The Google logo of an American multinational technology company seen on Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc..
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Although the judge reviewed the subpoenas in a nearly year-old case that confronted Google and its employees, the former company employees are doing their part to emphasize the growing tension between the two parties.
Three former Google employees filed a lawsuit this week, accusing their former employers of firing them because they protested the cloud agreement signed by Google with the Trump administration’s customs and border patrol in 2019.
Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman, and Paul Duke claimed in the complaint that when they were hired by Google, they were required to sign a contract that included the company’s slogan clause “Don’t be evil.” The plaintiff claimed that Google violated the agreement and requested compensation and other relief for “major damage to reputation and paid reemployability.”
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has no reason to worry about financial issues—the company’s balance sheet has more than $140 billion in cash and equivalents, and its market value is about $1.9 trillion. However, a series of employee strikes, internal struggles over how the company uses its artificial intelligence technology, and lawsuits related to employee treatment have put potentially serious pressure on the company that has long been proud of its open and inclusive culture.
In December of last year, the National Labor Relations Commission filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of illegally firing and monitoring employees in retaliation for their efforts for the union. In the past few months, while the judge was reviewing the subpoenas, the trial has been suspended, and it is not clear when it will resume.
Laurie Burgess, a lawyer representing former Google employees who sued Google this week, said that the latest lawsuit is partly meant to “remind people that this matter still exists and continues.”
A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
This week, the judge in the NLRB case, Paul Bogas, ordered Google to unblock more than 70 documents related to communications with IRI Consulting, which claimed to be an industrial relations company. The NLRB alleges that IRI was hired as part of Google’s anti-union efforts, and legal documents show that the initiative is called the “Vivienne Project.”
Bogas issued a 13-page response, calling the company “dishonest” and trying to misrepresent the classification of the documents.
Bogas wrote: “My review does show that the defendant has also made significant efforts to make this illegal third-party material have the facial appearance of privileged communications.” “Many of these documents are or involve development activity materials. Among them, IRI provides anti-union information and information amplification strategies, as well as training tailored to the interviewee’s workforce and news and social media environments.”
In January, Google employees worked together to create the Alphabet Workers Union, which now has more than 800 members. Although it currently accounts for less than 1% of the company’s total workforce, the union has proved that it intends to speak out and be proactive. It supports Google employees employed by the contract company Adecco, who have just won a battle with the company and Google after the company cancelled the bonus plan for temporary employees in the data center.
Last month, Ned McNally, a temporary worker at the Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, told the New York Times after the victory: “The union has undoubtedly strengthened people’s determination to stand up for this struggle. “
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