In the business world, it’s clear that there has been an ongoing issue between labor unions and their respective companies. Business groups, such as unions, are pressing for a reverse of the 2007 ruling that employees do not have a right to use e-mails supplied by an employer to discuss union-related topics such as wages and working conditions. The National Labor Relations Board is currently analyzing both viewpoints of ethical reasoning to determine the best outcome of the situation. It seems as though both sides, unions and their respective companies, differ in their ideas of ethics used in the situation.
Coming from the union side, it seems their viewpoint is based off Utilitarian ethics, which is a choice based off what benefits the most people. They believe employees should be able to use office e-mails as a way to converse about all topics related to work, including issues with wages and working conditions. To them, “[the] workplace e-mail, they say, is the modern-day equivalent of the office water cooler, where the employees gather to talk,” meaning the use of e-mail for union-related topics is no different than speaking openly between employees (Trottman B1). They believe by allowing employees to utilize their work e-mail accounts for union-related topics it is the most “practical approach that accommodates employer interests and workers’ rights” (Trottman B1).
In an opposing view, businesses are using a Fairness and Justice Ethics approach by stating that changes in the ruling “ could violate employers’ property rights, congest servers, threaten worker productivity and infringe on the companies’ First Amendment rights not to communicate the unwanted messages of others, ”(Trottman B1). This being said, allowing workers to use their company e-mail to discuss union-related issues are of injustice to the company offering the e-mail. Mr. Kane, from Stuart Kane LLP, states that workers have their own way of “[carrying] e-mail in their pockets with their smartphones,” and shouldn’t need to use work e-mails to discuss such topics during their workday.
In conclusion, it seems as though this has been an ongoing issue between both parties. It seems as though neither side will be completely happy, and in my opinion both sides need to compromise a little bit. If I were a part of management in the companies dealing with this conflict, I would personally offer a Utilitarian approach, but from a different perspective than the union groups mentioned in the article. I would recommend offering a separate server holding a union-related e-mail to those who are part of the union, and giving the option to those employees who are not part of the union, but still considering it. Implementing this will give the employees the right of dealing with work-related issues while at work but also respect the use of the company’s immediate server. It is unfair to assume the allowance of union-related discussions during the work time will cause a distraction from work. So therefore, if there is a sense of “threatened worker productivity,” from the implemented server, managers can the same rules that the company currently holds for employee distractions.
Trottman, Melanie. “Employers, Unions Await Email Ruling.” The Wall Street Journal 10 Nov. 2014, sec. B: B1, B5. Print.