Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Do You Send Personal E-mails From Work? You're Fired!

Several weeks ago, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that employers could prohibit members of labor unions from using the company e-mail system for anything union-related.

This story barely made a blip on the news radar, since most people aren’t members of a labor union or planning to join one. This ruling only applies to those blue-collar shlubs who work with their hands. Who cares about them?

But now — uh oh! It seems this NLRB ruling might be expanded; it could be used against ALL employees. Some legal experts are saying that if an employer forbids use of company e-mail for labor unions, they’ll also have to forbid ALL non-work-related e-mails on company computers. You know, discrimination laws and all that. And now tens of millions of office workers are simultaneously thinking “Oh my God, this affects ME!”

Or to paraphrase that famous German quote: “When they came for the janitors I did nothing because I have a desk and a fancy job title…then when they came for me…”

As the name indicates, the National Labor Relations Board at one time actually defended workers against unfair labor practices. But that was then. Like every other agency in the Bush Administration, the NLRB is now stacked from top to bottom with incompetent cronies who hate everything the agency stands for.

In the same way that FEMA “helps” people whose homes have been devastated by a hurricane, the National Labor Relations Board “defends” workers who are being trampled by a powercrazed boss.

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said:

“The Bush labor board has consistently demonstrated hostility toward workers who want to unite for a voice in the workplace, so this latest brand of discrimination unfortunately comes as no surprise. We need a labor board that truly has an interest in the needs of working people, not one eager to assist those corporate interests bent on trying to intimidate or censor workers who want to form a union to improve their jobs and the services they provide. This ruling is another sad example of how the deck is stacked against workers in America.”

Some managers are using the tired argument that since they own the computer equipment, they can restrict how it’s used. Riiight. They also own the bathrooms, the cafeteria and vending machines and all of the chairs and desks. Oh, and the parking lot. They could have a field day.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Blogger PoliShifter said...

I don't see how they are going to do this.

I have my work email forwarded to my gmail account so I only have to check one account.

So does my gmail account count as my work account now?

It will depend on the employer I guess. Mine doesn't care.

Depends on what type of work one does as well.

But reality is we are headed more and more to an Orwellian society. Some employers do monitor everything their employees, say, write, and type on the computer. Some monitor internet.

Others have cameras.

It won't be long now...Orwell was just a few decades early...

2014 sounds about right. For sure by 2024.

People dont value their freedom and privacy anymore as evidenced by MySpace and Facebook.

Pretty soon we'll all be old farts in old folks homes scratching our heads at the younger generation who has their entire lives broadcast on the internet for all to see at any time.

January 22, 2008 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: I think this constant monitoring will be too much of a hassle for most employers. At least that's what a lot of them said in the article. But fact remains, they can.

It's probably a cultural difference between older and younger people, to an extent. With so many people taking "discreet" pictures on their cell phones and then forwarding the pictures to their friends (and having the same thing done to them), they probably don't as much of a sense of privacy. Maybe someday it'll be like the Truman Show, with everybody being recorded and monitored 24/7.

January 22, 2008 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Miss Kitty said...

Now I'm really depressed. [sigh]

January 22, 2008 at 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally it's a warning so that they can't get sued if someone sends a harassing email from his work.

Very few companies have the facilities and the time to monitor emails. In my experience it's used as a last resort if they decide to get rid of you.

"Gee we can't get anything else on the guy so lets see if he has any illegal emails so we can fire him"

Employers also know the rules are pretty loose as to what defines "illegal" or "improper". If they use it too often someone can subpoena and ask for consistency.

I read the NLRB thing and was thinking this was another nail in the rights attack on unions. As much as I support Labor, they had it coming. their leadership was getting as incompetent and corrupt as management.

My Job has a Union and all the members complain about is having to put in more to cover for deficients that the leadership refuse to explain. They complain about intimidation tactics to people who question or wont play along. They complain about leadership having meetings and retreats in exotic places like Hawaii and the Puerto Rico. Finally they complain about having to accept agreed upon contracts where they can't see how it benefits them and then as soon as it's ratified the leadership shows up in new luxury cars.

On top of that Unions have done very little to counter right wing attacks against them - they just do business as usual. They should know that if one of them gets caught with their fingers in the till, it is equal to 10 Enron scandals in terms of bad PR.

And they can't understand it why they get so little sympathy from the public when they strike.

Our rights as workers are going right out the window and Unions are doing nothing about it.


January 22, 2008 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

Isn't it already illegal for union- organizing materials (like memos) to be circulated on company time and using company materials? I suppose the argument could be made that the same rule would apply to e-mails.

But to extend it now to ban personal e-mails, well then, they'll have to stop letting employees pass around birthday cards to sign for each other, too. Good grief.

Which reminds me of something that happened in a law firm where I used to work. We had this newbie office manager who decided that football pools should be outlawed because gambling's illegal and it's a LAW firm. She issued a memo banning the practice, but everyone ignored it. So then she said the next time she saw one of those going around, she would fire whoever circulated it in the first place. Sure enough, she snatched one from a secretary's desk and demanded to know who started the pool so she could fire them. The senior partner in the corner office came out and said he did. (She didn't last very long.)

January 22, 2008 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Bush will do anything to enable employers to squash the legal rights of workers to form a union.

January 22, 2008 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Miss Kitty: Yup, pretty depressing.

Erik: True, I'm sure there's a lot of corruption and bullying tactics practiced by unions. I've never belonged to a union, but I've heard lots of other people saying what you said.

As far as the battle over workers' rights goes, public perception might be more important than the power of the unions. People need to realize that we're slowly losing the rights that workers fought and died for in the early 1900s. An NLRB ruling here, a slight re-wording of a law there, and these rights are slowly oozing away.

Candace: That's right, fun's over. No more birthday cards or football pools. And all conversations, even if you're out in the hallway during a break period, must be work-related. Employees must be 100% focused on their work. No gossip, small talk or personal phone calls.

Larry: Yup, the Bush Administration is trying to chip away at workers' rights from every angle they can think of.

January 22, 2008 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

What poli said is very true, especially about the kids and their internets. Privacy simply doesn't matter to them anymore, and to a lot of society now. Hell, look how easily people are willing to have 'security' cameras everywhere. They'll gladly trade in freedom for a false sense of safety. Control.

And hey Tom, you're at work. Don't you know that your company owns the space-time continuum, too? Sheesh!

January 23, 2008 at 5:38 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Randal: My employer owns the bathrooms too. They just came out with this Draconian new policy after they figured out how much they could save on their water bill with fewer flushes; so I have to hold it all in 'til I get home.

January 23, 2008 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

I'm sure our e-mails are "monitored" but it's some kind of scanning program, not people actually reading the mail. They occasionally "quarantine" an e-mail I send if it has an attachment they deem unacceptable (probably for security reasons).

The issue should not be that ALL e-mails should be monitored, but that e-mail regarding unions shouldn't be prohibited in the first place.

January 23, 2008 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mauigirl: You're right, they shouldn't be forbidding certain types of e-mail. I'm sure it's legal, since they own the equipment, but the public backlash would outweigh whatever advantages they get.

January 23, 2008 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Randall Graves made a good point

"What poli said is very true, especially about the kids and their internets. Privacy simply doesn't matter to them anymore, and to a lot of society now."

15 year ago privacy was a goal most people wanted to maintain in their work and their livestyle.

Now they have no problem shouting their intimate conversations on their cellphones in public and don't care who hears.


January 24, 2008 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: So true. The loudmouths who walk down the street (or wake everybody up on the bus) shouting into their cell phones -- they obviously don't give a flying fuck about privacy. They can be totally self-absorbed and simultaneously be Good Germans for all of our government-industry spying efforts.

January 24, 2008 at 11:22 PM  

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