Senator Brown calls out Facebook for workplace feature

Staff writer

Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is requesting Facebook step up its efforts to protect workers’ rights, following reports that the company rolled out a new feature of Facebook Workplace, which, the senator says, allowed employers to censor employee discussions about union organizing.
Earlier this month, the company hosted a presentation where it pitched a new feature as a tool that has the “benefits” of “content control,” the senator said in a press release.
During the presentation, one example given as a topic employers might like to blacklist was the word “unionize,” according to the senator, who in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, slammed the company for exposing their interest in helping corporations bust unions and prevent workers from exercising their right to organize.
“…I am deeply troubled that in rolling it out to company employees, Facebook leadership specifically pointed to the feature’s ability to allow employers to block employees from discussing their federally-protected right to organize. By developing and advertising this feature, even if you have since halted its production, Facebook has exposed its interest in helping corporations bust unions and preventing workers from collectively advocating for better working conditions, pay, and benefits,” wrote Brown.
The senator noted the National Labor Relations Board has issued decisions that uphold workers’ ability to communicate about organizing on Facebook and has also identified corporate policies that prevent workers from using social media tools to exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act as being in violation of that law. By enabling employers to shut down conversations about unions or collective action in the workplace, the new Facebook Workplace feature further erodes workers’ ability to speak up for themselves in the workplace and undermines their rights under federal law.
Brown also urged Facebook to use its influence and tools to encourage workers, including Facebook employees and contract workers, to organize and advocate for themselves through a union.
The company said the feature was never fully developed and has been shelved.
“While these kinds of content moderation tools are useful for companies, this example should never have been used and we apologize for it. The feature was only in early development and we’ve pulled any plans to roll it out while we think through next steps," a Facebook company spokesperson said.


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