On February 11, 2011, Scott Walker threatened the use of the Wisconsin National Guard in response to his push to strip all collective bargaining rights from state employees. Walker’s allies seeking to destroy hardworking Wisconsinites’ employee rights weren’t prepared for the response a few hours after the story first hit wires – a movement was born.
We have written about the images that inspired Wisconsin, but we thought it was fitting for the one-year anniversary of what started it all to re-visit the rapid-response effort we were privileged to work on with The New Media Firm. Shortly after Walker’s infamous threat, we worked together with many of our clients to launch NotMyWisconsin.com with ads targeting the microsite and promoting the hashtag #notmywi. But that was not the only domain name we were considering as the story was breaking. Others in the running were:
NotMyWisconsin.com topped the list and ended up taking off as a hard-hitting response to Walker’s National Guard threat. This site and original hashtag provided Wisconsinites an opportunity to easily relate to the issue and immediately join in on the fight to stop Walker’s dangerous bill. From this first campaign came the first email and SMS lists that served as the foundation of a grassroots effort to save Wisconsin from right-wing extremists.
Looking back at our old notes and emails from a year ago we find motivation to keep the fight for workers’ rights alive. We hope all of you on this one-year anniversary can do the same. The fight for social and economic justice is far from over. On Wisconsin!
Workers beware – your free speech may be in danger. Have you ever posted a comment on Facebook about your job or maybe a coworker? Did you ever need to vent after a bad week at the office? Well, be careful, you might not be covered by protected speech anymore.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) looks like it’s changing its mind on whether or not comments made by employees on social media sites are protected under federal labor law or not. At first, the NLRB took the right path and issued complaints against employers who prohibited or disciplined employees who expressed themselves on Facebook and commented on some negative aspects of work. But in a few recent cases, it looks like the NLRB isn’t coming to the rescue anymore – they are leaving protected speech, one of our most valued rights, in the dust.
According to Mondaq, the NLRB seems to be leaving employees out to dry with a few recent cases. They denied employees’ requests to issue a complaint against employers, using the excuse that the comments made in all three cases on Facebook were “personal gripes” and not “protected concerted activity,” which is found under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act.
Remember when you had to worry about your Facebook pages because future employers would look at your pictures and postings before they hired you? Well, the worrying isn’t over when you do get the job. With the NLRB’s latest denials to defend employees’ protected speech on social media sites, every word you say online about a bad day or an unfair employee could be used against you.
Complaining online about being stuck at a job where you haven’t gotten a raise in five years? The NLRB won’t consider that protected concerted activity and you may find yourself fired for words written online. Ever have a bad day and write a complaint on Facebook about your manager? Again, you can find yourself immediately fired with no NLRB to protect your right to free speech.
This is just one more step in the wrong direction for workers, one more right that is being taken away. What’s next?
Here is a quick summary of the three recent cases that the NLRB’s Division of Advice declined to issue complaints involving employer discipline of employees for their social networking activity, even where their online comments were job-related.
In JT’s Porch Saloon & Eatery, Ltd., an employee’s online conversation with a relative, stating that he had gone five years without a raise and commenting negatively about his employer’s customers, was not protected concerted activity. The NLRB held that the online complaints were never discussed with other employees nor did other employees respond to the posting.
In Martin House, an employee commented during an online conversation on Facebook with non-employees about her work for a mental health service provider, stating that it was “spooky” working at night in a “mental institution.” The NLRB found no basis to issue a complaint, finding that the online postings did not mention any terms or conditions of employment, were not discussed with other employees, and received no comments or responses from other employees.
In Wal-Mart, a customer service representative posted disparaging comments about his manager and Wal-Mart on his Facebook page. Although two co-workers responded to his posting, the NLRB concluded that the comments merely expressed the employees’ “individual gripes” and did not constitute an effort to induce Wal-Mart employees to engage in group action.
Today is Day 101 of the fight for hardworking Americans standing up for their rights in Wisconsin and, now, all across the country. Where were you 101 days ago, February 14, 2011, when the first pro-labor protests began? Were you one of the hundreds of UW students and supporters that marched up to the Capitol to deliver Valentine’s Day cards to Governor Scott Walker in response to his union-busting bill? Were you at work, reading about the march on blogs or Twitter? Were you looking for ways to support Wisconsin workers remotely – whether through donations, media coverage, or just general encouragement?
No matter where you were, we’re all here, on Day 101, together and still fighting. We’ve come a long way, with some successes and some setbacks, but the fire is still ignited, the people are still empowered.
Wisconsinites have successfully gathered enough signatures to recall nine GOP state senators, with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board clearing the way for three of them to go to a special election on July 12 – those three are state Senators Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon. With these recalls, there is the opportunity for the state Senate to switch hands and finally have people in office who truly listen to their community.
And of course we all remember when Wisconsin was shut out of their own Capitol, locked out and denied entry into a public space. Today, entrances are still limited and visitors are made to walk through metal detectors at the only two doors open. Even though Scott Walker continues to defy laws, Wisconsinites are still fighting and showing up to the Capitol.
Progress is still being made and will continue to be made in the struggle for unions. The countdown for a Scott Walker recall is 223 days away – so let the fight continue.