Project Vivian: How Google wanted to prevent unions

Trade unions can be unpleasant opponents for employers. Presumably, this is one reason why Google wanted to prevent them with all its might. With the “Project Vivian”, the tech group has even launched an internal advertising campaign against workers’ organizations.

Trade unions are a fine thing for workers. They are protected by the Basic Law and, in case of doubt, argue for better working conditions or higher wages.

But when negotiations with employers falter, unions can make use of a special instrument: the strike.

This is often a suitable means of exerting pressure on employers. Anyone who thinks back to last summer may still remember the GDL strike at Deutsche Bahn. Numerous trains were at a standstill, countless tickets had to be refunded.

No wonder, then, that the trade unions are not particularly popular with employers. This is also the case with Google: The tech giant even had an anti-union campaign called “Project Vivian” running between 2018 and 2020.

What is behind “Project Vivian”?

The anti-union campaign “Project Vivian” ran internally google between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2020. A ruling by the US National Labor Relations Board has now brought this campaign to light, as Vice reports.

The campaign was “top secret” at Google. Vice quotes Michael Pfyl, Google’s director of labor law. Accordingly, the “Project Vivian” was expressly intended to “convince employees that unions suck”.

Google wanted to stop union organizing efforts, Vice quotes from the court’s documents.

The NLRB ruling of January 7 now obliges Google to submit 180 internal documents on “Project Vivian” “immediately”. The tech giant has so far refused.

How did “Project Vivian” come out?

In 2019, Google employees had discovered internal documents that revealed details about “Project Vivian”. Accordingly, Google had commissioned the company IRI Consultants “with the avoidance of unions”.

In the ranks of the Google leadership, this was well received. Kara Silverstein, head of Google’s human resources department, endorsed the idea. However, it had pointed out that a corresponding opinion piece on this should not contain “fingerprints” and that it should not be Google-specific”.

The secret documents on “Project Vivian” would also state that the
decision was supported by Google’s vice president of employee retention Danielle Brown in addition to Kara Silverstein.

Google takes another stand against Apple

While the search engine giant has to fight through the “Project Vivian” on its own front, it once again gets out against competitor Apple.

On Saturday, Android CEO Hiroshi Lockheimer accused Apple of using the iMessage built into iPhones as “peer pressure and bullying to sell products.” He was responding to a Wall Street Journalarticlethat said iMessage had become a social status symbol among U.S. teens that excluded Android users.


On Monday, the manager then announced on Twitter that Google is not asking Apple to “make iMessage available on Android.”

Rather, it is about “supporting the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage” – which Apple is already doing with the standards around SMS and MMS.

As The Verge reports,RCS could eventually replace the good old SMS. However, only if Apple decides to support the format as well. So far, however, there are no signs of this. Apple also does not commenton inquiries on the subject.

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