I’ve periodically engaged in the debate about who actually owns your email. The assertion that email sent from your corporate email address is owned by the company is a difficult one for me to deal with, especially since email has become a ubiquitous means for communication. As a result I find the entire thing tiresome – but important.
I’m a big believer in private property rights. I also know the risk of the government granting a property right inappropriately (for example, the evils of software patents.) Today, the New York Times reported that The National Labor Relations Board Restricts Union Use of E-Mail.
The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employers have the right to prohibit workers from using the company’s e-mail system to send out union-related messages, a decision that could hamper communications between labor unions and their membership.
In a 3-to-2 ruling released on Friday, the board held that it was legal for employers to prohibit union-related e-mail so long as employers had a policy barring employees from sending e-mail for “non-job-related solicitations” for outside organizations.
The ruling is a significant setback to the nation’s labor unions, which argued that e-mail systems have become a modern-day gathering place where employees should be able to communicate freely with co-workers to discuss work-related matters of mutual concern.
I’m not a fan of unions, but this is stupid. Solution #1: Union members all get a Google Apps account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and use that for union communications. Since it’s a union email account, shouldn’t that be ok even thought it’s being sent via a web browser on a work computer? I don’t know union rules well enough, but do they prohibit interaction with other union members on work facilities during work hours? If not, then this should work.
Stupid Company Trick #1: If the company believes it owns the email, doesn’t it actually want the email on the company’s e-mail system? If the company has made every employee sign a little thing saying "we own your email", this would give the company the right to read all the union-related email which seems to give the company a big advantage here!
Stupid Government Trick #1: Why is our government wasting tax payer dollars on this? (Hint – this is a rhetorical question.)