Thursday, June 28, 2007

Scoble and workplace free speech

Thank God I am not an at-will employee
Today Scoble posted about an executive whom he talked to who got fired after talking to him. According to Scoble, "Most big companies, in their employment agreements, have in there that you aren’t allowed to talk with the press unless given permission by the PR departments." Then I thought about a conversation I had the other day with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. (He was doing a follow up interview on the status of Skype at San Jose State University.) I felt totally at-ease talking to him because here at San Jose State we have a union. I am not an at-will employee. Of course, there are other lesser ways to punish an employee rather than fire him/her. But, I think the right of free speech in the workplace is important and I am willing to pay the price to exercise it.

Would my blogging and podcasting have gotten me fired were we not a union shop?
I have no way of knowing for sure because that would have changed everything. I might never have even blogged. But then, I would likely have never even applied at SJSU, because when I did apply having a union and free speech was a primary consideration. But, if you asked me in my opinion, I think I would have been fired long ago. They have been furious at me more than once for things I have published, blogged and/or podcast. One persons free expression is another persons trouble making.

How un-Cluetrain of them!
Apple may make cool gear, but I hate their anti free speech policies. According to Scoble, "I’ve met some people I KNEW had an iPhone and they were so scared of retribution or consequences that they wouldn’t answer a single question." Sometimes I ask myself if freedom of speech is so important to my why do I keep buying Apple hardware? Apple's attitude makes me feel better about the new Treo I bought. Now, according to Scoble Apple-like policies may be spreading to Microsoft, "Have you noticed that no one has started talking about the next version of Windows? I have. That’s on purpose. They learned their lesson and realized that letting you see inside the meat factory is a little too messy for this new world of PR. Rather keep all that mess behind corporate walls and come out when something is actually finished."

Do we really have free speech in this country?
Do we really have free speech if a company is allowed to fire an employee for speaking to the press? We may not send folks to jail for exercising their rights of free speech, we just deprive them of their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Is that really free speech? In my opinion it is not. And again I say, Thank God I am not an at-will employee. And, thank God we have unions where I work. I wish more folks did.

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