Name Tags, Name Changes, and why is this even an issue?

So at my work, there is this big giant battle between the union and the board underway. Over name tags.

Yeah.

I’m going to try to keep this brief. We are undergoing a major rebranding/public image overall, and everyone is more or less on board with that. And part of that meant we were getting badges to identify us as employees, so people know who can help them with stuff, which is also a good thing and we are all into it.

Those badges also turned out to have our first names on them. Which, I mean, that’s a normal enough thing. I have certainly worn name badges at other jobs in my past. But the normalcy is, to me, fairly irrelevant. Because a bunch of my co-workers really don’t want to wear their names. They are concerned about it from a privacy stand-point, which I think is legitimate and fair enough.

Also, the privacy question directly impacts me more heavily than other people. The name I am using as my first name to work (i.e. my birth name) is extremely uncommon. And it’s also actually me last name, which we’re, y’know not required to give out?

Anyway, people decided they didn’t want to wear name tags, and I found their stance super reasonable. I covered my own name on the badge with “staff”, and other people also took similar steps to comply with badge-wearing, but not the name-revealing. Our union agreed to back us up and have filed a grievance.

I don’t even know why that’s necessary though. I am really annoyed that the board won’t just compromise and give us nameless badges, which we are all in favour of, and which accomplish all the basic goals of name tags. Not only that, but they’re easier to re-use, and less of an issue re: turnover if they don’t have names on them, so probably cheaper? Seriously, this is not that big a deal, nor is it difficult to resolve.

And yet.

We have already had one person called to testify before the labour board, and the conclusion is that being forced to provide your first name is not a privacy concern.

And this morning I was greeted with an email from the CEO letting us know that anyone caught not wearing their name tags (even while on break!) or “defacing” them will be disciplined.

We have been advised by the union rep to simply comply with these stated “conditions of employment” (actual phrase from the email) for the time being, while the issue is negotiated, but I feel like the more principled stance for someone refusing to wear a name tag would be to, um, refuse to do so. If it is indeed a privacy concern, is is a concern even while negotiations are underway. I am wearing the tag with my name on it for today, since I was sort of ambushed by this email (because I’m part-time, I haven’t been at work since Thursday afternoon, and the email was sent Thursday evening, so I’m only getting it now). I’ll figure out what my long term plan is after work today, I guess.

I have six weeks left in my contract here. I can barely be bothered. But also I am very much in solidarity with my co-workers. I don’t think that what they’re asking for is even remotely unreasonable and I don’t understand why the board is being so aggressive about this.

One good thing has come of it, though. I sent an email this morning, as soon as I saw the email from our CEO, to our HR person, to let her know that I have changed/am changing my name, and specifically pointed out my concern about wearing my last name. I will actually start on the legal process today too, but hopefully it won’t matter that I haven’t already done that. Maybe I’ll get to file my own union grievance?

It has been a useful kick in my butt at least. But yeah. Such a mess.

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