Guidelines for free speech in the workplace

Consider this:

  • Are you engaged in a private or a public discussion?
  • What is your role during the conversation – union officer or employee?

Here’s how to determine where the boundaries lie:

  • Public – Is the message being recorded or published? For example, most social networks, media interviews, letters to the editor, town hall meetings and Facebook posts that are not screened are considered public spaces. It is always best to assume when talking to the media that your statements are “on the record.”
  • Private – A conversation where you are sharing information in confidence and are not being recorded. If you’re not sure, ask.

You should never say things about your employee or co-workers that are insulting, demeaning, discriminatory or threatening.

It’s okay to blow off steam, but do your best to channel negative energy in a constructive way. Focus on what you can do to create change. Encourage your co-workers to get involved with the union, join a workplace committee or any other form of action that you think would be helpful.

As a stewards, you have more freedom to speak openly about your employer than other workers do, but keep this list in mind when speaking with co-workers and your boss.

Be respectful and make sure you know if a conversation will be publicly documented.


August 12, 2011