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Old 12-23-2007, 07:16 AM   #1  
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Default Labor board restricts unions' use of e-mail

True, not about ALPA, but just another small step in the larger stomp on unions everywhere. It shows, in part, the importance of forums like APC to continue with the good fight. And the need for unity among the membership.

From The New York Times:

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employers have the right to prohibit workers from using the company's e-mail system to send union-related messages, a decision that could hamper communications between labor unions and their membership.

In a 3-2 ruling released Friday, the board held that it was legal for employers to prohibit union-related e-mail so long as employers had a policy barring employees from sending e-mail for "non-job-related solicitations" for outside organizations.

The ruling is a significant setback to the nation's labor unions, which argued that e-mail systems have become a modern-day gathering place where employees should be able to communicate freely with co-workers to discuss work-related matters of mutual concern.

The ruling involved The Register-Guard, a newspaper in Eugene, Ore., and e-mail messages sent in 2000 by Suzi Prozanski, a newspaper employee who was president of the Newspaper Guild's unit there. She sent three e-mails about marching in a town parade and urging employees to wear green to show support for the union in contract negotiations.

During the years this case was pending, many companies were uncertain whether they could bar union-related e-mail. But the labor board's decision gives companies nationwide the green light to prohibit union-related e-mail as part of an overall nonsolicitation policy.

"An employer has a 'basic property right' to regulate and restrict employee use of company property," the board's majority wrote. "The respondent's communications system, including its e-mail system, is the respondent's property."

Labor leaders attacked the decision, calling it part of board rulings that have favored employers and undercut workers.

"Anyone with e-mail knows that this is how employees communicate with each other in today's workplace," said Jonathan Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO. "Outrageously in allowing employers to ban such communications for union purposes, the Bush labor board has again struck at the heart of what the nation's labor laws were intended to protect: the right of employees to discuss working conditions and other matters of mutual concern."

The ruling comes as the nation's labor unions struggle to reverse their membership declines. They represent 12 percent of the nation's work force, down from 35 percent in the 1950s.

The two board members who dissented said the employees' interest in communicating with other employees about union activity and other collective concerns should, with regard to the e-mail system, outweigh the employer's property interest.

The majority's decision was dated last Sunday, the day Chairman Robert Battista stepped down because his term expired. President Bush has not renominated Battista, with many Democrats threatening not to reconfirm him because he has been part of so many anti-union rulings.
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