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While Google may have seemed to come out of the recent walkout fiasco with their reputation intact, it appears that Google's lawyers still hadn't gotten the memo that the company wants to have a pro-worker reputation.
In a pleading filed in an NLRB action weeks after the company CEO seemed to have just barely smoothed things over by rescinding the company policy of mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims, the lawyers traded away all that goodwill by arguing that employees shouldn't have the right to organize via company email.
Apparently, Google's lawyers thought it would be a good idea to contest the precedent established by Purple Communications allowing employees to use company email to organize.
However, Google does not contend that it was lobbying for changes to policy, but rather simply that it was making an argument as part of a broader strategy in a specific employee's case. That case involved an employee who was issued a warning by Google because of what he said in a company email, allegedly standing up against Google's "leftist" and "politically correct" policies.
But, when the organizers of the Google walkout were made aware of Google's argument against the established precedent, social media outrage followed. The organizers explained that Google's stance is in direct contradiction to what the organizers were assured.
When it comes right down to it, employers really need to tread carefully around actions that can be viewed as union busting. Social media has truly amplified the power of collective action. With transparency and trust among the highest regarded characteristics of companies by consumers, mistreating employees, even ones that are seemingly well-paid, is an easy way to lose that trust.
But employees need to be mindful that there are some limits to using company email for union-related activity, the big one being that it needs to be done off the clock.
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