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NLRB overturns 2007 ruling regarding workers e-mail use


JANUARY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

NLRB overturns 2007 ruling regarding workers e-mail use


REGION, January 5th- Often short of victories in the federal court system, a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington DC., will help the labor community in union organizing through employers e-mail system.

The NLRB ruled that workers with access to their employers internet e-mail system have the right to use it for a union organizing campaign and other communications regarding wages earned and working conditions. However, the workers can only use the e-mail system during nonworking time, not while being paid by the employer.

The labor community anticipated the ruling for several months and it reverses a 2007 ruling that stated employers had the right to restrict employees from using their internet e-mail system for union organizing campaigns.

However, since that ruling of 2007, the five-member counsel of the NLRB has changed under President Obama. All five members of the NLRB in Washington have been appointed by Mr. Obama. The NLRB General Counsel was also appointed by the President and has pushed for the reversal of the 2007 ruling, stating the rule was too restrictive because it was the way today that employees communicate with each other.

The NLRB is made-up of five members. Three from the party of the president, and two from the other, meaning there are currently three Democrats and two Republicans serving.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) which represents workers employed in the broadcast industry, print media and telecommunications industry, challenged the 2007 ruling after being unsuccessful in organizing workers in 2012 that provided services to deaf people and the e-mail rule interferred with the elections.

The company’s rule forbid workers from using their e-mail system for anything else but conducting company business, meaning since many of the workers were themselves deaf or hard of hearing, the CWA had little opportunity to communicate with them.

The CWA and other labor unions believe workplace e-mail is the modern-day way workers conduct workplace discussions and conversations. The latest NLRB ruling agreed with that conclusion.

Both Republican NLRB members dissented.