Google Must Turn Over Docs Connected to Secret Anti-Union Campaign, Judge Rules

Google Must Turn Over Docs Connected to Secret Anti-Union Campaign, Judge Rules
Photo: David Paul Morris, Getty Images

As part of an ongoing investigation involving potentially unlawful retaliation against workers involved in labour activism, Google must turn over a slew of documents connected to a stealthy anti-union campaign it conducted back in 2019, a National Labour Review Board judge has ordered.

The tech giant has been in legal trouble since December 2020, when the NLRB accused Google of illegally surveilling and retaliating against two workers who were involved in labour organising, the likes of which is considered “protected activity” under the National Labour Relations Act of 1935. The NLRB’s complaint subsequently widened to include three additional employees, though Google has since reached a settlement with one of them.

Per Motherboard, the company has now been ordered to disclose to the NLRB 70 documents connected to what was creepily called “Project Vivian,” an internal operation meant to push anti-union messaging within the company. More specifically, the documents relate to strategy devised by Google in coordination with IRI Consultants, a “labour relations” firm that Google hired to assist it in its efforts to tamp down on organising within its ranks.

Google had previously tried to withhold the documents from inspection by claiming they represented “legally privileged communications.” Closer scrutiny by a court-appointed official recently found that only 9 out of 80 documents could be properly classified as privileged.

The documents, which are not open to the public but will now be turned over to the NLRB court, reportedly contain “campaign materials prepared for distribution to employees, training materials for staff on how to campaign against unionization among persons they manage, anti-union messaging and message amplification advice for [Google], and updates on how the campaign is being viewed among employees and/or in various reports,” the outlet reports.

Motherboard also previously reported on how firms like IRI Consultants are known to create comprehensive dossiers on employees as part of their contract work — the likes of which include creepy amounts of detail, such as personality and sentiment analysis.

Google is, of course, in good (or, more accurately, bad) company when it comes to its anti-union efforts. Corporations like Amazon and Tesla have been known to employ similarly aggressive tactics.

We reached out to Google for comment on this story and will update it if the company responds.