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Prevent pro-union postings at work by limiting personal solicitations

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

After a union launched an organizing campaign at an Arkansas hospital, a nurse put up a screen saver on a hospital computer that said "Look for the U." Her supervisor gave the nurse a written reprimand for posting a pro-union ad on hospital property.

The nurse objected and took her complaint to an administrative law judge, who ruled that the hospital engaged in unfair labor practices. The hospital appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), but the NLRB sided with the nurse, too.

Why? In general, employees or unions have no statutory right to use an employee's bulletin board, whether on a wall or a computer, for its organizing efforts. But when a company allows employees to use its bulletin boards to post other personal and nonbusiness topics, then it can't single out notices of pro-union meetings or messages. (St. Joseph's Hospital and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1625, AFL-CIO, 337 NLRB No. 12)

Advice: The lesson is simple: If you don't want your company property used to promote union propaganda, don't allow other personal messages to be posted on company bulletin boards or computers.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, you can set a "no solicitation/no distribution" policy. But your policy will be struck down as an unfair labor practice if you try to enforce that rule only on union organizing activities.

So does that mean you can never allow posters for, say, a blood drive or Girl Scout cookie sale? Actually, no. In the wake of Sept. 11 fund-raising, the NLRB said companies can allow "a small number of isolated beneficent acts" without violating the rule. The NLRB didn't say how many was too many, but in one case, an employer was permitted three incidents of charitable solicitations. Read the NLRB's stance on this issue at www.nlrb.gov/gcmemo/gc01-06.html.

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