With all the trumped up scandals in Washington right now it is hard to keep track of what is going on. The GOP are furious about Benghazi, even after Hillary Clinton stated she requested additional security funding. Now there is an issue with the IRS. Yes it is wrong to target political groups for extra scrutiny but none of the groups were actually hard either. As the politicos in Washington battle over these issues some of the other important issues are going unnoticed.
Did you know that in less than two months the entire National Labor Relation Board could be effectively closed. The NLRB is where workers go to make their case when their rights have been violated by their employer. Without a functioning NLRB, workers would have no place to go to have their grievances heard and employers will continue to trample the rights of their employees.
Currently the NLRB has only three of its five members. Two seats are vacant. When Board Chairman Mark Pearce’s term expires in August, the Board will be down to two members, which is not enough to form the quorum the Board needs to make decisions. The US Senate is set to take up the five new appointments by President Obama sometime this summer. The Senate Republicans are well-known for being obstructionists who oppose anything that is being proposed by President Obama. First we must overcome this obstruction before we can even begin to discuss filling the board with new members.
As previously stated the NLRB key in protecting the rights of working people. They ensure that workers have the right to free speech without fear of termination. Time and time again the NLRB has ruled in favor of workers who are exercising their freedom of speech online.
Aside from all the advocacy groups pushing their agendas, social media is based on people talking about what is going on in their lives. For some this is pictures of the fancy dinner they are eating or their daughters dance recital. For others it is a chance for people to vent to the world about something that happened to them at work. These rants about their employers have led to the termination of some employees. This is why we need the NLRB. The NLRB has ruled that employees were unjustly fired for speaking out against their employer, if they were speaking out in order to improve their situation at work.
The Communication Workers of America highlight three excellent examples of how the NLRB is protecting your voice in the workplace.
- Social Media Policies: When T-Mobile USA revamped its social networking policy, it made anonymous comments on social media websites an offense that could result in termination. It was the company’s latest attempt to silence workers who had been articulating workplace issues and discussing joining the Communications Workers of America (CWA) on worker forums, Facebook and Twitter. CWA filed an unfair labor practice charge, asserting that this was a violation of employees’ “protected concerted activity” under the NLRA. But before the case went to trial, T-Mobile USA agreed to a settlement. The company was required to inform all of its employees that they may discuss work-related issues on Facebook and similar websites without fear of reprisal.More recently, because of another CWA charge, a NLRB judge ordered DISH Network to change its social media policy that prevented workers from making “disparaging or defamatory” comments about the company. The policy infringed on employees’ rights, as workers could “reasonably construe” this rule to mean they can’t criticize their employer’s labor practices.
- Talking about your boss: At Bettie Page, a woman’s clothing store in San Francisco, a group of employees had lodged a number of complaints with the store owners about their manager’s unprofessional behavior. Frustrated with being ignored, employees finally took to Facebook. Holli Thomas posted, “needs a new job. I’m physically and mentally sickened.” Vanessa Morris responded that the manager is “as immature a person can be” and Brittany Johnson agreed that “bettie page would roll over in her grave.” Thomas, Morris and Johnson were fired on trumped up charges. But they filed a complaint, and a NLRB judge found that they lost their jobs as a direct result of their Facebook activity. Bettie Page had clearly violated the worker’s “protected concerted activity” rights under the NLRA, and the judge ordered that it reinstate the three clerks with compensation for any loss of earnings and benefits.
- Discussing Work Conditions: At Hispanics United of Buffalo, a nonprofit social services provider in New York, Mariana Cole-Rivera started a Facebook thread, asking, “Lydia Cruz, a coworker feels that we don’t help our clients enough at HUB. I about had it! My fellow coworkers how do you feel?” Her colleagues immediately voiced their support, writing, “Try doing my job. I have five programs” and “What the hell, we don’t have a life as is.” Cole-Rivera and four caseworkers who responded to her lost their jobs. But the NLRB found that their posts were the type of “concerted activity” for “mutual aid” that is expressly protected by the NLRA, since it involved a conversation among coworkers about their terms and conditions of employment, including their job performance and staffing levels. The judge ordered that the fired workers be fully reinstated to their jobs with back pay.
These examples highlight the need for workers to have a place to go where their issues can be heard. The NLRB is already overloaded due to the two vacant seats and this means that workers who are awaiting a hearing are waiting months to have their termination potentially overturned. This puts an enormous financial strain on those people forced to wait for a hearing. If the Senate does not take action before August the entire NLRB would effectively closed down, essentially silencing workers voices.
We need to protect our freedoms and our rights at work. To do this we need and NLRB that works. We need the Senate to take quick action to approve the Presidential appointees.
In a related note, CWA President Larry Cohen went on the Ed Show explaining the importance of the National Labor Relations Board and what must be done to ensure that all 5 members are confirmed by the Senate.