Unions deemed exempt from Identity Theft laws

As one of 22 Right to Work states in America, North Carolina workers are not required to belong to a union in order to keep their jobs. When 33 workers at AT&T exercised this right and resigned their membership in the Communication Workers of America Union in 2007, they were subjected to workplace harassment. The harassment then got worse as these workers had their private information made public. 

CWA official Judy Brown e-mailed other CWA officials a spreadsheet containing this personal information (including social security numbers) with instructions to “forward this information to your affected locals.” CWA Local 3602 union president John Glenn took the harassment one step further by posting the spreadsheet on a bulletin board outside the AT&T facility in Burlington, NC. This was in a hallway with public access, meaning that it would have been possible for anybody to see the information and use it in any way. 

The National Labor Relations Board investigated the incident and, although they confirmed that this information was posted, their general counsel refused prosecute the union. To seek justice, employee Jason Fischer and 15 other employees filed a lawsuit in 2008. Represented by attorneys for the National Right to Work Foundation, the group filed a lawsuit under North Carolina’s Identity Theft Prosecution Act to “strengthen safeguards for personal information.” Unfortunately, the both trial and appeals courts in North Carolina ruled that unions are exempt from any penalty for their actions, which would have been a fine of up to $5,000 per violation. They determined that this breach of privacy was covered by the National Labor Relations Act, allowing a federal labor law to pre-empt an unrelated state law. 

The National Right to Work Foundation appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court but, earlier this month, they declined to hear the case. This effectively gives unions carte blanche to access and disseminate private information about employees, at least in North Carolina. “With today’s announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a new type of ugly union boss retaliation, allowing union officials to target workers for identity theft even when state law clearly makes such retaliation illegal,” said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. “The Court’s decision not to correct this injustice makes a mockery of state and federal labor laws, which purport to ‘protect’ workers but really protects union boss intimidation, and now will be used to escape from state laws protecting workers’ identities across the country.”

With unions losing their stranglehold on American workers, they are becoming more desperate. Americans must stand up for freedom in the workplace and not be cowed by intimidation, keeping judges and elected officials accountable for their actions.  


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