Union Organizing Using a Company’s E-Mail SystemWhen union organizers start an organizing drive, there are certain restrictions on what they can do, particularly within the workplace. Both employers and employees must comply with Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).Protected Concerted ActivitiesUnder Section 7, employees have certain rights to communicate among themselves. Section 7 states, “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, . . . and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”What about communication via e-mail? Can union organizers use a company-operated e-mail system for organizing purposes? Companies typically provide e-mail systems so that employees can communicate with outsiders and among themselves as part of their jobs. Generally, company policies have prohibited the use of company owned and operated e-mail systems for other than job-related communications. Some union organizers have challenged this prohibition.The NLRB’s Perspective EvolvesAt first, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allowed an employer’s written policy that prohibited the use of a company-provided e-mail system for non-job-related solicitations. Then the NLRB reversed its position. “[W]e decide today that employee use of e-mail for statutorily protected communications on non-working time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their e-mail systems.” The NLRB claimed that its earlier decision had failed to adequately protect “employees’ rights under the NLRA.” The board also stated that it had a responsibility “to adapt the Act to the changing patterns of industrial life.”The rules are clear. Once an organizing election is scheduled, a company must turn over all telephone numbers and home and e-mail addresses of the company’s employees to union organizers within two days. The organizers can then communicate with employees via the company’s e-mail system.Question PresentedEmployees meeting around the water cooler or coffee machine have always had the right to discuss work-related matters. Is an employer-provided e-mail system or social media outlet simply a digital water cooler? Why or why not?