North Carolina AT&T Employees File Suit against Union Officials for Exposing Sensitive Personal Data
Union boss intimidation campaign against nonmember employees led to vindictive release of social security numbers
Burlington, NC (June 13, 2008) – National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have filed a lawsuit in North Carolina state court for 16 AT&T employees against Communication Workers of America (CWA) union officials for the illegal release of confidential personal information.
The complaint, filed late Wednesday in Gaston County, alleges widespread union violations of the North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act by CWA union officials, who are accused of illegally posting nonunion employees’ personal information – including workers’ social security numbers – in a public area. The plaintiffs were also subjected to an extended union campaign of workplace harassment and intimidation.
Around November of 2007, union officials posted nonmember employees’ personal information. The spreadsheet that contained employees’ personal data was sent via e-mail from union official Judy Brown to other CWA officials with instructions to “. . . forward this information to your affected locals.” CWA officials proceeded to post the spreadsheet on a public bulletin board and likely disseminated the information through e-mail and other means.
By posting the information, union officials left employees vulnerable to identity theft and credit fraud. Foundation attorneys now seek a jury trial for the assessment of statutory and punitive damages.
North Carolina is one of 22 states with Right to Work protections that ensure employees are not forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. At the time the notice was posted, all 16 plaintiffs had exercised their Right to Work and were not formal dues-paying union members. The employees believe their personal information was posted in retaliation for exercising their legal rights, and a recent National Labor Relations Board investigation substantiated these allegations.
The case highlights the fact that, even in Right to Work states, union officials have extraordinary power over nonmember employees who have been forced to accept a union’s “representation.” Union officials are able to dictate nonunion workers’ terms of employment and have access to employees’ private and confidential information.
“By releasing the personal and confidential information of employees who exercised their legal right, CWA union bosses were trying to send a message that workers who refuse to support the union will face retribution,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.