Google has been facing some internal backlash from its own workforce in the form of walkouts and protests. From Project Dragonfly to the way Google handles harassment in the workplace, employees are taking a stand. On the exterior, CEO Sundar Pichai has supported his workers right to protest. But it is a different story on the interior as Google’s lawyers lobby the United States government to remove some legal protections for workers who use company email to organize.
Google has been lobbying for the narrowing of legal protections while trying to remain under the radar. However, several outlets including Bloomberg and Wired have broken the story. President Obama’s administration made some changes to employees’ rights allowing workers to use their company email system to organize concerning job-related issues. Google is attempting to persuade the government to amend those protections removing the use of work email.
In a 2014 case, Purple Communications, the agency restricted companies from punishing employees for using their workplace email systems for activities like circulating petitions or fomenting walkouts, as well as trying to form a union. In filings in May 2017 and November 2018, obtained via Freedom of Information Act request, Alphabet Inc.’s Google urged the National Labor Relations Board to undo that precedent.
Citing dissents authored by Republican appointees, Google’s attorneys wrote that the 2014 standard “should be overruled” and a George W. Bush-era precedent—allowing companies to ban organizing on their employee email systems—should be reinstated.
In an emailed statement, a Google spokeswoman said, “We’re not lobbying for changes to any rules.” Rather, she said, Google’s claim that the Obama-era protections should be overturned was “a legal defense that we included as one of many possible defenses” against meritless claims at the NLRB.Bloomberg
This is very interesting indeed. Removing legal protections surrounding use of work email for organizing could have serious impact on workers ability to lead an effective protest. It’s also interesting that Google is taking this stance after publicly supporting their workforce.
Last Updated on February 3, 2021.