On February 12, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board decided to continue to protect the right of union members to post freely on Facebook and this time, even finds that the Union itself has no obligation to disavow or remove comments which very clearly threatened some of its members if they crossed the picket line.
In Amalgamated Transit Union, Local Union No. 1433, AFL-CIO and Charles Weigand, No. 28-CB-078377, union bus drivers for Veolia Transportation Services Inc., engaged in a six-day strike. On the union’s Facebook page, members of the union verbally and physically threatened other employees for refusing to participate in the strike. One member, “Bill”, even pled as to why he must go to work and these were the comments he received:
“can’t afford to lose insurance I need eye injection each to save my eyesight cost is 3800.00 each time I go what do I do.”
“If you cross bill you will lose your eyesight from the 2 black eyes Lisa is gonna give you lol”
“Bill….didn’t you know…Lisa will have you for lunch if you so much as think about crossing? I PROMISE you that!”
The Facebook threats continued after one member posted that they found out the addresses where the members who crossed the line were living to which a member commented: “Can we bring Molotov Cocktails this time?”
One of the threatened union members filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union alleging that the union was obligated to disavow such statements because it restrained or coerced employees in the exercise of their right from engaging in concerted activity by crossing the picket line. Not only did the NLRB determine these comments were not threats that violated the law, it also held that the union was not responsible for the comments as the members were not its “agents” making it have no liability under the NLRA. The only unlawful action found against the union was a comment made on the picket line by one of the union’s agents that workers would receive less favorable representation if they crossed the picket line.
It is clear that the NLRB is continuing its trend of protecting union and employee social media “expression” in almost any situation. It still remains to be seen as to whether the Supreme Court will affirm the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit’s finding that the hundreds of 2012 NLRB decisions (including a multitude of social media decisions) are invalid due to President Obama’s recess appointments.