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US Labor Board: It's OK To Discuss Work and Pay with Coworkers On Social Sites 289

itwbennett writes "Your employer won't like it, but they can't stop you from discussing working conditions and compensation with your coworkers on social media. In his most recent social media memo, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Lafe Solomon said that in 6 of the 7 employers' social media policies he reviewed, he found violations of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to join labor unions and to discuss working conditions with each other."
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US Labor Board: It's OK To Discuss Work and Pay with Coworkers On Social Sites

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  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:28PM (#40239235)

    Pick your poison:

    Religious persecution

    Employers don't want you to discuss with your co-workers what your pay and benefits packages are, because they offer sweet deals to people they like, and that favoritism is not always above board.

    If other employees knew that billybob the janitor was getting paid three times what they were, they would demand to know why, ad worse, demand better pay. Usually billybob gets that sweet reimbursement for his labor because of some dirty secret, like he's the boss's lover, brother, illegitimate son, whatever. All of which are clearly outright illegal.

    Keeping people ignorant let's you get away with abuses of power. That's why they penalise people who share their information.

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:35PM (#40239299)

    How is discussing it with anyone going to help me?

    If you are ever in a position to negotiate a raise for yourself then it will be useful.

    Such as if you are interviewing for a new job.

    Or during performance evaluations.

  • Re:hey! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @09:17PM (#40239591) Journal

    why is this an issue to begin with?

    Because your employer doesn't want you talking to your co-workers outside of their control, because that could lead to workers organizing, which we all know is worse, circa 2012, than genocide or child-rape.

    But rest assured, Mitt Romney, (aka Ronald II) has promised to do away with the National Labor Relations Board (seriously), because in a free market such things just aren't necessary because everyone knows that once you just free private industry from the constraints of onerous federal regulations against things like, say, killing your workers, employers will start treating their employees really really well. Just as it happened back in the 1880s, the golden age of employer-employee relations.

    Oh, and tax cuts for them that deserve them. Because the rich will work harder if they are given more, but the rest of you will work harder if you are given less.

    If only we'd known that getting rid of the EPA, the Department of Education, the National Labor Relations Board and NPR would lead to utopia, we'd have done it long ago. Oh, and Planned Parenthood, because women have to stop being such sluts.

  • Re:hey! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Balthisar ( 649688 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @09:29PM (#40239677) Homepage

    I'm a hiring manager with direct reports, and I want quality employees, and am willing to compensate them. HR, though, makes most compensation decisions, however.

    Would I be subject to compensating someone higher than another due to favoritism? Hell, yes! What's important is what that favoritism is based upon, though. I don't believe in accepting (e.g.) sexual favors, but if you're a good contributor who makes my life easier, you're likely to be my favorite, and I'm likely to want to pay you more.

    As much as we despise HR, their control over salaries helps mitigate a lot of favoritism issues.

  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @09:59PM (#40239863)

    Also, when people know each other's salaries, it tends to make people discontent, when they'd previously been happy. Everyone wants to make more than everyone else. When people don't know each other's salaries, they're generally happy if they think they're making market rate. Want a recipe for a nasty workplace? Negotiate different salaries for each employee, and then let them all know who's making what.

    If the employees are paid differently, there need to be visible reasons why, like qualifications, recognized quality of work, higher productivity, etc. When pay is perceived as FAIR, it doesn't cause resentment and in fact reinforces the motivations that you want in your employees. You want to be paid like Molly? Then turn out quality and quantity of work that match what Molly does.

  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erice ( 13380 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @10:04PM (#40239889) Homepage

    I think the fundamental issue you'll run into, when trying to apply the ethical standard you describe, is determining what a "fair" market price is for someone's labor.

    I don't think you'll find a single, undeniably superior way of reckoning what it should be.

    I accept your challenge. Determining fair market price when all buyers and sellers have information on all current transactions is undeniable more accurate and predictable than determining fair market price when the price of all transactions is a carefully guarded secret.

  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @10:11PM (#40239923)

    My wife just negotiated working from home prior to being hired full-time at a very conservative (read old) company. She'd been a contractor with them for the past year, and worked from home then, but they don't let any full-time employees work from home. Except her, so far as we know. Why? It was really important to her and she was willing to walk if she didn't get it, and they knew she could have a new job in less than a day in this market for her position.

    Is that favoritism? I really doubt they favor her more than their existing employees. It's just what mattered to her. She didn't push on the salary or the hours or the responsibilities, either, just the work location.

    The agreement between employer and employee is a free-market deal, just the same as between the company and customer. I think employers that share your attitude that employees should accept what crumbs you give them (a.k.a. "bleed me dry" from the opposite perspective) find themselves out of business shortly, or using a revolving cast of unskilled workers that can never do the job right for their pay.

  • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VAElynx ( 2001046 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @10:32PM (#40240079)

    There's nothing unethical about that at all. A contract is a two way agreement. They have to agree and so do I. So long as both parties agree, what's the issue?

    The issue , and reason it's unethical is that there's an uneven balance of power. Hardly any employer has gone bankrupt due to employees leaving as a result of poor treatment (rather than them fucking up and running out of money), while people that don't put up with bullshit are running a solid risk of ending in the streets.
    The employee is replaceable , and hence, can't really set the conditions, unless he's in a highly skilled, and rare position of expertise.
    Which is why unions are such an awesome thing - they allow the employees to actually form a credible threat to whoever's screwing them over.

  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darronb ( 217897 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:00AM (#40240675)

    This is seriously, seriously wrong.

    Why on earth would someone spend the effort to be a lawyer if they just get paid the same? How do you think exceptional employees would feel about carrying everyone else like that? Everyone's going to be HAPPY to be a carbon copy cog in the great machine? If everyone has the same disposable incomes... people would be fighting for the easy jobs. The unhappiness has only moved from feeling taken advantage of due to differences in wages to feeling taken advantage of due to the vast differences in job difficulty across the entire company's payroll for the same disposable income. Now, instead of occasionally remembering the injustice every paycheck or two... you're constantly reminded of the inequity of your workload vs. others. It'd be miserable.

    This is literal communism... like, on a real commune. It 'works' on a commune because there's no real product besides the group survival (unless they're led by morally bankrupt a-holes who are taking advantage of the naive, which seems to happen a lot) and virtually all of the work is unskilled and interchangable. They usually regularly rotate positions and find ways to punish people who aren't pulling their weight.

    You're valuing the COMPANY product according to market rates, but you're completely disregarding the individual skills and product of the employees. You can't combine those, they're not compatible.

    A person, like a company, has a product or a set of products. How valuable the product is to others should be reflected somehow in how that person is paid. Personally, I'd rather have the assembly line guy who works twice as fast get paid twice as much. The sales guy who can sell twice as much should be paid twice as much. However, I recognize that this would put too much pressure on the average person... so a system much like we currently have where the compensation for performance is much more gradual is fine by me. The extreme performers can go their own way if they want to do better.

    I do wish that pay for different jobs could be somehow magically rebalanced according to the actual worth of what the person does for society, though. Not 1:1, though... probably something like "1 + ln(relative_societal_value)".

  • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @01:11AM (#40240999)

    A contract is only a two-way agreement when both sides have equal bargaining power.

    When one side holds all the cards and is in a position to dictate terms, it is very much a one way take it or leave it agreement usually riddled with the company getting all rights and you getting none.

    And in an economy where people are desperate for jobs and willing to sell their souls to the lowest bidder, the boss will win.

  • Re:hey! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @01:54AM (#40241155)

    Business is a cuthroat enterprise. As such, there is a clear, and present advantage to shafting employees and keeping them ignorant with information control. If you can pay your people peanuts and get away with it, why on earth would you ever want them to know that they are getting shafted? Profit man! Profit! Its why you started the business!

    I take it you've never actually run a business. Unless you're running a mundane manual labor business (assembly line work, fruit picking, etc), employees are not expenses. They are the lifeblood of the company. You need their creativity and vitality for the company to prosper, because the employees are the company. Without the employees the company dies. Without the company, the employees can just start up another company doing what they were doing at the old company. If I didn't need the employees, I wouldn't have hired them in the first place.

    People often poke fun of the government for awarding contracts to the lowest bidder. The private businesses I've been involved with and helped run didn't/don't do that. We recognized that the higher priced item can actually represent a better value. The same goes for employees. What's crucial is the value the employee offers - productivity per dollar of salary, not lowest salary. I've never had a problem with employees talking with each other about salary (and in many other countries it's not taboo like it is here). I've had to keep pretty good tabs on each employee's contributions and shortcomings for figuring out bonuses. If one of them comes to me complaining about his/her pay, I have a pretty detailed list of reasons why they're being paid what they are, and what they could do to improve their prospects of a raise. In fact if it weren't taboo here, often I'd like to be able to talk with them about it openly to encourage the underperformers to do better. "If you could do this, this, and this better, we could pay you better like we do Joe."

    A company trying to prevent its employees from talking with each other about salary is a sign of a failing company IMHO. They're hemorrhaging cash so are desperately trying to cut as many expenses as they can, even if they end up cutting off meat along with the fat. If your company is trying to foist that upon you, I'd suggest either brushing off the resume or learning some skills so you're no longer a mundane manual laborer.

  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan541 ( 1032000 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @04:45AM (#40241877) Homepage

    Or the fact that the Janator has more important work to do than most office workers.

    Don't believe me? Try working in a place that hasn't been cleaned for a week, especially with an unmaintained bathroom..

  • Re:hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:04AM (#40244689)

    I agree with what you're saying but, as a manager, I have another issue that cannot be solved with completely transparent transactions (even if that was possible):

    Salary rates are set by what the market will pay. When demand goes up, candidates know to ask for more. I'm desperate to hire now, which means either I ask my team to keep working 50/60 hr weeks, or I hire another person for (10-20%) more than what my current team (of equivalent experience) makes. Of course, I cannot simply raise everyone to this new level because I barely have the budget to hire this new person at a normal rate, much less this inflated rate. So, either I keep people in the dark and relatively happy, or I tell people what's up (they know anyway), and now they leave for greener pastures. Yes we can have talks about things that will happen "one day" but I can't promise anything I can't deliver, and right now I have no clue how the market will turn. Everyone wants to make more money when the market is great, no one wants to cut their paycheck when it dips.

    With perfect information, I am at the mercy of the hiring market (bubble?), and my operating budget climbs while I don't necessarily get any more productivity (per person) with an increase salaries paid. Sure, I can look elsewhere to save money too, but I don't want to be the PHB that cuts the free coffee and tea so I can raise only one guy up to the market rate. Or do I?

    So in other words, you've been underpaying your employees for years and now its coming back to bite you in the ass. I'd leave your team too.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351