[AAUP News] PSU’s threat to cut off email from striking AAUP members found unlawful

December 16, 2014 / Phil Lesch

On March 9th, 2014 the University Office of University Communications sent a brief e-mail to faculty with the subject heading of "PSU Strike guidelines and FAQs" which provided a link to a document that answered frequently asked questions in the event of an AAUP strike.That document contained the following question and answer:

“Would a striking AAUP-represented employee have access to email, their office or lab during a strike?

“No. Striking employees will not be permitted to engage in any activities related to their employment. The electronic log-in credentials for striking employees will be disabled during a strike, preventing access to email, Banner, D2L, VPN and other electronic systems..."

PSU-AAUP filed an unfair practice charge against the University alleging that this communication was unlawful. A hearing was held before an Oregon Employment Relations Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on September 3, 2014. The ALJ's decision was received this week.

The ALJ states:

"The University’s March 9 announcement that it would disable striking faculty’s e-mail accounts violated ORS 243.672(1)(a) by interfering with, restraining, or coercing Association members “because of” and “in” the exercise of rights guaranteed by ORS 243.662.

ORS 243.662 guarantees public employees the “right to form, join and participate in the activities of labor organizations of their own choosing for the purpose of representation and collective bargaining with their public employer on matters concerning employment relations.” In order to protect and enforce these rights, ORS 243.672(1)(a) provides that a public employer may not “[i]nterfere with, restrain or coerce employees in or because of the exercise of rights guaranteed in ORS 243.662.”

Subsection (1)(a) provides for two separate violations, commonly referred to as the “because of” prong and the “in” the exercise prong. Subsection (1)(a) prohibits employer actions that interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees because of of their exercise of protected right; and it prohibits employer actions that interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of protected rights. Portland Assn. Teachers v. Mult. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 171 Or App 616, 623, 16 P3d 1189 (2000). The Association assert (ed) that the University violated both portions of subsection (1)(a). "

The ALJ found that the University violated both portions of subsection 1 (a). The decision includes a cease and desist order.

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