Google tried to claim the documents were legally privileged.
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  • A judge ordered Google to unseal dozens of documents related to its secret anti-union drive.
  • The tech giant reportedly asked labour relations firm IRI Consulting to help it tackle pro-union sentiment.
  • A small number of Google employees formed a union this year, which the company has not recognised.
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A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge has ordered Google to produce dozens of documents related to its secret internal anti-union drive "Project Vivian."

The order was made as part of an ongoing NLRB hearing related to the "Thanksgiving Four", a group of Google employees who claimed the company fired them illegally over their internal organising activities.

A few hundred employees eventually launched a company-wide union at the start of 2021, but the group accounts for just a slither of Google's tens of thousands of employees, and has not been officially recognised by the company. 

Now Google has been ordered to unseal more than 70 documents related to its communications with IRI Consultants, a "labour relations" firm that advised the company on how best to tackle pro-union sentiment within its ranks. 

The tech giant's internal anti-union documents contain "campaign materials prepared for distribution to employees, training materials for staff on how to campaign against unionisation among persons they manage... and updates on how the campaign is being viewed among employees and/or in various reports."  

Google sought to withhold the documents from the court, claiming they represented confidential communications between the company and its lawyers, and were therefore legally privileged.

However, a special master appointed by the NLRB disputed this, finding that 71 relevant documents were not protected from disclosure.

"Many of these documents are, or involve the development of, campaign materials in which IRI provides antiunion messaging and message amplification strategies and training tailored to [Google's] workforce and the news and social media environment," wrote NLRB judge Paul Boas. "Such campaign communications are generally not protected by the attorney-client privilege."

A Google spokesperson said: "Like most companies, we engage dozens of outside consultants and law firms to provide us with advice on a wide range of topics, including employer obligations and employee engagement.

"This included IRI Consultants for a short period. We disagree with the special master's ruling which mischaracterises various legally privileged materials and are reviewing our options."

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