Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Free Speech for OSHA Inspectors? Surely You Jest

Seems that OSHA inspectors and other US Department of Labor (DOL) field employees are still allowed to have their union and their newsletter (they haven't been labeled security risks yet), as long as they're careful about what they say. Apparently the survival of the program they are dedicating their worklives to is not legitimate grounds for discussion by the union -- at least if they're going to use Department of Labor interoffice mail. According to an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, "At issue were an article and a cartoon criticizing White House policies on tax cuts and hiring private contractors for government jobs."

But the Labor Department says distribution of the December issue of the newsletter, the Courier, (the newsletter of the National Council of Field Labor Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees) was stopped because the publication "violated guidelines worked out by the union and the agency about what could be sent through the department's interoffice mail."

"Al Belsky, a Labor Department spokesman, said part of the December newsletter went beyond the guidelines for what can be distributed. The newsletter must be limited to matters of union interest to go through interoffice mail, he said." I guess tax cuts that will reduce the money to pay for OSHA enforcement and possible contracting out of OSHA jobs are not issues that the union representing OSHA inspectors should be interested in.

''That's not to say they couldn't distribute this some other way,'' he said. ''It's not censorship.'' Gee, thanks Al.

The union has filed a grievance against the agency for blocking interoffice mail distribution of its newsletter. It's not nice to mess with Secretary Chao.