May 1, 2019

Retaliation: The Collection

UPDATE

Since initially publishing this collection of five stories early last week, we have continued to witness, experience, and hear stories about retaliation across the industry. Retaliation happens every day to FTEs and contingent/contract workers, and it's always for the simple act of standing up for ourselves against a power structure that, despite sugar-coated words to the contrary, never intended to work in our interest at all. For each of the stories we shared here this week, there are hundreds more exactly like them. If there is anything heartening to be learned from these stories and others, it is that workers who stand together seem better able to weather these storms. If we stand, stand together, and we will not fall.

If this has happened to you — you are not alone. Please consider sharing your story with us, tweeting it to us, or otherwise speaking up or advocating on behalf of victims of retaliation when you see it happening.

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This week at Facebook, a San Fransisco cafeteria worker, one of the union leaders, was abruptly fired for what was allegedly a burnt salmon. This union is mid-negotiation with their company, and this is a clear-cut case of the employer terminating a worker who is involved in legal, protected union action to silence and repress worker voices. In other words: this is retaliation.

Retaliation isn’t always as blatant as termination over allegedly burnt salmon. To honor International Workers' Day, workers at Facebook and Google have come together in coalition to share their stories of retaliation in the workplace: retaliation against workers organizers explicitly fighting for better work conditions as well as retaliation against rank and file workers simply expressing their need to be treated with dignity. Workplace retaliation is common, insidious and often goes unnoticed.

Workplace retaliation can be as overt as a being fired or demoted, or as subtle as an abrupt and cold shoulder from a supervisor and an increasingly diminished role on a team. Workers who previously were led to believe they were valued for their performance are suddenly convinced otherwise and often conclude that they are the problem. Workers frequently leave the teams where the were retaliated against for their advocacy or quit their job entirely, hoping their next employer “is different”. When retaliation happens in the workplace it can feel like a rare accident, but when many workers come forward with their stories a trend becomes all too clear: it’s not us, it’s them. Retaliation is everywhere.

Retaliation against workers isn’t new and it’s not unique to Facebook or Google. To build the power we need to confront the inequalities in our individual workplaces, we have to build coalitions with our fellow workers across the industry at large. Retaliation is a powerful weapon against workers because it goes unnoticed, easily obfuscated as a normal outcome for behavioral concerns, business needs, or even as sympathy. We are made to believe that these are individual experiences, when in fact they are part of a larger mechanism that operates explicitly to maintain the status quo. Our solidarity and our sharing of stories can help protect against retaliation by enabling us to recognize and call it out when we see it, and to build the foundation for beginning to fight back.

Today, we present a series of stories about from workers at Google and Facebook about retaliation they’ve experienced. Read these stories. Share them widely. And if you have your own story of retaliation, share it with us.