State workers' rights include free speech

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Some Alaska State Employees Association staff and leaders have totally forgotten that the association's constitution not only protects free speech but requires the union to encourage it. Instead, some association representatives belittle General Government Unit members that are critical of union leadership or procedures or say that they are "not on the same level with these real people - the GGU workers" (see letter of Nov. 11).

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Association staff has gone so far in recent months as to heavily censor the comments that union members posted to the Web-based Contract Negotiating Committee discussion forums or not allowed some members to access the forums at all. The comments that were censored were critical of the committee recommendation to approve the contract or were critical of our leadership or representation. I, for one, am a "real GGU worker" and posted a reply to two other messages that were critical - no names or foul language was used. When I went back to the forum an hour later, my post and the two messages that I had replied to were completely deleted from the forum. I was also banned from participating in the forum in the future: I could read messages but no longer post comments. E-mails to ASEA staff about these issues were never responded to.

These actions clearly violate the following provisions of the association's constitution:

Section 1.02(B):

"Freedom of speech: Members shall suffer no impairment of freedom of speech concerning the operations of this union. Active discussion of union affairs shall be encouraged and protected within this organization."

Section 1.04 (B-C):

"In carrying out its objectives, the union shall continually promote and protect the principles of democracy, with the union, and shall adhere to the following principles:

"... B. It shall be the policy of the union to accept and encourage free and open debate from all sides on all issues affecting the members or the union. No Bylaws, articles or official policies shall interfere with the members' rights to free speech or association;

"C. The union shall encourage and assist members to associate and communicate among themselves regarding any matter affecting their jobs or the union."

I find it amusing that some of our union officials not only violate the association's constitution, but will criticize members that exercise the rights that are protected under it. I also can't help but wonder what the outcome of the ratification vote might have been if our leadership had encouraged free speech by the "real workers of GGU."

Aneta Synan


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