If you have not read the immediate previous post, you should before reading this:
I just received a reply to my letter from OnPoint Credit Union. (Update- I just learned that this is a form letter, identical to ones sent to others who wrote to OnPoint.) Here it is in its entirety:
Thank you for your email.
We appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns and opinion with us. OnPoint’s mission is to serve and meet the financial goals and objectives of its members, and we strive for all of our actions to be in furtherance of that mission. As we are sure you can appreciate, OnPoint cannot and does not discuss individual employment issues with anyone other than the affected employee, thus, OnPoint will not further respond to the specific information in your email.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share your opinion with us.
OnPoint Community Credit Union
I can appreciate that they have been advised to “not discuss individual employment issues with anyone other than the affected employee” but the email strikes me as very condescending. I have a hard time imagining a situation where they did not discuss this issue with the union or the teachers who were protesting. I also believe they did not appreciate the letter. It is also telling that they take the time to label my letter as “opinion.” This entire blog is opinion. Why do they need to reinforce that?
My guess is that this type of issue goes beyond the realm of their in-house attorney/corporate counsel and they employ a big Human Resource Management Law Firm like Jackson Lewis. They probably called after receiving the first letters of protest and spoke to one of the Jackson Lewis partners whose response was, “You did what?!!!” Today, everything they do concerned with this issue is likely filtered first by their attorneys.
Not being an attorney, I know only enough employment law to stay out of trouble. So if I am wrong (as is the opinion of Jacob Searle who commented a few times on the earlier post) and Ms. vanBlaricom does not have a First Amendment case, I still think OnPoint has a very big problem. First, from what I saw at the branch the day I closed my accounts, it looked like employees were afraid to say anything about the issue or their former Manager. In my opinion, they were all scared and viewed their jobs in a different light than they had just days before. I would guess that if they could, many would go to work somewhere else. Second, the Credit Union’s action sends the message to employees that ‘you have a job with OnPoint as long as the Teacher’s Union wants you to have a job.’
Having said that, I wonder about the First Amendment and its application here. I think this is an act intended to limit the speech of an employee. I could be wrong. (I waited to hear from an attorney friend. She just called and confirmed that the First Amendment would be a tough case to make.)
Let’s turn the tables and see if that helps us understand the issue better. Let’s say you teach grammar school in McMinnville and suppose that you are a member of the Credit Union and a member of the McMinnville Education Association (teacher’s union). You were so incensed by the letter that Ms. vanBlaricom had read that you decided to protest the fact that she works at the Credit Union where you bank. Every day for a week you go directly from school each afternoon and protest in front of the Credit Union for two hours. You tell everyone who walks in that they should take their money out and stop dealing with OnPoint because they employ a manager who is anti-union. More than twenty people call or email the Superintendent of the School District to complain that a District School Teacher is acting in a way they don’t like. Many threaten to take their children out of the teacher’s classroom. They ask/demand the District to fire her (you). A week later, your principal enters your classroom and tells you to clear out your desk and then hands you your final check. The week before you started your protests, you were a teacher in good standing. The only reason you can imagine for the firing is that the District felt pressured because of your protests at the Credit Union.
I’m guessing the Union would file a grievance and threaten legal action. My guess is that they would state that you were exercising your right to free speech while off duty. I think that the District would be forced to apologize, rehire you, pay your legal costs, and suffer the embarrassment of having made a very public human resource management error. How different is this from the treatment Ms. vanBlaricom is receiving? Is there any reason why you as a teacher should get different treatment than a bank manager? Isn’t much of the nation up in arms today because many government employees are being given preferential treatment as compared to most who do not work for government agencies?
Again, if you feel that the Credit Union is worthy of your continued business, that is up to you. If, on the other hand you feel they have made a major moral and ethical (maybe legal) blunder, I would recommend that you write them a letter and consider taking your business elsewhere. We vote with our feet. If OnPoint loses a substantial number of members and deposits, I think that will send an appropriate message to them. If they suffer no negative consequences, I fear they will continue to be the kind of business that gives the rest of us a bad reputation.