Thursday, October 23, 2008

The First Amendment on the Job

These are interesting times.

The country is at war on two fronts. The financial sector has crashed and every one is trying to lay blame all the way back to Jimmy Carter. It is an election year; no matter who wins, history will be made.

The media has over saturated both candidates. Emotions are running so high that our company sent out an email telling everyone that talking about politics at work is not allowed. In fact, it hinted that there could be repercussions for people talking about politics at work. An American citizen's most important act is to vote in any election. Just don't talk about it.

Kiss the First Amendment goodbye.

Do they have the right to do that? Can my employer tell me what to say at work? Can they legally dictate my choice of words? We already have the sexual harassment laws that govern behavior at work.

Is that the same?

Some people would say: "Yes, those bleeding-hearted liberal communists have already taken the First Amendment! I can't tell my secretary dirty stories, or grab her butt or anything FUN anymore. So it's all their fault! I'm just trying to keep the managers for McCain from being attacked by the (slur inserted here) workers in their 'Obama' t-shirts."

I call that the 'pinko liberals did it first' defense.

I could almost buy into it. I didn't want some reactionary conservative in my face telling me why my favorite candidate wasn't fit for office, back when she was still running.

Oh, just in case you are curious about my politics, I'm a conservative Democrat. The Constitution is sacred, don't touch it. Gun control is hitting your target, on the first shot. Equal work for equal pay. Education is for every one. Old school, yes, raised in the sixties, yes. Stereotypical "liberal" values, no.

Yes, conservative Democrats exist. Gnashing our teeth at extremists in both parties, paying our taxes, attending church and hunting in season. But we aren't as newsworthy as the 'pinko liberal' so we are invisible.

Let's get back on track.

Freedom of Speech in the Work Place

Does it exist or has the Corporate Dragon eaten it for lunch? We all work for someone. So how many of our rights do we give up to the corporation in exchange for a paycheck. Even a big fat paycheck shouldn't be a gag order from above. Though the majority of workers aren't making a hell of a lot, they still have traded freedom for the same harness as the overworked yuppie with the SUV and the McMansion. It's just not a well-padded harness.

Let's take this a step further.

What about scripting?

Have you heard about the policy of scripting? Customer Service Representatives in many companies have been handed scripted speeches. "This is what you are allowed to say to the customer, anything else will count against your job performance." When you call to complain/purchase/get support for whatever and it sounds like you are talking to a robot, the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are scripted. It's not bad enough that "your calls are monitored to ensure quality service." The CSRs can't deviate from these speeches or they will lose their jobs.

Is this legal? Is it a violation of workers First Amendment rights?

What is the justification? "Scripts work. Sales are up. If you say 'this' when the customer says 'that' then the customer will 'action'. Nothing less than 99.5% obedience will be tolerated." My favorites are the unspoken: "What we need is a robot, but people are cheaper, and more easily disposed of."

Does it matter? It's not WASP yuppies being scripted, not managers, supervisors (unless we count the 'yes men'), or the Board of Directors. Just ordinary Joe's and Jane's who need to keep their jobs, no matter which of their rights are violated by the Corporate Dragons.

We are subject to censorship. The year 1984 has come and gone (TVs are getting bigger!) Big Brother has the phones tapped, and is reading your email. Media monopolies filter our 'information/entertainment' content. Only the 'right' images are put into our brains. We are programmed by Madison Avenue to buy certain items at inflated prices.

The Corporate Dragons are stealing our rights. Nobody cares.

Where is Saint George when you need him?

No comments: