January 31, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 31


January 30, 2023

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A Tweet For A Tat: Magazine Founder’s Twitter Post Ruled Unlawful

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that the publisher and co-founder of an online magazine violated labor law when he tweeted that he would send employees “back to the salt mine” if they attempted to form a union.

In its decision, the NLRB found that employees of The Federalist “would reasonably view the message as expressing an intent to take swift action against any employee who tried to unionize the Respondent. In addition, the reference to sending that employee ‘back to the salt mine’ reasonably implied that the response would be adverse.” 

The attorney for the magazine’s parent company, FDRLST Media, argued that the tweet was a joke and the NLRB lacks “common sense and a sense of humor,” Bloomberg Law reports. The Board stated, however, that the intent behind the tweet is irrelevant, and what matters is whether the statement tends to interfere with workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. 

The NLRB also rejected FDLRST Media’s argument that the statement was not meant to be communicated to employees, since it was posted on Twitter. The ruling noted that the wording of the tweet was directed at employees and that Board precedent establishes that threats not intended for workers, but still seen by them, do violate labor law. 

This case provides another reminder that specific rules come into play when employees are considering forming a union. Generally, companies cannot: 

  • Threaten employees based on their union activity
  • Interrogate workers about their union activity, sentiments, etc.
  • Make promises to employees to induce them to forgo joining a union
  • Engage in surveillance (i.e., spying) on workers’ union organizing efforts

These rules apply whether communications are done in person or virtually via platforms like Twitter and Facebook. In fact, this ruling is not the first time the agency has weighed in on social media posts of high-profile executives in this context. The NLRB cited Tesla, Inc. CEO Elon Musk for an anti-union tweet in 2019. 

Employers should be careful about posting anti-union sentiments on social media, even if meant as a joke. As seen in this most recent case, the NLRB would scrutinize whether the language interfered with worker’s rights and whether employees would reasonably view the message as such, regardless of the author’s intent.

© 2023 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 338

About this Author


A detailed-oriented and strategic thinker, Colleen Naumovich is committed to helping her clients navigate the ever-changing field of labor and employment law, understand how the laws affect every facet of their business, and implement best practices.

Colleen brings focus and dedication to assisting her employer clients with various workplace and employee needs they have. She conducts legal research and drafts memoranda, motions, and positions statements to the National Labor Relations Board. She also helps clients prepare for trial by reviewing depositions and providing summaries of...

David J. Pryzbylski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Indianapolis, Labor Law Attorney

David concentrates a large portion of his practice on assisting employers with traditional labor matters. His deep experience includes collective bargaining, work stoppages, arbitrations, union avoidance training and strategies, union representation elections, unfair labor practice charges, contract administration, and various other labor relations issues.

David has helped companies secure favorable outcomes with labor issues around the country. He has experience with numerous labor unions, including the Steelworkers, Teamsters, Laborers, Sheet...