While Google publicly supported employees who protested company policies, it quietly asked the government to narrow the right to organize over work email.
…Google, whose employees have captured international attention in recent months through high-profile protests of workplace policies, has been quietly urging the U.S. government to narrow legal protection for workers organizing online
…Google has long fostered a culture of employee feedback, allowing open debate in meetings and online forums, where staff have advocated for changes to products and facilities over the company’s 20-year history. But the last year has seen an unprecedented wave of concentrated and forceful advocacy from employees, often at direct odds with the positions of management. After Google was awarded a Pentagon contract for using artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage, thousands of employees signed a petition demanding Google remove itself from “the business of war,” nine software engineers refused to work on a security feature that could help the company win more military contracts, and in June the company said it wouldn’t renew its Department of Defense deal. An employee introduced a shareholder resolution to tie executive compensation to diversity and inclusion, while others wrote a letter to their chief executive officer decrying the treatment of sub-contracted staff as “part of a system of institutional racism, sexism, and discrimination.”
…Google’s objections to the legal protection for employees organizing via employee email came in filings defending itself against allegations brought by a regional director of the NLRB. In a 2017 complaint, the agency had accused Google of violating federal labor law, including by maintaining workplace policies that infringe on workers’ rights and by making threats against employees. The complaint also alleged that Google violated the law in 2015 by issuing a warning to an employee because of comments made via email and on the company forum G+ “regarding workplace diversity and social justice initiatives, workplace policy viewpoints, and regarding employees’ rights to express their opinion on G+.”
…The protection established in Purple Communications is “pretty fundamental” given the centrality of email to modern workplace communications, said Wilma Liebman, who chaired the NLRB during Obama’s first term. Given Google’s rhetoric about “the free exchange of ideas, and itself as a purveyor of mechanisms for communications,” she said, “That’s an irony that Google, of all companies, would take such a narrow position.”