NEW YORK (PAI) – Does labor law protect your “tweets” critical of your employer and working conditions? That’s the latest twist in a 30-month struggle by The News-paper Guild of New York with one of the world’s big wire services, Thomson-Reuters.

The tweet question has implications for the rest of the union movement, as social media – Twitter, Facebook and the like – become, more and more, a method of communication both on and off the job. But it’s a small issue in the struggle in New York.

The New York Guild reports that Thomson-Reuters is trying to discipline a Guild member for critical “tweets.” That’s on top of a whole lot of other labor law-breaking by the media conglomerate. There’s so much, in fact, that the National Labor Relations Board’s New York region plans to throw the book at management on April 29 unless it reaches a settlement with the Guild in talks scheduled three days before.

Otherwise, acting regional director NLRB Karen Fernback told attorneys for both the Guild and the company, the agency will file multiple labor law-breaking counts – in effect, an indictment – against Thomson-Reuters.

New York Newspaper Guild members at the wire service have been working without a contract for 30 months. Management declared an impasse on Jan. 29 and imposed its terms, including huge increases in the employees’ share of health care costs and wage and benefit cuts. The NLRB region said impasse is illegal, too. Thomson-Reuters had a 20.9% profit margin last year, but the cuts would cost its average worker $4,500 a year. Other counts in the NLRB’s planned filing include:

Unlawfully implementing pay and benefit cuts before scheduled bargaining.

Illegal changes in health care and the 401(k) plans.

Illegal imposition of a “code of conduct” on Guild-covered workers that was never negotiated, unlike the negotiated code in their past contract.

Following the Illegal declaration of impasse with unilateral pay and benefit cuts.

After the impasse declaration, illegal “replacement of collective bargaining with a management-controlled compensation system.”

Illegal restrictions on employee communications about working conditions, including the restrictions on the tweets.




Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.