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NLRB Opens Employer Email Systems To Union Organizing Efforts

December 11, 2014

By Michael G. McClory

In 3-2 decision issued earlier today, the National Labor Relations Board overruled its 2007 Register Guard decision and held that employees have a "statutory right to use their employer’s email systems for Section 7 purposes."  See Purple Communications, Inc. and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO (December 11, 2014).  The Purple Communications decision will force both union and non-union employers to allow employees who already have access to the workplace email system to use that system, on non-working time, to communicate regarding non-work-related issues, such as union organizing.  In wresting control of the email system away from employers, this decision hands unions a powerful tool in their efforts to unionize workplaces.

Without irony, the Purple Communications majority described the overturned Register Guard decision as “clearly incorrect” and said that the “consequences of that error are too serious to permit to stand.”  Citing other Board precedent with which it agrees, the Purple Communications majority stated that the Board has a “responsibility ‘to adapt the Act to the changing patterns of industrial life.

Bullard Law will be publishing a more complete analysis of the Purple Communications decisions shortly.