A ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has revealed a top-secret project carried out by Google known as Project Vivian. The internal company documents were published as part of the NLRB ruling. They show that Project Vivian was meant to discourage employees from engaging with unions. However, the project was only operational between 2018 to 2020.
This secretive union-busting project even included the anti-union firm, IRI Consultants. Previous accusations claim that the firm illegally tracked employees to find out their work stances, financial standing, and even ethnicity in some cases (via Input Mag). So it’s clear that Google actively wanted to take the Amazon approach of handling unions.
NLRB’s ruling also tells us about the internal opinion on Project Vivian. Michael Pfyl, Google’s director of employment law, reportedly expressed hope that the recommendations from IRI Consultants would enable them to “engage employees more positively and convince them that unions suck.”
The NLRB is waiting for 180 additional documents from Google
The revelations come after three former Google employees alleged that the company was illegally monitoring them. They went on to say that Google fired them for participating in union activities. Google is yet to submit the 180 documents about this matter to the NLRB, citing attorney-client privilege.
The NLRB quoted evidence from a company attorney who recommended a “respected voice to publish an OpEd outlining what a unionized tech workplace would look like, and counseling employees of FB (Facebook), MSFT(Microsoft), Amazon, and google (sic) not to do it.”
Google’s human resources director, Kara Silverstein was in favor of this idea. However, the executive wanted to ensure this op-ed won’t have the “fingerprints” of Google. While IRI reportedly sent a draft of the op-ed to executives, it’s unclear if they went through with the op-ed. The company is likely to offer clarification or a statement following these new revelations.
Although major corporations have portrayed unionizing as the bogeyman, recent reports tell us that this notion could be changing. Unionizing appears to be underway in some form at Amazon, while at least two unionization movements are currently progressing at Google. After much deliberation, the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) came into existence in January 2021. This group has over 800 members as per recent figures.