CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress has been conspicuously quiet regarding the case of O’Malley v. Karkhanis, save for noting that “free speech...has limits.” In light of “Sue” O’Malley’s long service to the PSC, and her prominent membership in their ruling, radical New Caucus, this silence is puzzling. Perhaps Barbara Bowen knows a bad lawsuit, and a losing issue, when she sees one.
Or, perhaps not. As the January, 2008 issue of the union’s house organ, the Clarion reports, the PSC has brought suit in federal court against the CUNY regarding use of the e-mail system at La Guardia Community College for union business; a grievance and a complaint to New York’s Public Employment Relations Board have also been filed. At issue is CUNY’s "Policy on Acceptable Use of Computer Resources." The university argues that the union’s access to campus e-mail must be dealt with as part of the collective bargaining system; the union insists that its First Amendment rights have been abrogated.
To what degree the recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board that employers can prohibit workers from using e-mail systems to send out union-related messages will influence either the grievance process or the PERB is unclear. But we doubt that Bowen will get very far with her First Amendment violation federal lawsuit. As they have in the past, the leaders of the PSC are staging a stunt in hope of whipping up support from their members. And, we suspect, of directing attention away from Susan O’Malley, who still serves on the Executive Board as a Community College Officer. We wish “Sue” all the best in what may well be many, many days in court.