Judge ruled that North Carolina identity protections don’t apply to union bosses who retaliated against nonmembers by publicly posting social security numbers
Washington, DC (July 19, 2012) – With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a group of 13 North Carolina-based AT&T (NYSE: T) employees is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an identity theft case involving federal preemption.
In the fall of 2007, Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3602 union president John Glenn maliciously posted the names and social security numbers of 33 AT&T employees on a publicly accessible bulletin board at the company's facility in Burlington, N.C.
All the employees whose names and personal information were posted in a hallway close to the building entrance, accessible to employees and nonemployees alike, had exercised their freedom under the state's Right to Work law to resign from CWA union membership and cease paying union dues.
In North Carolina, it is a serious offense for a business or nonprofit organization to publicly reveal someone's name in combination with his or her social security number. Per the North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act (ITPA), exposing any person to identity theft in this way carries a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
In June 2008, AT&T employee Jason Fisher and 15 other employees, represented by Foundation attorneys, filed a lawsuit against Local 3602 and its parent unions in state court.
In an unprecedented decision, both the trial court and the state court of appeals went out of their way to exempt union bosses from North Carolina's identity theft law. Both courts adopted an argument that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts the ITPA, and consequently union bosses may not be punished by state authorities for exposing the workers' private information to the public.
The case has now been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court where Foundation staff attorneys argue that the NLRA does not preempt the ITPA.
"If the U.S. Supreme Court does not overturn the lower courts' rulings, workers in North Carolina who exercise their right to refrain from union affiliation will be susceptible to this ugly type of union boss retaliation," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "The Court's inaction would also make a mockery of federal labor law, which purports to 'protect' workers but really protects union boss intimidation, and could be used to overturn state laws protecting workers across the country."