Google has settled a case with a group of Google engineers — known as the "Thanksgiving Four" — who were fired in 2019 for allegedly violating the company's security rules after helping organize their workplace, according to Vice. The ongoing battle in front of the National Labor Relations Board would likely have forced Google to publicly reveal documents that reportedly show how the company planned to prevent its workers from organizing.
The NLRB case began in December 2019, about one month after Google dismissed the four workers, who were involved in organizing petitions and protests inside the company against YouTube's hate speech policies, contracts with U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement and other issues. The engineers became known as the "Thanksgiving Four" because they were fired before the holiday. Shortly after their dismissal, the former employees filed charges with the NLRB alleging that Google retaliated against them for worker organizing, which is illegal under U.S. federal labor laws. Attorneys for the Communications Workers of America union (the parent organization of an informal union at Google called the Alphabet Workers Union) helped represent the four fired workers and two other engineers involved in the complaint.
The legal battle became mired in arguments over whether Google would have to hand over documents that reportedly show the details of "Project Vivian," an effort inside the company to prevent workers from organizing. An administrative law judge eventually put trial plans on hold because Google repeatedly filed arguments refusing to hand over the documents by claiming they were privileged communications, and so the case could not resume until some kind of resolution was reached.
Google filed its latest objection to the order to hand over the documents in early February. One month later, the NLRB judge dismissed the case because Google and the CWA agreed to settle. The terms of the settlement will not be made public and the four workers who were fired will not be reinstated, according to the Vice report.
“I am not permitted to say how much money we got in settlement, but it’s public knowledge that Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker was slated to sit in the hot seat and be cross-examined for his conduct during the trial,” Laurie Burgess, the attorney who represented the workers, told Vice. "It’s also public knowledge that Google was being asked to produce 1,500 documents including statements from Google’s director of employment law, Michael Pfyl, saying that union sucks and Google’s highest executives giving a thumbs up to write an anti-union editorial. We had them by the jugular."
Google did not immediately respond to request for comment.