A newly launched doc sheds mild on Google’s efforts to quash activism, together with for a union, amongst its staff. In an order submitted Friday, an administrative legislation decide for the National Labor Relations Board informed Google to show over to the legal professional representing a bunch of present and former staff paperwork associated to its “Project Vivian,” and its hiring of a consulting agency that advises employers battling unionization efforts.
Google launched Project Vivian to dissuade staff from unionizing after employee activism started heating up in late 2018. In the order, Michael Pfyl, Google’s director of employment legislation, is quoted describing Project Vivian’s mission as “to engage employees more positively and convince them that unions suck.” The context for Pfyl’s description isn’t clear from the order, which additionally references an effort to make use of the media to quietly disseminate Google’s level of view about unionized tech workplaces.
The decide, Paul Bogas, ordered Google to adjust to parts of a subpoena for paperwork associated to Project Vivian, in addition to Google’s hiring of IRI Consultants, the anti-union agency. In November, Bogas issued an analogous order for different paperwork regarding Vivian and IRI; the subpoena covers greater than 1,500 paperwork.
The subpoena is a component of an NLRB case introduced by seven Google staff and ex-employees in December 2019. (One former worker has since settled.) Five staff had been fired and two had been disciplined after they engaged in office activism, together with efforts to enhance working circumstances for Google contractors, and circulating a petition calling on the corporate to finish its contract with US authorities businesses concerned in immigrant deportation and household separation. Paul Duke, one of the fired staff who introduced the costs, says the organizing was half of an effort to put the muse for a union.
Responding to the previous staff’ claims that they had been fired in retaliation for office organizing, a Google spokesperson wrote, “The underlying case here has nothing to do with unionization. It’s about employees breaching clear security protocols to access confidential information and systems inappropriately”—a reference to inner paperwork the workers accessed.
Duke flatly rejects the declare that he and his colleagues breached safety protocols, saying the paperwork had been accessible to all engineers and that the corporate later labeled them “need to know.”
In its objections to the subpoenas, Google claimed attorney-client privilege and “work product privilege,” which protects supplies ready in anticipation of litigation. Bogas rejected many of these claims, calling one assertion “to put it charitably, an overreach.” Of the efforts to characterize a possible union election as litigation, and due to this fact privileged, he wrote, “The respondent cannot spin the mere fact of a nascent organizing effort among employees into ‘litigation’—like straw spun into gold—that entitles it to cloak in privilege every aspect of its antiunion campaign.”
Bogas’ order references an effort by Google executives, together with company counsel Christina Latta, to “discover a ‘respected voice to publish an op-ed outlining what a unionized tech workplace would look like,” and urging employees of Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google not to unionize. The order says that in an internal message Google human resources director Kara Silverstein told Latta that she liked the idea, “but that it should be done so that there ‘would be no fingerprints and not Google specific.’” According to the order, IRI later offered a proposed draft of the op-ed to Latta; it’s not clear if the article was ever revealed.