase 'labor activism'? This is the exact cognitive dissonance I am describing here. You want to pretend activism isn't political, that an employee planting a message on the website of a company affiliated with their employer related to this political subject is totally innocent and not a politically charged message. Just 'totally telling you your rights' and nothing more than that. That's intellectually dishonest.
As others have said, if she'd abused her access to insert, say, a pithy pop-up about recycling on Earth Day, she would have received a slap on the wrist at the very worst. This isn't about changing the code without authorization. This is about a message Google doesn't want employees to hear.
I believe that you should be able to join whatever professional organization that you want.
But the moment that you try and force me to join that professional organization, with legal provisions that would cause me to lose my job if I refuse, is the moment that I go to war against you.
I will retaliate. I will fight back. Because I no longer have any sympathy for you, if you are going to cause me to lose my job because I refused to join your special club.
To me this sounds like someone snuck a PR that does questionable things into the code base.
Sure you can say that's a failing of the PR process, but it doesn't mean putting up the PR in the first place shouldn't be punishable.
"Following the process" doesn't absolve you from the fact you initiated the process with questionable intents.
Honestly, I would not want to work with someone who'd do that, and would be surprised if that wasn't a fireable offense.
I value the fact I don't have to scour PRs for covert (or honestly, even overt) attempts to stick political messages into our codebase.
I don't know why there is this pervasive desire to strangle developers. This is a pretty recent phenomena in my opinion and certainly nothing close to a requirement to develop great software.
If I were an employee at Google, actions such as this would let me seriously consider to look for other work. The requirement for the code review for internal tools already seems awefully restrictive.
Give employees power / freedom and fire fast if you do stupid things.
Stricter regulations/ checks so they cannot mess up hard in the first place. At the cost of slower pace and less risks taken.
Google has historically been the former. And it comes with people doing stupid things and getting fired. Just the world is not used for huge companies to keep operating in such mode.
I applaud Google for keeping being open and not enforcing processes. The rest of the world will grow up eventually.
But I fail to see how the employee in question did something that justifies firing her. Maybe there are other factors involved, but I certainly think that people opting for getting rid of her only on the basis of publicly available information shouldn't have any form of responsibility for staff to be honest.
How on earth is that restrictive? Having code review for any important code should be normal at any company. Just because the tool is internal doesn't mean it's trivial and any engineer (especially a 21-year-old: how is she even an employee and not an intern at that age?) should be able to merge anything in willy-nilly.
So to answer your inane question, she wouldn't be an employee because she's not old enough to have graduated college yet. And that's just to get a BS degree; lots of engineers these days (esp. at top-tier companies like Google) get an MS degree before they enter the workforce full-time.
I'm rather appalled that I have to spell this out here on this forum.
Yeah. I don't think so. The tool in question is an internal security tool, not a communication tool to get her message out. The two engineers who signed off on this should also be reprimanded. This is a clear abuse of a process meant to take in security-related contributions without too much red-tape.
And you want a separation of concerns here. You don't want a tool created for security to push the political agenda of some activists.
And she literally says the only reason for her change was because she wanted to get the word out because posters aren't effective enough: "Spiers told NBC News that she was inspired to create a digital notification because “a poster in the cafeteria is not the best way of reaching the majority of Googlers.”" ... yeah. Sorry posters aren't effective enough for you, you can't do that.
In this particular case, does Google consistently apply the stated reasoning? Google says it does, the engineer says they don't. Do we just trust Google despite a very long history of corporations taking illegal or unacceptable actions against employees engaging in similar actions, or do we let it go before a court to be decided?
If you're speeding over the limit and the cops pull you over, you still deserve the fine, simply because that's the law. This doesn't mean that the cops themselves are innocent of any wrongdoing, but the two issues are separate.
And of course civil disobedience can be justified if the law or its application are unjust, but using it as an excuse after the fact is lame.
If you can prove it isn't being applied fairly it can result in rewards that more than cancel out any such penalty. Such discrimination cases can be hard to prove but can result in significant rewards magnitudes greater than the ticket fine.
The purpose of the extension is to serve site-specific pop-ups. Spiers added a pop-up to an existing pop-up tool using existing, precedented processes.
The analogy to a poster in a cafeteria, which is explicitly protected by federal law, passes a first-order smell test.
This is more than just a "poster in the cafe" because of the reach and invasiveness of the approach.
Disclaimer: I work for Google, speaking for myself only.
Google is free to pull the tool or change the documented process. (I admit, the process seems lax.) Instead, they fired the employee. That’s an aggressive response.
> the reach and invasiveness of the approach
It’s a pop-up generated when one visits the site of the “firm that Google hired this year amid a groundswell of labor activism at the company”. That sounds like a reasonable scope.
Again, using a tool whose entire purpose is to serve site-specific pop-ups.
It's not a free for all space to put random messages into.
Federally-protected content isn’t random speech.
There are reasonable arguments on both sides. Looking forward to seeing them play out at the NLRB and in the courts.
The only solid takeaway at this time is, if you think this is black-and-white, you’re missing salient detail.
I'm actually ignorant on the specific time/place/manner of protection for organizing. Can you educate me?
More specifically to unionizing, employees are allowed to discuss unions but employers are allowed to place some restrictions on when/where such discussions can take place. From the NLRB :
> Working time is for work, so your employer may maintain and enforce non-discriminatory rules limiting solicitation and distribution, except that your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
If you start adding wholly unrelated messages into the security warnings, people start ignoring them. We've seen the same with medical systems where doctors and nurses ignore the important pop ups because so many are just interruptions.
This doesn't feel like the right analogy. She (ab)used her access after all. A better one IMO would be a cafeteria worker sneaking in a leaflet among the napkins. Definitely feels less innocent.
(edit: reading more, it's clear that the only thing that makes this "fireable" in google's view is that it promotes union organizing that they oppose. Any other such message would probably not cause firing unless it caused a PR problem, and perhaps not even then.)
This is actually false (it's not listed in the article, so I wouldn't expect you to know). It was a config file containing URL patterns and plain text messages. Most messages were things like: "please don't upload random company files to dropbox.com/upload".
So my take is that this employee's job responsibilities probably involved notifying sending these types of notifications. However I'd actually agree that there was some "abuse" because letting someone know they are about to upload a file to dropbox is pretty different than using it as a forum to remind people that organizing is a protected activity. I wouldn't fire someone over that because despite them being in the wrong, it doesn't seem malicious.
If she bypassed code review, introduced a vulnerability, abused a known weakness to violate policy (e.g. logged into an account with signing keys to deploy manually when it's usually automated), etc. then you'd have a case. If she did her job and followed all policies about review and the only question is the content of the notification, then the way she sent it is an unfair criticism. It reeks of CFAA-style stretching of the truth about authorized access, and we as hackers shouldn't stand for it.
I wrote a command-line tool at work to automatically add a bunch of party parrots to a Slack message. This tool runs with your personal credentials, and web-scrapes your Slack access token in order to run. As a normal UNIX tool it also has access to your homedir etc. The credentials it uses can also read your private Slack DMs, access data that you can get to but I am legally forbidden from seeing, etc. - but it does none of those things. I installed it to a bin directory in everyone's path, without code review, because we have a system that explicitly allows this and it is often useful. Our security team raised a general ticket to the effect of, hm, maybe code review should be required before you stick code in everyone's PATH. Nobody is thinking of firing me for "injecting arbitrary Python" or "stealing credentials" or anything because nothing I did was against either policy or convention, even though you can make it sound horrid if you choose.
But that doesn't mean it was OK. It just means the co-workers might have greenlit it without taking a close look, or were misled as to what they were approving, or that they were approving it because the code was correct technically, and approval isn't about judging the code's product purpose.
If this tool was NOT meant to be used as the equivalent of "posters on the wall" and she modified it, regardless of co-worker code approval, it DOES seem to be an abuse of privileges.
If her manager had given her the OK, then she's in the right. Otherwise, I have a hard time seeing how this isn't abuse of one's position.
It also weaponizes the internal browser to advocate for political causes.
It shows such stunningly bad judgement that they are entirely justified in firing her.
In the same way, I know I have a right to vote, but I definitely felt it was annoying when I had a coworker who would regularly spam us to remind us to vote. It's not necessarily Political, but it's advocacy. I only have so much mental bandwidth - hijacking it to have my read a message of your choosing is cause advocacy whether I agree with it or not.
Advocating a certain level of involvement/mindfulness of specific issues is political - Most of the difference between folks in the same party/ideology is just in if they think about or prioritize certain issues over others. Do you care more about Union Rights or the Environment? International Wars or domestic policing? Pushing people towards one over the other is political even if they already agree with you on the underlying issue.
That said, if I was taking a world history class, and my teacher spent the whole class for a year exclusively going over US war atrocities and rights abuses, I think you could argue that would be political, even if it was all factual and correct. They chose to present a set of facts that leads people towards a specific ideology and worldview that influences how they observe politics and the government.
Telling people truths can still be political. Having a popup at work, or a chat message, that informed me of a political candidate's policy positions would be "telling people facts about reality they should know", but is definitely political advocacy. Just because that candidate happens to be in favor of workers rights, or union power, or parental leave, doesn't mean that it's now a relevant work topic.
In a perfect world, everyone would know all their rights and all the laws that are relevant to them, but most people don't. Trying to impose that I take time at work to inform myself about them is thus innately political advocacy. That's not to say that it's a bad thing - I appreciate folks who remind people to vote/registration deadlines, or post informative information about relevant local laws, but it doesn't mean it's not political advocacy to do so when you're doing it in a targeted manner.
It's possible to both think that what this person did was political activism, and to believe that it probably shouldn't have been punished this hard.
Because of that most companies over time become very strict and unforgiving.
No, the "so basically" is the employee added another URL & a string to a map of URLs & strings in an existing extension.
The extension already existed. It already showed notifications on various URLs. She didn't create that part.
Despite news articles mentioning walkouts themed on identity politics and out of court sexual assault allegations - those are narrow and not representative of the collective: a small, but vocal clique demanding VIP treatment at the expense of everything else. As for the feelings of those not fitting those characteristics? Do they not have their own personal and professional struggles, ambitions to cooperate and rise in the organization and live a happy life with a family?
It's a perfect distraction from the worker's struggle for union representation.
In order to form a union, you need votes. Google's management knows enduring the most radical and loud is a small price compared to having a union to ensure everyone is treated fair.
Cater to the whims of radicals rather than focusing on common ground == no plurality. Union busted, mission accomplished. https://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/whats-law/employees/i...
Things that would likely require legal review and Google has the budget to test the waters of at this point.
The last clause in the link below pertains to this scenario, I think, which may bite Google. Or it may not because it all depends on case law and what union leadership is willing to push back on (which could take years to sort out via legal proceedings)
Really, at the end of the day all Google has to risk via this kind of behavior is some lawyer time, setting precedent, and potentially being required to post a notice if they end up losing.
> Working time is for work, so your employer may maintain and enforce non-discriminatory rules limiting solicitation and distribution, except that your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms. Also, restrictions on your efforts to communicate with co-workers cannot be discriminatory. For example, your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about the union during working time if it permits you to talk about other non-work-related matters during working time.
1. A list of one website on which to notify
2. The static content to display on that website in a predefined (provided by the browser) popup context.
While I grant what you're saying is possible given the dev's access rights, it's not required for the functionality described in the article.
Even so much as organizing could be viewed as a threat by Google’s management.
> This kind of code change happens all the time. We frequently add things to make our jobs easier or even to just share hobbies or interests. For example, someone changed the default desktop wallpaper during the walkout last year so that the Linux penguin was holding a protest sign. The company has never reacted aggressively in response to a notification such as this in the past. It’s always been a celebrated part of the culture