Google: illegal espionage, unfair dismissals … the firm tries to kill its unions with terror

A complaint from the National Labor Relations Board, a public agency for workers, accuses Google of violating labor laws by spying on workers who were organizing a strike, before sacking two of them. The firm now uses the services of IRI Consultants, known for its anti-union methods.

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A few years ago, Google was considered one of the best companies in the world to work for. And for good reason: in addition to high salaries, they benefited from an over-equipped campus, with not only restaurants, but also various activities and projects between employees. All this against a background of culture historically centered on openness and transparency.

Didn’t Google also take over this now abandoned slogan: “don’t be evil” (ne sois pas diabolique)? However, since then, the company seems to have started a profound internal transformation. Despite the size of Google, union activities, although protected by law (including in the United States), are now particularly frowned upon..

Google especially does not want to hear about unions

To the point that the firm no longer hesitates to spy illegally on employees it suspects of militant leanings, before pronouncing in some cases dismissals. This is howa complaint from National Labor Relation Boards, an American agency responsible for relations between employees and American companies (the NLRB notably organizes, among other things, union elections in companies where it is compulsory) accuses Google of illegally dismissing two employees in 2019 in connection with their union activities.

At the time Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers were opposed to Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants, a firm known for its anti-union methods. IRI Consultants normally work with hospitals and healthcare organizations. On its website you can see in the panoply of its services “Assessing trade union vulnerabilities” while highlighting its successes in this area.

We learn, for example, that IRI succeeded in “Persuading employees of a large national healthcare company to avoid union elections despite the fact that these same unions ‘spend millions of dollars on mobilization campaigns'”. An entire program. Laurence Berland was disembarked while reviewing the (internal public) calendar of other colleagues.

Unionism is however protected in the United States … including at Google

Kathryn Spiers was fired after creating a popup that only appeared when a Google employee visited the IRI Consultants site. With this message: “Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities”. Other employees were dismissed because of their opposition to IRI Consultants, but according to the NLRB only these two cases are really contentious.

Laurence Berland explains: “The fact that Google is hiring IRI is unambiguously a way of saying that management will no longer tolerate the organization of workers. The management and their union-killing acolytes wanted to send this message, and the NLRB is now sending its response: the workers’ organization is protected by law ”.

Kathryn Spiers said: “This week the NLRB filed a complaint on my behalf. They realized that I was illegally fired for trying to help my colleagues. Colleges and others believe that I abused my role because of lies from Google management while they were retaliating against me. NLRB can force Google to restore me, but this will not undo the damage already done to my credibility“.

Google is sticking to its position, but may have to backtrack

From now on two scenarios are possible. Most likely it is that the resolution of the conflict occurs primarily between lawyers, as is often the case in the United States. Otherwise, the case will go to judge in the coming months. Google then runs the risk of having to reinstate the unfairly dismissed employees and pay the unpaid wages..

Google nevertheless stands on its position in a press release sent to our colleagues at The Verge: “We are proud of our culture and we are committed to defending it against the deliberate attempts of individuals to undermine it – including by violating internal security policies and systems.”

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And Google to continue: “We will continue to provide information to the NLRB and the Administrative Judge on our decision to terminate or discipline employees who have abused their privileged access to our internal systems, such as our security tools and colleague calendars. Such actions are a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of our confidence in accountability, and we will defend our position ”.

Source: The Verge