May 03, 2011

Twitter Dispute at Reuters Is Resolved

A few days ago, Thomson Reuters reached a tentative contract with the Newspaper Guild (the union that represents hundreds of its employees). According to an article by Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times, the deal finally came -- settling a dispute that's gone on for more than two years -- at the end of a 21-hour negotiating session. The deal settles a number of contested issues, including raises, payments to employees to cover wages lost while there was no contract, benefits, and scheduling. 

And then there's that Twitter complaint: As I posted last month, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed that it was considering bringing a complaint against Reuters over many issues in the ongoing dispute, including the company's apparent reprimand of an employee for Tweeting a criticism of its dealings with the union. This was just the latest indication of the NLRB's interest in social media -- and more particularly, whether employer efforts to police what employees say online about the company are violating employee rights to communicate and act collectively. 

As part of the tentative deal, Reuters has agreed to negotiate a new policy on social media, which will explicitly protect the rights of employees to engage in protected concerted activities: to speak about, and take action regarding, the terms and conditions of their jobs. Reuters has its current policy and guidelines for reporters on use of social media (part of its Handbook of Journalism) posted on its website. I really hope the company also posts its new policy, once it's available. That would be a huge help to employers trying to navigate this developing area of law and commerce.