The emergence of social media platforms that potentially give people the chance to speak to audiences beyond their close friends and co-workers, and where lines between more or less idle chatter and intentional organizing can be blurred, complicates the question of what's protected, and makes companies care a lot more since criticisms of them can be so much more public than water cooler talk. The National Labor Relations Board is taking up a few social media-related cases, and Josh Eidelson looks at the issues involved.
Workers are generally protected when engaging in "concerted activity":
In earlier pre-Facebook cases, the NLRB considered several factors in deciding which speech counts as collective action: whether multiple workers were involved in the discussion in question, whether it related to work conditions, whether it was unacceptably disloyal or malicious, and whether it was intended to instigate activism. “Sometimes griping is the incipient stages of ‘Let’s do something about it,’ ” says former NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman. Other times, it’s “just griping.”Cases being considered include caseworkers angrily discussing a co-worker's plan to tell management they weren't working hard enough and a bartender complaining that her boss had gotten her tax withholding wrong. Everyday complaints, in other words, with the key question being whether workers were actively trying to improve conditions together, or just complaining. Eidelson writes that:
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Labor Policy Director Michael Eastman says the board should think about whether to be more sensitive to Facebook posts than it is to what employees say around the water cooler, given the potential for publicity that could damage a company’s reputation.
But that would undermine the point of the National Labor Relations Act. Workers’ rights to collective action often conflict with owners’ desires to control their corporate image. But the former is enshrined in law; the latter isn’t. The power of social media to air criticism shouldn’t change that.
A fair day's wage
- Workers at five HealthBridge nursing homes in Connecticut are on strike after management imposed a "last, best, and final" contract offer on them in late June. Workers at one of the nursing homes had been locked out from December to April as a management pressure tactic trying to get workers to accept cuts to health care, sick days, holidays, overtime pay, and more. The contract HealthBridge is imposing on workers includes a pay raise, but cuts benefits and hours so that workers are in effect having their pay cut substantially:
- Central Ohio bus drivers and mechanics have agreed to a contract, ending a three-day strike.
- Workers at Bain-owned Sensata Technologies in Illinois are fighting the company's plan to outsource 150 jobs to China.
- The NFL Players Association is asking the league to investigate if the New Orleans Saints are punishing quarterback Drew Brees for his outspoken union activism by stalling contract negotiations.
- Walmart: 50 years of gutting America's middle class. (Via)
State and local legislation
- Over 100,000 local teaching jobs have been lost in the last year.
- As of today, Georgia's unemployed people will have 13 fewer weeks of eligibility for unemployment insurance.
- Florida Legal Services and the National Employment Law Project are challenging Florida's obstacles to people applying for unemployment insurance.
- Daily Kos Elections has a great rundown on where two very important Michigan ballot measures stand. The "Protect Our Jobs" amendment, which would "enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution," got cleared by the Secretary of State, though challenges are expected, and the referendum to repeal Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, continues through the courts. Public Act 4 was used just this week to impose a contract on Detroit public school teachers.
- Florida parents and unions joined to defeat the anti-union "parent trigger" in education there, but similar measures are being heavily pushed around the country, and not just by Republicans.
- Two-thirds of Wisconsin school districts will receive less state aid in 2012-2013 than last year. Thanks, Scott Walker! (Via)