Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2000

Company can take away jobs, but not freedom of speech

April 20, 2000

By summer's end, 135 employees at a Eudora printing plant will be out of jobs. Not to worry, says Communicolor management. Those workers will be taken care of if they play the game by the rules.

The company, which will close its doors in August, is in the process of putting together severance packages and trying to relocate some workers to other jobs.

It's the proverbial carrot.

Management is holding it in front of the workers.

Play by the rules and they'll be rewarded.

This is a difficult time for those 135 workers. Many face uncertain futures, the chance of financial difficulties and the realistic possibility of having to leave their professions for which they have been trained and begin new careers.

It's a scary time.

And a frustrating time.

That the rules of the game include employees not talking about their impending pink slips merely adds insult to injury. Management gives these people the right to work, but the U.S. Constitution gives them a right to free speech.

Management has shown it can take away the jobs.

However, it has no right to take away the First Amendment Rights of its workers, some of whom fear that talking disparagingly about losing their jobs will adversely impact their severance packages.

We would relish the opportunity to see that kind of threat hold up in court.

In a highly-skilled environment like operating a printing press, employees speaking disparagingly of the company is the least damaging thing they could do to Communicolor.

We respect the request that employees not speak about the closure of the plant while on the clock, but an employee on his own time should feel free to express any emotion he or she is going through in this difficult time.

Communicolor is leaving town. One of Eudora's largest businesses is packing its bags and leaving for greener pastures and more attractive tax abatements. In today's competitive business climate, it's hard to find fault with a business playing by the rules.

However, tending to the needs of the workers, including their right to vent, is essential. They are going away. Don't make them go away quietly or without their dignity and Constitutional rights.

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