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Equal Time?

Under a new ruling, you may have to let unions use your e-mail system to promote their platform.

This story appears in the September 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The laws concerning employees voting for or against a union aregenerally clear. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employersmust provide union organizers with the names and addresses of alleligible employees, but they are not required to allow theorganizers to campaign on their premises. Indeed, if there'sgoing to be a union vote at your business, you can paper the hallswith your anti-union message and send out daily memos about itwithout letting union supporters do the same. The chief restrictionis that this prohibition be consistent with company policy. So ifyour policy allows personal use of company telephones on companytime, you can't stop employees from calling each other topromote a pro-union vote.

How does the company e-mail system fit into the picture?That's where it gets foggier, thanks to a recent decision by anadministrative judge for the National Labor Relations Board. Thecase concerned agents for Prudential Insurance who narrowlyrejected representation by the Office & Professional EmployeesInternational Union. Union organizers sued, arguing the companyshould have allowed them access to the e-mail system to disseminatetheir arguments.

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