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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: September 16, 2019

Bliss Davis, Content and Programming Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: September 16, 2019

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.

1.) Government orders Google not to restrict employees’ free speech

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered Google to remind employees that it’s within their rights to openly debate political and workplace issues, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The action came as a result of federal regulators reaching an agreement on a proposed settlement on employee complaints that the company restricts free speech, a Google spokesperson said. The settlement, which was approved by an agency director this week, follows Google’s issuing of revised community guidelines that are meant to crack down on what employees can say inside the company.

Last month, Google released a new set of community guidelines that discourage employees from talking about politics on Google’s internal mailing lists in forums. The rules also bar employees from making statements that “insult, demean or humiliate” other employees or Google’s extended extended workforce.

2.) Judge Sides With City of San Antonio in Fire Union’s Free Speech Lawsuit

The City of San Antonio did not violate free speech rights of the firefighters union last year when the City restricted union-backed petitioners from gathering signatures at libraries and senior centers, according to U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez.

Rodriguez ruled in favor of the City because the union, which filed the lawsuit in July last year, could not prove that the City’s rules regarding “free speech zones” hampered the union’s ability to collect signatures, the judge wrote in his ruling.

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association was seeking signatures from residents to place three propositions on the November 2018 ballot. The union succeeded, and ultimately two of the three measures were approved by voters. Proposition B limited the salary of future city managers, and Proposition C granted the union the right to call for binding arbitration – which the union exercised this summer. Arbitration is expected to start in December.

3.) Prosecutor: Defendant crossed line from free speech to threats in social-media commentary

A Chesterfield Township man “crossed over” from protected speech in the First Amendment into threatening commentary in social media posts about a local judge, an assistant Macomb County prosecutor said Friday.

Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Rittinger told a district court jury Friday that Jonathan Vanderhagen maliciously misused the internet when he made several Facebook posts about family-court Judge Rachel Rancilio of Macomb Circuit Court, who presided over his custody case involving his late son.

Rittinger related his commentary to an often-used analogy of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. She said the most concerning was an image of Vanderhagen holding a shovel over his shoulder with the Rancilio’s initials scrawled over the handle.

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