New details about Google’s secret anti-union campaign called “Project Vivian” have emerged. The data company fought union organizing efforts in the company with Project Vivien from late 2018 to early 2020. The US magazine reports [i]Vice[i/i] and relies on internal company documents that are part of a labor law procedure.
Google’s director of labor law, Michael Pfyl, describes Project Vivian in the documents as an initiative “to involve employees more positively and to convince them that unions suck”, so Vice. A Google attorney suggested finding a “respected voice to publish an opinion piece outlining what a unionized tech workplace would look like, and the staff at FB (Facebook), MSFT (Microsoft), Advising Amazon and Google not to do this “.
Google’s head of personnel, Kara Silverstein, supported the idea, but wanted “no fingerprints”: The article should not be written “Google-specific”. The responsible administrative judge now orders Google to present this and around 180 other documents to the court.
Proceedings against Google
The documents cited by Vice are part of proceedings before a regional section of the state’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The process goes back to the complaint of seven current and former Google employees from December 2019. Five of the complainants had been fired and two had been disciplined after they had worked, among other things, to improve working conditions for employees of Google contractors in the workplace.
In addition, the Googlers had circulated a petition calling on the company to terminate contracts with US authorities involved in the deportation of immigrants and the separation of families.
The complaint led to an investigation; eventually a US labor attorney sued Google. Google employees claim they have been sacked for attempting to unionize. Google, on the other hand, justifies the layoffs to this day with an alleged violation of security protocols.
Google employees found out in 2019 that Google was getting anti-union advice. The company hired a company called IRI Consultants, known for helping employers with anti-union campaigns. At the time, Google faced an unprecedented wave of employee protests and activism related to sexual harassment and contracts with the US Department of Defense.
Google needs documents released
On January 7th, the administrative judge ruled that Google must “immediately” submit 180 internal documents in connection with its Project Vivian campaign, including the document with Pfyl’s testimony. So far, Google has refused to hand these and other documents over to a lawyer who represents injured former Google employees, invoking legal confidentiality. According to the judge, this does not apply to the 180 documents.
At the beginning of 2020, hundreds of employees of Google and other subsidiaries of the Google holding company Alphabet founded a union for Google employees in the USA for the first time. The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU-CWA) is open to full-time and part-time employees as well as temporary workers and workers on fixed-term contracts. Workers’ representation is part of the network of local unions known as the Communications Workers of America, a union with around 700,000 members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Google does not yet recognize the AWU-CWA.