SALEM (AP) — The Oregon Employment Relations Board says the state broke a labor law two years ago when it temporarily banned members of the Service Employees International Union from using work email for union-related matters.

The state Department of Administrative Services imposed the ban in 2011 after a contract with the largest block of organized state workers expired and the state decided not to extend it, the Salem Statesman Journal ( reported.

SEIU Local 503 filed a complaint. It argued that using email to discuss union-related matters was a long-standing practice and changes had to be negotiated, so the state had committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally changing it.

The employment board, in a decision handed down earlier this month, said that employees have a right to discuss matters up for negotiation in their contracts, and restricting email use violates that right.

“Email has become an essential part of today’s workplace, surpassing yesterday’s bulletin board, water cooler, and mail room,” the board order said. “Employees rely on this means of communication more and more each year to communicate with each other and their designated representative about a wide variety of employment matters, particularly in bargaining units where employees are spread across multiple agencies and work sites.”

The state has stopped enforcing the rule and won’t appeal the decision, said Matt Shelby, spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services.

Information from: Statesman Journal,

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