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Judge has ordered Google to turn over documents related to a secret anti-union campaign

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A National Labor Review Board court has ordered Google to turn over a flood of papers related to a sneaky anti-union effort it undertook in 2019. This is part of an ongoing inquiry into potentially unlawful retribution against workers who engage in labour advocacy.

Since December 2020, when the NLRB accused Google of illegally surveilling and retaliating against two workers who were participating in labour organising, which is deemed “protected activity” under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the internet giant has been in legal peril.

The NLRB’s case was later expanded to include three more former Google employees, albeit one of them has since negotiated a settlement with the company.

According to Motherboard, the firm has now been compelled to turn over 70 papers to the NLRB related to “Project Vivian,” an internal operation aimed at spreading anti-union propaganda. The records, in particular, relate to a plan created by Google in collaboration with IRI Consultants, a “labour relations” agency that Google engaged to help it combat organising among its ranks.

Google had previously attempted to keep the documents out of the public eye by claiming that they were “legally privileged communications.” Only 9 out of 80 papers could be correctly designated as privileged after a closer examination by a court-appointed official.

The documents, according to the outlet, contain “campaign materials prepared for distribution to employees, training materials for staff on how to campaign against union membership 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.” They are not open to the public and will now be turned over to the NLRB court.

Motherboard recently reported on how companies like IRI Consultants are infamous for compiling extensive dossiers on employees as part of their contract work, including unsettling details like personality and emotion analysis.

When it comes to anti-union initiatives, Google is, of course, in good (or, more precisely, bad) company. Companies like Amazon and Tesla have been known to use aggressive techniques in the past.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the issue, and we’ll update it as soon as we hear back.

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