Thursday, June 07, 2012

In what labor officials and lawyers view as a ground-breaking case involving workers and social media, the National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page.... 
The case involves Dawnmarie Souza, who had to prepare a response to a customer’s complaint about her work. Ms. Souza, the board said, was unhappy that her supervisor would not let a representative of the Teamsters, the union representing the company’s workers, help prepare her response. 
Ms. Souza then mocked her supervisor on Facebook, using several vulgarities to ridicule him, according to Jonathan Kreisberg, director of the board’s Hartford office, which filed the complaint. He also said she had written, “love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor” — 17 is the company’s lingo for a psychiatric patient. 
The labor board said that her comments “drew supportive responses from her co-workers” and led to further negative comments about the supervisor. Mr. Kreisberg said: “You’re allowed to talk about your supervisor with your co-workers. You’re allowed to communicate the concerns and criticisms you have. The only difference in this case is she did it on Facebook and did it on her own time and her own computer.”
In case you're wondering why anyone cares about the future of that grody old thing called the labor movement, be reminded that when it's gone, you won't be able to talk about your boss where he can hear you. And he can hear you anywhere.

UPDATE. Some pushback in comments. "Okay, I guess her boss was or is or still is a dick," says one commenter. "I guess the rest of the world needs to know this thing, this bit of trivia about a meaningless conjunction of egos. Is libel still protected speech? Can the dick have a future after the internet?"

This reminds me of the tsimmis among rightbloggers over the restraining order on Aaron Walker. Walker's involved in that Brett Kimberlin mess, and a judge has prohibited him from blogging about Kimberlin for six months. His colleagues are up in arms over the ruling, which they consider an abridgment of Walker's free speech rights.

Being one of those more-speech types, my sympathies are with Walker. And I say, if he has a right to talk unkindly about Brett Kimberlin, surely Dawnmarie Souza has a right to talk unkindly about her boss on her own time and her own dime. Maybe if there's anything left over from that fund they're taking up for Walker, they can send it on to her.

UPDATE 2. Whet Moser informs us he has written (and very well, I would say) about the NLRB's interpretation of protected employee Facebook speech. I find the Board's standards -- which tend to favor "concerted" speech meant to spur or further discussion of grievances, but to exempt "griping" from protection -- insufficient.  Whet's summation is, "if you're going to go on Facebook and say terrible things about your employer, boss, or co-workers, think first, and most importantly, think like a lawyer." I'm sure he calls it right, which is why I'm so against it; I prefer a society than protects human rather than lawyerly activity.

Like M. Bouffant, I propose a third way -- gut the bosses, bathe in their blood, and feast on their herd and kine. Everybody wins! 

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